Saturday, 31 December 2011


As I lay in bed this morning, it occurred to me that the New Year begins tomorrow.

First of all, let me just put it out there that New Years shouldn't be in the middle of winter. The temperatures are just too darn cold and I think they hinder rather than help any new commitments. I wonder if New Years Resolutions are broken just as quickly in California as they are in Canada? For me, there is something inspiring and renewing about warm sunny weather. I'm thinking of petitioning for New Years in June.

At any rate, I nevertheless gave some consideration to what I might want my own resolutions to look like this year. My first thought was "well, the first six months are a write-off. All I want to do is survive." With the outlook not looking good for much improvement in this pregnancy, I'll count myself lucky just to get through the next six months.

Then I realized that the six months after that will be about survival also. Those first six months with a newborn can be a killer. Sleep is about the only goal you can have with a new baby around.

And then, just like that, 2012 is over! Whoa. That went by fast. It's a little disheartening.

And so I have revised my goal of the second half of the year to be this: slow down and enjoy the moments. Put baby in a sling or a stroller and wander through the beautiful summer weather we enjoy. Do only one activity a day, and don't rush through it. Take a walk, take a picnic, lounge in the backyard swing. Look at the stars. Sit at the park. Gather with friends in the backyard underneath the darkening sky and laugh. Eat good food, lovingly prepared. Cuddle, cuddle, and cuddle some more. Read. Strum the guitar on a blanket in the grass. Don't rush. Don't rush. Don't rush.

That made me smile. That gave me a little hope to endure the next six months. 2011 was a fairly peaceful and uneventful year. 2012 will definitely bring change, in the form of our newest and last addition to our little family. What else do you have in store for me?

Friday, 30 December 2011

Excerpt from "The Poisonwood Bible"

"When I go with them [family visiting America from Africa] to the grocery, they are boggled and frightened and secretly scornful, I think. Of course they are. I remember how it was at first: dazzling warehouses, buzzing with light, where entire shelves boast nothing but hair spray, tooth-whitening cream, and foot powders...
"What is that, Aunt Adah? And that?" their [son] Pascal asks in his wide-eyed way, pointing through the aisles: pink jar of cream for removing hair, a can of fragrance to spray on the carpet, stacks of lidded containers the same size as the jars we throw away each day.
"They're things a person doesn't really need."
"But, Aunt Adah, how can there be so many kinds of things a person doesn't really need?"
I can think of no honorable answer. Why must some of us deliberate between brands of toothpaste, while others deliberate between damp dirt and bone dust to quiet the fire of an empty stomach lining?

Thursday, 29 December 2011

The search for self

Does anyone else feel like by the time you're my age (30s) you're supposed to have settled down in your search for self? Like the questions and uncertainties of teenagedom and university life should all be answered? That the insecurities of who you are should be settled?

I always thought that was the way things are. And maybe they really are for most people (I might have to wait to hear from you readers out there on this one.) But lately I feel like all those firm decisions I made about myself aren't so solid after all.

I've always struggled with some real dichotomies in who I am, what I love, what I believe. There are times when I look at what I oscillate between and wonder how on earth I can reconcile such opposition within me. How can those diametrically opposed ideas co-exist within me?

In the past, these varying differences have always led me to share parts of myself with people, but never finding anyone to relate to me as a whole. When I'm bonding over showtunes, I rarely find I can discuss at length the latest hockey trade. When I'm pouring over construction plans for my fence or deck with someone, I usually don't bring up the schooling versus education debate. If I was planning a canoe portage camping trip, I probably wouldn't be also sharing my experience as a hair model. And most people might not understand when I was really torn between learning to play the flute in band or joining a competitive volleyball team. In high school, I was on the Mathletics team the same year I made the senior Field Hockey team in grade 10. I have a deep desire to be a homeschooling mom living in the country and to work in the film business in LA. How on earth do all these things mesh?

These are all interest-based, and I suppose fairly superficial. I've managed through the years by floating between many groups, having to be satisfied with finding something in common with who I was with at the moment, rather than developing a deeper relationship with a couple people with whom I shared much more in common.

What I'm finding difficult now to reconcile are the belief-based ideas that I find competing with each other. Perhaps some of this comes from my debating team background, an ability to see all sides of the conversation, and a desire to understand where the other person is coming from. Sometimes I wonder if it comes from the very strong and equally divided personality I have, where I am equally faith/emotional based as I am scientific/reason based. Generally people fall on one side or the other. But for me, I've always fallen smack dab straddling the fence. And I often find it so very hard to reconcile within me.

All this thinking is what led me to my opening paragraph - am I supposed to have figured this all out by now, or is it okay to still be shifting? Is it that I never really answered these questions before, or that my life experience is opening my eyes in new ways? All of this is swimming around in my head; they are not conversations I have yet felt comfortable to have with any person yet. The questions seem a little scary because mostly I don't think there really are answers for me, despite the confidence many others out there seem to display. Maybe some people really do have their life, beliefs, and ideas all boxed up with a pretty red ribbon and feel completely comfortable and assured in what's inside. But something tells me that that kind of stability is not in me to find. I crave ideas, I crave conversation, I crave debate too much.

So I wonder if you feel like your search for self has levelled out at some point in your life? Do you feel like you came through the turbulent years of youth and now stand on solid ground? This doesn't mean that there isn't growth in the future. What I'm referring to here is really the outward display of confidence I see in a lot of people who stand firm and declare themselves to others. I admire that stability, but does it actually exist? Or are they, too, having questioning conversations in their minds?

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

"Life is what happens to you...

...when you're busy making other plans."

- John Lennon

Planning is good. Life goals get you places. And yet sometimes you can never in your wildest dreams or nightmares imagine what life is going to throw you.

Two things I've been thinking about in this area. The first was an interview I read by a current TV star. He said that he wished he could go back and tell his 16 year old self (he's 21 now) where he'd be in five years. You see, he was bullied through his school years so badly that he was homeschooled during middle school, and hated almost every day of high school. A friend of a friend submitted his name for a new TV show that didn't even have a role that would fit him. The producers saw it and created a new role just for him. He didn't have the slightest inkling during those dreaded days of high school that things could ever be this good.

The other thing is the situation of friends of ours. Last year they were a young happy family, with one smart little boy and another baby on the way. The husband was working hard full time and putting himself through college to be an engineer. Then one day their son was diagnosed with cancer. Try as he might, this husband could not juggle work and school and family and cancer, and so he had to drop out of school. He is still committed to returning to school to graduate, but doesn't know when that might happen.

So here I've been, these past two months, lying in bed and waiting for the illness to pass. I spend about 16 hours a day awake and by myself, which is a lot of time to spend in your own head. I've started at least two dozen different writing projects (mostly books) but can't get very far. (A side effect of the medication I'm on is lack of concentration.) And I've been lying here wondering what my future has in store for me. Right now I am a mother, and I love that. But what possibilities lie down the road? I love writing, acting, music, filmmaking, teaching, public speaking. I'm an artist through and through, but I've never felt the desire to make that my one and only pursuit. I know some artists will say that they would work like mad 40 years to become an overnight success, but I don't see that in myself. It's not a lack of dedication, but rather a love of so many different things.

And still it makes me wonder, if, one day down the road, I might be a part of something almost accidentally that thrusts me in a new and unexpected direction. I don't lust after fame (although no artist could honestly say they wouldn't love to be recognized for their art), but I do love the creative process.

I feel a new sudden sense of freedom, even while tied to my bed in illness. I feel like I don't want to set out a life plan, because maybe I'll be the one that gets in the way of life.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011


Christmas has come and gone. We are starting to get a feel for what it's like with kids. We are hidden under another huge mound of toys. I hit Zellers for clear storage bins, a boxing day tradition for me. I purge from our house year round, and still there is too much stuff here. Over the next week we'll gradually start to clean and organize and get the house under some sort of control!

I am not "turkeyed" out. I love turkey. I love Christmas dinner. We've had two this year, without much leftovers. I am looking sadly at the few remaining pieces and trying to ration it out for my turkey and cranberry buns.

We have one celebration left this coming weekend. We will celebrate a host of winter birthdays for my family - all three boys, both nephews and my niece, my sister and my dad. And yes, there will be more gifts. Come to think of it, we still haven't had the boys' birthday parties with their friends. We really didn't think this through when we had all three of our kids at Christmastime!

While I seem to be doing marginally better healthwise, I'm still tied to the IV medication. I was able to change it over so that I only need a half hour instead of seven, and I can do it at the hospital so that it's at the same time every day (first thing in the morning). I've migrated down to the couch so that I can observe all the holiday festivities and watch the boys play to their hearts content while they are home from school. I'm still laid up all day, but at least I can feel a part of things again.

It's been a whirlwind of a month, which I hoped would be the case. With so many events going on, the weeks flew by, bringing me to the end of my first trimester faster than expected. I tried going off the medication last week but regressed within two days. I'm hoping to see some more improvements in the next couple of weeks, but it seems more than likely I will be on the hospital IV for a long time, if not the entire pregnancy.

And so the winter months begin. A light snow has been falling all day. The air is crisp. I'll enjoy the season now, before we all get wrangy from being cooped up inside every day.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011


“We women have a lot to learn about simplifying our lives. We have to decide what is important and then move along at a pace that is comfortable for us. We have to develop the maturity to stop trying to prove something. We have to learn to be content with what we are.”

Marjorie Hinckley

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Happy Birthday Benjamin

Benjamin is two years old today. Wow. I think 18 months to about 2 1/2 is such a precious age. Okay, I really love all the ages and stages, but I really love the wonder that is being two.

Benjamin is soaking up everything in the world around him. He wants to be a part of it all. He wants to experience it all. He is not a sit back and observe the world type; he wants to jump right in and be there.

Benjamin loves to help out, which is his way of learning the world. Right now, he really loves to brings things to people (like bringing me my meals in bed every day) and also to load and unload the dishwasher. And he is persistent - he will stick with a job he's doing until it is done to the very last. His little face just lights up if you give him a task.

He is also discovering language at a "melodic" rate. That's the best adjective I could think of. He's not like the other boys, who just opened their mouths one day with full sentences and adult vocabularies, and not like the typical toddler who learns a word at a time, in relation to the things he knows and wants. Rather, Benjamin is learning words as though they were notes in a song, one following the other in a logical, lyrical and musical manner.

Benjamin loves to cuddle. All my boys are cuddlers, but at age two, there are certainly a lot more cuddles. He is slow to wake up in the morning or from nap, and always wants to just sit or lie with me for 20 or 30 minutes when he does wake. And at random times during the day (especially these days, when we don't see each other much), he'll come find my in bed, climb up, and snuggle right into the crook of my arm.

He also loves to play with the boys, but especially Caleb. I've noticed a special bond between those two. I'm not sure if it's because they are close in age, or because Colin is years more mature than his years, or if it's because Caleb and Benjamin are so similar in personality. But the two of them seem to get each other. If one is crying, the other will come running to offer a hug and wipe away the tears. They love to share everything together. They play games together, sometimes sitting with toys, more often running around the house.

We certainly love our little Boo-Bear-Boy. What a beautiful blessing his sparkling eyes and laughing smile are to our family.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Coming up out of the haze

I think, I think, I just might be coming up out of the haze of the last 6 weeks.

Very often, with hyperemesis, there is a sudden recovery of symptoms. After about 12 weeks of pregnancy, the HCG hormone levels suddenly nose dive and within a couple of days there is a good levelling off. I think I might have hit that, at last.

Yesterday and today I'm suddenly feeling the urge to get back into life. Up until now, while I have managed to side-step the common side-effect of Zofran (depression) I have woken up every morning and felt that I could handle nothing more than simply trying to breathe and nibble before evening came again. Today, I actually made a very short venture out into the world on my own.

Granted, I was exhausted from the effort when I returned. It will still be another two or three weeks at least before I can regain all my strength. I gasp for breath from descending the stairs or speaking for more than ten minutes. My muscles have all seized from lying in bed for so long. And taking a bath (forget a shower) still means I have to lie down for a couple of hours afterward. But bit by bit things will improve.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Web published

Another essay I wrote on the moments of motherhood was published on the "Power of Moms" website today. If you get a chance, check it out.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011


Figuring out pronouns is something that always takes toddlers a while. Usually you hear a lot of "me" in the place of "I, and a great confusion in the difference between "you" and "me". Often young kids will even talk about themselves in the third person.

Benjamin has a new one, at least one I've never heard used. He uses "my" for everything. "My do it." "My go with you." Of course he also uses it in the possessive sense "my mommy" and "my truck", but I guess he just figured it was easier to use that pronoun instead of trying to stumble through the rest of the English language.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Colinism and Calebite

Last year James and I made a big decision about moving Colin to a new school for senior kindergarten. It was a decision that wasn't made lightly or easily, with many pros and cons on both sides of the debate. One of the biggest risks we were taking is that if the new school didn't work out, I didn't want to move Colin again for grade one. I really felt that whatever decision we made, it was going to have to stick for a few years at least.

Boy, am I ever glad this new school worked out - and I am happy with the decision in so many ways. I love the small school feeling, the fact that we know all the teachers and all the teachers know our kids. I love how the school can work together on projects and ideas, instead of being segregated by year. I love that between my good friend and I, we will have 8 kids between us, in 7 different grades at the school (talk about being in the know!)

Most of all, I love how my kids are thriving in the French language. Despite both James and I have taken French immersion, I am very apprehensive every time I send off one of my little ones to junior kindergarten. I worry that the language will hold them back, that they won't pick it up, that other kids with more fluent parents will leave my kids behind. I worry that it will not let them reach their full potential in the long run. I know that statistically all these fears are unfounded, and even if one of my kids struggled with the language and had to be pulled from the program, losing the first couple years of school will not negatively affect their entire lives.

Both my boys are doing amazingly. I am in awe of how quickly our young ones can pick up a new language. Yesterday, Colin was trying to relate an experience to me, and he seemed to be struggling a little, as evidenced by the far-away gaze in his eyes and the furrowed forehead. When I asked him what was wrong, he replied "Mom, I just can't think of all the English words!" I smiled, and told him that he can go ahead and just tell me in French, because I understand that too.

Caleb has blossomed all of a sudden in the language. He wasn't participating much through the first two months, but his teacher and I realized that it was more a desire thing than an ability thing, since Caleb was inconsistent in what he "knew" and "didn't know." Since December hit, the teacher has instituted her "no English in class" rule. The teacher never spoke any English to the kids, but up until now has tolerated the occasional English phrase from the kids, especially since most of them were not yet fluent in French. But now, no more. And you know what? Caleb is doing just fine. He's already starting to slip up at home, mixing in French with English all the time, which is one of the milestones on the way to fluency.

Don't you love when things work out so well?

Monday, 12 December 2011

Baby #4

Today I had another ultrasound for little baby Gawthroupe #4. What an amazing experience.

The nurse came by early so I could get my Zofran before trying to head out into the world for the first time in 5 weeks. A dear friend offered to take me, since I don't think I could possibly drive. So I was all set.

Because the last ultrasound was so early, it was also a little inconclusive, for me. So it's been a rough 5 weeks, wondering if my little baby was alright. Well, if the last ultrasound was nerve-wracking and inconclusive, then yesterday's made up for that in spades. The OB said that because I was so tiny (having lost all that weight, I'm still in pre-pregnancy clothes, which is unusual for a 4th baby!) she was able to get a perfectly clear picture. So clear, in fact, that the OB herself was amazed. She kept gushing "I can't believe how clear it is! It looks just like a full grown baby! And look at it waving at us! And the little foot in the air...and the toes!" This doctor has done thousands of early ultrasounds, so for her to be as amazed as she was, I knew it was special.

Every sentence that came out of her mouth was hugely positive. She found the heartbeat right away, and I heard it loud and strong. All the measurements were perfect, nothing indicating any problems. The baby was waving around all its limbs, as if to show that everything is just fine. I really needed to know that, and it's not something you would normally get from an ultrasound at the end of the first trimester.

The doctor has told me that I'm a week ahead of where she put me last time. 12 weeks today! Yay! Most importantly, that means I should start to feel much better. Week 9-12 are usually the worst for hyperemesis, and after that normally things improve quickly. I've been ordered another week of my IV treatment, but I'm hoping after that not to need it.

So June 26 is the official due date, so we'll plan for something around mid-June, since my babies generally come early. It seems to very far away.

Sunday, 11 December 2011


Yesterday Colin came into my room to find me playing old fashioned solitaire, on the computer. (It's less messy than real cards when you're playing it in bed.) With genuine interest, he asked what I was playing.

Mommy: It's a card game, called Solitaire.
Colin: How do you play?
Mommy: Well, you have to get all the cards in order, but there are some other rules and things, too.
Colin: Like what?
Mommy: (giving in, even though she is very tired and not feeling well) Up here you have to get them all in the same group by their symbol, starting at one and going up to king. And down here they have to count down, but you also have to alternate colours, red and black. And up here is where you get your new cards from, but you can only choose the card on top.
Colin: Oh. (pause.) Shouldn't you put that block five on that red six, then?
Mommy: (to herself) Oh shoot, how long has that been sitting there?
Mommy: (aloud): Yes, that's exactly right.
Colin: And if you do that, then you can put the 3 and 4 and 5 of the hearts up at the top.
Mommy: I guess it wasn't that complicated of a game after all.
Colin: Can I tell you where all the cards go?
Mommy: Sure love.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Early morning

Colin (not Caleb, but Colin, my "sleeper") woke up at 4am this morning. He told me he couldn't sleep because he was too excited for pyjama day at school today. I told him to crawl in bed with me, but then he just lay awake beside me, fidgeting and talking. He actually was that excited. For pyjama day.

This does not bode well for Christmas morning.

Thursday, 8 December 2011


After yesterday's blog entry about making home like Santa's workshop, I saw a couple more people posting about the same thing - how they were really enjoying little activities at home with their young children. One woman wrote about the different supplies she has gathered so that when her children come home from school, they have some neat to work on together (like toothpick/mini marshmallow shapes, and baking cookies, and making up their own board games)

That got me thinking to the after school madness. And madness it is, indeed. We walk in our front door around 4:15pm after the bus drop the two older boys off. Once all the snow gear is off and put away, and the bags are riffled through for notes, it's 4:30pm and I have exactly two hours before the bedtime routine starts. In that two hours, I still have to prep and make dinner, eat, clean up, and do the little bit of homework the boys have. While I clean up after dinner, the boys usually have a little time to play with Daddy, if he's home. Somehow, that usually all takes about two hours.

I remember at the last parent teacher interview with Colin's teacher, I told her we were working on trying to do the homework each night, but that I was finding there just wasn't enough time. When I explained we only had two hours between school and bed (less on a bath night) she was genuinely surprised. She praised me for the early bedtime hour (which is appropriate for their age) and said that most kids are not tucked in so early. I was grateful for her understanding, but it still doesn't solve our lack of after school time.

We could add an extra hour every day if I drove the kids instead of them taking the bus, or if I could get them on another bus which would drop them off 45 minutes earlier. I'm hoping for the bus, but that won't happen until at least next September. If I can't get that changed, however, then the Mom Taxi it is. I just want my kids to have a little time to be kids.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011


My sister Jennifer had her baby last week! I know, I know - a whole week has gone by (see previous entry on blog blahs). But here is a picture of my beautiful little niece, Sienna Elizabeth Germano, with her whole head of dark brown hair, just like Mommy!

She was born November 29th, 2011, at 9:59pm. She weighed in at 9 pounds, 1 ounce. Her birth story was very long and involved, and suffice it to say that my sister is a rock star for having survived it all! Now comes the transition to motherhood for her. It's funny - you have nine months to prepare for it, but the actual transition happens in a split second. It's a startling change. All of a sudden you go from not really having to worry about anyone but you, to having a whole little life depend on you for everything. But I'm not worried - she's got a great support system, including her fantastic husband, fabulous older sister, plus my parents who arrive next week, our younger sister, and her husband's family, for whom this is the first grandchild/niece, and so are overjoyed at the prospect of helping with the baby.

Welcome, little Sienna!

A time to grow and change?

The last couple of days I've come onto the computer to write a blog entry and stared at the blinking cursor for a while, then closed it down. I've been in bed a month now, 3 weeks hooked up to the IV, and I feel like there's just not that much to write about. Every day is the same. Every day I can choose between watching a movie, reading a book, or doing crosswords on the computer. Could I really write for two months about that?

This morning I was reading a friend's blog entry about how the past couple of days her house has felt like "Santa's workshop." We had the most beautiful snow yesterday, the kind that sticks to the branches of the tree and just makes everything look like a winter wonderland, and so thinking about my friend's house being Santa's workshop was just the most beautiful image. Then I thought about how we usually pass our time when I'm well, and I thought, you know what? Even if I was well, I don't know that I would have spent my mornings doing Christmas crafts and baking and the like. The past 6 years of sleepless nights have meant that I spend most mornings getting the housework done so that I can grab a nap when the boys sleep in the afternoon. Other mornings I like to take the boys out to play, to fill the time.

Fill the time. That's the expression that I'm not liking here. And that's the one that I really want to change once I'm out of bed again. Winter is here, which means my yearly hibernation from the cold, and even when I can get out of bed, it's still a long recovery of strength before I can get out of the house on outings again. But I hope I can become a little more deliberate in my mornings with the boys/Benjamin. While I may not spend time playing transformers (such a boy thing!) I want to come up with some neat ideas of things we can do together.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Happy birthday Colin

Colin turned 6 years old today, and how time flies. James made the comment that he is one-third of the way to being an adult, and it really took me aback. He's little boy face has started to change ever so slightly, but enough that he's leaving behind the baby face he's had since birth.

He's such a serious little soul. He really watches and listens to everything, and with his perfect memory recall, you can't get anything by him. He amazes me every day how he learns and applies things, and integrates them into his play.

I was sad to miss the celebrations downstairs, but I think having to listen from bed made me even more attentive to all the little comments and nuances of the day. My favourite moment: after Colin made his wish and blew out the candles, he was eager to tell everyone what he'd wished for: that his family would be together forever. Talk about making my heart melt!

I'm starting to see the influence of friends and school more and more. I hate that so much effort must be put into undoing what he learns there, rather than simply teaching at home. We do our best to instil the positive qualities we hope he will foster, but it's mostly bad behaviours he picks up from school. Luckily I find he is still a little naive and innocent, which means he doesn't push back when we gently correct him.

He is still head over heels for Lego. I imagine this is a phase that lasts a long time for boys, since it's not a toy you really grow out of. Today he brought me a Lego present - a Christmas ornament for my little Christmas tree, wrapped up in a lego box with a lego bow on top.

I can see that each year of growth brings at least two in maturity, and he's starting to have some trouble with Caleb. Caleb is so full of life and exuberance and doesn't understand Colin's need to privacy and time alone. But Colin is starting to understand his introverted ways, and we're helping him to identify when he needs time alone and how to excuse himself from the bustle.

We love our big little boy so much, and what a strong example he is now, and will be as he grows, for his younger brothers.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Out my window

This is the view out my bedroom window, by my head. I just love the scene that sets itself. Something about the towering maple trees, and unique design of the snug little homes, and fresh blanket of snow and the clear blue sky makes my heart soar. It is just so picturesque. This is why I love my neighbourhood. While in new subdivisions I know you get more house for your money, and everything in brand new, I love the charm of an old neighbourhood.

This snow dusting makes me yearn for a walk out in the crisp winter air. Once January comes the temperature will dip below my body's tolerance level, forcing me inside for a season of hibernation. But these first few days of winter are always so beautiful, with a little bit of snow but enough warmth in the air to enjoy it outside.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The 5 best toys of all time

(I found this article on the internet. I've included a condensed version here.)

I’ve worked really hard to narrow down this list to five items that no kid should be without. All five should fit easily within any budget, and are appropriate for a wide age range so you get the most play out of each one. These are time-tested and kid-approved! And as a bonus, these five can be combined for extra-super-happy-fun-time.

1. Stick

This versatile toy is a real classic — chances are your great-great-grandparents played with one, and your kids have probably discovered it for themselves as well. It’s a required ingredient for Stickball, of course, but it’s so much more. Stick works really well as a poker, digger and reach-extender. It can also be combined with many other toys (both from this list and otherwise) to perform even more functions.

Stick comes in an almost bewildering variety of sizes and shapes, but you can amass a whole collection without too much of an investment. You may want to avoid the smallest sizes — I’ve found that they break easily and are impossible to repair. Talk about planned obsolescence. But at least the classic wooden version is biodegradable so you don’t have to feel so bad about pitching them into your yard waste or just using them for kindling. Larger, multi-tipped Sticks are particularly useful as snowman arms. (Note: requires Snow, which is not included and may not be available in Florida.)

2. Box

Another toy that is quite versatile, Box also comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Need proof? Depending on the number and size you have, Boxes can be turned into furniture or a kitchen playset. You can turn your kids into cardboard robots or create elaborate Star Wars costumes. A large Box can be used as a fort or house and the smaller Box can be used to hide away a special treasure. Got a Stick? Use it as an oar and Box becomes a boat. One particularly famous kid has used the Box as a key component of a time machine, a duplicator and a transmogrifier, among other things.

3. String

The most obvious use of String is tying things together, which my kids love to do. You can use it to hang things from doorknobs or tie little siblings to chairs or make leashes for your stuffed animals. Use String with two Cans for a telephone (and teach your kids about sound waves), or with Stick to make a fishing pole. You’ll need String for certain games like Cat’s Cradle. String is a huge part of what makes some toys so fun — try using a yo-yo or a kite without String and you’ll see what I mean. Try the heavy-duty version of String (commonly branded Rope) for skipping, climbing, swinging from trees or just for dragging things around.

4. Cardboard Tube

My kids have nicknamed the Cardboard Tube the “Spyer” for its most common use in our house, as a telescope. (Or tape two of them together for use as binoculars.) But if you happen to be lucky enough to get a large size, the best use is probably whacking things. Granted, Stick is also great for whacking, but the nice thing about Cardboard Tube is that it generally won’t do any permanent damage. It’s sort of a Nerf Stick, if you will. If that sounds up your alley, look up the Cardboard Tube Fighting League — currently there are only official events in Seattle, San Francisco and Sydney, but you could probably get something started up in your own neighborhood if you wanted. Or if you’re more of a loner, perhaps the way of the Cardboard Tube Samurai is a better path.

5. Dirt

When I was a kid one of my favorite things to play with was Dirt. At some point I picked up an interest in cleanliness and I have to admit that I’m personally not such a fan of Dirt anymore — many parents (particularly indoor people like me) aren’t so fond if it either. But you can’t argue with success. Dirt has been around longer than any of the other toys on this list, and shows no signs of going away. There’s just no getting rid of it, so you might as well learn to live with it.

First off, playing with Dirt is actually good for you. It’s even sort of edible (in the way that Play-doh and crayons are edible). But some studies have shown that kids who play with Dirt have stronger immune systems than those who don’t. So even if it means doing some more laundry (Dirt is notorious for the stains it causes) it might be worth getting your kids some Dirt.

So what can you do with Dirt? Well, it’s great for digging and piling and making piles. We’ve got a number of outdoor toys in our backyard, but my kids spend most of their time outside just playing with Dirt. Use it with Stick as a large-format ephemeral art form. (Didn’t I tell you how versatile Stick was?) Dirt makes a great play surface for toy trucks and cars. Need something a little gloopier? Just add water and — presto! — you’ve got Mud!

Dirt is definitely an outdoor toy, despite your kids’ frequent attempts to bring it indoors. If they insist, you’ll probably want to get the optional accessories Broom and Dustpan. But as long as it’s kept in its proper place, Dirt can be loads of fun.

Monday, 28 November 2011


Today we kept Caleb home from school for a mid-day dentist appointment. With all the craziness of scheduling right now, I figured it would just be easier rather than trying to arrange a pickup and drop off at school.

Only thing is, I forgot to call the school to let them know Caleb wouldn't be there. No problem, because there are so few kids at the school (less than 100) the secretary just calls home to find out what is going on. Today Caleb picked up the phone. Here's how the conversation went:

Caleb: Hello?
Secretary: Hello.
Caleb: It's Caleb.
Secretary: Oh, hi, Caleb. You're not at school today?
Caleb: No, I'm going to the dentist.
Secretary: Are you there with your mom?
Caleb: No, with my grandma.

At that point, Caleb got my mother-in-law and handed over the phone, for story verification. I laughed at the idea of the secretary calling and getting the kid himself, who then proceeds to excuse himself from school.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Doomed with early risers

I'm not sure what kind of cosmic joke this is, but don't I deserve just one child who will sleep in past 6am?

When Caleb turned 4 we bought him a digital clock. There is only one outlet in his room in the most inconvenient spot, which means the clock needs to sit on the second shelf of the change table. Nevertheless, we should him which set of red lines forms the "first number" and told him he was not to get out of bed unless that said 6. We didn't have to worry about it being a 7 - he's never slept that late in his life.

We thought we finally had the early morning thing licked. (No, 6am is not early in this house!) Three days later, Benjamin started waking up at 5am. Now we find ourselves in the exact same spot we were two years ago, long before Caleb could read numbers and understand the instruction to stay in bed.

Seriously. Is it too much to ask for a 7am wake-up?

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Tie a string around my finger

This is taken from excerpts from one of the chapters in the book ("A Mother's Book of Secrets").

"As a young mother, Chieko N. Okazaki inspired me. I read notes from an address she had given in a book called “Lighten Up!” that really changed me.She talked about how as mothers we tend to "compartmentalize" our lives. We have different cubbyholes for different things…”family,” “church,” “gardening,” and so on. She said instead of thinking of our spiritual lives as one of our cubbies, it should be more like the scent in the air that drifts through all the rooms.

She relates this story:

"Suppose the Savior comes to visit you. You've rushed around and vacuumed the guest room, put the best sheets on the bed, even got some tulips in a vase on the dresser. Jesus looks around the room, then says, 'Oh, thank you for inviting me into your home. Please tell me about your life.'"You say, 'I will in just a minute, but something's boiling over on the stove, and I need to let the cat out.'

"Jesus says, 'I know a lot about cats and stoves. I'll come with you.'

"'Oh, no,' you say. 'I couldn't let you do that.' And you rush out, carefully closing the door behind you.

"And while you're turning down the stove, the phone rings, and then Jason comes in with a scrape on his elbow, and the visiting teacher supervisor calls for your report, and then it's suppertime, and you couldn’t possibly have Jesus see that you don't even have place-mats, for Pete's sake, and someone forgot to turn on the dishwasher so that you're eating off paper plates, and then you have to drive Lynne to her basketball game.

"So by the time you get back to the room where Jesus is still patiently waiting for you, you're so tired that you can barely keep your eyes open -- let alone sit worship-fully at Jesus' feet to wait for those words of profound wisdom and spiritual power to wash over you, to make you different, to make everything else different -- and you fall asleep whispering, 'I'm sorry. I'll try to do better. I'm so sorry.'"

Isn’t this how we are as mothers? When we really need the Savior’s guidance the most sometimes we tend to shut it out. The secret is to use prayer to our advantage. Let the Savior “follow” us around, and help us out when we’re at the end of our ropes. That is when prayer really works. If only I could remember that more!"

Friday, 25 November 2011

I want this

Correction. My brain wants this. My pregnant body is craving...nothing. That's right. Nothing. And that doesn't mean "nothing specific." I actually feel best when I eat nothing at all. Somehow I don't think that plan is going to work. But the last two days I've cut out all snacking and little meals, which is how everyone says you should eat while you are pregnant. Instead, I eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner and nothing else. My digestive system takes a couple hours to get it all through, and then all the pain starts to ease and I actually feel not too bad. I think that's why I feel best in the mornings. Eating nothing and lying perfectly still is the answer (hence why nighttime is so good.)

I wonder what my doctor would say if I told her I was just going to fast for the next two months. Unfortunately I don't think she would approve if I melted down to the weight of a 10-year-old.

But even if I do realize I need to eat, somehow a big juicy loaded burger and a basket of fries still will not be on my menu. But you can be sure, Kelsey's, that you and I have a date come June!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Things to do in bed...

...when you are very sick with pregnancy.

Not much. The nurse nearly keeled over when she realized there was no TV in our bedroom. I told her that in fact, we do have one, but my husband had borrowed it for a trade show that day. But then I had to explain that although there is a TV that sits on the badly built shelf by our home's previous owner, it actually isn't connected to anything to watch. When the analog TV signal went dark in August, we didn't bother doing anything about it.

So no TV. But I am reading a lot. I bought this really, really long series I saw advertised on for the Kindle. It's fantasy, which I usually hate, but it's really more of a made up historical novel (which I love) than fantasy. In other words, it is not "Lord of the Rings" (which I hate.)

I also have a laptop. On the laptop I have watched the entire series of "Flashpoint," which is awesome. I also love that it is set in our home city of T.O. It's cool to hear streets and neighbourhoods I know referenced on the show. It's also hilarious, because for some reason they never actually get the geography right. Like "we're heading west toward Lake Shore." Um, Lake Shore runs east and west, so you can't drive west toward it. Also, when driving on the 401, you cannot choose between Highway 10 and Highway 532. There is no such thing as Hwy 532. And don't tell me you're driving at the north end of the 427, surrounded by fields, and show the GPS signal smack downtown on the Gardiner.

Also on the laptop, I keep up with Facebook WAY more than I ever have. I know what everyone is doing. And I know what all their friends think of what they are doing. And I actually update my status and write about other people's statuses. I've never used Facebook as more than a glorified email system before this. It makes me feel like I still have a life.

I check in with the news (The Toronto Star - thank mom. Years of delivery to our home as a kid means that I'm stuck with it now!).

I write on my blog, and I check in on other people's blogs. Today was a blog day. When no one I knew was writing, I decided to click through their list of blogs they follow. In other words, friends of friends of friends, who are perfect strangers to me. But I found some REALLY cool stuff.

C Jane, Enjoy It is one some of my friends follow, but I've never really caught onto. Until today. When I find a new blog, I like to go into the archives back to their very first entries. Then I read chronologically, and it's sort of like getting to know a person from the beginning. C Jane's blog is kind of like that album that everyone loves, and you hear it and think "whatever." Then you hear a song on the radio, then a friend has the album, then someone loans you the CD, and after a while, you are so in love with it you wonder how you didn't see the brilliancy of it from the beginning. I like C Jane's style, humour, and candour.

I also found an awesome album by a group called The Lower Lights. If you have a spare 5 minutes, and are a musician or lover of music, watch this video. The Lower Lights is basically a group of musicians who get together to jam in a recording studio. They don't play together in a band, they hadn't ever played together before. There is no plan, other than having a bunch of creative musicians gather together and sing their hearts out. It looks AWESOME! I can't even imagine what it would be like to be a part of that process. I wish I could be a part of it.

In terms of their first album, one member said "There's a gap out there for people who want to hear music, and hear these sacred and beautiful hymns...and they want to hear them in a way that they haven't been able to." In fact, this album sort of feeds my secret love of folk music. I myself have been rediscovering (and loving) old hymns on my guitar, in a folk kind of way. Seriously it's like hearing these hymns in a whole new light.

So that's basically what I do in bed all day, hooked up to an IV machine. So far I've managed to keep myself entertained. But I hope this doesn't last for too much longer, because I am so not a sit around kind of person!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... my bedroom! Last night James surprised me by decorating my bedroom for Christmas. He hung lighted garlands around the room, and even bought a little Christmas tree to go on our bedside table. He knows how much I love Christmas, and odds are I won't get out of the bedroom until the New Year. Reason #678429534578930721 I love my husband!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Ups and downs in a day

There can be so many ups and downs in one day, it's hard to believe it really is just one 24 hour period, one waking time-stretch between sleeps. There is the physical pain and discomfort of the pregnancy. There is the sorrow at not being able to be part of family moments. There is shame at lying here helpless in bed while others struggle to do the mothering job that is supposed to be mine. There is a resigned feeling that I must let others help. There is grief at the way I have interrupted other people's lives who must help. There is regret that I have thrown out of balance my perfectly happy family.

I wonder at why I am doing this, when things were wonderful. I had three beautiful, healthy boys and good health and balance in our lives and a routine that was really working. Why did I feel the need to disrupt it all? I feel like I'm gambling with life. What if I don't regain my health? What if there is something wrong with this baby? What if life changes because of this decision, and it's never the same again?

And then, once every couple of days, I hear a newborn cry or see a newborn picture and I remember what it is like to hold that precious new life, only hours old, and what it is to nurse them in my arms, and cuddle up to their small bodies in bed. These thoughts are short and fleeting, but I reach out and try to grasp at them with shaky fingers. Honestly, these moments probably come too rarely for what I really need, but I'm trying my best to remember them. And I pray, so hard, for deliverance from this stage of the pregnancy, I beg the hours to go faster, the sun to set faster, the weeks to slip by faster. I pray I will regain something of my normalcy within the next two months, and that it won't be like this for the next seven.

I feel confined, hooked up to a machine 7 hours a day now that keeps me upstairs, between my bedroom and the bathroom, unable to stray more than 36 inches from it. As I write I wonder if down the road I'll question why I didn't try to keep all these ramblings positive, leave out the trials and pain and heartache. But I guess more than anything I want this to be a true portrait of who I am and what my days really are. Because I called this journal "our daily treasures" and it is only through pain and suffering and sadness that true joy and happiness can really be recognized. These are the days that make up who I am and while the process of bringing a baby to life may not be easy for me, they are still treasured, in their own way.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Blue Sky Days

I just love blue sky days. Any day of the year, no matter the season or temperature, when the sky shines a brilliant blue, just makes me smile and my heart sing. This morning is one such morning. And even lying in bed, hooked up to my IV machine, it makes me smile. In fact, it makes this whole confined to bed thing not only tolerable, but even enjoyable. Just to take a few moments and stare out my window at the baby blue colour, dotted with puffy white wisps of clouds. Just to slow down and enjoy a moment of the beauty of this wonderous creation.

Sunday, 20 November 2011


The other day I heard Benjamin dodge the adults downstairs and tear his way up the stairs. "Mama! Mama!" he called out as others instructed him to stop and come back. I heard every thump up the stairs and then his feet carrying him as fast as he could down the hall. He threw open my door, busting into the room and ran all the way around my bed to my side. With all his strength he pulled himself up onto the bed and threw himself across my chest. As I cradled him in my arms, he lifted his head, looked into my eyes and said "I love you." That was first time those words came from him unprompted and in such a clear voice.


When Benjamin is hungry, that's exactly what he tells you: "I'm hungry." It sort of comes out "hohn-gry" in a very slow and deliberate manner. Those letters, n, g, r, are tough for one his age to pronounce, and yet he very early on understood that was the quickest way to convey what he was feeling. I think it's so funny that he didn't try the toddler's usual choice of words, like "food" or "dinner" or asking for a specific food. Instead, he got straight to the point.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

While lying in bed

People have been asking me what I do all day, lying in bed. At my worst, I do nothing. When I'm in too much pain, it takes too much to read or even watch TV. All I need is to lie quietly with no sounds or noises around me. When I was pregnant with Caleb, I literally just looked out the window every day for about 3 weeks. I remember this, because it was spring and I watched the bare branches out my window grow tiny little buds and then blossom and grow into leaves. Real exciting, isn't it?

But I'm still early on in the pregnancy right now. The worst doesn't usually come until about 9-12 weeks, so I've still got another week before I descend into "bud watching" mode. Mostly I pass the time reading, watching TV episodes on DVD, or surfing on the web. Dehydration and nausea makes it difficult to concentrate on anything for too long, so I mix it up a lot, punctuating each activity with a rest, just lying still. If I sit up for too long my stomach muscles start to protest and the nausea gets really bad.

But today I realized there is something I else I can, for short amounts of time...learn to play my new violin! This is something I've wanted to do for many years, and after trading a clarinet for a violin with a friend a couple weeks ago, I can now start to realize this dream. So this morning I found a couple of online lessons on beginner's violin and gave it a go. Turns out I'm actually picking the basics up pretty quickly. After a few instructions, I started to just experiment on my own. Knowing the guitar helped a bit, but mostly I'm just trying to play different hymns (which are pretty easy and slow) and getting the feel for the fingering and the bow.

Granted, it doesn't sound fantastic yet, but the tunes are actually recognizable, and not scratchy and screechy at all! I definitely overdid it this morning, though. Even though I was lying in bed while playing, it still took a lot of inner muscles and my whole inner core is rumbly, and I'll probably throw up. Lesson learned. But I'm excited to give it a few minutes every day, and actually try and do something productive while lying in bed here!

Friday, 18 November 2011

It's takes a village to...grow a baby

Today I am full of gratitude as I ponder on how many loved ones I have in my life. In this age of "following" online, it's easy to have 600 friends on Facebook, but how many of them could you truly count on when you needed it most?

Early pregnancy is by far the most vulnerable time of my life. I am literally laid up in bed for at least two months. And with other little children, it means that I can't do this by myself. And now that I am hooked up to a non-movable IV pole 4 hours a day, it really limits what I can do.

First of all, there is James. People often ask me why on earth I have decided to do this four times. Honestly, I look at James and wonder why on earth he agreed to this four times. Because he knows it means he will have to do so much more. And he's already swamped with his company and his church assignments, I am baffled that he finds more hours in the day (and jealous he won't share his secret!) But steps up every time and just astonishes me. He does the laundry and cooks the meals and makes the lunches and does homework with the boys and plays with them and bathes them and gets them to bed and does the grocery shopping and throws parties and hosts dinners and looks after me, and...and...and... He also gets some big projects done, like scrubbing the kitchen floor on his hands and knees (took three nights), scrubbing down the fridge, hanging the Christmas lights, raking the billion leaves. And I've never once heard a single complaint escape his lips. (Which is more than I can say for me, when I'm feeling bogged down with running a home, never mind that I don't have a company to run at the same time)! Seriously, I have the best husband ever.

Secondly, family. James' parents are in town and help out in so many ways. James' dad takes on extra work so that James can be home when he needs to be, for the boys. And James' mom - that woman is inspiring. She never stops; she is a machine. She is so willing to help out when James is in the city on work. I can't get the boys to the bus or pick them up, or drop off and pick up Benjamin at daycare, so she steps in. She often drops in to help out with dinner or bedtime or to watch Benjamin during swim lessons. And she never comes by without quietly helping out with the housework, the dishes, the laundry. Hard as I try when I'm well, I can never get my place to look like it does when she's here. But every time she leaves I'm inspired to try a little harder.

Under family will also come my parents. Although they are in Australia right now, when my mom's school term finishes they'll be on a plane the next day on their way over. While my mom stays with my sister and her newborn baby, my dad will drive here every day to watch Benjamin and help with the boys. In fact, my mom has said numerous times she wishes she could be here already. But it's less than a month now until they are here.

Speaking of my sister, she is definitely included in this village. She is 8 1/2 months pregnant and still willing to come and help out in a jam. The other day James couldn't be home for bus pick up, so she swung by after her doctor's appointment. She picked up the boys from the bus, then made cookies with them, then served up dinner, then watched Benjamin while James took the boys to swimming, then did the dishes (dishwasher broke at the WORST possible time!). Did I mention she's 8 1/2 months pregnant? She's a super-star!

Also under family comes James' brothers. They all work together, and even though we're coming into the slower months, they are still having to pick up some extra slack for James. I know James feels bad that he can't take shifts from them so they can have some more days off, but I hope they all know how much we appreciate their sacrifice right now. This one is particularly hard for me, because I know how unpleasant it must be for them, and it makes me so uncomfortable that James can't be the superstar for them he wants to be. What gets me through is knowing that the plus of a family business is that we are there for each other, no matter what, and one day we'll be able to return this favour in kind.

Then we have some amazing friends in town here. One of my best friends is taking Benjamin every morning so that I can rest and James' mom can answer the phones for the business. Another best friend offered to come once a week and fold laundry. Countless friends are dropping off meals, more have offered to drop some as the days go by. Other friends have offered to take one of the boys for a play date here and there, which will help with a degree of normalcy in the boys' days.

Really, I can't express my gratitude for the very large and loving village who are helping me to grow this baby. I literally couldn't do it without them.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Beautiful White

The snow started lightly falling this afternoon outside my window. Then it blew more furiously, before tapering off to a soft dance. A gentle reminder that winter it coming.

It was beautiful.

I miss food

There are many times when I think of food and get nauseous (fairly typical for early pregnancy.) But more often than not, I really, really, really miss food. And because I can hardly eat, I'm starving all the time. There are so many things I wish I could eat. Not in a pregnancy craving kind of way, just in an "I love food" kind of way. I miss cooking and baking. I am sad as we head into the holidays and I won't be able to cook up big holiday dinners and sweet Christmas baking. I've seen at least ten new recipes I wish I could try out. I browse through Better Homes and Gardens website and see all their food ideas and dream. I don't miss fast food at all. Not that we eat it tons, but even the thought of a hamburger and fries makes me wrinkle my nose. I miss real food.

Right now I'm surviving on toast with peanut butter, ravioli, and scrambled eggs. My body is starting to reject me for lack of fruit and vegetables, which are too acidic for my poor tummy. And funny enough, I can hardly drink anything. A little milk here and there, but everything else makes my stomach churn. Absolutely no water (too hard on the stomach), a little Gatorade when I can manage a sip, but that and juice I find so sickly sweet.

My nose is also on overdrive. The other day James did my laundry in fabric softener (which I actually never use; I guess there is an old bottle down there from something) and although I tried my best, I couldn't put them on at all. And poor Benjamin makes me queazy every time he comes over for a cuddle, because he always smells like syrup (it gets permanently stuck in his hair!) or whatever else he ate that day. He has this terrible habit of rubbing his hands through his hair while he's eating, which leaves him smelling of food all the time.

Anyway, I'm storing away a bunch of food ideas for when I come out of this stage of pregnancy...oh the New Year will be so much fun in my kitchen!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

A temporary solution

As I descended into the depths of pain again this morning, I broke down and called the doctor right away, instead of waiting for things to get worse (as I always do.) I quickly got in to see her, and before I knew it I was at the hospital for the 3rd time in a week getting another IV treatment, and things were set up for me to receive the treatment daily at home. The treatment takes 4 hours, and the additional medication I need is $27 a dose (only 1 dose a day, hopefully), at least I might be able to get through the next 4 weeks not writhing in pain and confined to bed. After each treatment I've had so far, while I couldn't be up and about a lot, I was at least comfortable in a tolerable state of health.

I also learned that my family doctor, before she opened her practice, used to work as a high-risk obstetrician in downtown Toronto, so she has lots of experience with my kind of case (and worse) I can't tell you how reassuring that was to find out, because I know she really gets how bad this really is, and she's taking all sorts of positive action. I'm not one to abuse the amazing health care system we have in Canada, but I do know that we pay a lot to have it, and I'm so grateful to be able to use what is available to me in such a way.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Buoyed by the strength

If you have a chance, watch this video of Stephanie Nielson. She is a young mother who, with her husband, survived a plane crash that burned 80% of her body. She was in a coma for three months before she woke. But she is alive today, to be a mother to her four children (and one on the way).

As I watched her inspiring story, I realized that she wakes every morning with a lot of pain. She endures each day with a lot of pain. And there is no end date for her. She will continue to endure this pain for the rest of her life on earth.

And I realized that my pain, although a heavy challenge for me now, does have an end date. The worst of it will only last another two months, hopefully. And even if I don't improve, this baby will arrive in 7 months and it will all be over. I know that after I deliver this new little one, all the pain I'm experiencing will disappear in an instant.

At the end of Stephanie's video, there is this quote from Elder Russell M. Ballard:

When suffering, we may in fact be nearer to God than we’ve ever been in our entire lives. That knowledge can turn every such situation into a would-be temple. Regarding our earthly journey, the Lord has promised, “I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (D&C 84:88). That is an everlasting declaration of God’s love and care for us, including—and perhaps especially—in times of trouble.

There is a different way of looking at life. We have a choice in how we face our times of trouble. While I may not be able to look at these days just yet in such a positive, or at least spiritual, way, I feel like I have been challenged to do so. There will still be moments where I feel defeated, days when I break down in tears, but I am growing a life inside of me, and that is beautiful.

Monday, 14 November 2011

In all the giving

As a mom, there is so much I want to give to my kids. I want to give them all the things they need to flourish, including my time and attention and love. But there is one thing I have also come to see is very important for them to do well: time alone.

Somewhere, in something I read, it talked about how kids need time alone to really figure themselves out. In time spent by themselves, they learn who they are, what they like, and carve out their own path. If you never give kids this time, then all you see is a reflection of what you are pushing on them. Remember, this is always with the best intention. We want to expose our kids to what we think is best. The trouble is, sometimes we fill their days with so much of what we think they want, that they don't have time to discover something themselves.

I saw this a lot with Colin over the past two years. As he outgrew daily naps, I still desperately needed the shut eye (my babies take forever to sleep through the night!) And being that Colin is quite responsible for his age, I told him that he didn't have to nap in his room if he played quietly on his own downstairs and let me sleep.

And he did, quite contentedly, for about two hours each day. At first I noticed that he spent most of his time playing with his toys in the playroom, which is how he always spent most of his playtime. But after a week or so, he had gathered together some art supplies and started creating. He would rarely just draw; usually his art time involved lots of folding and cutting and gluing. He was often recreating something from memory or from a game. And he could literally sit there for those two solid hours and work away at it.

I've mentioned before how art time is something I rarely do with the boys, because it was never my thing. But I'm so glad Colin discovered a love for it. But more than that, I've noticed that this time alone has really caused Colin to grow. He is much more capable at thinking laterally now. He doesn't only see the options I present, but looks for other ideas, different ways to go about things. That time alone really encouraged him to develop that unique thought process in him, and to be comfortable and confident in it.

Now Caleb is starting to enter this stage. 99% of the time he still takes his nap, but once in a while he's crept out early and stated that he isn't tired. So off he takes himself downstairs to amuse himself. He hasn't really found his niche yet, I think. So far he has gotten into the art supplies, but more in imitation of Colin. But he has come leaps and bounds in Lego building, as he starts to make much more intricate designs, with movable parts and stories behind the creations.

We are often so eager (desperate?) to fill every moment of our kids' time with activities. It's been nice to observe the positive aspects of just letting them be for a bit, to see where they go (grow).

Sunday, 13 November 2011


I saw a beautiful film on Netflix today: Arranged. It is a small independent film about an orthodox Jewish woman and her Muslim friend, and how these two young women approach the idea of arranged marriage within their religion. (I highly recommend it. For you gals.)

What I loved most was that this wasn't a "Grease" type makeover movie. This film was not about how these girls need to get into the 21st century, that their religions are archaic, oppressive, and should be abandoned. It simply and honestly dealt with how one might feel in modern day New York about embracing such ideas.

My favourite line was this: "Why do you equate tradition with nonsense?" (one lead actor to her well-meaning boss, an older feminist trying to help her young employees see that life has more to offer than "a young marriage and a house full of children.") I am quite intrigued by all the different orthodox religions and traditions that exist in our world. I see something very beautiful in such strong faith.

I've often thought about the existence of so many deeply entrenched religions in the world. I know each religion must take the stance that theirs alone is the right one; that is an intrinsic part of religion. But each faith has very well-thought out doctrines and long-standing traditions, it makes each one so unique. From a scholarly stand-point, it makes me wonder if belief in religion is actually the fifth "necessity of life" (Thoreau) along with food, shelter, clothing and fuel.

It would be interesting to discover that if there is no Intelligent Design or Supreme Being, that in fact we are nothing more than an evolutionary accident, we would still need to believe in something of a higher power to have a happy existence. There are several things that humanity has come to accept as an identifier of our species, things that we have decided make a person's life better. We have formed family units that generally stay together for life (something unique in the animal kingdom). We have also decided that society works best when we each take on a specialty and help each other, rather than trying to be a jack-of-all-trades. So I wonder if the case could be made the one is happier, calmer, more settled, "better off" in fact, if one has a deeply seeded religious belief of some sort. Perhaps that is why there exists so many strong world religions; each culture on its own (long before the world become so connected) knew that man had a basic spiritual need that had to be met in the same way our physical needs for food, shelter, clothing and fuel needed to be met.

At any rate, I loved this film and it's strong position that tradition is not antiquated in today's society, and that these women are not somehow less woman for embracing these ideas. Definitely worth a look when you get the chance.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

All emotional and such

I know I'm all emotional and such with pregnancy, but this is really hard. Really, really hard. I mean, James and I really feel strongly about this little baby, but somehow I hoped that maybe this time I would react differently. I have a friend who had three terrible pregnancies with her boys, and then a dream of a time while pregnant with her little girl. It's not that I'm wishing for a girl, I just wanted a little break.

But, true to history, this one is even worse than the last. Each one got progressively worse. This time I can't stop throwing up. I'm so hungry my stomach constantly growls. This time my entire digestive system is in so much pain I dissolve in tears. As I crawled on the kitchen floor the other day trying to get ready for lunch, tears poured down my face and Benjamin just looked at me with those sad, compassionate eyes and I could tell he didn't understand why his mommy was crying. I don't know if he's ever seen me cry. He was so confused, and he started to whimper and cry a little, and it broke my heart, and all I could do was lie on the floor with him.

Now we don't even know if the pregnancy is viable. The doctor couldn't see a heartbeat at the ultrasound. Granted, at 6 weeks 4 days she said it's possibly too early, but maybe not. I have to wait another 5 weeks before she's going to do another one. And I don't know if I can wait that long, endure this pain for that long, if there's not even a baby there.

And the hard part is knowing that supposedly, this is the "easy" part of the illness; generally it is the worst between 8 and 12 weeks. I don't even know if my poor body or my mind can hold on that long.

Friday, 11 November 2011


The other day Caleb brought in a small travel alarm clock. He fiddled with the buttons briefly, then placed the clock upon my dresser. Turning to me, he very seriously said "Remember. When this gets to 0:00 and beeps, then you will not throw up or be sick anymore." He melts my heart with his compassion daily.


Yesterday Caleb stayed home from school (too much birthday excitement and junk food the day before). He crawled into bed with me and said "I know that when mommies are having babies, they have to stay in bed all day, so I will be here to help. I know when I grow up and marry my own mommy (wife!) and she has a baby, she will have to stay in bed all day, and I will help her by doing all the work in the house. I will clean the kitchen and do the dishes and fold the laundry and clean the playroom, but I can't do the cat poop by myself. I need two hands to hold the bag, and then I don't have any hands to scoop with. But you know what mom? I will stay home from school today and help you by doing all the cleaning in the whole house."

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The End of America

I saw an interesting documentary this morning on Netflix called "The End of America." The film is based on Naomi Wolf's book of the same name, in which she details 10 steps of the blueprint to close down an open society. She studied previous historical instances of this happening (think Nazi Germany, Russia, and Chile) and then was shocked to find the same things happening in her home country of the United States. I recommend giving it a look - it's good food for thought.

The step that was the greatest concern for me was the idea of a "list" - a watch list that designates our own citizens as potential threats. There are many celebrities and well known names on this list - people who have expressed opinions contrary to the current government. The point about free speech was then raised: when does dissent become terrorism? Shouldn't we have the right to criticize leaders if we disagree with their policies? Obviously there is a need to protect our citizens, but where is the line between healthy debate, expressing our opinions, and when it turns to a terror threat?

The scary thing about having a list is that that is exactly how previous regimes in history managed their quick collection of "threatening citizens" who were then jailed and killed. Such a round up has to be swift to be effective, which means the information must already be compiled somewhere. Like on a watch list. I really don't like the sound of that. There are more than 1,000,000 names on the US watch list. In fact, my dad was on one such list. It meant that every time he tried to fly, he was taken aside and questioned. Which is ridiculous, because he worked for an airline. He flied all the time - it was part of his job. Apparently it was another person of the same name on the list, but it didn't matter. It took forever for him to try and battle the system that was making it so hard for him to do his job.

Journalists, actors, news reporters, novelists, and ordinary people just wanting to take a stand are all on the list. No, I do not like this one bit.

I'm not a conspiracy-theorist. I'm not an anarchist. I'm not anti-government. I want some degree of security and protection. But I also don't want to walk around with my eyes closed, and then, like many Germans claimed, be surprised at the lengths to which our governments go.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Happy 4th Birthday Caleb

Today Caleb is four years old. It seems like it's only been in the past few weeks that all of a sudden he grew into this new age. He and grown older and wiser in such a short time, and all of a sudden he is losing that little boy-ness about him.

He is the most compassionate soul. He is drawn to suffering and tears, with a yearning to ease the pain. He expresses that compassion physically, always wanting to kiss and hug and cuddle.

He has a joyous light about him that draws other to him. People can't help but fall in love with his twinkling blue eyes and brilliant smile. He is mischievous, but gets away with lots because of that infectious grin of his.

He makes friends easily. Starting school was not a problem in the least. He is happy as a clam with whoever is around, children of any age. He especially likes to play with the older kids, as he loves imaginative play that some kids his age aren't into yet. I would think he doesn't even see age when he looks at others, he simply sees a world full of new friends.

He cares deeply for Benjamin, and takes his role as big brother seriously. He is protective when danger lurks, and caring when sadness comes. In fact, Benjamin seems to be very much like Caleb, and I can see that this will both draw them very close and cause some friction as they grow older.

Caleb is an early riser but a good napper. He knows when he is tired and loves to sleep.

He has the funniest and sometimes quite illogical sense of logic. But you can see those wheels turning in his head. He understands critical thinking, even if he doesn't quite have the experience to make logical conclusions yet. Behind his jovial and carefree nature, there is a good little thinker there.

Boy, do we love our Caleb. Four wonderful years with him so far have been the light of my life. I love you, sweetheart!

The news is out

We wanted to wait until Christmas, but no such luck. We are expecting little baby #4! I'm only 7 weeks along (we think - dating ultra-sound to happen tomorrow) but already terribly sick. 4 people even asked me if I was pregnant before I said anything. The downside to getting so sick is that you can't hide it. People know that if you've got the flu, then you stay home. If you're pregnant, you still go out, even looking like death warmed over. Luckily this is my second pregnancy with my family doctor, and she has decided to be proactive about treating me. I have my first hospital visit tomorrow for IV fluids and medication, with the hope that it will keep me going during this first difficult four months.

I have a good friend who had terrible pregnancies with each of her three boys, but an easy one with her girl. I hoped maybe for the same; I guess either my body just doesn't handle pregnancy at all, or I'm having another boy. And for the record - we aren't going to find out what we're having. James prefers the surprise, and since I got to find out for #2 and #3, this one is his. I think it might kill me, but that's the way it goes.

Baby will likely come in mid-June, which is completely different for us, with only November/December babies. I think I'm going to like it, though. I'll be feeling well in time for the nice summer weather, and will have the opportunity to get out and about right away, instead of whiling away the winter indoors. I am super-bummed about missing the holidays this year, including all birthdays of my wonderful little boys. I'm hoping to be on the upswing come January.

But I am beyond grateful for dear friends who are offering more help than I can imagine. My illness came on so quickly this time we were unable to find someone to help in the home, and so Benjamin is at a good friend's for daycare for the mornings, then will come home for afternoon nap. The upside to James' business being in the family is that everyone will pull together for us, and do what they can so that James can work from home as much as possible, which will be crucial at least until the first week of December, when my parents arrive from Australia and will be able to help out more.

So here we go again. I can hardly believe it. My poor body is rebelling, but I just pray to get through the next two months and then hopefully there will be a little light.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Youth workshop

Yesterday I gave my music workshop at a local youth church conference. It was beyond description.

I had to give my 45 minute workshop 6 times between noon and 6pm. I had anywhere from 5 to 35 kids in each group. The point of the workshop was to teach the kids all a song, which they would then "perform" en masse at the end of the day, in sort of a big youth choir of over 150 kids. But because it doesn't take 45 minutes to teach a song, it also meant that I had some time to fill with speaking as well.

My preparation was somewhat different than I usually would do. Most times I write out everything I want to say, and then memorize that script. This time, however, I didn't have the time to do that. So I prepared myself instead. I read about my topic, thought about it, jotted down notes here and there, and saturated myself in the ideas that came to me about this song. Then I just got up there and spoke. Each workshop was slightly different, but each one covered the same points.

In teaching the song, I opted to do a different arrangement of a familiar hymn. This way the kids weren't having to learn new words and music, just how to put it into a new setting. And I also edited together a video about the life of Christ that illustrated the song. So when the kids sang and the video played, it was sort of like a live music video.

I thought the workshops themselves went well. Some went better than others. Some kids really responded, others seemed more stoic or distracted. That doesn't bother me - I know when I'm dealing with teens, there will be some kids you just can't get to. You have to keep in mind with teens that it's about the few you do get to.

But the amazing part of the whole day was the final choir part. Because there were so many kids, they sang from the congregation pews. I stood in front and led them as chorister, just as we had practiced throughout the day. A few of the leaders who hadn't seen my workshop cried as the video and the music combined to make a very powerful effect. But then, when the fourth verse started, a few of the kids toward the back stood up while singing. Then a few more, then a few more, and before long the entire congregation were on their feet, singing "I Know That My Redeemer Lives." That's when I let a few tears go, in front of everyone. The counselor in the Stake Presidency (the area leader for the church) was going through a Kleenex box. Many of the teens in the congregation also started to cry from the spiritual emotion in the air. There was a moment of silence when the song finished, as everyone just let it hang there.

Every once in a while you are part of a moment that will stay with you for a long time. The last time I remember something like this was a presentation I gave on the Holocaust in grade 11, more than 15 years ago. You never forget that feeling at the end. How grateful I am to have been part of something so impacting for so many. And how grateful I am that I didn't get in the way of the Spirit in over preparing or trying to script this workshop. Truly, I was just a vehicle for a message from heaven.

Friday, 4 November 2011


I realize this is almost a week late, but believe it or not, I didn't really get any photos of Hallowe'en myself. (My sister took these.) My boys had 5 different occasions to wear costumes, and picked a few different things

Colin: Skeleton, Simon (Chipmunk), Darth Vader (twice).
Caleb: Mr. Incredible (three times), Alvin (Chipmunk) Fireman,
Benjamin: Pirate, Pumpkin