Thursday, 31 March 2011


Caleb calls oatmeal "oh-muh-meal." Now we all do, because it's just so darn cute.


He has this very cute way of pursing his lips into a smile, opening his eyes really big, and nodding when he is imparting information he thinks is important and very cool. I've not been able to capture it on camera because it is such a fleeting moment, and my little camera can't even be turned on before the moment is over.


Caleb has taken the whole family into the "potty" stage - you know, when saying "pee" and "poopy" and all those lovely words in the potty family are hilarious. I completely escaped it with Colin, although once in a while he jumps on Caleb's bandwagon. I continuously impart to Caleb that his choice of words is inappropriate. He still thinks its hilarious. It's a stage, and a boy thing, I get it.


"You don't want me to ________any day?" is Caleb's phrase when he's upset. Fill in the blank with anything like "You don't want me to have cookies any day?" or "You don't want me to play the computer any day?" He uses it for anything he's been told "no" or "wait" to. If I tell him dinner will be another few minutes before it's ready: "You don't want me to eat dinner any day?" And the "any day" part is spoken in a long, drawn out drawl with a bit of a whine. It makes James and I laugh all the time, and we often find ourselves (at night, after the boys are sleeping) making up our own variations on this theme.


I am amazed at how even Caleb can remember all the Star Wars character names. Star Wars is about the coolest thing on earth to the boys right now. I can't keep all the made up names straight, but he (and Colin) sure can. There is only one that he says wrong, but he says it the same wrong way each time, as though he was really sure that was the name:

Boba the Fett
Jango the Fett

It makes me smile every time, not because it makes the name any more ridiculous than it already is, just because it makes me wonder what he thinks a "Fett" is!

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Raising girls

Okay, I know. Strange title for a mother of three boys. But I was thinking about girls last night as I was participating (musically) in the New Beginnings program for the teen girls at our church. I have this feeling that while I'm tearing my hair out day in and day out right now, I will thank my lucky stars in ten or fifteen years that I have boys and not teen girls: girls sharing a bathroom and fighting over clothes and riding the hormone roller-coaster and getting caught up in emotionally exhausting relationships.

I have been pondering for a couple of months now my own teen years. I always begin this exercise by telling myself that I must try and be a little easy on myself. After all, I heard a researcher once say that the part of the brain that is the ego swells massively during the teen years, and then abates again as you ease into your twenties. So scientifically speaking, teens are designed to be very self-centered. (I will try to remember this when my own children are teens!)

Nevertheless, I have been heartily saddened as I think about my own behaviour during my teen years. It seemed as if the world revolved around me. I thought I deserved what I wanted, and tried hard to get it, in spite of the consequences. I think I may have hurt some dear friends along the way. I shudder to think of the people I hardly knew whom I may have also hurt or offended. I know I can say that I wasn't consciously spiteful or mean, and never had any intention of behaving in such a way. It is only with the 20/20 vision of hindsight that I am able to see what the consequences of my selfish nature might have been.

Part of my sorrow, I will admit, comes from that deep desire to be liked by everyone. I think we all have this, no matter the exterior we profess. I think back on some friendships now faded with time and wish I could capture them back. We have all grown, matured, changed, from the self-focused teens we once were. 'Self-focused' seems a better term, because I don't want to forget the necessity of that stage. The teen years are the time when you carve out who you are, even though you don't see the results for another ten years. You spend much of the time trying to be what you think you want to be, or what others think you should be. You spend the rest of the time trying to reject what you think you should be, or what others want you to be. It really does create an imagery of an artist who carves his creations out of wood. The teen years are like the artist standing in front of a tree which he must rudely and harshly hack away at to fell his material. The blunt axe is his tool, and each whack at the trunk gouges deeper and deeper, leaving a terrible mess and a ghastly gash. It is only after he fells the tree that he can begin the finer work of carving, as you come out of the teen years and into your twenties. Even still it necessitates a deep gouge here and there to achieve the rudimentary shape. Now, as I enter my thirties, I feel as though I finally understand the artist's vision; and while the tree trunk is nothing more than a vague shape of its final product, at least now I only must endure the gentle shavings of the finer details.

Hmm. That was an unexpected path these thoughts meandered down. Such is the work of a writer. I can relate it all back to raising girls in the respect that I believe girls endure a much harsher time during their teens as they deal with the deep emotional relationships they form. Boys seem to understand that if they simply have it out one afternoon, they can forgive and forget tomorrow. Girls sure do have a rough time of it.

(On a side note - I am thoroughly enjoying this new world of boys, and think I have finally hit on a writing project I can stick with! After half a dozen failed story attempts over the past month or so, I completed the first good chunk of my new project last night...and boy am I ever excited about it! More to come another day, I promise.)

Monday, 28 March 2011

Speaking of work

Not in any way related to the previous entry (which I actually wrote yesterday and scheduled to post today, in case I didn't get to write - I do that when I have lots to say and don't want to post a million things on one day!), but today I got to some serious work!

First thing in the morning - a workout. I am so grateful for my great friend Kathy who leads a workout for about 8 of us, twice a week. She has been working with a personal trainer for a couple years now and is looking amazing. Plus she manages to remember everything she is taught, so she actually designs a new workout for us every Monday and Friday. She even brings her weights, mats and balls. She is a taskmaster - but I love her for it. I always feel better afterward.

Second thing today was housework. It's Monday, and I generally try and get it done Monday morning, so I remember to actually do it every week. If I didn't schedule it for a day, I might not remember the last time I did it! I dusted and vacuumed, and then found myself without any more energy. But at least that got done.

Lastly I started on a major spring cleaning. Whenever I see big totes on sale (specifically one brand - so they are all the same) I buy four or five and bring them home. I am working on transferring anything I store from boxes into totes. They stack much nicer than boxes, are more durable and long-lasting, and can be stored in the garage, if necessary. It also allows me to go through the boxes and make sure I'm only keeping things I need. I was only going to transfer some clothing to the totes, but once I got going, I couldn't stop! I pulled out all the baby clothes and did yet another purge, keeping only the things the boys actually wore. I figure if after three boys something wasn't worn, there isn't much of a chance it would get worn on a fourth.

Then I went through the winter bins, the summer bins, and the craft bins. Currently there are 10 totes sitting in the living room, waiting to be labelled and re-stored. Now that the boys are in bed and James is working very late tonight, I'm going to tackle a bit of the garage. I want to store more totes in there rather than in the basement, since there isn't much room down there. It may be chaos in here for a few days, but order will reign in the end!

Welcome, Spring!

A Consecrated Life - Work

"Work builds and refines character, creates beauty, and is the instrument of our service to one another and to God."

We live in a society that seems to hate work. Everything we do is about trying to make work easier, get it done faster, and get to a point (retirement) where you no longer have to work. Why have we decided that work is bad? The quote above reminds us that work is an important part of life. If you consider what the opposites are to the above qualities of work, then without work, we would become lazy, be surrounded by chaos, and become self-centered. When thinking of it in that light, why wouldn't we adjust our thinking about embrace the daily efforts in our life and enjoy the work?

"A consecrated life is filled with work, sometimes repetitive, sometimes menial, sometimes unappreciated, but always work that improves, orders, sustains, lifts, ministers, aspires."

I love that the article acknowledges the difficulties about work. Let me tell you, in relation to my current work (motherhood), it is always repetitive (meal prep, dishes, laundry, cleaning, school routines), usually menial (see previous list!) and often unappreciated (the daily routines mean that people don't often understand the work that truly goes into it.) These are likely the reasons that many people today don't want to engage in work.

When I read "Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology" the author devoted a whole chapter to work, for what people work harder than those in a Mennonite-type community? Without the "time-saving devices" we have, all the daily chores take that much longer and require that much more physical labour. And yet the author found that few complained; the work was part of the day, an accepted way to pass time, an opportunity to strengthen oneself physically and improve relationships with others. He concluded that those in the community understood the value of work as most never do.

Equally important, the article asserts, is the time for leisure. Elder Christofferson notes that music, literature, art, dance, drama, and athletics are not only a way to enrich yourself and give sweet rest to the body, mind and spirit, but they, in their own way, further consecrate your life. It is true that, for me, playing music is a balm to my soul. I play music to express joy, relax, de-stress, work out anger and frustration, find calm, or just enjoy its creation. I can feel myself being lifted up, and so I can also assert that leisure can definitely aid in the consecration of your life.

Once again, after reading this section, I am recommitted to finding joy in my work. I do not want to feel as though work is something I must get through before I can enjoy myself. I want to embrace work as an important part of my life, and see how it improves, orders, sustains, lifts, ministers aspires, builds character and creates beauty. It really is about a mentality shift.

Sunday, 27 March 2011


Because our church is a lay ministry (all the positions, including Bishop, which is like Pastor) are volunteer) it means that every couple of years you are shifted around to serve in a new area. James has spent the last three years, since we moved to Orangeville, in the Ward Mission, one year as assistant, and then two years as the leader. We learned about a month ago that they were going to be moving him to something new, but we had to wait until today to find out what it was: Ward Clerk.

Neither of us new much about this position, and so we went to the handbook to find the description. I mean, we both figured it involved organization, note-taking, record keeping, roles like that. Which James will be totally awesome at. His attention to detail, persistence and perfectionism will definitely help him excel in this calling. What we didn't realize are the spiritual responsibilities that come with it. He has been on the Ward Council, that oversees the workings of the church, for about four years since joining the church 6 years ago. This is a group of about a dozen people who represent all the different groups of people (women, men, children, missionary, etc) who council with the Bishop and his counsellors as they figure out the goals and direction for the ward, as well as address any issues. It was only last month that James was telling me that he hadn't truly realized the full responsibility of sitting on that council, and that he was humbled by the opportunity he has had to serve in this capacity.

Now he has an even greater responsibility, for he will sit in council with the Bishop, his two counsellors and the executive secretary. This is a smaller council that discusses things before they go to the ward council. He will listen to the Bishop and give his own council and opinions on the different subjects. I think James is truly humbled now by this new calling.

It's been neat to watch as he prepared himself for receiving this calling, even not knowing which area he would be assigned to. He read scripture and prayed and thought about the ward and the people who attend. It's amazing to think that he has only been converted six years.

It's also fun to see the different areas he gets to serve, because me - I'll likely always be in music!

Friday, 25 March 2011

Confession time

My name is Terri-Ann, and I am a Leafs fan.

It truly does feel like a confession, a dirty little secret, these days. With no cable hookup, I don't watch the games anymore. Plus James isn't a hockey fan, and I never liked taking our Saturday night up watching something without him, or that he wasn't interested in.

But I am still a Leafs fan at heart. I don't think that ever changes. I still like to listen to updates on the team, hear the summaries of their games, and follow the race to the playoffs.

One thing I do NOT like: the way people and reporters hang on to the very last playoff hope in the dying games of the season. If it comes down to the very last game or two, or to games played or points earned or wins/losses against a certain team, why even bother? Even if the team manages to grab the last playoff spot, odds are the other team (first in the league) will wipe the floor with them. Who wants to see that? The way I see it, you have to fight and play all season, not just show up for the last few weeks. If you haven't earned your spot to play for the Stanley cup by now, it's over.

So at a time when die-hard fans are biting their nails every morning when they open the sports page of the newspaper and check last night's results, at a time when casual fans are jumping on the bandwagon, at a time when lapsed fans (like me) tune in to games they wouldn't usually watch just to get some last gulps of Leafs air, I'm tuning out.

(Okay, okay. If by some miracle they actually do grab a spot, I confess I will likely watch at least the first playoff game. And if it isn't too painful, I might even try and tune in for much of the round. Because, hey - my name is Terri-Ann and I am a Leafs fan. And if you're a Leafs fan, you're a Leaf fan to the end!)

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Fun and games

Family Home Evening usually only consists of a song, a prayer and short 5 minute lesson, followed, of course, by a treat. Our Family Home Evening board has a hook for "activity," but by the time dinner and cleanup are over, we only have about half an hour before bedtime, and once I pick up a neighbour who joins us for FHE and then drop her off again, we're out of time. So usually we just ignore the 'activity' hook.

But this week, due to an unforeseen trip to the walk-in clinic (a gash in Benjamin's forehead) and a trip down to Brampton to look at Bathroom vanities, FHE ended up happening on Tuesday instead. And because James was home early, and dinner happened early, we had some extra time. So after a quick lesson on the role and importance of prophets and the upcoming General Conference, and after the treat (Cheese strings - yikes! I dropped the ball and completely forgot to make a treat!), all five of us sort of migrated to the living room.

I think it was Colin who started it off with the games. Our living room isn't huge, but we do have an unimpeded 12 foot space in the middle, which lends itself to running games (when you're 3 and 5.) Colin plays a game at school called "chat et chien" (cat and dog) where the dog stands in the middle and all the rest have to race from one side to the other side and try not to get caught by the dog. It's not much of a challenge in our living room, but Colin and Caleb love it, and Benjamin just runs back and forth laughing his head off. After a few minutes I suggested "What time is it, Mr. Wolf?" the old children's classic. Colin started off as the wolf, and when he yelled "lunchtime!" and turned to chase us, I let out an unintentional squeal of laughter. Then I laughed even harder at the fact that I had squealed in my excitement. Then I laughed even harder because Benjamin started shrieking in imitation of me as he ran around the room. Then James cam in and joined in. After a bit, we moved on to 'Simon Says,' but that didn't last long because Caleb couldn't get the hang of it, and couldn't stand "losing" every time the leader didn't say "Simon says." Instead, Caleb suggested a new game. This was his explanation:

"It's called Mrs. Peacup. You go like this around the room (a mix of dancing and skipping about, arms waving.) And then someone says "tick tick tick tick" and you go on the floor and roll."

He was so certain of how to play and specific in details, I thought it must have been something he learned at nursery school. I inquired such, and he replied that, no, it was a game he had made up. Just now. As it turned out, I had to be Mrs. Peacup, because Mrs. Peacup is a girl and I'm the only girl. Which meant I had to stand at one end and say "dance" and "tick tick tick tick." After I said "tick tick" and both boys rolled on the floor, right onto each other in a pile by the fireplace, Caleb laughed and declared it was a tie.

It was the most fun activity I've ever participated in. I totally felt like a little kid all over again.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

What are you missing?

I had another 'musical moment' today. I had my guitar out this morning, strumming and singing away while the boys played around me. I like to do that a couple of times a week, so they have lots of exposure to music. I had pulled out a binder of sheet music and was flipping through it, picking out songs that sounded neat on the guitar, practicing sight-transposition, and just singing my heart out. It's one of my favourite ways to spend time.

The second last song in the binder was called "When Someone Cares." I've never played it much before, because I don't like the piano arrangement at all, which really turns me off of a song. On guitar, however, I was able to adapt the chord structure to something that was really pretty. I played through once, and then went back and played through it again.

The lyrics are lovely, but my musical moment wasn't directly related to the specific theme of the song. Rather, my mind grabbed onto one line and ran with it in a completely different direction:

"And with God, nothing is impossible
But you must reach and take his hand."

I suddenly had the distinct thought of what am I missing out on? Do I give God enough credit for the amazing things he can truly accomplish with me, and in my life? Am I limiting the work he can do in my life because I limit his power in my mind?

Do I truly understand the profound truth that "with God, nothing is impossible?" When I do, I think that amazing things can be accomplished through me. This thought falls in line with my thinking a few weeks back, in regards to the idea that "through small and simple things, great things are brought to pass." Great things. Nothing is impossible. I think that we often get caught up in a state of humility that leads to the thinking that while we have faith, we aren't really anything out of the ordinary, that as one of the 99 faithful sheep, all our responsibility consists of is maintaining a status quo.

My understanding is evolving now. Though I, on my own, might not be anything hugely fantastic, God can do amazing things through me. Do you grasp the importance of that thought? Do you understand your true potential here on earth?

I'll leave off with the lyrics of another song I played through this morning that constantly inspires me.

"Amazing Things"

What would it be like to have faith to move a mountain?
Faith to walk on water, such faith I've never known.
What would it be like to ride a chariot of fire?
Or to see God's very finger write upon a stone?

What would it be like to sleep among the lions?
Or to build an ark while laughter floods my ears?
What would it be like facing death to save my nation?
Or be betrayed by my own brothers and not harbour it for years?

What would it be like to defeat a might giant?
Or see the belly of a whale and live to tell?
What would it be like stripped of every last possession?
To remain a true and faithful servant still?

What would it be like to behold the Son and Father?
Or see visions of what was and what will be?
What will it be like if I drink from heaven's fountain,
Having faith to move a mountain?

Faith the size of a seed can do amazing things.
Faith the size of a seed-
What will He do through me?

Very funny, Mother Nature

We woke up to a snow storm this morning. Ground is white. School buses cancelled.

We are not amused.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

I am going to WILL it to be Spring!

This afternoon I lured the boys out into the backyard for our first real romp since fall. Okay, there were a few shivering stints over the winter, a couple of snow forts, snowball fights, pulls in the toboggan, and snow angels, but likely no more than one a month, and never lasting more than an hour.

Benjamin had his first taste of walking outside. I found a pair of shoes with lots of give for his wobbly gait, so when we went to pick up Colin from the bus, I let him loose on the sidewalk. He thought he'd died and gone to heaven. So when I tried to bring him inside when we got home, he began to thrash and scream and then cry with this really sad frown that melts your heart. Well, the boys weren't complaining about food yet, and if I wasn't inside they couldn't ask me to put a movie on (bonus!) so I transplanted Benjamin and I into the backyard. Caleb followed in seconds, and it was only a couple of minutes before Colin appeared also.

The snow has nearly all melted, so I spent the first half hour doing a spring backyard cleanup - which wouldn't have been so bad if I had done a fall backyard cleanup, as I always intend to do, but never get to it before the first snowfall (that never melts until spring!) I spent the last 45 minutes running around after Benjamin, hoisting him back up to his feet as he ran over the uneven grass. Colin came up with a live-action video game that Caleb played also. As far as I could tell, the grass was lava, and they had to complete an entire circle of our fair-sized backyard without touching any grass. They hopped from piles of leaves to bare dirt to various large toys to the swing set and fort. Each circle was a level, and the goal was to reach level 10. Each level grew progressively harder, with Colin outlining exactly where the path was, and what types of jumps and leaps were required and how many steps were allowed. His mind works so quickly and intricately, and he always manages to keep the game and rules straight and sensible.

So I have officially opened the backyard for the season. For local friends, feel free to drop in or call and invite yourself and your kids over for a play date any morning! If it's muddy, bring extra clothes, because kids love the mud all the more. Once the weather turns a little nicer, we will hopefully be hosting weekly barbecues, as we invite good friends and friends we want to get to know better over to lounge in the backyard, munch on barbecued food, and enjoy good conversation and plenty of laughs. Oh, I am so excited for spring and summer!

Monday, 21 March 2011

Kindergarten prep

I heard a program on the CBC radio the other day that was highlighting a private school that was running kindergarten prep classes. Parents enrol their 18 month old - 4 year olds in this school that academically prepares the children for kindergarten.


The school said that their program was responding to parents who were growing more and more concerned about the competitiveness of the job market post education, especially in light of the new trend of hiring globally. It was becoming clear that in order to have the edge on others, a 'regular' education was not going to cut it. To many parents, 'daycare' was becoming a word associated with laziness and lax attitudes.

I think this line of thinking is crazy, for two reasons.

First of all, children need time to be children. There is a fantastic amount of learning that takes place out in the world, by just living each day and spending time with a parent (who is, by far, their own child's best and most effective teacher.) Five years spent exploring, discovering and asking questions is far more valuable than pushing two year olds to read and write. A well-developped love of learning will take anyone much further than an extra couple of years in a classroom.

Secondly, I think parents are fooling themselves if they think classroom schooling is going to give their kids an edge. Any child can go through school. Any child can enrol in classes. It is already evident that a university degree is meaning less and less in terms of hiring. Perfect GPAs are a dime a dozen, and are not a guarantee for success once a teen is thrust into the 'real world.' Rather, I believe that what makes the difference is creativity. Someone who can think outside the box, see things in a new light or from a different angle, birth brilliant and original ideas - that is the person who is going to have the edge in the new global workforce. And creativity cannot be learned in a classroom with 25 other children, for 24 other kids are doing exactly what you are. The first 5 years of a child's life are imperative for imagination development. I'm pretty sure that if you were to chart the increase of years spent in school (including kindergaten, junior kindergarten, preschool, and private kindergarten prep school) you would see an inverse proportion in the decline of children's imagination.

In light of all this, I have been feeling badly lately in regards to Colin. He continues to be non-plussed about school. Even though his French has taken off in the last couple of weeks, he is never excited about what's going on in the classroom. And he has an absolutely fantastic teacher, as far as our current school system goes. More and more often he climbs into my lap and sadly wishes he could spend more time with me. It breaks my heart to think that this is only the beginning, and that he has another 12 years, at least, of schooling to get through. If it was just Colin and I, you can bet I would be homeschooling him. But with Benjamin the way he is right now, I couldn't even try. I don't have the mental stamina nor the physical energy to fill each and every day with learning opportunities. I do my best when he is home (in the past week he has learned checkers, Solitaire (the clock version, which also involved learning how a clock works), and even the first stages of chess (all the pieces, how they move, and how they kill.) He continues to amaze me each and every day, and makes me hope for the days to come when I can be at full strength again.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Moneyville advice

I click in now and then on an online news column from the Toronto Star newspaper called "Moneyville." The column always has really catching headlines, posing questions that are important to consider when it comes to managing your money. I was taught young and taught well how to manage money, which has blessed me my whole life. Sometimes I read something new I didn't know, and sometimes I read things that affirm practices I already have in place.

Today's article was one that talked about something I already take great advantage of: credit cards. I know this can be a really difficult subject for a lot of people. Abusing credit cards is one of the easiest and worst ways to get yourself into debt. Here is what the article, an interview with a successful children's author, reported on using credit cards:

"How do you prefer to pay?

We most often pay by credit card, but the secret is to use the card and not let it use you. We always pay off our card at the end of the month. We’ve used their money for free for a month and then have used the air miles to fly around the world. I think credit card companies must hate people like me."

This is exactly what I would have written about my own thoughts on credit. My parents helped me get my first credit card in my late teens. They taught me much about how it worked. What I don't remember learning, however, is that you don't actually have to pay it off every month. Seriously, until I was married, I always thought that you had to pay the entire amount when the bill came in. In fact, I don't think I even understood about interest and loans; I really just thought it was like another kind of bank card, and I never spent money on my credit card that I didn't already have in the bank. My parents were using the credit card to help me build a personal credit rating, not learn how to buy now and pay later.

Up until this year, that's all I ever used my credit card for. I put one or two things a month onto the card, and paid it off in full when the bill came in. Then I discovered the truth behind reward programs. Just as the author above wrote, credit card companies must really hate people like me. My current reward program? Cash. I use the credit card over the year, and at the end of the year the company sends a me money, a percentage based on the amount I used the card. A good friend told me how much they made by buying everything all year on their card. I made some calculations of my own and was astonished at the number I would receive. So I made the change. Every month I earn interest on the money in my bank account before paying it out at the end of the month, and then next January a big fat cheque will come my way. I love it!

Saturday, 19 March 2011


Gotta love the little quirks that make you you. Or me me.

When I have worked something out, I listen to music loudly and sing at the top of my lungs. At all other times, I play music softly. In fact, usually I can't stand music blaring. But when I've been working on something for a long time (like figuring out what bathroom vanity to buy) and I finally figure it out (yay for Lowes!), I really rock it out. Yes, that was me in my little Honda Civic with my CD shaking the car and me swaying and dancing inside.

Nothing gets me going in the morning more than having my bed made and the blinds and curtains open. I am really amazed at how different I feel when I do or don't get this done in the morning. I shave off a couple minutes from my shower so that I can spend the time making my bed and going into each room to throw open the curtains and let the sunshine pour in. Then I can face the day with a smile, rather than crawl downstairs and grumble tiredly at everything.

I have trouble finishing a writing project. I have a hundred or more stories started, all very original and with great possibility. I just can't seem to stick any one of them out. But I will one day.

I am such a visual learner that trying to decorate/renovate is really difficult. I hem and haw and agonize over every decision: will this vanity work with that floor tile and will they match the shower that I can't change? Is that really the paint colour I'm hoping for, and will it look fantastic or terrible with the decor? This small bathroom reno I'm working on has been ongoing for so long. I think I'm close, and yet choosing between a dark or a white vanity is going to be the end of me. I go to bed trying to visualize, I wake up trying to visualize, I sit on the tub and try to visualize.

I love a good conversation. I am a film grad who doesn't like to talk much about movies, but I am hooked for hours if you want to discuss politics or history or religion or theories of any variety. I don't necessarily like to debate, because that usually insinuates everyone taking a side before you begin, which doesn't allow the topic to meander and grow and evolve. But I love to discuss the different viewpoints and aspects of a topic and really see where everyone's ideas can take us.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Purposes (addendum)

On March 8th I wrote about an enlightening scriptural experience I had, where I read a passage from the book of Mosiah, regarding my exhausting sleep situation with Benjamin.

A quick recap of that story: finding myself at the end of my rope, I prayed a mother's desperate prayer begging for sleep for Benjamin. In response to that prayer, I read of a people who also prayed for deliverance from a heavy burden. Their answer was that deliverance would come, but not right away. Instead, the Lord would lighten their burden and give them strength to bear it.

I felt this was truly an inspired answer to my query. I felt that although the past 15 months have been exhausting, the relationship that Benjamin has been forming with me will endure throughout his childhood and into those difficult teenage years when most kids distance themselves from their parents. I immediately felt comforted and at peace with the current situation.

A few days later, it occurred to me that I never read on to find out what happened to those people. I assumed they were delivered according the God's promise, but I was curious to find out how.

Not only did I find out what happened, but I discovered that God truly does have a good sense of humour.

It so happened that the faith of the people was great, and they bore their burden cheerfully. After an unspecified time period, word came to the people that on the next day they would finally be delivered. And how would it happen?

"The Lord caused a deep sleep to come upon the Lamanites."

I laughed out loud. For a good length of time. So while I must endure this trial for now, deliverance will come when the Lord causes a deep sleep to come upon Benjamin.


Thursday, 17 March 2011

Spring has sprung!

That's it. I'm calling it. I'm ready for spring, and since the sky is (was) blue this morning and the temperature is going into double digits, it's spring! We have dinner plans with a friend across town and I am all game to strap on my baby carrier, pull out the double stroller and hike it over there after nap! I have my own little resolution to walk more and drive less this spring/summer/fall. We may have cold winters with snowy sidewalks that sideline me for four or five months of the year, but I am definitely going to get good use out of the good weather this year. I've been pregnant or with a newborn for six straight years, and I've never been able to get outdoors as much as I like, between illness and naptimes and babies that didn't travel well. But this year is going to be different.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

This morning

This is a bit of an unusual morning for me. I'm sitting in the living room at my desk, in front of my laptop. I have a plate of pancakes with chocolate chips and maple syrup and a big glass of milk beside me. Colin and Caleb are at the kitchen table playing with Lego (they've been at it over two hours already) and Benjamin is actually down for a little catnap. Me, I'm just catching up on some blog reading.

This is all unusual because I wouldn't normally take time out like this in the middle of the morning. I usually wait until the boys are all taking their afternoon nap. But this morning I'm exhausted and giving myself a little break.

My sister Jennifer and I took the boys up to my Nana's in Bobcaygeon Sunday afternoon, returning late last night. We had a blast up there, as we always do. The boys think Nana and Papa are fantastic and so much fun. Well, they are! The boys ate two pieces of chocolate cake each night after dinner, went for walks, watched cartoons on a TV bigger than they are, ate cereal in bed, and played the entire time with the only toys there - two small shoeboxes of little figures and cars that Nana has had since I was a kid. It was truly eye-opening how much fun they had with that handful of toys. Not once did they complain about boredom. I have a new set of eyes with which to comb over our playroom and get rid of more of the clutter in there.

Benjamin took to Papa immediately. Benjamin didn't sleep well, which made him more tired and cranky and clingy than usual. He would scream and cry the house down if I had to go to the bathroom, but he would go to Papa in a heartbeat. I think it melted Papa's heart a little; who wouldn't be softened by a little toddler who will cuddle up into your lap and watch TV or giggle and laugh when you come around the corner?

So today is a bit of a detox day, a day to throw in a couple loads of laundry and laze around. James cleaned the house top to bottom while I was away. He even rented a carpet cleaning machine and deep cleaned all the carpets. The house was clean and fresh when I came home late last night, which was such a blessing. When I dropped Jennifer off at her house, we ran in for a bathroom break and discovered her husband had done the same thing (no, they didn't coordinate - our husbands are just like that!) Although I was too exhausted to properly express my appreciation last night, I gushed about it all morning. He could have spent his two kid-free wife-free days in any way he pleased, especially in light of the end of the media-fast on Sunday. But the house looks amazing and I couldn't be more grateful.

Well, there's Benjamin, which means signing off here for now. I feel a little disoriented, so I'll try and use this afternoon to wrap my head around the rest of the week, and jot down a couple goals for the next four days (last week's goals didn't go well at all!) and hopefully do a little advance meal planning. Back in the swing of things!

Friday, 11 March 2011


This morning, thanks to some ear plugs, I was able to sleep in until about 7:30. James had spent the last few hours of the night on the couch downstairs with a bad cough, so I knew that when the boys woke up, they would go downstairs and find him.

When I came downstairs, breakfast was over and the boys were happily playing. The empty plates were on the table, sticky with syrup, and drops of apple juice were scattered about. James was just finishing an egg sandwich when he casually said "Colin made breakfast this morning."

"I heard them come down, but I was so tired and only half awake, that while I was still groggy on the couch, Colin got himself and Caleb breakfast."

I called Colin over and he crawled up into my lap, curling his little body in as he always does.

"You made breakfast this morning?" I queried.
"Yep. I pushed a chair over to the counter and got us plates (after moving the plastic bowls from the top of the stack) and then I found the pancakes in the fridge (leftover.) I got out he syrup and the apple juice and got down some cups. Then I poured the syrup and some apple juice for us, and got some forks and knives, and we had breakfast all by ourselves!"

I fought my usual urge to joke with him not to grow up so fast. Although a part of me wants him to stay little and mine forever, I am continually astonished by him as he is growing. I revel in the mantle of responsibility he takes on bit by bit, and I am gladdened as I watch him grow in independence. This is what mothering is all about.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Old (golden) friends

I may not be a Facebook aficionado, but I do love how I am able to loosely connect with friends from the past. Friends from grade school and high school who are living in all parts of the world, with whom I haven't spoken since we sat in class together, who have gone off on adventures in work and family, who are having babies and raising children and fulfilling dreams...

One friend from grade school just had her first little Singapore. I was able to see the beautiful photos she posted. Another acquaintance just moved to my opportunity to connect with her and perhaps become even better friends. My (young) cousins on the other side of the country are growing up...literally before my eyes, as I scan through photos and little notes they write. The couple I lived with in France have sold their house and travel around their part of the world in a catamaran. One of my very best friends in high school is raising a beautiful boy and having all the adventures that are so familiar to myself...even though we haven't seen each other in ten years, there are times when I feel it was just yesterday.

So although I am loving this media fast for the extra intense study time and meditation it has allowed me, I am also so grateful for the way media has allowed me to keep even the loosest connections with good friends.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011


Benjamin has begun applauding me whenever I walk into a room. Now that's a good way to make a girl feel loved and appreciated!



Mommy: Okay, Colin. Time to wash. Be sure to wash everywhere...your arms...your body...your back...your armpits...your legs...your feet...
Colin: Mommy! You forgot to say my leg pits!
Mommy: Your what?
Colin: My leg pits. Behind my knees. My leg pits.
Mommy: (laughing so hard I'm crying and can no longer speak)


(homework time)

Mommy: Colin, today this sheet is on the letter G (in French). First question: what part of the leg starts with the letter g?
Colin: I don't know.
Mommy: It's this part here (touching the back of my knee)
Colin: Oh! My leg pit.
Mommy: (laughing so hard I'm crying and can no longer speak)


This media fast has been great so far. Like I said, I haven't had to adjust too much of my daily habits to eliminate media, but I have been trying to immerse myself more in spiritual things.

The last few weeks I have felt like I couldn't handle much more of the sleepless nights and clingy days with Benjamin. I felt it was very soon going to come to a head, and that, regarding the situation, "either thou, or I, or both must go with him!" (Shakespeare)

The last two weeks I have spent scanning sleep books, and consulting with a friend who is a sleep doula, specializing in infants. I gathered all the information I possibly could, and yet still felt as though I had not found a solution that would work.

Much of my scripture study of late has been very personal, much more so than ever in the past. Yesterday, after reading the assigned reading of a study I'm participating in, I was brought to the humble position of prayer and pled "Father, I know you can make him sleep. I am at the end of my ability and understanding. If you will, make him sleep."

I believed in all my heart that God could answer this request. But then Benjamin napped only 45 minutes yesterday, woke 4 times between midnight and 6am last night, and skipped his morning catnap altogether today. So coming to my time for study again today, I sought out more answers. And I found it.

One of my favourite passages is in the book of Mosiah, in the Book of Mormon. In chapter 24, it is written about a people held in bondage, slaves to ruthless leaders and his country. "So great were their afflictions that they began to cry mightily to God." So great are my afflictions with Benjamin that my prayers, too, were mighty. Then the word of the Lord comes to them through the prophet Alma: "Lift up your heads and be of good comfort...I will covenant with my people and delivery them out of bondage. And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage."

There are so many promises in this short passage. I learn that God will deliver the people, but that it won't happen right away. In the meantime, he makes the burden lighter to bear and gives them strength to endure. Sometimes he delivers you right away, sometimes he gives you the ability to bear the trial and come out stronger on the other side. It has partially to do with God's will, but even more to do with the grand plan of life. Sometimes I will learn and benefit from deliverance; sometimes I will learn and grow from endurance. Every time God is doing a specific work in my life and his plan is always the best plan.

Although I love the profound nature of the above verse, it is not knew to me. I was flipping through my scriptures looking for it, because I draw personal strength from re-reading it during hard times. But I was taught something new today, in the verse following it:

"The Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord."

This verse first just reminded me that God has given me a strength to manage each day in the sleep-deprived condition I am in. He has blessed me with patience, peace and cheerfulness during a time when I would normally be short-tempered, easily frustrated and quick to anger. It reminded me to do my best to submit cheerfully on my own, and to wait until the time of deliverance.

But my thoughts didn't stop there; no, the path of thought went on a little further. I was pushed in my mind to consider just what the will of God might be in this situation? In my prayer yesterday, I was sure that there could not be any benefit of enduring sleepless nights. Surely this wasn't a trial to give me experience, because there really isn't any benefit to me at all. Then something I mentioned to James last week came back to me. In my effort to convince him not to let Benjamin cry-it-out all night, I off-handedly made the remark that Benjamin is crying and clingy because he is so close to me. In a world where children so easily and quickly run away from their parents and the safety of their home, I told James I would gladly trade these sleepless nights and days carrying a heavy toddler if it meant Benjamin would build a confidence in me that would translate to trust and keeping near to home in the teenage years.

Aha. There it was, plain as day. I had my answer. The will of the Lord is that I must endure this difficult stage, because while I can foster independence when he is a little older, these months will be passed in creating a close-knit bond between mother and son that just might get him through tough times in years to come. And if that is the trade-off, then I will "submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord."

The added benefit of finally receiving this revelation is that I will not trouble and stress myself out trying desperately to "fix" the problem. I know God's will and I know it is in his hands, and I can find peace in this area of my life.

Monday, 7 March 2011


"Guess what? I know how to spell C3P0. C-3-P-0! Can you believe it? I can spell his whole name!"

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Media Fast

In preparation for Stake Conference next week (a large church meeting with people from Brampton right north to past Barrie), all the members of our church are participating in a media fast. The idea is that we may all spend this week free from the constant noise and distraction of media, trying to tune in spiritually each day. So all non-essential media goes off. The exceptions are for work, essential personal use, and some spiritual things.

To be honest, I don't think my daily activities will be all that affected. I don't watch TV and rarely watch a movie anymore. I don't like the noise of the radio on overtop of the noise my boys already make. I don't have a smart phone, and I never use my cell phone. I don't even talk on the phone more than I need to just to get my message across (my average phone call lasts less than 2 minutes!) I don't play video games or computer games. I only use the computer to do our budget a couple times a week, and check my email and my Facebook messages a couple of times a day.

So the only real changes I need to alter are these: I will not be following other people's blogs this week, and I will only check my email once a day, in the evening. I have decided to continue writing on my own blog, because even though I do use media for it, I consider this my journal, which is an item of personal growth and reflection.

What I am most excited about is James' Blackberry. He will only be turning it on during work hours (8am - 5pm.) I know I've ranted and raved about the Blackberry before, so I will relish every moment it is off this week.

What I am least excited about is not putting on a movie for the boys while I prepare dinner. That is going to be really difficult. So, in essence, the hardest part of this media fast is not my lack of media, but the lack of media for my children!

But because I don't really have to change much in the way of my daily life, I don't think that is really accomplishing what the goal of this experiment is. The idea of shutting out the media is to tune into spiritual things more often, to "be still" more often, to reflect more often. Those are things I rarely get to do, even in my mostly media-free life. So I plan to use this week to work on my memorization of John chapter 15, work on my hymn medley choir composition I have started, and spend some time pondering and praying each day. I am also just about to write my goals for this week, and in writing those down, I intend to include items that will help me realize the purpose of this fast.

(By the way - I did really well with my goals from last week! There was only one I didn't get to - painting more of the trim on the stairs.)

Scripture Mastery

At my women's bible study last week, we got to talking about memorizing scripture. It all started with the passage in Psalms about having God's word hidden in our hearts: "Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee." (Psalm 119:11) We all shared stories about how as children and youth we all memorized scripture verses, but that as adults we haven't added much more to our memory bank. Then two women at our table shared how they actually memorized an entire book from the New Testament as adults. Both women did it while they were studying as students (one in ministry, the other didn't say what her focus was.) The conversation then evolved and one woman shared an experience about Christians in a certain country across the world where it is illegal to follow Jesus, and to have and read the bible. Instead, some would memorize chapters and books in secret so they could share God's word with each other. When this woman arrived at a meeting, these devout followers pressed up to her and demanded to know what chapters she had memorized that she could share with them, so hungry and desperate were they to hear the word of God. Sadly she admitted that, at that point, she knew some scattered verses, but didn't know much of the context of them. She was so impressed by the situation that she came home and memorized the book of Romans.

All six of us women at my study table were moved by her story. So we decided not to be just moved emotionally, but to be moved to action. We decided that we would try and memorize our own passage. I came home and searched through the New Testament, flipping through chapter headings, studying what each book was about, trying to find the passage I am meant to learn now. I finally settled in the book of John, starting at chapter 15. My goal, to start, is chapter 15, but I'd like to do 15-17.

It's not easy, that's for sure. I always joke that I left my memory on the delivery room floor after having Colin, so memorizing entire chapters of scripture are going to be tough. It is assuring, though, that in the first verses of the chapter I chose, it mentions that without God, we can do nothing, and that we must have God's word abiding in us. I know He will help me in this.

(Our church is also preparing for a media fast for an entire week, so I will definitely use that week to get a good start on my mastery of John 15.)

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Go to bed!

Late night, all is quiet. It's just too tempting! When I arrived home from rehearsal tonight, everyone (including James) was already sleeping.

I should have gone to bed.

But I didn't. I never get quiet time to myself So I made some hot chocolate, ate cereal from a container (no milk), watched half a movie, and then told myself it was time to go to bed.

But I didn't. I then opened up the computer and my notebook and sketched out more ideas for a song medley I'm composing. I tried to work on it earlier, but the snatches I get during the day don't lend themselves well to inspiration. In a matter of half an hour I had the entire structure laid out, and most of the melody adaptations I needed. Then, if I went to bed right then, I could still have called it a decent hour.

But I didn't. I'm here, typing. It's just too tempting to spend this quiet time to myself.

One thing I should have done was make a grocery list, since my time to grocery shop is 7am tomorrow morning. Oh well. I can wing it with the best of them. Just please don't drop in for dinner this week unless you are prepared to eat whatever smorgasbord I've managed to throw together.

Okay, now I'm really off to bed. Really.

Sleep follow up

After so much encouragement yesterday, I thought I should follow up how last night went with Benjamin - pretty good, in fact.

He went down for bed at 7pm. He woke at about 9pm, and I nursed him and put him back to sleep. James and I hit the sack around midnight (we had a friend over and got lost in a debate about capitalism versus communism.) Benjamin woke twice between midnight and 5am, and both times James got up and soothed him back to sleep within minutes. Then Benjamin slept until about 7am this morning.

Most notably, when Benjamin woke up, he woke up happy. I can't recall the last nap or morning he awoke when he wasn't crying, disoriented, and obviously still tired. There was a time when, although he was nursing every three hours through the night, he would at least wake up slowly. I would lie in bed and hear him start to rustle, cooing to himself, and after 5 minutes or so he would pull himself up and "call out" for me. In recent months, he just wakes up sobbing.

Also notable is the fact that both yesterday and today's afternoon naps were of good length, and he didn't wake an hour in, needing to be put back to sleep.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. I have a good feeling about all this. So often I find that is the case: you seem to hit rock bottom in the situation and feel you absolutely cannot go on any further, and then things suddenly turn around.

(In this's about time!)

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Men and women are different

So if yesterday I was willing to give myself the "young mother of the year" award, today I am not winning wife of the year! No matter how often I read or hear about how different men and women are fundamentally, I always seem to forget. Maybe it's a woman thing.

I have reached the point where I need to actively do something about Benjamin's sleeping habits (er, lack thereof). I am going more nights not sleeping than sleeping, and even the nights when I "sleep" I only get two hours, maybe three, and not all in a row. And while I seem to have been granted an unnatural ability to remain not just functional, but also pleasant, while surviving on little to no sleep, I know it's not good for me.

Benjamin's biggest problem is that with his temper/strong-will/spirited nature, he gets worked up really easily and find it really difficult to calm down. The only way he has learned to calm down and stop screaming is to nurse. Not really drink much milk, but he uses the closeness to me as a security measure. It's a combination of me as his mother, the sucking motion, the nearness and warmth. A soother doesn't do it, and even me simply holding him doesn't do it. So now that he is waking so often at night, I have been dragging myself in hour after hour to calm him down.

Last night James and I decided we had to make a concerted effort to put an end to it. I read a little on our specific issue, and the unanimous (and only) answer seemed to be to have someone other than me go in when he cries, so that he learns to calm down with someone other than me. James very heroically (considering he has to work during the day) offered to sleep on the floor of his nursery during the next five nights or so, which is what we hoped it would take to break the habit.

(Here's where the "men and women are different" part comes in)

Just before bed, I asked James if he wanted to go over anything, in terms of preparing himself and having ideas on what to do when Benjamin gets hysterical during the night. Nah, I got it, he said. So off I went to bed.

Benjamin woke at 12:30am, screaming and crying. Finally, at 3:30am, I went in to see what on earth was going on. James was sound asleep on the floor, Benjamin was screaming (and nowhere near calming down) in his crib. I picked him up, soothed him, nursed him, and put him back down.

Come morning, with both James and I bleary-eyed, stumbled downstairs.

"Well, that didn't work last night." I concluded.

James looked at me oddly.

"It worked exactly as I planned," he countered.

We then proceeded to have a disagreement on what should be considered a success for sleep training. We were not only on opposite sides of the fence, we were so far on opposite sides of the field we couldn't even see the other person.

To be fair, we were both right, in our own capacity. But what I realized more than anything is that while we both "had a plan," the plans were vastly different, and neither of us had communicated that to the other. The previous night, I had simply asked if he had it covered, and he said yes. Which, in essence, was true.

Personally, for a whole host of reasons, I cannot abide by Benjamin screaming in his crib for that many hours, trying to make him quit "cold turkey." The plan I had in mind was a little more gradual, and I believe will have a greater chance of success. Now, I am at the advantage here, because a) of motherhood instincts and b) because I am with Benjamin nearly 20 hours a day, so I know him better than anyone.

I calmly apologized for my tone in arguing this morning, then I went to work in fixing the problem. I pulled out my computer, and, in a very logical, "male" way of thinking, I wrote out exactly what stage one of our sleep training will entail. I wrote down the objective, I listed various types of tools and techniques that could be used, I noted the order in which they should prove to be most successful, and I included the appropriate duration before calling me to nurse. I emailed the file to James, then let him know I had done so. I left it at that.

You see, I had simply being talking,talking,talking,talking,talking at James, trying to fill his head in 5 or 10 minutes with all the pages of information I had read and the years of experience I have. Nothing about that method is going to be successful. Instead, I tried to think about how James would think, made the list, sent it off, and left it in his hands.

I hope the experience stays with me a little longer. Life is so much easier when we remember just how different men and women can be, and that it takes a little extra understanding to keep things smooth sailing!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Young Mother of the Year

So, there is this blog that I frequent, written by a woman I don't know personally, but who is an author and photographer who I think is really neat. Today she posted about how she was honored by the American Mother's Association as "Young Mother of the Year" for her state. How awesome is that! First of all, I think that having an award for motherhood is a big "FINALLY!" moment. Because motherhood truly is the hardest calling you'll ever have, and the toughest work you'll ever do.

I thought it was interesting that they had both "Mother of the year" and "Young mother of the year" awards. To me, it really denotes the very different stages of life we go through. Young mother, to me, says "this is my crazy life and I'm doing all that I can despite sleepless nights and endless diapers and hysterical tantrums (by toddlers and mothers alike!)" Mother, I guess, speaks more to an older, wiser woman whose children are ready to leave the nest, or perhaps already have, who are still mothering in their own way (for you never retire from being a mother. It is the stage when you can finally take a breather and gather in your years of experience to perhaps impart some wisdom to us young mothers who aren't sure we're going to make it.

As I read about the gala honoring this specific young mother, I of course began to reflect on my own role as a mother. Just how am I doing? What am I doing that I might be considered in such a light?

This line of thought immediately led to negativity. Well, I'm short-tempered when I'm tired, and I snap at my sensitive 5 year old, and I'm annoyed at having to carry around my one year old all day, and I never do crafts with my kids, and I rarely have anything long-termed planned, and I haven't been able to get on the chore bandwagon, and just this morning my oldest son looked up at me while we stood at the bus stop and sadly stated that he never gets to spend any time with me.

No doubt about it...I would never even be nominated.

Then I checked myself. I immediately banished all negative thoughts, and I reframed the question to myself like this:

What is something that I AM doing that would qualify me for young mother of the year?

This made me think of all the good, even great, things that I do. The purpose was just to come up with one, but once I started going, I realized I could come up with a good list of positives about myself as a mother.

Here are some of them:

1) I encourage questioning, curiosity, and inquisitiveness. I like my kids to ask questions, then we discuss the answers, then we ask more questions. I think this is one of the most important tools they can develop as children.

2) I love to read to my kids. We read 2 books at nap, 2 books at bedtime, a bible story, plus I tell one "made-up" story, every day. We read lots of other times as well, but the above is a daily minimum.

3) I fill our house with music. We sing just about all the time. I play the piano and guitar and sing children's songs. We make up songs about everything. Everyone in our home can be found humming a soundtrack to their life at least once a day.

4) During the good weather, we get outside all the time. Parks, beaches, hikes, backyard, soccer, baseball - we love it all.

5) We hug and kiss and cuddle constantly. My boys are very affectionate, which I think is awesome.

6) While I haven't been able to yet, I'm excited to volunteer in their classrooms at school. Once all my kids are in school, I intend to be in their classrooms constantly. I also hope to run a music class, since there isn't one at their school.

This was a really good exercise for me. I realized that while we might be hard on ourselves that we don't fit a specific mold that we think is "young mother of the year," there are definitely, positively, without a doubt, things that we are each AWESOME at. It's important to remember them now and then.

I think I'm going to organize a gala of my own, for all my friends who are young mothers, because I think we all deserve the award for "Young Mother of the Year."