Saturday, 30 April 2011

To bribe or not to bribe? That is the question.

I know this is a hot button topic when it comes to getting your kids to do something. I find there are some people staunchly on the "no" side, who insist that it doesn't accomplish the real goal. Others tend not to do it, but will turn to bribing in times of exhaustion or desperation. Others find ways that it really works.

As in most parenting issues, I find myself in the middle. I don't like to bribe, because I do want my children to develop the desire and ability to do things because it is good for them and not for a toy or a treat. But I often hear the words tumbling out of my mouth "if you just do this now, then..." Ah, as parents we need to give ourselves a break sometime. No one parents perfectly.

This past week I consciously made a decision to use the bribe system. Colin's teacher is very good at sending home activities, books and writing sheets to help improve Colin's french. I, on the other hand, have not been very good at insisting he do them. My philosophy was that he has already spent 6 hours in school, plus 2 hours in travel/waiting time, plus all the morning time before school simply getting ready to go to school. When he gets home, he generally only has 2 hours before it's time to get ready for bed, and that time also includes dinner. I often asked him if he wanted to read or do a French activity, but he would look at me with eyes exhausted from a full day in a foreign language and say no.

After my interview with his teacher last week, I realized that a little at home might go a long way, and so I really wanted to help him do his homework. There was a second problem here, in addition to him not wanting to do it: I would often forget, not have time, or not want to fit in the homework. As it turned out, we all needed a little motivation.

That motivation came in the form of a schedule/check list. While at the Dollar store, I saw a toy I knew he would absolutely love, so I purchased it. When I got home, I displayed it in the kitchen. After school, Colin saw it and went crazy for it. I told him that if he worked on one French thing every day after school, at the end of the week he could have the toy. We would do this each week until school is out, but he had to complete all five daily activities in order to win the reward.

Colin was game right away. So was Caleb, which is also good. His preschool doesn't push learning to write as much as Colin's did, and Caleb has never wanted to sit down and work on anything either. Enter the toy, and he's all game.

I created a chart with their names on the left side, and 5 boxes beside their names. Above each box is a picture of an activity. For Colin: reading, writing, sentence structure, speaking, and singing. For Caleb: reading, writing, singing, letters and numbers. Each day they can choose what they want to do, and when it is completed they put a magnet into that box. Five magnets = toy/treat!

I cannot tell you the success it has had thus far this week. Okay, it's only been three days, but their enthusiasm is fantastic. Colin, who has never wanted to even open the book he gets home every week, read it five times. Caleb, who can't stand holding a pencil, copied out the letter A ten times. They sang a bunch of songs in French. Caleb put together the entire alphabet in blocks. Colin completed a letter homework sheet without complaining once. And every day, after their one movie episode, when I say it's time for homework they run to our magnet board to see what activity to pick.

So on this one, I'm all for the bribe.

Friday, 29 April 2011

I am not a craft mom

I don't do guilt very often. I don't try to make other people feel guilty, and I rarely feel guilty myself. When it comes to others, I think I just innately know that guilt is not an effective motivator. When it comes to myself, I think I innately realize I always do my best and shouldn't be hard on myself.

But I do feel a little guilty about not being a craft mom.

I hate crafts. I don't use "hate" often, but I really do hate crafts. Cutting and gluing and designing sends yucky shivers down my back. I get anxious about having to think out something visually. It never looks great, unless I copy something someone else has designed, and even then my execution is terrible. So because I don't craft, my boys don't get the chance to craft. (Thankfully I have boys, so I don't think it's such a detrimental thing.)

Usually I don't let it bother me much. And then come the holidays. That's when I really feel bad about it.

I have friends who are incredible at decorating their house with holiday dollar store buys. They paint eggs at Easter and make tree decorations at Christmas and have fun tabletop activities at Halloween. Birthdays are an event unmatched. Inspired by such friends (in town and online) I have been trying to spend a little money at the Dollar Store and give the house a festive look during the holidays. Somehow it always just ends up looking like some straggly left-overs thrown up in a pathetic attempt to reluctantly celebrate. I just don't have it in me.

Easter just came and went. We had a great egg hunt in the backyard with the boys. (The squirrel got some eggs, as did the sun, but the boys ended up with enough to make it a fun adventure.) But that was the extent of our Easter celebrations, aside from the straggly boa-like things hanging over doorways and the fireplace, and the plastic egg filled vase on the kitchen table that James always moves because he can't stand it being between him and the person on the other side of the table.

I read/heard/saw photos of some of my friends' fantastic Easter efforts, and wished I had done more. But then I really thought about it, and how, because of my craft talent deficiency, it would have taken an immense amount of effort and preparation and work, and I really don't know that my boys would have spent more than 5 seconds actually doing any of it.

Ahhh. This feels like a very fruitless journal entry. I'm not writing in hopes that I discover anything new about myself, or to talk through the situation to try and change it. I'm just laying it all out there, (a little on the whinny side) and leaving it at this:

It's just not my thing.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Free music

One of biggest music philosophies is that music should be available to everyone. That is part of the reason why I used to charge so little for piano lessons (comparatively) - I really wanted to open the doors to people who might not otherwise have been able to afford it.

Now I have the opportunity to do something I've been dreaming about for at least 5 years: free music classes for children. Learning a specific instrument is something I think can effectively be started between the ages of 6 and 8. But success at playing an instrument comes from already having a love for music, and that starts from birth.

5 years ago I took a fantastic course offered through the Royal Conservatory of Music. Their philosophy was helping young children learn basic music concepts through singing and games. My eyes were opened to a new way of teaching and learning and I absolutely fell in love with it

So while I can see that private music lessons would have a cost associated with it, I really believe that instilling that love of music in really young children should happen without the restriction of a family's pocketbook. The only problem with my philosophy is this: how can I afford to rent a space without charging the students a fee? I was more than willing to forgo earning my own salary. We are blessed right now in James' job to make what money we need for our home. While we are not floating in piles of cash, we have enough if we carefully manage it, budgeting along the way, and relying on God for the rest. So I did not feel the desire to charge for my time.

The answer came in a Mommy's group that is starting up at our church, for the community. Mothers can come and hang out together, have their children play together, and hear different baby and children experts talk about their field of expertise (like sleeping, natural cleaning, food, etc.) Meanwhile, in the next room, I am going to be able to run FREE music classes!

I'm starting with one class for 2-3 year olds (with a parent) and one class for 4-6 year olds. I completed my first lesson plan for the 2-3 class last night, and I am ever so excited! Leafing through my music books, brushing up on the different games, working musical concepts into it all...I'm totally in my element. I also purchased a bunch of silk-like scarves for movement exercises, and I'm hoping to hit up the hardware store to make some rhythm sticks. Again, I will be a bit limited in supplies, since I am buying them out of my own, very small, pocket. But I hope to gather a good collection as I go.

I am beyond excited to realize a dream like this one! I have been doing my best through my limited network of people to get the word out, and I was all over town last week putting up posters. I hope people come! The first class is Monday!

Sleep is coming...coming...

We've had a bit of a breakthrough with Benjamin's sleep...and it came exactly when and as I thought it would.

In the last couple of weeks Benjamin's understanding of language has skyrocketed. He can follow almost any direction I give him, things like "get your shoes" or "time to eat" (he goes to his high chair) or "give this to Colin."

And also: "Time to go to sleep. I'll see you in the morning."

When he hears that, he generally lies down without any fussing at all. This is a major breakthrough for us. I had this feeling that he was really spinning into a panic whenever I left the room, not just crying but really panicking, unsure of where I was going. Sleep time must be a strange concept for children. I know it took a while for Caleb to understand the difference between nap and night. For the longest time he thought every time he woke up it was a new day (and therefore breakfast time - his favourite meal of the day!) Benjamin, I think, had a difficult time understanding that although I was leaving the room, I wasn't far, and would be back soon.

Since I have noticed him understanding "I'll see you in the morning," he has also started checking on me first thing. When he wakes in the morning (6:30am) James gets up to get him. But Benjamin will not go downstairs until he looks into my room to see me lying in bed. He often then wants to cuddle and nurse, but he's starting to be okay with just checking in. This morning James took him right downstairs to let me sleep and Benjamin screamed for 20 minutes until I gave in and went downstairs. He calmed as soon as he saw me, cuddled for a minute, and then let me go back upstairs.

Needless to say, I'm hoping this new light on inside his head will lead to better sleeping through the night. He's already done a couple of nights where he wakes, sobs for a minute, finds his soother, and goes back to sleep. It shouldn't be long before he simply sleeps through.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Complete and utter frustration

Have you ever had an experience that completely wrenched you up inside? I'm not talking about anger or heartache, but complete and utter frustration. I think doctors and teachers (schools) are the two biggies, which is no surprise since, as mothers, we place such a high importance on the health and education of our children.

I had such a moment last week. I asked for an interview with Colin's teacher, just to check up on his progress in the class. Now, I will preface all this by noting that I think Colin has a fantastic teacher. Blessed with a class of only 8 kids, she is really able to tailor everything to the kids she has and their specific needs. She constantly pushes them beyond normal grade expectations. She incorporates fun and games into learning. Her classroom makes me smile when I go in, because it seems like a learning Wonderland. It makes me want to go back to kindergarten.

At any rate, I have had a close pulse on Colin's progress this past year. Having missed junior kindergarten in the Francophone setting, he came into senior kindergarten quite far behind the others when it comes to language. He's smart as a whip and working at a grade two level in all other areas, and it is only circumstance that has him at this disadvantage. The teacher admitted that if she has a high-middle-low scale, and that Colin is definitely in the low end, with two other children (out of 8, remember.) She also affirmed that it really only is the language, and that he readily excels in all other areas. As we spoke, she said that in grade one, there will be much more emphasis on language, without the benefit of the exaggerated gestures she uses to help in getting across her point.

So I posed the question: does she think grade one will challenge Colin to catch up, or cause him to give up completely? In other words, I asked, would Colin benefit from being kept back in junior kindergarten again?

Her answer: I can't answer that question.

So I rephrased, thinking she hadn't understood me. But, no, she had understood perfectly. She reiterated that she is not allowed to answer that question. Meaning that she is not allowed to even discuss with me holding Colin back a year.


My mother, also a teacher, had previously mentioned that she is not allowed to fail a child, but that if the parent opens the conversation, it can be addressed. But as a teacher she was not allowed to recommend to the parent to keep back their child.

First of all, I think that is ridiculous. I am a very involved mother and constantly know what is going on, but not all parents are. If, for whatever reason, I wasn't able to really know what was going on in the classroom, I would hope to high heaven the teacher would warn me that my child might not be ready for the next grade.

But that is not even my point. My point is that I broached the subject, looking for the advice from the teaching professional, the person who knows the curriculum and has watched the growth of my child all year within the school setting, and should have some valuable information and opinion on whether moving on would be beneficial or harmful to my child's learning experience.

I think I sat, mouth agape, speechless, for a good minute. I fumbled over my words, not willing to give up quite yet. I posed the utterly, ridiculous "scenario" of a child "like Colin" and if "such a child" should be "hypothetically" held back. Thankfully, the teacher was willing to start opening up at this point, seeing that I wasn't going to back down on this one. In not so many words, she suggested that Colin's dedication to learning should help him improve quickly, although because French is not his first language, and it is not spoken at home, he would never be able to reach the same level as a truly Francophone child. (Less than 10% in the school are.)

I always worried if James' and my french would ever become a hinderance to Colin's success in this program, and it appears that it might. While many children are not Francophones, most do have one parent that speaks French as a first language. The only "saving grace" is that in many cases, even that parent isn't speaking french at home. I have a feeling that while we might keep the boys in the Francophone program for the short term, that by grade 4 or 5 we may switch them over to French Immersion. We'll play it by ear, though.

In the end, I was outraged by the bureaucratic handcuffs placed on teachers. If they think that pushing kids through from grade to grade when they are clearly not ready is a great self-esteem booster, they are crazy. The kids only fall further and further behind and end up in high school barely able to read and write. Yeah, that sure makes them feel great about themselves.

The Canadian way of voting

Amid this wild ride of an election campaign, I'm beginning to wonder if the American system of voting for your local representative and the leader of the country separately isn't the way to go.

Our riding is an interesting case of campaigning. We have four candidates: Conservative, Liberal, Green and NDP.

The Conservative candidate has come of arrogant and scripted. This riding has been held by the Conservatives forever so it seems the Conservatives don't even feel the need to campaign.

The Liberals, on the other hand, have never even had a chance. The local candidate comes across as uninformed and bumbling, answering most questions by referring constituents to the national Liberal website for answers. The Liberals are giving almost no effort to campaigning here.

The NDP aren't even showing up. Literally. Although there is apparently an official name running for the NDP in our riding, there are absolutely no signs, and no one showed up for the local debates, and no one gave a reason for not showing up. It is obvious there is a name in name only, just so the NDP can say they are running in every riding.

The Green candidate is the only local candidate who is actually making any real effort. This is likely because we are one of the few ridings across the country the Green party actually has a chance of winning. There are more Green party signs than any other party, and the local candidate has made a great showing at the debates, coming off as informed, passionate and articulate.

I am undecided as a voter. Of course, in light of the above opinion (which is also the generally agreed upon consensus,) there should be no contest. Only one local representative has even showed an iota of interest in actually running in this riding. And in the Canadian system, we are supposed to vote for the local candidate and not the party, or its leader.

But what, then, are the implications? What if I don't agree with much of the party platforms? What if I don't think their leader would make an appropriate leader of our country and representative on the world stage? Sure, it is easy to say "vote for the person" when in the grand scheme of things the Green party doesn't have a chance of forming the government. But what if voting for the only "caring" candidate did mean a vote for a party or leader you don't agree with?

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Cook in the kitchen

You might wonder about my absence over the long weekend. No, we didn't escape on a lovely Easter holiday. In fact I was up to my elbows in cooking and baking! Between hosting my family for Easter dinner, catching up on baking bread for us, and preparing some frozen dinners for a friend in need, I didn't see the rest of the house for four days! I think I could have turned off the furnace for the amount of heat my gas oven was pumping out, being that it was constantly on, cooking up delicious meals and sending forth amazing aromas. I even managed to use some pie crust scraps and invented my very own dessert (a strawberry custard pie with a oat/brown sugar/pecan crunchy topping!) I think I've had my fill of the kitchen, now, and I am more than grateful for the leftovers from James' family Easter dinner that will provide at least two meals for us.

As I packed my freezer full of frozen pies and casseroles and breads, it made me start thinking about getting a bigger freezer. I even have a small chest freezer in the basement, but both are packed to the brim. As I squeezed the last loaf of bread in last night, I realized I would really love to get myself an upright freezer (the one that looks like a fridge.) We usually have a 3-month food storage on hand, most of which has been canned and boxed goods. But every time I wander down to bring something up, I see all those canned vegetables staring at me. We used to eat them all the time, but recently I've been turned off. Frozen vegetables have come miles since I was a kid, and we much prefer their taste now, not to mention that frozen veggies are much healthier. If I want to turn my canned storage into frozen storage, though, I am definitely going to need more space! I much prefer the organization of a stand up freezer to the free-for-all, forever-lost-in-the-depths, when-did-I-put-that-in-there abyss of a chest freezer.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Bathroom Reno

(Vinyl flat sheet flooring laid on top of a rotting floor, foot wide hole in wall behind vanity, badly built vanity falling apart, toilet that sits on an angle)


To win or lose?

A battle that has aged for years, and will continue for years to come: do you go easy on your child and let him or her beat you, or do you give it all you've got and make them fight for the win?

I can certainly understand both camps. In fact, I think I'm a little of column A, a little of column B, personally. I consider both the game, the situation and the child and then make my decision.

Colin is very competitive and, as the oldest, often beats Caleb, so there are times when I play hard and beat him. It helps him understand what it's like to lose, how to be a gracious loser, how to be a gracious winner, and how to have fun. But I don't want him to get discouraged, so I also let up and let him win sometimes.

Caleb is very emotional, so right now, while he's only three, I usually let his mood dictate the game. If he's well rested, well fed, and having a good time, I let Colin control their games. But if things might meltdown, I ask Colin to play with Caleb instead of against him, to take the role of older brother and coach.

This all seems to be working well for us so far. Of course, then there are the times when it's not even a question. Like to when James and Colin borrowed a wii video game system and broke out the bowling. Game 1 final score was Colin: 196 to James: 105. Colin got 5 strikes and 3 spares. And James really did give it his all. "You don't need to worry about whether or not to let your 5 year old win when they can actually beat you!"

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Family matters

Colin, in playing an imaginary game called "Woody grows up" (Woody from the film "Toy Story), described the four stages of growing up: "First Woody starts as a baby, then he's a kid, then he's a half-man, then he's a man." Apparently, a "half-man" is when you're not a kid but not yet an adult.


Caleb has really taken to my friend Kathy. Kathy has four children herself, 3 boys aged 6, 9 and 11, and a little girl Caleb's age. She is married to her husband, Dave. Caleb truly thinks of Kathy as a friend. He loves to sit with her and tell her about his life. In describing Kathy's family the other day, Caleb said: "In their family, there are 3 boys, 2 girls, and 1 man." Caleb sees Kathy on his own level rather than a mom or adult.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Personal family scriptures

Recently I read a talk about personal family scriptures. I can't remember exactly where it was, but the idea really stuck with me. When you consider the scriptures, they are really a compilation of people's personal spiritual experiences. The author of the article I read suggested that you keep a journal of spiritual experiences in your own family, a treasure to pass down through generations.

This past weekend, I definitely had an experience that would qualify for entry in such a book.

It all starts about 3 weeks ago when, at 10:00 at night, while I was lying nearly asleep in bed, the phone rang. On the other end was a person I didn't know, who asked if I would fill in giving a workshop for someone who was no longer able to do it. In the haze of my sleepiness, I readily agreed. The next morning, when my head cleared and an email with details came through, I was a lot less agreeable about the idea. I thought it would be a 20 minute workshop with about 20 women. Instead it is a 45 minute talk with a group that will likely be at least three times that size. And instead of being in our stake area of Brampton with people I know, it is an hour away in Toronto, a city full of strangers.

As each day rolled by over the past few weeks, I got more and more terrified about the prospect. I've given workshops that long before, for teen girls. The idea of trying to pass myself off as an expert in front of women much older than I isn't the same thing. Not only that, but my schedule is chock full for May and I realized that I wasn't going to have a whole lot of time to prepare such a big presentation.

At this point, I could easily have called and begged out of the assignment. But as the days went on, I didn't call. I felt that I really needed to give this workshop. And so I turned it over to God. "God," I prayed, "You have asked me to do this, and I will. But I do not have time to research and write it. You will have to provide the words, and I will speak them."

Then came this past Sunday. Our church has a lay ministry, and part of the setup is that our Bishop does not give a sermon every Sunday; instead, three members of the church are asked each week to share a 10-15 minute talk. In the past, the Bishop has assigned a topic or a scripture to the speaker to get them started. But our new Bishop just announced that they were going to try something new: each member would pray for guidance on their own and receive inspiration on what they should speak about. This past Sunday was the first day of the experiment.

When the third speaker started, she stated that she had felt the distinct impression to speak on music. She said "I don't know why I should speak on this topic. I'm not in the least experienced in music and have no musical ability whatsoever." But, she affirmed, that was exactly how she knew it was the spirit prompting her topic and not her own idea: she would never have chosen music to speak on. She went on to give an amazing address on the influence of music. It was thoroughly researched, drawing on many conference talks and scripture passages. It was filled with personal experiences and applicable ideas. In short, it was brilliant.

And it was just for me. You see, the topic I am supposed to speak on for my workshop is "The Influence of Music." When I related this whole story to her afterward, I told her that I knew exactly why she was impressed to speak on music. I had asked God to prepare this workshop for me, and he did, through her. She was amazed. She handed her notes over to me right there, and said that she had at least twice more that amount at home that she hadn't included. That's right - she had about 45 minutes of material prepared for her 15 minute talk. Not only that, but she had annotated and included web links for every talk she quoted, something she has never done for a talk before.

I have often heard that God answers prayers through us. This is a very specific example how one person needed a workshop prepared, and he inspired one other person to research and write it. While there may have been others in the congregation who benefited from her words, there is no doubt in my mind that this was a specific answer to prayer.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Need directions around town?

Then just ask my five year old.

Colin was a little delayed getting off of the school bus yesterday. The bus driver glanced up into her mirror and laughingly noted "he's just finishing up chatting." When Colin got off the bus, I asked what he was talking about.

"I was just inviting a new friend to my birthday party. He's eleven. I told him my party is going to be at the Orangeville church. He said he didn't know where that was, so I was just giving him directions."

"And what did you tell him?"

"I told him that where the bus drops me off, you just turn right down that street until you get to the stop sign. Then you turn left and go to the main street. Then you turn right, and then the first street on your left, you turn there. You drive past Evelyn's house down across the railroad tracks to the stop sign. Then you turn right. At the next stop sign you go straight through. Then you go around the turn and down the hill until you get to the next street light. At the light, you turn right. Then you go just up to the next street light and turn left. Then you drive past the high school and the church is on the left."

And that is exactly how you get to our church from our house. I was astonished. He didn't pause a moment. He recounted the directions staring straight ahead, and used hand gestures to makes his point, and probably to help him "see" the way.

This morning I asked if he chatted with many friends on the bus. He said no, that he usually just likes to sit and look out the window and see where they are going.

He definitely has my sense of direction. He can literally get you to any place around our town. He knows where all our friends live. He can get you to any number of parks or stores. He knows his whole bus route. Yesterday he even asked who was visiting at Grandma and Grandpa's house, because there was a blue van in the driveway when his school bus went past their street.

But, like I said, he comes by it honestly. My dad and I both have amazing senses of direction. Now and then I might reply on it a little too much, like driving to a friend's house last week, with another friend in the car. When we got to the next town, my friend asked what the street name was. I said I didn't know, but I would recognize it when I saw it. I had taken a quick look at a map of the town and where her house was, and then relied on my memory and sense of direction to get me there. I bet she was impressed (and relieved!) when I wound my way around the neighbourhood with ease right to her house!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Back home

This weekend we moved out of our home and spent some time at my sisters and my in-laws houses. We had a ton of fun, but it's always nice to be back at your own place.

This weekend:

- it rained and then snowed so hard that outdoor activities were completely off the table. When the local indoor play centre was closed on Saturdays (?!) we ended up at a McDonalds Playplace. The boys had a blast. And it was newly renovated to have a huge lounge/eating area so that you don't have to cram into a small space to watch your kids play, or call them out when it is time to eat. Benjamin had so much room to run.

- the boys discovered the wii video game system. Both my sister and my in-laws have it. They had a really good time playing tennis and bowling and Mario Brothers. Then my father-in-law offered me the system for free. I nearly broke down and took it, but in the end I stood strong. I don't want to have a system in our home, for a whole host of reasons, which I will save for another story.

- the boys discovered Saturday morning cartoons. When breakfast was ready, Colin couldn't understand why James couldn't just pause the show until they were done eating. Really. It couldn't wrap his head around it at all.

- I got to watch playoff hockey. On a 60" HD television. In high definition. It was AWESOME! Again, it almost makes me want to let James buy a brand new huge TV and get HD cable. But I stood strong again. I saw two games and my (Canadian) teams won in both.

- the boys got to watch playoff hockey. It was a Montreal/Boston game, and they were both completely captivated. Colin asked why the players had to keep going to the "time out" box. The next day in the middle of our church sacrament service, Caleb said "I have something important to say. The Montreal goalie is better than the Boston goalie because he didn't let any pucks into his net." Colin put on his pyjama top backwards, because the hockey players on TV all have the numbers on the back of their jersey, and the number was on the front of his pyjamas. He was also stoked that there was a "C" on his pyjamas, which meant he was the captain. He spent much of the game trying to spot the Montreal and Boston captains. Both boys declared that their next birthdays were going to be hockey birthdays. What can I say? Hockey runs in our blood.

- OUR BATHROOM IS RENOVATED! This was the whole purpose of moving out for the weekend. With only one bathroom (which completely baffled our renovator) we decided it would be better to move out for 3 days and nights rather than spend a whole week without a toilet during the day. The renovator worked around the clock to get it all done. And it looks FABULOUS! Yes, I have before shots, and I will post them once I have the after shots. There are one or two more things to get before it is completely done, but I promise I will post them soon! And if you're in the neighbourhood, feel free to drop in and have a look at my fabulous new bathroom.

But now, we are home. I feel energized by the new look, and motivated to try and get more of the clutter out from the rest of the home. Each time I am overtaken by the urge to declutter and clean, I get rid of more and more. Hopefully soon our home will be decluttered to where I want it to be. There is still a long way to go, but I'm on the road.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


Sometimes I feel so inadequate in the life I am living.

I wish I could give more. More time. More talent. More me.

I must reassure myself over and over that the desire I have within must suffice for now, at this moment in my life. That desire will help me know and recognize when an opportunity comes my way when I can love and serve others in a way that will make a difference.

A local photographer here in town is a part of the charity "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep." If you are pregnant or a new mother, you may want to stop reading here, or grab a big box of tissues and have your husband standing nearby. This is an organization that offers free professional photography sessions to parents who have lost a baby. At arguably the most heart-wrenching moment of a woman's life, these wonderful volunteers are helping to preserve the memory of a tiny baby that spent so little time on earth with their family. I clicked onto their website and was moved to tears in minutes.

It inspired me. I wished so earnestly that I was a professional photographer so that I could serve in such a meaningful way. I wished I could go wake each of my boys up one by one and just sit and hold them in my arms. It makes me long to live differently tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. Moments like these are wake up calls to me, calls to forget the details of each day, to embrace each gift of a day and make a difference somehow.

May that desire never leave me, so that I can find the way God wants to use me.

Blog Design

Everyone I know has such cute blog designs. And they have these little tags in the upper left corners that tell you where they got their cute blog designs. And when I go to those websites, they tell me how easy it is to have a cute blog design.

Well, I tell you, I am not meant to have a cute blog design.

I spent about an hour the other day trying to figure it out. I spent another 20 minutes today on another site, but it just didn't work either.

In the end, I just wanted my happy spring colours and nature-inspired design and beautiful photo and inspiring quote. So my blog will always look the same. And I think I kind of like that kind of consistency.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Election fever?

We're midway through an election campaign, but you would never know it. Sure, most of the news coverage is devoted to the leaders, their campaigns, their missteps and their slander, but I don't see or read a ton of news these days. What is completely missing is the signage. In our town I have seen next to no signs. A handful of Green Party signs (they are getting really close to being elected in our riding and so are campaigning hard), some scattered Liberal signs (who have next to no chance of being elected in our riding, so excuse their half-hearted effort) and I saw my very first Conservative sign today (so entrenched in this area that they don't even have to campaign.)

Even given the status of our riding (staunchly Conservative) there is usually a flurry of signs pasted all around town. These days the neighbourhoods look like two weeks post-election, when the campaigners have neglected to take down a handful of out of the way signs. Most pointedly this speaks to the complete indifference Canadians feel toward this election.

I think we are all tired of voting for the exact same parties and the exact same leaders and the exact same platforms. Seriously - WHAT DO YOU THINK IS GOING TO CHANGE? The same people are going to come out and vote in the same way. Except for a few ridings with on-going scandals, I seriously doubt much will change until there are some major party and leader overhauls.

Ah well. I believe it is important to vote, even when I experience mostly apathy toward the entire election. And so I will set out and cast my ballot, mark my "x," and watch the results roll in, hoping for something exciting but expecting more of the same.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

More exciting things

Oh, I am going to be so busy, and I am loving it! Another project about to get off the ground - something I've been wanting to do forever! Some friends and I will finally be starting a Mommy group. In one room they will give moms a chance to talk about questions they have, and to hear guest speakers on everything from breastfeeding to sleep training to making baby food to exercising. And in the other room... I will finally get to run free music classes for toddlers and preschoolers! I have been wanting to do this for so long, but I just couldn't figure out how to run a class with Caleb and Benjamin in tow. This format will allow some of my good friends to keep an eye out for my boys in the other room while I offer the music classes.

I have such a passion for music, and music classes are so expensive these days that they are often out of reach for most parents. I think this is such a shame. Everyone should have access to music. Aas a piano teacher, I never encourage formal instrument lessons (even piano) before about the age of 8. I think the most important music lessons a child under 8 can have is learning to love music. My training through the Royal Conservatory of Music taught me some great ways kids can learn the basics of music theory through singing and games. So now, to add to my list of projects, I'm going to be pulling out all my books and starting some lesson plans.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

When "mom" needs a break

Boy, do I have some busy things coming up!

First, yesterday I got to go to work. No, seriously. Work that didn't include diaper changes and vacuuming and meal prep and endless tidying. Okay, so it didn't include much playing or cuddling either, and I did show my face for a few "rescue" moments when things got hari (I know all too well how much I wish for help during those moments!) But today I descended into the basement to work on a new brochure design for the company, and James stayed home with Caleb and Benjamin. It was so lovely to be able to work on something creative, be away from Benjamin's clingy-ness and Caleb's whining, and yet still pop up for lunch.

Second, I am writing (and rewriting) a script for a short film. We go to camera in mid-May. I will also act as 1st assistant director on set. And you know what? I'm excited about being back on set. I never thought I would say that again. For so long I have felt utterly done with filmmaking. And although I don't have the yearning to produce or direct any time soon, I always loved AD work, and I was really good at it. So I'm excited to get back into that saddle.

Third, I was asked to do a speaking engagement. It is a 45 minute workshop for a stake Relief Society day. When the call came, I was already curled up in bed and half asleep. Lucky for the woman on the other end, because I said "yes" without even giving it a second thought. I've been to these workshops before. Last year there were about 16 to choose from, with about 25 women or so attending. The 25 minute workshop is given twice, to give women a chance to see more than one, although you only get to choose 3. Then I got a follow-up email and realized that this workshop isn't for my region, but for the Toronto region. And there aren't 16 workshops, there are 6. And the workshops are 45 minutes long!!! That's when I started to panic. That and when I realized that the title of the workshop is all they give me: The Influence of Music. Okay, I know that should be an easy one for me, but I assure you, I am in a bit of a panic mode. And I'll likely stay panicky until I get a couple hours to sit down and start the research and planning, at which point I hope and pray that it will start to come together.

Fourth are my short stories that I am writing. Of course, that is on pause right now, but I'm still always going about the day thinking up ideas and playing them out in my head.

Ah well. Exciting times must have ups and downs, so I'll prepare myself for the roller-coaster and enjoy the ride.

Friday, 8 April 2011

The one thought I really needed to hear right now

"You must once and for all give up being worried about successes and failures. Don't let that concern you. It's your duty to go on working steadily day by day, quite quietly, to be prepared for mistakes, which are inevitable, and for failures."

(Anton Chekhov, quoted in Madeleine L'Engle, Herself)

I think I'm going to write this out nicely and frame it and put in on my desk where I can see it every day. I have grown up reaching (and often achieving) high results. That has fueled the desire to continuously achieve high, or perfect, results. And that is not the best nor the most productive way to work. In fact it will actually inhibit my best work and stall any process in which I am in the midst. I have several projects on the go and coming up - writing, filming, speaking - all of which excite and terrify me at the same time. I have been out of the "outside loop" for so long, holed up in my cozy little home, that I constantly doubt myself and my ability to do anything out there in the world anymore.

But these exciting opportunities are staring me in the face, and I know I am supposed to be doing them, so here I go!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Night air

I love the smell of night air. I don't know what it is about the sun setting that changes the way the air smells and feels, but it is wonderful. That crisp, clean feel just lifts my heart and makes me smile.

File under: little things I love about life.

Continuing fear

Do you have any fears that just won't resolve themselves? I hate having things likes fears or weaknesses that just keep coming back again and again. I like to be able to look a challenge in the face and overcome it.

That's why homeschooling is such a sore point for me. Lately I've been inspired all over again by the idea. Colin is still not warming up to school. And when I have such challenges with Caleb and Benjamin's temperament, it makes me wonder how a teacher with 25 other kids will manage them.

Why can't I get over this and just do it? So many other moms do. I hate that I have this grey cloud constantly hanging over my head, overshadowing me with thoughts like "so many people do it - why can't you?"

And yet I constantly back away from it.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The difference of five years

I had a chance to wander around my old university campus last week, and I can't believe the transformation. I had also maintained that I attended my film program about 5 years too early. When I began my classes, we were still shooting on 16mm film and cutting and taping the prints to edit our projects together. Without question it was an experience to do that, but having seen where film has moved in the last five years, I realize how archaic my university experience was.

As I walked down Gould Street, I was looking for the familiar windowless yellow block that was the Image Arts Building. I was quickly confused and disoriented as I came to the bookstore and realized I had missed it. There was ongoing construction, but how does one miss a building I had attended for five years?

Answer? It was no longer there. It was undergoing a major, multi-million dollar rebuild. During my last two years at Ryerson they furnished the edit bays with a few computers and editing software. Now, no doubt, things would be state of the art for its students. And there would not only be windows, but every wall was made of glass. I can remember the days I sat in dark, windowless classrooms and longed for a glimpse of the outside.

Today I saw online the artist rendering of the new Student Learning Centre (library.) I only went to the Ryerson library once during my academic career. It was an archaic place with elevators that were slower than molasses and old, dusty tomes that contained information older than their packaging. The study desks were small and boarded on three sides with yellow board, a truly awful cubicle. There was nowhere to spread books, few streams of natural sunlight, and an all around musky and dark atmosphere. Visiting the library was a useless endeavor and I never returned. But to see the new project - wow. When I attended Ryerson it was a mess of old buildings cobbled together to call themselves a school. Now they are knocking down the old and building grand artistic visions set to inspire its students.

What I difference five years makes.


While Benjamin was having his morning nap, Caleb approached me:

Caleb: Mommy, the conductor told me to go upstairs.
(He and Colin were playing "The Polar Express")
Mommy: No, you may not. Benjamin is sleeping and I don't want him to wake.
Caleb: But I need to! The conductor told me to!
Mommy: No. We can't wake Benjamin.
Caleb: But I will tiptoe! I'll be quiet as a mouse!
(I grin at such a cute and earnest response.)
Mommy: Okay then.

Caleb bent his back in a crouch and started tiptoeing right from that spot in the living room, creeping forward ever so slowly.


"Colin, don't laugh with food in your mouth! Jesus doesn't like it. He's looking down and saying "Oh, man! Colin is laughing with food in his mouth. That's not good at all."

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Colinism and Calebite

The boys have been playing "campout" in the living room.

Colin gathered his supplies:
his bike helmet
a board game
a cardboard crown he made in nursery school
an Iron Man mask
a kinder surprise plastic egg
a small plastic cylinder to use as an echo-making device

Caleb packed:
a huge bag full of toy food

Monday, 4 April 2011

A little bit of writing

I mentioned a few days ago that I finally found a writing project that was seeming to stick. I have delved into the world of short story writing, with the idea of making a compilation of stories around a particular theme. In this case, the theme is boyhood.

I know that might seem strange, given that I am a girl and was raised with sisters. But I am enjoying the "wonder of boy" as I watch my three little guys growing. Thus far I have written two stories, each a different length and in a different style. The unifier will be simply that they all would happen within the world of little boys.

The first is called "In a Boy's Pocket" and follows the adventures of a few items that find themselves packed together in a young boy's pocket. It was inspired by the many loads of laundry I have done and the things I have pulled from the bottom of the washing machine, for I never remember to check the pockets before I put the clothing in.

The second is called "Marcus Grady" and is a first person narrative about an imaginative boy dealing with a bully at school. It opens with the sentence "I remember the day the earth swallowed Marcus Grady." The story is inspired from the bits and pieces I have painstakingly pulled from Colin about his days at school, with much exaggeration, of course. It also touches on the view of kindergarten from a kindergartener's point of view.

I have several other ideas still floating around up there, and I'm excited to continue writing. The process is slow, for I don't sit and write just because I have an idea (which is what I used to do.) In this case, when an idea occurs, I think about it as I go about the day and the week, considering the different ways it could go. At the end of a period, most times I haven't found something to inspire me to put "pen to paper." Then, as in these other two times, there are the moments when it all comes together, including the characters, the style, and the theme. On these days, I sit down and literally write the entire story in an evening.

This creative process is so much fun! I find myself even more observant of the boys, and spend much more of the day dreaming up little scenarios and conversations that might (or might not) evolve into something more.

Sunday, 3 April 2011


Three hours ago we were playing t-ball in the backyard with our coats undone and barbecuing ribs for dinner.

Now there is 4 inches of snow on the ground.


Winter, go away. You are no longer welcome here.

That is all.

General Conference

This weekend we had the great opportunity to watch (most of) General Conference - a combined 10 hours of inspiring talks by the leaders of the church, including the prophet.

I always like to take notes as I listen, which usually consist of phrases or ideas people say that leave an impression on me, or lists of things suggested to do. But no long ago, I heard someone say that they don't write down what the speaker is saying, but what they hear the Holy Spirit speak to them as they listen to the speakers. There is a huge difference between the two. So this year, after listening to all the talks, I had 4 pages filled in my notebook, and only a few things were direct quotes. All the rest were things I felt inspired that I should do or think about specifically in the months to come.

It has been said that you should go into General Conference with a specific question you would like answered, because then you are most likely to get something out of it you really need to hear and that you can apply. My good friend, for example, wanted to learn about being a better mother and how to protect her two young toddlers, and there was a poem read that spoke directly to this question, providing an answer and steps she can take.

I can't say that I had a specific question in the same light, but there was definitely an overriding theme for me by the time it ended. Over the past little while I have been sitting on a notion of giving more than I have been giving. It all started with this quote, about six months ago:

"The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry man; the coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to the man who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the man who has none; the money which you hoard in the bank belongs to the poor. You do wrong to everyone you could help, but fail to help." - St. Basil the Great

I read that quote and it stuck with me ever since. I have almost been haunted by it, convicted by it. When I bought myself a new piece of clothing to add to an already full wardrobe, or when I threw out leftovers gone bad sitting in the fridge, or when I thought of the savings hoarded away in the bank...we have never had an abundance, so to speak, but I realized I had more, much more, than so many others, and that I truly did have an abundance in some areas.

Then, this past Thursday, I heard a brilliant sermon by Beth Moore, all about true ministry. She spoke about how we are not truly ministering as Jesus did until our churches look a whole lot more diverse than they do now. We so often get caught up in the idea that church-goers should look like us and act like us, which means we forget that the saving grace of God is for all people, and that often it is the people so unlike us, at the very bottom of an emotional and spiritual pit, that need the light of Christ the most.

Then came General Conference. As I look back on my notes, things I felt inspired to change in my life, or start doing, they are all to do with this same idea. I need to get out of my safety bubble. I need to free my idea of what a Christian looks like. I need to share the amazing faith that I have that bring me such profound joy and happiness each and every day. I need to take the both the Great Commission given by Jesus, and the baptismal covenants that I made much more seriously. I need to live my life outside of my own little home, serve those in need, give to those in need.

In summary, this General Conference moved me - not just emotionally or spiritually, but in a real, physical way it told me to "get out and do something!"

I summed up my plan of action (the notes I made) into 9 different items, then copied them out on to a piece of paper which I have posted by my desk. I hope this will help keep this momentum going. Right now all these are, are ideas, and it will take a serious kick in the pants to get myself up and moving on these. The passion is definitely there for me, now I just need to follow through.

One other side note - because I am a music lover, I always take note of the hymns sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. This conference, there was an unmistakable theme:

High on a Mountaintop
How Firm a Foundation
Press Forward Saints
Let Zion in Her Beauty Rise
Let Us All Press On

There is no doubt all of these hymns capture passion, perseverance, moving forward, marching on to glory. They are all upbeat melodies, inspiring the feeling of pressing on. They all talk about Zion coming forth in glory, rising up like a standard to the world! They say to me that though hard times are ahead, take heart! be cheerful! We are standing together and we will be triumphant!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

A different time

Have you ever watched a movie or TV program where the man orders dinner for the woman? When he actually choose what she will eat? "I'll have the prime rib, and for the lady...(perusing menu)...she'll have the chicken." I always thought that was really strange. Does he just know what she will like? Is she unable to decide for herself? Does she have absolutely zero ability to read a menu and figure out what she might like?

Last night James and I were justing beginning a 45 minutes drive home after seeing a friend in a play. We were getting ready to leave the town when we both decided that we felt like a snack. (Notice I didn't say we were hungry - just the late-night peckish feeling.) We thought about getting something sweet and dessert-like, but I didn't feel like it. Honestly, I said, I feel like a hamburger. But I protested that it was too late to eat a hamburger and so we mustn't do it.

James laughed and told me to enter "restaurants" into the GPS. Within two minutes he was pulling into a burger joint drive through. What should we get? I fretted, but James took control of the situation.

"Don't worry, I've got it covered."

He pulled up to the ordering box and confidently placed the order...and it was more than just hamburger. An item from this menu, one from that, something from over there - and all without a moment's hesitation. When I opened up the bag as we drove away, I was amazed at how perfect the order was - it was exactly what I wanted! It made me think right away about all those movies and TV shows where the man orders for the woman. To be honest, it was kind of exhilarating. It was a man taking care of his girl, and his girl knowing that he knew exactly what she would want.

Call me old fashioned, but I liked it. Not that I'll let him order for me next time we at a restaurant. Actually, I tend to have the knack for interpreting two lines of description and discerning what will be really tasty. But I liked the sentiment of it last night.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Temper, temper...

How does an even-keeled mother raise two boys with tempers that go from zero to a hundred in 0.2 seconds that subsequently blow the roof off your house?

I'm not sure I'm going to make it. Or they won't. Or all three of us will go down in a blaze of glory.

Benjamin has followed Caleb's habit of throwing himself to the ground when he is angry. Before he always would sit on his bum, then bend over and lie on the floor. The other day, he did the full-on "Caleb Collapse" where he just falls over face first, without even bending at the knees or waist. It's like a plank of wood that tips over. Then he lay there, arms and feet outstretched, face firmly planted in the floor, bawling.

Caleb seems to be losing it to tears more and more often these days. He spent over an hour solid sobbing today. It began when his fingers got pinched in the screen door (after the fifth time I told him not to open and close it.) Okay, so that maybe warranted a few tears, although he's usually tough as nails when it comes to physical injury. But the tears did not stop! And not just tears, but all out sobbing, to the point that every word that came out of his mouth was completely unintelligible. He cried because I asked him to go upstairs. He cried harder when I asked him if he wanted a bagel for lunch. He cried because he wanted to spread something on the bagel himself. He cried and cried and cried...

I couldn't help him even if I wanted to, because I couldn't understand a word he said. When I told him that, he cried harder. Eventually it got to the point that he moaned that his stomach hurt and he couldn't make himself stop crying. I tried to help him through some calming exercises we have (like blowing out birthday candles) but he was so far gone I had no doubt that he really wanted to stop and couldn't. He gulped for air and winced at the pain from his stomach and just kept crying!

What was different about today (it wouldn't normally go on this long) was that he had chewed through his soother last night and couldn't use it. That thing is a miracle for him. Once he starts crying he usually takes himself upstairs and lies down in bed with his soother and is calm in less than 5 minutes. I have no idea what I (or he) will do when he's truly too old for that soother. I had previously told him that he would not get another if he chewed through the one he had, but after today I think I have to reconsider.

And to think that Benjamin is hot on his heels...