Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Yes, that crazy lady was me

When I pulled up to Caleb's nursery school this morning on my bike with the bike trailer behind me with two kids inside, a friend rolled down her car window and admired "I can't even begin to be you!"

I laughed, and admitted that this was the first time I'd been on my bike since I was 16, I was drenched head to toe in sweat, had only come from around the corner, and had already gotten off to walk two hills. It made her feel better.

This morning, it was my intention to finally get onto my bike during the good weather. I can walk anywhere in town in 45 minutes, so I should be able to bike in about 20 minutes. Benjamin is old enough to wear a helmut and ride in it, and while Colin is in school I only have two kids at home, which is what the trailer can hold.

I biked Caleb to nursery school, then went to a downtown store with Benjamin. It was closed so we biked to the park for a bit, then back to the store, then back home with my new drum that was bigger and heavier than Benjamin (more about that later.)

Benjamin did not like the helmut at all. He screamed and tugged at it all the time, and I don't blame him. He doesn't understand why he has to wear it, plus it's about 40 degrees out there and those things are hot! His hair was matted beneath it in about five minutes. I don't know whether to be grateful he doesn't like it (and use that as an excuse not to bike) or sad (because I like the idea of biking.)

Either way, I need a lot more practice on the bike with the trailer. Our town is really hilly, which you don't realize until you are on a bike pulling a trailer with 60 pounds of kids in the back. There are almost no flat stretches anywhere. And there are a lot of stop signs, which kill any momentum you get going downhill.

I much prefer walking. I've got a great carrier and good strollers. More than likely I'll opt for walking in the future. But if you see that crazy lady walking her bike and hauling 60 pounds in a trailer, yep - that's me!

Monday, 30 May 2011


Ever look at someone else's life and just think "wow, I could never do that." Let me tell you, there are some real heroes of women out there. Some I know personally, some I know through blogs, some are relatives who live far away. There are just so many challenges out there.

There are also some people who seem to have it all together. Okay, I know life can't be all smiles all the time, but I truly think that there are moments (extended moments, more like periods) in people's lives when things are running fairly smoothly. Ever look at their lives and think "wow, I could never do that."

Which brings me to the idea that my life truly is tailored to me. I'm sure some people look at the lack of sleep I have had in the past 5 years and wonder how I'm still standing on two feet. (I have had less than 10 full night sleeps, and can't remember the last time I wasn't getting up at least every 3 hours. It was at least 2 1/2 years ago.) I'm sure some people see my family on a good day when Benjamin is all smiles and Caleb is being compassionate and Colin is leading a game and think my boys are perfectly behaved. The truth is somewhere in the middle of all the mess.

But I'm learning to love my mess. It's hard, it's true. But a profound statement hit me this past week in a book I read. If we are always trying to hide the mess, then we are being hypocrites, exactly the characteristic Jesus so condemned in the Pharisees. I read the statement and it hit me right between the eyes: I am so hypocritical. I love to present the face that I've got it all together. But honestly, what purpose does that serve? If I was sick and went to the doctor, what good would it do to pretend I was well? You can't get better if you don't admit there's something wrong.

So my life is messy. I wouldn't say my life is a mess, that has so many negative connotations about it. But my life is gloriously messy. I hope that one day the mess will gradually sort itself out, but that can only happen if I actually acknowledge it is there in the first place. Sweeping it all under the bed won't help get it all in order.

I think, maybe I'll start to see the first light once my youngest is about 3. I look at Caleb and see that although there are still many challenges to a three year old, at least you can work with a three year old. At least they sleep at night and you can reason with them during the day. You can leave them for two minutes to go to the bathroom, or put a movie on to take a shower, or go out for an hour with them melting down.

When my youngest is three, everyone will be school age. If they are at school, I will be there, volunteering in their classes, and (hopefully) running school music and/or drama programs.

When my youngest is three, I will be more free to pursue some of my own passions. I will be able to be someone apart from my identity as mother. Although I truly believe that being a mom is the most honourable calling in the world, I also acknowledge my own need to be the other parts of me also.

When my youngest is three, a babysitter will be able to handle the kids, which means more regular time alone with my honey.

When my youngest is three, all the kids will be the perfect age for sports, camping, biking and hiking - my areas of specialty!

But right now, my kids are 1, 3, and 5, so I have a few more years in the trenches. So if I'm going to get muddy in this mess, might as well dive in, right?

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Just like that, an answered prayer

The book that I'm reading right now suggests writing down specific prayers in a prayer journal or on small note cards. This is not only a great way to remember so ongoing prayer requests you have, but the author also says that he checks off when prayers are answered.

It may seem an action a bit too obvious - I mean, if you're the one praying, you know when it's been answered. But the nice thing about this method is that you have a visual reminder of the myriad of answered prayers in your life.

I haven't started it yet, but if I had, I would have written a request down on Friday and had it answered on Saturday. I just finished reading through the book of John (thoroughly enjoying many parts of it, most especially chapter 8 where Jesus banters with the Pharisees and takes them down!) As I was relating some of what I read to James, I also lamented that I didn't have any friends who enjoyed scripture reading as a hobby, as I do. Sure, many of my friends read the scriptures in a spiritual sense, but I would join a bible interest group for the same reasons I have joined the community band. Unfortunately, I don't really know of such a group, and I've never sat around with my friends chatting over scripture the way I would love to.

Then, the very next night, a good friend came over to hang out for an hour or so after the kids went to bed. We had made plans to go out, but everything fell through and we decided just to cancel it all and try again next week. Then, just as I was pouring a bowl of cereal for my dinner (one of those days!) she called and said she still felt like getting together and could she come over.

When she arrived, I happened to be just finishing a chapter in the book of Hebrews. She asked what I was reading and I launched into a couple of things on my mind in relation to what I had been reading. What followed was about 45 minutes of discussion that was exactly what I had been craving the night earlier. Then, as my friend was leaving, she casually mentioned that next time we should coordinate a specific scripture passage, and we could discuss it at length together.

I had not specifically lifted up my request in prayer, but it was definitely a "prayer on my heart." How awesome is our amazing God that he heard that prayer and answered it so obviously within 24 hours. It is definitely good to not only write down that which we are praying for, but to also record the amazing ways in which He answers them.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Mothers of young children - finding the time

For the past five years I have found it really hard to set aside time for both prayer and scripture study. I have heard many talks and read many articles about how important it is to do both on a daily basis. Knowledge, spiritual maturity, and relationship with God all stagnate when we aren't regularly and actively praying and spending time in God's word. I always feel like I want to do more, and yet the constant demand on my time has been a major roadblock.

I have realize now that I needed a solution that was outside the traditional box of kneeling at one's bedside to pray, or setting aside a half hour at a table to read. For five years I have battled and struggled to instil these habits, and after five years I am no further ahead.

(Sidenote: These past four months or so, I have been blessed with both boys taking naps at the same time, while Colin is at school. I really wanted to complete this Beth Moore study and so I prayed that God would grant me that time, and I would use the time given me for study instead of some other frivolous pursuit. How great are the blessings God grants, since I was able to do 45 minutes 5 days a week, for 10 weeks.)

But this is only a new phenomenon for me, and I know that most young mothers are not lucky enough to have all their children at home nap at the same time every day, for a good length of time. So there had to be another solution. And I think I found it.

This has mainly to do with babies in the first year to year and a half, and especially when they are nursing. I have found that is the perfect time to both pray and read God's word.

First, prayer. This will involve a radical change on the way you think about praying. (I'm reading a great book on this right now, called "A Praying Life" by Paul Miller.) First, when you are nursing a baby, or rocking them to sleep, or pacing the floor, you can't exactly stop to kneel and pray. That's okay - you don't have to. You can speak what is on your heart to God just as well sitting in a rocking chair or walking the hallway as you can on your knees. The second problem you'll face is the wandering mind. When you are running on little sleep, it is really hard to focus your mind. So you need to let go of the preconceived notion of the formality of prayer. Yes, a properly laid out prayer has its place, whether it is the "I thank thee/I ask thee" format or the ACTS (adoration/confession/thanksgiving/supplication) method. But our Father in Heaven will also hear the messy prayers of a sleep-deprived mother. Here's a great quote from Paul Miller's book:

"Jesus coes not say, "Come to me, all you who have learned how to concentrate in prayer, whose minds no longer wander, and I will give you read." No, Jesus opens his arms to his needy children and says "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." The criteria for coming to Jesus tis weariness. Come overwhelmed with life. Come with your wandering mind. Come messy."

That was eye-opening for me. In the past, if I couldn't find uninterrupted, solo prayer time, I just didn't pray. Then I realized that I had all this time "alone" with a baby in arms, nursing in the middle of the night or rocking them to sleep before bedtime, and that could be used as prayer time. Let me assure you those prayers are messy. They are wandering. They meander. But they are never more heartfelt. I usually start with pleadings: the things I beg from my Father in heaven (like just one night where Benjamin sleeps through, or that my children's whining won't drive me crazy the next day.) After pouring my heart out, I start to feel that "peace that passes all understanding," and I feel able to move on. I start to confess my short-comings and sins, and plead for his grace to help me do better. Then, if I'm still going, I turn my mind to family, friends, neighbours, and nations who are also in need of my prayers.

You would be surprised at the result. First, sometimes I find myself sitting there long after my baby is finished nursing or has fallen asleep. Second, I somehow don't feel as tired or short-tempered with my baby. Prayer has that calming affect on me.

The second challenge scripture study. This I found particularly hard, because of how much I actually do like to read the scriptures. If I couldn't get some quality time at it, I just passed. With kids getting up before 6am, and a baby still waking every 3 hours at night, there was no way to get up early and do it. With a baby wanting to be on my all day, and a 3 and a 5 year old still needing a lot of my attention and help, I wasn't about to risk trying to pull out my scriptures during the day. They would be more likely to be torn, soiled and ruined than to be read. And once the kids were in bed, there was only a couple of hours to get all the housework, laundry, etc. done, plus spend a few moments connecting with my husband. There were just not enough hours in the day.

But once again - there was that time I was spending nursing/rocking the baby. Every 3 hours I was up for at least 15 minutes, usually more. Granted, it would be counter-productive to turn on a light, flip open your bible and try to study when you are trying to lull your baby back to sleep. Solution: mp3 player. All the scriptures are available online in audio format. Each week I would download a book, then leave the mp3 player in the side pocket of my rocking chair in the nursery. When I would come in to nurse, I would first pop in the earplugs, feed the wire down the back of my shirt, out of the way of clawing hands, and press play on the mp3 player. (Mine always remembered where I had powered off last time - instantly picking up where I had left off.) Then I would pick up the baby and nurse. Sometimes I nodded off. Sometimes I found it hard to concentrate. But at least I was hearing the word of God. Normally I am not a person who can remember anything spoken like that - I am a really visual learner. But I would offer a quick prayer that God would help something stick while I was listening. And amazingly, it did. Also amazing: how many chapters you get through in such a way!

So there it is: easy prayer and scripture study for nursing, sleep-deprived moms of young babies. Okay, I will grant you that nothing is ever easy. And I imagine each of you will have your own challenges even with this format. But perhaps it helps you to think outside the typical prayer/bible box to find a radically different solution that works for you, just like this one did for me. Your spirit will thank you for it!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

A Dad and his boys

Tonight James and the boys are camping out...in the living room. They did it once before and it is such a hit. We have a great pop-up 4-man tent that just fits in the living room. They set it up, watch a movie from inside, then sleep all night inside it. I think James enjoys it nearly as much as the boys! And that's part of what makes him such an awesome dad.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

"Adopting" a missionary

Monday night I was able to get an invite to a family from our church whose oldest son will be heading out on a two year mission to teach the gospel. He leaves in about 2 and a half weeks now. Because we don't have any family members the boys know who will be going on missions before they do, I wanted to "adopt" some missionaries from our ward over the years between now and when our own boys will head out (age 19.)

So for Family Home Evening, we headed out to their house. Their son, Anthony, shared the things he had done to prepare to leave, and a little about where he is going and what he'll be doing. Then he showed what he'll wear - by dressing himself up into his suit and having Caleb dress up into his second suit.

The boys thought it was great. Now, once Anthony leaves, we'll write letters (at least monthly) of encouragement to him, and track news of how he is doing from his family and from letters he writes home. My hope is that the boys will be able to track Anthony on his mission and start to have an idea of what it entails, and start to think about their own missions down the road. A mission is such an important two years. If you are really serious about it, it is a time when your testimony is really solidified, when you learn what it is to live with another person 24-7 (in preparation for marriage!) and also how to take care of all the home things, like cooking and cleaning and laundry. It can be such a valuable learning experience, and I really hope our boys all decide to go and serve the Lord in this way, when the time comes.

Friday, 20 May 2011


Mommy: Caleb, don't hang off my back, you'll break my shirt.
Caleb: Why, do you like that shirt?
Mommy: Yes.
Caleb: Well, what shirt don't you like?
Mommy: I like them all.
Caleb: Then I'll break this one anyway.
Mommy: Then I'll break you.
Caleb: You can't break me. Jesus put me together with special glue so I can't be broken. That's how he put all of us together.


Caleb's favourite joke:

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road to get to the other side?
A: Oatmeal.

(James taught him how sometimes an unexpected answer can be funny.)


Caleb calls tulips "two-flips." I usually correct him, but for some reason "two-flips" is stuck in his head. It is so darn cute to hear.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

In-depth scripture study

As of today, I finished the most in-depth scripture study I have done to date. For any of you who have completed a Beth Moore study, you know that a pat on the back is in order here. I love Beth Moore. Love, love, love, love, love. She writes exactly the kind of study aide that appeals to me. Each day of the study takes about 45 minutes to complete, and is replete with historical and language facts, as well as really thought-provoking questions.

I just finished "Jesus, the One and Only." It is a 10 week, 5 days a week, study of the gospel of Luke. Most days there were no more than 10 verses to study and ponder. It was a really in-depth look at every event of the life of Jesus. When you are moving that slowly through the verses, but still spending 45 minutes a day on that section, you get to soak in a lot of knowledge about the event, the period, the people. You also get a good chance to think about a personal application.

I was actually able to complete one section per day, five days a week (Monday-Friday) without missing a single day. That is really an accomplishment for me in this stage of my life. While the boys are awake, there is no hope at getting 45 minutes of concentration. At night, there is all the rest of the housework to catch up with, and to spend some time with James. Getting up early in the morning is out of the question, with Benjamin still waking through the night and Caleb up for the day by 6am. Which left nap time - a precious commodity for a mother still up every 3 hours with her baby. But at the beginning of the study I committed the first 45 minutes of nap time to God, and prayed that he would provide me that time, plus a little nap also. And he did - every single day. When I think back on it, I am amazed.

I feel as though I want to include some of my thoughts on the study, but, as you can imagine, there are too many. Suffice it to say that the journey of walking every step of the way from Bethlehem to Calvary with Jesus was eye-opening and heart-committing. I am definitely changed by the experience.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Saved by Grace

James gave a fantastic talk (sermon) during our Sunday service this week. With the new format of each speaker getting to choose their own subject material, in typical James fashion he dove right into a difficult question he had that he wanted further knowledge and clarification on.

There is much confusion that exists about the question of whether we are saved by grace or saved by works. The LDS people are often misrepresented in mainstream Christianity as a people who believe we can work our way into heaven. This is an inaccurate representation, which unfortunately is made worse by the members of the church who themselves find it hard to define this particular doctrine.

Conversely, there is a widely held belief throughout mainstream Christianity that we are saved by grace alone, with no other responsibilities tied to it. Often termed "hypergrace" by Christian preachers, these churches are likewise trying to educate their parishioners on the inaccuracy of this explanation of salvation.

So where does the real definition fall? The more I read through the scriptures, trying to reconcile the seemingly contradictory statements (Ephesians 2: 8-9 vs. Revelation 20:12 or James 2:17, for example) the more I realize that the two beliefs are actually the same. It is only in trying to distance the one "religion" from the other that the seeming variance has occurred. But truly, both LDS and mainstream Christians assert that it is by grace alone that salvation comes, but that we must reach out to accept the gift through faith (a "work" in itself, on our part) and then continually access the power of the atonement through repentance (also a "work.")

Here is a quote that, I think, summarizes the concept beautifully:

"With this background then, one can understand why the scriptures clearly stress that faith includes works; that is, obedience, commitment, and repentance - these are the works of faith that open up the channels so that the power of the atoning sacrifice of Christ can flow into us, redeem us from sin, and bring us back into the presence of God. Disobedience and wickedness dam those channels. The righteous works in the themselves do not save us. The atoning power of God saves us. But our righteous works, activated by our faith in the Saviour, are the condition for the operation of that power. Thus, each of us has something to say about whether he will be able to seek the gift and power of the Atonement in his behalf."

"We are saved by grace - saved by Christ's love from the physical and spiritual death; saved by Christ's love from Adam's fall and our own; saved from sin and transgression by the grace or gifts of God. The atoning power of God unto salvation is a freely available gift from him - but our works of righteousness are essential to bring the gift into power in our lives. Sin brings alienation from God. The more we sin, the greater the alienation and the more difficult it becomes to effectively tap the power of God, which alone is sufficient to save us from our sins." (Gerald N. Lund)

Deep doctrine, right? I think this all definitely falls under the "mysteries of God" and I'm not sure we can ever really understand how it all works. But I think the above definition clarifies what we need to know about it, in regards to ensuring our own eternal destiny.

I think it covers both the "works" misconception that you have to reach a certain level of righteousness to be saved, and the "grace" misconception that by simply (and only) saying you accept the grace of God you have no responsibility to demonstrate that faith. Simply said, out of true faith comes works of righteousness. We will never be perfect, we absolutely cannot by our own merits. But if we are truly converted, then it will be impossible not to have an outpouring of good works. Essentially, good works are the evidence of the true faith necessary to be saved by the grace of God.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Music workshop post-mortem

Success! While I didn't have as much prep time as I would have liked, and even though the audience was vastly different than I expected, and given I had to quickly adapt to many problems throughout the day, the workshop I gave was a resounding success.

I knew that the workshop was for women ages 18+, but I immediately thought of who that would include in my own church area in our suburban and country area, which is completely different from downtown Toronto. The ages of the women were mostly over 45, and they were all very hesitant to participate in some of the more extroverted ways I had hoped. Most also spoke English as a second language, which also inhibits a lot of audience involvement. I also had some technical hiccups, which I had to work around.

The first workshop was a little bumpy, because I was only 2/3 through when they told me they were running behind and were ending the workshop to get back on schedule (the workshops were in the middle of the conference.) So while I had covered well the influence music has on us, I didn't get at all to the discussion on ways to use music in our homes and lives, which was the application part of the workshop. I also probably had at least an hour and a quarter or more of material to squeeze into 45 minutes. The second time I ran the workshop went much better. I had 45 minutes in between during which I reorganized what I had to say to make sure I got to the most important things.

I felt that I spoke too much and didn't have as much interaction as I hoped, which is something I have learned for the future. But everyone loved my energy. The woman who asked me to speak said that from the short bit she saw (about 5 minutes) and from what she was hearing, she was definitely keeping my number for next year. What a compliment! And when I checked my email this morning, I had a message from someone in Pickering (nearly an hour and a half away) saying they heard about the workshop and would I come and speak this Thursday for the women of their church ward! I had to decline, as I have a band concert, and honestly, Pickering is a little far for me to travel. But just knowing the thought was there is humbling.

So my wildly packed, crazy week is over. I survived, James survived, the kids survived, and after a good 2 hours of cleaning today and a full day of laundry tomorrow, I think even the house will have survived. I'll be looking forward to getting back into our own routine, which is much more laid-back and easy-going than this past week.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Film post-mortem

Well, there still is one more big day of shooting, so it really isn't the post-mortem quite yet. But these past three days were an intimate shoot with less than a dozen people, all in one small house. The next day is a huge outdoor shoot with 75 people. While it can be exciting to work on such a big scale, I like the intimacy of the past three days much better.

I had a blast. It was more fun and much easier than I ever imagined it would be. The crew were so much fun to be around. We laughed so much. We shared a common passion for filmmaking. We brainstormed and problem-solved. We panicked (but only briefly) and rejoiced. It is always an experience to be on a film set, because often I am one of the only women on the crew. Such was the case this time, and I always fall into a sort of sister/brother relationship with the people I work with. It means lots of teasing and laughing and joking, sort of a chance to let your hair down with family you've only just met. It is part of the magic of movie-making, I think, the fact that everyone finds a common rhythm so quickly. When you are spending so many hours in a row in such close proximity (sometimes literally sitting on top of each other, squeezed into a corner trying not to cast a shadow or be seen in a mirror!) you have to form a friendly bond quickly. There is no other way to survive a film shoot. "Hurry up and wait" is the motto of the industry, and considering we spent 21 hours shooting about 4 minutes of final film footage, you can see how people could easily lose their patience if it wasn't for the jovial mood.

And, in light of my worries leading into it, I did fine. Each day that passed I was more and more comfortable in my old, familiar shoes. In the end, I realized that I don't want to completely leave behind the world of film, as I previously have asserted. I don't know that I would want to ever pursue it as a career, or even work full-time for an extended period of time. But I would have no hesitation to accept another AD role in the future, and would, in fact, welcome it. It was nice to remember what I love about filmmaking.

Being a writer

I had the neatest experience on the film set this week. This is the first time that I have ever written a script that I wasn't directing myself. When I am directing, I am so closely linked to the script that I know it inside and out. Once the script is finished, I am still working with it to break it down for the camera and for the actors. A director has to spend a lot of time with the script if they want to successfully convey it on film. And so, in the past, by the time I get to the film set I am so familiar with the script that there isn't anything new.

With this film, the last time I spent any time with the script dialogue was when I wrote it six months ago. As the assistant director I did break down the script for scheduling, but you don't need to delve into the dialogue portions to do that. So when I arrived on set for Friday's shoot, which contained the first real dialogue scene (and also happened to be an emotional and pivotal part of the script) I was going to be hearing it for the first time.

Let me tell you, it is an amazing experience to hear your written word brought to life. I would have spoken the words out loud when writing it, trying to hear how it might sound, but it is completely different to suddenly see the scene play out by talented actors in the proper setting. I had to duck my head numerous times, because although the scene was very serious, I couldn't help but smile.

I'm not sure I am even able to fully convey the feeling that washed over me. It wasn't so much pride as astonishment that the black and white letters I cobbled together on a computer screen could suddenly have such life breathed into them and appear in front of me as an actual scene. I imagine the experience is even greater for most screenwriters, many of whom would not be present at the shooting of the script, and might only see the film once it is complete.

This new role of writer is a new one for me. I have written much in the past, but nothing that ever went past my own eyes, or perhaps the eyes of a school teacher. It is such a cool experience. I thought I would feel naked or exposed when my own words were put out there to be examined and critiqued by the world, but I don't feel that at all. Others have compared sharing writing to watching your child go out into the world to perform, having to stand back and watch without interference, and yet I don't have that feeling either. The best way I can describe it is the same way a sculptor, or musician might. A sculptor will say that the statue already existed hidden within the block of marble, he just had to chip away until he revealed it. A musician will say that he didn't write the song, he just heard it first and wrote it down. I don't feel like I am laying my own heart and soul out on the table, because this script is something apart from me. I was simply a conduit to bring it to others.

I think I like this role of writer.

Friday, 13 May 2011


On the way back from our downtown appointment with the eye surgeon, it was terribly hot in the car, so I rolled the windows down for a little relief. The wind caused so much noise that it was impossible for Colin and I to chat, or even listen to the radio. So I drove in silence, lost in my own thoughts. In the back, I caught snippets of Colin's little game. He had a tiny figure from a Kinder Egg Surprise, and filled an entire hour with his imagination. I caught pieces about space ships and pirate ships and rescue missions and adventures and instructions from the captain and countdowns to explosions. In the rearview mirror I could see Colin moving the little figure all over, flying overhead and climbing up the carseat, scaling the window and hanging from the roof handle. As I watched, I caught glimpses of James and his own imagination, and had the feeling that if I could go back in time I would have been able to capture the exact same moment in James' life as a 5 year old. When I recounted Colin's adventures to James, he told me that that spark of adventure never really leaves a guy, he just doesn't share it out in the open once he grows up. I love learning about this amazingly new world of boys.


James asked Caleb what he would like to do for his next "Daddy-Caleb" day. Caleb wasn't sure, so James started throwing out suggestions: ice-cream, toy store, park, swimming...

Suddenly Caleb had it: can we go camping? He asked? Sure, James agreed. Then Caleb grew quiet. Will it be just you and me? he asked solemnly? Definitely, James replied. Caleb remained quiet, staring at the floor. "But I will miss Colin so much, and he would love to come camping with us. Couldn't he come, too?"

Of course, James replied, his heart melting. That's Caleb though, Caleb the Compassionate.

(Although Caleb did stipulate that Benjamin was not to go, and therefore I had to stay home also.)


Yesterday Benjamin woke up after an hour and a half of afternoon nap still tired. When I went in to pick him up, he put his head down on my shoulder. So I sat down in my rocking chair and let him sleep in my arms. Because the moment was unexpected, I was unprepared with any reading or listening material. So I spent the next hour and ten minutes just watching my precious baby sleep.

I hope I always remember moments like these.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Finding confidence

I was nervous heading out onto the film set yesterday. In order to prepare the paperwork an assistant director usually does, I pulled out my old templates that I created during university. Staring me in the face at the top of the document was the date of the last major productions I worked on: ten years ago. The number scared me more than I wanted to admit. All of a sudden my confidence shot out the window and I sat there, questioning myself on whether or not I could really do this.

I love being a stay-at-home mom. I love watching every moment of my children's lives as they grow in these precious and fleeting young years. I am forever grateful that we are in a financial position (which has included sacrifices) that I can stay home and not have to go outside the home to work for an income. But being away from the working world has also eroded some of the confidence I used to have. If I "fail" one day at home, my 1, 3, and 5 year olds probably aren't going to notice. They aren't going to get mad. They aren't going to fire me. They aren't going to hold me financially responsible. The weight and pressure of performance don't exist in the job of motherhood in the same way they do "out there." I think most of the lack of confidence really results from not wanting to have to be in a certain place at a certain time, and also perform to a required level.

So I was really unsure what would happen when I arrived on set. "Back in the day" I was probably the most sought-after assistant director in my year at university. I had a natural knack for the job, plus I had some industry experience that magnified my abilities. I never wrapped a day late. I had everything covered. I balanced the schedule with the director's artistic vision and the crew's talents. Back then, I knew I was good.

When I arrived, (half an hour late, due to Colin's surgery appointment) I grabbed my things and darted inside the house, and I never looked back. I fell right back into it as though I hadn't been on a 10-year hiatus. The crew is very thin, which meant I also had to fill in for wardrobe, props, set, continuity and camera assistant (doing the film log.) My brain was buzzing and moving in a hundred directions at once, but it was like I tapped back into a part of my brain that had been lying dormant for a while. (I hope it stays online this time - those same skills I use for AD work would really come in handy in motherhood!)

It took only a few takes to get a smooth rhythm going. I had forgotten the call protocol before the director calls action, but the first time the DOP called back "speed" (meaning, the camera is now running) I remembered. It took a minute to decide the best way to fill out the slate and camera log, but I figured it out. The last thing I had to figure out was how to balance my role as writer and AD with my history of directing; I needed to make sure I stepped back and let the director direct my script, even in the moments when he was departing from my vision.

In the end, I found my confidence again. I am heading back tonight and tomorrow for two more evening days, and next week for a full day, and I'm actually excited about it. It's been a long time since I have been excited about filmmaking. For many years I truly thought that was it for me, that I would very likely never get back into that industry. And while I have no desire yet to take it up as a career, it's nice to do these little projects here and there.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Life in a rush

The next few days are going to be one big blur. Today we vacated our house for touch ups on the bathroom reno, I worked the morning for our company, then I took the boys to a birthday party, left one there, brought one back to James for nap and drove Colin down to Toronto for his last follow up with the eye surgeon. We waited there for over an hour, saw the surgeon for a minute, then drove all the way. I dropped Colin off and immediately turned around to drive back to Brampton to AD (assistant director) a short film for a friend.

Tomorrow looks very much the same. Colin to school, Caleb to nursery school, Benjamin and I up to bible study, then home to desperately write/organize my workshop for Saturday, then off to another 6 hours of the film shoot.

Friday - lather, rinse, repeat. I hope to maybe catch up on things around the house in the morning before the evening's film shoot again.

Saturday we have a community clean up day, followed by the workshop I have to give on the other side of Toronto.

And while Sunday is always a rest from our daily labours, it is still always full to the brim.

And even though it is past 11pm and I'm ready for bed, I hear Benjamin starting to cry.

Off I go.


Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Playing house

This morning I found Colin and Caleb playing house. This is a new game for them, one I think they learned when a friend came for dinner last week and brought her three girls to play. I remember passing many hours at this game, although I thought the boys' version was really funny.

In their own words: they were playing house, except Colin's name was Max and Caleb's name was George. Colin was 16 years old, and Caleb was only 12. They were playing in Benjamin's nursery, and had moved the movable items into one corner to build a small "house." Colin's bed was under the tall boy dresser (I had to see him crawl under the to believe he could actually fit!) and Caleb's bed was the baby bathtub, limbs falling over on all sides. Playing house consisted of going to bed, waking up, going to bed, waking up, and going to bed again. As far as I could tell, there wasn't much else going on. Leave it to boys to decide that playing house means sleeping.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Monday morning

I love Monday mornings.

(please don't shoot me for that comment!)

There is something about Monday mornings that really gets me going. After a physically, mentally and spiritually refreshing Sunday, I wake up on Monday mornings ready to face the world. I feel like my entire to-do list is possible. I feel like I have an endless supply of energy. I feel joy at meeting a new week. I often do my house cleaning on Monday mornings while this feeling lasts. I don't enjoy cleaning, but even this chore is brighter on a sunny Monday morning.

This morning found Benjamin up and awake before 6am. So instead of groggily bringing him downstairs and desperately trying to keep him quiet, I decided to get "up and at 'em" and go out for a walk. We bundled up and headed out into the early morning spring.

It was absolutely beautiful. The sky was already a clear blue. The air had that cool, Canadian camping chill about it (fellow Canadian campers - you know exactly what I mean!) The buds on the trees are just about to bloom and were letting forth just a little of their sweet smell. I encountered only two cars and three other people. A red-eye flight left a trail across the sky. The sun shone brightly, if not yet warmly.

I forged a path up into the north part of our neighbourhood. Interestingly, while I do tons of walking, I only ever walk in that direction when I'm on a nice leisurely walk, and only ever during the pleasant spring and summer weather. I hadn't realized this fact until this morning, and perhaps I had been subconsciously reserving this area as a summer sanctuary.

Having forgotten my watch, I erred on the sign of returning home early, though I still had at least another 15 minutes (I had been gone about 30 minutes in all.) Now that the good weather is here, I hope to have that kind of energy every sunny morning, to hop out of bed and get in a little physical exercise and spiritual cleansing from a good morning walk.

Sunday, 8 May 2011


I've thought more about this Mother's Day than I have in years past. I saw more than a few comments from people rebelling against the day, insisting on not celebrating. Their reasons spanned from irritation at the commercialization of the day to disliking setting aside only one day a year to honour mothers.

Instead of dismissing their thoughts immediately, I decided to at least consider them. (I'm trying to expand my opinion horizons, which means being open to other schools of thought.) In the end, I like having a day like this. Because even though stores make big money off of flowers and gifts (and yes, they got some of our money as well) and even though we should honour mothers each and every day of the year, the truth is that life gets in the way.

Beautiful, busy, crazy life. Days filled with work and dirt and running around and tears and hugs and cuddles and angry words and discipline and teaching and learning and kisses and laughs. When you are a mother, every moment is some sort of celebration of motherhood.

Then I started thinking about the stage of motherhood I am in right now. This wasn't at all in relation to my own children, but in relation to the other women in my life right now who are also mothers. I thought of my dear friends who are a few years ahead of me in the journey. I thought particularly of one friend who sees in my three boys exact carbon copies of her own children. Every time I share a success or challenge with my boys, I see that joyful smile spread across her face as she recalls to me a moment exactly like that. It is good to have her as an example in my life, because she has such wise insight as I struggle through these early years.

I also thought about the many women in my life who are just beginning their journey of motherhood. Sisters, sisters-in-law, and dear friends whose have little tiny babies, or children younger than mine. I think about the steps I have travelled, and though they are few, I hope that I can gently share what I have learned in a way that might be insightful for them.

I thought about a few women I know whose mothering years are still in the pregnancy stage, who are waiting for the months to pass before their own first little darling baby will be placed in their arms. It makes me reflect on my own pregnancies, and the joy and anticipation associated with that time. I remember how nine months is an eternity and a blink of an eye all at once. I hope that I can share something to help them prepare for an event that will change their lives forever.

And after all that, I thought of my own family.

I thought of my three precious boys who I love more than life itself. I realized how good they really are, how compassionate and smart and full of joy. I look at these beautiful children and I am excited for the journey we are taking together.

I thought of my husband, the man with whom my family began. I thought of how perfectly we match each other, complement each other, are designed to lean on and support one another. I thought of the wonderful privilege it is to be married him not only for time here on earth, but for all the eternities to. There is not another more perfect day to reflect on the blessing of forever families.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Deodorant vs. Antiperspirant

I'm really doing it. I'm taking the "natural" plunge when it comes to body care.

Soap was the easiest. A friend of mine started making and selling homemade soap. It is pretty and smells scrumptious and is so smooth on your body. Is it strange that I actually love the process of soaping up in the shower now? Seriously, every time I pull out that little bar of homemade love, it puts a smile on my face. PLus the fact that I'm not scrubbing toxins all over me - that's a big bonus also.

My next jump has been deodorant. Last year I bought a stick from our local natural stuff store. I used it for three days and then tossed it. It totally didn't work at all.

But, knowing that anti-perspirant is one of the WORST body care products I could be using, I decided had I to try again. I thought perhaps there might be another brand that worked better for me. A friend recommended one to me, and even dropped off an extra stick she had so I could give it a try.

The result? Well, before I get to that, let me make a couple aside comments. I had a chance last week to talk with a woman who sells natural products. I asked her, very frankly, about the deodorant. She passed along the following:

1. Deodorant is not anti-perspirant. Anti-perspirant actually blocks up the pores under your arm so that sweat (and smell) cannot escape. This is actually the worst part of the product (along with the aluminum). Our body needs to sweat out the toxins, and by blocking it up, you block in all those nasty, evil things. Deodorant instead inhibits the growth of odour-causing bacteria.

2. You may still sweat (and smell) with deodorant. It will not work the same as anti-perspirant, so don't expect it to. You may need to reapply again mid-day.

3. Your body takes time to adjust to using deodorant. The first couple of weeks will be the worst, but after (at most) a month it will be much better.

4. Don't feel bad about keep an anti-perspirant on hand for a wedding or a super hot summer's day. Try to avoid it for working out, because you do want to sweat in that instance. But even if you move from using anti-perspirant 100% of the time to 10% of the time, it will still be much better for your body.

5. Even on a hot summer's day, unless you're having company, you may use the deodorant anyway. Did you know sweating actually cools you down? I have noticed myself many times shivering on a hot summer's day, as the cool dampness of sweat relieves the rising temperature of my body.

Anyway, I would say I have switched to about 75% days deodorant now, which I think is pretty good. I have ordered a few other products, and when they arrive I'll write more about them. So far, so good, though!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011


Benjamin's understanding is through the roof. He pretty much gets everything we are saying now, and can follow instructions we give him. His vocabulary is also expanding:

"Cuk" (truck) - by far his favourite word. It refers to any sort of car, van, or truck on wheels.
"Uss" (nurse) - this was his favourite word, but he has taken to preferring the sign for it instead. Probably a good thing, since he asks to nurse about 15,000 times a day, and if I heard him saying "usss! usss! usss!" that many times I might lose the little sanity I have left.
"Ma ma" (more) - nope, not me at all. He still doesn't say Mama. This is "more," like "more food," "more water," "more food," or "more food." Yeah, it's mostly about food, and only in reference to breads, grains, pineapple, chocolate or ice cream. He never asks for more vegetables.
"Hi" (hi) - This is usually only heard when he is "talking on the phone." I think the phone is his favourite toy, and he is never deceived when he is given a phone to play with that isn't real. Even the "real" phone that doesn't actually dial doesn't fool him. He goes right for our fully connected, able to dial China, portable phones. At least it's a way to keep him sitting in one spot for two minutes!

So that's where he's at right now, at 16 months. I have a feeling that, just like Colin and Caleb, he'll hit about 18 months, open his mouth and out will come full sentences. We can see that little brain working on overdrive 24/7!

Monday, 2 May 2011

My first music class

I was more nervous than I thought I'd be for my music class today. Actually, most of the nerves hit me yesterday, in the form of self-doubt. I had prepared my lesson plans and new all the songs and games I intended to teach, and still I wondered exactly how it would all go? Would the transitions be smooth? Did I have enough material? Would the children sing? Would I be able to explain everything clearly?

This morning ended up being a flurry of activity. A sleepless night followed by the morning rush of trying to get Colin out the door for school. Thankfully I had my morning workout from 9am to 10am, and it ended right as the mommy group and music class were about to begin. That was a blessing indeed, because I didn't think about the music class once while I was in the throes of an intense workout. I love to push my body through the exercises my friend comes up with, and my mind gets very focused during this time.

The next thing I knew I was cooling down and stretching and kids and their parents were starting to come in. I was nervous about the turnout, since I don't have a very wide network of friends and acquaintances in town, but we had the perfect number, especially for our first meeting. I combined all the kids into one class, ages 2-5, and most came with their parents. I had 10 kids, including Caleb and Benjamin. It was the perfect size. I opened with a gathering song on the guitar, and as my voice came out clear as a bell I just fell right into it.

I assured the parents that even if their kids didn't participate in all the activities, they would still be benefitting from the music. I related to them what I learned during my training, that a child could stand in the corner every class, but then 3 months down the road the parent might find them playing and singing all the songs to themselves.

With that, we began. We sang songs to learn each others' names. We learned "Jack Be Nimble" and the kids got to take turns jumping over a candlestick. I played different tempos on the piano while the kids walked and ran and jumped and moved according to what they heard. We played with the bells and pretended we were "bell horses." We sang another song to hear their names again, and to give each child a chance to "dance around the town." Then we sang my favourite little goodbye song, where each child flies like a little robin "home."

It was amazing! Really and truly, I couldn't have wished for it to go any better than it did. Of course, the danger of starting off so well is that undoubtedly there will be weeks that don't go as smoothly, where the kids are acting out, where Benjamin cries to nurse the whole time, or Caleb won't let me teach. But today, it was fantastic.

I'm pumped to start doing it even more often. Hopefully in September I can do it twice a month, at least. Maybe even weekly, if Benjamin is cooperative. Right now I can just lesson plan loosely, but over the summer I might develop some 10 week curriculum plans so that I can really make sure I'm teaching some progressive music theory. What fun it all is!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

When dinner works perfectly

It's 4pm, your in-laws arrive for dinner in one hour, a last-minute invitation and you haven't been shopping in a week and a half. What's for dinner?

My answer to James was: spaghetti. I could hear him roll his eyes over the phone. He is not a spaghetti fan. He does love a good pasta dish, even spaghetti, when it is topped with more than a jar of tomato sauce. But I think he knew that my quick answer meant that I was literally having to resort to a package of noodles and a jar of sauce. He asked, nearly begged, if he could pick anything up. Nope, I replied.

I opened the fridge and freezer and put my brain to work. A couple of pieces of chicken, half a bundle of asparagus, a jar of Alfredo sauce...it was coming together.

Half an hour of busying in the kitchen and I can readily admit I had created a masterpiece. I wish I had thought to grab a photo, because even the presentation was top notch.

First I sliced the chicken breasts into strips and marinated them in lemon, olive oil and garlic. Then I sauteed them in a pan. Meanwhile, I sauteed the asparagus in butter until they were soft. I piled some well-rinsed angel hair pasta on each plate, scooped some Alfredo sauce on top, placed a few chicken strips and then laid the asparagus in an X on top. Garnished with grated parmesan cheese, it was a veritable, delectable masterpiece. I love when a last minute dinner works out like that.