Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The REAL traveler's right of passage

Last night...I slept in the airport. It is the REAL traveler's right of passage.

But it wasn't a crazy, busy airport with people sprawled over benches and curled up on the floor, people dumped from overbooked flights or waiting for bad weather to clear or facing canceled plans. Nope, it was a small, airport with just me, a mother's lounge couch and the cleaning staff.

Eerie. And not at all comfortable. And not really "sleeping" in an airport since I didn't really sleep.

But I had nowhere to go when my flight landing in the wee early morning hours, and given that I had to be back in less than three hours anyway, it wasn't worth venturing out into an unknown city to try and find something more accommodating. So gingerly announced my intentions to stay overnight in the airport, wondering if this tiny place with only two rooms for the gates even stayed open all night. I was graciously led to the mother's lounge, where the lights turned off and a surprisingly soft (yet uncomfortable) couch offered a better bed than the benches in the hall. I had my own private bathroom, and they even wheeled a candy machine to block the small hallway down which my rooms were found, so that the janitors would be warned that yes, indeed, tonight they had an "overnighter." (Something I discovered that, while not being too common, happens enough for there to be a loose protocol for.)

When the lights flipped on at 4am I bolted up, knowing that yes, I had slept for a few minutes through the night, but not enough to really bolster me up for the flight home. I splashed some water on my face, tamed my curls and brushed my teeth before gathering my belongings and venturing out into the airport halls. The first passengers who actually slept in a bed last night are just starting to arrive and check in. And so here I am, typing away and waiting for the Tim Horton's to open. A small sign propped on a column promises it will be less than an hour. Good thing, because in the chaos of 12 hours yesterday running gate to gate trying to get out of Vancouver and back to Toronto, I neglected to eat more than a bagel and an orange juice, and I'm getting a little light-headed.

Ah well. It's a right of passage, and I'm now a member of the REAL traveler's club.

Monday, 29 August 2011

More camp photos

Kisses from our kids.

Snuggles from my boy.

Tasty fingers. Or maybe leftover s'mores.

Big boy Ben.

Benjamin's new best best best friend, Jesse. Jesse is the oldest son of one of our dearest friends. Benjamin went everywhere with Jesse during the camp. He sat on Jesse's lap during meals and shared his food. He snuggled with Jesse at the campfire. He took Jesse's hand and wandered off to explore. And Jesse took to Benjamin just the same. So sweet.

Colin's frog adventure. The older boys went into this brush and quickly came out with little frogs. Colin wanted one of his own, and so climbed his way over to this area. He must have stayed there for about half an hour until he found one. There was no way he would give up until he had the prize. Perseverance is his middle name.

Lazy days

I have loved this summer. It was exactly what I hoped it would be. Some weeks were full of activity, some were just for lazing around. We popped in with some friends, but never overdid the scheduling. Lots of camping and outdoor fun, a little swimming, and a few road trips.

What I realized I did miss was seeing my own friends more regularly. During the school year we often meet up with my friends and their kids for play date mornings at someone's house, or at the park. There was really only one friend that I saw regularly, and some good friends I hardly saw at all. As I watched their updates on things like Facebook, I felt disconnected.

It's been good, though, especially given that Colin starts grade one this year and will be gone eight hours a day, five days a week. I've cherished the days we've spent together this summer, on adventures or just reading and playing at home. The lazy days are drawing to a close.

I think I just might hold onto them a little longer. Maybe one last camping trip on a warm weekend in September. Maybe skipping a Friday at school to take a long weekend. Maybe making a new tradition of movie night or games night on Fridays, staying up a little later and snuggling up in the living room.

I keep telling Colin to stop growing up. The tough part is that he is such an old soul, wise beyond his years, that I feel he's skipped so many of these younger years. Every night at bedtime he asks if we can have a bedside chat, so he can ask me how my day went. I love those moments of motherhood.

Sunday, 28 August 2011


I Skyped online with my boys the other night, while I'm here in B.C. visiting family. When Benjamin heard my voice, he ran over to the computer and gazed at my image. "Nurse! Nurse!" he cried at me, confused at my face and yet no body. He sat for a few moments while I talked with them, but before long he laid his head down on his hands and stared at me with the saddest eyes, sulking. In another minute he hopped down and toddled off, upset that the sight of mom did not mean a nurse, a cuddle and a song.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

The one incident

Okay - I made this a separate entry because I didn't want to dwell on it while talking about all the great things from the camping trip. There was one incident. (Mom, everyone is fine. Let me stress that first. FINE.) Colin was in the field playing with the kids when all of a sudden my friend was ascending the hill guiding a bawling Colin over to me. Colin had had his face painted earlier in the day, a scary sort of skeleton. But I hadn't remember them adding red paint as blood... It turned out Colin had fallen and hit his head on a rock. Thankfully, I was surrounded by 9 other moms, so even though I was able to keep an even hand, I had the added benefit of their clear minds. I mopped up Colin's face to reveal a large gash. Colin was shaking and crying, both from pain and fear. We moms all looked on, trying to make the decision of whether stitches were needed, or if a stair strip would suffice. Everyone sprang into action. One mom grabbed some children's tylenol, while another ran for the camp director, to give him a priesthood blessing, and his wife, to open the first aid station.

I carried a terrified and bawling Colin and laid him on the bed in the first aid station. Then the camp director arrived, having called on another camper to come with him to administer the blessing. They laid their hands on Colin's head and pronounced the blessing. At the moment their hands were placed on Colin's head, a quiet peace came over him. He immediately stopped crying, and sat in complete silence. From there we made the decision to drive the 40 minutes into the hospital and have a doctor make the call about the stitches. During the drive, Colin sat quietly watching a movie.

We arrived at the ER and were led in right away. There was no question his gash needed stitches, and we were taken directly to a room where they put a topical freezing ointment on the cut. The only wait we had was the 20 minutes it took for the ointment to take effect. Then the doctor came in, with a nervous look in her eye, as she tentatively explained that she would still need to use a freezing needle in the cut to complete the freezing before she could stitch it up. I smiled and assured her that that was okay. I knew that would happen because of my own experience getting stitches when I was about 6. I also knew that the needle would be extremely painful, because I can still remember being held down as I screamed, while my mother bawled in the hallway. I prayed for strength and said I would hold Colin while it happened. She said she would probably get some others to help hold him down also. I'm not sure what made her change her mind, most likely it was Colin's calm demeanor. To this point, there had still not been even a peep out of Colin, except to answer the questions of the doctor. But in the end, Colin lay down on the bed and I bent over his chest, clinging both his hands and staring into his eyes.

The doctor got out the needle and stuck it in, moving all around inside the cut to inject the freezing liquid. I stared into Colin's eyes and he stared right back at me, with a twinge of fear but still not making a sound. I hummed a melody and reassured him in hushed tones. Then the doctor stitched him up with three big blue stitches and it was all over.

The cut is a jagged line over his brow, and looks exactly like the scar from Harry Potter in the book/movie series, so we've been joking with Colin and calling him Harry Potter. Even though he hasn't yet seen the films, he still thinks it's really neat. I hope it heals nicely and fades away over time, but for now I'm trying to play up how cool it is. Colin needs that kind of reassurance: if I tell him it's neat and cool, he'll get onside with that. Plus, he was given a special "award of bravery" - his very first badge.

I cannot adequately express the power of that priesthood blessing Colin received. I have heard stories of how kids cry and scream and writhe in pain when that freezing needle is administered; I have been there myself. And yet from the moment that blessing started, all the panic and tears and fear fled from Colin. The nurse, doctor and hospital staff were amazed. This is definitely a story for the family book of scripture. Once we got home last night, I spoke a little with Colin about how he felt, trying to help him pinpoint the moment when he stopped crying and no longer felt afraid, only a peace. I explained what the Holy Spirit feels like, and the power of the blessing. I know he's young, but he has a solid memory, and I hope this will help him in his own spiritual journey.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Camping craziness

Well, we did it! 10 moms, 40 kids, 3 days in the wilderness. It was awesome.

Okay, it was crazy, but it was still fantastic. We all met up at a camp our church has built about 3 hours east of us. Somehow we were actually early getting off in the morning, and even after a half hour stop at a McDonalds for a stretch and a play, we still arrived first. The campground was beautiful. Seven different group sites have been cleared out, with picnic shelters at each one. Our site was right across from the pavilion, shared by all the sites. At the pavilion there is a fully stocked kitchen with fridges, freezers, stoves, and everything you might need to prepare food for large groups. Plus there are toilets and showers (not that I could actually grab a shower myself, with three little boys running around everywhere!)

I picked a place for the tent and set it up while the boys ran back and forth, revelling in the freedom of nature. Before long the other moms began arriving, including my good friend from back in Toronto and her four boys. They truly were the guests of honor for Colin, who asks about once a week when we can visit "Jacob from Toronto."

No one in the group knew everyone; it was a mish mash of moms that my friend and I invited, as we hoped to build a group of moms with the same parenting style and adventurous spirit we possess. As it turned out, it was a great mix. We also tried to ensure that there was a good mix of ages of kids, so that everyone would have someone to make friends with.

It was three days of fun chaos. There were no real plans, which I think the kids especially loved, giving that in two weeks they will all be back to the rigidity of a school schedule. Mostly the kids just ran around with each other, going for a swim, playing in the dirt, running in the forest. Apparently poison ivy, which abounded in the uncleared parts of the forest, takes 72 hours to show up, so we'll have to wait and see how many kids fell victim.

Each mom paired up with another to bring the food and prepare one meal, which meant that for 4 other meals we were off the hook. It was a great setup which eased the constant burden of feeding 40 hungry kids.

At one point, the camp director's wife was talking with some of the kids. She asked them what they thought of the trip:

Barb: So, what do you think of camping with just mom and all these kids?

Boy: It's awesome! It's the best camping trip ever! So much better than the Father/Son camp!

(Father/son camp is a yearly church tradition when the boys are a little older, starting around 8 or 9 years old.)

I think two things contributed to this feeling: 1) the lack of scheduling and 2) our personalities. We were laid back, letting the kids explore on their own rather than hovering over them every second.

During our second night, we faced a rather formidable storm, and more than one worried husband called up to warn us. I don't carry a cell phone, so James had to hide up his worry and hope I was fine. What was interesting was that these 10 women, all with strong, independent personalities, are all married to worrier husbands. Now, understand, I don't say that this makes the men weak at all. In fact, if a relationship is going to work, it is best that each partner complement the other, having strengths where the other has weaknesses, and attitudes that work with each other. At any rate, we survived the storm, even if it did mean packing up wet tents the next morning.

And so this adventure comes to an end. My friend Lori and I, who organized it, hope to make it a yearly tradition. I'll be in for sure, and hopefully at least a couple of the other women had a good enough time to want to return! We'll see next year, I suppose.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Life (2)

It's funny. I've felt strong all this morning. A few tears for my grandfather, but I've always been strong when it comes to the trials of life.

But although there have been no breakdowns, things still aren't quite right. I have a big camping trip I'm packing and preparing for, and a dinner for 50 to cook, freeze and store, and the house is upside down with all the activity, and I'm behind on the laundry...I've had a good six hours of the day so far, and yet things are sort of only half getting done. On a normal day this kind of to-do list would really get me in gear, rev me up, and I'd attack the list with vigor. But today there has been no order, no list in fact. The best word to describe me right now is distracted.

It's amazing how times like these seem to slow your mind down, while time marches on.

On another note, I randomly discovered my cousin has been working on my grandfather's memoir. That was a very quick answer to the prayer of the broken-hearted (in my earlier post this morning.) I have always felt that I would love to turn his story into a film, and knowing that his memoir has been written is an inspiration again for me in this endeavor.

I turned to my guitar this morning for a little healing and comfort, and found beauty once again in the lyrics of this song. So grateful for the soothing balm of music.

"Blessed Be Your Name"

Blessed Be Your Name

In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's 'all as it should be'
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name
You give and take away

You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name


Our family received news last night that my Grandpa is reaching the end of his battle with cancer. All of a sudden and in a flurry, I am trying to plan a trip out west to see him before he returns home to heaven. Things seem upside down and rushing by and going round and round all at once.

Then, in the midst of all this planning, the morning radio news show announced that Jack Layton, the Leader of the Opposition party of our country's government passed away after battling cancer. It was a sudden and unexpected death for the public, as Layton had announced he was only stepping aside for the summer to receive treatment, but would be back for the fall parliament session.

Why on earth am I writing about these two events together? Because somehow I think the loss of Layton has prepared me for the eventual passing of my grandfather. While I didn't think Jack would ever return to politics, I sort of thought he would be around for another few years, perhaps still fighting, maybe temporarily in remission. His passing within months of stepping aside highlights the reality of cancer, and how quick it can move. Up until last week, my grandfather was on vacation in an RV with my grandmother. Today I am told he could slip into a coma at any time. Life can take a sharp turn at any moment. Often I think the shock of sudden death deepens the pain of loss in a sharp facet.

It feels as though my grandfather's life was interrupted, but inside I know this was the end of his journey on earth. He spent his life in service to his fellowman as a doctor. I had always wanted to fly out there after he retired and film some interviews with him, to document the incredible stories he has of a medical career in the northern territories of Canada. He and my grandmother had plans to write about it together, although I'm not sure if they ever got to that. My grandfather's passion for medicine led him to work right up until last year. His retirement had only just begun, with plans for travel and writing and much, much more just beginning. It is a sharp regret that I never had the chance to do this project. Perhaps there are enough stories written and gathered that I could still compile something, although the private thoughts of my grandfather will likely pass with him.

I am grateful to know I can see him again. I am grateful for families that do not end in this life. I am grateful for a lifetime of memories, and for the chance to hopefully fly out to be with my family later this week.

Friday, 19 August 2011

The evolution of the bedtime routine

When Colin was little, bedtime always included three books, then one song while tucked in bed with the light off. When Colin was a little older (maybe 2?) he started asking if he could trade his song for a fourth book. I often stuck my heels in (hey, I'm a music person) but James and any family filling in always gave in.

Then, when Caleb was old enough to understand books, our routine changed to one story from the children's bible, one book each, and one song. After a while at that, the boys started to ask if they could trade their song (again!) for a made up story by James. With James' vivid imagination and talent for story-telling, he loved honouring this request.

As James' stories got more and more involved, featuring favourite characters and often the boys themselves, the boys completely jettisoned books. I still read books before nap time, and if I was doing bedtime for the older boys I always read. (My improv story telling skills are not quite up to James' level.) Plus, the boys now have quite high standards for stories, and have been known to give a two thumbs down review to family members who unwittingly tried and failed.

My bedtime job has always been the "baby" who had their own room. This often meant looking at a few picture books, then cuddling/nursing with the lights off, while I sang through three or four songs.

Now that Benjamin and Caleb are sharing a room, bedtime is done altogether in their room, all three boys at once. Books and songs have gone by the wayside, in favour of one bible story and a long, detailed story by James. (Also included is a preview for tomorrow night's episode with the characters, excitingly titled "on the next exciting episode...!") The boys sit beside James, completely enthralled. Benjamin usually just wanders around the room. But once the routine is finished and we have a family prayer, I wander in to offer to Benjamin to nurse. He always jumps up into my lap on my rocking chair and settles in. He looks up at me with those big, beautiful eyes and says "Nurse!" followed immediately by "Song?"

Benjamin always loves to hear songs while he nurses, be it nap time or bed time. And it melts my heart every time. There is music in that boy's soul, that's for sure.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

The big toy crackdown: follow up

Somehow, it all worked fabulously. And I'm not really sure how or why.

What I removed from the playroom:

1) A big blue bucket of stuffed animals. These stuffed toys had been pared down to only my favourites from my own childhood, but my boys never, ever, ever play with stuffed animals. I have packed them away in the basement.

2) Big play-dough machines and doo-dads. While the boys do sometimes play with play-dough, they only ever use their hands for tools. Out went the two big kits we had.

3) The little orange table and green chair. These were also from my childhood, and they went upstairs into Colin's new bedroom.

4) All the big toddler toys. We had several of them, little walkers and chairs and the like. Benjamin used them when they were age appropriate, but now he would rather play with what the older boys are playing with.

Changes to the playroom:

1) I shuffled two bookshelves from being side by side, to making a corner.

2) The costume toy chest from the upstairs bedroom came downstairs.

3) I brought in 6 boxes of the boys toys: transformers, space set, pirate set, cars, men, and art books. The other 6 cubby holes now take some of the misc. pieces.

4) I gave up storing Lego in me beloved blue Lego box I had as a kid, and opted for a longer, flatter clear container, that enables the boys to sift through Lego pieces in the box, rather than turn it out onto the floor.

Really, there weren't any huge changes, but somehow it has made the biggest difference in the world. It's been about two weeks now, and the playroom has yet to descend into the chaos that used to be a daily routine. The boys are now able to manage a tidy up mostly on their own, due to the fact that it isn't so overwhelming. The biggest difference is the Lego box. That Lego was dumped out every day, and the boys used to end up in tears when I cracked the whip for them to clean it up. And if the day gets away from us and the boys go to bed without cleaning, I can do the whole thing in a couple of minutes.

Next project: The Living Room crackdown.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

I won!

I won a contest! Okay, before my family get all excited, no, it isn't a trip or money or even anything really big. (Like my sister who won a backstage meet and greet with Josh Groban. I'm still not sure why she took her husband instead of me!) But if you know me, then you know I never win anything. I don't even win at the Tim Horton's "Roll up the rim to win" contest, where 1 in 3 cups is a winner, and I've been doing that for 12 years.

So you can imagine my surprise when I scrolled down the blog roll update of blogs that I read, and saw my name as a contest winner on the Heavenly Homemakers blog! The prize is a lovely journal, cute tote, and inspirational book - just the perfect kind of prize for me. I can tell you right now that the morning this little package is delivered, I will open it up and feel the warm womanly glow of pampering myself.


Monday, 15 August 2011

Getting things done

Okay, to be completely honest, I felt a little bad about this, but I loved having only one kid with me this morning. Both Colin and Caleb are attending a morning day camp this week, from 9am to 12pm, so it's just me and Benjamin.

I got so much done. I did grocery shopping during the day, which I never, ever, ever do with even two kids, let alone three. But I carried Benjamin in, plopped him into the cart, and zoomed around easy as pie. I also went and bought a new mattress for Caleb, hit a department store for a few miscellaneous items, and swung by the book store with a question about James' e-reader. I got all the grocery items put away, moved over the laundry, and then was still half an hour early to pick up the boys. WOW!

So I am admittedly a little excited for school to begin. It's been five years of always feeling behind, never catching up, always trying to run to the store late at night once James is home. Five years of only getting the bare necessities finished, with an ever-growing to-do wish list that just laughed at me.

Of course, I will miss the boys. They will be gone for 8 hours a day, which is way too long for at most 4 hours of learning. I am still firmly in the camp that I wish I could send the boys to school for mornings only, and then homeschool in the afternoon. I wonder how the teachers would feel if I picked them up at lunch every day? Yeah, not likely. It's too bad they aren't more willing to compromise on things like that. They don't have music classes at school, or art class with a real art teacher, and gym class is never really that productive. Plus, at home, they could also have some religious instruction, creative play, or time to investigate their own interests. I think that would be a perfect set up, now that I'm really thinking it out. 3 hours in the morning for formal math/language/science, and the afternoons for personal interest things. I wonder...

Sunday, 14 August 2011


A couple of months back, Benjamin started to say Caleb's name. I think that came first because the two of the are home together so often. Then, just the other day, he finally said Colin's name also. But he doesn't actually say "Caleb" or "Colin."

Caleb: Lay-leb.
Colin: Caw-kin.

Which is sort of funny, because we know he can pronounce the "c" in Colin, but he hasn't transferred that sound to the beginning of Caleb's name.


Last night I went out with the girls for dinner, dessert, and a good long chat. I always love those evenings. As my friend was dropping me back off, I glanced at the clock and noticed that it was just past 11pm. It made me smile, and I told her why: it meant that James was likely still up. Once in a while we have a girls night where we are out into the early morning and when I arrive home I crawl into bed next to a sleeping husband. And I never really like it. As I explained all this to my friend, I realized that James and I always head up to bed together. Every night, usually just before 11pm, we close up shop and head up to get ready for bed and watch the first bit of the evening news. Then we turn out the light, turn over, and go to sleep. (Okay, I might read for an extra ten minutes or so.)

My friend noted that that was really something special. Her husband is a night owl and is always up much past her. Then I thought about some of my other friends, many who are in the same boat. Some have husbands who stay up late, some are the night owls themselves.

So as I got ready for bed last night just as James was ready to fall into bed, I smiled to myself as I chatted about the evening to him. Then I smiled again as we crawled under the covers and turned off the light. It really is a lovely thing.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Someday we'll know why

Sometimes it's so hard to see the tragedy that touches people's lives. I have friends, a husband and wife, who just let people know that their 4 year old son, the miracle son they thought they could never have, has been diagnosed with leukemia. They have been an inspiration to me as parents, and their son truly is such a special gem. I have never seen two people more devoted to a child, more selfless in offering their time to teach him, more consistent and diligent in fulfilling their roles as mother and father. My heart shattered into pieces on the floor when I read the message they sent. I immediately sent up a silent prayer, for their son in his fight, for the father to have strength, and for the mother, who is expecting another little miracle baby girl very soon.

The only comfort I could find was in the words "someday, we'll know why."

Thursday, 11 August 2011


Tonight, at the park, the boys befriended a brother and sister. The boy was just older than Colin, and the girl about Caleb's age. The two older boys spent their time running around, chasing each other, playing tag. Caleb and the girl tried to keep up, but had a tough time. So the little girl grabbed Caleb's hand and walked with him, offering some words of comfort. I glanced over at them as they were walking toward me from across the yard, hand in hand. It was like looking 12 years ahead, into the dating years. It was such a tender moment, I wish I had had a camera, even though I never would have snapped a photo of a stranger's child. Caleb never holds hands, ever. Even in the parking lot, the best I can do is cajole him to hold onto the side of the cart or stroller. But this sweet girl just slipped her hand into his and calmed him with those reassuring words in a way that only another child can.


The (non) visual artist

I am not a visual artist. I have no ability to capture shading or perspective. My people are barely more than stick figures with square clothing. I never had the patience to sit down and cut and glue and be crafty. It was always my least favourite part of school, camps, and activities. I rarely even tried, that's how much I didn't like it.

Consequently, I rarely do any drawing, art, or crafts with my boys. That plus the idea of all that mess in my kitchen (the only place to do it) makes me think it's not a good idea. There is no way that paint, markers and glue would not end up all over my walls, floor, and especially my lovely table and chairs. Even at the Early Years Centre, we rarely hit the craft table, and I didn't even think of trying to manage paint.

As it turns out, Colin is somewhat of an artist. He can already draw much better than I can, and has a wonderfully creative mind when he starts to draw scenes. His attention to detail is quite advanced for his age. More than all this, he genuinely loves it.

So we started to branch out a bit. He has a pair of scissors, some glue, some tape, and a whole pad of construction paper. Now he will sit for a long, extended amount of time (upwards of an hour!) and work away at his art. Caleb, always wanting to join in what his big brother is doing, will venture in as well. And because Benjamin also feels the need to do whatever Colin and Caleb are doing, that usually means I'm sitting down and supervising. More than supervising, I've actually been joining in. Yes, I have been engaging in the visual arts.

But I haven't been trying to do "adult" art. By that I mean something that another adult would look at and admire in some way. Sure, at first I started by trying to just create abstract art that could pass for something adult and artistic. But I soon realized that I just don't have an artistic bone in my body. So I decided on a new approach - the kid approach. I just started cutting and gluing and drawing and colouring and scribbling all over the page. Guess what - scribbling is really fun. Benjamin and I scribble all sorts of colours all the time. Colin and I make a great team where I cut out shapes and he pastes them. And sometimes I'm just working away on my own little creation, utterly unconcerned for what appears on the page.

Here are two examples of the works I've created:

A collage about camping:

A collage Colin made: he told me the pieces to cut, I cut them, and he glued them. It's an orca whale saving a person from a shark attack. And you can't tell, but the little black fish above the whale is only glue on by it's tail, so you can flip it open to reveal his name signed behind it.

These are the two pictures hanging on our magnet wall in the kitchen right now. Most of my other pieces wouldn't really be much to see - they really are just scribbles, shapes, and colours. Even if you aren't an "artist," give it a go someday. Find your inner child and scribble away. It's quite relaxing, actually, especially after a stressful, or just full, day.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

On food

I am officially throwing in the towel on gardening.

I have decided that since I do not enjoy it, and I do not need it, I will no longer grow a garden. Each year I get very little yield. What does grow all ripens around the same time and we can't eat it all, and I don't have time to can/freeze it. Plus whatever animal haunts my backyard at night takes off with more than its 1/4 allotted share (according to the old poem.) I don't have time to weed and take care of it properly, because if I do it with Benjamin around, he wants to pull out everything. And I think I actually spend more money buying seedlings and soil and compost etc. than I actually get out of the garden.

On a happier note, I am excited to discover some new recipes. I'm always on the lookout for healthy, waist-trimming ideas. While my tried and true cookbook will always be the Better Homes and Gardens Red Plaid Cookbook (FANTASTIC!), every now and then I like to venture into something new. Last week I pulled out Crazy Plates, which has some great low-fat meal ideas. And today I came across Enlightened Home Cooking, sent over in a pile of discarded cookbooks from my mother-in-law. This one has me really excited. Just my kind of cookbook - yummy meal ideas with an ingredient list that isn't too long or exotic.

As I started mentally bookmarking some recipes, my mind wandered to the recent film "Julie and Julia." It was a lovely little film, all about a girl who decided to cook her way through Julia Child's famous cookbook, one recipe at a time. So I think I might try something similar with this new Enlightened cookbook (skipping only the ones that I know my four boys would not even look at!)

Monday, 8 August 2011

Another year goes by

Happy birthday to me! Another year passed. Another number added to my age. And yet it still doesn't bother me at all. Maybe because I still feel so "young at heart."

I spent the first few hours cleaning. I know - cleaning on your birthday. But it was actually more like organizing, the leftover stuff from last night's big bedroom move. I purged out things from the playroom, moved some stuff around, brought back a few of the toy bins (still in the garage after a month!) and stood back to admire my work. It looks fantastic. Really fantastic. As it turns out, we didn't have as much stuff as I thought we did - it just wasn't laid out right.

Come mid-morning one of my best friends in town dropped in for a visit with her kids. We always have great chats, and we're both last minute planners, so it always works great.

James made my special request for a birthday dinner: asian stir fry, with strawberry shortcake for dessert. Although I helped out with the stir fry (it's a homemade sauce), he makes the BEST strawberry shortcake, and didn't disappoint tonight! And I didn't mind helping with the dinner, but I made it clear I was not touching the dishes. And I didn't have to, not at all. (James is finishing up cleaning the kitchen while I type this.)

Then came the presents. I'm a big believer in birthday lists. I gather ideas all year in an email draft, which James and my parents generally draw from for birthdays and Christmas. But I also really love a surprise, so I try to put a lot of things on the list, so that I don't know exactly what I'm getting.

This year was especially lovely, because there were some things I both really needed and wanted. (Often my list is mostly full of books.) My parents sent an email saying they wanted to get me a new case for my guitar (sorely needed!) I'm sad to get rid of the current case - it and the guitar belonged to my dad from when he was young (teenager?) and I'm the sentimental type that has hung onto it, sewn it up, and carried it under my arm to keep the guitar from falling out. But it is time. They also sent a new piano songbook, from the musical "Wicked." I cracked it open right away, and sang and played through my favourites. Then I realized that I can also use the book to play the songs on guitar now!

Then I opened the huge box that filled the kitchen table...a mitre saw! James told a funny story about going into the hardware store, finding an employee, and telling him that he had two questions: 1) where are the mitre saws? and 2) what is a mitre saw? The employee laughed, and checked twice that James was indeed buying it for his wife. My first project will be a proper gate for our deck. The massive sheet of plywood did the job, but a swinging gate will definitely make things easier!

Now that the kids are in bed, James and I have an evening of Band Hero planned, singing and strumming and beating the drums into the night.

And so another birthday passes into the books. A wonderful day. Life is good.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Money talk

I knew the financial crash was big when it came up at an informal baby shower I was at on Friday morning. I mean, I knew it was big anyway, because I like to watch the news and keep informed on stuff like that. But those topics generally aren't ones that come up at a play date.

Thankfully, we are invested for the long run (education and retirement) so we aren't terribly worried about the current crash. But James and I did give it a moment's thought that evening. He mentioned that we probably "lost" a good deal of money. I countered with the fact that we don't need anything for about 15 years, and even the Great Depression of the thirties didn't last that long.

Of course, even though the loss was only on paper, it did give me pause for thought. What would happen if all of a sudden it was completely gone? How tied am I to that money? How dependant am I on material things? How confident am I in the Lord's promise that he who "clothes the lilies of the field" will take care of me?

It made me think of the parable of the talents. Do I take the money with which I am blessed and hoard it for myself? Do I put trust in my own abilities to provide, rather than trusting that God will? Do I hide away the money, or spread it around to those who are in need? How much do I really need, anyway?

I find myself much more on the "provide for myself" side of the line, rather than on the Lord's side. Of course I wouldn't sit around doing nothing and expect everything to fall in my lap. Being extreme on either side is unwise. This whole financial crisis has given me much to consider, especially in the hundreds of ways I have been blessed. I am feeling convicted today that there is much more I can be doing to help others, that this is a calling which I have ignored much to long.

"Duh" discipline

I was over at my friend's house the other day. She has three boys, the same age as mine, and just lives down the street. While standing and talking in her kitchen, I noticed two glass jars, half full of marbles.

"What are those?" I inquired.
"Oh, that's your marble idea! It works amazing!"
I was slightly confused. "Marble idea?"
"You know - I have a list on the fridge of chores for the boys to do, and the number of marbles each job is worth. When the jar is full, they can trade it for $5, or a date with mom or dad. You told me about it a couple months ago. We love it!"

Duh. Then I remembered telling her, after hearing it from a friend of mine (who also has three boy, about 7 years older than mine.) I remember telling my friend how fabulous I thought the idea was. And then I did nothing about it.

Well, all that will change soon. Next week I'm going to start some home/family rules and traditions. I've heard that trying to do it in September when school starts can be overwhelming for kids - too much all at once. So I'm going to take this next month to get some of these things going, so that by September they will (hopefully) be second nature. Hopefully.

Friday, 5 August 2011


Benjamin loves to have his hair combed. I started doing it in his rocking chair, in his bedroom, right after bath, just before bedtime. At first it was purely a necessary thing - to prevent a huge matte of knotted hair in the morning. Then he really started enjoying the feeling of that little baby comb being run through his hair. Now every night when I read him bedtime stories, he brings me his comb to have his baby soft red hair brushed. I love it. Sometimes I pass ten minutes or more just combing those locks.



I think, by far, this is Benjamin's favourite word and thing. Whenever those sharp ears hear the distant roar of an airplane engine, he excitedly stamps his feet and points to the sky and searches the sky for the sighting, all while shouting "plane! plane! plane!" When he spots the plane, his little body shakes in excitement as he shows everyone around what he has found. Luckily, about 15 minutes south of us is a small airport used for personal flying, so there are always small aircraft flying overhead.

Pa would be proud.


Knock wood, we might be turning a sleep corner. The last couple of nights he has slept from 7:30pm until 5am, waking only briefly around 11pm needing his soother. We will be changing around the bedrooms soon so that Benjamin and Caleb will share, which will hopefully do even more to help Benjamin sleep all the way through the night. After 19 months, it's about time.

Thursday, 4 August 2011


Summer is now half over, and I can't believe how it has flown.

To be completely honest, I was worried about how it would go. Colin and Caleb are at a stage where they can really clash. Add Benjamin into the mix and chaos can reign much of the day. And I'm not sure a day has passed that I haven't nearly lost it as all three are squealing in pain or frustration at each other. But all in all, I've managed to keep everyone busy enough that we've manage fairly well.

With the plethora of school supplies filling the store shelves, though, I can't help thinking about the advent of school. Colin will have to start going all day, every day, which is going to be really difficult for him. He still naps many of the afternoons, which I'm going to have to start training him out of soon. Caleb has the option of going all day, every day, but I'm going to pick him up at lunch. He is nowhere close to being ready to give up his nap, and on a day when he doesn't sleep, I'd like to work on some school things with him, just the two of us. Benjamin and I will have every morning together, just the two of us. I have some "big" plans for us.

Monday: Workout and Music classes
Tuesday: Cleaning day. This method (a once a week marathon) always worked best for me.
Wednesday: Play date, Early Years Centre, Library, Park, Field Trip
Thursday: Bible study (Benjamin in child care)
Friday: Play date, Early Years Centre, Library, Park, Field Trip

I hope to do lots of walking, since we both love that. Perhaps some biking, too, if Benjamin starts to like the bike trailer more.

I also have some big ideas about learning at home.

- I'd like to work our way through some more chapter books with the boys (reading aloud) like Peter Pan and Stuart Little.
- I also have some great booklets and learning pages from Enchanted Learning I want to work on with the older boys.
- More arts and crafts at home. We've done a few when we've headed out to the Early Years Centre and the boys, especially Colin, are really enjoying them. We haven't done much up to this point (too messy!)
- Values teaching. I have a great book by Richard and Linda Eyre that outlines a monthly schedule of teaching 12 important values to your kids.
- Scripture verse memory. At one point we were really dedicated in this area, but haven't done much in the last year or so. Time to get back on the horse!
- Reading through the Children's Bible. We have an amazing children's bible, one that goes through most of the bible books in great detail. We read one story every night before bed. Depending on how the mornings go, I'd maybe like to change this to the morning, so that I can read the story while they eat breakfast and ask interactive questions.

Over the next month, I'm going to sit down and do some more in depth planning on these ideas. I think organization is going to be key. I've not had great luck in coming up with a program and sticking to it, but I hope if I have some details written down, I will be more consistent.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Project Purge

Project Purge is about to launch.

I'm thinking minimalist.

I'm thinking less stuff.

I'm thinking my house doesn't need to be full to be cozy.

I'm thinking freedom from clutter.

I'm thinking with birthdays plus Christmas there will be a never-ending supply of things coming in. It is time to seriously get some things out.

If there is something you have seen of ours that you are interested in, now is the time to ask. Soon it will all be going up for sale or donation.

Project Purge is the beginning of the end of the madness.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

When the shoe is on the other foot

While I love the exhilaration of being on stage, acting, I long ago found my place behind the camera of filmmaking. And I like it there. I like when my mind whirls at a thousand beats a second and images are appearing in my mind that are breathtaking and then I grab hold of the challenge to translate that all onto film.

Today, however, I reverted back to being the one in the spotlight. Or at least in the audition chair.

A couple weeks ago I got a phone call from Public Affairs representative for our church. Our church has been running a campaign called "I am a Mormon." In the project creator's own words: While our backgrounds and experiences are diverse, we share a deep commitment to Jesus Christ, to each other, and our neighbors. Watch these stories of faith in the everyday lives of Mormons."

So this call came in from someone knowing my background in film, and asked me to compile a list of people I thought would make great subjects for this video campaign, as the filmmakers would be coming to do interviews up here in Toronto. No problem, I said. I actually did a ton of casting back in university, so I have a bit of a knack for searching out people who have great stories and who can convey those stories well on camera (not easy to do!) I submitted a list of 7 or 8 names and gave it no further thought.

Until last week when I got a phone call. Turns out my name showed up on several lists from other people, and I was offered an interview slot.


If you hop over and watch some the profiles, you may start to understand my incredulity. These are stories of people who have extraordinary lives, unusual situations, really unique identities. While I may have been on an interesting path at one point, as a female filmmaker, there really is nothing all that captivating about my life now. Don't get me wrong - I love who I am, what I'm becoming, and what I do. It's just that lots of other women do exactly the same thing.

I gave it a little thought and tried to come up with list of some unique things about my life. I jotted down that I have three boys under 5, and that I was raised with only sisters. I wrote down that I have a passion for learning new things, and that in the past 5 years I've built a fence, learned the flute and guitar, bought a kayak, sewn quilts, began a garden. I scribbled that I take my boys camping and raise an 8-man tent on my own. I thought about my passion for music for young kids.

It still didn't seem all that unique, but that was me. And the thing with casting is that you never really know what it is they are looking for. Because as a casting director, sometimes you don't even know yourself until you see it. So tonight I went to the interview, and had a blast. It was very odd to talk non-stop about myself for 20 minutes and not know a thing about the guys sitting across from me. (I think if they do come to make a video about me, I will grab my camera and turn it on them!) My thoughts came out like a bucket of ping pong balls tossed into an empty racquetball court. I drew on a lot of the energy and chaos that is my everyday life as a mom of 3 young boys. I talked about myself, my interests, my passions, my kids, my dreams, my past, my future. Seriously, now that I think about it, it's a wonder they could follow my thought pattern at all. But I figured that I've got nothing to lose if I lay it all out on the table. That's what acting, filmmaking, artistry is all about. If you can't let go of your inhibitions, you'll never create anything that is honest. And only honest art can touch people's hearts and minds.

It's hard to imagine the odds in situations like this. As a casting director, the more people you see, the easier your job is. Over the next few weeks these guys will take it all in, digest it all, and select those films they want to make. While it would be a wonderful memory to have this moment in life captured in this way, just the experience of mulling over my life has been wonderful. I think this was just what I needed for some artistic inspiration.

Writing accountability

I've been thinking about writing again lately, writing and composing and a little visual art, also. The problem is, I've been thinking. And thinking and thinking and thinking and thinking. Which is very little doing.

While thinking is an important part of the creative process, it can be frustrating that nothing ever comes to fruition. That made me think back to a conversation I had with my cousin at the beginning of the summer. She recently took a writing class through a college. I asked what her opinion was on the class, and she said that the best part of it was that she had to be accountable to someone in regards to her writing. So often I feel that I just don't have a great idea, or the idea isn't fleshing out as I hoped, or I can't seem to get past a certain point. Usually I have a fantastic idea that I write furiously for a number of pages over a couple of weeks, and then it lies dormant, hidden in the dark recesses of my computer.

Accountability changes all that. I'm not sure I'm ready for an actual class - too much "schooling" is ingrained in me, which would make me desperately work for an 'A' rather than achieve what I'm really after in my own writing. But what might be interesting is a partnership with another artist, someone who is also looking for some motivation in their own artistry. When you have someone to send off a story to, or play a song for, or share a lyric sheet with, then it motivates you to get something done. There isn't grading involved, just feedback, editing, or even just reading and offering a small compliment. A partnership of motivation.

It is really tough when you haven't done much over the past years. Often everything I start seems terrible. Usually it is terrible. The thing is, you have to just do it. Write, write, write. Write pages and stories and poems and characters. Compose songs and choruses and verses and lines. Work with photos and art. Being an artist really is like using a muscle. After years of not using it, it is out of shape. The first efforts are going to be wobbly, awkward, and maybe even painful. But I know there are beautiful things lurking underneath there.

Monday, 1 August 2011

The boys' bedroom

Now that the boys are a little older, I'm starting to think about decorating their room. And no, I'm not asking them. I have no interest in a Star Wars or Cars themed room. I want something that can grow a little with them. That being said, I did think about their interests, and have decided on a travel themed room. I don't have all the details worked out completely, but I'm thinking about vintage travel colours, like greens and browns. I want to find a wooden model airplane to hang from the ceiling, and a painting of a train, perhaps the Polar Express, for the wall.

I am most excited, however, about a purchase I just made for the wall - a huge 4 1/2 feet by 3 1/2 feet poster of the world:

When I was growing up, we had a huge map of the world on the landing of the stairs to the second story. There were times I stood and looked at all the countries, but most days I just saw it as I passed by. But you'd be surprised how much of that sticks, even those glances that only last seconds. A good friend told me the story of her 8 year old who aced a world geography test the teacher gave to see what the kids knew before she taught them anything. When my friend inquired of her daughter "where on earth did you learn all that?" her daughter replied "You hung that map in my room, and sometimes at night when I couldn't sleep, I would just stare at it."

But it is more than just a learning tool. I grew up in a travelling family. It's in my blood. I love roaming around the world, and I hope to inspire that same love in my kids.