Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Hero

I saw a great movie last night: 3:10 to Yuma. I actually sat, interested, and watched the whole thing. That is unusual for me. I usually get a little antsy just sitting and watching the TV. Okay, admittedly I did fold two loads of laundry at the beginning, but my interest was piqued enough not to go looking for more to do.

The ending (and trying not to spoil it!) made me think about heroes in our movies and culture today. Fifty years ago, the hero was about facing a villain and winning in the end. Happy ending, happy hero, happy movie, happy audience. But today the heroes either don't win, or must sacrifice themselves in order to win. This is a major statement about the world in which we live, and how we feel about this world. Do we feel that we can't surmount our enemies? Or that we must sacrifice ourselves in the fight so that, although we are physically conquered, a future generation might come out on top?

Is there really that much despair in this world? Is hope too far out of our grasp? While we as a society often are a reflection of pop culture, high art is of a reflection of society. To watch a well crafted movie or read a well written book is to stare into the face of humanity in our time. The artist has an uncanny ability to remove himself a slight distance, observe his surroundings, and then point a mirror in the right direction so that we can see ourselves running around in our world from a third person point of view. It can be a stark and eye-opening experience to evaluate high art in such a way; it is like peeling back your body and peering into your soul.

I think the "hero loses" endings were more prevalent in the past decade, and while are sometimes still present, seem to be giving way more to the "hero sacrifice" ending, which seems to say that while we felt there was a time of desperation in the past, we are now seeing a glimmer of hope. While we may not feel that we will be able to enjoy what rises from these ashes, at least we now believe that a good life will emerge once more, somewhere, sometime.

Me? I always want to watch the first 10 minutes of a movie and then just skip to the last 5. I have a yearning for the "inciting incident" never to take place. I watch a movie and see a perfect world and just want everything to stay that way. You see, I don't like hopelessness, even if there is a possibility of a noble sacrifice for hope. I'm longing once more for the hero movies of 50 years ago, when the hero was the hero and the villain the villain and good always triumphs over evil. I'm tired of the jaded look at the present, because I see joy in life. Maybe one day I'll return to my filmmaking career and bring back the conquering hero story.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Hit over the head

This morning I was preparing for my visiting teaching visit with a new woman of the ward. The spiritual message to deliver was about receiving personal revelation. The line that spoke directly to me was this:

“The ability to qualify for, receive, and act on personal revelation is the single most important skill that can be acquired in this life.” (Julie Beck)

I thought this was a strong recommendation, and one that has great merit. Then, as I finished reading the message, I flipped through the scripture references noted at the bottom. That was when I got my hit over the head.

Behold, I command you that you need not suppose that you are called to preach until you are called. Wait a little longer, until you shall have my word, my rock, my church, and my gospel, that you may know of a surety my doctrine. And then, behold, according to your desires, yea, even according to your faith shall it be done until you. (Doctrine and Covenants 11:15-17)

You see, our church has a lay ministry, which means that there are no paid positions. The result of that is that you don't apply for teaching or leadership positions - our Bishop extends the call to serve as he feels guided by the spirit. This has been really hard for me over the years, because if I was in any other church I feel certain I would have studied religion and then gone into professional ministry. I have always wanted to spend my life teaching others the passion I have for the gospel. Instead, because of my talent in music, I have spent nearly all of the last 16 years serving in the church in music, rather than teaching.

I felt this none more acutely than over the past week, as our church had a big shake up in callings. It seemed as nearly everyone was shifted around except me. I am in a church that has 5 or 6 really talented musicians, and I watched as every one of them was called to teach in some form or another, which obviously meant that I had to retain my music calling again.

It was really hard at first. I even cried as I felt such a yearning to teach. I often hear of people called to teach who don't want to do it, or don't bother doing it, and I felt it so unfair when I am sitting here wanting nothing more than to teach. But then over the next week I sort of settled back into music, with some new ideas and a renewed love for a unique way of sharing the gospel.

Then I read that passage. You know, sometimes I read the scriptures and see it more as a historical record, or a general spiritual guide, than as personal revelation. Then one day I am guided to such an obvious answer to a prayer and it makes me laugh - there is no doubt that God has a sense of humour! (For another example, read this - it was also a hit me over the head moment!)

And so I am feeling at peace once again. I am sitting more at the piano, singing in worship. I am composing and arranging again. I have a Christmas program to write and rehearse. And I have much guidance and counsel from that section of scripture to prepare myself for the time when I will be called to teach.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Good friends

I am so grateful to live in a place where we have good friends. And when I say "we", I mean everyone in my family. And when I say "good" I don't just mean people I like or acquaintances who help pass the days. I mean people who listen to your hopes and dreams and fears and heartaches. I mean people who invite you out to things, whose list you are at the top of of "people to call when cool things happen." I mean people who you share your life with and who share right back. I mean people you can just hang out with and talk about everything or nothing at all.

And I'm grateful that we have friends that are families, where I have a girlfriend whose husband is friends with James and whose kids like to be with our kids. And we don't just have one or two of these friends who are families - we have lots and lots.

There have been some circumstances over the last year that have caused us to ponder whether or not we need to move (all to do with James' work.) And every time we broach the subject with each other, we categorically decide "no." This is the place for us. While we might be able to meet new people and perhaps make some new acquaintances, James and I both know the special and unique gift we have found in our little town.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Words of wisdom

Saturday night I watched a broadcast of a women's conference from our church. It was an hour an a half of pure inspiration. But by far, my favourite quote (and most relevant to how I'm feeling right now) is this:

"Forget not the 'why' of the gospel. Sometimes, he said, LDS church members focus on what the Lord wants them to do and how to do it, but forget the why. While understanding the 'what' and the 'how' of the gospel is necessary, the eternal fire and majesty of the gospel springs from the 'why,' " he said. "When we understand why our Heavenly Father has given us this pattern for living, when we remember why we committed to making it a foundational part of our lives, the gospel ceases to become a burden and, instead, becomes a joy and a delight. It becomes precious and sweet." (Dieter F. Uchtdorf)

I have a HUGE passion for the why. I have no doubt been caught up in the "what" and "how" over the years, and just this past year or so have finally gotten down to the basics. I think the more spiritually mature you get, the less complicated it gets. We complicate religion and spirituality and church when we have only a limited understanding. As we grow and mature, we see the beauty of the simplicity in it all. I have had my eyes opened in a new way, and I have such a passion for helping others see the same thing.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Colin, Pavlov, and the CBC

"Ding, ding, dong."

That's the three bell tone that rings the top of the hour on CBC news. Yesterday Colin was busy at the kitchen table, eating or playing (I don't remember), or otherwise distracted. I had CBC radio on to listen to the world news. Those three tones rang, and without even looking up Colin spake:

" CBC news."

Ha ha ha ha ha. That's me laughing like I laughed yesterday. We really do love the CBC in this house!

It was an especially endearing moment yesterday. I had a chance to read my uncle's eulogy of my grandfather who passed away at the beginning of this month. One of the paragraph's spoke of his great love of learning through books and radio:

"I think there was never a time when we didn’t see Dad (my grandpa) with his nose in a book. He was a consummate seeker of knowledge and took every opportunity he could to read, watch documentaries, listen to radio program to expand his knowledge. The walls of his study are lined with a huge library of books he has collected over the years and even more amazing is the fact that I’m pretty sure he has read most all of them. He’s always loved history and actually along with music once dreamed of being history professor. He loves Canadian history and in fact all things Canadian (he is very passionate about Canada and thinks it is the greatest country in the world, and I would have to agree). He was fascinated specifically with World War I & II, the great explorers and the great classics of fine literature. He always kept up with current events. At 10:00 at night us kids and Mom always knew where to find Dad, plunked down in front of the TV watching the National on CBC. In the car it was always CBC radio nothing else."

It was through my grandfather that I discovered the CBC. There was something so distinguished about him. He was so knowledgable, and I yearned to develop these qualities in myself. And so I grafted myself onto the CBC, feeling that that was a huge part of who he was.

He also left a list of 40 must read books. I always love to see lists like this; it is akin to my fascination of perusing people's bookshelves in their homes. I love to see the kinds of books people like; it is a window into their minds and souls. I'll include the list here. I hope to cross off many of them myself, in an effort to get to know my grandfather even more after his passing, and also in my effort to develop those qualities in him that I so admired. The amazing thing about this list is that this isn't something compiled by a group of literary experts whose job it is to read books like these, and it isn't a combined list of a couple of things read by many people. This is a genuine collection of one man's favourite books over the years. Once again, I think it shows why classic books really are classic. I've highlighted the books I've read so far - (21/40) but I still have a ways to go! Only three books on the list I had never heard of, so I'm interested in looking those up also.

David Martin's Top 40 books

Bible (God and his prophets)
Book of Mormon (God and his prophets)
Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
David Copperfield (Charles Dickens)
War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy)
Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)
Animal Farm (George Orwell)
Complete Plays of William Shakespeare (William Shakespeare)
Doctrine and Covenants & Pearl of Great Price (God and his prophets)
Middlemarch (George Eliot)
The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame)
Tess of the d'Ubervilles (Thomas Hardy)
Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
The Jungle Book (Rudyard Kipling)
Treasure Island (Robert Louis Stevenson)
Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain)
Alice in Wonderland - Through the Looking Glass (Lewis Carroll)
Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle)
Dante's Inferno (Dante Alighieri)
Gulliver's Travels (Jonathan Swift)
The Life of Samuel Johnson (James Boswell)
Moby Dick (Herman Melville)
Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Dafoe)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Victor Hugo)
The Illiad (Homer)
Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
Les Miserables (Victor Hugo)
Pepys Diary (Samuel Pepys)
The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinback)
Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad)
Nostromo (Joseph Conrad)
Lord Jim (Joseph Conrad)
Vanity Fair (William Thackeray)
To Kill a Mocking Bird (Harper Lee)
Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy tales (Hans Christan Andersen)
Three Men in a Boat (Jerome K. Jerome)
A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)
The Travels of Marco Polo (Marco Polo)

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Uh oh - I'm in trouble

I have just discovered an absolutely fabulous online digital sheet music website. Yesterday I was searching for the music of the song "Give Me Jesus" that my friend sang, and this website popped up on the search. Quick and easy as all that, I had the sheet music, and had the option of printing it in several different keys (to fit my range).

Today I found some music that I've been looking for for years. I've tried to scribe it out myself, listening to the recording, but my music ear training has never been fabulous and I never got it quite right. Then, just like that, it's in my hands.

I bookmarked the site, but I'm too scared to start browsing through their collection...I'm not sure my wallet could handle it! I just love gathering music so much. I always have a songbook or two on my gift wish list. Finding some really great music or a long-looked-for piece makes my heart soar. And sitting down for an hour or two at the piano with music piled up all around me fills me up like nothing else can.

Friday, 23 September 2011


A friend performed this song this morning. She prefaced her singing by saying that sometimes the most perfect beauty is found in simple lyrics, when nothing else can get in the way.

In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus,
You can have all this world,
But give me Jesus

When I am alone
When I am alone
When I am alone, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus,
You can have all this world,
But give me Jesus

When I come to die
When I come to die
When I come to die, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus,
You can have all this world,
You can have all this world,
You can have all this world,
But give me Jesus

Thursday, 22 September 2011


Two things I ask of you;
deny them not to me before I die:
Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you
and say, "Who is the LORD?"
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.
- Proverbs 30: 7-9

What is it to have "enough"? In a culture where advertising is all-pervasive, then the notion of dissatisfaction must also reign. It is a constant struggle to remember the stark difference between needs and wants.

Great spiritual struggle is associated with both poverty and wealth in the above scripture passage. It is written as a reminder that both extremes can be dangerous to your soul and spiritual welfare. I find it so hard not to want more, usually when it comes to my dwelling place. I flip through the real estate section of our local newspaper, I browse the online house listings, and I yearn for a house with another bedroom, or an office, or some land, or a basement, or more kitchen cabinets, or hardwood floors. But what I have now is amazing. And it is enough. It is neither poverty nor riches, which would seem to indicate that I have exactly received the blessing for which the writer of this proverb prayed. I often grimace that in order to get that "little bit more" it could almost double our mortgage. I feel a twinge that it is out of reach. And then I feel gratitude for that which I do have, which, while to some might be considered poverty, to many millions in the world would be considered riches beyond imagination.

I am blessed. I am reminded. I am happy. I am satisfied.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

When in doubt, God shows up

Don't you love the way God shows up in your life?

I was having a bit of a crisis over a couple of things this weekend, feeling hurt, feeling ignored, feeling useless, feeling awkward, feeling like I'm in the wrong place. I lifted my heart up in a prayer for some much needed heavenly validation.

And got it. In a major, major, major way. In a very obvious way. In a way that says "you asked for this, and I'm not just answering this prayer in vague way that you have to stretch to be an answer. I'm answering this in an absolutely literal and specific way, in exactly the way you requested."

It amazes me.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

And I also really needed this...

Two plates of mini cupcakes dropped off by a most wonderful family from my church. I had such a rough day today I couldn't even hold it together at church. Seriously. I'm talking about hiding away for three hours because I kept bursting into tears. (Many things building up.)

A friend noticed. Luckily she didn't press me on it, because I only would have lost it again. But she sent her daughters over tonight with a lovely note and the cupcakes to "sweeten" up my day. I think there are at least 20. I just might devour 10 tonight.

And even more than the cupcakes, I needed the reassurance of her example. She is Christ in action like I've never seen it, and she inspires me all the time. And she is teaching her children the importance of serving also, not just by talking at them but by actually getting down into the trenches.

Mmm. Yummy cupcakes.

I really needed this tonight

A quote taken from Beth Moore's blog. (I love that woman!)

"I love church life. Even in all its imperfections and missteps. Even with its questionable reputation. Even though, at best, it can only point to Jesus and feign to replace Him. God used it to scoop me up when I was freefalling into an abyss. God used it to light a torch in me for missions and for the lifelong study of Scripture. God used it to teach me how to take a messy stab at teaching. God used it to show me how to love and to be loved. God used it to teach me how to forgive and feel forgiven.

Infinitely more than that, Jesus loves the Church. The big One. The one we’re only a speck on the face of. We – a people crouched on a tiny new dot on the Kingdom globe – want to take our place, shoulder to shoulder, with all the others who lift the Name of Jesus sky-high for any eye to see."

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Orange is the New Black

I always list on the side of my blog what I'm currently reading, even though I rarely comment on such things. But this latest book I read was very moving and thought-provking, and so I thought I'd digest some of those ideas here.

"Orange is the New Black" is a memoir by an upper-middle class young adult about the year she spent in a women's prison in the United States. She made a friend in university who made some bad decisions, and then asked the author to do her "one favour" in a desperate situation. The favour was illegal, although seemingly harmless. The author agreed to the deed, performed the task, realized what a monumental mistake it was, and then moved across the country, cutting all ties with her friend. Then, five years later and completely reformed, the police caught up with her. The result was a 15 month sentence in a minimum security prison.

The first astonishing thing about this story is that this girl could have been me, or any of my friends. By all accounts, she had been raised well, loved much, and was a "good kid." One spur of the moment wrong decision was all it took to turn her life upside down. That got me thinking about my own life, and how in an instant everything could be turned on its head. It could be a decision I make, a decision someone else makes, or even something completely random. It could be an accident, an illness, a moment of weakness or fright or ignorance. I could be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or maybe there is nothing I could have done to prevent it.

The leading question then becomes: in what have I placed my securities? Do I feel safe and secure because of my husband's good job and income? Because of the house in which we live? The life we lead? Do I feel secure because of my family or my friends, or the country in which I dwell? Am I safe because of my own intelligence and abilities, or that of my husband? When you look at all these things, they are things that could be snatched away in an instant.

I have spent a lot of time throughout my life thinking of such instances. A bus would drive by and I would think "what if it hit me?" At night I would lie my baby down to sleep and think "what if he didn't wake up in the morning?" James leaves in his car every day for work, "what if he was killed in a car accident?" "What if one in my immediate family was diagnosed with a terminal illness?" "What if our business went bankrupt?" "What if war broke out and James was enlisted?" "What if there was a terror attack here in my own country, or city?" "What if I made a mistake and went to prison for a year?"

As a religious person, I of course came to the conclusion that my security can only be in my God. Because God abides forever, because God is unchanging, because God is omnipotent, He is the only one I can always be safe and secure with.

The second thing I have been mulling over after reading this book is about people - do I open my mind to people not like me? The author found herself living among drug addicts and people who lived in the slums of America. She seemingly had nothing in common with the women in the cells next to her. Over that year, her eyes became open to the beauty of many of her new friends and the challenges they faced. The author's preconceived notions were dashed to pieces as her very survival depended on coming to know, value and like these women with lives so foreign to her own.

In my life, my friends are fairly like carbon copies of myself. We may have different interests, ideas and opinions, but our lives all look very similar. I would be afraid to approach someone so vastly different than I. What would we talk about? Are they just different or possibly dangerous? Would they ridicule me? Would they resent my sympathy? It is a difficult thing for an introvert like me to consider expanding my circle of friends and acquaintances, and yet I know how important such an action is to improving our current society.

Anyway, food for thought. It's a great book, which I highly recommend to anyone even remotely piqued by these thoughts. Her thoughts are well written and her ideas intriguing. And it's a look into a side of life I knew absolutely nothing about until now.

Friday, 16 September 2011

The Power of Moms

The Power of Moms: a gathering place for deliberate mothers.

The above is a website I touch in on now and then. These ladies have devised a program where they have created 12 "powers" that women can develop as they become more deliberate in their parenting. "What do you yearn in your life as a mother?" they ask. The answer they have come up with after speaking with so many moms is peace, purpose, order, and joy. The 12 powers are subdivisions of those goals, things that can help you achieve what you want. On the site are many essays on these ideas, stories from people who are working on one and achieving some level of success, and tips on how to apply it in your own life.

The power of acceptance, love, patience, individuality, intention, progress, balance, priorities, organization, fun, optimism, and moments.

Yes, these are definitely areas I either cherish in myself or have a desire to develop further. And because this is a site for moms by moms, it is no surprise that September focuses on the power of organization. (Because the new year really starts in September, not January!)

Organization is something I've always struggled with. Yes, with the aid of a fridge calendar, I manage not to miss any appointments or double book myself. But in terms of my "domain" (my home) there is much less deliberate action happening. I know how important lists and goals are, and yet I haven't found a system that works for me yet.

So I'm trying again. This morning I picked up an agenda of my very own (and yes, it is one where the "year" starts in September!) Standing in the office supply store, I yearned to treat myself to a nice agenda, one of those little binders that fits in your purse and you refill every year from the piles of packets available. Instead, I bought something less expensive, to see if I actually make any use of it. If it works, maybe I'll get myself a nice one in January.

What I'm hoping to do is sit down at night, just before going to bed, and jot down a to-do list for the next day. I want to include:

- 1 housework chore
- 1 laundry chore (washing, folding, putting away, organizing)
- plan for dinner (so that I can have everything I need for a healthy meal)
- 1 job around the house that I've been "meaning to get to"
- 1 friend contact (phone call, writing a letter or email)
- 1 fun activity to do with the boys

6 things to begin with. There may be a few more things I will need to jot down as well, but I want to start with at least that. I think if I got that done every day, I will be miles further down the road of organization. And since Caleb starts school next week, I'm hoping to have a little more time to actually do some of the things I've been neglecting for the past 6 years!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Oh yeah - why I'm NOT homeschooling

Today Colin had some homework we had to do after school. Not too bad, just preparing some ideas for a presentation on himself for next week. At the same time, I thought I would print off a booklet from Enchanted Learning for Caleb to work on printing. Then I could have them both at the kitchen table working nicely on their work.


I forgot about Benjamin. Just as I'm scrambling to get the boys ready, Benjamin climbs up to the table, so I run and find him a colouring book and some crayons. I try to get Colin going first, but Caleb is waiting so I change my mind and start with Caleb, but then Benjamin isn't interested in colouring on his own page and would rather colour in Colin's homework book. Then Colin starts printing on the handout that is for brainstorming, and clearly won't hold the paragraphs he has crafted in his mind, so I switch out the handout for his book. But Caleb is still waiting for instructions, so I turn and explain what his booklet is about, while Colin is asking how to spell the first word he wants to write. Then Benjamin, fed up with being ignored, starts climbing on the table. I sit him back but he's in this stage where he wants to be in my arms 24/7. I try to sit down with him to colour, showing him how to scribble, but he is really not interested.

It takes 45 minutes to get these two simple tasks done. By the end, it's 5:15 and I have yet to start dinner (although I did do the prep during the boys' episode of The Magic School Bus - yay foresight!) and I have the beginnings of a headache and I'm wiped.

I have visions of what homeschooling would be like, and this is definitely not it! More proof that I need to wait a little longer before considering such a journey. I don't know how other moms do this with all the younger kids demanding every second of their attention! Honestly, I look at my day and there is not 5 minutes I could carve out without Benjamin in order to work effectively with Colin. Maybe it's just my kids' personality mix - I don't seem to have a "quiet" one!

Teaching or brainwashing?

I had the beginnings of an interesting conversation with a good friend the other day. She was sharing her own religious/spiritual beliefs with an acquaintance who then posed the question "Well, if you were raised that way by your parents, aren't you just brainwashed into thinking your religion is right?"

It was an honest, fair and thought-provoking question. It made me pose a question of my own: what then, is the difference between teaching and brainwashing?

It I believe that honesty is important, am I brainwashing my child by trying to instil that value in him? If I believe in creation, evolution, love, fiscal responsibility? If I love music, theatre, carpentry, cooking, travel? If I raise my family with certain gender roles, education ideas, political beliefs? I don't want to live my life without imparting anything to my children, but there is no doubt that during these early years they are so impressionable. I readily admit that I am choosing what I expose them to, in an effort to develop in them what I see as good character, good habits, good values. But is that brainwashing?

I don't think it would be a responsible choice to try and raise my children "neutral." What a boring home environment it would be if I desperately tried to expose them to nothing. But every time I make a choice, I am choosing something for my kids, until they have the ability to make choices for themselves. Of course, that is part of the answer: in all my teaching, teach my children to be able to make their own informed choices. But they are still a long way off from that.

Christians will often quote the Old Testament proverb "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Parents often hold to this truth while watching wayward teens stray onto paths that vary from healthy rebellion to downright destructive. But does this saying then debunk the idea of conversion? How do Christians hope to convert others from the belief systems in which they have been "trained up as a child?" Wouldn't they eventually just find their way back, when they are "old?" Is this a scripture passage that affirms the idea that teaching children in any way is a form of brainwashing?

Some tough, hard thoughts and questions, that's for sure. The only answers I was able to struggle to, so far, have been these:

1. That training a child is important, invaluable even. It is my job as a parent to explore my own belief system, and be confident in having chosen my own path. Then I have a responsibility to teach what I believe to be right to my children.

2. That radical change is always possible. While much of what I teach my children will hopefully stick through the years, if there is something missing for my child, if there is a "truth" which they is integral to him, then when he hears it one day he will be touched by that and changed from the inside out.

So, when it comes to religion, I think the most important summation is this: "I worship God according to the dictates of my own conscience." (Jeff Decker, "I am a Mormon") You can't believe a packaged religion, or continue to follow a religion because your parents belonged to it, or because you were raised in it. If you are looking for an organization to support you in your beliefs, pray that God will lead you to it, and that the mind with which he has blessed you will discern truth.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

It takes a village to raise a child

Who is helping you raise your child? I've been considering this lately. We live in a society that worships the autonomous state. We believe that the one who is strongest is the one who can do it all themselves. To ask for help is considered weak. To rely on others means you are not self-sufficient. So when it comes to a mother raising her kids, it's no surprise that the generally mentality is that we all must be the hero-mom whose children are perfect, due to nothing other than our own heroic efforts.

How exhausting that is. And how, well, stupid. (And we don't often use that word in our home.) The old saying that "it takes a village to raise a child" has centuries of truth behind it. If one person alone was trying to raise a child, exerting only one person's influence over that child, the result would be a child raised with a very narrow world-view and a very limited set of abilities, ideas, and capabilities.

Instead, we need to embrace the idea that many people can and should touch our children's lives. This sometimes starts with a teacher at school, which is often the first time when a mother must relinquish some of her control. But the possibilities of influence are endless.

If you get a chance, read this blog post by writer/speaker Shawni Eyre Pothier. She talks about how her parents touch the lives of her children, and all their grandchildren. As a grandma, Lynda Eyre is opening her grandchildren's eyes to the beauty of the earth, sharing an appreciation of art, and imparting some of her homemaking skills. As a grandfather, Richard Eyre is ensuring his grandchildren are learning the importance of spiritual things, learning to trust the Holy Spirit, and imparting wise words of wisdom to help shape their character.

You'd also be surprised how often our kids might gravitate to our own adult friends. Caleb has a soft spot for my friend Kathy, who is a ray of sunlight in everyone's life she touches. Caleb often climbs up on her lap to share something very serious with her, and Kathy listens with an appropriate gravity. Even though Kathy has a daughter Caleb's own age, Caleb will often ask if we can have a playdate with Kathy herself.

Maybe it's a church teacher, a community leader, a friend, a relative, a historical figure, or even a fictional character. Billions of people live on and have passed through this world, and so the possibilities of positive influence are endless. I don't see it as pawning off the responsibility of child-rearing to another; I see it as the opportunity to gift your child with an infinite number of multi-dimensions.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Day one

Yesterday was Caleb's first full day of Kindergarten. Of course, with graduated entry, it means that he doesn't start in every day until this coming Friday. Yesterday it was just him and one other boy with the teacher, all day, to help ease them into their new surroundings.

I will admit, I did feel an odd little twinge when the school bus drove up over the hill and down to our bus stop. I was fine all morning; in fact, mornings are such a rush to get up and out the door that there is little time to emote over anything. But as I gave Caleb an extra push up each HUGE bus step, and watched him bounce after Colin to find a seat, and then as the bus driver drove away before Caleb could really get properly seated, a felt a little twinge.

I didn't have long to dwell on it because James was late for work and Benjamin was still in his pyjamas and the kitchen was a disaster zone. I worked away for the next half hour until it was time to leave for my workout. Only then did the thought cross my mind that maybe I should have followed the bus to school, or at least I could have driven over to the school before my workout to see Caleb get off the bus and into the school. But by that point it was too late - the bus would have already arrived and the kids all go inside right away. So with very little fuss, it was all over.

I will say, I am relishing the time with just one of my babies. First we worked out at the church, and Benjamin ran around with the other children. Then I got some gas, swung home for my cell phone (I actually charged it and gave the teacher the phone number, which I had to retrieve from somewhere inside the phone, since I don't know the number myself!), and then swung Benjamin up into my baby carrier and walked up to the Early Years Centre to meet up with some friends. But amazingly, I actually followed Benjamin around for a lot of the time, playing with play-doh and doing some painting. In the past, the Centre was always about a little break for me, some adult conversation and a distraction for the boys. But with just one kid, I felt like I could engage in some of the activities with him and it didn't use up every ounce of available energy in me!

Lunch with just one is also peaceful. Then naptime for Benjamin - and cleaning and small projects for me. I've had trouble getting to sleep at night, so I'm trying to cut out my afternoon nap. Again, with just one kid to see to, I'm hoping I'll have a reserve of energy to get me through the day. After nap Benjamin and I went on a lovely aimless walk - where I let Benjamin dictate which way we go.

When it finally came time to pick the boys up (and the bus was 30 minutes late!) two very tired boys descended the tall bus steps and made their way home.

"So, how was your first day? What was your favourite part?" I queried Caleb. He paused for a moment to reflect.
"Mom, the ham sandwich you made for me was AWESOME!" came the reply.
"I'm so glad you liked it," as I muffle laughter. "What else about school did you like?"
"The banana was so good. And the cucumber."
"But what about your teacher? Did she do anything neat?"
"Yes. When it was recess, I was so hungry and she got my granola bar out of the wrapper."

I did manage to get out of him that he also really liked playing games on the computer, which he all he has been talking about since last Tuesday when he had his meet-and-greet with the teacher. He didn't get to play it then, and she promised he could play the computer when he started full days.

The only other thing Caleb mentioned is that he wasn't tired at naptime and kept getting up from his mat and the teacher kept telling him to lie down. I sort of did that on purpose. Caleb had been up late the night before and woke at 5am that morning, so I knew by 1:30 he would be beyond tired and acting up to boot. I hope it was a good demonstration to the teacher that it would not be a good idea for Caleb to stay at school and skip his nap.

Now Caleb has the next three days off, and will officially start full time on Friday. Of course, I'd already planned a trip out of town, so I'm picking the boys up at lunch. And there is a big back to school celebration parade and picnic Friday morning, so it should be a good day.

I got a call from my friend today, who was Colin's teacher last year. Apparently Caleb's teacher shared this anecdote with her at school today: yesterday while Caleb and the one other boy there were sitting on the carpet at "circle time" Caleb, exasperatedly exclaimed "Are we going to do this all day?!!!"

Weird things I do

When I turn out the lights in a room, I close my eyes. I never noticed I did that until recently. When I'm putting Benjamin to sleep, I always turn out the light and then rock him in the rocking chair, nursing or cuddling and singing to him. Sometime through the second or third song, I open my eyes and see tiny bits of light spilling in from under the door, and I realize that I have had my eyes closed. The funny thing is, every night I do it subconsciously, and every night I am surprised when I open my eyes and realize that it isn't as dark in the room as I thought it was.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Private school

I never thought I might be looking into private school for any of my kids, but that's just what I've been looking up this evening. We haven't made the decision yet, because a big part of that will be if we can actually afford it without taking out a second mortgage.

I'm just so frustrated for Colin. Once again, we've started another school year and once again he feels little more than apathy toward it. He is never any trouble, and will do the work handed to him, but I think he just doesn't see the point of it. From what I can tell, in the current system, he would coast along well at a C average, never really enjoying himself or the schooling.

The following picture is what propelled me to look into an alternative for him:

This is a picture Colin drew and labelled during his quiet time the other day, while I took a short nap. We have not been discussing the body or its makeup, nor have we been working on writing and reading in specific exercises. This literally "came out of nowhere," or, in other words, was simply something he found fascinating and decided to explore on his own. On the left is a picture of your body from the outside, on the right is from the inside. Colin drew and labelled the bones, blood, and heart. The writing in black reads "Be careful with your body." The writing in red at the bottom is the legend (heart, blood, bone.)

At school, the only thing we have heard from teachers is that Colin displays little interest in the activities, including reading, writing, art, gym, and science. Last year the teacher said she Colin only reluctantly finished any work, and showed no interest in it at all. Colin's responses at home to us, when queried about school, is that he understands the work and does his best to do it, but there has been absolutely nothing, not one thing, that piqued his interest at all. And knowing his teacher last year (fabulous - hands on, lots of involvement and activities) and his teacher for this year and next, and also the teacher for grades 3-4, (sitting at tables, lots of workbook stuff) I just don't see things getting any better.

How can a child with so many questions at home, who takes initiative, who pursues learning with an unquenchable thirst, be floundering at school? It absolutely breaks my heart to see him so apathetic toward learning, especially when I'm so passionate about it.

And so, perhaps private school, just for him, and just for now. I'm hoping that he can test into the gifted program by grade 4, so really we just have to get through the next 3 years. But I really abhor the idea that a "better education" (or at least a different type of education) can only be accessed by those with the money to pay for it. Really, it outrages me, and I can hardly believe I'm looking into it. But there has got to be an answer out there for us.

Saturday, 10 September 2011


Why is parenting so intimidating sometimes? This back-to-school season has brought out many comments, blog entries, and conversations about the emotions surrounding sending your kids out of the house for 6+ hours a day. Mostly the people I hear from are those who wistfully vow that they wish their kids never had to leave their sides. The mothers shed more tears their kids, and sometimes the mothers even opt out of kindergarten altogether, keeping their darling children home for an extra two years.

I always feel guilty at this time of year, because I don't feel that way. I love my kids, love them more than anything, but I relish the rest I get during school hours. I need the break from the shrill yells when the kids are egging each other on. I need some time when three little voices aren't clamouring for me to get them something or crying over another injustice. I need touch-free time, when there aren't any little hands patting me, hitting me, tugging me. I need 20 minutes to clean the toilet or vacuum the carpet and maybe, just maybe, mop the floor (I can't get any cleaning done when the kids are around.)

And yet so many mothers have looked down at me and told me to treasure this time, because it is fleeting, and I will look back on these days miss them, wish them back. Okay, there are many, many moments that I love, but I get plenty of those moments in the 8 hours a day I have my kids when they are not in school.

I also think that this age is maybe not my thing. Transformer battles and Star Wars imaginary play...not my thing. Honestly, it bores me to tears. In a few years I know I'll be right in there, camping, hiking, playing sports, teaching small skills I know, reading books, and having in depth conversations. This line of thinking is what often leads to my guilty conscious setting in. Why don't I absolutely love this stage? Why do I have no qualms about sending my kids to school? Why do I look forward to "me" time?

Sometimes I bring this up, and mothers will jump in and say that they couldn't wait until their maternity leave was up and they could head back to work. They love daycare, when someone else can deal with their child's demands all day. And yet I didn't find myself in this camp, either.

That's why it was so reassuring to speak with a friend the other day who felt similar to me. She echoed all my sentiments, and confirmed that indeed, in a few years (the stage she is at now with her kids) I will totally hit my stride. It was then that I finally became okay with how I feel as a mother. I think that too often we affirm our own positions too emphatically, verging on aggressive (guilty!) We are looking for validation, or even more, someone who feels the same way. I know I have looked (and judged) other's for their decisions, and justified the judgment by saying that "that's not just a difference of opinion, that's just wrong."

I have had some experiences lately that have exposed me to people not like me. That is unusual given the town I live in, and the people I am generally surrounded with. And it's been eye opening. I have seen how one small event can change your life dramatically, and suddenly you are in a place that you could never have imagined. Sometimes the event is a choice, often it is not. But I think I am finding a confidence I never had before, a belief in the resiliency of the human spirit to find courage and survive in the most unimaginable circumstances.

Okay, that was a bit of a tangent. I think what all these thoughts can be summed up to, is that the only way to truly succeed in life is to be who you really are in all its facets, at the same time being open to change so that a new beauty can continually emerge.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Sound bites

Things I've overheard from my kids in the last couple of days:

Caleb: (learning to pump his legs on the swing) I sure am getting the hang of this!
Colin: (brushing his teeth) Wait! I need to rinse! I still have flouride on my teeth.
Caleb: (playing in the backyard) Gravity sure has a hold on me today.
Benjamin: (trying to get the boys off the slide so he can go down) Stop! Don't! No! Off! Enough! Go! Down! Bye! (He seems to be really adept at learning multiple words for the same thing, in an attempt to get his point across!)

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Back to school

I know I've probably said this before, but September always feels like the real New Year to me. Fall is coming, school is starting, life is changing, and it's a great time to make resolutions. I had some real good intentions to start today.

Too bad things never go as planned.

James was going to be home this morning, to help with the first crazy morning of the school routine, but then late last night found out he had to do something different at work today, which meant leaving even before the kids wake up. Which left me alone to do the morning routine. Which I did many times last year, but over the glorious lazy days of summer we all sort of forgot how it went.

My best intention of training the kids over the past two weeks to go to bed early and get up early was an EPIC FAIL. And so even though they all fell into bed at 7pm last night, 7am still came too early for Colin. He yelled from his bedroom for me to come and turn off the alarm because he was still tired. (I had even tuned it to a classical music station so that it would be an nicer transition than those terribly annoying beeps.)

I had the idea of all the boys eating breakfast together while I read a bible story from our Gospel Art Kit (the kit contains 8 x 10 pictures of scripture stories, with the story and a verse printed on the back - how easy is that for a morning scripture study!) But Caleb must eat the moment his eyes open, and Colin can't possibly stomach anything for at least an hour after waking. So breakfast lasts about an hour in our house, which put us about 5 minutes late for getting ready for the bus!

I completely forgot about the scripture story as I was trying to get Colin to eat, telling Caleb that 4 bowls of cereal was enough, and sending everyone upstairs to get dressed, since breakfast is way too messy too be done in school clothes.

The whole bus ordeal is beyond frustrating. It is a process that takes close to 45 minutes - and I could drive to the school and home again in 15 minutes. I'm seriously considering throwing out the whole bus idea altogether.

On top of all that, Caleb has his first "day of school" today, which is simply an hour one-on-one with the teacher and me in the classroom. At 1:30pm. Right smack dab in the middle of naptime. And by 10:30am he was already begging me to get lunch together so he could go for a sleep. I tried to tell him there would be no nap today, and he started to melt down. So I broke down and sent him for an early nap around 11am. I'll have to wake him up early to go to his class, which means he'll be absolutely miserable. At least it will help my case in why I will be picking him up at lunch time every day - the teacher will definitely not want to deal with an over-tired Caleb! Oh, and because this school thing is at 1:30pm, that's in the middle of Benjamin's nap. So I had to figure out how to get someone here to watch Benjamin during his nap while I take Caleb to school.

Then after school we were all supposed to go for ice cream and talk about the first day, but because James won't be home until after the boys are in bed, I'm on my own. I'm thinking about getting ice cream right after school, picking up a pizza and heading to the Early Years Centre, a tradition in our home when James works late on a Tuesday night.

So no, today hopefully looks nothing like what our school year will iron out to be. I don't look as "failing" resolutions on the first day as failure - just a realistic look at how new routines need some time to work themselves in.

Sunday, 4 September 2011


Benjamin loves to brush his teeth. I think he may be the only toddler out there who actually fights to have his teeth brushed. I've certainly struggled (and sometimes still struggle!) with the other two. But Benjamin is at this stage where he so badly wants to be a big boy. He even calls Colin and Caleb "the boys." So when it comes to brushing teeth, he races upstairs to be first, or pushes one of the other boys off the stool if he gets there after them. Then he stands with his little hands holding the sink, opens wide, and let's me brush away. Every ten seconds or so, he pulls back, leans forward and "spits" into the sink, just like he sees the other boys do. I think he would stand there and let me brush his teeth all night, if I didn't have a million other things to do!


When Benjamin gets tired, he has this loud hum thing he does. It's definitely a hum, but sort of has the pitch of a whine. He could be playing, or walking, or doing anything really, but he'll start this constant humming. At first it just faces in the background, but sooner or later you start to wonder "what on earth is that ringing in my ear?" and you realize it's his tired hum.


Colin was playing quietly downstairs while the other boys and I took a nap. James came home just as I was waking up, and I overheard their conversation downstairs:

James: What are you doing, Colin?
Colin: Just saying a prayer.
James: Oh really? What for?
Colin: For school. I'm feeling a little scared about it.
James: Why?
Colin: I'm worried I won't remember enough French. And I'm worried I'll trip and fall and hurt my scar. And I'm worried I'll get beat up. (James showed him the opening scene of The Neverending Story last week.)

That's when I came down and we all had a nice chat about how Colin's school is very small and no one would ever beat him up, and if they did try and hurt him that Daddy would go in and make sure Colin was always safe. After that we talked more about school in general, reassuring him that everything would be okay, and that it was okay to be a little worried, and how Daddy was always worried the weekend before school. We told him that it was a good idea to pray for comfort, and that James would give him a blessing tomorrow night to help him have peace for the coming year.

Our little Colin is such an old soul.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

When gratitude kicks in

As I stood alongside 100 other standby passengers, rushing from gate to gate, hoping, even praying, the gate agent will call my name and I will rush to desk and receive what amounts to a golden ticket, many emotions rushed over me.  I was anxious about getting home, hungry because there is no time to eat, tired because I hadn't slept, in pain from charging around the airport carrying 40 pounds of luggage.  As all of us standby passengers stood in a group, we chatted, laughing early in the day, less so as the day wore on. Knowing I was flying on the lowest priority, I didn't have much of a chance of getting on.  More delayed flights meant less spots, planes being sent off with empty seats were points of frustration.  Once I even battled back tears of exhaustion.  I got a few nods of sympathy when I divulged my priority.  One woman even passed me a blanket and pillow she had received the night before from a sympathetic airport worker, as she and her husband lay down on the benches to spend the night and hope for a ticket the next day.

But amid it all, I was grateful.  Most people might not think I could be under the circumstances, but I truly was.  Because the day I found out my grandfather was ill, I was able to get on the next flight out, stay for a few days, and then fly home, all without spending our life savings to do it.  Most people would not have that option.  So even though the process can sometimes be nerve-wracking and tiring, I am still grateful.  The night that I flew back home, my grandfather got much worse and had to be admitted to the hospital.  Had I not been able to fly out immediately, I would likely have missed the chance to sit with my grandfather, help him finish his memoirs, hear him tell some stories, and just sit beside him.  Truly, I am filled with gratitude.