Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The 5 best toys of all time

(I found this article on the internet. I've included a condensed version here.)

I’ve worked really hard to narrow down this list to five items that no kid should be without. All five should fit easily within any budget, and are appropriate for a wide age range so you get the most play out of each one. These are time-tested and kid-approved! And as a bonus, these five can be combined for extra-super-happy-fun-time.

1. Stick

This versatile toy is a real classic — chances are your great-great-grandparents played with one, and your kids have probably discovered it for themselves as well. It’s a required ingredient for Stickball, of course, but it’s so much more. Stick works really well as a poker, digger and reach-extender. It can also be combined with many other toys (both from this list and otherwise) to perform even more functions.

Stick comes in an almost bewildering variety of sizes and shapes, but you can amass a whole collection without too much of an investment. You may want to avoid the smallest sizes — I’ve found that they break easily and are impossible to repair. Talk about planned obsolescence. But at least the classic wooden version is biodegradable so you don’t have to feel so bad about pitching them into your yard waste or just using them for kindling. Larger, multi-tipped Sticks are particularly useful as snowman arms. (Note: requires Snow, which is not included and may not be available in Florida.)

2. Box

Another toy that is quite versatile, Box also comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Need proof? Depending on the number and size you have, Boxes can be turned into furniture or a kitchen playset. You can turn your kids into cardboard robots or create elaborate Star Wars costumes. A large Box can be used as a fort or house and the smaller Box can be used to hide away a special treasure. Got a Stick? Use it as an oar and Box becomes a boat. One particularly famous kid has used the Box as a key component of a time machine, a duplicator and a transmogrifier, among other things.

3. String

The most obvious use of String is tying things together, which my kids love to do. You can use it to hang things from doorknobs or tie little siblings to chairs or make leashes for your stuffed animals. Use String with two Cans for a telephone (and teach your kids about sound waves), or with Stick to make a fishing pole. You’ll need String for certain games like Cat’s Cradle. String is a huge part of what makes some toys so fun — try using a yo-yo or a kite without String and you’ll see what I mean. Try the heavy-duty version of String (commonly branded Rope) for skipping, climbing, swinging from trees or just for dragging things around.

4. Cardboard Tube

My kids have nicknamed the Cardboard Tube the “Spyer” for its most common use in our house, as a telescope. (Or tape two of them together for use as binoculars.) But if you happen to be lucky enough to get a large size, the best use is probably whacking things. Granted, Stick is also great for whacking, but the nice thing about Cardboard Tube is that it generally won’t do any permanent damage. It’s sort of a Nerf Stick, if you will. If that sounds up your alley, look up the Cardboard Tube Fighting League — currently there are only official events in Seattle, San Francisco and Sydney, but you could probably get something started up in your own neighborhood if you wanted. Or if you’re more of a loner, perhaps the way of the Cardboard Tube Samurai is a better path.

5. Dirt

When I was a kid one of my favorite things to play with was Dirt. At some point I picked up an interest in cleanliness and I have to admit that I’m personally not such a fan of Dirt anymore — many parents (particularly indoor people like me) aren’t so fond if it either. But you can’t argue with success. Dirt has been around longer than any of the other toys on this list, and shows no signs of going away. There’s just no getting rid of it, so you might as well learn to live with it.

First off, playing with Dirt is actually good for you. It’s even sort of edible (in the way that Play-doh and crayons are edible). But some studies have shown that kids who play with Dirt have stronger immune systems than those who don’t. So even if it means doing some more laundry (Dirt is notorious for the stains it causes) it might be worth getting your kids some Dirt.

So what can you do with Dirt? Well, it’s great for digging and piling and making piles. We’ve got a number of outdoor toys in our backyard, but my kids spend most of their time outside just playing with Dirt. Use it with Stick as a large-format ephemeral art form. (Didn’t I tell you how versatile Stick was?) Dirt makes a great play surface for toy trucks and cars. Need something a little gloopier? Just add water and — presto! — you’ve got Mud!

Dirt is definitely an outdoor toy, despite your kids’ frequent attempts to bring it indoors. If they insist, you’ll probably want to get the optional accessories Broom and Dustpan. But as long as it’s kept in its proper place, Dirt can be loads of fun.

Monday, 28 November 2011


Today we kept Caleb home from school for a mid-day dentist appointment. With all the craziness of scheduling right now, I figured it would just be easier rather than trying to arrange a pickup and drop off at school.

Only thing is, I forgot to call the school to let them know Caleb wouldn't be there. No problem, because there are so few kids at the school (less than 100) the secretary just calls home to find out what is going on. Today Caleb picked up the phone. Here's how the conversation went:

Caleb: Hello?
Secretary: Hello.
Caleb: It's Caleb.
Secretary: Oh, hi, Caleb. You're not at school today?
Caleb: No, I'm going to the dentist.
Secretary: Are you there with your mom?
Caleb: No, with my grandma.

At that point, Caleb got my mother-in-law and handed over the phone, for story verification. I laughed at the idea of the secretary calling and getting the kid himself, who then proceeds to excuse himself from school.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Doomed with early risers

I'm not sure what kind of cosmic joke this is, but don't I deserve just one child who will sleep in past 6am?

When Caleb turned 4 we bought him a digital clock. There is only one outlet in his room in the most inconvenient spot, which means the clock needs to sit on the second shelf of the change table. Nevertheless, we should him which set of red lines forms the "first number" and told him he was not to get out of bed unless that said 6. We didn't have to worry about it being a 7 - he's never slept that late in his life.

We thought we finally had the early morning thing licked. (No, 6am is not early in this house!) Three days later, Benjamin started waking up at 5am. Now we find ourselves in the exact same spot we were two years ago, long before Caleb could read numbers and understand the instruction to stay in bed.

Seriously. Is it too much to ask for a 7am wake-up?

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Tie a string around my finger

This is taken from excerpts from one of the chapters in the book ("A Mother's Book of Secrets").

"As a young mother, Chieko N. Okazaki inspired me. I read notes from an address she had given in a book called “Lighten Up!” that really changed me.She talked about how as mothers we tend to "compartmentalize" our lives. We have different cubbyholes for different things…”family,” “church,” “gardening,” and so on. She said instead of thinking of our spiritual lives as one of our cubbies, it should be more like the scent in the air that drifts through all the rooms.

She relates this story:

"Suppose the Savior comes to visit you. You've rushed around and vacuumed the guest room, put the best sheets on the bed, even got some tulips in a vase on the dresser. Jesus looks around the room, then says, 'Oh, thank you for inviting me into your home. Please tell me about your life.'"You say, 'I will in just a minute, but something's boiling over on the stove, and I need to let the cat out.'

"Jesus says, 'I know a lot about cats and stoves. I'll come with you.'

"'Oh, no,' you say. 'I couldn't let you do that.' And you rush out, carefully closing the door behind you.

"And while you're turning down the stove, the phone rings, and then Jason comes in with a scrape on his elbow, and the visiting teacher supervisor calls for your report, and then it's suppertime, and you couldn’t possibly have Jesus see that you don't even have place-mats, for Pete's sake, and someone forgot to turn on the dishwasher so that you're eating off paper plates, and then you have to drive Lynne to her basketball game.

"So by the time you get back to the room where Jesus is still patiently waiting for you, you're so tired that you can barely keep your eyes open -- let alone sit worship-fully at Jesus' feet to wait for those words of profound wisdom and spiritual power to wash over you, to make you different, to make everything else different -- and you fall asleep whispering, 'I'm sorry. I'll try to do better. I'm so sorry.'"

Isn’t this how we are as mothers? When we really need the Savior’s guidance the most sometimes we tend to shut it out. The secret is to use prayer to our advantage. Let the Savior “follow” us around, and help us out when we’re at the end of our ropes. That is when prayer really works. If only I could remember that more!"

Friday, 25 November 2011

I want this

Correction. My brain wants this. My pregnant body is craving...nothing. That's right. Nothing. And that doesn't mean "nothing specific." I actually feel best when I eat nothing at all. Somehow I don't think that plan is going to work. But the last two days I've cut out all snacking and little meals, which is how everyone says you should eat while you are pregnant. Instead, I eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner and nothing else. My digestive system takes a couple hours to get it all through, and then all the pain starts to ease and I actually feel not too bad. I think that's why I feel best in the mornings. Eating nothing and lying perfectly still is the answer (hence why nighttime is so good.)

I wonder what my doctor would say if I told her I was just going to fast for the next two months. Unfortunately I don't think she would approve if I melted down to the weight of a 10-year-old.

But even if I do realize I need to eat, somehow a big juicy loaded burger and a basket of fries still will not be on my menu. But you can be sure, Kelsey's, that you and I have a date come June!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Things to do in bed...

...when you are very sick with pregnancy.

Not much. The nurse nearly keeled over when she realized there was no TV in our bedroom. I told her that in fact, we do have one, but my husband had borrowed it for a trade show that day. But then I had to explain that although there is a TV that sits on the badly built shelf by our home's previous owner, it actually isn't connected to anything to watch. When the analog TV signal went dark in August, we didn't bother doing anything about it.

So no TV. But I am reading a lot. I bought this really, really long series I saw advertised on for the Kindle. It's fantasy, which I usually hate, but it's really more of a made up historical novel (which I love) than fantasy. In other words, it is not "Lord of the Rings" (which I hate.)

I also have a laptop. On the laptop I have watched the entire series of "Flashpoint," which is awesome. I also love that it is set in our home city of T.O. It's cool to hear streets and neighbourhoods I know referenced on the show. It's also hilarious, because for some reason they never actually get the geography right. Like "we're heading west toward Lake Shore." Um, Lake Shore runs east and west, so you can't drive west toward it. Also, when driving on the 401, you cannot choose between Highway 10 and Highway 532. There is no such thing as Hwy 532. And don't tell me you're driving at the north end of the 427, surrounded by fields, and show the GPS signal smack downtown on the Gardiner.

Also on the laptop, I keep up with Facebook WAY more than I ever have. I know what everyone is doing. And I know what all their friends think of what they are doing. And I actually update my status and write about other people's statuses. I've never used Facebook as more than a glorified email system before this. It makes me feel like I still have a life.

I check in with the news (The Toronto Star - thank mom. Years of delivery to our home as a kid means that I'm stuck with it now!).

I write on my blog, and I check in on other people's blogs. Today was a blog day. When no one I knew was writing, I decided to click through their list of blogs they follow. In other words, friends of friends of friends, who are perfect strangers to me. But I found some REALLY cool stuff.

C Jane, Enjoy It is one some of my friends follow, but I've never really caught onto. Until today. When I find a new blog, I like to go into the archives back to their very first entries. Then I read chronologically, and it's sort of like getting to know a person from the beginning. C Jane's blog is kind of like that album that everyone loves, and you hear it and think "whatever." Then you hear a song on the radio, then a friend has the album, then someone loans you the CD, and after a while, you are so in love with it you wonder how you didn't see the brilliancy of it from the beginning. I like C Jane's style, humour, and candour.

I also found an awesome album by a group called The Lower Lights. If you have a spare 5 minutes, and are a musician or lover of music, watch this video. The Lower Lights is basically a group of musicians who get together to jam in a recording studio. They don't play together in a band, they hadn't ever played together before. There is no plan, other than having a bunch of creative musicians gather together and sing their hearts out. It looks AWESOME! I can't even imagine what it would be like to be a part of that process. I wish I could be a part of it.

In terms of their first album, one member said "There's a gap out there for people who want to hear music, and hear these sacred and beautiful hymns...and they want to hear them in a way that they haven't been able to." In fact, this album sort of feeds my secret love of folk music. I myself have been rediscovering (and loving) old hymns on my guitar, in a folk kind of way. Seriously it's like hearing these hymns in a whole new light.

So that's basically what I do in bed all day, hooked up to an IV machine. So far I've managed to keep myself entertained. But I hope this doesn't last for too much longer, because I am so not a sit around kind of person!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... my bedroom! Last night James surprised me by decorating my bedroom for Christmas. He hung lighted garlands around the room, and even bought a little Christmas tree to go on our bedside table. He knows how much I love Christmas, and odds are I won't get out of the bedroom until the New Year. Reason #678429534578930721 I love my husband!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Ups and downs in a day

There can be so many ups and downs in one day, it's hard to believe it really is just one 24 hour period, one waking time-stretch between sleeps. There is the physical pain and discomfort of the pregnancy. There is the sorrow at not being able to be part of family moments. There is shame at lying here helpless in bed while others struggle to do the mothering job that is supposed to be mine. There is a resigned feeling that I must let others help. There is grief at the way I have interrupted other people's lives who must help. There is regret that I have thrown out of balance my perfectly happy family.

I wonder at why I am doing this, when things were wonderful. I had three beautiful, healthy boys and good health and balance in our lives and a routine that was really working. Why did I feel the need to disrupt it all? I feel like I'm gambling with life. What if I don't regain my health? What if there is something wrong with this baby? What if life changes because of this decision, and it's never the same again?

And then, once every couple of days, I hear a newborn cry or see a newborn picture and I remember what it is like to hold that precious new life, only hours old, and what it is to nurse them in my arms, and cuddle up to their small bodies in bed. These thoughts are short and fleeting, but I reach out and try to grasp at them with shaky fingers. Honestly, these moments probably come too rarely for what I really need, but I'm trying my best to remember them. And I pray, so hard, for deliverance from this stage of the pregnancy, I beg the hours to go faster, the sun to set faster, the weeks to slip by faster. I pray I will regain something of my normalcy within the next two months, and that it won't be like this for the next seven.

I feel confined, hooked up to a machine 7 hours a day now that keeps me upstairs, between my bedroom and the bathroom, unable to stray more than 36 inches from it. As I write I wonder if down the road I'll question why I didn't try to keep all these ramblings positive, leave out the trials and pain and heartache. But I guess more than anything I want this to be a true portrait of who I am and what my days really are. Because I called this journal "our daily treasures" and it is only through pain and suffering and sadness that true joy and happiness can really be recognized. These are the days that make up who I am and while the process of bringing a baby to life may not be easy for me, they are still treasured, in their own way.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Blue Sky Days

I just love blue sky days. Any day of the year, no matter the season or temperature, when the sky shines a brilliant blue, just makes me smile and my heart sing. This morning is one such morning. And even lying in bed, hooked up to my IV machine, it makes me smile. In fact, it makes this whole confined to bed thing not only tolerable, but even enjoyable. Just to take a few moments and stare out my window at the baby blue colour, dotted with puffy white wisps of clouds. Just to slow down and enjoy a moment of the beauty of this wonderous creation.

Sunday, 20 November 2011


The other day I heard Benjamin dodge the adults downstairs and tear his way up the stairs. "Mama! Mama!" he called out as others instructed him to stop and come back. I heard every thump up the stairs and then his feet carrying him as fast as he could down the hall. He threw open my door, busting into the room and ran all the way around my bed to my side. With all his strength he pulled himself up onto the bed and threw himself across my chest. As I cradled him in my arms, he lifted his head, looked into my eyes and said "I love you." That was first time those words came from him unprompted and in such a clear voice.


When Benjamin is hungry, that's exactly what he tells you: "I'm hungry." It sort of comes out "hohn-gry" in a very slow and deliberate manner. Those letters, n, g, r, are tough for one his age to pronounce, and yet he very early on understood that was the quickest way to convey what he was feeling. I think it's so funny that he didn't try the toddler's usual choice of words, like "food" or "dinner" or asking for a specific food. Instead, he got straight to the point.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

While lying in bed

People have been asking me what I do all day, lying in bed. At my worst, I do nothing. When I'm in too much pain, it takes too much to read or even watch TV. All I need is to lie quietly with no sounds or noises around me. When I was pregnant with Caleb, I literally just looked out the window every day for about 3 weeks. I remember this, because it was spring and I watched the bare branches out my window grow tiny little buds and then blossom and grow into leaves. Real exciting, isn't it?

But I'm still early on in the pregnancy right now. The worst doesn't usually come until about 9-12 weeks, so I've still got another week before I descend into "bud watching" mode. Mostly I pass the time reading, watching TV episodes on DVD, or surfing on the web. Dehydration and nausea makes it difficult to concentrate on anything for too long, so I mix it up a lot, punctuating each activity with a rest, just lying still. If I sit up for too long my stomach muscles start to protest and the nausea gets really bad.

But today I realized there is something I else I can, for short amounts of time...learn to play my new violin! This is something I've wanted to do for many years, and after trading a clarinet for a violin with a friend a couple weeks ago, I can now start to realize this dream. So this morning I found a couple of online lessons on beginner's violin and gave it a go. Turns out I'm actually picking the basics up pretty quickly. After a few instructions, I started to just experiment on my own. Knowing the guitar helped a bit, but mostly I'm just trying to play different hymns (which are pretty easy and slow) and getting the feel for the fingering and the bow.

Granted, it doesn't sound fantastic yet, but the tunes are actually recognizable, and not scratchy and screechy at all! I definitely overdid it this morning, though. Even though I was lying in bed while playing, it still took a lot of inner muscles and my whole inner core is rumbly, and I'll probably throw up. Lesson learned. But I'm excited to give it a few minutes every day, and actually try and do something productive while lying in bed here!

Friday, 18 November 2011

It's takes a village to...grow a baby

Today I am full of gratitude as I ponder on how many loved ones I have in my life. In this age of "following" online, it's easy to have 600 friends on Facebook, but how many of them could you truly count on when you needed it most?

Early pregnancy is by far the most vulnerable time of my life. I am literally laid up in bed for at least two months. And with other little children, it means that I can't do this by myself. And now that I am hooked up to a non-movable IV pole 4 hours a day, it really limits what I can do.

First of all, there is James. People often ask me why on earth I have decided to do this four times. Honestly, I look at James and wonder why on earth he agreed to this four times. Because he knows it means he will have to do so much more. And he's already swamped with his company and his church assignments, I am baffled that he finds more hours in the day (and jealous he won't share his secret!) But steps up every time and just astonishes me. He does the laundry and cooks the meals and makes the lunches and does homework with the boys and plays with them and bathes them and gets them to bed and does the grocery shopping and throws parties and hosts dinners and looks after me, and...and...and... He also gets some big projects done, like scrubbing the kitchen floor on his hands and knees (took three nights), scrubbing down the fridge, hanging the Christmas lights, raking the billion leaves. And I've never once heard a single complaint escape his lips. (Which is more than I can say for me, when I'm feeling bogged down with running a home, never mind that I don't have a company to run at the same time)! Seriously, I have the best husband ever.

Secondly, family. James' parents are in town and help out in so many ways. James' dad takes on extra work so that James can be home when he needs to be, for the boys. And James' mom - that woman is inspiring. She never stops; she is a machine. She is so willing to help out when James is in the city on work. I can't get the boys to the bus or pick them up, or drop off and pick up Benjamin at daycare, so she steps in. She often drops in to help out with dinner or bedtime or to watch Benjamin during swim lessons. And she never comes by without quietly helping out with the housework, the dishes, the laundry. Hard as I try when I'm well, I can never get my place to look like it does when she's here. But every time she leaves I'm inspired to try a little harder.

Under family will also come my parents. Although they are in Australia right now, when my mom's school term finishes they'll be on a plane the next day on their way over. While my mom stays with my sister and her newborn baby, my dad will drive here every day to watch Benjamin and help with the boys. In fact, my mom has said numerous times she wishes she could be here already. But it's less than a month now until they are here.

Speaking of my sister, she is definitely included in this village. She is 8 1/2 months pregnant and still willing to come and help out in a jam. The other day James couldn't be home for bus pick up, so she swung by after her doctor's appointment. She picked up the boys from the bus, then made cookies with them, then served up dinner, then watched Benjamin while James took the boys to swimming, then did the dishes (dishwasher broke at the WORST possible time!). Did I mention she's 8 1/2 months pregnant? She's a super-star!

Also under family comes James' brothers. They all work together, and even though we're coming into the slower months, they are still having to pick up some extra slack for James. I know James feels bad that he can't take shifts from them so they can have some more days off, but I hope they all know how much we appreciate their sacrifice right now. This one is particularly hard for me, because I know how unpleasant it must be for them, and it makes me so uncomfortable that James can't be the superstar for them he wants to be. What gets me through is knowing that the plus of a family business is that we are there for each other, no matter what, and one day we'll be able to return this favour in kind.

Then we have some amazing friends in town here. One of my best friends is taking Benjamin every morning so that I can rest and James' mom can answer the phones for the business. Another best friend offered to come once a week and fold laundry. Countless friends are dropping off meals, more have offered to drop some as the days go by. Other friends have offered to take one of the boys for a play date here and there, which will help with a degree of normalcy in the boys' days.

Really, I can't express my gratitude for the very large and loving village who are helping me to grow this baby. I literally couldn't do it without them.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Beautiful White

The snow started lightly falling this afternoon outside my window. Then it blew more furiously, before tapering off to a soft dance. A gentle reminder that winter it coming.

It was beautiful.

I miss food

There are many times when I think of food and get nauseous (fairly typical for early pregnancy.) But more often than not, I really, really, really miss food. And because I can hardly eat, I'm starving all the time. There are so many things I wish I could eat. Not in a pregnancy craving kind of way, just in an "I love food" kind of way. I miss cooking and baking. I am sad as we head into the holidays and I won't be able to cook up big holiday dinners and sweet Christmas baking. I've seen at least ten new recipes I wish I could try out. I browse through Better Homes and Gardens website and see all their food ideas and dream. I don't miss fast food at all. Not that we eat it tons, but even the thought of a hamburger and fries makes me wrinkle my nose. I miss real food.

Right now I'm surviving on toast with peanut butter, ravioli, and scrambled eggs. My body is starting to reject me for lack of fruit and vegetables, which are too acidic for my poor tummy. And funny enough, I can hardly drink anything. A little milk here and there, but everything else makes my stomach churn. Absolutely no water (too hard on the stomach), a little Gatorade when I can manage a sip, but that and juice I find so sickly sweet.

My nose is also on overdrive. The other day James did my laundry in fabric softener (which I actually never use; I guess there is an old bottle down there from something) and although I tried my best, I couldn't put them on at all. And poor Benjamin makes me queazy every time he comes over for a cuddle, because he always smells like syrup (it gets permanently stuck in his hair!) or whatever else he ate that day. He has this terrible habit of rubbing his hands through his hair while he's eating, which leaves him smelling of food all the time.

Anyway, I'm storing away a bunch of food ideas for when I come out of this stage of pregnancy...oh the New Year will be so much fun in my kitchen!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

A temporary solution

As I descended into the depths of pain again this morning, I broke down and called the doctor right away, instead of waiting for things to get worse (as I always do.) I quickly got in to see her, and before I knew it I was at the hospital for the 3rd time in a week getting another IV treatment, and things were set up for me to receive the treatment daily at home. The treatment takes 4 hours, and the additional medication I need is $27 a dose (only 1 dose a day, hopefully), at least I might be able to get through the next 4 weeks not writhing in pain and confined to bed. After each treatment I've had so far, while I couldn't be up and about a lot, I was at least comfortable in a tolerable state of health.

I also learned that my family doctor, before she opened her practice, used to work as a high-risk obstetrician in downtown Toronto, so she has lots of experience with my kind of case (and worse) I can't tell you how reassuring that was to find out, because I know she really gets how bad this really is, and she's taking all sorts of positive action. I'm not one to abuse the amazing health care system we have in Canada, but I do know that we pay a lot to have it, and I'm so grateful to be able to use what is available to me in such a way.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Buoyed by the strength

If you have a chance, watch this video of Stephanie Nielson. She is a young mother who, with her husband, survived a plane crash that burned 80% of her body. She was in a coma for three months before she woke. But she is alive today, to be a mother to her four children (and one on the way).

As I watched her inspiring story, I realized that she wakes every morning with a lot of pain. She endures each day with a lot of pain. And there is no end date for her. She will continue to endure this pain for the rest of her life on earth.

And I realized that my pain, although a heavy challenge for me now, does have an end date. The worst of it will only last another two months, hopefully. And even if I don't improve, this baby will arrive in 7 months and it will all be over. I know that after I deliver this new little one, all the pain I'm experiencing will disappear in an instant.

At the end of Stephanie's video, there is this quote from Elder Russell M. Ballard:

When suffering, we may in fact be nearer to God than we’ve ever been in our entire lives. That knowledge can turn every such situation into a would-be temple. Regarding our earthly journey, the Lord has promised, “I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (D&C 84:88). That is an everlasting declaration of God’s love and care for us, including—and perhaps especially—in times of trouble.

There is a different way of looking at life. We have a choice in how we face our times of trouble. While I may not be able to look at these days just yet in such a positive, or at least spiritual, way, I feel like I have been challenged to do so. There will still be moments where I feel defeated, days when I break down in tears, but I am growing a life inside of me, and that is beautiful.

Monday, 14 November 2011

In all the giving

As a mom, there is so much I want to give to my kids. I want to give them all the things they need to flourish, including my time and attention and love. But there is one thing I have also come to see is very important for them to do well: time alone.

Somewhere, in something I read, it talked about how kids need time alone to really figure themselves out. In time spent by themselves, they learn who they are, what they like, and carve out their own path. If you never give kids this time, then all you see is a reflection of what you are pushing on them. Remember, this is always with the best intention. We want to expose our kids to what we think is best. The trouble is, sometimes we fill their days with so much of what we think they want, that they don't have time to discover something themselves.

I saw this a lot with Colin over the past two years. As he outgrew daily naps, I still desperately needed the shut eye (my babies take forever to sleep through the night!) And being that Colin is quite responsible for his age, I told him that he didn't have to nap in his room if he played quietly on his own downstairs and let me sleep.

And he did, quite contentedly, for about two hours each day. At first I noticed that he spent most of his time playing with his toys in the playroom, which is how he always spent most of his playtime. But after a week or so, he had gathered together some art supplies and started creating. He would rarely just draw; usually his art time involved lots of folding and cutting and gluing. He was often recreating something from memory or from a game. And he could literally sit there for those two solid hours and work away at it.

I've mentioned before how art time is something I rarely do with the boys, because it was never my thing. But I'm so glad Colin discovered a love for it. But more than that, I've noticed that this time alone has really caused Colin to grow. He is much more capable at thinking laterally now. He doesn't only see the options I present, but looks for other ideas, different ways to go about things. That time alone really encouraged him to develop that unique thought process in him, and to be comfortable and confident in it.

Now Caleb is starting to enter this stage. 99% of the time he still takes his nap, but once in a while he's crept out early and stated that he isn't tired. So off he takes himself downstairs to amuse himself. He hasn't really found his niche yet, I think. So far he has gotten into the art supplies, but more in imitation of Colin. But he has come leaps and bounds in Lego building, as he starts to make much more intricate designs, with movable parts and stories behind the creations.

We are often so eager (desperate?) to fill every moment of our kids' time with activities. It's been nice to observe the positive aspects of just letting them be for a bit, to see where they go (grow).

Sunday, 13 November 2011


I saw a beautiful film on Netflix today: Arranged. It is a small independent film about an orthodox Jewish woman and her Muslim friend, and how these two young women approach the idea of arranged marriage within their religion. (I highly recommend it. For you gals.)

What I loved most was that this wasn't a "Grease" type makeover movie. This film was not about how these girls need to get into the 21st century, that their religions are archaic, oppressive, and should be abandoned. It simply and honestly dealt with how one might feel in modern day New York about embracing such ideas.

My favourite line was this: "Why do you equate tradition with nonsense?" (one lead actor to her well-meaning boss, an older feminist trying to help her young employees see that life has more to offer than "a young marriage and a house full of children.") I am quite intrigued by all the different orthodox religions and traditions that exist in our world. I see something very beautiful in such strong faith.

I've often thought about the existence of so many deeply entrenched religions in the world. I know each religion must take the stance that theirs alone is the right one; that is an intrinsic part of religion. But each faith has very well-thought out doctrines and long-standing traditions, it makes each one so unique. From a scholarly stand-point, it makes me wonder if belief in religion is actually the fifth "necessity of life" (Thoreau) along with food, shelter, clothing and fuel.

It would be interesting to discover that if there is no Intelligent Design or Supreme Being, that in fact we are nothing more than an evolutionary accident, we would still need to believe in something of a higher power to have a happy existence. There are several things that humanity has come to accept as an identifier of our species, things that we have decided make a person's life better. We have formed family units that generally stay together for life (something unique in the animal kingdom). We have also decided that society works best when we each take on a specialty and help each other, rather than trying to be a jack-of-all-trades. So I wonder if the case could be made the one is happier, calmer, more settled, "better off" in fact, if one has a deeply seeded religious belief of some sort. Perhaps that is why there exists so many strong world religions; each culture on its own (long before the world become so connected) knew that man had a basic spiritual need that had to be met in the same way our physical needs for food, shelter, clothing and fuel needed to be met.

At any rate, I loved this film and it's strong position that tradition is not antiquated in today's society, and that these women are not somehow less woman for embracing these ideas. Definitely worth a look when you get the chance.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

All emotional and such

I know I'm all emotional and such with pregnancy, but this is really hard. Really, really hard. I mean, James and I really feel strongly about this little baby, but somehow I hoped that maybe this time I would react differently. I have a friend who had three terrible pregnancies with her boys, and then a dream of a time while pregnant with her little girl. It's not that I'm wishing for a girl, I just wanted a little break.

But, true to history, this one is even worse than the last. Each one got progressively worse. This time I can't stop throwing up. I'm so hungry my stomach constantly growls. This time my entire digestive system is in so much pain I dissolve in tears. As I crawled on the kitchen floor the other day trying to get ready for lunch, tears poured down my face and Benjamin just looked at me with those sad, compassionate eyes and I could tell he didn't understand why his mommy was crying. I don't know if he's ever seen me cry. He was so confused, and he started to whimper and cry a little, and it broke my heart, and all I could do was lie on the floor with him.

Now we don't even know if the pregnancy is viable. The doctor couldn't see a heartbeat at the ultrasound. Granted, at 6 weeks 4 days she said it's possibly too early, but maybe not. I have to wait another 5 weeks before she's going to do another one. And I don't know if I can wait that long, endure this pain for that long, if there's not even a baby there.

And the hard part is knowing that supposedly, this is the "easy" part of the illness; generally it is the worst between 8 and 12 weeks. I don't even know if my poor body or my mind can hold on that long.

Friday, 11 November 2011


The other day Caleb brought in a small travel alarm clock. He fiddled with the buttons briefly, then placed the clock upon my dresser. Turning to me, he very seriously said "Remember. When this gets to 0:00 and beeps, then you will not throw up or be sick anymore." He melts my heart with his compassion daily.


Yesterday Caleb stayed home from school (too much birthday excitement and junk food the day before). He crawled into bed with me and said "I know that when mommies are having babies, they have to stay in bed all day, so I will be here to help. I know when I grow up and marry my own mommy (wife!) and she has a baby, she will have to stay in bed all day, and I will help her by doing all the work in the house. I will clean the kitchen and do the dishes and fold the laundry and clean the playroom, but I can't do the cat poop by myself. I need two hands to hold the bag, and then I don't have any hands to scoop with. But you know what mom? I will stay home from school today and help you by doing all the cleaning in the whole house."

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The End of America

I saw an interesting documentary this morning on Netflix called "The End of America." The film is based on Naomi Wolf's book of the same name, in which she details 10 steps of the blueprint to close down an open society. She studied previous historical instances of this happening (think Nazi Germany, Russia, and Chile) and then was shocked to find the same things happening in her home country of the United States. I recommend giving it a look - it's good food for thought.

The step that was the greatest concern for me was the idea of a "list" - a watch list that designates our own citizens as potential threats. There are many celebrities and well known names on this list - people who have expressed opinions contrary to the current government. The point about free speech was then raised: when does dissent become terrorism? Shouldn't we have the right to criticize leaders if we disagree with their policies? Obviously there is a need to protect our citizens, but where is the line between healthy debate, expressing our opinions, and when it turns to a terror threat?

The scary thing about having a list is that that is exactly how previous regimes in history managed their quick collection of "threatening citizens" who were then jailed and killed. Such a round up has to be swift to be effective, which means the information must already be compiled somewhere. Like on a watch list. I really don't like the sound of that. There are more than 1,000,000 names on the US watch list. In fact, my dad was on one such list. It meant that every time he tried to fly, he was taken aside and questioned. Which is ridiculous, because he worked for an airline. He flied all the time - it was part of his job. Apparently it was another person of the same name on the list, but it didn't matter. It took forever for him to try and battle the system that was making it so hard for him to do his job.

Journalists, actors, news reporters, novelists, and ordinary people just wanting to take a stand are all on the list. No, I do not like this one bit.

I'm not a conspiracy-theorist. I'm not an anarchist. I'm not anti-government. I want some degree of security and protection. But I also don't want to walk around with my eyes closed, and then, like many Germans claimed, be surprised at the lengths to which our governments go.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Happy 4th Birthday Caleb

Today Caleb is four years old. It seems like it's only been in the past few weeks that all of a sudden he grew into this new age. He and grown older and wiser in such a short time, and all of a sudden he is losing that little boy-ness about him.

He is the most compassionate soul. He is drawn to suffering and tears, with a yearning to ease the pain. He expresses that compassion physically, always wanting to kiss and hug and cuddle.

He has a joyous light about him that draws other to him. People can't help but fall in love with his twinkling blue eyes and brilliant smile. He is mischievous, but gets away with lots because of that infectious grin of his.

He makes friends easily. Starting school was not a problem in the least. He is happy as a clam with whoever is around, children of any age. He especially likes to play with the older kids, as he loves imaginative play that some kids his age aren't into yet. I would think he doesn't even see age when he looks at others, he simply sees a world full of new friends.

He cares deeply for Benjamin, and takes his role as big brother seriously. He is protective when danger lurks, and caring when sadness comes. In fact, Benjamin seems to be very much like Caleb, and I can see that this will both draw them very close and cause some friction as they grow older.

Caleb is an early riser but a good napper. He knows when he is tired and loves to sleep.

He has the funniest and sometimes quite illogical sense of logic. But you can see those wheels turning in his head. He understands critical thinking, even if he doesn't quite have the experience to make logical conclusions yet. Behind his jovial and carefree nature, there is a good little thinker there.

Boy, do we love our Caleb. Four wonderful years with him so far have been the light of my life. I love you, sweetheart!

The news is out

We wanted to wait until Christmas, but no such luck. We are expecting little baby #4! I'm only 7 weeks along (we think - dating ultra-sound to happen tomorrow) but already terribly sick. 4 people even asked me if I was pregnant before I said anything. The downside to getting so sick is that you can't hide it. People know that if you've got the flu, then you stay home. If you're pregnant, you still go out, even looking like death warmed over. Luckily this is my second pregnancy with my family doctor, and she has decided to be proactive about treating me. I have my first hospital visit tomorrow for IV fluids and medication, with the hope that it will keep me going during this first difficult four months.

I have a good friend who had terrible pregnancies with each of her three boys, but an easy one with her girl. I hoped maybe for the same; I guess either my body just doesn't handle pregnancy at all, or I'm having another boy. And for the record - we aren't going to find out what we're having. James prefers the surprise, and since I got to find out for #2 and #3, this one is his. I think it might kill me, but that's the way it goes.

Baby will likely come in mid-June, which is completely different for us, with only November/December babies. I think I'm going to like it, though. I'll be feeling well in time for the nice summer weather, and will have the opportunity to get out and about right away, instead of whiling away the winter indoors. I am super-bummed about missing the holidays this year, including all birthdays of my wonderful little boys. I'm hoping to be on the upswing come January.

But I am beyond grateful for dear friends who are offering more help than I can imagine. My illness came on so quickly this time we were unable to find someone to help in the home, and so Benjamin is at a good friend's for daycare for the mornings, then will come home for afternoon nap. The upside to James' business being in the family is that everyone will pull together for us, and do what they can so that James can work from home as much as possible, which will be crucial at least until the first week of December, when my parents arrive from Australia and will be able to help out more.

So here we go again. I can hardly believe it. My poor body is rebelling, but I just pray to get through the next two months and then hopefully there will be a little light.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Youth workshop

Yesterday I gave my music workshop at a local youth church conference. It was beyond description.

I had to give my 45 minute workshop 6 times between noon and 6pm. I had anywhere from 5 to 35 kids in each group. The point of the workshop was to teach the kids all a song, which they would then "perform" en masse at the end of the day, in sort of a big youth choir of over 150 kids. But because it doesn't take 45 minutes to teach a song, it also meant that I had some time to fill with speaking as well.

My preparation was somewhat different than I usually would do. Most times I write out everything I want to say, and then memorize that script. This time, however, I didn't have the time to do that. So I prepared myself instead. I read about my topic, thought about it, jotted down notes here and there, and saturated myself in the ideas that came to me about this song. Then I just got up there and spoke. Each workshop was slightly different, but each one covered the same points.

In teaching the song, I opted to do a different arrangement of a familiar hymn. This way the kids weren't having to learn new words and music, just how to put it into a new setting. And I also edited together a video about the life of Christ that illustrated the song. So when the kids sang and the video played, it was sort of like a live music video.

I thought the workshops themselves went well. Some went better than others. Some kids really responded, others seemed more stoic or distracted. That doesn't bother me - I know when I'm dealing with teens, there will be some kids you just can't get to. You have to keep in mind with teens that it's about the few you do get to.

But the amazing part of the whole day was the final choir part. Because there were so many kids, they sang from the congregation pews. I stood in front and led them as chorister, just as we had practiced throughout the day. A few of the leaders who hadn't seen my workshop cried as the video and the music combined to make a very powerful effect. But then, when the fourth verse started, a few of the kids toward the back stood up while singing. Then a few more, then a few more, and before long the entire congregation were on their feet, singing "I Know That My Redeemer Lives." That's when I let a few tears go, in front of everyone. The counselor in the Stake Presidency (the area leader for the church) was going through a Kleenex box. Many of the teens in the congregation also started to cry from the spiritual emotion in the air. There was a moment of silence when the song finished, as everyone just let it hang there.

Every once in a while you are part of a moment that will stay with you for a long time. The last time I remember something like this was a presentation I gave on the Holocaust in grade 11, more than 15 years ago. You never forget that feeling at the end. How grateful I am to have been part of something so impacting for so many. And how grateful I am that I didn't get in the way of the Spirit in over preparing or trying to script this workshop. Truly, I was just a vehicle for a message from heaven.

Friday, 4 November 2011


I realize this is almost a week late, but believe it or not, I didn't really get any photos of Hallowe'en myself. (My sister took these.) My boys had 5 different occasions to wear costumes, and picked a few different things

Colin: Skeleton, Simon (Chipmunk), Darth Vader (twice).
Caleb: Mr. Incredible (three times), Alvin (Chipmunk) Fireman,
Benjamin: Pirate, Pumpkin

Thursday, 3 November 2011


I hand a Kool-Aid jammer to Colin.
Mom: Now be careful, don't squeeze.
Colin drinks his juice carefully. Then, a few minutes later:
Colin: Mom, I know why if you squeeze a juice box or a jammer, the juice comes out. It's because when you squeeze, you take away the place where the juice was, and it has nowhere to go but to come up the straw and then spill out.
Mom: Yep, it's called "displacement".
Colin: Displacement.
Mom: Yes - it means you are taking away the place where the juice was.

(I love seeing kids process stuff like that on their own!)

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Parent teacher interviews

Every now and then I come across something that is like a huge red flashing light reminder that I am a parent. I know, it shouldn't surprise me any more. But sometimes it's hard to remember that I am the grown up here. Parent teacher interviews are one such event.

First of all, I have to say how much I am loving my boys' school. There are some definite disadvantage to being in such a small school (less than 100 kids, and only 5 classes) but the positives outweigh the negatives every time. One of my favourite things about the school is that everyone knows everyone. All the teachers and administrators know my boys, and can talk easily about them. It is really a small community feel. Last week when I called to set up my interviews, I had Colin's report card in hand and so asked the secretary to slot me in at 7:30 with his teacher. Then, just as I was about to hang up, she interrupted me with "And would you like to see Caleb's teacher also?" I laughed at my forgetfulness, and said, yes please. And I smiled at the fact that even just over the phone the secretary knew me, knew Colin, and knew that Caleb was his brother.

And so last night was the interviews. Both boys' report cards were nothing of a surprise. Both are working at their grade level, completing their work, progressing well. Both need to work a little on improving their French, which is understandable considering we don't speak French generally at home. Really, the interview was just about keeping in touch with the teacher, and about hearing them speak about my kids in specifics.

Colin's interview left me soaring. Colin is a really, really smart kid. He hears, learns, understands and applies things so quickly and knows things way beyond his grade level. But I have been worried that with the newness of the French language, the teacher might not see his potential. I have thought often about pulling him out and putting him in English where he might be able to work at his own level, but I usually come to the conclusion that the English might hold him back even further, if the teacher is not amenable to creating his own curriculum for him.

At any rate, the first comment Colin's teacher had was "Colin is brilliant. No, he's actually brilliant. And I'm not just saying this for you, to puff you or him up." I sighed a huge sigh of relief and then we spoke at length about how the French language can work as a challenge for him. She said that while Colin may be at the low end of the class in terms of French, he is miles ahead of anyone in terms of knowledge and understanding. She said that even with the language barrier, his abilities are obvious.

Caleb's interview was a lot of fun, because Caleb is such a fun personality. His teacher remarked that everyone loves Caleb, and he has friends all throughout the school. He is stubborn, though, and only produces the kind of work he is capable of when he feels like it. We compared notes of what he does at school and what he does at home (in terms of speaking French) and there are so many inconsistencies (things he does at school but won't at home, and vice versa) that we both realized he's capable of much more than either of us thought. But he's the youngest in his class, so both his teacher and I are granting him some leniency right now. His teacher did say that he's very advanced in math, which I didn't realize. As I noted in my previous entry, Colin is also good at math, and both James and I were good at math also, so I guess we shouldn't be completely surprised. Sometimes I think Colin and Caleb are so different that I surprised to find similarities between them!

And so, another school year well on its way. I really like both the boys' teachers this year, and I think they are doing really well. Hopefully things continue on in a like manner!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

When they are ready, they will learn

The concept that kids will learn things readily and easily when they are ready is one that homeschooling is a huge advocate of. Learning to read or to do math have been skills that have frustrated many students in schools. Children painstakingly sound out letters into syllables and words, and have no idea what they have read by the end of the sentence. Other children look at the abstract concept of numbers and don't understand what is actually means.

Kids can be ready to read generally any time between three and nine. That is a huge age difference. Most schools require their students to know how to read by grade one, or six years of age. But many simply aren't there yet. And so what happens is that these kids, being forced to spend hours pouring over words, start to hate reading. And that is the worst of all.

Homeschooling philosophies say that the best thing you can do to promote reading is to foster a love of the act itself by reading to your children. Then one day the child, on his own terms and in his own time, will be curious to know how it is that the letters come together to tell such wonderful tales. This desire will foster the dedication and diligence it takes to learn to read, and in no time at all it will all come together for him.

This philosophy always made sense to me, but I was able to see it in action two weeks ago with Colin. This experience was in relation to math, rather than reading, but equally applies. I was sitting in our church service, Colin seated next to me. He had several toys, books, and a pad of paper and a pen around him. He took pen to paper, scribbling away while I listened to the talks. Then he tugged at my shirt and handed the paper over to me. He had drawn out several simple math equations, and asked me to complete the answers. I was somewhat surprised, as he has not covered equations yet in school or at home. But somewhere he had seen what one looked like, had assimilated the idea of it in his mind, and was now trying to replicate it. (My guess is that the grade twos in his class were doing work like this, and while he was supposed to be at his own grade one work, he was watching with interest the older students. I LOVE split classes so much!)

I quickly completed the equations and passed it back. But he pushed the paper back to me and asked me to write some problems for him to do. I turned my attention to the task at hand, carefully crafting questions that someone who had never done math before might figure out:

He completed the sheet as quickly as he could read off the numbers. Then he asked for another. This time I tried to do the next step up: putting the lower number first (2+8), or adding numbers that equaled more than ten:

This sheet didn't slow him down a bit. So for the next one, I tested him even more:

By the end of this sheet, the service was over, and so ended our math time also. Colin asked if we could do more when we got home. "Math is so fun!" he proclaimed. "I beat every question you gave me!" I thought it was cute that he considered solving a question "beating" it, like in a game. I also thought it was endearing that he loves math, because I always did, too. I secretly used to love soling math homework questions!