Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Seek the Good

A few friends and I gathered at my house last Friday to watch a live broadcast of Time Out For Women.  This is a women's conference that travels around the United States, and now and then ventures throughout the world also.  The speakers give inspiring messages to women struggling with all types of challenges.  And let's face it - we all have challenges, no matter how together things are right at the moment.

Sheri Dew, one of my favourite speakers, gave a fantastic address about women in church.  Many churches, including mine, face criticism when it comes to women's roles.  Sheri talked about an interview she did for a European article, and how she faced the question of "feeling oppressed in a patriarchal church."  Her response was quick, witty, poignant and overflowing with truth.  Her answers came at firing speed and in the end the interviewer had to cede.

But I digress.  This year's conference theme was "Seek the Good."  There are times when the smallest of thoughts grab hold in your mind and need no further explanation from outside sources to bloom into the fullest blossomed tree.  That's what "seek the good" did for me.  We live in a time that is often characterized by negativity.  Natural disasters and calamities, the degenerate generation of youth, morals going to "hell in a handbasket."  The culture of fear we have created smothers growth and makes us want to turn inward, building a protective shell around our innocent and delicate families.

Seek the good.  So much in so few words.  First, the "good."  With the idea of seeking the good comes the reminder that there is indeed much good out there.  Media plays such a huge role in hyping up the bad things that happen around the world.  Is there really more crime, more poverty, more problems, more disasters than ever before, or are we just hearing about them more and more often?  200 years ago, you didn't hear about a murder in a town on the other side of the country.  Nobody watched the glut of images being replayed over and over again of a hurricane or flood.  But that's beside the point.  All the bad things aside, there is still a lot of good things and a lot of good people out there.

The second thought is "seek."  The phrase "seek the good" allows for the idea that sometimes in our lives, the good doesn't fall in our laps, but must be sought out.  Seeking is not sitting in one spot and waiting for something good to happen to me.  I am not a creature that simply exists to be acted upon, but I have the ability to act for myself.  I need to get up out of my own little corner and do a little work. Finding the good will happen at first just by lifting up my head, opening my eyes, and looking around me.  But more than that, when I start to seek around corners, in hidden pockets, and under the veil of trials, tears, and sorrows, I will find even more good.

Seek the Good.  I think I'm going to create an art piece to hang in my home as a reminder that every day I want to seek the good around me.  Life is a lot better when I do.


And because that Time Out for Women slogan was so good, I went back and sought out the slogans they have used in the past, just to inspire a little more goodness today.

"Seek the Good"
"Choose to Become"
"Infinite Hope"
"Sweet Assurance"
"Joyful Life"

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Remembering your lineage

"You are a child of God. He is the father of your spirit. Spiritually you are of noble birth, the offspring of the King of Heaven. Fix that truth in your mind and hold to it. However many generations in your mortal ancestry, no matter what race or people you represent, the pedigree of your spirit can be written on a single line. You are a child of God!"

- Boyd K Packer

Sunday, 21 October 2012


Just as we were ready for bed, Benjamin asked if he could go downstairs and find his soother.  Off he went while I got the rest of the kids ready.  5 minutes later he came up, sans soother. but wearing a chocolatey toothy grin.  I cocked my head, he answered: I had a chocolate.  (From today's trick or treating downtown)  Actually, I had two chocolates, he admitted.  But I don't need anymore in my tummy today.

I smiled, realizing that in order to get the candy he would have had to have been distracted from finding his soother (a big deal for him), seen the candy, moved a large kitchen chair to the counter, dug in the bucket, and removed the candy wrapper before enjoying the prize.  That's a lot for a two year old. 

(It was another 10 minutes before he realized he was still without a soother.  This time James went to find it)


15 minutes later it was time for evening prayers.  Each person in the family takes turns saying one thing they are grateful for, and one thing they would like to ask for.  The person who prays tries to remember to include all the items.  It was Benjamin's turn to pray, and for the very first time, he actually tried to apply the principle.  While he couldn't remember all the specifics, he folded his little arms and shut his eyes and fervently prayed for something for each person.  (I quickly cut off the boys when they started to protest it hadn't actually been what their prayer requests had been, and we had a quick lesson in personal prayers.)  His concern and thoughtfulness for each family member was nice to see, evidence that he is starting to emerge from the self-centered world of a 2 year old.


Then, as Caleb climbed into bed (or rather, threw himself into the bed) he banged his head hard off of the wood slats at the head of his bed.  He immediately started to cry, or rather, wail, as Caleb does.  I pulled him into my arms to comfort him, and Benjamin climbed over the rail of his bed.  James and I both quickly jumped on Benjamin, telling him to get back in bed.  That adorable little face turned to us, filled with great concern, and stuttered out that he was only going to move Caleb's pillow further down the bed so Caleb wouldn't hit his head again.  James and I shared a smile as we watched him take the time to place the pillow just so.

I love to see moments of compassion like this is my children.  I think compassion is one of the greatest character traits one can cultivate.


Caleb's pillow

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Hymn: Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel

The title for my blog entry on work came from a popular hymn we sing at church.  The lyrics are specifically about the work of spread the good news of the gospel, but I think can be equally applied to the ideas I expressed about all kinds of work.

I noticed that the musical direction for how to sing this hymn is noted as "energetically."  I love that term and think it's perfect for both the hymn and as an attitude toward work in general.  I think my next entry in this series will be about the word and idea of "energy."

At any rate, here are the lyrics to the hymn "Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel" as food for though on work today.


1. The world has need of willing men
Who wear the worker’s seal.
Come, help the good work move along;
Put your shoulder to the wheel.
Put your shoulder to the wheel; push along,
Do your duty with a heart full of song,
We all have work; let no one shirk.
Put your shoulder to the wheel.
2. The Church has need of helping hands,
And hearts that know and feel.
The work to do is here for you;
Put your shoulder to the wheel.
3. Then don’t stand idly looking on;
The fight with sin is real.
It will be long but must go on;
Put your shoulder to the wheel.
4. Then work and watch and fight and pray
With all your might and zeal.
Push ev’ry worthy work along;
Put your shoulder to the wheel.

Text and music: Will L. Thompson, 1847–1909

Friday, 19 October 2012

Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel

(I haven't posted in a week, because my brain was still going really fast.  But even James noted to me yesterday that I haven't checked in here so I thought I'd try and articulate what I've been distilling in my mind, even in it's raw forms)

Work.  That "dirty" four letter word.  In today's society, efficiency is practically defined by doing the least amount of work possible in order to get a job done.

I'm not sure that is good for us.  In fact, I'm starting to see that it's actually quite bad.

Work used to mean going out into the fields to farm for survival.  If you didn't work your fields and your gardens, you probably didn't eat.  If you didn't work to build your home, you didn't have a roof over your head.  If you didn't work at the talents you were good at, you didn't have the ability to trade for the things you really needed.

Work used to mean physical labour.  It meant picking up a hoe and swinging it into the rocky ground.  It meant scrubbing clothing up and down a washing board.  It meant digging in the garden to harvest.

In today's Western society, with technological advances, we keep eliminating the need for physical work.  A "cushy desk job" is the common goal.  We sit at desks, then sit in cars to go home, and then run to the gym where we pedal on a stationary bike for an hour, or run in one place on a treadmill, to get exercise.  It seems to me that our "efficient" society is anything but.

The absence of physical work is taking it's toll on us.  Physical demands in our jobs are being replaced by mental demands, with a devastating effect.  Stress is building and actually manifesting itself in a physical manner.  Our bodies are rising up in revolt.  After a good, long day of hard work, are bodies are designed to shut down in sleep, to give rest and repair the body.  Stress work is having the opposite effect.  A lack of physical labour is preventing our bodies from functioning properly.

Hard work used to be inherent.  You didn't have to fit in a walk to get exercise; you had to walk if you wanted to get anywhere outside your house.  You didn't have to worry about working your different muscle groups; the activities of daily life worked them all for you.

Our attitude toward work today is creating a culture of stupid laziness.  I use the adjective stupid because laziness isn't just about the absence of hard work, it's the ignorance of its negative effects on us.
Our children mope around complaining about tidying the toy room, using precious "play time" and requiring too much effort.  This behaviour then follows them into adolescence, where they think they are "owed" time to spend on mindlessly in front of screens.

We don't see the "opportunity" for work around us.  Much like our children who resist cleaning their toys, we see work as something lying in our path to self-indulgent pleasure.

I don't exempt myself from these attitudes, but I am starting to recognize them in myself, and am beginning to abhor it.  I am trying an experiment now.  I want to rise in the morning and fill my day with work.  I want to eliminate the idle moments.  That's not to say that a well deserved rest is bad, but I think that rest will be more welcomed, more sweet, and more renewing to my mind and body if it follows good, hard work.  I want to eliminate much of my time spent in unfocused activity, the times I just sort of aimlessly wander about.  I want to be actively engaged in working throughout the day.  I want to be moving as much as I can.  That work could include playing with my children or reading something meaningful, because not all work needs to be getting up a good sweat.  But I do want to be more conscious of including physical labour in my days.  I want to reach the end of the day and have had a good (positive and hard working) physical, mental and spiritual workout.  After that, I hope that at a decent hour I will lie my body down in bed and sink into rest and renewal, ready for a new day in the morning.

This experiment is in it's early stages and is really hard.  But my new motto is "I do hard things."  Not just "I can do hard things" because I already know I have the ability; I need the mental motivation to get myself in gear and to kick the habit of idleness that's crept up on me.

It's going to be a big change, but it will be one that is positive.


Juliette is 4 months this week.  It is true - somewhere someone is turning time faster and faster, because this has just flown by.  She is such a joy to have here in our family.

Wednesday morning she rolled over for the first time.  Very much like the boys, there was no trying beforehand.  She just rolled onto her side and then continued right over onto her tummy, where she was actually quite content to stay.

All the boys are still 100% in love with her.  We haven't run into any jealousy with any of them.  If you've ever heard about the Roots of Empathy program, seeing the boys with Juliette is a good example of the theories behind that program.  When she whimpers, they immediately run to her and coo in soft, reassuring voices or sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to try and calm her down.

Benjamin always calls her "my sister."  "My sister is crying."  "My sister is awake."  "That's my sister."  It's adorable.

She smiles all the time.  Even when she's crying, as soon as she sees a face come toward her she breaks out in her big, open mounted smile, through her tears.

Every month I'm doing a little mini photoshoot with her, and getting some beautiful shots.  While I might not have as many candid photos of her as I do of Colin, I certainly have some great quality ones. She makes a great photo subject.  Often Benjamin will jump in there with her, or act as my assistant in bringing out her beautiful smile.

Friday, 12 October 2012

My brain is going too fast

Every now and then a day comes along where I am exposed to so many cool, thought-provoking ideas that my brain is going a mile a minute.  Today was just such a day.  From internet blogs to radio programs to book excerpts to conversations with friends, I can't even begin to write down everything that has been swirling in my mind.  I apologize to my friend with whom I spent the morning and had to listen to the speeding train of ideas trying to pour out of my mouth.  I can't even guarantee it was all coherent.  I think my brain was using the forum to try and spew it all out so that I could put it back together in some identifiable form.

So instead of an essay on each idea, here are just some of them, for the record.

The moral ethics of work.  The importance of working hard, not just to selfishly provide for oneself, but in order to benefit morally, socially, culturally and physically from hard work.  The decay of today's society linked to our desire to avoid work.  Life 100 years ago where you worked hard all day and slept like a baby at night because of the physical toil and lack of mental stress related to farm life.  The desire to get all the work done so that we can fill our time with mindless entertainment.  The desire to do as little work as possible, to avoid it, to shirk it, to give the minimum effort required.

Huge houses.  A family of 12 living in a house the size of our main floor, with only a sleeping loft upstairs.  No extra room was needed because other than eating and sleeping, no time was spent indoors in idle pastimes.  The word "pastime" in that it denotes an activity simply designed to "pass the time" without accomplishing anything of note.  The cozy nature of a home filled with loving and useful items rather than crammed with too many things of little use or necessity or beauty.

Living in the country, or living in a community.  Realizing that the actual house structure is of less importance than I think.  Weighing the ability to roam on rolling acres with the importance of community and neighbours.  Wondering why I love the town we are in.  Wondering if I could ever move out to a place like the one my friend is in.  Seeing the importance and benefits of a small hamlet, even smaller than a village and certainly miniscule compared to my town.

Hating the idea of the middle man.  Working for money to then spend the money elsewhere.  Wondering how I can work more directly for my needs.  Loving the idea of trading skills with others for that which we do need or want.  Hoping to not feel the need to share of my talents or possessions in order to gain money, but simply to impart freely that with which I have been blessed.

Organic community activities.  The natural gathering of children at a water hole to swim at on hot summer days.  A gathering that isn't the result of a Facebook invite or carefully scheduled calendars, but instead the result of stepping out of our homes and being involved.  Wishing TV had never been invented.  Wondering how I can inspire more love of being outdoors in my boys.

Imagining a little cabin which could be a studio where we could write or play music.  James and I working on our own writing oeuvres instead of grinding hard at a job which is not in line with our ideas of how to spend the precious days we have been given.

How church structure can inhibit spirituality.  My grandparents in the far north having church in their living room.  Defining my own relationship with God.  Defining that relationship without the vocabulary given me by others and instead using the vocabulary given me by the spirit.  My own role in a church community so that I benefit from gathering rather than being hindered.

Using food as medicine.  Eating for health rather than just to fill my belly or fill a desire for junk food.  Being intentional about feeding my family.  Learning what foods can help and what foods can heal.

Being the calm centre (or eye) of the storm around me.  Talking peaceably.  Using a quiet voice.  Modelling serenity.  Finding quiet moments for myself.  Teaching my children the joy and importance of quiet moments for themselves.  Being a help to those around me instead of a burden.


I'm not sure if that eased the speed of my thoughts or spurred them on.  Either way, I love all these seeds planted inside me, and I'm excited to watch and nurture their growth.

Dreaming and travelling

I have a wonderful plan taking shape.

I hope the beginnings of it will take fruition in five years.

You see, summers are insanely busy for James in his work.  April to October is the busy time, and it means long, long, long hours, six days a week, and seeing him very little.  But then things slow down, and by January and February it is vacation time.  Being a summer girl and hating the cold and snow, I've never been overly excited at 4 weeks of vacation in January.

But that plan, taking shape, is making me very excited.

My plan is that every year, we will take those 4 weeks and go live somewhere else in the world.  A whole different country and city and house.  Italy.  France.  Japan.  Brazil.  India.

I love to travel, but I hate being a tourist.  I hate the rushing feeling of trying to cram everything in.  I hate long lines at the usual tourist haunts.  I hate the packaged feeling the locals give you at the things you're supposed to see.  I hate that it's never really a taste of what that country and people have to offer.

Instead, I want to rent a little apartment and just experience life.  I want to walk the streets and buy lunch in a cafe.  I want to buy groceries and cook local cuisine.  I want to learn about the city's life and history from locals.

I want to make contact with a family from that city/country the year before.  I want our families to write to each other, discover each other.  I want a local "in" to help us see the genuine life.  I want to make friends around the world.

I want to open my children's eyes to life outside our home, our town, our country.  I read a quote the other day that said "Travel is the cure for intolerance."  I don't think (I pray!) we suffer from intolerance, but we inevitably suffer from innocence: innocent of what life is like around the world.  North American life is so incredibly different from much of the rest of the world, and I'm not sure that makes it better.  I want to see more, and I want my kids to see it, too.

(how I love to dream)

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The different parts of parenting

We live on an interesting part of our street.  Our little block only has about a dozen houses, two seniors apartment buildings, and one seniors residence.  Only one other house has children - a little boy less than two years old.  So our little white house bursting with children and noise is pretty unique here.

On one side of our house lives an elderly woman, widowed for over 40 years and who never had children.  On the other side lives a young 20-something bachelor fireman.  And us, smack in the middle with three rowdy boys and a newborn baby.

We're in and out of the house a lot, so we're quiet visible.  We love to play out in the backyard, and we don't have one of those massive 8 foot fences, so our playtime is open for all to see.  Yesterday I was thinking about all the times we're outside, when I'm running around with the boys playing hide and seek or soccer or tag.  Our young neighbour with no kids always smiles when he sees the fun we're having.

Then, every day at 3:40, I pack up Benjamin and Juliette and go down to pick up the older two from the bus stop.  Our neighbour often sees us doing that, also.  And it suddenly occurred to me that for all the fun people see us having with children, or for all the massive moments where it seems things fail, there are many, many, many tasks that are just about the responsibility of being a parent.  Boring, mundane things like picking them up from the bus.  It made me wonder about our neighbour's (probably) mostly carefree life.  Can I remember back to that time?  When life was mostly just about me.  When I worked to put a roof over just my head, when a work day over meant play time, when weekends meant going out with friends if I wanted, or staying in for time alone.  James and I were the first in our friends and family to have children, so I never really had a moment to observe parenting from a young adult's perspective.  But I tell ya, I don't think I ever considered the many different parts of parenting.

Interesting to do so now, in perspective, especially being that it's my full time job.  I've been thinking lots lately about how to fix things I'm not happy with.  How to tackle problems instead of just living with them (and complaining about them.)  I have a new "take action" attitude.  And this type of action requires analysis first.  What's not working?  Why?  What can I do about it?  What will help me get it to where I want it to be?  It's an interesting exercise to do this with parenting, because usually being a mom is all wrapped up in one huge experience.  I don't know that I've ever parsed it out like this before.

(more thoughts to come.  Sorry for this real-life parenting interruption!)

Sunday, 7 October 2012

With a little help from my friend

Taking matters into my own hands, I invited myself over to a friend's house on Friday morning after the two day slump I was feeling.  The slump had peaked Thursday evening at 6pm when, after two hours of staring at the clock, I still hadn't taken any action in regards to dinner.  James wasn't due home until bedtime, and I knew the kids would have to eat eventually.  I piled everyone into the car and went through the drive-thru at Wendys.  I don't know if I've ever done that; I've taken the kids to the playland at McDonald's more than a couple times, usually to help pass those couple of hours between school and bedtime on a day when James won't be home and I'm unusually tired.  But to put everyone in the car just to go get food and come home?  Normally I just decide it's not worth the effort to get everyone out the door, and I make sandwiches instead.

At any rate, later that night I called my friend and we made plans for the next morning.  James had to take the van, so I was without transportation, so I had to push myself to put Benjamin in the stroller, Juliette in the sling, and off we went.

It was just what I needed.  We sat and chatted for a couple of hours, and then mid-morning I made my way back home.  And suddenly found myself rejuvenated.  I plopped Juliette in a little chair and dug up some garden dirt for Benjamin to play in and did the next step on the entry way, which had been sitting untouched for a while.  The thought of working in the unfenced front yard with a two year old who likes to run far and fast had kept me from working during the day, but with my newfound energy and focus I just figured it out.

So lovely to have friends when you need them.  And so nice to have come to a point in my life where I know that asking for something from a friend is not imposing on them.  I would be eager to help any of my friends, and it's nice to know they are just as willing to help me.  Asking for help takes strength and courage, therefore it cannot be a weakness.  It occurred to me, in the middle of these last couple of days, that I might have a bit of the baby blues.  I don't know that I've ever really come up against it before; it was definitely a new feeling for me.  The important thing was to recognize it and then to do something about it instead of letting it paralyze me further at home.  Lately I have really come to understand that we don't have to just accept the things in our life that are making it unpleasant.  Very often there are ways to ease the burdens and unhappiness, even if it's simply a way to help shift our attitudes.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Catching up

Well, that blog title is a lie - I don't think it's possible to ever catch up.  James has been drowning in work and I'm drowning in the house and we both just feel like there is so much flowing around us that something is going to give.

We have fruit flies that are multiplying.  I have two baskets of summer clothes to go away that have been waiting for 3 weeks.  There is Lego everywhere.  The upstairs rooms are in various states of rearrangement and tidiness.  I have a Christmas program to write and rehearse.  The laundry is piling up.  There hasn't been a meal plan or a grocery shopping list in weeks.  It's time for the monthly accounting reconciliation and that requires James to watch Juliette/the kids so I can focus on the numbers (not going to happen!)  The entry way is still sitting, waiting for it's coat of paint and makeover.  And the nursery is so far down the list I wonder if I'll get it done before Juliette outgrows it.

Plus, sitting and the kitchen table here while I write, the sun is pouring through the window and illuminating 5 years of rain and muck.  Seriously - does anyone actually find the time to wash their windows?  Not even on the radar here.

I think I need a plan.  A written out plan of attack to get myself "caught up."  Oh sure, I'm under no illusion that that actually means everything is done.  I just want to get things to where I can sit down for a  minute with my book club book and sip on a hot chocolate and enjoy the quiet.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012


Caleb has taken a deep interest in things spiritual lately.  While Colin has always had a deep interest in scripture, Caleb is more the pondering eternal questions type.

While I ran up to a friend's house to drop something off, Caleb and Juliette were in the van.  When I returned, Caleb told me that he had just been telling Juliette about how God made her, and how God had made him also, and about how special that made them.  I didn't press for more details about their conversation.  (Since our camping trip this summer, a deep love for the privacy of children's conversations between themselves has really grown within me.  I sense the sacredness of these moments and that overcomes the urge to nose in on it.)

He's also been very concerned about life after this one on earth.  He's been very emotional about it, even coming to tears at the thought of separation between heaven and earth.  He worries about not ending up in heaven with those he loves.  And when he opens up about these concerns, you can really sense that these aren't childish queries; they are in fact deep-seeded and heartfelt thoughts bubbling to the surface.

I am really enjoying watching my children as they grow in all facets.  It's already evident how different they are from each other, and how each learns in their own way, and has their own strengths and weaknesses and struggles and triumphs.  I'm constantly trying to capture these flashes of inspiration about my children, tucking them away for down the road when life grows more serious in the decisions they make and roads they take.  I want to always remember how different they each are, and hope that my parenting tool kit for each child will be tailored exactly to what each needs.

Monday, 1 October 2012


I've talked for years about wanting to move out to a country property with lots of acreage.  This morning I saw just how amazing it would be for our little Benjamin.

Lately, Benjamin has been tough.  It's tough on his brothers, who bear the brunt of his destructive tantrums.  It's tough on us as parents who listen to the yelling and screaming fits.  It's also really tough on Benjamin who can't seem to get it all figured out yet and is just having a really hard time.

This morning we went for a play out at a friend's house in the country.  She (with husband and 3 boys the same ages as mine) used to live on our street, but bought a house and 10 acres just outside of town this past summer.  This was the first time we were getting out there.

We sat in the front of the house on some cute wicker chairs and let our two year olds roam the expansive front yard.  Everything is fenced in, but there is so much space it wouldn't have mattered if it wasn't.  Benjamin, left to his own devices, was in his element.  It was an expansion of the view I glimpsed during our camping trip this summer, when he had a taste of freedom that he couldn't really enjoy to the fullest extent.

But here, at our friend's house, I didn't have to hover behind him.  He dug in the garden and rode a bike around and climbed in the bushes and ran in the fields.  He played with his friend as they pushed each other around on a car too big for either to pedal on their own.

There was no fighting.  No screaming.  No tantrums.  No crying.

I made a mental note that a high energy two year old does not need another high energy two year old to play with.  This friend is an easy-going kid, one that before today I would have thought would have been scared off by Benjamin's plough-you-down enthusiasm.  I've always arranged play dates with other kids who have energy to match Benjamin.  Now I know better.

As we pulled out after two hours of play, Benjamin gave a big yawn and proclaimed he was tired.  We've been fighting him to take a nap the last week.  He has major meltdowns (more than normal) when he doesn't nap, and yet hasn't had the stimulation he needs in order to be tired enough to sleep.  Not so, today.  Today he passed out and is still sleeping more than two hours later.

Oh, Benjamin, how I wish I had ten acres for you.  I can see now how much good it would do for you. And for me.  You would get the freedom you crave, but my mind would be eased concerning your safety.  We'll figure it out, kiddo, I promise.