Sunday, 31 March 2013


Juliette is crawling around everywhere now.  Cute, adorable, little girl crawling with her little bum wiggling behind her.

In other news, I just calculated I spend between 6 and 8 hours every day trying to get someone to sleep/nap.  That's a full time job.  I love my children, but this part is seriously hard!  I've survived the last nine days with only 2 hours of sleep a night (between 4am and 6am).  Thankfully my body pushes through and I don't feel like I've been run over by a bus, even though I probably should.  Juliette is, of course, the majority of that time spent.  She will sleep swaddled in a chair, or curled up on my bed (with or without me in it), and in the swing, but not in the crib.  Unfortunately since she can crawl and pull herself up we're basically at that crucial time when she has to start sleeping in the crib.  She was napping fine in it until she went through a teething bout that gave her a terrible case of post-nasal drip which required her sleeping almost completely upright (so not in the crib.)  Now I feel like we're starting from ground zero again.

Sigh.  But she's so beautiful and cuddly and loves me to pieces.  She's also in that separation anxiety stage and usually will have no one but me.  Gotta love that, as a mom, but also sometimes it would be nice to prepare a meal without her crying for me.

Speaking of teething, she's got four teeth now, the two front bottom and the two front top.

She's also got the cutest pixie cut hair.  Not that it's ever been cut, it's just grown in that way and is so adorable.  I love all things 50's in style right now, and that hair cut goes right along with that.

I'm having so much fun dressing her in all the dresses and leggings I have for her.  I have been so blessed to receive all the clothing she needs from my sister and a dear friend.  Everything they send along is so cute and stylish and beautiful I want to take a picture of her every morning.  Short dresses and bloomers or leggings are my favourite thing to dress her in these days.

I still haven't had any luck with a carrier.  I don't mind carrying a baby all day, but my arms are protesting the 20 pounds lately.  On the plus side, the definition in my arm muscles are fantastic.  Nevertheless I could get a few more things done around the house/outside if she would settle into a sling or a baby carrier.

She still loves to move her wrists.  For months now she has loved to move her hand back and forth at the wrist, just watching it go around and around.  She also loves to flap both hands when she's excited or anxious or crying.  People think it's the cutest thing, and it really is.  She just started waving using that same motion at the wrist.  And she discovered how to pat her mouth while saying "aaaaaahhhhhh" and getting that intermittent sound.  She'll do it to her mouth, youth mouth, or take your hand and get you to do it to her mouth.

Her eyes are a brilliant blue; we get so many compliments on them.  All of our kids have blue/green eyes or some shade in between.  I hope hers stay the colour they are.

Monday, 25 March 2013


It's been the better part of a week now, and Benjamin's reinstated naps are going amazingly!  I hesitate to rejoice so soon, but I have learned so much in this area even in these few days that I wanted to write it all down.

First, having Ben up "late" isn't terrible at all.  I rationally explained to the older two that because Benjamin was napping, he was going to go to bed a little later than they.  To my surprise, they gave me no troubles on this at all.  (If they had, I would have told them that they could stay up late if they were willing to take a nap, which they never would have agreed to.)  And even sneaking Benjamin into bed (they all share a room) is fine, as they are dead asleep after that hour has passed.

Second, it hasn't cut into James' and my time at all.  We have slipped into a rhythm of my putting Juliette to sleep and then tidying up while James plays with Benjamin.  Ben is relishing the one-on-one time with Dad.

Third, Benjamin is infinitely more pleasant to be around.  The incessant whining has pretty much disappeared.  The crying over small things is completely gone.  When the boys get home from school, Benjamin is fresh up from his nap and there is no fighting or teasing on Ben's part.  The famed "witching hour" (4pm-5pm) is a pleasant and (dare I say it) almost peaceful time as I get dinner on the table.

Fourth, enabling the nap, rather than forcing it, is starting to work.  The trick is not letting it get too late.  Ben is yawning, tired, and ready to sleep by 12:30pm, and I've discovered letting it lapse much later than that results in an over-tired child who resists sleep (getting back into that overtired bad behaviour.) The weather is starting to improve, which means we've been able to get outside and get some fresh air to help wear him out.  I also let him lie in his bed with a couple of books for the first 15 minutes or so, to wind down in a darkened and quiet atmosphere.

Lastly, the discipline.  This is where I've really grown as a parent over the last few days.  The article I read on getting your 3 year old who doesn't want to nap to go to sleep is to firmly explain the consequence of not taking a nap, and implement when necessary.  The consequence I've told Ben is that Daddy will not play with him after the boys go to bed, if he doesn't nap.  Today I had to state and restate this five or six times: "If your feet touch the floor, there will be no playing with dad."  I gave up saying "if you get out of bed."  The statement "feet touch the floor" was much more specific and clear for Ben.

For me, I find that I usually try and ease the path so that what I want happens, or else I snap when things are completely awry, showing more than a little displeasure at disobedience.  Today I felt myself empowered as I stood and firmly asserted my position as parent.  Felt like a good step up.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Mother and teacher

I am probably the biggest advocate for homeschooling who is not actually homeschooling :)

I explored the idea with a lot of thought and prayer in recent years, and came to the conclusion that it wasn't in the plan for our family yet.  And so I bundled my children off to a fabulous French language school, with the main goal not really education, but learning a second language.

But I think I threw the baby out with the bathwater.  You see, one of the most fabulous parts of homeschooling is that you can include so many different things in the "curriculum."  Reading, writing, math and science for sure, but also music, art, dance and drama.  But even more important: spirituality (religion, scriptures), life skills, morals and character.  At public school, they barely get the second category of arts, and get almost nothing in that third, most important category.

I've always regarded it my job to educate my children in those areas, and I do work hard to help create an atmosphere that will teach, mostly by my example, the importance of values, morals, and character.  I try to have some sort of chores schedule set up to teach them life skills.  But I realized the other day that I can be doing so much more.

You see, my kids (and I) have come to regard any time spent at home as "free time."  In other words, being at home means playing whatever they want.  If I were to suggest sitting down and learning something specific, the griping and complaining I would get (and possibly outright refusals) would be epic.  But here's what I realized: this home is my dominion, and I take my job as mother very seriously. I do not let my kids eat junk food all day, because it is my responsibility to make sure their bodies are healthy.  Too often we place importance on the physical aspects of life because they actually are matters of physical life and death.  Too often we let the spiritual/moral aspects slide because they aren't matters of physical life and death.  But I am realizing they are indeed just as important, and I need to place more emphasis on them.

How will this play out in day to day life here?  I have no idea.  That's still forming in my mind.  I have had some ideas, like saying "now we are going to sit down together and learn some of the songs you're learning in Primary on Sundays."  Or "now we are going to sit down and read aloud together."  It may also include me sitting down and practicing my own music while they play, or calling everyone together for a service opportunity.  While playing Lego is certainly fun for them, and builds their brains, it is not the be all and end all, and I am not a mean mother if I "interrupt" their play time.

(I've got the vision, now I've just got to implement it!)

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Eating my words

(Ah, I hate when this happens.)

Just yesterday I posted about how I didn't agree with some of the ideas in this sleep article.  The main things I disagreed with was her decision to let her 3 year old (who needed less sleep than usual) go to bed at 10:30pm at night and wake up at 7:30am, so that he could still take a 2 hour afternoon nap.  "Not for me," said I, shaking my head.  Children should be in bed no later than 8pm, I silently judged.

But her ideas stewed in my mind.  And instead of thinking about Juliette, I started thinking about Benjamin.  You see, he gave up daily naps just around 3 years old.  Very similar to what the author of the article was saying about two of her children.  And I started to see that perhaps Benjamin needs less sleep than I was asking of him.

Right now, Benjamin is usually in bed for 7:30pm and wakes up about 6:30am.  11 hours is what he needs in a 24 hour period.  The times when he crashes, falling asleep in the middle of the day, he is often awake until 9:30pm, because he used up two hours already.  So I cut his naps out.  The result hasn't been pretty, but until now I hadn't associated it with naps.  After about 2pm, he whines incessantly with me, bothers his brothers non-stop, and is rude and ill-tempered all around.

I realized that while Benjamin needs only 11 hour of sleep, he can't handle being awake for 13 hours straight.  He needs that two hour recharge in the middle of the day.  So I am readjusting his schedule.  He will now go to sleep at 9:30pm, wake at 6:30am, and nap after lunch for two hours.

And here's the real gem of the article - enable your kids to nap, don't force them.  Benjamin will not be forced to do anything right now.  But if I pack his mornings with physical activity (preschool and swimming lessons, and the park when it gets nice) and combine that with less sleep at night, he will hopefully fall into bed and then wake up much more pleasant.

(And hey - I'll gladly eat any words that make our home a little happier.)

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Taking the "easy" way out

I overheard a question asked of a friend the other day.  Later on when we were alone, I asked what her answer was.  The question was in regards to weaning a nursing toddler, and I wondered what my friend, a La Leche League leader and nursing aficionado would advise.  Of most concern was the constant nursing at night.  My friend and I talked a bit about how night nursing habits usually start/go one because it's simply easier than fighting to get a baby to sleep and then trying to function while you're utterly exhausted.  I am the first to admit guilt in this area; Juliette still sleeps with me at night so she can nurse and go back to sleep every time she wakes (still every 2-3 hours.)

She's my fourth, and I just decided that I would rather be rested and functional, unlike the other three.  But there are things that I acknowledge I give up: sleeping alone in a bed with my husband, time to myself in the evenings, a lot of time during the day and night that I spend trying to get Juliette to sleep without me, and bed space (we only have a double bed, which is pretty small for 3!)

Today I read a fantastic article about sleep, and the ideas were so different from most of the "sleep solution" books I have devoured over the years.  This was simply from the point of view of a mother who is raising 9 children.  To me, that is an expert.  I didn't agree with all her points of view, but what I liked was that she had a clear goal (2 hour alone time every afternoon) and had created her sleep solutions to achieve that goal.  Now that is intentional parenting!

It made me look inward and examine what "easy way outs" I might be taking right now that I don't want to be taking.  I'm not saying easy is always bad, but I do think it's not good when it's not done with purpose, with an end in mind, or it is just used as a band-aid solution that is going to make for worse problems down the road.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

A lifetime to learn

Last night I opened my study book and read:

"My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger."  (James 1:19)

I paused at that first sentence.  Wow, I thought.  There is so much in that one verse.  I think I could literally work a lifetime just at trying to work that into my heart and put it into practice.  Be quick to hear.  Be slow to speak.  Be slow to anger.  Yes, never mind the thousands of other verses, commands, directions.  How on earth can I get to everything else when each verse contains so much?

I read on, convicted about how I tend to wait for a break in the conversation just to jump in with my pre-prepared thoughts.  I thought about how easily I lose patience with a three-year-old.  I thought how I so badly want to prove my point or get my point across that I don't really listen to what the other person is saying.

I came to the end of the lesson, and because I was a little behind, went right into the next one.  And those two lessons were meant to come back to back for me.  That second lesson tied up with a bow my first reaction to that first verse.  I could try and craft my own version of what was happening in my mind and heart, but instead I'll just record some of the sentences by Beth Moore that pierced me right to the core:

"Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." (James 1:25)

"What James will teach us is the difference between talking about living in victory over things like self-centeredness, addiction, seduction, and temptation and actually doing it."

"Do you actually do what the Scriptures say?...The doing causes the changing.  Not the hearing."

"We can underline our Bibles till our pens run dry without a drop of ink splattering our lives.  The self-deception slithers in when we mistake appreciation for application or being touched with being CHANGED."

"The hearing itself can be satisfying...The Word of God, however, is meant to do more than penetrate.  It's meant to activate....Simply put, the Word was meant to work.  And, through it, we were meant to bear fruit."

"Do you see the concept?  It's not until the hearing turns into doing that believing leads to blessing.  Out "doing" may not always show up in physical activity.  The initial act of obedience might be waiting upon the Lord or setting our minds zealously upon His faithfulness."

"Prioritize the moral code over the ritual code."

"He is not interested in behaviour alone.  He is interested in motive."

Monday, 18 March 2013


Today I was mulling over the word "blessed."  We use it so often, in reference to the wonderful things in our lives: "I am blessed to have an amazing family, healthy happy kids, a loving husband, a warm house, an abundance of wants."  But today I was reading in the bible about being blessed as a result of obedience, and the concept started to take on a different meaning.  To be blessed, is to be "highly favoured or fortunate" or to be "consecrated (dedicated to God, made holy.)

So do we really mean "blessed" or do we mean thankful in those first examples?  Do I feel blessed with motherhood, or grateful?  Can these daily messes I find myself in qualify as holy?  I have learned that in fact it is the very messy, or despairing nature of a situation that leads directly to blessedness.

Consider the Beatitudes, the wise Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus proclaimed a state of blessedness on certain groups of people.  When you look at the "requirement" for blessing, you find:

- the poor in spirit
- those who mourn
- those who are meek
- those who hunger
- those who are persecuted
- those who are reviled

In my own words, I add to this "those mothers who are worn out, short of patience, tired, weary, burdened" and any other adjective that weighs us down from the daily demands of motherhood.  Yes, motherhood is the most rewarding thing I've ever done, but no one could deny it is also the most sacrificial.  And so it would seem perfectly in line with the Beatitudes, that those who are mothers are also blessed.

Today, I am blessed.

Today I helped my three year old toilet train, which had both successes and (complete, utter, messy) failures.
Today I held my teething, miserable baby as she wept and writhed in pain, her only comfort found when we lie together in my bed, curled into each other.
Today I smiled through the rising cadences of boy-noise.

And yet today I feel more blessed.

Sunday, 17 March 2013


I've been pondering lately about man's solitary nature.  We can have an abundance of family members and be surrounded by friends, but ultimately we are alone.  We are born alone into this world, and alone we leave it.  A spouse or a good friend may try to understand our workings, and we may do our best to communicate who we are to them, but language has its own handicaps.  I once saw a diagram that showed the complex nature of communicating a single thought, tracing the idea from its genus in one person's mind, followed by the journey of that person trying to form the idea into words, which then float on air to another person's ears, which then travels up to their mind, then to be disseminated and understood within the realm and understanding of that person's brain.

So complex.  So often resulting in failure, or at best, limited success.  Ideas are so complex.  So often I feel at a loss even when I hear or read my own ideas as I try to get them out of my brain.  So lacking in comparison to the intricacy and intimacy of my thoughts.

I guess these words are a result of all the swirling ideas lately.  I feel like every blog entry has started with "I've been thinking these past days..." or "Lately I've been pondering..." I'm not even sure what has given birth to this plethora of thought.

Solitary.  Complexity.  It's an awesome thought to consider not just my own singular mind, but also all those around me, filled with the same swirling thoughts in their own minds, all alone in the same sense. Funny, it's I don't find this idea lonely, because there is too much to explore, no chance for boredom, when you consider all there is to discover.  When I think about probing new ideas, following a thread over and under and around, winding around this and then unravelling at the next corner, a journey through your mind, running with something and then sitting for hours and just pondering the smallest jot or tittle.

I imagine one of those brain scans, lighting up like a symphony as you make connections and stumble on new pathways.  And all this is done alone, and no one else would even know it's going on while you go about your daily life.  Simply amazing.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Common denominator

When everyone and everything is driving you crazy, to determine the answer, find the common denominator.

This week has kicked my butt.

I am an introvert who needs time by myself to recharge.
I am a mother of a baby and a preschooler.

These two sentences are incompatible.  Juliette wants to be held, but not in a carrier.  She will sit and play on the ground, but not with baby toys, just with paper to chew or wires to put in her mouth.  Benjamin has developed the "lovely" habit of whining.  All.  Day.  Long.

24 hours a day, either my baby, my preschooler, my older kids, my house, or my husband need something from me.  I feel as though I have been sucked dry, and there is not a drop left to be squeezed out, and yet they keep coming and coming and squeezing and squeezing to see if anything more is there.

There is not.

And yet, I must somehow find a way to be refilled, because not having something to give just isn't an option.  The daily demands on a mother.

(I must try to find the moments of joy, for they will fill my empty tank.  I must try and steal into a room full of sleeping, tired boys and lie down for a moment in their beds and watch their fluttering eyelids dreaming, dreaming, and drink in their fleeting childhood.

Then I must find a way so that every time Benjamin whines "Mooooo-ooooom" it instead plays the strains of a favourite song.)

Family issues

My brain must be going a-mile-a-minute lately.  I feel like every time I sit down to write, I'm trying to organize thoughts that have been stirring for a while.  More friends, more blog entries, more conversations, more thoughts.

The other day I was staring into my fridge, deciding what to make for dinner.  We've been trying to reduce the amount of wheat we eat.  But that meant our meat intake went up.  I always tried to integrate vegetarian meals throughout the week, but without pasta and breads, what was I supposed to make?  There are only so many ways to cook beans, so many days I can serve vegetable plates.

I felt tired, from the food issues, but also from many other ideas that were competing for my attention.  There didn't seem to be enough time in the day to address all these concerns, implement all these routines, discuss all these issues.

The thought jumped into my mind, and it was a brilliant thought, a breath of fresh air, the pick-me-up I needed.  I don't need to address them all.  Yes, they are all important, but that doesn't mean they are all important to my family, or my children.  My job is to discern the issues that my own children will face and help prepare them for those.  Discernment is the key idea here.

I worry and worry and worry about the amount of media my children are exposed to.  But maybe counting the minutes isn't where I need to spend my efforts.

Maybe my children will be just fine with the exposure they have.  Maybe not.  Maybe one of my kids will be prone to days on end in a basement in front of a video game.

Maybe my kids don't need every food item that goes into their mouth monitored.  Maybe they do.

Maybe as they grow, my children will come to love the outdoors naturally, and so I don't need to worry about trying to bundle up 3 kids and a baby for 15 minutes of trudging in the backyard snow.  Or maybe if I don't start the habit now they will never develop it.

Maybe my children will thrive in a school environment.  Maybe they will have brilliant teachers who inspire them in subjects I am sorely lacking.  Maybe they will be teased or bullied and need to be homeschooled.

Maybe, in their spiritual development, my kids will need the structure of a Family Home Evening every week.  Maybe they need to hear us reading bible stories.  Maybe they need a focus on prayer.

When I think of all the things "good parents" could do, I realize I cannot do them all.  But I can do some things.  And it won't be everything.  But it will be everything they need.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Spiritual stories

(I want to start a series of posts of some very personal spiritual experiences.  I have been holding off writing these for the past years because this felt like too public of a place to record such sacred events.  However, I have never been diligent in keeping a handwritten journal, and often lose such books, or start more than I ever finish.  So I have decided to write them here, for my own record.  Feel free to skip over reading these entries, if you wish.  I would simply ask any readers to refrain from commenting on these entries, in order to preserve the personal nature of these experiences.  Thanks!)

Sheri Dew once said that God speaks to every human being in different ways, that we should all know how God speaks to us personally, and if we don't know yet then to ask him.  I have learned over the last 5 years or so that God very clearly speaks to me through scripture.

The first such example I can recall was about five years ago.  Caleb was just a baby, and if you know Caleb, he cried almost every waking moment for the first year of his life, and he was awake way more than he ever slept.  It was physically and emotionally exhausting and draining.  As (too often) is the case, when things get desperate I was relying on my own smarts to try and solve my problems.  I read every baby sleep book I could find, I asked everyone I knew, and still he cried and still he didn't sleep.

I have discovered what my wits end looks like: 3am, me sitting on the floor, a screaming baby in my arms, tears rolling down both of our faces.  "GO TO SLEEP" I was yelling through my sobs.  James found me there, took Caleb from my arms and lovingly (probably more than a little alarmed!) sent me to bed.

The next morning, in the pit of despair and desperation, I finally turned to God.  I opened my scriptures and let them fall where they might.  These words were the first my eyes fell on:

And it came to pass that so great were their afflictions that they began to cry mightily to God... And Alma and his people did not raise their voices to the Lord their God, but did pour out their ahearts to him; and he did know the bthoughts of their hearts.  And it acame to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.  And I will also ease the aburdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand asbwitnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their cafflictions.  And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord didastrengthen them that they could bear up their bburdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with cpatience to all the will of the Lord.  (Mosiah 24:10, 12-15)

That verse (highlighted) was so clearly an answer to me: no, my "burden" baby who didn't sleep would not be lifted.  My prayer would not be answered with a miracle of Caleb beginning to sleep.  Instead, God would lift me up and give me the strength to function as a mother to both Caleb and Colin with little to no sleep.  He would preserve my mind, give me patience, see me through it.

I was awash in the "peace that passes all understanding."  I was okay with the answer, even though it wasn't the "miracle of deliverance" I wanted.  And I understood the promise with the associated blessing: that this experience would help me to "stand as a witness" to others that God hears and answers prayers and "visits us in our afflictions."

It wasn't until a few days later that I realized I never read how this scripture story ended.  The story itself is about an  oppressed people in physical bondage to another kingdom.  Out of pure curiosity, now that the fog had cleared, I opened the pages again to read on.  What I read made me laugh out loud, and sealed to me the revelation that God will not only speak to me through scripture, but that he will manage to find such literal lines that there will be no mistaking on my part the answer:

And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage. And he said unto Alma: Thou shalt go before this people, and I will go awith thee and deliver this people out of bbondage. Now it came to pass that Alma and his people in the night-time gathered their flocks together, and also of their grain; yea, even all the night-time were they gathering their flocks together. And in the morning the Lord caused a adeep sleep to come upon the Lamanites, yea, and all their task-masters were in a profound sleep. And Alma and his people departed into the wilderness; and when they had traveled all day they pitched their tents in a valley, and they called the valley Alma, because he led their way in the wilderness. And they gave athanks to God, yea, all their men and all their women and all their children that could speak lifted their voices in the praises of their God. Yea, and in the valley of Alma they poured out their athanks to God because he had been merciful unto them, and eased theirbburdens, and had delivered them out of bondage; for they were in bondage, and none could deliver them except it were the Lord their God. (Mosiah 24: 16-22)
Yes, God does have a bit of a sense of humour.  After I endured with patience the trial, my deliverance would indeed come: the Lord would cause a "deep sleep to come" upon Caleb.  Anyone who knows Caleb knows that this boy can sleep!  I used to take a little one-man tent everywhere I went because he would literally crawl inside it in the middle of a busy park and sleep for hours.  At night, we can go into his room and tend to the other children with lights on, changing sheets or pyjamas or administering medicine and he doesn't move a muscle.
From these verses, I also noted that after the answered prayer, they gave thanks to God, lifting their voices in praise.  I love the gentle teachings of God, how he will answer ours prayers but also give us a little more.  I learned then the joys of simply praising the Lord, and some of my very favourite hymns now are ones in which we simply acknowledge the greatness and goodness of God.
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
The King of creation
O my soul, praise Him
For He is thy health and salvation
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near
Praise Him in glad adoration

Praise to the Lord
Who o'er all things so wonderfully reigneth
Shelters thee under His wings
Yea, so gladly sustaineth
Hast thou not seen how thy desires e'er have been
Granted in what He ordaineth

Praise to the Lord
Who doth prosper they work and defend thee
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do
If with His love He befriend thee

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him
All that hath life and breath
Come now with praises before Him
Let the 'amen' sound from His people again
Gladly for aye we adore Him

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

The days go by

(What are we up to these days?)

I have been teaching myself the violin.  I was never any good at playing by ear when I learned the piano; but since picking up the guitar I have learned to trust my musical sense much more.  Thus my method of learning the violin has been to simply play what comes into my mind.  Hymns, mostly.  "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" and "Amazing Grace" and "I am a Child of God."  "Shenandoah" and "You'll Never Walk Alone."  It appears to me that the violin is built most easily to play in the key of D, and so right now I play everything in that key, which is why it is easier to play without any sheet music at all.  One day I will find someone to show me some technique - how to properly hold the violin and bow, how to ensure a rich sound, how to play legato, staccato. But for now I just play.

Juliette has cut her third tooth.  She has a voracious appetite, for vegetables.  Fruit she will eat reluctantly.  She seems to have a sensitivity to wheat and oats, so no cereals at all yet.  She had her first taste of chicken today and enjoyed it, although I'm not sure if it was the chicken itself or the fact that she could feed herself by picking up the little pieces scattered across her tray.  She also adores the little handheld netting that holds a large chunk of food which she can munch and suck away on.  She is days away from crawling, I'm sure.  She somehow maneuvers across a room already, a combination of turning and shifting and rolling.

I have an excitement burning inside, in anticipation of warmer weather, summer vacation, time with the kids to get out and turn off the darn television.  We don't even have a television or cable signal, and yet the big black box still haunts me.  I have a plan to sit outside this summer and read aloud to Juliette, in hopes that the boys will also wander over.  I feel a slight regret at all the things I haven't been able to do  with the boys as they grew.  I have spent all the years of their childhood pregnant (sick, bedridden, in pain) or nursing babies who didn't sleep through the night until I was pregnant again.  It's been a bit of a haze these past 8 years.  Nevertheless I will start now.  Juliette will grow up not knowing a time when I wasn't reading aloud to her.  We will hike so long we will need to bring lunch.  We will paddle on the stillness of the lake.  We will gather around board games.  We will cheer on each other in sports.  These are the cherished memories of my own childhood and I want so badly to foster the same in my kids.

A trip is in our future.  This year James and I celebrate ten years of marriage.  Next spring I am planning a vacation: two weeks in France.  I know there are so many places in the world I still want to visit, and yet I am pulled back again and again to the same place.  Five days in Paris, five days in the south, and a few days driving through the French countryside down and back.  My heart is soaring just thinking about it.

Caleb dreams like I do: big, long, detailed, involved dreams.  Dreams with an unmistakable tenor of reality.  He comes down in the morning and sits at breakfast, launching into a description of what he dreamt during the night.  His story goes on and on, through the preparation of the meal, through the eating of it, until it is time for him to get ready for school.  (I can recall doing the same thing to my mother so many times.)  It worries me, also, because some of my dreams were exciting, and some were horrific.  When you dream in such great detail, the terrible things are truly terrible.  I shelter my children from images (movies and video games) more than most in an effort not to feed the nightmare machine.

Benjamin learns on his own, internally, and then just comes out with an entire lesson learned.  I can remember thinking it was time to teach him to count to ten.  He counted effortlessly without any instruction on my part.  Two weeks ago it occurred to me that while I had made sure he knew his numbers, I never proceeded onto letters.  We sat together in front of the fridge with the magnet letters in hand.  "a...b...c..." I found the letters, he repeated them, put them in order.  We sang the Alphabet song.  Nothing was sticking.  He could only identify B (for Benjamin, which he did on the first day of preschool, and I had never taught him that either.)  We never got around to another lesson.  No problem.  Today I find him playing a handheld electronic game and he's typing in every letter it asks for.

Colin is as inquisitive as ever.  More than anyone else he has taken to the map I mounted on the kitchen wall.  It's funny how almost every lesson relates in some way to geography.  They are having a Western Day at school.  "What's the Wild West?" he asks.  We look at the map, see where England is and why the boats landed in the easter US.  I show him how people settled along the shore, and were slowly pushed inland as more people arrived.  He sees how the "west" wasn't a western portion, just west of the eastern seaboard.  Nearly every day the map serves as teacher for us in some way.

I am finding a peace in my rhythm of life I haven't had in such great measure before.  I heard the other day that "If you are depressed, you are living in the past.  If you are anxious you are living in the future.  If you are at peace, you are living in the present."  I try not to dwell on the past which cannot be undone.  I try not to get anxious for the future, especially the 5 or 10 minutes in the future when my children are taking their time getting shoes on or cleaning up.  I can only live in this moment right now, be with my children in what they are doing now, not where we want to be next.  If I spend 10 minutes zipping coats and pulling snowpants over boot tops, if it takes 30 minutes to walk what should take 2 minutes, if making muffins means each child wants a chance to stir: these are not lost minutes in inefficient work methods, they are moments with my children.  There is great peace in letting go of the depression and the anxiety.

Balance.  As these days go by, I feel as though I have finally found balance.  I follow my cleaning schedule and make meals, I contribute to the family company work, I play the flute and piano and guitar and violin, I read books for pleasure and for learning, I study and pray and think, I run errands in the moments when James is home to watch the kids.  Peace + balance = beauty.

Monday, 4 March 2013


Last night during Caleb's Father-son interview, he talked (as usual) about girls.  He has a real appreciation for a little girl in his class at school, who also happens to be in his class at church.  He talks about how beautiful her hair is and how pretty her eyes are, and how nice she always is.  But apparently she is fickle, and can't make up her mind as to who she wants to marry.

"But that's okay," Caleb replied.  "I will wait for her forever until she decides to choose me."


Colin is a movie-fanatic like his father.  He gets so emotionally invested in the films he watches.  Every time a movie is ramping up to the climax, he starts to bounce on the couch, and minute by minute he gradually goes from sitting to kneeling to crouching, to a final leap up on the couch as the hero triumphs.

He also loves to experiment with delivering the dialogue.  I couldn't even guess as to why he's doing it, or what is behind it.  But he will sit and watch a movie and imitate each line spoken, along with any little hand gesture or facial expression or voice modification.  His eyes are glued to the screen in complete focus.