Wednesday, 29 May 2013


I recognize that this blog is out there in the world wide web, making it available for anyone to read.  That said, I know most who read this are close friends and family, and so I usually try to honestly express my feelings, knowing that I'm using this as a journal or record of my life.

So, in the way of being perfectly honest, I'm freaking out a little.

Friday I was hit with an illness - nausea and stomach cramps.  After two days the stomach cramps went away, but the nausea has held on.  No other symptoms.  I know where your minds are all jumping; my doctor's mind went there too: when I arrived at the doctor's office on Monday there was already a note in the chart for the nurse to do a pregnancy test.

Now let me lay this out for you.  Juliette is supposed to be our last addition to the family.  My doctor has said that if I got pregnant again and, following my medical history, got worse than the last time, well, they would probably advise against keeping the pregnancy.  (My grandmother, who suffered much the same as I, was also advised such.)  So James took the step to prevent any further pregnancies.

So here's the honest status:

- vascectomy 6 months ago
- all clear given by doctors
- we've only had one opportunity to take advantage of the "all clear"

- I still don't have my period
- I took a pregnancy test that said negative

Do you know what the odds are, given those circumstances, that I'm pregnant?  And yet, this nausea persists.  I'm hoping it's the strangest virus case I've ever had.  And although the odds are about 1 in 1,000,000, I'm still freaking out.  My mind quickly goes to "what if?"  What if I'm hospitalized for the next nine months?  What if I miss the next year of Juliette's life?  What happens to the kids over the summer?  What if things are as dire medically as the doctors predict?  What if I have to make a choice about this baby?  Because let me tell you, if I am pregnant, then this baby beat out impossible odds.

A short radio spot this morning reminded me that just as God cares for the lilies of the field and the little sparrow, He will take care of the me as I walk through this life of plans he has for me.  The advice to not "worry about tomorrow" is about resting in the knowledge of God's omnipotence and his love.

(But I'm still freaking out, a little.)

Saturday, 25 May 2013


Today we were going non-stop from 10am to 4:30pm.  One ball hockey game, skills competition, medal presentation and barbecue, then 2 baseball games and a t-ball game, pizza dinner, baby to bring along, and, oh yeah, I'm the coach of one of those baseball games.

This summer is going to be crazy!  But hopefully physically exerting and exhausting.  Gotta wear these boys out.  I'd write more, or even post pictures, but I can't even keep my eyes open.  Is it bedtime yet?

Friday, 24 May 2013

A soft word

"A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger."
- Proverbs 15:1

I know the bible is full of truth, but boy have I learned lately how true this little nugget is.  If there was anyone (or anything) that could bring us to the brink of anger and frustration, it's been Benjamin.  He is a firecracker of a little boy.  We give our boys a lot of rein, allowing them plenty of room to explore themselves and their surroundings.  But that means that when we ask for something done, we really need it done.  The older two boys are what modern experts call "compliant" children.  For whatever reason (aiming to please, seeing an easier path, enjoying rewards, hating consequences) they see the benefits of complying to our instructions.

Benjamin is what you would call "non-compliant."  In daily life, that translates to his pushing back against us in every single thing.  The best visual example is this: Benjamin is absolutely fine to participate and function in an activity in a room, as long as the doors are open.  But if you close the doors, he's like a lion that feels trapped.  Although he hadn't even tried to run out the open door, now he feels driven to try and escape out the closed door.  I've also noticed that as long as someone else is causing noise/a scene, he's content to sit by quietly.  But if everything else is running smoothly, he feels the drive to cause a ruckus.  At home, he'll choose not to do something simply because you want him to do it.

The result of his stubborn nature (in combination with a new baby and very, very little sleep) is that I lose my temper.  I threaten, I discipline, I raise my voice, I plead, and huff in frustration.  And Benjamin's reaction to all of this is to push back harder.  "Grievous words stir up anger."

Last night when Benjamin started to kick up a fuss at going to bed (which was threatening to wake the already sleeping other children) I pulled him into my lap on a rocking chair.  I covered his mouth to muffle the screaming (sound carries in a small house) and told him he needed to calm his body and stop screaming.  In between bursts I calmly explained the consequence of not going to bed: no big breakfast in the morning, only cold cereal.  For a full five minutes I talked over and over about what was involved in going to bed, and what would result if he didn't comply.  Then I took him upstairs, put him in bed, and saw nothing more of him that night.  "A soft answer turneth away wrath."

I can't say it always works.  Sometimes Juliette needs me, or the boys, or the dinner on the stove.  I don't always have the luxury of the time needed to sit down with Benjamin and explain things.  Sometimes I lose it.  But I have realized that yelling at a three year old, especially Benjamin, has absolutely zero benefit to anyone.

Thursday, 23 May 2013


Last weekend we took the training wheels off of Caleb's bike.  As a family we trekked over to the local school that has a gentle, small, grassy hill that is perfect for learning to balance on two wheels.  We climbed to the top and Caleb pushed off: and never looked back.

I knew it was time, a year earlier than we did with Colin, because he kept falling off his bike.  That's right, he kept falling off his bike with training wheels.  I scratched my head at first, wondering how on earth someone can fall off a bike with four wheels?  Then I realized that it as his size and power; he was actually too big for training wheels.  They had to come off.

Last night we moved from the grass to the pavement at the school.  I strapped on elbow and knee pads (more for his sensitive nature than to actually protect his skin) and while I called out instructions (turn! turn! turn! brake and jump off!) Colin biked at his side, encouraging him as he went.  Then Caleb biked home.

Another milestone in his life, another proud parenting moment.  And yet, it all seemed so natural as to not be a big deal at all.  What was neat, though, was seeing the other observers, people from the neighbourhood we don't know at all, but who felt the joy of a young boy learning to ride a two-wheeler.  I guess you always remember that kind of happiness.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013


On Sunday Juliette said her first word: "Mommy."

I was playing the piano for prelude at church, and James had passed Juliette off to an older couple while he went to find Benjamin.  When I finished, I descended from the stand, coming down the 4 stairs and making my way to our pew.  Juliette caught sight of me coming, outstretched her arms and called our clearly "Mommy!"

It arrested all those around us, as several families and couples all shared in the joy.  "Did she just say Mommy?"  "Is she talking yet?"  "She said Mommy!" they asked and exclaimed.

My heart filled with love and joy.  While she has been babbling for months, this was so clearly a "first word."  I don't remember the boys having the same experience; rather, I recall combined syllables, babbling sounds, and trying to guess or discern if they were actually associating any words with any specific things or people.

As if to reassure me, yesterday when I went in to get Juliette after nap she was standing in her crib.  She reached out toward me and called out once again "Mommy!"  Not ma-ma (two syllables strung together), but very definitely "Mommy."

My heart is melting.  She's also very, very close to walking.  She's creeping all over, holding onto the furniture, and walking while holding onto our hands.  She just can't wait to get up and go!

Friday, 17 May 2013

"The Good Ol' Hockey Game"

Many of my friends would be surprised to find out about my insane love for the game of hockey.  most of my friends know me as the intellect, the book worm, the writer, the musician, the teacher, the speaker.  Not many know me as the girl who was such an intense basketball player she fouled out of a church basketball tournament, or the girl who played in the muddy fields for field hockey, or the girl who won't keep score when playing board games because I get WAY too competitive, or the girl who yells at the TV when I watch hockey games.

But there's the confession for all to read.

(Please don't judge me.)

My love of hockey is deep-rooted and was in no way bred while I was growing up.  When I was about 12 years old, I turned on the TV on Saturday night (TV was only allowed on during the weekend at our home growing up) and stumbled onto "Hockey Night in Canada."  Up until then, I had enjoyed sports at school, but hadn't really joined any teams.  But I fell in love with hockey immediately.

The funny thing is, my mom wandered in a little later on and asked what I was watching.  "Hockey," I replied.  "No way!  I was the biggest hockey fan as a teenager!"

Yes, my mom was a huge hockey fan.  But when she married my dad, who wasn't into sports at all, she gradually fell away from watching it.  Now, here was her daughter discovering a long-lost love of hers. From then on we shared the occasional Hockey Night in Canada broadcast, and faithfully followed our beloved Toronto Maple Leafs through thick and thin.

Then, I married a man, who, like my own dad, wasn't into sports at all.  And I fell away from watching hockey.  That is, until Colin was old enough to maybe be interested.  I thought I would let him watch the first period of Hockey Night in Canada and see what he thought.

He was hooked.

More than that, all three boys have fallen in love with playing ball hockey.  (James and I are against getting them into the world of ice hockey teams, because we don't like the atmosphere of the leagues, especially here in town)  Colin joined a small ball hockey league that the Salvation Army Church runs, and we bought the boys a net and sticks and helmets and gloves for Christmas.  They have been outdoors every nice day, and many cold mornings as well, shooting the ball at the net.  Colin asked for (and got) some goalie gear for his birthday, and is now saving his allowance for the rest of the goalie equipment he wants.  And for the first time, the boys are begging to spend time in the backyard.

Colin loves to be the goalie.  He went to a special goalie training workshop with his ball hockey league, and has been practicing the moves ever since.  When no one else wants to go out with him, he doesn't take shots on the net by himself, he practices saving imaginary shots on himself.

Caleb just loves to be a part of the action.  But Benjamin has some real talent in those little three year old hands of his.  Dead on accuracy, great power, and even the ability to stick handle the ball.

Once I reached grade seven, I started playing school sports, and then continued playing adult sports after university.  I love the adrenaline rush, the physical demands on my body, the focus required of my mind, the companionship of playing with a team.  Even now I love to get out there with my stick and takes shots on Colin.  I'm so overjoyed to be able to share my love of sports with my kids.


A note on the Toronto Maple Leafs playoff game this year: I watched in disbelief as they crumbled and lost that final game 7.  What I really was feeling was the heartbreak I felt in high school when every year we decimated the competition during the regular season, and then lost to the same school in another district 1-0.  4 years in a row while I played, and then 2 years after when I went back to cheer on the team even when I wasn't at the school any longer.  I remember the tears stinging my eyes the last year I played when we lost, and the lump in my throat the next year when I wasn't even on the team.  That kind of loss just hurts after the grueling regiment and demands you have put on yourself.  The Leafs are still our time!

Thursday, 16 May 2013


Dear, dear, Benjamin,

I love your spirit, I love your tenacity for life, I love you propensity for adventure.  But let's keep the ER visits to a minimum.

Love, Mom.


This morning Benjamin accidentally swallowed a nickel.  I had James take him to the ER just to make sure everything was okay.  Ben was breathing fine, but reluctant to swallow, and holding his throat, and whimpering a little.  There was not much I could do, so I borrowed a friend's cell phone so I could be reachable and off I went to my morning appointment.

Halfway through I got a text from James: "Waiting for an X-ray."  A little later: "Now waiting for the general surgeon."  Yikes!  At that point I jumped up, dropped Juliette of with my mother-in-law and booted my way over to the hospital.

I was so grateful for an empty ER, a quick assessment, surgeons who pushed Benjamin through to the front of the line, the team of 2 surgeons, 2 anesthetists, and 3 nurses who oversaw the operation, Benjamin's peaceable nature during the ordeal, James' humour and companionship, the prayers of so many friends and family members, and the shiny nickel in the plastic bag that the surgeon handed to us.

The nickel was lodged in his esophagus just past where the esophagus and windpipe split.  They showed me the x-ray, and that nickel looked so big in his tiny throat everyone swore it was a quarter.  They put Ben under general anesthetic, and had to push the coin down into his stomach and then scoop it in a net and pull it back up the throat.  Within 10 minutes of waking up he was downing the popsicle, taking big bites instead of licking it.  By the time he got home he was bypassing the ice cream and going straight for nachos, eggs and toast (Dad got home with him first while I was picking up Juliette.)  By mid-afternoon he was out riding his bike and playing hockey as though nothing had happened.

In all this, I discovered once again that I have the ability to stay really calm and collected in a crisis.  (It made me think of two years ago when Colin gouged his forehead while we were camping and he needed stitches.)  While at my morning meeting, I apologized in advance for having the cell phone out, explaining why I would need to pick it up immediately if it rang.  My friends were amazed that I didn't seem shaken, nervous, or scared.  Truthfully, I didn't really feel any of those emotions.  I had a brief moment of nervousness at the text about the surgeon, but I just excused myself, gathered my things, and proceeded with the plan forming in my mind (pick up baby food and extra diapers, drop off Juliette, head to ER.)  While James and I waited for Ben's surgery we sat at a little table, ate muffins and shared a chocolate milk, joked about this being the only way to get a "date night" alone, I read a bit of my book club book, and talked about the concept and rules of "alternate universes" in science fiction.

Looking back on the moments of "crisis" I've experienced lately, it's humbling to view my own behaviour with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.  I'm grateful for this gift of a cool head in a crisis, and it's neat to be able to identify that, and perhaps one day use it again when cooler heads need to prevail and I can lead out before others in need.


In other news, while we were talking about baptism for Family Home Evening, Benjamin asked if one day he could be "bath-tized."

Monday, 13 May 2013

Raising memories (as well as children)

A great conversation the other day led down the path of what we choose to do with the money we have.  We talked about how much money we need to spend on our home, how big of a house is "too big," and the benefits or drawbacks of spending money on renovations.

My friend commented: "Each year we save some money to spend on renovating our (century) home.  But it makes me wonder, down the road, if our children will have noticed or cared that we refinished the floors, or installed a new bathtub."

My two cents: "Our family of five lived in a 900 square foot home until I was 15.  As an adult, I have visited the exact model of home I lived in.  It is really tiny.  But as a child, I have no concept of big or small houses.  It was home.  Even knowing now how small it really is, my childhood memories cannot seem to readjust to that reality."

What I do remember from my childhood are the two stints we lived in England, the two vacations to Australia/New Zealand, driving to Florida, driving out to the east coast of Canada, and many flights out west to visit my dad's family.  My parents purposely chose to have a small mortgage to free up money to travel.

In addition, the other best-loved childhood memory is the yearly camping trips my grandmother took us on.  Two weeks where she and her sister took their grandchildren camping to the same resort every year.  There were fishing awards and campfires and talent shows and sandcastle building contests and baseball and running in the warm rain and... and... and...

What it all made me realize is that it's the traditions that my children will remember.  The big vacations will be spectacular, but also the more local travel that happens year in and year out, that will have a chance to etch themselves indelibly in their memories.

We have a few started already.  Each July we trek down to New York State to see a large outdoor pageant put on by our church (the largest outdoor pageant in North America.)  And then in the winter we head back to the same spot to see some of the historical sites of our church (that are way too busy to visit in July), and to visit the Museum of Play in Rochester.

But I had a thought the other day, just the seed of an idea but one I'm excited about.  We read regularly from the scriptures, but sometimes it's hard to make the stories come alive in the kids' mind.  I want to help them really understand what these events were like.  So each year (maybe starting next year, or the year after) I want to plan a weekend trip of the "Living Scriptures."

For example, if you know the story of Nephi, I am thinking of one day having James come home from work and tell the boys to pack a bag, we're leaving.  Then we drive (hike/bike depending on the ages) and pitch our tents to camp for the weekend.  The rest of the time will be filled with activities based on the events of Nephi's life: going back to town to get their scriptures, going back to town to get another family to travel with, building a boat, canoeing, hunting for food, etc.

My hope is that each year we can create an experience that brings the scriptures to life in their minds, and creates some common experiences as a family that they will look back and remember fondly when they are adults.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

See you in September

I like to think in advance.  I don't always get to the full-out planning in advance, but I'm usually thinking about things early on.  For example, each Christmas I'm usually in charge of some sort of Christmas Devotional program for church.  This requires breaking out the Christmas music in July, in order to choose music, write a program, transpose/compose/order sheet music, choose the musicians, get them the music, and be ready to start practicing by the end of September.  Starting in September just wouldn't leave enough time.

And so currently, I'm starting to think toward September.  Benjamin will start at the boys' school, which will give me three kids in school and just Juliette at home.  I love many, many things about our school, but its one major short-coming is the lack of extra-curicular activities.  With only 6 teachers, there just aren't the resources that bigger schools have to run all sorts of sports teams and special interest clubs and art programs.

Enter me.

While I'm not a master of many areas, I would consider myself a "jack of all trades."  In other words, with a little planning and some YouTube "how-to" research, I'm fairly confident I could teach most things at a basic level.  And at the elementary grade school level, most kids aren't after master classes; it's about exposure.

My ideas have been evolving, but I think I've settled on going into the school once a week at lunch time to run different extra-curicular clubs.  I had wanted to do two or three things on different days and run them all year, but I think that might be over-reaching myself.  So instead I'll run 6-8 week long programs, changing it up about 5 times over the year.

I'll probably start with an outdoor sport, given the nice weather, then once winter arrives do a music program (choir, recorder, maybe rhythm), a visual art (yikes - that's going to take serious research because it isn't my area of expertise at all), then maybe as the students if there is something specific they'd like for the 4th session, then finish off with another outdoor sport.


But before September, comes summer, and I'm starting to think of ways to semi-structure the summer vacation.  I want to encourage reading, perhaps via a sticker chart since it worked so well last summer.  I also want the boys to pick a summer project to work on, something of their own choosing.  And Colin, very much like myself, loves math and math worksheets (yes, I used to do them for fun as a kid!) so I'll probably get some workbooks for them to work through.

I'm not great with scheduling, so I will probably ask the boys when they would like to do their daily work: first thing after breakfast, or in the afternoon during naptime.  Hopefully with their encouragement it will help me stick to something throughout the whole vacation, instead of starting strong and fading away halfway through.

Monday, 6 May 2013


Remember that new fancy cleaning schedule that was going to make sure everything in the house was cleaned once a week?  Well, it partially worked.  Monday morning is vacuuming.  And now, every Monday morning I vacuum.  Unfortunately, that was the only the day actually stuck.  But it's one more thing I'm regularly doing that I wasn't before.  At this rate, I might have the other 5 days in place by this time next year...


The Beth Moore study of the book of James is coming to an end tomorrow.  I love these studies.  They are helping me bridge the gap between my love of reading commentaries on scripture and actually reading scripture.  I have a hard time studying the scriptures on my own, because I love to hear all the history and background about it.  That's why Beth Moore studies are awesome.  My next goal is to read through the Book of Mormon as many times as I can in a month.  (Okay, hopefully I can get through it even just once in a month.)  I heard a challenge a couple weeks ago about a young man being told by his father to read through the Book of Mormon as many times in a month as he could, and then to write a one page essay on the Atonement of Jesus Christ based on what he'd read.  So that's my goal.


Today I had a photography session with Juliette - Mommy and baby girl.  I take lots of pictures of Juliette, but I'm never in any of them because I'm always behind the camera.  She is growing so fast and  I wanted to have some artistic shots of the two of us, mother and daughter.  They are simply stunning.  Here's my favourite, that will probably be mounted on a canvas and displayed in our living room:


Benjamin has started swim lessons.  He is surprisingly much less crazy than I thought he would be.  There are only three kids in his class, and they are the only class running at that time, so I think the peaceful atmosphere around him (the other two children are girls) helps in keeping him calm.  He is easily riled by people and things around him.  Eye-opening for me; something to tuck into my parenting back pocket.


Colin is a real budding artist; no, really, this isn't just parent bragging.  He is really good.  He watched a film called "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" the other day, and asked James to pull up some images online.  Then he proceeded to copy what he saw.  (Not trace, just looking at the image and drawing it in pen on the page.)  They are really, really good.  In fact, they look like they've been traced.  His perspective and scale are bang on.  I told him that the next step is to try and make up some of his own characters using elements of the ones he's already drawn: one person's head, another's body, another's hair, etc.  Sort of like creating a mii character on the wii.  When I used that analogy (they love to create mii characters) it really seemed to click with him.  This new love of art has made me want to start an art club as part of my involvement in their school next year.  Actually, I just might try and institute something over the summer.


Speaking of summer, the summer weather is HERE!  We've been outside non stop and I love it.  Biking, gardening, digging, walking, playing...Canadian winters are far, far too long.

Friday, 3 May 2013


Winter is gone, and rolled right into summer.  Must be Canada.

I am trying to salvage my little gardens.  Two years of weeds and grass have infested every inch.  No hope of strawberry perennials at all.  Funny - the destruction part is my favourite.  I love to dig and turn the earth and pull things out.  Putting plants in and trying to tend and care for them...not so much.  Even the harvest never has me as excited as the labour intensive work at the beginning of the season.

I'm also planning on digging up the other side of the yard, under the shade of our big maple trees.  No grass has ever grown there, so instead I'm going to dig down and pile up some dirt and make it into a little boy's paradise.  Benjamin loves his digger and dump trucks and I figure what's the point of trying to build and manage a sandbox when Mother Earth has all that dirt just waiting to be explored.

In the garden this year will be cherry tomatoes and green onions and...well, I'm not sure.  A cucumber plant or two, maybe.  I've never had much luck with anything else.  I love fresh herbs, but when I grew them in the back garden I never thought of going out there to grab some to use for cooking.  I'd really love to get something to go on the deck.  I saw some cute rain gutter herb gardens that someone mounted on their side of the house, which might be an option.

Dig dig dig.  I've still got four more garden areas to go, so time to lather on the sunscreen and head out again!

Thursday, 2 May 2013


Ben: On my walk today I saw so many worms!
Me: Did you see any big, daddy worms?
Ben: Yes, I saw a huge daddy worm!  And I saw a Benjamin worm.


Ben: When I grow up, I'm going to be a Daddy.  And when Daddy was little, he was a Benjamin.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Simple Living - postscript

Wow - that post yesterday was a lot easier and more positive than I expected.

It was easier because I feel like I know what I want.  I'm not as pulled in different directions as I once used to feel, when I was battling my love of film and cities and excitement with my love of mothering and peace and country living.  I seem to write the same things and think of the same ideas when I ask myself what I want.

It was more positive because some of the excerpts in the book I was reading cautioned against writing down "society's answer" or trying to imitate someone else's simple life rather than pursuing my own version of what that means.  This paragraph was particularly poignant:

"If no one else were watching, if no one else would give you approval or disagree, and if you never had t explain what you were doing to a parent, a friend, or someone at your 25th high school reunion, what would it look like?"

As I thought about that, I realized that I have shed all longings and desires to please or conform to society.  I am comfortable with who I am and the things I pursue, and the reasons for which I run after them.  This journey to a more simple life will likely not be life-altering for me, just a bit more of a course correction on a path I'm already walking.