Tuesday, 27 August 2013


Juliette loves to talk.  Even though right now she only has three actual English words: "Mommy" (which means both myself and "I want") "No" (which actually means "I agree", whether yes or no) and "Uh oh" which is a regular occurrence around here.  She mostly babbles away like nobody's business.  She will have entire conversations with you, or with herself.  She'll grab a book and "read" away.  She'll jump into the boys' playing and contribute her part of the story.  And she'll tell it like it is about anything and everything.  Her babbling actually sounds like real language, with many different sounds and intonations.  We've been trying to capture it on camera, but she's so fascinated with the camera itself she doesn't perform well.


She certainly has a fiery personality.  Yet again, not a toddler who wants to sit and play quietly or observe.  She's right in there with the boys, running and laughing and squealing in fun.  When unhappy she makes it known.  She never wakes up with a coo but rather with a sharp "Mommy!"


She picks things up so quickly.  And this isn't the typical parent statement "my kid is a genius."  She watches casually someone do something and then imitates it perfectly.  There's no using a tool or utensil in a cute little baby way - a fork is for eating with, a comb for combing, a screwdriver for building, a baseball goes in a glove, a hockey stick for hitting the puck.  Even when she tidies up the toy room she will get a toy and cross the room to put it in its proper place.  Her latest favourite thing is teeth brushing.  She would sit and have you brush her teeth all night.


She's getting more picky about food.  Her sensitivity to grains and dairy are still strong, but she's choosing to eat less solid foods, preferring to nurse hourly, or more often.  She still nurses to sleep, still wakes every two to three hours at night.  I would long have been at the end of my rope if I didn't know she would be my last little one to nurse and cuddle and rock.


She moves like you wouldn't believe.  Walking and running was mastered quickly, and she enjoys the freedom it brings.  More than that, she loves to climb.  She's usually barefoot here at home, including in the backyard, and she loves to climb up the big slide on the kids' playhouse.  Her arms have incredible strength and more than once she's gotten halfway over the back of the couch before I've caught her to prevent her from toppling over.

Sunday, 25 August 2013


I love independence.  I'm not talking about myself, but about my children.  My favourite mothering moments come when I watch my children fly a little farther from the nest.

I know I'm not common among mothers in this area.  I know most moms shed tears when their children go off to kindergarten, or hold them closer to home a little past when their children want to wander out, or revel in the smell of their kids' laundry.  They want to stop time and have their children forever.  Me, I get a rush from seeing my kids growing up.

It's not that I want them gone from my care; I often joke with Benjamin that he has to stop growing and stay my little boy forever.  He grins, then goes up on tiptoes, reaches his arms to the ceiling and opens his eyes as wide as they'll go, pronouncing: "I'm growing Mommy!"  Secretly I love it.  I love that I am training them to be wonderful, amazing human beings.  I love to see their progress as they learn, practice and master new things.  They are young for only a short time; most of their lives will be spent as adults.  For a few short years they are my children, in training, but most of their lives they will be my friends, my allies, my partners.  We will go out in this world and conquer it together.  While they (and I) will never stop learning, they will only be under my direct tutelage for a moment, and then we will learn and grow together.

That excites me.

Colin turns eight in December, and I see the ages of eight to twelve as a whole new stage.  This is a time when the real training for independence starts.  He will have four years to work by the side of adults to observe and learn tangible skills for adulthood.  He will learn household chores: cooking, cleaning, laundry.  He will learn social skills: the telephone, the computer and internet, hosting.  He will learn work skills: serving others, how to labour hard, how to tackle hard problems.  We will push him to his limits and then ask him to go further.  Because once he is a teenager, we as parents will move from teacher to coach.  We will no longer stand at his side, but cheer from the sidelines.  We will call him in to give him guidance, and then send him back out on the field again, alone.  That stage will last only six years before he must be prepared to walk into the world without us.

But it doesn't scare me.  It excites me.

That's why I'm so excited when my kids show signs of independence.  It means I'm succeeding in this terribly hard task of motherhood.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Treasure hunt

(I wish I had photos for this entry, but the battery in my camera was dead)

Last evening the boys came home to the little red flag on our mailbox standing straight up.  That makes them excited all of itself, because they think the idea of putting the flag up when there is something in the mailbox is so cool.  Unfortunately, our mail carrier sees the practice as outmoded and never usually complies.

Nevertheless, it stood at attention and begged little hands to discover what the black box held inside: a treasure map!  Dotted lines traced a path through a neighbourhood of imaginatively named landmarks such as the Friendly Fowled Forest and the Land of the Doomed Diggers.  The boys went crazy for it.  We packed some water and snacks, and with Colin stretching the scroll out in front of him, squared off at the angle the direction required.

As we made our way down the street, Colin and Caleb read all the markings of the map.  The Haunted Car Hotel gave Caleb pause, a little worried what that might entail considering the treasure was very close to it.  He asked us to pause in the middle of the sidewalk to kneel and pray for protection and peace.

The first landmark we hit was the Big Mountain of Fairy Dust.  The boys ran up the pile of construction dirt and examined every inch.  Caleb proclaimed: "Yes, it appears that this is fairy dirt.  Do you see how fine it is?" (he pinched a bit of dirt, rubbed it between his finger and thumb, and let it float in the air.)  "Yes, if fairies used this dust it would definitely be magic.  It isn't when I hold it because I'm not a fairy, but for fairies, it definitely would be."

Colin's excitement grew with each piece of the puzzle he put together.  He figured out how to turn the map in the direction he was walking, and he figured out what each piece was long before it came in sight.  We finally arrived at the X (our friend's house) and joined them to open the treasure chest and partake in the treasure of cupcakes.

It was a good reminder about how a little imagination can breed so much fun and excitement.  A big thank you to great friends who came up with the idea, rode around town to create the map, and included us in such a great summer memory.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Black Thumb

Alas, my thumbs are not green after all.  Or I'm just too busy during the summer with 4 young kids and lots of visiting and biking and camping.  Either way, I'm through with gardening.  I've given it a go for five years now.  I never manage more than a couple of cucumbers, some herbs and a handful of cherry tomatoes.  When I think of all the money I spend on soil and compost and seedlings and seeds...those are some really expensive cucumbers!  I really don't have much love for it either.  So in the fall, I'm ripping it out.

Conversely, this year I grew some AWESOME weeds.

Friday, 16 August 2013


We are home, showered, warm, rested.  3 days in the woods at our annual Mom and Me Camp.  This year it was 10 mothers and 42 children, (down from 52 children last year - the teens 14 years and up were at a province-wide youth conference which coincided with the dates of our camp.  They were sorely missed by all!)

I will post details a little later, once my friend and photographer posts the pictures she took.  (I felt I would be too busy with my young brood to take my camera.  I was right.)

Although it was freezing at night and chilly during the days, the children were all right at home romping freely around the campground.  The grounds are private, and we were the only ones there for most of the time, so we didn't have to worry much.  Benjamin was in his element.  Every hour or so I would wander around calling "has anyone seen Ben?" and just when I might start to wonder I'd catch a flash of his red hair somewhere in the distance.

There was swimming and hole digging and frog catching and a zip line and water balloons, but mostly the kids just wandered in their own magical world of childhood.  I often felt like I was just on the outside of it all, as though we mothers were inhabiting the same space but were somehow in a different dimension, the years that have passed since our own childhood separating us from their world.  I couldn't describe exactly how they passed their time, or what whisperings were shared, or what games were imagined, or what serious conversations were held, but I know they were of the important stuff of childhood.

Most notably, there was no fighting or crying or whining.  Somehow the minute we walked in the door it all started again.  Maybe this is the one big drawback of a small house and property.  Outdoor time will now be strictly observed every afternoon, however, in hopes that the fresh air and being outdoors might ease the bickering.

Now we are home.  We have two weeks until school starts again.  I am planning two things:

1) to fill these days with friends.  The boys have seen little of their friends this summer, due to conflicting travel and vacation schedules.  If I could, I would have friends over every morning for them.

2) To train up the boys in some new habits that need to start.  We have been having some real trouble in the listening and obedience areas.  There has been some lip that needs curbing.  And I'm finally passing complete care of the toy room and their bedroom onto the boys.  I know that's something I should have trained them in long ago, but better late than never.

Sunday, 11 August 2013


I don't know how or when it started, but it ended today with a branch swung at a face.  And I realized it was time to do something serious.

There is a mindset that "boys will be boys," or that boys are naturally more physical, but I believe as a parent it is my job to help shape my children's character, and anger and unkindness are two things I want them to conquer sooner rather than later.

Squabbles usually end when Caleb lashes out by hitting, striking, pushing, etc.  That's when I jump in and separate the parties, reprimand Caleb for "using his body" to express his anger, and impose a consequence or punishment.

Caleb naturally gets physical when he gets angry.  He is such a sweet soul for the most part, and when he lashes out right now, it's done without thinking.  He is usually in tears, complaining about the (non-physical) actions of the other person.  I try and try to help him understand that although the teasing or other behaviour that led to him hitting someone is also inappropriate, the physical reaction can have long-lasting effects like scarring, stitches, broken bones, or worse.

Today, as I sat with Colin and his bruised face, my mothering instinct realized that while Caleb's reactions are wrong, there are always plenty of warning signs before he snaps.  One of the boys is teasing him, or not playing fair, and Caleb complains "Stop!  Don't!  Listen!" over and over again.  And so I turned to Colin and explained as much to him. I told him that from now on, if Caleb was disciplined for hitting as a result of Colin's behaviour, Colin would share in the consequence also.  He was shocked at first, and sulked for at least an hour after.  But building character goes down many roads, with many different roadblocks.  Just because Colin doesn't hit other doesn't mean there isn't behaviours to be modified.

More than anything I want my boys to treat each other with respect.  With this form of shared discipline (even for different behaviours) they can take responsibility for their relationship with each other.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Happy Birthday to me

Another year gone by, another year I don't feel any older.  How is it that I still feel the same as I did when I was 20?  The boys were kind enough to remind me of the number all over their cards for me :)  Luckily I've never cared a lick about the number of my age.  My kids know, and it doesn't bother me if others know also.

We finally got a beautiful, warm day of sunshine, and were able to spend the whole day outside.  In the morning we drove out to a friend's house (a boy from Caleb's class at school) and swam and sat out on their beautiful country property (that is for sale...oh what a lovely piece of paradise it is!)  During the afternoon I finished painting the boys' new clubhouse that I built for them.  Finally Colin had a baseball game in the evening.  And although Juliette is teething, miserable, and had kept us up the entire night before, the sun was a balm for my mind and soul to help me through the day.

Plus, it was Blizzard day at Dairy Queen, which I'm pretty sure they did just to celebrate my birthday :)

And now a chance to reflect on the upcoming year.  A year that will bring three of my four kids in school every day.  I foresee lots of time with my beautiful daughter, and maybe, for the first time in 8 years, feeling rested enough with an afternoon nap every day that the fog will finally lift.

A few things I hope to do this year:

1.  Write a book.  I have a couple of solid ideas (four, in fact) and although I'm not sure which I want to write first, I do know I want to instil some discipline of my own (thank you, Tiger Mother) and write one.

2.  Bike a lot more.  Juliette is getting used to the bike carrier on the back of my bike, and so I hope that she and I will bike every time we have to leave the house and go somewhere in town.

3.  Be more diligent in music practice.  I've played a lot on the guitar this past year, but I haven't practiced the flute outside of our weekly band practice, and only touched the piano to accompany others.  This year I'd like to take up violin, perhaps with monthly lessons to help me learn the basics.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

I think every mother who is blogging out there has written her review on this fascinating and polarizing book.  I'm about ten chapters in, and it's churning all sorts of thoughts and ideas and opinions, reforming some, cementing others.  I have quick flashes of determined piano practice and accelerated math skills, and then I swing to individual exploration and child-led learning.  I wonder what really is the key to the crisis in which our society finds itself today with a generation of self-centered and entitled people.

But there was one sentence in the book that really jumped out at me, which is a truth we don't often recognize.  It is the thinking behind the Tiger Mother's methods, but should also be the driving force behind all of our parenting.  In Western parenting, parents are so concerned with their children's self-esteem that they assume weakness and mediocrity, hence the celebration of mediocre performances (ie: you did your best).  Chinese parents, on the other hand "assume strength, not fragility."  They assume that their children are capable of the very best, and so when that result is not reached, they work with their child to achieve better results.

Do you see how the thinking is different?  While I'm not insisting on hours sitting on a piano bench, I did notice that this type of "aim higher" thinking in my own parenting.  Yesterday Colin came home a little down because he couldn't throw a baseball as far as the other kids on his team.  Now, he is the smallest person on his team, and some of the kids have much bigger physique and muscles.  I could have mothered him gently and told him not to worry, he's throwing his best now (he does play with all his heart) and that he'll get better as he grows.  Instead, my instinct was to explain to him how muscle strengthening works, and that he needs to get out in the backyard and throw 50 balls every day in order to improve his throwing arm and catching skills.  I assume strength, given some time and practice.  I don't assume natural ability, because you aren't going to find that in every area in every child.  But I do believe that most skills can be mastered with hard work and dedication.  And those are two characteristics I want to make sure are instilled in my children.

Oh yeah - and discipline.  If you are 6 years old and trained to sit at a piano for an hour (or more), and taught that you will practice a song over and over, working out the little kinks, getting each bar and note perfect, then you will no doubt learn discipline.  And I think that that is one of the major qualities missing from those who are floundering today.  Many are trying to give the least amount of work required to complete a task, or simply abandon the project if it proves too hard.  Once again, I don't believe you need natural talent to do most things: a sharp sense of discipline will help most people complete most projects.  This is one area I know I have fallen behind in teaching my children.  I'm much more of a "get the job started" kind of person than a "get the job finished."  I have many writing papers started with good intentions, many projects around the house completed to "usable" rather than "finished."  Although I do have a good sense of discipline when it comes to things outside the house, where other people are relying on me or are involved in the project, I tend to go from one thing to the next fairly quickly.  This book is a good wake-up call to reinvest in my own discipline at the same time as helping my children develop it.

Sunday, 4 August 2013


I'm a little sad to write this post.  All my life I've suffered from vivid dreams.  Sometimes this means they are simply detailed and involved and intense (like when I was a member of a special guns unit of the FBI) but more often than not it means terrible, horrible nightmares.The first one I  can recall I was only about five years old.  For some reason, my nights are haunted by crimes and violence and wars and sadness.

It seems that Caleb suffers from this, too.  Sometimes he wakes up from a vivid dream and is excited to recount his nighttime adventures (he can go on for 20 minutes or more in great detail.)  Sometimes the dreams emerge later in the day, or even a couple days later, in much less detail; these are usually the scary dreams.

As I was tucking him in tonight, he briefly mentioned: "Last night, I dreamed that I was standing in the middle of a town, and they had to throw me in a fire until I burned to death, or everyone in the town would turn into zombies.  And I was just standing there, but I knew I couldn't let everyone turn into zombies so I had to let them throw me in the fire.  So I shut my eyes tight and said a prayer and then I woke up."

My heart raced as I listened to so few sentences that surely must have been terrifying to dream.  I was grateful he wrenched himself from enduring any more, grateful he thought to pray for deliverance.  I'm so very cautious about what he is exposed to, knowing how easily images and ideas can infiltrate into one's dreams, and yet somehow his subconscious can still create such terrible visions.  From my own experience, raised in a sheltered world of Disney movies and Road to Avonlea, there is no amount of sheltering that can eliminate the nightmares.  I just pray that the impact of the images fade and leave no lasting impression.