Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Let's talk about it

Last night James and I engaged in a good long debate.  We talked about unions and private versus public sectors.  We went over the roles of women and men in society.  We delved into job circumstances and the state of education.  One topic meandered into another into another, morphing and evolving in exactly the beautiful way that debates occur.

I loved every second.  My mind was racing, my thoughts ebbing and flowing, conceding here and digging my feet in there.  It was almost 11pm when I stopped short.

"Are you angry?" I know I don't often pick up on small nuances in conversation, so I was abruptly halting an activity I was thoroughly enjoying.  Suddenly I wasn't sure if James was enjoying it nearly as much as I was.

"Yes! I have to spend all day in my job arguing and now I've been sitting here the last two hours arguing with you."

Whoa.  My eyes were opened and I saw it all in a way I hadn't before.  You see, I love to debate, and when I debate it is very separate from any personal connection.  I can just as hotly debate a position I completely disagree about as I can something I am passionately for.  There is nothing personal in it for me at all.  What I didn't connect is that James, as someone who is much more emotionally connected to life, felt each counterpoint as an attack.  I don't think he disengages about anything (which is a huge character benefit.  I often find myself at odds with a situation or a person because I am much less empathetic.)

What a difference between our two personalities. Here it was, 11pm, and I was feeling exhilarated, high, pumped, excited.  But James was feeling attacked, drained, and exhausted.  What I saw as an evening passed in an exchange and exploration of abstract ideas, he saw as a personal, frontal attack against his own convictions.

I apologized for having missed the social cue (again.)  Then I thanked him profusely for spending an evening doing something I enjoy, even if he just needed to kick back and relax.  I think debating and exploring and challenging ideas and world views is probably one of my favourite pastimes.  And since in reality I spend my days debating the merits of bedtime and the reality of peeing into the toilet bowl and explaining why we can't go around licking the walls, I usually don't have much opportunity to interact in adult conversation.  I sorely miss that.

It was a great evening (for me,) but I will have to remember to equate it with watching science-fiction movies...while I would do it now and then because James likes it, I don't want to spend every night doing that.

Thursday, 25 September 2014


This past Monday we had a special Family Home Evening to celebrate Benjamin.

Ben's been having a hard start to the school year.  Gratefully, we've heard nothing back from the school; the secretary is a friend of mine and she said Ben seems fine, and his teacher hasn't contacted us about any issues in class.  However, every morning he is crying that he doesn't want to go, and every afternoon he gets off the bus angry and tired and complaining about the day.  He says there is nothing good or fun about school and that he has no friends.

He's also had a hard time at home with us and his siblings.  He teases everyone mercilessly, until someone is either crying or gets their block knocked out.  He defies James and me at every turn and then dissolves in whining and crying when we discipline.  We have been doing all we can to make things pleasant for him, but we seem to be at an impasse.

So we decided to celebrate Ben.  When he came home, he asked to have a friend over, which then turned into an invite to that friend's house.  I dropped him off, and then we got to work.  We made a big banner with his name to hang in the kitchen.  We each wrote ten things we love about Benjamin.  We picked up his favourite foods for dinner (pizza, chocolate milk and sprinkle donuts.) After I picked him up and he walked through the door, James and the kids were all there to yell "surprise Ben!" and his face just lit up.  After dinner we opened Family Home Evening with his favourite church song (Scripture Power) which quickly became a singing/dancing event.  Then we all read our letters to him.  Finally, we ended with his choice of activity: a video game.  He was flying high.

The next morning brought no change in the previous attitude, but I am clutching dearly to the concept of making deposits into his emotional bank account: even when the negativity drains, the account isn't empty because we are depositing positivity into it on a regular basis.

I'm going to call it a phase.  And give him six months to get over it.  (Just kidding.)

Monday, 22 September 2014


Colin's tryout for rep soccer is this Saturday.  He's super excited, I'm super excited, but we've also been trying to temper ourselves with the reality that it is a tryout.  Now, tryouts and auditions were nerve-wracking enough when I was a kid and doing them myself.  But it is a whole other level when it is your child.  The nerves are tied to my own experience and now also to having to watch from the sidelines, unable to really do anything at all.

So as we spoke yesterday about how it will be fun to be part of the team, but that we just don't know if he'll make it, I made a point of saying that he should maybe take this week and practice some drills in the backyard after school: passing, dribbling, shooting on the net, accuracy, teamwork.  Colin nodded with enthusiasm and commitment.

But it was Caleb's reaction that really got me.  Caleb jumped right in and said that he would work with Colin to get him ready for the tryout.  He said he could put out obstacles for Colin to dribble the ball around, and then he could stand in net and help Colin with shooting accuracy, and then pass the ball back and forth.  He was so excited.

Then, this morning, I heard quiet shuffling in the boys' room at 6:30am.  Caleb emerged soon after, fully dressed in soccer gear.  He tiptoed into my room to find a comb, because he wanted to be fully ready for school.  Then he went downstairs and got himself breakfast.  By 7am, even before Colin, Caleb was ready.  He headed out the back door and set up the field.  Colin followed soon after, and Caleb coached his older brother for over an hour, right up until they had to run for the bus.

Caleb is too young by at least one year for rep soccer, but his passion and excitement is not one iota less.  Brothers.  Best friends.  Teammates.  Parenting doesn't get better than this.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Drop in

Do you ever drop in to another church's service?  I love the church I attend on Sundays, but over the years I have had many opportunities to branch out and experience other types of Sunday services, and is always love the experience.

As a child I remember attending both the United church service with my grandmother. I remember loving the beautiful gowns of the choir, and how they sang during their processional to the choir benches. I loved when we all stood up to shake hands with the people behind us, and how my grandmother's friends always gushed over her beautiful grandchildren. I loved when the minister would invite the children up to sit at beside him on the stairs and he related a story and scripture just for us little ones. I remember the cold beige tiled hall in which we all gathered afterwards. And I adored the deep chimes of the old bells as they swung high above my head.

Now and then, before my grandfather passed away when I was ten, we also attended the Salvation Army service. He was a talented musician and I remember being swept away by the hymns sung out by all the shiny instruments.

When James was first exploring faith and religion, we chose a different church in the neighbourhood each Sunday and sat in in many different types of worship services from all faiths, to hear their different messages and feel the different styles of worship.

Since moving to Orangeville, I've attended a women's bible study at the local Baptist church on Thursday mornings.  I love when they do a Beth Moore study that takes me deeper in scripture than I've ever experienced before. And I have learned more about the true nature of prayer during their half hour prayer circles, helping me to finally move beyond a rote recitation and toward honest conversation.

Currently, on Sundays, I am the primary president, which means I am in charge of the children's ministry.  That means that Sundays, for me, are about helping 75 children under the age of 12 learn and develop their own faith. It's a wonderful calling, but often means I don't get a private, personal way to worship and refill.

On Friday Juliette and I were walking to the park, and as I walked by the towering a United church I noticed that they were holding a new service on Friday evenings, and my heart leapt.  A yearning opened up that I didn't know was there, one to sit quietly in a large space, unknown to the physical bodies around me, where my spirit could commune one on one with my God. Then, around the corner, the Catholic Church's parking lot was full, presumably for a service of some sort, and I longed to veer off the sidewalk and slip into a bench and simply sit privately in the back and soak in God's word.

This is a busy time of life, and having a house full of young children means there aren't moments to slip out to other places to have these needs filled.  But it did open my eyes to a spiritual yearning for a holy place within the walls of my house where I can commune deeper, longer, than I have been lately.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Soaking it in

One of motherhood's hardest aspects is that it is not a results driven job.  You work and work and work and often don't see any product of your labours, not yet anyway.  Decades down the road we desperately hope to see beautiful, thoughtful, faithful, caring people emerge and fly gracefully from the nest, but the road to that day is long and dirty.  But, every now and then, we are granted a glimpse that affirms our day to day work.

A couple of weeks ago I staged a takeover of Friday night movie night.  I have been long agitated by the intellectual junk food I've allowed my children to consume, rotting their brains out each week.  I have such fond memories of Sunday nights with my family, watching the Wonderful World of Disney, old films with saner pacing and good characters who learn a lesson.  I was done with Spongebob.

Last night I popped on my favourite animated Disney movie: Robin Hood.  Part way through, Caleb turned to me.

"Was this movie written by a Christian?" asked Caleb.
"I don't know.  What makes you say that?" I replied.
"It feels like a whole bunch of scripture stories stitched together."
"Yes, like how the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was written by a Christian and tells stories about Jesus."
"How do you see that in Robin Hood?"
"Well, that seen with in the church with the coin was like the widow's mite, when she gave everything she had. And Robin Hood and Little John sneaking into town to confront the king, and then break out everyone from jail is like Nephi and Sam going back to Jerusalem to get the gold plates."

I smiled to myself.  The stories are sticking!  Every night for almost nine years we have read a scripture story to the kids.  Up until this September we have used several different children's bibles that simplified the language.  In September we started reading from the scripture directly, paraphrasing difficult language ourselves as we go.  But I always wondered how much they were actually taking in.  It's nice to know the stories are sticking!

Friday, 19 September 2014

Game Day

Today I was in line at the rec centre to cancel some lessons, and while I waited scores of twelve year old boys were pouring in, loaded down with hockey equipment, ready for a tournament with teams from across the region.  Inside, my heart quickened a little as I was flooded with memories of game day.

I loved playing on sports teams in my childhood and youth.  I loved walking the school halls in my white shirt and tie, a physical reminder to help us mentally prepare for the game later on.  I loved seeing a fellow teammate in shirt and tie, and the slight nod of a head that knit us together in a common purpose.  I loved the warmup run that got my blood pumping and the tingle in my head as excitement built.  I loved the leave-it-all-on-the-field intensity of running, bumping, making plays and ploughing down the grassy field. I loved the rush of a win, and the heartbreak of loss.

I couldn't help but smile as I watched these boys come in wearing shirts and ties, as I saw a young boy lead his teammate outside for a warmup, as I could almost visibly see the energy coursing through their veins.

Next week Colin tries out for the town's rep soccer team, and I'm so excited.  I was nervous to commit him to one sport for an entire year instead of dabbling in different areas, but I'm so excited for him to experience the intense commitment, friendship, and physical, mental and emotional demands that being part of a sports team offers.  It built character in me in a completely different way than my upbringing, school or church did, in a very positive way.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

I Will Rest in You

Change comes. The earth spins, light turns to dark and back to light again.  The earth tilts, summer sun fades into fall, whips into winter and melts into spring.  The days and seasons and years pass and our bodies grow and regenerate and then fade.

Life is not a straight road, but a wandering path.  There are gentle curves and rolling hills, but there are also sharp turns and mountains and valleys.  I don't think a sheer cliff would scare me as much as a looming hill.  A cliff is abrupt and forces you to figure out what the heck you are going to do about it right now.  Climbing a hill, is about anticipation, both thrilling and scary.  Feeling the gentle tug in my calf muscles, I know that eventually the steep climb will level off and reveal an awesome landscape spread before me.  I know that change is coming.  But all that time to ponder the unknown, mull over the possibilities, wonder which of the permutations (or maybe none of them at all) will unfold before me.

I've had this song on repeat the last three days.  Change is coming, but the only message that floods back to me, that is on repeat in my mind, is the one line on repeat in this song.  I feel like God is taking my face firmly in his hands, staring deep into my eyes and while my body shakes He just keeps repeating the only truth I need to know right now.  That line, over and over, will eventually cut through the human mess I make and fill me with the peace I need to climb without worry.

I will rest in you.
I will rest in you.
I will rest in you.

Monday, 15 September 2014


(I wonder if I'll ever get to the concept of "less," or if it will be a life-long lesson for me.)

Talk less.  Write less.  Think more.

Today I'm thinking on this:

"You can't earn God's love.  You can only turn towards God love." (Ann Voskamp)

I know the "can't earn God's love" part.  I finally fell into that as I fell into motherhood.  But turning towards God's love...that's an active action that I know I haven't fully understood, embraced, and applied.

It'll come.

Saturday, 13 September 2014


With the boys all back in school and a moment to devote my efforts to something other than direct interaction with them, I have been contemplating trying to broaden my recipe repertoire for Juliette.  Her diet is most easily administered in fresh fruit and vegetables, all natural hot dogs (groan) and roasted chicken.  I have an oat muffin mix, an oat pancake mix, and a coconut cookie recipe, which, along with plain potato chips, are the only non-natural foods she can consume.  I am bored by looking at her plate of grapes or sliced apples, or roast potatoes or carrots, bananas and applesauce.  I long to give her a little of the food excitement the rest of us experience.  Luckily she is too young and too inexperienced with food to know the difference yet.

Paleo recipes daunt me; so many unusual and unknown ingredients.  I hesitate to put these unusual things on my shopping list, as a cook who likes to decide a menu based on what I've got stocked.  Recipes and grocery lists feel like a straight-jacket to me, stifling food creativity.  My problem is that these unusual foods are unfamiliar and I don't yet have a comfort level to experiment with them, or use leftovers up in another way.  To buy an item, use a quarter of it, and toss the rest feels like a waste of money and resources.

I am also fighting four other people with taste buds that do not tend toward the more exotic flavours.  While they are always willing to try something once, but often genuinely don't like these recipes.  I am reluctant to force a diet change, and yet find the idea of preparing two complete meal exhausting and frankly unmanageable.

I do hope that in this new fall season I might find some soup recipes we can enjoy (I love restaurant soups but have yet to find a store-bought or homemade recipe that I like), and venture further into vegetables beyond the carrots-potatoes-peas-beans I revert to almost exclusively.

Adventures in motherhood, especially when we are stay-at-home mothers, allow for these kinds of work projects with which to pass our days.  Hopefully as Juliette grows she will also mellow enough for this adventure to be ours...outings to farmer's markets and ambles through grocery stores to discover new things together.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014


Is there a moment when you realize you're actually a writer?  It's such a strange profession.  It's something I've done my whole life.  Snatches of ideas finding words and bleeding onto paper, in the privacy of my own room. Rarely is there much interaction.  I don't have a publisher or agent, or big paycheques or book signings or tours or releases, the things I associate with being a "real" writer.  I feel as though I'm still at play.

And yet, I wonder if I am on the brink of change.  I do have a few published essays.  I do have a few paycheques for my writing.  I have two scripture studies that, if I put my mind to it, might actually be worth sending along to a publisher.

I had a moment a few weeks back when I was writing a script for a job I had been contracted for.  I had questioned the need for my services, not because I didn't want the work but because I felt the director already had a clear script in mind, and it did not need any dialogue written.  The producer assured me that, to help with production and client services, they wanted a formal script for every project, and would I just write it all out anyway.  And so I took the director's ideas and crafted, sculpted, produced a few pages that conveyed the story.  As I sat back and read the final draft, I smiled and allowed myself a pat on the back.  In fact, what I had created told the story much better than the director's notes.  I had not trusted that with a small gift for writing I could help a client really visualize what they were spending their money on.  I captured the story and vision of a director and gave it a tangible life.  And I realized that there was great validity in what I was doing.

To feel this kind of purpose in our work is necessary to the healthy production of what we do.  I came across this quote today, which has helped me process these thoughts:

"The meaning of life is to find your gift.  The purpose of life is to give it away."

I am fortunate to be able to earn a small sum of money as I give away my gift, but what I love about gifts and talents is that it fills us so full that it can't help but pour out, monetarily compensated or not.  To give away that which is within me brings such joy.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Parenting uniqueness

One of my favourite things about parenting is getting to focus on each child individually. I love to really look at them, trying to discern who they are, what their strengths and weaknesses are, what they need and what I can provide for them. This has really been emerging over the last month or so and it has provided much joy.  Nurturing talents and turning weakness into strength are two things I've spent a lot of time in lately.

Colin has a real talent for visual arts.  He loves to sketch (if only he'd do it in the sketch book I bought him instead of on random scrap papers around the house, I might actually have a collection of his work!) last summer I signed him up for art classes with guest professors each week, specialists in their medium.  Unfortunately, I didn't really feel he got out of it what I was hoping. This year, however, his teacher at school studied visual arts and is an artist herself. So instead of signing Colin up for more art classes, I'm hoping to donate some "real" art supplies to the classroom to enable the teacher to go beyond the traditional paint and pencil crayons.

I am finally going to be harnessing Caleb's musical talent. He loves to sit at the piano and pick out music, but even more than that he loves to experiment and improvise with what he has learned. His rhythm and creative understanding of music are amazing to see unfold, and he really needs a good start on the discipline of practicing and a base of music theory. More the that, I think his emotional maturity will be a key that will open doors in musicianship usually locked for children his age. The other day he was weeping in the back of the van, touched by the song "Cats in the Cradle," and he often commenta on the feelings and moods of inanimate things. I have found a friend with whom he will share music lessons (every other week) so that it can be affordable for us.  I am so excited to see what he can do when he gets the rudiments under his belt.

During our camping trips this summer, we discovered Ben has a love for fishing. For a child who never stops moving, and loves to be surrounded by people, I was more than a little surprised by his love of sitting quietly, patiently on the dock for hours, waiting for a rich to bite, or more often just watching other kids with their rods. We only just got a rod for him, (and I'm reluctant to let him out with a sharp hook on his own yet) so most of his interest actually came from watching others. But during our mom and kids camp, he would keep his eye out for anyone heading down to the dock and off he shot after them like a bee. I think this interest will hopefully go hand in hand with some gentle correction of which he is in need. We are trying to help him make good choices when it comes to behaviour toward others. He is in need of a little character training and some one on one time, and I think the lesson might best be absorbed by father and son and a couple of fishing rods.

I still feel that with Juliette we are in the reactive stage. That girl goes a mile a minute and I never feel like I can get ahead. Next week will hopefully be toilet training. (Can I possibly be at the end of my diaper days?) I also feel like I have a ways to go to try and get her allergies under control. Two weekends in a row we've gone out of town without packing any allergy medication (which necessitated midnight runs to the drug store.)  But at least we now have a game plan when she does have a reaction, and she is really coming along in her understanding of the pains she feels and that many foods she just can't have.  For my own part I feel like I need to expand the foods I have on hand for her (I feel so guilty with the amount of natural hot dogs she eats.). Baby steps, though, and a little grace for myself as this is something totally new for us.

Friday, 5 September 2014


Juliette has the most adorable head full of ringlets.  They just naturally fall that way.  Even after 4 days of camping, lake water, and sleeping in a sleeping bag, they curled in the cutest way.  People often ask if I curl them with an iron.  Seriously - who has that kind of time?  She's just lucky that way.


My kids have mispronounced their fair share of words over the years, but I think Juliette's latest might be my favourite: flip flops are "plop plops."