Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Sun Still Shines

 Several years ago, I boarded a plane to Halifax.  It was miserable weather in Toronto; grey, cold and drizzly.  Halifax was much the same.  But in between, the plane was filled with the most glorious sunshine.  Having a window seat, I basked in the sunshine.  My heart sank as we dipped below the clouds again, waving goodbye to the sun.

 I learned a simple, somewhat obvious truth that day.  Above the clouds, the sun is always shining. (Except at night, of course!)

 Recently, my heart has felt clouded over, grey and miserable.  There have been too many days where I stand in my kitchen crying, overwhelmed by everything.  Being the calm, logical person that I am (HA!),  I then start to freak out about being overwhelmed.  It's a downward spiral from there.

 And in this overcast place, I have begun to remind myself that the sun is still shining though I cannot see it.  This simple truth brings me great comfort.  I know that someday the clouds will lift.  Joy will return.  So for now I look for the little rays of sunlight: a good book, tea with friends, lighting the Menorah candles with my Jewish friends and daughter, good chocolate,  an escape after a crazy day and a carol sing on the way to school.  When the sunshine is covered by the clouds, hope is left behind.  I will be okay, I know it, for the sun still shines.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Horrors of Cookie Baking*

 Yup, it's that time of year again.  Not only is it time for mistletoe, candy cane lattes, and incessant presence of Christmas tunes, the cookie exchange is making its annual appearance. (Why do we only do cookie exchanges in the most chaotic month of the year? Can we have a spring cookie exchange?  I like cookies all year round, how 'bout you? ) Lulled into a state of nostalgia, I look forward to my annual cookie baking extravaganza.  Tantalizing cookie recipes pop up on magazine covers and in my google reader feed, leaving me longing to make those tasty little treats.  After all, cookies are easy, right?

 Ha! Although I'm a reasonably talented cook and baker, cookies seem to have it in for me.  Each year, I agree to an exchange(or two, or maybe even three), choose a yummy sounding recipe, read it over, and think "huh. Sounds straightforward.  I can do that."  Then I wonder why my husband is looking at me with a wary mixture of concern, dread and support.  Me being me, I brush away his concerns with a breezy "It'll be fine.  I read the recipe, should be a cinch. Hey, you can help me! It'll be a great date night".  Strangely instead of reassuring him, my words trigger a nervous twitch which completely confuses me.

 Then I start baking.  Suddenly his twitch makes perfect sense.  All of a sudden, I'm covered in flour and something's gone wrong and my level of stress has reached the breaking point because THESE ARE FOR A COOKIE EXCHANGE AND THEY MUST BE PERFECT!!!!  At this point, my eye has started to twitch, I may or may not be crying and I really really want a glass of something strong, but I'm on call, so I need to be sober just in case I have to drive.  Also, then my cookies really might be ruined.

 Now I was much smarter this time as I didn't leave these to the night before like I typically do. My husband helped me come up with an easy way to quadruple the recipe. I made cardamom orange and chocolate ribbon cookies, which meant I needed two different flavours of dough.  Working in advance, I made up each flavour separately and stored it in the fridge.  This was my first mistake.  The chocolate dough should not have been chilled before using.  Trying to soften it up was a nightmare.  I ended up pulling out my hairdryer to soften it up. This was after placing the bowl inside another bowl filled with hot water.  Even then it was a crumbly mess. (Also, my dough then was a weird mixture of too hot to handle and too cold to squeeze). *sigh*  My second mistake was putting the orange layer on the bottom instead of the chocolate as the recipe recommends.  Yeah, turns out that step was important! *sigh* Having the chocolate layer on the bottom means that it's smooth.  Because it's the hardest layer, it needs to be on the bottom because otherwise the orange layer buckles when trying to cut it.  Then there was the fiasco where I didn't read the directions properly on how to cut the cookies...But I managed to mostly salvage that mistake and slice the other three loaves properly.  But my fourth and final mistake was to turn my back on the youngest member of my family.  I came back to find half of a broken cookie where previously there had been a whole one and a satisfied look on a little boy's face.  Those were some dark times, let me tell you!

 But now my cookies are all made and safely tucked away.  I feel a deep sense of accomplishment and can't wait for all the yummy goodies coming my way.  Already nostalgia is transforming my memories of cookie baking into something beautiful instead of the horrible tangle with Murphy's law it really was.

*This rant should not be interpreted as a complaint or taken as a reason not to invite me to participate in a cookie exchange next year.  I would be devastated if that happened.  Then what would I have to blog about? :) 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

MM 166-206

 It's never good being woken up at 5am by a sick child.

 It's even worse on the dawning of a weekend away.

 After comforting and tucking my child back into bed, I climbed back into my warm nest and cried.  This trip had been anticipated for months, dreamed of for years.  But now, on the eve of dream's realization, I was going to be denied.  And what can you do, when kids get sick?

 I prayed, asking God to heal my child.  Two hours later, at official morning time in our house, she was up and sick again.  This time she seemed feverish.  Again I prayed and began to resign myself to a weekend at home.

 But my husband didn't agree. Knowing how much I wanted to go, he volunteered to stay home. Surprisingly our daughter was okay with this.  But her two younger brothers were not.  They weren't going to easily give up their Daddy time.  We talked and prayed some more.  Then my husband came to a startling decision: We were all going to go.  The sickie would be drugged on the way down and then stay in the hotel room with the adults taking turns staying with her.  Quickly I scrambled to get ready, gathering up extra reading materials for the time spent in the hotel room.

 My sickie drifted in and out of consciousness on the drive down.  But she scrambled out of the car completely alert and healthy.  We watched her carefully, but she was fine.  Other than a brief bit of feeling off at dinner, she was completely back to normal.  As for me, I rejoiced in God's healing and in my husband's faith and wisdom.  We had an amazing time with our friends and our little family.

Continuing to count along with Ann:
166. Biking on a major street for the very first time.
167. Safety while biking.
168. Increased confidence.
169. A good date with my sister.
170. Hearing her university stories for the very first time.
171. Finding wings to match my fairy costume.
172. Batman half-face masks.
173. My sister coming over for dinner before she headed home.
174. Gluten-free leftovers with which to feed her.
175. Working with the Sr. Youth for the very first time.
176. Mean mommy skills coming in handy.
177. A patient youth pastor.
178. The sillies fading away, revealing listening hearts and a thirst for God.
179. Beautiful November sky.
180. A new system for storing winter hats, scarves and mittens that greatly decreased my stress in getting out winter stuff.
181. Gel pens.
182. Listening to my children recite Scripture.
183. Memorizing alongside them.
184. Kian knowing the books of the New Testament from Matthew to Corinthians just from listening to his siblings.
185. The beaming look of accomplishment my children get after memorizing a particularly challenging passage.
186. Family night at church.
187. Rebuilding and continuing the friendship we have with a family from our former church.
188. The lessening of pain attached to leaving our former church.
189. A fabulous weekend of prayer training.
190. Working(praying) my way free of the lies that have entangled me for so long.
191. Resting in the sweet healing presence of God.
192. Attending said prayer conference with my husband.
193. Delighting that we are on the same page in so many areas of our life.
194. A wise minister who is so very gentle.
195. Learning to walk free.
196. Really good food at the conference. My sandwich had prosciutto, roasted red peppers and brie. And then I had coconut macaroons for dessert. *happy sigh*
197. A good weekend away.
198. Aris being healed!
199. A wise husband.
200. Friends to travel with.
201. The wisdom and understanding of my children God is giving me.
202. Happy, contented children.
203. Putting the boys to bed an hour before their bedtime without them noticing.
204. A couch date with my husband: Good conversation, Vietnamese food, and then the Big Bang Theory.
205. The beautiful young lady Aris is becoming.
206. Footed pajamas.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Five Minute Friday: Grateful

On Fridays, we write for five minutes. No editing, no re-writing, just five minutes of pouring out our hearts. Today's topic: Grateful


 The pain comes in waves, washing over me and I cry out thanks.  I'm grateful for a pain-free yesterday, for all the moments lived free from the shadow of pain.  My stomach churns and heaves, nudged into nausea by the ache of my head.  And I praise God then too.  I'm grateful for my bucket, for the last eight years in which the nausea and my headaches stopped dating, and for the hot sweet tea that will soothe my tummy and my heart in a moment.

 It's new, this practice of praise in moments of pain.  Instead of bemoaning my fate, questioning God or just whining, I offer up instead an offering.  There is always much to be thankful for, even in moments of weakness, fear or misery.  And as I praise, the pain in my head doesn't lessen, but the ache in my heart does.   And when I have a week free of pain, oh the rejoicing that goes on!  When the next week brings two bad days, well...I remember last week's blessing, and the good days in between and praise God for those.  It isn't much, just whispered words in dark moments.  I still want to curse, to whine, to enjoy being miserable.  But little by little, uncontrollable joy is creeping into my heart, splashing out at random moments.  So I give thanks, grateful for all that is in my life.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dressing Creatively

 He wanted to wear his shorts.  The weather app on my phone said 0C with a windchill of -4C and this beautiful spirited child of mine wanted to wear his shorts.

 Many years ago, at the beginning of my parenting journey, we would have fought.  I would have insisted that no, he couldn't wear shorts on such a cold day.  There would have been much screaming on both our parts and eventually we would have emerged exhausted, overwhelmed, me looking desperately for chocolate, but with him dressed properly.   But that was then.

 Now when Kian hands me his favourite bright orange bermuda shorts with a loud "I wear dis, Mommy!", I smile, digging through his jammy drawer.  We head happily into the day, him wearing brown jammy bottoms underneath his shorts, a brown jammy top underneath a blue and orange dinosaur t-shirt.  He is warm and happy and I'm amused by my little boy's clothing choices.

 I can be right and miserable.  Or I can think outside the box and we can both have fun.

Linking with the lovely Em today;

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sometimes it's the little things..

 So cliche really and yet so very true as I was reminded again this evening.  While Steve and I attended a conference this weekend, his lovely parents watched two of our children.  As our former lifegroup was packing boxes for Operation Christmas Child this evening, they invited us to come for dinner while reclaiming our children.  After a full day of learning, we arrived earlier than expected at our friend's farm. Walking in, I discovered that a friend of mine from the school had also been invited.(I should add that I did know she was coming, I just forgot.)

 I met Moira last fall, shortly after she arrived in Canada.  After many years spent in a refugee camp, she had finally been resettled.  I've been getting better at guessing ethnicities, so struck up a conversation with her to see if I guessed correctly.  I had.  She's a beautiful woman, about my age and as I learned more of her story from others at the school, my heart broke.  I'm not sure when the resettlement process for her family started, but by the time it was processed, she had given birth to another child.  Because of the inane bureaucracy, Moira had to leave her baby behind until the proper papers could be obtained.  Thankfully, her lovely little girl has been reunited with her family now.

 During Moira's first months in Canada, I made an effort to befriend her.  At dismissal time, I would chat briefly with her.  One very cold day, I taught her to pull her fingers into a fist to keep them warmer.  We bonded over our misery in the cold, blustery weather.  Then I fell, breaking my arm, and became housebound for several weeks.  By the time I was able to pick my children up from school, my new friend had disappeared.  Life became too busy, and we lost track of each other.  I felt baldly, but just never managed to connect with her.  It seemed as if I had failed her as a friend.

 But as I walked into the room tonight, Moira lit up.  Both then and throughout the evening, she kept pointing at me and exclaiming " I know her! I know her! She's my friend!" (I'm tearing up a wee bit as I write).  It seems that my simple acts of friendship, even with my disappearance, meant a lot.  Tonight we sat together on the couch, exchanging recipes and stories.  She introduced me to her baby and in turn I pushed her to try hot apple cider (which she loved).  As we reconnected, I was reminded that a kind face can mean the world to someone feeling lost and displaced.

 Building friendships across cultural and linguistic barriers is hard. It is easier to ignore the new faces around me and stay safe in my familiar relationships.  But I'm drawn to those on the outside. It can be hard and frustrating going, but the impact of my simple overtures of friendship may be much bigger than I ever could have imagined.   I have to say, I'm glad I chased Moira down to ask her where she was from. :)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Five Minute Friday-Grow

It's been awhile since I've joined up with Lisa-Jo on Fridays, mostly because I was so far behind on my blog-reading.  But I'm caught up for the moment and eager to write so here goes...If you're new to the FMF, the plan is to write for five minutes without editing.  Today's topic: Grow.

 After the lights go out, we lay together, my head on his shoulder, just talking.  Our conversation dips and wanders and I marvel at our growth.  We talk of parallel universes and the possibilites that might have been. I laugh, enjoying being a geek with him.  And I look back at when we married, at all the change that has come since then.  How we hid our geekiness, or let it out in socially acceptable little bites, careful to cloak it with a brief mocking.  And now, we live as geeks, openly gloriously because this is who we have become as our lives have intertwined. Our love for each other has created an environment where we are able to be fully who we were created to be.  It isn't always easy or pretty, and we're definitely not cool.  But the freedom to be fully me is delicious. My husband's unconditional love and support has allowed me to flourish in so many ways.

 And those conversations where we throw out crazy concepts like multiple universe theory or discuss how old Senator/Chancellor/Emperor Palpatine really is? They're pretty awesome.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Impromptu Pie/Tart/Delicious Thing

 Yesterday I did not want to cook. I had the beginnings of a headache and just felt lazy.  Yesterday morning I had seriously contemplated staying in bed and taking the kids to school late.  Alas, I am a compulsive rule-follower(although not a recipe follower) and just couldn't do it.  Instead I dragged my sorry bottom out of my nice warm bed and hustled my little monkeys off to school.  Then I spent the rest of the day longing to go back to bed.  This did not make for good cooking inspiration.

 But we're trying to be extra-careful with our finances this month and it didn't seem right to make my poor hubby cook.  So instead I made him a great big mess to clean up.  I'm sweet like that.  A couple of days ago, I stumbled across this recipe for wiener rolls.  Zane really likes hot dogs wrapped in Pilsbury Dough so I decided to give this a try.  Since it was a recipe for Zane, I made him help. Of course, if one sibling is helping, the others have to be involved too.   Kian helped add ingredients to the food processor, including the flour I had set aside for flouring the table.  Aris helped roll out the dough. ( I am loving having children that are old enough to help and bake.  Aris can make cookies mostly by herself).  Zane proudly wrapped up the wiener pieces in dough as well as measuring out the flour and pushing buttons on the food processor.

 We had leftover dough that I was going to let Aris play with later.  She likes to make tarts with the dough scraps.  But then I remembered our drawer full of apples.  After asking permission to use her dough, I rerolled it out, sliced up some apples, shook out what turned out to be frozen sour cherries(I thought they were cranberries) and sprinkled with brown sugar and cardamom.   Although I would use different dough, I am definitely making this again. The flavours blended well, with little chunks of brown sugar on top since I was in too much pain to stir it.  Some of the apple juices cooked down into apple butter on the pan.  It was perfect!  So perfect in fact that Steve and I polished off most of the apple tart/open-faced pie all by ourselves. Our kids were engrossed in a computer game and didn't even notice that we had pie until this morning.   We were enjoying it so much that we didn't want to share.

 Sometimes it pays to make myself cook. :)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Caramelizing Onions

Onions are slowly caramelizing on my stovetop, simmering away in a mixture of bacon grease and olive oil.  We often eat meatless on Mondays, but bacon was the guest of honour on our table tonight.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.  Bacon is easy to cook and loved by everyone in our house. Well, everyone except maybe Steve. I think he likes the taste but laments the grease.  His share of the bacon disappeared quite quickly just the same.

 I had planned on making turkey soup(I know, not meatless) or something vegetarian but an emotionally tumultuous morning left me drained.  In a daze, I caught up on blog reading, finished the latest Stephanie Plum novel(a guilty pleasure) and played some video games with my son.  Not much was accomplished as my inner stability slowly reset.  By evening time I was calm, but supper was not made. Thankfully bacon lurked in my freezer.  I combined the bacon with brussel sprouts and some garlic for a yummy, if not exactly balanced meal.  My sweetlings ate their dinner with very little complaint.  Zane whined a wee bit, but cheered up when he was served three wee tiny sprouts, which disappeared very quickly. Me thinks he complains from force of habit some days.

 The upside of all that blog reading today was gaining inspiration to cook.  I stumbled across a caramelized onion dip recipe(as well as some interesting cookie recipes for the upcoming Christmas cookie exchange-can I make caramels? How about cardamon orange fig newtons? Or pine nut and rosemary brittle?) Feeling rather snacky I decided to invest the time in slowly cooking down the onions.  After trading some prize items from my Hallowe'en bag*, I now have potato chips to eat with said dip.  As I cook, happiness begins to seep back in.  Clearly I need to cook for fun more often. :)

*Several years ago, I purchased a handmade fairy dress on sale at a local costume shop.  To keep my children happy(and for my own pleasure), I dress up at Hallowe'en.  I would prefer to be a superhero, but haven't found a costume that is a)in my price range and b)not skanky.  Until I find such an item, I will be a green and lavender fairy with matching wings. Interestingly enough, while accompanying my daughter to the door, some people thought that I was also a child.  Given that I got candy, I wasn't complaining. :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

More Food...

 Seriously, I'm writing this post just so I can close all the links I have open in my browser.  I've been cooking a lot from recipes found online recently.  They've been yummy and I've wanted to share the deliciousness, but I haven't been in a writing mood.   Until today, the multiple open tabs haven't bothered me.  All of a sudden, I have this urgent need to close some tabs.  Without further ado, here's what I've been cooking.

  I've had a surfeit of produce, specifically peppers, tomatoes and eggplant. (I just remembered that I have zucchini too.  Clearly I need to make fritters again.  Sooo good!) We've been eating vegetarian most meals, but I like my peppers stuffed with meat.  Out of beef, I defrosted some ground turkey instead.  I'm not sure the flavours stood out as well as I might have liked, but my guests enjoyed them as did my children.  Alongside the peppers, I served eggplant bruschetta.  Although some of the slices were too thin, everyone who ate it asked for seconds.  I think I will try this again.

 Personally, I enjoy tomatoes. Sliced tomatoes, salted and peppered, on toasted bread with mayonnaise are amazing.  I like my tomatoes roasted, sauteed, sliced, sundried or just popped in my mouth.  Unfortunately not everyone in my family shares this enthusiasm for the fruit.  But I try not to let this deter me from my enjoyment.  Last week I roasted a pan full of tomatoes and then pureed them into soup. (I scraped the juices off the pan with my spoon. Just the memory of that flavourful explosion makes me sigh in sheer delight). Oh soo good! And my picky little eaters will cheerfully eat tomato soup when you let them dip garlic croutons in it.  I almost didn't want to share it was that good.

 There were still piles of tomatoes left on my counter after making the soup. Then I stumbled on a recipe for tomato pie.  What on earth is tomato pie, I wondered? Intrigued, I read on to discover it is a Southern dish.  Well, my grandfather being born in Georgia and all, that sold it for me. My kidlets were enthusiastic about the fresh corn(a little too enthusiastic if you ask me as my pile of kernels started diminishing before even making it into the dish) while rather dismal towards the tomatoes. Thankfully, they did eat the pie, although one child made a nice little pile of tomatoes on her plate while my husband devoured his slice and had seconds.  That was some good pie. He even requested that I make this again.

 Now, lest you think I continually torture stretch my children's culinary palette, I did make them something they enjoyed.  Having leftover pork, I decided to make pork fried rice.  Oh, the happiness! Aris told me that I was the best mom ever, Zane complimented the meal in French(tres tres bien), and Kian dug in.

 In addition to the savoury dishes, I made some sweet things as well.  Veronica's husband had given me peaches. As they were rather bruised, I made peach muffins.  If you like peach cobbler, these are the muffins for you. Easy and yummy.  I also made two rhubarb crisps, one for a family dinner and one for multicultural night at school. There weren't any leftovers.  For youth group, I tried out English Toffee Bars.  Once again, these were a hit.  Very sweet, but that's perfect for teenagers. :) browser looks so much nicer now! I wonder what I'll cook this week.  If someone slips me some pears, I have a coffee cake I want to try.

 What did you cook last week?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ride for Refuge 2011

Friday night, my daughter and I went for our longest bike ride yet.  It was sprinkling and approaching dusk but we headed out anyway.  It would have been nicer to stay at home, curled up with a good book.  We looked longingly at the couch, took a deep breath, adjusted out helmets and headed out.  The bike ride was mostly fun, except for the wet gravel.  Training wheels and wet gravel do not mix well as Aris soon discovered.  Aris was very frustrated as her bike kept getting stuck, but she pushed on.  She liked the pavement much better, although her one complaint was that she couldn't go fast enough.  "Mommy" she said" I like to go fast, but as hard as try I can't go faster than the cars".  I hadn't previously pegged my daughter as a speed demon.  Thankfully she still has many years before she can get her driver's license.  I was a bit nervous as she flew down hills, but she had no such compunctions.  Biking with my daughter is good for my spiritual life as I prayed A LOT during our journey.  Thankfully there were no accidents or major falls for either of us.  We did have many close calls though.

 So why did we go out on a drizzly night?  Well, Aris and I(and Steve and Zane and Kian) will be biking in the Ride for Refuge on Saturday, October 1st.  Originally known as the Ride for Refugees, this cycling event is dedicated to raising funds for those in need of shelter and care, wherever they may be found.  We are biking specifically in support of Welcome Home,  a refugee housing community.  As Aris has become aware of the world around her, she has realized that not everyone is blessed with a safe home with lots of food, clothing and friends.  In kindergarten she became friends with a little boy whose family sought refuge here in Canada.  Moved by his story, she wanted to do something to help.  She chose to ride in support of other refugees in our community and continues to do so, making this her third year riding.

 This is my very first time riding.  I volunteered for four years, doing sweep riding, welcoming and cheerleading.  Last year, I chose to walk alongside Aris.  Somewhat foolishly, I had assumed that she would only do a couple of kilometres on her bike.  Instead she did the full 10k with me walking alongside(and sometimes behind) her.  Although I have not ridden a bike in over 10 years, I decided that biking would be much easier than walking.  So I asked for a bicycle for my birthday and started training.  It's been a sacrifice.  Cycling is hard on my body.  But I realize how blessed I am, merely because of the accident of being born here.  My heart hurts for those who have endured injustice, famine, war and displacement.  I want to give something back, to make a difference, even if it's just something little.  So here I am, sore and nervous, preparing to ride 10k in less than a week. (Dear Lord, have mercy!)

 Would you, could you join with me?  If you could sponsor us, even $2 would be great.  But if not, could you pray or think good thoughts?  I'd appreciate the encouragement!  Go here to sponsor Aris and here to sponsor me.  Thank you!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Persevering In Family Time

 It's rare to have a perfect day with my family.  Perhaps this is common in most families, I can only speak for mine.  My children, while being beautiful, energetic little blessings, are not easy children. I have only to mention my children's names to get wide-eyed looks and whispered "How do you manage?"  They are not bad children, just spirited.  Very very spirited.

 Yesterday being Sunday we opted to have a family day.  After getting very good burgers for take-out, our family went for a bike ride.  It was a beautiful day, not too hot, not too cold.  It should have been perfect.  Instead, Steve and I exercised great patience and restraint in not ordering our children back to the house immediately after starting.  Kian was perfectly happy with his bike attached to Daddy's.  It was the other two who were too scared, or frustrated or tired of trying that tried our patience. There was much wailing and stopping of bikes directly in front of adults.  Thankfully, none of us wiped out(although Zane did fall off the monkey bars while playing at Steve's old school).  After much perseverance, we made it to our destination and back, without using our mean words.  This was indeed a victory!

 After accomplishing two family favourites(bike ride and special lunch), we decided to try for a third.  It was then that we almost struck out.  It took much negotiation, patience and some tears before we managed to get everyone out the door.  Even as we headed to the local games store for board game night, there were some very sullen expressions on little faces.  The children each picked out a special treat and then we snagged a corner to set up our game.   Much of the drama stemmed from the recognition that we did not have enough time to play Star Wars Monopoly.  Instead we cruelly forced our children to play one of their favourite games, Kids of Carcassonne. They love this game and ask to play it often.  But on the one night we only have enough time to play it, they seem to have relegated it to the list of "Things Parents Use to Torture Children". *sigh*  Once we started playing, they had a great time, even though one of them was still a little touchy.  I may have "helped" certain children win around the same time so as to avoid meltdowns.   Again, perseverance and patience were needed, but eventually we had a great family outing.

 I had to leave for youth group immediately after returning home.  I was a bit anxious after all the shouting that had been happening.  Oddly enough, the rest of the evening went quite well according to my husband.  Either they got it all out of their systems earlier, or we just need to be persistant more.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Following An Urge

 Have you ever had a nagging urge to do something a wee bit crazy?

 My dear friend Kate lives about three hours away.  Typically she comes here to visit as her house hasn't been the most practical for small people.  But as her birthday is coming up I felt a deep desire to surprise her with a visit.  I had lost her phone number(this happens when I scribble things on scrap pieces of paper as is my wont) so had to resort to a rather vague listing in the yellow pages.  Bravely I dialed the number after assuring myself the world would not end if I got the wrong person.  (Have I mentioned that I have issues?)  Thankfully Kate's mother answered right away and was delighted with my idea.

 The plan was to leave bright and early this morning. But you know the old saying about the best laid plans...Instead I woke up around the time I had wanted to leave, tired and grumpy.  It was an uphill battle to get everyone and all their stuff into the van.  Then off we headed for a long and beautiful drive.  My children kept complaining, somewhat uncharacteristically for them, that they were bored.  Tiredness does not extend my patience, so instead I gained invaluable practice in restraint, although I made crazy eyes a number of times.  Eventually, we arrived at our destination.

 Kate was out at the lake when we arrived.  She was thrilled to see us, especially Aris as they missed each other on her last visit.  After lunch we climbed rocks, went canoeing, ate chocolate mint(the plant), made tissue paper flowers, went swimming(children only), had snack on the deck(my children loved it so I made sure to get the recipe), and hiked to Kate's fort where we enjoyed second snack.  We also stayed for dinner.  It was a lovely day for all of us.  My kids were thrilled to see where Kate lives and I was so blessed to spend time with her.  We have been missing each other a lot since our road trip in July.

 After dinner we headed home with an abundance of produce.  Shortly after turning onto the main road, we spotted a bevy of wild turkeys on the road.  Steve crept up slowly, attempting not to scare them.  I was more excited than the kids. :)  We didn't see much in the way of wildlife, certainly no deer, bear or moose, but we did see a gorgeous sunset.  Kian fell asleep in the car and then we were home after a wonderful day away.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What We've Been Eating

 Several years ago, we started eating local food.  Even though we live in the warmest part of Canada, eating local limits our food choices, especially during the winter.  For this reason(and many others) I look forward to the warmer months with great anticipation.  I can put away my savoury soups featuring many ways of serving squash, carrots, sweet potatoes and other root vegetables, and instead focus on the spring and summer bounty.

 Unfortunately, I had a rough spring. The stress of finishing up with our church left me drained, emotionally and physically. I lost my creativity and my drive.  But after some much needed rest and vacation, my creativity and drive returned.  Most of my energy seems to have been packed in the checked luggage and hasn't arrived yet though.  I keep looking for it in the mail. :)

 Earlier this year, I bought a Moosewood cookbook.  I skimmed through it, but got distracted and put it aside.  It sat mostly unread on my shelf until two weeks ago.  Desperate for something to do with squash, I opened it up.  Let me tell you, that was a good move! (My children may respectfully disagree with that statement.) I have had so much fun cooking. Over the last two weeks I've made Greek Vegetable Pie, Mediterranean Eggplant Casserole, Pasta with Butternut squash and sage(I used acorn), vegetarian lasagna(with TVP instead of ground beef- my own creation and Zane's favourite), Shallot Vinaigrette, Pear and Thyme Vinaigrette, Cream of Brocoli soup(from my soup cookbook) and zucchini fritters.  I also made grilled and fried peaches.  My friends, we have eaten well!

 I have some recipes I'm excited to make this week and look forward to finding new ones to try as well.  I derived great pleasure and satisfaction from cooking(also from eating).  Being able to feed my family well(at least in my opinion) while being a good steward and using what is in my fridge has been quite rewarding.

 What have you been cooking?  Is anyone else making lifestyle changes? I forgot to mention that we're cutting even further back on meat, for ethical and monetary reasons.  Another reason why I am thankful for the Moosewood cookbook. :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Jumping: MM 135-165

 It's hothothot, the hottest day of the hottest week of the summer, as I stand on a cliff, 20 feet above the water.   I carefully shuffle towards the edge, using my bare feet to cautiously feel out the dips in the rock as I cannot see clearly, my glasses left safely in the boat.  The water beckons invitingly below, but to get there I'm going to have to jump.  Fear has tight hold of my heart.  Will I fall wrong, hitting the cliff on the way down?  Will I land wrong?  Why did I think jumping from 20 feet was a good idea? This looks awfully high up....I breathe in, like my yoga instructor taught me and then, on the exhale, screw up my courage and jump out.  There is space between jumping and landing, I hang in the air for what seems like an eternity until SPLASH!  I hit the water, go down deep into the delicious coolness, kicking my way up to emerge laughing, triumphant.  Over to the rocks I swim, on my way to jump again. My fear is gone, only joy remains.  (And some water up my nose.)

 Weeks later, I cuddle in the darkness with my husband.  I am stepping out into new things, and fear has gripped my heart once again.  What if I fail? What if this is ripped away too?  Can I survive going through that once again?  We've had this conversation often over the last couple of years, but tonight the dialogue strays from it's well-worn grooves. He prays over me, stopping to talk, and then prays again.  As my heart opens, he prays into that as well.  I stay silent, uncharacteristic for me, meditating on his words and prayers.  Something shifts, though I'm not sure what.

 In the morning, I remember jumping into the lake.  I see myself in the same spot, wanting to trust, wanting to jump and yet terrified.  But I jumped and I can still remember the thrill of jumping and then  being fully immersed in the cool refreshing water.  Again, I choose to jump, metaphorically this time,  to step off the cliff and fall through the air into the ocean of God's grace.  And when I take that plunge, choosing to believe that God is good, no matter what befalls me, God pours out gifts on me, leaving me dripping with his goodness.

A few of God's gifts, so lovingly bestowed:
135. Smoke alarms. (Yes, there is a story there.)
136. God's protection in so many little, but important details
137. That baking soda and vinegar removed most of the black from my pot.
138. A good teacher for my little girl.
139. "Mommy, today went much better than I expected."
140. A glowing sunset as I drove.
141. A God-planned meeting with someone I've been praying for over the last several years and yet never expected to meet.
142. The reminder that God's family spreads around the globe.
143. Finding community as we strive to eat ethically.
144. A lift to the playgroup at my church.
145. Seeing Kian laugh and play delightedly with other children.
146. New dreams, new teens to love on.
147. Finding energy and motivation this week.
148. My Moosewood cookbook, lots of yummy recipes.
149. "Well, it wasn't the worst thing I've eaten"-from an eight year old
150. "It was good. I couldn't even taste the squash"-from my "I don't like squash" husband.
151. Hot 'n' ready pizza on the evening I can't find the energy to cook.
152. My husband's grace towards me on bad days.
153. His arms around me after I go postal because I am just so frustrated at how little energy I have.
154. My littlest putting away the cutlery.
155. Bright blond boy perched way up high on our neighbour's shoulders.
156. His enjoyment of my children.
157. Our small fire putting to rest my daughter's long held fears about fires.
158. My husband sharing how God is speaking to him.
159. Pink and white bouquet(with an orangey brown sunflower) on my table.
160. "Thank you for encouraging me to go, Mommy. It was good."
161. A sympathy card from my best friend.
162. A beautiful e-card from another best friend.
163. Many words of encouragement, from many different people.
164. Opportunities to conquer more fears.
165. Driving to Hamilton ALL BY MYSELF!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Belated Birthday Gelata

 A week ago today, I had a birthday. My friends and family did a great job of helping me celebrate, but one of them was away and decided that she need to celebrate me. I didn't turn her down. :)  So this evening, we headed out for gelata and drinks.

 I haven't been to the gelata place in a very long time.  My gelata was fantastic even though Keisha said the nutty gelata tasted like playdough.  The chai was the best chai I've ever had. It had a very strong cardamom flavour and may have even been dusted with cardamom. It was sooo good! I am still very happy. ;)

 In addition to yummy food and drink, we also enjoyed quality child-free conversation.  Our conversations were actually rather deep as we discussed creation and evolution, racism, segregation, multiculturalism and talking to children about race/ethnicity. I am so thankful for a group of friends that I can enjoy food, conversation and silliness with. I am blessed.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Jumbled Yarn

 The day begins with rock music playing softly on the radio.  I fight my way free from the veil of sleep, longing to be pulled back into sleep's warm embrace but feeling the pull of my obligations.  The day's events run together like strands of yarn after being played with by children.  Dance camp for the older two, a visit with a friend and former client, the drive back convincing a little boy that he will have fun at lunch, a lunch out with my MIL, browsing through the thrift store afterwards, pick up from camp, laundry, supper and then a visit with my mentor.

 Wound through the tangled colours is a deep, thick strand of red.  Not a pretty happy red, but an angry pulsing red. Red for the pain that shot through one side of my head and neck, pulling me down. It's tempting to whine when the headache strikes, to pull back.  I soldiered through today, not wanting pity.  I rubbed on headache soother, drank coffee and water, took tylenol-all to no avail.  My husband prayed as did my son, but still the pain continued. I kept going.

 Now the pain is gone, the red yarn trailing off into the rest of the ball.  I am released, just in time for bed.

Monday, August 29, 2011

MM: The Funeral

 Mr. H's funeral was today.  After wading through grief this past week, I expected today to be extremely hard.  It wasn't.  Although I did tear up at mostly appropriate moments, the crushing load of grief was absent.  At least it was for my friends who are also followers of Christ. We mourn his absence, are shocked by how quickly and unexpectedly it happened and feel for his family left behind.  Yet even through the welter of emotions, there is hope and joy.  Mr. H now sees clearly what is only a dim reflection here on earth.  He is face to face with the Creator and one day we will be too.

 Although I have held these beliefs my entire life, it is only while walking through a tragedy in a cross-cultural situation that I am able to understand the life-changing potential they bring.  My friends from another culture have been rather distraught.  They have not wanted to attend the funeral or the visitation(although they have) being fearful of how dark it would be.  My friend did not expect the many moments of laughter, even by the widow, at the funeral today.  Even though this was one of the best funerals I've ever attended, laughter is not uncommon at a Canadian funeral. We mourn, but we also celebrate the life of our deceased friend or loved one.

 I must go to bed, although there is much more rattling around in my head, much of it about death and culture.  Perhaps I'll explore that later.  I'm going to quickly close with my thankful list.  After a week of grieving, I need the reminder.

More of the many gifts I have received:

121. A good night's sleep.
122. Sleeping in undisturbed.
123. Waking up to discover that it was just a dream(that there was a large pond outside my kitchen filled with boa constrictors, crocodiles and a velociraptor).
124. Feeling well rested.
125. Birdsong.
126. Not having to do it all by myself.
127. Living in community.
128. Specific answer to prayer-a pretty dress, that looks good on me and wasn't too expensive.
129. Communal sharing of food.
130. Beautiful uplifting cards from a dear friend.
131. Playdates.
132. A birthday phone call from Veronica's mom in the Bahamas.
133. A birthday phone call from Kate's mom.
134. So much love poured out on me.
135. The hope we have in glory.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mr. H's Visitation and Other Stories

 The line snakes through the room, rounding several tables before making its way out the door and into the lobby.  We join, three hushed adults with one child clinging nervously, the other three reading books in a corner.  The boys are wearing the suits they wore for the wedding two weeks ago.  Today their finery is worn for a much sadder occasion.

 While we wait to offer our condolences, three tables in the room offer entertainment, if one can say that.  A table in the middle is adorned with an engraved baseball bat, Mr. H's umpire uniform, a baseball written on by another neighbour, plaques from the association he served with, and a book on umping that he wrote.  Another table is piled with yearbooks, genealogy books, his thesis, his autobiography and his various diplomas.  I smile at the old family picture, admiring the dated glasses and hairstyle and my friend as a child. It's remarkable how much his son looks like him.  Still another table sports art the grandchildren made in memory of their grandfather as well as his Bibles, a book he and his wife translated into English and some quizzes made up for his 70th birthday and their 40th wedding anniversary.

 I managed to hold it together until the very end of the line up and lose it completely while at the casket. As a family we gather to say goodbye to Mr. H, me spontaneously offering up a prayer in thanks for his life.  We move away after a few minutes, preparing to head home and then out again.  I catch sight of a friend and then spy Veronica in line, alone.  After checking with Steve, I offer to stay and head back through the line.  I bawl again.

 Then off we head to a farm. Aris and I change in the house before striding down the hill to where the rest are gathered.  I sit around a pond, while corn and sausages roast over the fire.  It's beautiful.  The food is good. We pull out leftover cake, blueberry squares, apple squares and Neapolitan ice cream. Everyone sings happy birthday to me.  I smile, feeling loved. Conversation bubbles up around me, my children choosing to go wrestle somewhere else as per my suggestion.

 Coming home, I wander over to Keesha's house. Veronica and I babysit so the other adults can go the visitation.  I play silly games with the babies, especially the ones I don't know as well.  By evening's end, those two are my good friends.  My daughter wrestles with the children when she isn't watching Backyardigans.  I get them to chase her, and they run circles through the house giggling madly.  To settle them down, she gets them to lie on the floor and then leads a yoga relaxation.  She teaches well.  I am amused, seeing my teacher's style in her imitation. The evening ends well.

 It's been a full day, grief interwoven with beauty, community, good food and silliness.  My tears keep coming. Tomorrow we will attend the funeral.  I think I'm going to cry a lot.  I'm not a cryer so this has me a wee bit concerned. My in-laws are probably a bit more concerned as they're babysitting six kids tomorrow, three three year olds, two 16 months olds and one six year old.  They're pretty brave. Somehow, we'll all get through tomorrow.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Birthday Party

 My husband threw me a surprise birthday party today.  We typically just have small family/whoever shows up parties for our birthdays, but have started a tradition of surprise parties for milestone birthdays. Today's party was amusing as I knew he was throwing me a party today and he knew that I knew but we were both pretending to be surprised/surprising. Our friends were very confused.  We got a big kick out of it.

 Steve and Veronica pretended that we were having a community barbeque today instead of a surprise party.  This way they roped me into making food for my own party. :)  Steve was in charge of food while Veronica planned out games.  She had us play a breastfeeding bingo game. The first person to get five in a row was declared weaned.  The guys in the group had a great time coming up with alternative definitions. Apparently hind milk is what is in a sippy cup discovered behind the couch. :)

  Next she had us play a potty-training game. There were three dolls(okay one doll and two teddy bears-one for each of my children)  that were dressed in a diaper and a onesie. The object of the relay-style game was to change the doll from a disposable diaper to a cloth diaper to a pull-up to underwear.  The first team to complete all three stages won.  My team won with room to spare. :)

 I had a great time. It was nice to be loved on, eat good food and hang out with friends. Thank you, Steve and Veronica! :)

 P.S If you didn't get invited and probably should have, I apologize. Next time, I will be writing up a list of people Steve should invite to my surprise party. :)

Friday, August 26, 2011


 The Gypsy Mama has challenged us to write for just five minutes, no editing. Every once in awhile, I'm able to take her up on the challenge. I thought today's prompt was appropriate. :)


 I'm older today, this being my first day after turning thirty.  Some have remarked that I'm just 29 with experience, trying to soothe me by telling me that I don't look thirty.  Each time I've responded with great emphasis that no, I am thirty. I'm welcoming this new decade with much enthusiasm for many reasons.

 My twenties were spent largely wading through the jungle(or swamp, perhaps?) that is new parenthood.  There is much beauty and life there, but also a never-ending battle just to stay sane.  I haven't always won those battles.  But now, as I hit thirty, I'm leaving that jungle behind me.  Scant weeks before my birthday, my youngest weaned and potty-trained.  The diaper pail has been regulated to the basement, the diapers packaged up and passed on, and my breasts stay covered all day long. After nine years of being pregnant and/or breastfeeding, this feels like freedom. (While filling out a health survey, I discovered that I have been nursing for a total of 86 months. Craziness!)

 Becoming pregnant meant dropping out of school, putting my academic dreams on hold.  Then motherhood took me in a whole new direction. I've found passions that I didn't even know existed.  Before getting pregnant, I knew nothing about birth, breastfeeding, babywearing, parenting, fill-in-the-blank.  While hiking through this jungle, I've learned much, become wiser, more informed, more graceful. As I enter this new decade, I sense that I have more to offer and can truly make a difference.

 My five minutes have come and gone, but I could keep on going.  Growing older has meant new maturity, a sense of being comfortable in my skin and a growing acceptance as well as realization of who I am.  Slowly I'm learning to move past my hurts, my hang-ups, my selfishness to be a better mother, daughter, friend, doula and hopefully wife.  I'm excited to age, to become purified, continually changed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to become a wise woman of peace and grace. Or at least that's my hope.


I'd keep going, but I have a picnic supper to pack and funeral flowers to order.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hope in Glory

 As I glanced across the yard while getting my mail, I noticed two police officers talking with some teens.  Curious, and yet not wanting to intrude, I called my friend down the way.  Not suspecting anything wrong, we joked about the police being after me and her needing to point them in the right direction.  She wandered outside only to find paramedics working on someone at the pool.  Coming closer, she realized it was Mr. H,  our superintendent's husband.

 Our happy little world came crashing to a halt. We prayed, our hearts gripped with anguish and dread. Not only was Mr. H our neighbour, he was also the father of good friends, a man we loved and respected.  After the ambulance left, we huddled together in a knot on the yard.  Our children played by the pool fence as they always do, not noticing Mr. H's little box of pool chemicals sitting there, or his shoe left floating in the pool.  We attempted to find any scrap of hope that he was still alive, refusing to admit that Mr. H had left this world. Hours later, it was confirmed that he was indeed gone.

 We cried then and continue to, mourning not only the passing of a good man, but also the hole he will leave in all our lives.  I cry for his wife of almost forty years, going to sleep alone.  This world seems like a desert, full of grief and sadness. I would that this was a nightmare I could wake from with relief.

 But though we walk through the valley of sadness, I cling to truth like a stone in my pocket.  The verses, embedded from the many Christian funerals I've attended, are etched in my heart.  For I do not mourn like one without hope. I know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.  I hurt for myself, for the family, for all of Mr H's friends, family, coworkers, students, neighbours, congregation, but I do not hurt for him.  For he is rejoicing, around the throne, made perfect.  These little nuggets of powerful truth are clutched tight as I mourn.

 How thankful I am for my faith and the great hope it offers. I look forward to seeing you in glory, Mr. H. I miss you.

 Joining with Imperfect Prose;

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Birthday Celebration

 Originally written May 23, 2010. I thought I had published this one already....

 I don't like going out in public anymore.  It's not as bad as earlier this fall, but some days I really don't want to leave my house.  Some days, the fear of rejection and confrontation is too much.  I used to think that if I just smiled nicely and was polite, people would like me.  I bit my tongue a lot and occaisionally went along with stuff that I wasn't comfortable with(opinions or gossip), because I didn't want to make waves.  Then my world blew up.  Suddenly a lot of people didn't like me anymore, even hated me.  It was hard enough dealing with the friends who confronted me and told me in great detail why they thought I was a bad person.  That was devastating in and of itself.  But what turned out to be worse was the strung-out process of finding who else didn't like me anymore.  It was checking out my Facebook account and discovering which people were no longer my friends.  It was walking into church and noticing that not only were some people now avoiding me, if they did talk to me they were mean.  Months later I'm still finding new people who have defriended me.  This slow, silent rejection has eroded my confidence more than the explosive endings did.  Now I am afraid.  Afraid to make new friends, afraid to show my face in public for fear that someone will yell at me.  It's slightly ridiculous, but also crippling.

 A dear friend turned 30 yesterday and her parents threw her a party. We were invited and decided to attend.  It was a drive, but she's worth it.  However, when I accepted the invitation, I didn't count on the fear.  Suddenly on the way there, I began to be overwhelmed.  What if people showed up who hate me?  What if there isn't anybody I know and the other guests reject me?  It was stressful, but I decided to just celebrate my friend.  Upon arriving, we discovered that no, we didn't know anybody else.  That was slightly awkward at first, but my friend's mother took us under her wing.  She had provided beachballs and bubbles for our kids and was incredibly friendly.  Apparently I had met her before but I couldn't remember where until we left.  She kept bringing up details about our family and I was trying to figure out how she knew them.  It was awkward, but funny. :)

 We had a great chat with her and then began meeting some of the other guests.  The lunch was great.  Our kids behaved, we have fun and it was great to celebrate a truly special woman.  I was so blessed by the kindness of a host.  She treated me like I was special, even when I couldn't remember how she knew me.  Being loved on without knowing why was really healing to my damaged soul today.  Happy birthday to JB, and a big thank you to your mom! :)

Sunday at the Parks

Originally written June 30, 2010 and somehow not published...*sigh*

 So today turned out much much better than I thought it would.  I've been stressing about today for weeks.  But....instead the day turned out awesome!  I had a moment of sheer terror, but Steve prayed for me and we got through it.  After the service and a training session, we had a church picnic in a nearby park.

 Today was a beautiful day for a picnic.  It was warm, but not too hot and the rain held off while we were eating.  Relaxing on the grass, eating a mostly local lunch(including homemade bread), hanging out with our church family while our kids enjoyed an extended playtime with their church friends. I'm glad I went as originally I was going to skip. Instead it was a refreshing time.

 After the church picnic, Aris and I hopped the bus downtown to the Multicultural Festival.  We spent several hours browsing through the stalls looking at everything from fair trade handicrafts to tea to dresses. I almost bought a beautiful brown silk dress, but changed my mind.  The fit wasn't quite right, but it was gorgeous!  We found my yoga teacher and ended up both eating with her and then getting a lift home from her.  That came at the perfect time because halfway home we were caught in torrential rain.  It was a blessing to run from the van to our door rather than make the five minute walk from the bus stop in that downpour.

 Aris enjoyed the one-on-one time with me, looking at lots of jewelry, eating corn-on-the-cob, fresh fruit and baklava, and the storytelling.  She sat for about half-an-hour listening to the storytellers.  It was good for us to have some time just to ourselves and Aris is fun to go out with.   Sadly, she doesn't enjoying getting rained on as much as I do.  We were caught in the rain several times which I found refreshing. Aris not so much.  But it was a good day spent outdoors. :)

First Day of Summer Vacation

 I can't believe summer vacation is finally here.  June seemed to come too quickly, but then take her sweet time leaving.  :) It has been a busy month especially with Steve being away and lots of end-of-year special events.  I've enjoyed the talent shows and parties, but today was the day I've been waiting for.

 I know some parents dread summer holidays, especially those parents that work full-time.  Summer vacation becomes a nightmare of arranging care and trying to keep costs down.  Other parents switch custody arrangements during the summer and have to deal with the extended absences of their children.  But for me, I'm super excited about school being done.  Aris will be away a little bit more, but we're used to that now. She will be missed, but it will be nice for her to have some big girl time away from her little brothers.  Since I'm a stay-at-home mom, we're not stressing about care during the day.  The older two will go to dance camp(separately as Aris needed space) for a week each, but other than that they'll be home with me.  And I'm so excited about this!

 We've already started having fun.  Today was a wee bit stressful as I was trying to clean my house, but we had some nice time together.  Aris read more today and the boys were signed up for the library reading program.  Zane and Aris enjoyed quiet time together.  While Kian napped, they got into my jewelry and played jewelry store. Fortunately they cleaned up before Steve discovered all of my necklaces spread out over our bed.  I think I own about 30 necklaces, so it was a bit of a mess.  :) But they had fun and there very little fighting today!  Kian was thrilled to have them home so he was being nice.  Hopefully that will last.  :)


Canada became a lesser place on Monday.  A great Canadian, Jack Layton, lost his battle with cancer early Monday morning. Coming on the heels of his stunning electoral victory in May, his death has hit Canada hard.  Jack believed in Canada and fought to make it an even better place.  Even on his deathbed, he offered words of encouragement and exhortation to all Canadians.  He wrote, in part:

" Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. "

 Although I didn't completely agree with Jack, he was a politician that I respected and cheered.  I was looking forward to watching him as the leader of the Official Opposition(Yes, I'm a closet political junkie).  Canada, especially the House of Commons, will be a poorer place. 

 But Jack Layton wasn't the only one to leave this world on Monday. Mr. H, the superintendant of our complex, passed away Monday afternoon.  Mr. H was a quiet man, one who always had a word of encouragement or humour for us.  He was a good father, husband and grandfather. I can't imagine not seeing him everyday. 

 I am going to try to write today for Imperfect Prose, but words are slow in coming.  Over here, we're grieving. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Busy Busy Busy

Wow...has this summer ever flown by! The first couple weeks were quieter, although the late end to school made for a very abrupt transition.  Soon it was time for camp, after which I went away to DC.  A week after returning, Steve and I went to Toronto for several nights. Oh the bliss of child-free time!  Then my sister-in-law got married which was followed closely by a week of VBS. Oh, and did I mention that I took a last minute client so I've been waiting for a baby this week?  Not to mention the family events, important meetings, baby showers and random other things that had to happen this week.

 VBS was fantastic! We attend church in a small town about 10 minutes away. Each year, the three churches combine for VBS( they also sponsor a refugee family together). Because I was away, I had missed the pre-VBS volunteer meeting which meant that I knew almost no one walking in on Monday morning ten minutes late. *sigh*  Thankfully a friend of mine from church got my children into their groups and showed me where to stow my purse and grab a volunteer t-shirt.

 I volunteered with the jr. youth, specifically the gr. 7 girls.  They were, without a doubt, the best group I've ever worked with.  The kids listened and participated in group with very little foolishness.  They listened well in the large group and sang with enthusiasm. Of course, the other leaders were awesome too. :)  It was a great week! After not working with youth for two years, this felt a bit like coming home.

 Over the course of the week, the VBS raised money for a refugee family the churches are sponsoring.  They also collected goods for a local refugee housing and settlement project.  The housing project is run by the organization Steve and I are with so we were extra excited to see them being supported.  The youth had a sleepover midway through the week during which they had a service project. They canvassed the town collecting bottles and funds for the refugee family.  During the evening, the youth raised over $1100 dollars! The VBS raised over $900, bringing the combined total to $2000.48.  Amazing!

 Not only was I hanging out with youth, I've also been waiting on a baby.  A friend contacted me on the weekend to see if I was available for a last minute client.  After some quick prayer and consultation with my husband and youth pastor(two separate people just in case clarification was needed), I agreed to take the client.  This added a first client visit, a hospital visit and a tentativeness about all plans to the mix this week.  No baby as of yet, so I'm still waiting. Hopefully soon!  On that note, I must head off to bed, but I hope to blog again soon. I still need to post about my amazing trip away. :) Good night, all! :)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

My SILs Wedding

 Yesterday my lovely SIL got married.  It was a lovely wedding made even more so by the presence of some very handsome men in suits.

I must admit to having a weakness for men in suits, especially a certain big one and two littles.  These are the very first suits for my little boys.  They were so excited to have such lovely dressy clothes that Zane wanted to wear his home from the store.  We didn't let him, but we did let him wear it again to church today.  My hubby doesn't like wearing suits so I made sure to capture the occasion on camera(I'd say on film, but that doesn't really work anymore).

 Veronica, my dear friend who braided my hair when my arm was broken, helped with my hair for the wedding.  We divided it into two sections and twisted it up.  While she was doing my hair, Keisha and
Bianca, other mommies from the complex came over to help.  Personally, I think they just wanted to observe the very rare occurrence of our family being dressed up. Even after we were ready, they all hung out on our patio until we paraded past them in our finery.  However, I did put them to work painting my fingernails. I'm not very good at doing my hair or nails, so it was great to have help.  Fancy occasions in community are a lot of fun. :)

 Upon arriving early at city hall, we took advantage of the free time and took pictures.  Our children took turns smiling for the camera. I'm not sure we got a single shot that has all of us smiling at the same time.  Oh well, that's what photoshop is for, right?

 The wedding was beautiful.  Both the bride and the groom teared up.  As my SIL reached the front of the chapel, her soon-to-be-husband was heard saying"You're beautiful, you're just so beautiful" over and over.  I didn't quite tear up, but it was a close call at times.  It was great to catch up with our family from out of town, especially those that just had babies.  But the most special moment of all was seeing the marriage.  My BIL has almost died numerous times in the last two years.  We weren't sure he would  be alive to get married.  Seeing them pledge their love to each other was an answer to much prayer.  We wish them many happy years together. :)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Answered Prayer: The Dress

 As we've wandered through some treacherous ground, my faith has gotten tattered.  Trusting God has become a scary place, one that I don't willingly go.  My prayer time and faith life have suffered.  As I cling to the remnants of my faith, encouraging my children in their faith has helped.  As God answers prayers, I toss out others.  He continues to answer, I continue to pray and my faith mends one stitch at a time.

 My SIL is getting married in eight days.  She has requested that our family look presentable(ie that her brother wear a suit).  We realized that our boys should probably also look nice.  Off to the mall we went in search of fancy clothing.  We found matching suits for our boys and a very nice dress for Aris.  As they tried on their fancy clothing, I realized that the dress I was wearing(the one I was planning on wearing to the wedding) wasn't as nice.  As my size has changed often over the last several years, I don't have a lot of nice clothing anymore.  I've looked for dresses, but it's really hard to find something nice and affordable. I had been praying for months that I would find something, but no such luck.

 Until today.  After choosing the children's clothing, I prayed very specifically to find a pretty dress, with a crinoline, that looked good on me and was affordable.  Then I wandered over to the dress section.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that all the dresses were on sale today! After picking an armload of dresses and trying them on, Aris and I went back to the rack to find a different size.  While we were there, a pink and black dress caught my eye.  It isn't one that I would normally wear, but I tossed caution to the winds and tried it on.  Oh!  It fit, looked great and wonder of wonder had been marked down to $26!

 Coming home I just had to write about my answer to prayer.  Slowly slowly, one bit at a time, my faith is being healed.  Thank you, God!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Teddy Bear Snuggles

 "Mama, I need you to 'nuggle me"

 says the little boy.

 We are creating, whisking sugar into egg whites when I first hear him call.  My return calls go unanswered, so I continue whipping frothy white peaks.  I hear him again just as the bowl goes crashing to the ground.  White decorates the ground, beaters lying askew in clouds of white.  Much remains in the bowl despite its summersault. Good thing it wasn't a runnier mixture.  As I wipe floor, rewash beaters and dry hands, I hear him call with greater urgency.  Surrendering my plans to his needs, the bowls left on the counter, I head downstairs.

 He is sitting, sad.  He asks to be snuggled, explaining that he is just so sad without his mommy snuggles.  I crawl into bed with him, wrapping him tight.  Those little arms reach up to wrap me in turn.  "Am I your teddy bear, or are you mine?" I ask.  He thinks. So tired that his words get muddled up, he finally spits out that he is my teddy bear.  I kiss his hair, hug him tight.  Remembering how before children I went to sleep each night with a teddy bear.  My arms would clutch Teddy tight to my chest all through the night.  All through my childhood until the day I became a mother, my teddy slept with me.

 Teddy no longer lives at my house, having been passed on long ago.  Instead of teddy bears, I snuggled with babies until now I long for sleep without anything touching me.  Funny, that.  As I cradle my big little boy close pretending that he is my teddy bear, I ponder those days and the desire I had to hold something while I slept.  Could this be a desire God placed within so that I would treasure those little ones even in my sleep?

 His breathing evens out, I untangle myself and tiptoe back upstairs to finish my baking.  But as I measure, fold and spoon meringue on to baking sheets I remember the wonder of little babies asleep next to me.  As I drift off to bed tonight, I will enjoy the wonder of a bed empty of children.

Joining with Emily as she cuddles her newborn;

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Little Girl Baker

 I never know what to expect after Aris has been away for awhile.  Transitioning back home is challenging, although I must admit it's gotten much easier over the years.  The longer visits are always harder and this time she was gone over a week.  Normally there is much acting out, yelling and screaming after her return.  It isn't pleasant. But that wasn't what happened this time.

 Yesterday afternoon Aris returned home.  Upon arrival, she wandered into the kitchen and began to create.  Her brother had convinced me to buy a sack of peanuts in the shell which we had left on the counter.  Aris began to shell and chop the peanuts.  When she had enough, she added brown sugar and a small amount of peanut butter creating a lovely topping for ice cream.  We just happened to have homemade blueberry ice cream in the freezer. Soooo good!  And in the midst of her creating, there wasn't any drama.

 Today was similar.  Although she did have a few minor meltdowns, instead of freaking out she baked.  Lemon cookies in the afternoon and then meringues this evening.  Delicious! Aris and I finished off most of the meringues long before they had even cooled.  Even better than her yummy creations were how well she handled the transition.  Perhaps we've found a cure?

 Somehow I think my little girl takes after her mama. :)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Travelling Mercies- MM 73-120

I haven't posted in far too long for Multitude Mondays.  Consequently, my handwritten list has started to back up.  Some of the following items are dated while others are much more recent. It is good to remember why I have been thankful. :)

73. A new day with new mercies.
74. Pink lilies blooming, my weedwhacked flowers replaced.
75. Bright sunlight slanting across the walk.
76. No screaming this morning.
77. A beautiful bouquet on my kitchen table.
78. A good conversation with a friend, the youth pastor I used to serve under.
79. No one throwing up on the drive to camp.
80. Swimming in the perfectly cool lake after the very hot drive to camp.
81. Friends to share meals and children with.
82. Seeing Zane try harder because of his friend. He's actively trying to swim now.
83. Meals that I haven't had to prepare.
84. Being invited over for dinner by parents of new friends and the lovely conversation that followed.
85. Encouraging and insightful inter-faith conversations.
86. A day without pain after a night with very little sleep.
87. Grace to get through the next day.
88. How sticks and mud can change the landscape(beaver dam).
89. Lots of friends for Aris to hang out with.
90. Being surrounded by parents who understand the reality of special children.
91. " Mommy, thank you for praying for me last night. It really helped."
92. A safe journey to Maryland.
93. AAA accepting our CAA membership.
94. Cheerful, prompt rescuing.
95. A delicious dinner.
96. Helpful and cheerful hotel staff.
97. Protection during metro travel. I didn't get seriously hurt when the metro doors closed on me.
98. A friendly chat with a stranger headed the same way we were.
99. Meeting a Zane Thomas, so close to my little man's name.
100. The glories and variety of God's creation.

101. Baby ostriches.

102. Baby flamingos.

103. Air-conditioned places to rest.
104. Union Station!
105. Finding a Chipotle and the delicious burrito from there I consumed for dinner.
106. A man who gave up his seat for me on the subway. I hope it wasn't because he thought I was pregnant!
107. A thoughtful, organized heavenly-minded friend to go adventuring with.
108. The ability to remember where I came from and how to get back.
109. A swim in a cool pool.
110. WiFi. Free WiFi.
111. The ability to call my family when I am away.
112. My boys had a good day without me.
113. A safe arrival home.
114. Times of reflection, prayer and renewal.
115. A friendship that began in grade nine band class.
116.  God's perfection provision that I would not fully appreciated for many years to come.
117. Being home.
118. The emptying of my stress tank.
119. The freedom to be silly.

120. A bear blowing kisses at sunset.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Five Minute Friday-Full

Yes, I'm aware that Friday has come and gone.  Since I was away on holidays, I'm going to play catch-up. :)


 I stood up from the dinner table with a full stomach but an empty heart.  The fears from the last several years were pushing hard, screaming that I didn't fit it, would never fit in.  What I saw around me only served to enforce those lies.  As I wandered outside for chapel, people were taking pictures of their friends from this week.  There was laughter and excitement, but I was alone.

 As I waited through my daughter's rehearsal the feelings of isolation grew.  By the time service began, I was afraid of the large crowd gathered around me.  Had I been left to myself, I would have run away.  But my beautiful little girl was performing, so I had to stay and watch.  She sang beautifully, but even her songs and smiles didn't take away my ache.

 It was worship time and still my heart felt empty.  I tried to sing, hoping my enthusiasm would make up for this feeling of despair.  Instead I just felt like a fraud.  Not only did I feel rejected by people, I felt rejected by God as well.  How could He possibly use me?

 I seriously considered leaving my faith. How could I continue? But how could I walk away? Finally out of desperation I cried out to God "I doubt that you can use me or even that you want me anymore.  But here I am.  Even if you reject me, I'm yours."

 I'd love to say that in that moment, my heart was filled up again.  It wasn't, but the despair slowly ebbed away.  At the end of the service, I went up for prayer.  Again, nothing spectacular happened, just a slow emptying away of despair and a gentle infilling of peace.  By bedtime, my heart was quieted again, slowly slowly becoming full.


So, I went a wee tiny bit over five minutes.  In my defence, I had both a phone call and a demanding baby while I tried to write.  So it all works out. :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Five Minute Friday-Loss

 Each Friday, Lisa-Jo invites us to write with her for just five minutes.


 I didn't expect it to hurt this much or for this long. I'd left a church before, but somehow this feels different.  Perhaps my lack of choice in this decision or the depth of pain play a part, but either way this is much more difficult than I expected.  I knew leaving would hurt, that I would miss people, but I also expected my reasons for leaving to overshadow the pain that comes with severed relationships.  Perhaps it's because we prolonged the process in our attempt to leave well that the pain still lingers.  Perhaps this is just natural over losing a community that was family in so many ways. Maybe it's simply that I had hoped I had enough value to be missed.

 Whatever the reason, I still hurt.  I can't go back, but I miss my church deeply.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Seven Years of Marriage

 Seven years ago, we got all dressed up and pledged our lives to each other.  Neither of us really knew what we were getting into.  Really, who does?  I think we thought we'd ride off into the sunset of a wonderful life.  I guess in some ways we have.  We didn't know we were embarking on an adventure, one that would push us to our limits while testing our love, our faith and our sanity.

Then again, I did stand barefoot in a creek in my wedding dress.  Adventures keep life from being too boring.

 On that day, it was two become three.

 Just under a year later, the three became four.

 Now we're a tribe.  Sadly, this is the most recent family picture I have.  We'll have to rectify this soon.

 We've gone on many adventures together over the last seven years.  Some have been happy ones, like our many road trips.  Others, like my battles with depression, have been long and arduous.  We haven't always been sure that we would make it through.

 If you are going to get lost, wander through enemy territory and wade through the slough of despair, Steve is a great companion.  He's pointed me in the right direction, fought for me more times than I can count, and kept the faith when I couldn't.  When we're together, I find my courage.  I guess deep down I believe that he really can do just about anything, so that no matter what mess we find ourselves into, we'll be okay together.  I'm thankful for his loyalty, his perseverance and his faith.

 Babe, I love you and I look forward to many more adventurous years.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


 I wasn't expecting to learn something, not on a holiday.  Perhaps I'd read a sign of some historically significant event, or learn a cool new fact about butterflies, but I didn't expect to learn anything significant or insightful.  Clearly I was shortsighted as God used my family vacation to teach me not one, but two lessons.  Our first day there I learned about perseverance.  Abundance was to be the theme on day two.

 After a leisurely morning, we gathered our children and belongings together and headed to the Butterfly Conservatory.  The little nature lovers that they are, my children were delighted and enthusiastic with overtones of grumpiness. While waiting to enter the conservatory, my children spotted one of their favourite butterflies: the blue morpho.  Not only does this species have shimmering blue wings, it was also featured on a Diego episode that my children have watched many times.  Forgoing the informational video, they burst into butterfly area with great excitement.  Immediately they were surrounded by butterflies.

 At first my children were happy.  After about five minutes though, my eldest started showing signs of agitation.  She wanted a butterfly to land on her.  Although she was surrounded by many beautiful butterflies and was able to observe them up close, it wasn't good enough.  She wanted one on her head, hand, dress; it didn't matter as long as she could hold just one butterfly.  I encouraged her to be patient, but just then one landed on her father.  How unfair could the world get?  A butterfly landed on her dad and wouldn't leave! It just wasn't fair! She was on the verge of a meltdown.

 Gently I took her aside, wrapping her in a hug.  Empathizing with her, I asked if we could pray together.  She agreed.  With a nervous heart, I prayed quietly with her, asking God to please send a butterfly to land on Aris.  It's hard to pray such an important and yet trivial request when I have prayers that God seems to have ignored.  I cling to my belief that God answers prayer, that He cares so deeply about us even in trivial matters, but I doubt this even as I cling.  How would my very sensitive and emotionally struggling child cope if God didn't answer her prayer?  I chose to pray, to trust, even as doubts ran through my head.

 We walked along looking at the butterflies on the path, flowers, people, even on a turtle in the pond.  My nature lover informed me that butterflies get salt from stones and turtles, sometimes even going so far as to lick the eyeballs of turtles.  She said she read it in a book.   Still, no butterflies.  She was sad, but okay.  As I turned from taking a picture, I noticed a butterfly on her shoulder.  As soon as I pointed it out, it flew away.  Just then, Steve noticed one on her dress.  I was filled with relief. God had answered my prayer!

 Butterfly after butterfly began to land on her.  She stopped fretting, instead trying to get butterflies onto her hand.  While she was kneeling down, a blue morpho landed on her back.  Then another and another.  Soon she had three large butterflies competing for space on her back.  All the while, she was kneeling down.  One by one the butterflies opened their wings.  For a brief second, all three butterflies had their wings open at the same time.

 Watching my little girl with her butterflies, I was overwhelmed with His abundance.  She would have been happy with just one butterfly briefly.  Instead God gave her about 15, including these three for several minutes.  It took some patience and some faith on the part of her mama, but God provided abundantly.  My faith is still tattered, with all these questions roaming about unanswered but in some unexplainable way those butterflies helped heal me just a bit more. If God could answer such a little prayer so well, perhaps He is in process of answering my bigger ones too.  I just have to wait for those butterflies to start landing.

 Joining with Emily and the rest