Sunday, November 22, 2009

Gratitude 75

I tend to overplan and when there is an event or a time that I want to be special and significant, I am often disappointed.  I try so hard to make things go the way that I think that they "should" ("should" being a word I oppress myself with so often) and more often than not, circumstances conspire to foil my plans.

Today was a day that was the opposite of that.  Next weekend, as fellowship coordinator at our church, I have organised an advent kick-off event.  It's nothing too sophisticated, just a potluck dinner (and if you haven't experienced a church potluck, you have missed something!), some carol singing, making some ornaments and decorating the church.  Given that we are going to have a huge mortgage at the church for a long time, we can't exactly go out and spend a fortune on decorations for the church so we have asked people to donate things that they no longer use.  We may end up with some pretty tacky stuff but when we did it at Thanksgiving, the church ended up looking lovely.

To get ready, Dh and I got out all of our ornaments today to see what we can happily part with.  That led to going through all the Christmas lights, a trip into town to buy some more and then we spent a good chunk of time working together to get the lights up.  We finished up with homemade cups of cocoa with marshmallows.  It's hard to describe what was so wonderful about it.  Maybe it was the fact that putting up the lights often can become a real chore (as dh said, it was nice not to be freezing his fingers off) and we didn't feel like we HAD to do it today, it just kind of happened.  It's also fun that Pk is old enough to be aware that something really special is happening, even if she doesn't really know what that special thing is.  I think it was just one of those days that we really felt like a family - not sure if you know what I mean but there are times, when things are happening, that I KNOW that this is a day that I am going to remember, a day that really fit its "should".  And every time I drive up to the house in the yucky dark, I will see the lights and think of a wonderful day spent together as a family.

Now, if you have some decorations to spare...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Gratitude 74

It's funny how often I can be made to eat my words.

I have never "gotten" the home sales party thing.  I have been invited to Tupperware and Pampered Chef parties in the past and I have never really been a fan.  While the home sales parties tend to self high quality merchandise, I find, anyway, that everything tends to be VERY expensive and I have always felt intense pressure to buy to support the hostess (that may be because the hostess has usually been my s.i.l. and there is always intense pressure from her about everything).  I always said I would never have one or put my friends in that position and I hated to go.

Fast forward to last night.  A friend from church was having a Partylite party and I was invited.  I didn't really want to go and I definitely wasn't going to spend money.  Imagine my surprise when I had a wonderful time.  Did I spend too much?  Yes (sorry, Partylite is the worst for being overpriced and I almost laughed out loud when the saleswoman was running down the "guest" specials available for anyone who spent $150 - I can just imagine the reaction from dh when I got home if I were to tell him that I had spent that much on candles!).  On the other hand, it was relaxed, the food was good and the company was wonderful.  I almost never get out on my own, especially in the evening, unless it is for a meeting or a work obligation, so to just get to hang out with some really nice women was such a treat.  I can now understand why people do this.  Don't worry, I won't be inviting you to a sales party anytime soon (I still would feel funny about doing that to my friends and anyway, I can't think of any sales parties that would interest them) but I do stand corrected.  Maybe there is a purpose for them after all beyond making a company a lot of money in a situation in which people feel obligated to buy.

Now, I can't wait for my candles to arrive :-).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Gratitude 73

Christmas is coming!  Christmas is coming!  Hooray!  I HATE this time of year.  I can't stand the darkness.  It makes me feel truly claustrophobic and isolated and it's all about the lack of light.   The one thing that gets me through is the excitement of Christmas.  It's so hard to hold off until the first Sunday of Advent to decorate - I want Christmas to begin NOW so that I can pretend that it's not so dark.  We are planning to really celebrate this year - we always do but we have been feeling like we have lost track of our most special people.  

As I have said before, I have been going to therapy and trying to work through some stuff.  The situation with Dh's family is definitely one of my biggest struggles.  I have this dream of what an extended family should be and basically, I have realised that I have to let that dream go.  They aren't going to change and Dh and I have tried endless ways to please them and to make the family closer.  Unfortunately, as my therapist said, we are knocking on a door that is closed and locked and unless they decide to open the door to us, which is unlikely, things won't change.  It's time for me to lick my wounds, grieve a bit the fact that Pk will never have the love and acceptance from that side of the family that I want for her (although I can't complain too much since my family lavishes her with enough love for 60 children) and then work on surrounding ourselves with the people we really care about and people who are loving.  That leads me back to Christmas.  We want to have lots of our favourite people over and to do lots of visiting and put the focus on the people who matter.  So, Kittenpie, we definitely want to find a way to see you this holiday!

So, I am grateful for the joy of Christmas AND for the opportunity that it gives us to focus on what really matters most.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Gratitude 72

We had such a great day!  My mother came up to babysit so that we could go the the Focus on the Family Focus on Parenting simulcast.  I hate the politics of Focus (sorry to offend any of my American friends but there are things that they stand for in politics that go against much of what I believe as a Canadian).  That being said, though, they offer fantastic resources for parenting and marriage with a Christian perspective.  Today, they featured Mark Holmen (Faith at Home - I hadn't heard him before but he was FANTASTIC), Larry Fowler from Awana, Elisa Morgan from MOPS, Kevin Leman (I laughed so hard I was crying, I LOVE him) and then a panel discussion on Children and Media featuring Phil Vischer (Veggietales), Ron Luce and Bob Waliszewski (Plugged In).  It was such a great day.  I learned so much, I was really inspired and Dh and I even got to go out for lunch together at a sit-down restaurant, something we haven't done in a very long time.  I am grateful to mom for giving us this chance and to Focus and all the speakers for giving me a much clearer idea of how to model faith and to instill it in Pk, something that I view as being my most critical goal as a mother. 

Gratitude 71

Last night, Dh went out to his car and came back with a stack of mail, including a package - for me!  I love getting mail (well, real letters and Christmas cards and things like that) and it feels like these days, 95% of what we get is bills and another 4.99% is bills.  It is such a rare thing to get something nice in the mail.  The package was from Kittenpie and ANYTHING from kittenpie is something to get excited about.  If she ever quits her job, she could be a professional gift consultant.  She has the most amazing instincts for what someone would like and she has, on several occasions, gotten me something that was my heart's desire and yet, I didn't even know that it existed.  This time, it was two books.  One is a picture book that is very, very sweet.  The other is a novel, "The Mermaid's Chair" by Sue Monk Kidd.  I had just finished reading my last novel that I had in the house and I haven't been using the library much, since a.  I have several overdues that need to be dealt with (yes, I know, bad me) and b.  I am so tired these days that I only read a few days at a time so I don't get through books fast enough for the library to be very useful (so sad, I have always been a voracious reader).  I have started the book (I actually got through about 25 pages before I fell asleep last night, which is pretty good for me) and I love it so far.  I will enjoy it more knowing who it came from.
Thanks, Kittenpie!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Gratitude 70

Today ended up being a really nice day.  It had to potential to be pretty awful, actually, as dh and Pk were getting their H1N1 shots today.  After all the media reports of 6 hour lines and chaos, we were expecting things to be awful.  My doctor was pretty emphatic last week that Pk and Dh needed to be done a.s.a.p. to protect me, since she doesn't want me to get my shot until at least 12 weeks and until the non-adjuvented vaccine is readily available for pregnant women.

My doctor's practice is 45 minutes drive from here and we decided that we would go there to get done since other places, dh might not be considered high risk.  My doc is in a very large clinic with a walk-in clinic and that is where we got the shots done.  It was amazing, we were in and out in less than 10 minutes and Pk barely cried.  We had chocolate ready to go (it works almost every time) but as she got her shot, she was whining for one of the suckers they had in a bowl.  That took away any upset about the shot almost immediately.  We decided to treat her to a lunch at McDonald's (yes, I know, me the healthy-eating nazi) and it was fun.  We rarely eat in a restaurant with Pk and she had so much fun.  

My mother is here with us for the next few days, since she is babysitting for us tomorrow during the day (we are going to a parenting event at a local church).  My mom just found out that she is pre-diabetic and really has to watch her sugar so she is feeling pretty restricted in her diet.  I wanted to treat her to say thank you for being there for us.  I asked what her favourite meal was and she immediately replied, "Mac and cheese!".  My father and brother are lactose intolerant so pasta in any kind of cheese sauce is NOT ever on the menu there.  It gave me a good challenge.

Here's my recipe. I took a few and put them together and this was the result and it was delicious.

Macaroni and Cheese

2 c whole wheat macaroni
3Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
2 c milk
2 c shredded cheddar cheese + extra for sprinkling
2 tsp dijon mustard

crushed whole wheat crackers
butter (1 or 2 Tbsp), melted
small amount of grated parmesan cheese

Cook the macaroni according to package directions.  In the meantime, melt the butter in a saucepan.  When it is melted but not yet brown, add the flour and stir to make a paste.  Gradually add the milk, whisking as you add and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until simmering and slightly thickened.  Add 2 c of cheddar and the dijon mustard.  Add the drained macaroni to the sauce and stir.  Pour half the macaroni and sauce into a greased caserole dish, sprinkle with cheese and repeat.  
In a bowl, combine the melted cheese, the crushed crackers and the parmesan.  Sprinkle over the macaroni.  
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes, covered.  Uncover and bake another 15 minutes.  I served it with steamed cauliflower with browned butter.  It wasn't exactly a low-fat meal but it was definite yummy.

I have a total weakness for sweets.  I need a little something at the end of the day and since mom needs to watch her sweets (as should I!), I was looking for just a little something.  I found this recipe on Attic24 (the blog I mentioned the other day) for "Fruity Oat Squares".  These are yummy and incredibly easy to make!  I just used sultanas - I can't wait to try this recipe again with some apricots.

I love days like this, spent with family and doing little things that make home more comfortable for all of us.  

New Christmas Traditions

I have been thinking about how to make Christmas more meaningful for us as a family and this morning, I stumbled across this post in reader from Simple Mom.  I love the idea of the Jesse Tree.  We always get an advent calendar, although I find it is getting harder and harder to find a nice one that isn't Santa and the elves.  It has always bothered me that advent calendars didn't start on the first Sunday of advent, either (silly, I know, but we always CELEBRATED the first Sunday of advent in my family, it was the true kick-off to the Christmas season and it's always when we decorate the house).  I don't think I will have time to get ornaments for a Jesse tree this year but I did stumble across this pattern book for them and I just might have to try them for next year.  I haven't done any cross stitch in years but I like the idea of little projects that I might actually finish.  For more info, have a look here.  I am also the fellowship coordinator at church and am supposed to be planning a first Sunday of Advent decorating party/potluck.  I am trying to think of how we might do a Chrismons tree with simple ornaments that can be made the day of.  Let me know if you have any ideas!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gratitude 69

I am so sorry that I have disappeared.  Life has been busy and I have been so incredibly tired.  It wasn't this way but Pk but this time, I am in bed at 8 o'clock most nights.  I think I am starting to improve a little bit because I am finally back to reading a few of my favourite blogs.  One I like the most is Attic24 by Lucy.  She's a self-described stay-at-home-mum in the north of England who manages to find beauty in the simple things - her crocheting, baking a simple treat to have with a cup of tea in the afternoon or just talking photos of the view walking her children to school.  Her blog captures a serenity and an appreciation of the small elements of daily life that I savour and yearn for myself.  I am an anything-but-peaceful kind of soul, myself, but it is a trait I envy in other people.  I love being able to stop in for a glimpse of Lucy's world.  It's enough to make me want to bake a tray of squares and sit down with a cup of tea.  If only I could have caffeine and could stomach the baking :-).  Oh, well, soon enough.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I would like to ask you to pray for my friend, N.  At the school we work at, there are now 8 teachers who are pregnant right now (8 we know about and there is another who hasn't announced yet).  N and her husband have been trying for over a year and while they are in the process of treatment for something that is wrong and may be solveable, she is feeling a lot of pain about it all.  If she wasn't surrounded by pregnant people, it wouldn't be in her face all the time but it is.  I understand her pain and wish I could do something.  Please pray that they will get some answers and, if it is meant to be, that they will start on the journey to their own family soon.  It is so hard to watch a good, good friend suffer and not be able to do anything about it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

30 Day Giving Challenge

I have been terrible about checking the blogs I read lately (the fact that I am going to bed at 8 most nights tends to interfere with just about everything!).  I finally opened reader this morning and the first post I saw was this one from Amy at The Finer Things in Life.  I love this idea!  Especially as Christmas approaches, I start to worry about money and how I am going to manage Christmas this year (especially since I am going on mat leave in June and will be bringing in significantly less than half of my usual income).  This is such a great idea in terms of trying to make the world a better place and to reflect on what I have as opposed to what I lack.  I'm a few days late so I will have to try and catch up.  I am looking forward to making this fun.  Thanks to Allysa for this great idea!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Gratitude 68

I got to see and hear the heartbeat today.  It doesn't get any better than that!  Thank you, God!