Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

We just got back from an evening with friends celebrating "English/German New Year" (Dh is English and M and K, the couple we were visiting are German). That means, of course, for wimps like us who don't do "late" anymore (at least, not by choice), we celebrate earlier, when New Year has arrived in England. It was a fun evening but I hope to be soundly sleeping by the time 2010 arrives.

Like everyone, 2009 was a year with its ups and downs, although, I have to say, the downs were a bit lower than usual. I am looking forward to a fresh start, new adventures and a clean slate.

I wish everyone a wonderful celebration this evening and can't wait to hear of all of your blessings in 2010. Thanks to everyone for stopping by and supporting me in my first year here on the web.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Gratitude 76

I am feeling silly and sentimental this morning.  Yesterday, my bestest oldest friend and her husband and children came for a nice, long visit.  She is one of those friends who, no matter how long it is between visits or what is going on, makes me feel like I just saw her yesterday - there's never any of that awkwardness that there can be when I first get together with people (I am a bit shy and the first part of visits can be a bit uncomfortable for me).  We had a great time (and, as always, she spoilt us with clothing and other useful gifties).  
The part that makes me sentimental was watching our daughters play together.  Her daughter is older than mine and up until now, Pk was just too little for them to really play.  Yesterday, by the time we finished supper, they were good friends and there was a good hour of them playing in Pk's room and running up and down the hallway, laughing their fool heads off - Pk pushing her stuffies in her stroller and G pushing her doggies in Pk's dump truck.  Knowing how much this friend has meant in my life, I ADORE the idea that our daughters can be friends, too.  G is just that much older than Pk that she is a perfect candidate for a little bit of hero worship for Pk and I can't think of a better candidate.  She's confident, charming, outgoing, bright and kind.  I don't see any traces of the "mean girl" in her.
I hope this continues - her mother's friendship has been such a gift to me, I would love Pk to enjoy that same gift!

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Earlier on this week, I mentioned that I was starting to think about my resolutions for 2010.  Today, another good one came to my attention.

We have absolutely wonderful ministers at our church who come up with really meaningful elements in our services.  Today was our "T and T" service.  T and T is a programme we do at our church based on the parable of the talents.  Each person who chooses to participate takes $10 (supplied by the church) and is to use it to make a profit for the church using their talents.  In the past, I have participated pretty actively, usually making and selling hand made cards.  This year, I just didn't have time.  

The focus of this service is always sharing our talents and gifts.  We had some beautiful singing, people reading and reciting poetry and valuable discussion.  One part of the service that really appealed to me was the message.  As a launch, the minister asked the children what their favourite gifts had been at Christmas and how they knew who the gifts were for.  The message culminated in handing everyone a gift tag and a pen.  We were to address our gifts to Jesus and to record our names.  On the back, we were to record whatever gift we wanted to return to God this coming year.  It might be time or money but it might be something completely different.  After we had all written our tags, we took them up and hung the gift tags on the Christmas tree.  I really needed time to think about it.  I had a few ideas but then it came to me - what I truly need to give back to God this year is my undivided attention.  Yes, I do Bible study each morning but often, when life is chaotic and I am feeling rushed, Bible study just becomes another job to do rather than a critical time to focus myself and listen.  That is what I want to give back to God this year.  It's time for me to learn to be quiet and listen, to read and reflect and to turn my eyes to God.  It isn't always easy and it is going to require some real discipline on my part but I obviously believe that it is critically important.

It's something I am thinking would be great for us to do as a family next year.


To begin, let me say that all is well here in the pregnancy department, as far as I know.  I had a doctor's appointment a week and a half ago and the heartbeat was good and strong and easy to find (Hallelujah!) and the results from the 12+ week ultrasound were in and the NT scan results look good.  We won't totally relax until the 18+ week ultrasound and the IPS screen results come back but so far, so good.

I was pondering what I had to talk about this morning and what is really on my mind is infertility.  Back in the summer, when I was feeling so desperate, I started to read a few infertility blogs.  Last night, I spent some time reading some links from one of them and I haven't been able to stop thinking about the things I read since.

Until our issues this past year, infertility was something that we had brushed with in friends but we really hadn't thought about it a whole lot.  A good friend of Dh's since childhood has struggled with it with his wife for years.  We have always felt sorry for them - it has obviously caused them a horrible amount of pain and they don't have the finances to do anything about it.  Particularly in the case of the wife, I have noticed her withdrawing from many relationships and becoming bitter over the years and at this point, I think the infertility is the primary cause.  MIL, with her characteristic empathy (sorry, I am being nasty), would routinely complain about the wife being sensitive at baby showers, etc. and rant that they just needed to "learn to accept" that they couldn't have everything they want, just like everyone else.  I would hope that dh and I were always more sensitive than that but really, it wasn't especially on our radar because we weren't entirely sure that we wanted children until 3 years ago.

I have come to realise that infertility is everywhere.  We know of two couples at church who have had varied issues (one family, that is a real miracle, were childless for 17 years and then, when the wife was 41, got pregnant with their first child and they had a second when she was 43!).  I know of at least three women at work who have had issues - one who went IVF and conceived twins, only to lose one shortly delivery at 33 weeks.  When I have discussed it with friends, we all know someone who has or is struggling but really, the world is very insensitive to it.

Dh and I were lucky, I know that.  We conceived Pk the first month we tried.  The second time round, it felt to us like we were infertile but technically, we never did qualify because, despite dh's temporary issues (which were thankfully fully resolved with some lifestyle changes), we tried for less than a year.  I will tell you, though, that year was the hardest thing I have ever endured.  When it looked like we might have to go IVF, I can't tell you the amount of fear I felt.  On the one hand, there was the cost (at least $10 000), on the other, there was the fear of the procedure itself and the meds involved (could I really give myself injections in my stomach???).  The thing that people don't discuss, and this is something that really hit home to me reading blogs last night, is the risks involved with IVF.  With weak sperm and/or weak eggs, there are genetic things that can happen.  I read about one family who struggled to conceive for years and then finally did, only to discover that the baby had trisomy 18 and he died 4 days after birth.  There was another family who managed to conceive twin girls, only to have one die of SIDS days after birth.  I read about another family who had to take infant CPR before leaving the hospital and take home a stethoscope to check their infant daughter's heart multiple times a day.  There was the couple whose husband had such low sperm count and poor motility that they were told that he shouldn't reproduce because any male child they conceived through ICSI would almost certainly have reproductive issues himself.  Then, there were the couples who spent tens of thousands of dollars to have IVF not work, for no known reason. The stories went on and on.  What horrible choices couples have to make and what deep pain they face.

I don't really have anything profound to say, no answers or deep reflections.  All I will say is that those of us who have children need to realise what a blessing we have received and treasure it every moment.  We need to look with compassion on couples who don't have children.  We need to be sensitive how we share the news of a pregnancy (with this one, I decided on email, just to give people a chance to process their own reactions before they have to face me because I know that for some, this was hard news to hear).  We need to be supportive of the choices that other people make and NOT offer advice ("relax and it will happen on its own," "adopting is just like having your own child").  Personally, I think that reproductive care (IUI, IVF, etc) should be covered by either OHIP or insurance, since it is an unfair burden on families who need it.  I definitely think that we need to restructure the adoption system, especially for foreign adoptions - it sickens me to think that there are loving families who want to open their homes to children who have no one but they are prevented from doing so because they don't have the $50 000 to cover the cost of the adoption.

I am incredibly thankful for the gift that I have been given and I just pray that this pregnancy ends in a happy, healthy child, as well.  I hope that I can always respond with compassion to those that are struggling.  What a tough journey.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Memories

Like with everything, I always have my hopes up for what Christmas will be like and what the memories will be.  Things are rarely what I expect.

It was a nice Christmas this year.  Now that we are in our church home, we were able to start our Christmas celebration there on Christmas Eve.  The first service was so much fun - our minister did a spontaneous nativity play using congregation members as actors.  I hadn't expected to see my father wearing gauzy-yellow angel wings and my husband dressed as a wise man who looked like a Harlem reject from 1974 :-).  The second service was more somber and ended with candlelight.  For those of you who don't go to church, if you ever just want to drop in sometime, go on Christmas Eve.  It is always beautiful.

Christmas Day ended up being a bit frantic and frenzied, despite our plans otherwise.  The most wonderful part for me was that Pk loved the gift that I was most excited to give her and it cost exactly $5.95.  I bought her a set of window crayons, which she has used off and on since opening them yesterday morning.  That's the picture above - her art on our large front window.  It was wonderful to "get it right" and, silly sentimental fool that I am, I am looking forward to coming home and seeing her presence announced in the front window.  Anyway, we did the family thing, ate way too much, have the usual family yummy recipes that nobody else eats (my grandma was the queen of jellied salads and while they are "out" these days, it wouldn't be Christmas without ribbon salad and snow pudding with custard sauce).  We went to bed feeling overstuffed and lazy.

My big treat happened this morning.  As my Christmas gift, not only did Dh get me a gift certificate to my favourite yarn store, he gave me a gift certificate entitling me to being taken there at 9:30 this morning before they opened to wait for their big Boxing Day sale which begins at 10 to be followed by a Tim Horton's Ice Cap on the way home (o.k., I know, I am a cheap date).   Between my gift certificate and the 30% off my favourite yarn, Sirdar Baby Bamboo, I was able to get yarn for THREE sweaters for Pk and $136 worth of yarn cost me $44.  I can't wait to start knitting.  I just have to decide which one to make first! 

Now, to eat up the leftovers, repair the damage to the house and get ready for all of our visiting over the next week.  I hope you had a nice Christmas!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Wishing everyone a peace-filled, loving and meaningful Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A New Favourite

Kittenpie, knowing how much I love L.M. Montgomery's work, sent me a copy of her last book, which has just been published for the first time in its entirety.  This was such a thoughtful gift.

L.M. Montgomery has always felt to me like a part of my family.  I don't remember when I first "met" her - as a somewhat feisty "carrot-top" growing up, there were comparisons made to Anne but I don't remember when I first read her books.  She was always part of the family lore as my grandfather roomed with her younger son at Queen's.  I knew of her books before the t.v. series came out because I couldn't ever enjoy it - Anne was too real to me and no matter how wonderful the casting or the acting, these people just weren't "right".  I do remember being engrossed in, first the Anne books and then, individual titles.  My absolute favourites were "The Blue Castle" and "The Tangled Web."  

I know that L.M. Montgomery's work has been criticized by many as being trite, overly romantic, lacking of substance, etc.  Yes, they do have happy endings (which, quite frankly, seems to immediately relegate a book to being "shallow" in supposedly intellectual circles these days).  Yes, they aren't filled with angst and cruelty and yes, the characters can be somewhat shallowly portrayed at times.  Personally, though, I think that those who feel this way are missing something.

To truly appreciate Montgomery's gift for telling a story and for painting portraits, you need to understand her world.  While I didn't live in her time, I am the daughter, grand-daughter and great-granddaughter of Presbyterian minister's wives.  The women who raised me came from her world and knew the oppressive forces at work.  Yes, people can be wonderful but often, there is something about the church, especially in small towns, that brings out the petty, the mean and the shallow.  L.M. Montgomery's world was tight and closed, she had little control and given her husband's issues with depression, she must always have been living on the edge, knowing that everything could be lost.  Here she was, brilliant and with a gift for seeing beauty, trapped in a world that asked her to be small and plain.  Her novels gave us insight into what the world could be like, even in the context of such smallness.  I love the fact that she painted portraits of people, particularly in the context of tight families and while she showed them with all of their faults, I don't think she was ever cruel in her portrayals.

I LOVED this last book.  In some ways, it was more bittersweet than many of her other books.  The shadow of the war and the loss of Gilbert and Anne's son Walter looms over the Blythe family but there is still hope and love.  I love the fact that we rarely get direct insights into Anne and Gilbert and their family.  They are merely mentioned by others in conversation or appear very briefly (e.g., in the context as guests at a wedding).  It was wonderful to revisit these wonderful characters and the world in which they lived.  It has made me want to go back and reread all of her books - there is nothing like going back to visit old friends.

Thank you so much, Kittenpie, for reminding me of an author I loved so much.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It's Official

I am a complete nutcase.  I just spent the last half hour attaching handmade gift tags to Christmas pencils for the kids at Pk's daycare.  Why, oh why, would I spend my time that way?  As if they will really notice...   There is a mom there who will almost certainly have a hand-crafted beautiful something for each child and she makes me feel guilty for not doing more.  Last year, she had a hand-shaped and personally iced rice krispie star for each child (names and all) done up in pretty bags with handmade gift tags.  I will never be able to live up to that :-).


I keep doing that - sorry.  Not that I have a huge audience or anything :-).  I don't know why I haven't been around - I think that I just got caught up in the frenzy of the season and finishing work.  Being home with a sick child for the last few days has helped to focus things a bit.

One of the down sides of not being online much is that I had over 200 blog posts to go through.  There is a side of me that gets tempted to just mark all as read and start from scratch but then, I might miss something wonderful.  I have spent the last two days gradually getting caught up with everyone (and deleting blogs from my Reader - I just can't manage to keep up and when time is limited, I want to be sure that what I am reading is really focused to what I want right now).  It's interesting to see what blogs I like and what they say about me...

There are three major types of blogs I read - 1.  blogs written by friends (online and real-life), 2.  faith-based blogs and 3.  home/cooking/crafting/domesticity blogs.  It's the third group that has me laughing today.  I have a theory as to why I am so "into" these blogs these days... I think it comes from the fact that I don't have a clue how to relax and these leisurely, savour-the-small-things blogs seem so amazing to me because they are so far removed from who I am.  Frankly, it isn't even something that I understand.  One of my favourite blogs, Attic24, is frequently about spending the day at home after dropping the kids at school, enjoying a cup of tea and some yummy home-baked thing and doing some crochet.  I think I would probably explode if I spent very many days like that.  It makes them all the more wonderful the read about.  

So, as we enter into the realm of resolutions (o.k., so I am a tiny bit ahead of myself), it has me thinking that this year, I need to shift the focus a bit.  I don't tend to do a whole lot in the way of resolutions (well, that's a lie, I make them, I just don't keep them more than three or four days).  This year, I want to learn about how to relax.  I want to try and find a few minutes every day to putter - maybe do a bit of knitting, maybe read a bit, maybe try out a new recipe, maybe fiddle in the garden a bit (one the baby comes, I don't think gardening is so safe until then).   I am going to think about savouring the small things, finding a bit of quiet, enjoying something that is peaceful rather than busy.  I need to learn how to do this or I will go crazy off on mat leave when June arrives (not that I harbour any illusions that parenting two under three will be easy in any sense).  When I was on mat leave with Pk, I had a hectic schedule of classes and programmes and on days when I was stuck at home, that's exactly how I felt - stuck.  I don't want to repeat that again and now is the time to learn.

Are you making any resolutions for 2010?  What are your plans?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Happy Hanukkah

One of the pleasures of growing up in a very multicultural city and from teaching is getting to celebrate along with those around you.  The Jewish holidays are especially easy to incorporate into our family since Judaism and Christianity share so many common stories.  Call me crazy but for me, it isn't the Christmas season without latkes, dreidles and the menorah.  

Yesterday, in my class, we made potato latkes.  They aren't exactly a diet food but they certainly are yummy.  I have a great cookbook for children called "Cook and Learn" by Beverly Veitch (Author), Thelma Harms.
It is full of single portion recipes that allows children to make their own serving of something.  Since we are doing measurement in math right now, it fits in perfectly and the children get so excited about eating something that they have made themselves.  I've included the recipe below in case you have some children who might want to try.

Single Serving Potato Latkes

large potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
white flour
beaten egg
chopped green onion
salt and pepper
sour cream or applesauce for serving
oil for frying

1.  Soak the potatoes in water.  Blot dry on paper towel and grate into a bowl
2.  Add 1 tsp flour.
3.  Add 1 tsp beaten egg.
4.  Add 1/2 tsp chopped green onion.
5.  Add salt and pepper.
6.  Fry in oil in a frying pan until golden and crispy on each side (roughly 3 - 5 minutes).  
7.  Serve with sour cream or applesauce.

Warning - your house will stink!

I had planned on making these for our dinner tonight but I have run out of steam.  We will have to make them tomorrow night - it would be Christmas without them!

On Being Ordinary

I have had so many blog posts floating around in my head this week.  Sadly, they pop into my head at the least opportune moments and I just don't have time to get to the computer.  Well, I am here now, so here goes...

I read blog posts on reader and I have a rather long list of blogs that I am watching these days.  I haven't had much reading time lately so the list has gotten rather long.  I skim them quickly and then move on.  Yesterday, I got a chance to do a bit of reading as I have a student teacher who is teaching the entire day until the end of next week.   While it's a great chance to get organized, I decided it also gave me a chance for a little bit of blog reading.

In the huge group of blog entries I had to read yesterday, there was one blog post that really, really stood out to me.  I want to link it here but first I want to ask permission of its author.  It was, essentially, a post in praise of the "ordinary".   The poster comes from a family of people who she perceives to be "extraordinary" and she has felt like the odd one out in the past.  Thankfully, she has come to understand that there is true beauty in the ordinary and she is content to be happy with her life as it is.

This ended up being one of those posts that I would like to print off and put into some kind of journal for myself.  After I had read it, it just kept coming back to me and I couldn't stop reflecting on it.  I think that there is such an important message there, at least for me.  

I can identify with being ordinary.  In a funny way, ordinary is something that I crave.  I love my family tremendously but they are not people you could say are conventional or ordinary.  They have deep passions and have accomplished some very impressive things in their fields.  They are kind and loving.  Growing up, though, I just desperately wanted them to be "normal".  I grew up with a profound sense of not belonging, largely because we were so unusual in the way that my parents chose to live our lives.  I still struggle a bit with shame when I have to explain my parents' choices to people.  Silly, I know, since my mind understands that I was not and am not responsible for my parents' choices and that they shouldn't reflect on me but still, those feelings from childhood and adolescence can be really hard to shake.

On the other hand, I also feel the need to apologize for being so conventional.  I am boring.  There's nothing exciting or dramatic in my life choices.  I like home and family and traditions and comfort.  I don't want to be overly challenged or stretched and I love my little life.  I work with some people who really do exciting, impressive things and I do feel like the little sparrow next to the gorgeous peacocks (an analogy used by my friend in her post).  Motherhood has brought that feel out even more - being surrounded by all of these very ambitious people who are doing great things and I am at a stage of life when just thinking about getting through the work day and getting home to Pk and dh is enough for me.  There isn't time for high flying and drama, my life is full of the mundane and ordinary, endless numbers of meals to cook, stories to read, baths to give, dogs to walk...

And yet, there is something so wonderful to be treasured in all of that.  The poster was right.   It's fun to look at the peacock but we do and then move on.  And yet, who hasn't sat and watched intently at a bird feeder, watching the chickadees or the sparrows, the starlings and the blue jays.  They aren't exciting on first glance but that are truly fascinating to study and they each have a beauty of their own.  To me, my life is like that, too.  There are those beautiful moments buried in the midst of all that ordinary, moments that would be easy to miss but that are really, at least for me, the moments that make life worth living.   Those are the true treasures - my daughter's joy in discovering something new, a half hour of colouring together, seeing the leaves on a tree or the beauty of the snow when walking the dogs, a good conversation with a friend when you need it, a cup of something warm and yummy in the midst of a busy day...

Especially at this time of year so filled with sparkle and noise, what a good time to be reminded to treasure the quiet and to watch for the beauty in the small moments.  Thanks to the poster for helping me to get myself back on track.  I need to get out and buy some birdseed...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Life Updates

I am so sorry for the long absence.  I have to admit, I was pretty shocked when I looked at the date of my last post.  Life has been really busy and the only little bit of time I have had has been at work and unfortunately, blogging sites are considered to be "social networking" and are blocked.  Ugh.

Anyway, life has been crazy busy.  To begin, I am still pregnant and exhausted.   While the nausea does seem to be getting a tiny bit better, it has changed in an odd way - while I am not feeling like I am going to get sick all the time, I DO get sick suddenly and that hadn't happened much until a couple of weeks ago.  Here's hoping THAT goes quickly.  I am also incredibly tired all the time and when I put Pk to be, I go, too.  That eats up a lot of my computer time.

One fun thing that has been keeping me busy was that I took a knitting class.  It was just two sessions but both were a Tuesday evening.  I can't remember the last time that I did something on my own in the evening that wasn't work related (well, o.k., you are right, I went to that Partylite party a couple of weeks ago...).  Anyway, it was great.  I do fairly complicated stuff when I knit but I have never tried fair isle, at least, I should say, not successfully.  As you can see from the pic below, not perfect but not bad for a first attempt.  I also have really fallen in love with the little yarn shop that offers the classes - I think I will have to take another.

 Last week was report cards and parent interviews. Frankly, it is not my favourite time as a teacher.  Much as we try to be as accurate as we can in representing the students, you never know which parents are going to be unhappy.  This year wasn't bad but I did have one mother whose daughter got all A's but one A- get in my face about making her work harder.  There are times when I just want to scream, "It's only Grade 2 you know!"  I bit my tongue and thankfully, our wonderful school caretaker felt sorry for me and came in and ordered the parents out at 8 p.m. when I had stragglers who didn't seem to want to leave.

I also had a great chat with one of our ministers this week.  The way things have gone with Dh's family has really weighed heavily on me lately.  Someone lent me a book on Borderline personality disorder and I know understand my s.i.l's behaviour and why it has impacted us the way that it has.  Without saying too much, last year, I finally told her that I couldn't have contact with her anymore unless she demonstrated a willingness to treat us with respect and to model politeness in front of Pk.  This was after years (17, to be exact) of her being volatile, at times nasty and generally very, very critical.  I am a wimp, really, and will do almost anything to avoid conflict.  It wasn't until I could see that it was destroying dh and it was starting to show signs of flickering into Pk's direction that I finally took a stand.  It hasn't been easy and dh's parents are not understanding that we need to set some boundaries with his sister.  It has been awful.  The worst part for me has been the guilt.  Even though I know that we have tried and tried and tried, I still have moments when I feel like I am being unforgiving and uncompassionate towards her.  It really weighs heavily on me.  Friends and my family have all told me that I had done the right thing but I go to church and hear about turning the other cheek and I get sucked into guilt.  I finally decided to sit down with A, to get another perspective.  What a relief.  As I shared our story, she just kept nodding and muttering, "Manipulation again."  We had a long talk about the fact that there is a difference between forgiveness and being a doormat and that there is nothing unChristian about saying that while I want to have a relationship and am open to one, it will only happen if she is willing to change how she treats us.  I know it sounds silly and that really, another person can't grant me permission or absolution but I have to say, it really made me feel better.

Other than that, our big news is baby.  As I said earlier, I have been feeling very yucky and lots of women have told me that's a boy thing.  I tend to take these things with a grain of salt.  We had our 12 week ultrasound this morning and it would seem that at this point, anyway, it looks like a boy.  We are very excited.  Frankly, we would be excited either way - a boy lets us enjoy life on both sides of parenting and having another girl would make things financially a lot easier (we have lots of great clothing for a girl!).  It was just such a relief to see that heart beating strongly and that little body moving around.  I am a bit of a worrier (as if you didn't already know that!) and this stage of pregnancy, while a blessing, is a pretty scary time.  I will be relieved to make it to the 20 week mark.

So, there you are.  Life is busy and I am hanging in to get to the holidays.  Maybe with the report cards, I will be able to write more often.  Hope all is well for everyone else!