Friday, April 30, 2010


Again, I am probably going to lose my few readers based on this but I can't believe it and would be surprised if many of my pro-life friends would be able to live with this...

I stumbled across this purely by accident today and I am still in shock. In the state of Oklahoma, there is a House Bill that would protect doctors from being sued if they were to lie to a pregnant mother about the health status of her baby. For more information visit this link and this link. My understanding is that this legislation would protect doctors who choose not to disclose potential birth defects or even to lie about the baby's status if the doctor suspects that the mother might choose to seek an abortion based on the findings of the results.

Regardless of whether you are pro-choice or pro-life, surely it is obvious how appalling this potential legislation is. I am in so much shock, I don't know what to say. While I can totally see that abortion is a very controversial subject and that a doctor might choose not to want to have a role in doing or even arranging them, for a doctor to actually lie about test results seems to me to go against everything that the medical system is supposed to stand for. My family doctor had us sign a contract when we joined her practice in which we acknowledged that we were aware that she would not play any role in performing or arranging for the performance of an abortion and we were totally fine with that, in fact, we respected her for taking such a stand and giving her patients the chance to seek a different physician if they were concerned that at some point down the road, this might cause complications. That being said, I can't imagine for a second that she would ever condone lying to us about test results - I am sure that in the case of a problem, she would help us to get further help and to make choices for the best of the future of the baby (and for myself, as well).

I don't know what the outcome of this will actually be but I have a hard time believe that this will end here. Wow.

****As follow up, you might want to read the comments after the original post by Megan at Sortacrunchy - there are a number of women who did receive bad news and for different reasons chose to continue with the pregnancy. These women clearly illustrate why this legislation is so wrong even if you are pro-life.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Our "Max and Ruby" Cake

Pk is a huge fan of Rosemary Wells' Max and Ruby books and one of her all-time favourites is Bunny Cake. In the story, it's Grandma's birthday and Max and Ruby each try to make her a cake - Max makes an earthworm cake with red-hot-marshmallow squirters and Ruby makes an "angel surprise cake with raspberry fluff icing". Every single time we read this book (which is almost daily), Pk comments that Max's cake looks "yucky" and Ruby's cake looks "very yummy for Pk". I have had it in the back of my mind for a while that I wanted to make this cake for Pk, I was just looking for the right opportunity.

With our second child coming fairly soon, I am feeling like I want to do some really special things with Pk right now to make the most of our last bit of time as just us. It came to me with week - our wonderful, special, loving dog Chelsea was going to be celebrating her 9th birthday today and it would be the perfect chance to make the cake.

Pk is over the moon. The final results were o.k. - I think I did a fairly good job of coming up with a copy of Ruby's cake (even with the yellow roses!) but I am awfully glad that we weren't serving this cake to company - I knew the dog wouldn't complain! I used a cake mix (yes, after I said yesterday that we avoid refined and processed sugars and grains!) that ended up being very crumbly and while icing the top turned out o.k., the sides just crumbled and looked ridiculous. As my brother said, though, Ruby's cake in the book is lopsided, so it wouldn't have been right for the cake to be too perfect.

Needless to say, Pk LOVED it, the dog stole some (!) and now we have a new memory. I found a recipe online for Max's earthworm cake, too - we will have to try that in the future too!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


I love to cook and a favourite thing for me is to try new recipes. One thing I love about blogging is that I have found so many amazing new food treats. I have wondered what the etiquette of posting other people's recipes is (of course, I would credit them) but even then, I am a tiny bit wary about doing that so I have decided that the best thing to do is to post some links to some great recipes I have tried lately every so often. Just a heads up - we try to use only whole grains, as few processed ingredients as possible, organic when we can afford it and as often as possible, only less refined sweeteners (maple syrup, honey, sucanat).
These are our favourite pancakes - don't ask me why the photo is sideways but it does show you, these are terrific.

Here are a few of my favourites of late:

Laura at Heavenly Homemakers has a great selection of recipes. I haven't gone wrong with anything there. Her recipes tend to have reasonably few ingredients but I am often surprised at just how lovely the flavour is. I wanted a good Whole Wheat Pancake that didn't taste too far off what I picture as a pancake. We follow her recipe and I usually add a cup of frozen raspberries. If you let the batter sit for half an hour before you add the raspberries, they tend to fluff up and taste amazing. I also have found that her Garlic Chicken Pasta is fantastic for using up leftover chicken when I have done a roast chicken. We like garlic so I tend to be fairly generous.

I tried this Baked Lemon Pasta from The Pioneer Woman. It was fantastic! I added too much garlic (I managed to print off the recipe without some of the amounts and I guessed how much to put in and it was too much). It was terrific, though - you just didn't want to be too close to us after we ate it.

This Maple Glazed Chicken from Cooking During Stolen Moments was something that we tried tonight. It was really good, too. I cooked it too long but even a bit dry, it was yummy. Surprise, surprise, it was full of garlic.

Finally, these are our favourite muffins - Flax Muffins from Mothering Magazine. We make these once a week and I love them. I don't like muffins that are too moist or too sweet and these are nice and somewhat biscuit-y - perfect warm with a bit of butter and don't contain any sugar or white flour :-).

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tuesdays Unwrapped

tuesdays unwrapped at cats

Thinking about gifts, this week, the gift that has been most on my mind is the gift of old friends. Of course, new friends are wonderful and indispensable but on the other hand, there is something so comfortable and gentle and precious about an old friend. I have three friends who have been there for more of my life than they haven't - two dear friends from high school and one that I met just before university. Our lives are all busy, we are all dealing with young children and careers and the stresses of life and we may not talk for even months at a time. On the other hand, when we do see each other, life is just so RIGHT. The continuity is so special to me and now that our children are forming friendships, I can't tell you what it means (and what a silly lump I get in my throat from it). Pk has a huge crush on Kittenpie's daughter (whenever I ask her about someone coming over, she immediately asks about Pumpkinpie) and on Sunday, my other dearest friend with her two boys (and husband, of course, who is also wonderful) came for the day. Pk and the younger, who has just turned 2, played themselves crazy and we got to just hang around - the time passed so quickly and we were all sad when they had to leave. My other dear friend from high school was down for a visit last weekend. I can't tell you how much these friendships mean to me. I only hope that we will still be chatting and sharing life's joys and struggles 40 years from now.

Keeping My Word...

So, yesterday I was driving home and got to hear all about the ridiculous event, "Boobquake" (for more information, this link is safe to read about it without getting an eyeful). I had a rant running in my mind - I was going to say that the best way to ignore stupid comments by obscure Muslim clerics is to ignore them, instead of getting them media attention, I was going to say that as a woman who feels very strongly about the rights of women to breastfeed in public without censure, it drives me crazy when women equate hanging out of this shirts for attention as being a feminist issue, I was going to rant about the fact that I would much rather it be legislated that all people should have to wear shirts (male breasts, especially on hairy chests, are a sight from which I would rather be spared) and I was going to rant about the fact that knowing that public nudity (or near nudity) makes many people uncomfortable for many different reasons, I see it just as a matter of respect for others that adequate covering in public places other than those in which one would expect less clothing (a nightclub, on a beach, a pride parade, in the privacy of one's own home...) is just common decency. The post was writing itself in my head and then I realised, I promised I was going to lighten things up again. So, I needed to come up with something else to say today.

Since I am getting into that stage of becoming just slightly frantic about the imminent arrival, I thought I might post about a few favourite baby items that I have come across. Everyone has the things with which they can't do without and I will post about a few of mine. Hope you like them.
A gift that I was given before we had Pk that we used each and every day was a towel called a Baby Wrapper. What is so special about a towel, you might ask? This one has ties around the neck and you tie it on and then, when you are nervously picking up a squirming, wriggling baby, you just hold the baby to your chest and flip up the bottom of the towel and you are both warm and cosy and you don't feel like you are going to drop the baby. I am not kidding, we have used this every day (we still use it because Pk calls it her "tuggle cuddle" which translates as a very early version of "towel cuddle" that we all still fondly use). The towel is huge, of good quality and from a Canadian company (but don't worry, they ship to the U.S. and in U.S funds). It's not a cheap item but given the use ours has gotten, it is worth every cent. I just found out that my cousin had a baby today (hooray - although, as an aside, the baby was 8 lbs, 15 oz, her sister's baby last year was almost the same size and Pk was 9 lbs, 1 oz - a distant relative made the comment via computer that we girls in the "G" family tend to grow big babies - not what I want to hear right now). This will for sure be the gift for the new arrival (and his parents).

If you are looking for a really useful baby gift that parents may not have, this is a great choice. If you go to their website, they offer shipping with giftcards and wrap. It's a great choice. To quote a famous someone, "It's a good thing."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Blown Away...

I am in the midst of a real pity party today. I think I am just overtired and overwhelmed and feeling like I am not sure how to cope... got our tax stuff back from our accountant and I owe (again), I am feeling a bit scared about the baby coming early and we have had a war with a raccoon in the ceiling above our heads that has kept us up at night for the last couple of weeks. Pk has been a pill (what is it about her that she KNOWS when I am finding things hard that makes her dig in and argue with EVERYTHING????) and it's just a bit too much...

But this is NOT a sad post, this is a very happy one. I am always blown away at how God and the wonderful people in my life manage to bless me when I need it most, especially when I have been too proud to ask for help. Yesterday, I got home and checked the mailbox and there was a package for Pk from Kittenpie. She had sent her the most wonderful mobile. It's gorgeous, it is butterflies, which matches Pk's room theme and Pk's current interest. The colours are lovely and it is wooden so it fits with my crunchier tendencies. I emailed her to say thanks and got the nicest note back... sometimes I just feel really disconnected (I don't know if you know what I mean but when life gets really, really busy, I start to feel like I have lost the special people around me, I'm too busy running to take the time I need to to be present in the friendship, if that makes sense). Chatting, even online, really helped. This morning, after music class, one of the other moms, who has become a friend, out of the blue told me that I needed to know that if the baby came early or I had to go to the hospital for anything, that we needed to know that she and her husband would be happy to take Pk for us on a moment's notice, day or night. I could have cried right there. That was a big worry of mine - we don't have family up here and while there are people that I am sure would help if we asked, I feel funny about asking for help. Mom is coming at the end of May and staying until the birth but one of my biggest fears what how we would handle things if the baby came early. Finally, the doorbell just rang and it was our wonderful neighbour. She had a small, white paper bag in her hand. She said, "Well, I have a idea." Her idea was to give us a flip video camera. She and her husband had both been given one at work and since they didn't need two and knew that Pk was at a cute stage (from a distance was my reply to that!) and the baby is coming, they thought we would be the perfect recipients of the camera.

My day has gone from one of feeling really blue and alone to feeling unbelievably lucky. God is good. Now, it's time to find a way to pay it forward - what a reminder to me of what a blessing I can be to other people, too.

School at Home

I am not a homeschooler, nor will I be. Pk goes to a wonderful home daycare and I truly believe that it is a good place for her. While I know that there are some great institutional daycare settings out there (I know that Kittenpie's daughter goes to an exceptional one), in my experience, that is not the norm. We wanted Pk to be somewhere with a focus on social relationships and nurturing and we truly believe that it what we have gotten.

On the flip side, our minor concern was whether she might not get quite the same academic preparation for school. I will say, it is a minor concern - we are both elementary teachers and early years specialists so we are fairly confident that we could pick up the slack. She goes to two wonderful music classes with a language component, we are devotees of the local library and Pk is getting lots of great life experiences. I am not a parent who has my child on the fast track to MENSA (sorry, seen too many "gifted" kids out there - as my husband has repeatedly said, he would rather his daughter be "stupid but happy" - yes, that's my politically correct man!). I'd like her to be bright enough that school isn't a struggle but I don't need more than that and I certainly don't define her value by her i.q. or her reading score.

Anyway, I read about the book below on someone's blog at some point and decided to give it a try. I LOVE this book. Pk and I have found so many great activities and the author has come up with some really fun, age-appropriate, novel ways to explore important concepts. There is a good balance of fine motor and gross motor activities and not a worksheet in sight. If you are ever at my house, you must ask Pk about "the bag game" and see her reaction!

I just thought I would share an activity that we started on Thursday that has become the new favourite. The idea is to teach several concepts - left to right, the downward sweep back to the left when reading, colour concepts (green=go, red = stop) and counting. Pk adores this. You get an egg carton (ours our plastic which makes it a bit harder to see) and label the left side with green and the right side with red (again, since ours is plastic, instead of marker, I used some old scrapbooking brads). The idea is to get your child to put one item in the top left (we used raisins since Pk adores them right now and they are easy to manage) and to put one in each of the cups, going from left to right. When you hit the red end, you point out that red is for stop and go back to green for go on the next row down, continuing until each cup is filled. Pk's favourite part is to go back and then eat each raisin in the same order. Thursday, we did one is each cup, yesterday, we counted two in each cup. I love this activity and so does she!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Wonderful Honour

Of late, I feel like I have been fairly heavy around here. I suspect it's probably hormones but I have been feeling pretty broody and things that would normally bother me a few minutes become what borders on obsessions. It's time to share some of the happier moments - there are lots of them and I don't want to miss a thing.

Earlier this week, I got a wonderful email from Hallee from Hallee the Homemaker who had stopped by via the UBP (wow, I MUST do that again next year, this has been so much fun and I have already met some wonderful moms). She had nominated me for an award. Here are her criteria: What a compliment and a nice surprise.
"These blogs are visually pleasing, carefully assembled, and easy to navigate. They aren’t cluttered, they don’t immediately start playing annoying music the minute the page loads, and they are soft on the eyes. They are LOVELY blogs which a wonderful reflections of the folks who keep them lovely for us readers."

I have never participated in a blog award before. What a nice way to start off on a more positive note. I am going to introduce you to a few blogs that I discovered during the UBP that you might like:

Food For My Family. (I have an addiction to food blogs with pretty pics!)

This is a pretty eclectic group of blogs but my reading interests tend to be all over the map, too. Thanks to these writers for sharing and giving me some reading pleasure and something to think about!


We went to buy Pk a bike helmet last night. Learning that your 2 1/2 year old wears a 5 year old helmet because of her big head is NOT the news that an expectant mother wants within 8 weeks of delivering a second baby :-). That does not bode well for delivery.
Have a great day!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sex Ed

You have probably gathered that I am a teacher. I teach grade 2 in Ontario. Every so often, we get a new curriculum document and everyone goes crazy and people complain and then, we settle in to a new way of doing things, get comfortable and then a new government gets elected and we go through the process again. To be honest, I don't usually worry about it much, it always works itself out in the end.

Things are a bit different this week. The media, at least here in Ontario, is in a froth about the fact that we have a new health curriculum and one key aspect of the health curriculum is sex ed. I hadn't heard that there was anything new but CBC (for my American readers, think of NPR but that doesn't take itself quite so seriously and has more of a sense of humour) was doing a lot of discussion about it over the last few days, which keyed me in.

Before I get going with my opinion here, which will probably lose me the few blog readers I have, I have to say that most of my reactions are related to what I heard discussed on the radio as opposed to what I saw when I read the actual document. I have since gone to look at it myself and while I didn't read it carefully from end to end, in my skimming, I didn't find it anywhere near as objectionable as I expected to (and, as usual, the media is misrepresenting and/or giving the most extreme possible interpretations). If you want to see it for yourself, go to this link and you want to look at the C - Healthy Living section. There are two major sexual health expectations for each grade.

This morning, I heard an interview with a public health nurse and by the end of the interview, I was very uncomfortable and spent a lot of time brooding on it all day. There were several points in the interview that really were upsetting to me.

Let me preface this by saying that I find some issues really difficult to sort out my feelings on. I am a person who is very uncomfortable with anything that would be disrespectful to those around me and I try very hard to be as accepting of others as I can be without completely abandoning what I believe. I am a Christian and I honestly believe that Biblical teaching is the foundation for what I believe about moral choices. On the other hand, I struggle with how to be compassionate and non-judgemental of people who make choices that are different from my area of comfort. I am not a fanatical conservative who believes that everyone has to live exactly the same way but I do believe, deep down, that God wants human beings to be happy and when we do it our own way, often, that does not lead to happiness. I am a firm believer in monogamy and aside from faith aspects, from a physical and emotional health standpoint, frequent and brief sexual encounters has proven itself to not be a healthy way to live. I also have to say, as a teacher who has been in the field for 12 years, I am more convinced than ever that children need to grow up in stability and that divorce, promiscuity and transient family systems are not what is best for children. Before you shoot me, I am NOT saying that all children growing up in two parent households are in a better situation than everyone else or that a parent should stay in a highly toxic environment in the name of being a two parent family but ideally, a secure family led by two adults who can share the load is the environment in which I have seen kids thrive the most and, when the adults are legally linked, there is a comfort in knowing that just walking out the door is not something that will happen easily. On the flip side, children suffer most in situations of instability, when a parent is struggling or, even worse, when things change so often that the child cannot even establish what the family unit is.

Anyway, I am really rambling here so let me get to my point. The public health nurse was essentially putting forth the argument that, since children are going to hear about these things anyway, that we should just go ahead and teach EVERYTHING and at ages that are much younger than many parents would feel comfortable with. We are not just talking about basics, this curriculum gets into things like anal and oral sex, same sex practices and alternative relationship configurations, some of which are introduced as early as age 12. She dismissed any concerns that parents might have and repeatedly put forth that teachers would learn to use more "neutral language" such as refraining from using words like "husband and wife" since those would imply that parents should be married (which, ideally, is absolutely what I believe).

I found myself really, really, really upset by her tone. We can delude ourselves as much as we want but sex is not something that can be taught in total isolation from morality. We may not share the same ideas but sex is highly powerful and probably one of the most personal of belief-systems aside from (or connected to!) religion. You cannot teach the physical specifics without discussing the moral, emotional and health ramifications of sexual decisions - in doing so, you are essentially taking a stand that says that you can do whatever you want and that is O.K. As a parent, I am extremely uncomfortable with this approach. Every sexual act or sexual choice has a potentially long-term impact, not only on oneself but also on others (and in my opinion, it is only selfishness and a desire to avoid responsibility that leads someone to argue to the contrary). People can argue that it doesn't mean anything but that is just deluding oneself. How many people go around with long-term emotional problems because of a negative sexual encounter, a regret or, even worse, a disease because of one instance of poor judgement? And, given that the research clearly shows that adolescents, especially young ones, are not particularly capable of sound judgement due to hormonal and physiological changes, is just throwing this information at them without a paradigm for really processing it, doing them any favours? Yet again, I feel as if, as a society, we are just washing our hands of our children. We say, well, since they are going to encounter all of this stuff anyway or could find it out on the internet, we should just teach it to them and let them have at it. To me, that borders on child abuse. What a total abdication of our responsibility as parents.

One of the arguments was, "Well, they see these things in the media, so..." Again, I see that as total abdication of responsibility. No, I can't control everything that my child sees but there are many, many tools out there that enable parents to make wise choices in the media that children consume. My child will not be running around totally unsupervised and we as parents need to take the initiative to make wise choices about what our children watch. It's the same in terms of peer relationships. Can I control everything, of course not. I can, however, ensure that my daughter is in social situations that are sufficiently supervised and that the adults in charge are living up to their responsibilities. As she gets older, of course she will spread her wings and I won't be able to control that but I would hope, that by that time, she will have absorbed the important lessons on how to respect herself and live in keeping with her values so that she makes wise choices and knows what it feels like to make secure decisions.

I also have to say, as a Christian, I do get to the point that the idea of "tolerance" begins to get on my nerves. I don't think that our society is especially tolerant at all. We are "tolerant" of secularism and of people going with the status quo but we have become quite intolerant of people whose ideas don't match with the current thinking in terms of "equity" or of people whose opinions might make us feel judged (it's much easier to just accuse someone of being closed-minded or conservative than to objectively ponder whether there might be some truth in their beliefs, even if they are uncomfortable). I assure you, the students and parents in my work environment would all tell you that I go out of my way to affirm my students and not to convey judgement of their choices and I will fight for the rights of others to be respected but I do reserve the right to raise my daughter in the belief systems of our family.

I don't know what our approach will be to this in the long run. We have the choice to opt Pk out of sex ed and, depending on how it is presented, I might end up going that route, if I feel that what she is being taught goes against our morals. I don't mind someone teaching her the anatomical names of the body parts or what changes happen in puberty (frankly, having someone else deal with some of that stuff would be nice), I don't feel comfortable with her being exposed to sexual practices without a clear discussion of the possible impact of that on her long term mental and physical health. This part of parenting scares me silly.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday, Unwrapped!

tuesdays unwrapped at cats

I happened to see this on two blogs I read regularly today and I liked the idea. It's nice to think about those special moments and a Tuesday is often NOT the day I feel so grateful.

Today, I am thinking about those special moments with Pk. Dh picks her up from daycare when I walk the dogs and there is nothing more special than coming in the door and hearing the joyous, "Mummy!" It makes my heart sing.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Mall - Rated R?

I have a rant that needs to be ranted and I am sorry that you are about to be subjected to it. I am about to sound like someone's grandmother but I can't help it.

On Friday night, we went as a family to the local mall. Dh wanted to check out the soccer shop for the new England jersey for the World Cup. We decided to have a junk food meal and I wanted to see if I could find any decent hair stuff for Pk. We don't go to the mall that often these days so we wanted to try and fit everything in.

Just outside Gymboree, which is on the second floor, there is one of those places that the floor is cut out and there is a glass railing so that you can see down to the level below (I am sure there is a fancy term for that but it escapes me right now). Pk loves to run to the glass and look down, which she did. I followed her and was disgusted at the view. Directly below us, was the huge storefront for La Senza (I don't know whether this is an international chain or just Canadian, so, for those of you who don't know, it's a bit of a Victoria's Secret knock-off, just with much less choice and, frankly, a somewhat tackier atmosphere). There were HUGE poster in the windows and the posters featured what looked like what I would expect outside a strip club. There were women in totally unnatural positions wearing fuschia stay-ups, tiny underwear and bras. I was really shocked and, frankly, disgusted that this was the image my daughter was absorbing.

Yes, I am becoming more conservative in my old age, I will admit but really, I start to wonder if there are ANY standards anymore. Yes, part of my issue is that I do believe in a thing called modesty (which I realize makes what I have to say totally irrelevant in some peoples' eyes). On the other hand, my objections go much further than a belief in not parading around like a prostitute. We all know the huge self-esteem issues being faced by women in our culture. A steady diet of fashion magazines in our teens and uber-perfect people on the big (and small) screen has done a number on our perceptions of what a woman needs to be and many, many of us walk around with the belief that we aren't good enough. I know that I can't entirely shelter Pk from that but really, shouldn't we be able to go shopping at the mall without having our eyes burned by that kind of thing? Yes, it is a lingerie store but there are many that manage to have tasteful, elegant displays in the window without looking like a window front in the red light district in Amsterdam.

How do we protect our girls from the belief that they are ONLY, ONLY, ONLY sexual objects and that their value comes exclusively from the ability to please a man sexually? I hear these horrible stories of young girls engaging in the most degrading of practices (in the mistaken belief that well, it's not really sex..."). Please, please, please let me raise my daughter to value herself enough and to have the dignity to not allow herself to be degraded like that. I feel really lost sometimes in the culture around us. I see so much that makes me so upset and, frankly, so sad. How did we become so lost? How, as the generation raised by the "feminists", did we so lose our way? How is it that so many women allow their daughters to sell themselves and just shrug their shoulders and sigh?

I expect to have to filter the media images coming into our home but really, do we have to swear off shopping, too? Where does it end? Not too long ago, I finished the Beth Moore Daniel study and wow, do the parallels with Babylon ring true to me right now.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

On Being Frugal

What does being frugal mean to you? I have to admit, I didn't grow up learning how to be frugal (neither did Dh). We didn't grow up with money, just with families who didn't manage money well (although, interestingly, the weaknesses in each family were very different). Too much use of credit, buying things that really weren't needed, etc... was what we learned. I think, for the most part, we managed reasonably well, managing to pay off our student loans (which were sizable), pay for our own wedding (which wasn't over-the-top elaborate but we did have a large church wedding with a meal afterwards and we didn't feel like we were skimping on anything that we wanted) and to save us enough for a decent, if not amazing downpayment on a house. We were D.I.N.K.S. for a long time, though (for anyone who doesn't know, double-income-no-kids) and probably didn't manage money very well.

We aren't extravagant people. Our t.v. is NOT a big screen and Dh is not a huge fan of electronics (he likes his toys but other than a weakness for Chelsea F.C. and England football jerseys, he is very good at controlling himself), we don't take expensive vacations (we have done the odd weekend away in the past but nothing too fancy), our house is modest and our vehicles are fairly basic (a Corolla and a Grand Caravan). We do eat out but we tend to stick with "ethnic" food with tends to be a lot cheaper. Our thinking is that if we are going to buy food, why buy something we can make ourselves? Our favourite these days is a Tamil restaurant near Dh's work, from which he can get us a huge meal of curries, basmati rice and naan (if you haven't had it, the yummiest flat bread in the world) for about $19 dollars.

On the other hand, though, I can't believe how quickly the money seems to go and it just never seems to stretch quite far enough. We had a fairly good income and yet, we never seem to feel secure. I have been listening to Dave Ramsey podcasts lately and really feeling the pull to get our finances in order but there is just this little bit of me that resists. I don't WANT to do a budget. I don't want to live on rice and beans. I must have had some bad experiences with "frugality" in the past because there is a side of me that somehow views it as leading to deprivation of some kind or another.

I am determined that I am going to teach my children a different way. I don't want them to grow up as slaves to debt or feeling like their choices are limited because they don't have the money to pursue their dreams. I also don't want to get into a situation where they think that they MUST spend a huge amount of money for basics just to somehow prove their own worth. My father told me a story last week that I still can't get out of my head. He knows a woman who told him this story. She has a granddaughter who is 16. She was visiting her son and daughter-in-law and the granddaughter asked for money to get her hair done. A huge family fight blew up because the son had "only" given the girl $150 for the hair and she "needed" $250. The d.i.l. accused him of being cheap on handed over an additional $100 because her daughter "needed" it to get a "decent" job done of her hair. The grandmother was horrified. So was my father and, in turn, so was I. I have NEVER spent that on my hair (now, I don't colour or perm so I don't have to spend a huge amount but still...) Call me cheap and call me mean but I do NOT want my daughter growing up with those kinds of expectations. I want money to be a tool, not a master.

So, where to start? I know that one thing we need to do is get on board with the envelope system. Doing a budget is essential and I am starting down that track but it is early days. In the meantime, I want to begin to see where I can cut back without it feeling like a hardship. I must admit, I am starting to find it kind of fun. There is a great deal of satisfaction in getting a great deal on something that I was going to buy anyway. This week, for instance, we managed to get our diapers for less than half price. Yes, I know that cloth is better and we did cloth for a long time but we just hit a point when they just didn't work for us anymore. I am going to use cloth with the baby and we have even found a GREAT source for cloth diapers that are less than half the cost of what we were going to pay (hooray!!!). I am trying to follow grocery flyers and stock up. I have to admit, during the Ultimate Blog Party, I found some great money saving blogs... it's amazing how much you can save using coupons. Unfortunately, I have found some good deals with U.S. coupons but there doesn't seem to be the same kind of savings here in Canada.

My biggest fun, saving money these days, though, is children's clothing. We have been really lucky with friends giving/lending us stuff but at the same time, it's nice to buy some things for ourselves. Pk's first year, I have to admit, I was silly. I bought Gymboree at full price and tried to convince myself that since I was getting Gymbucks, it was a deal. Since then, I have learned a lot. I have begun to comb the sale at Goodwill (there is so much satisfaction in getting top brand clothing and getting a large bag for $10). A friend introduced me to the "Virtual Garage Sale" at Today's Parent Canada and I have gotten some lovely things from there. And yesterday, I went to a 25% off sale at our local used children's clothing store. I bought some wonderful things. I had such a sense of accomplishment. I got quite a few things (see the pics below) and not only was the whole thing $85, I ended up getting it all for $63. I especially loved the two Gap dresses that I got for Pk. The red velvet one will be perfect for next Christmas.

So, I guess I am up to the challenge after all. We used to joke that my m.i.l. would spend $10 000 to save $5 000. I hope to avoid that pitfall but I really do want to learn how to manage our resources well and teach my family how to enjoy the things they really need without becoming slaves to debt. I'd love any pointers that you have!

Off to check out a few things on Craigslist!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Spring Clean

I was home from work for part of the day today because I had a doctor's appointment. I decided that I HAD to do something about my bedroom. I have all this maternity clothing and, being lazy, I haven't moved my other clothing to another location so I don't have anywhere to put anything. I spent an hour getting the room cleaned up this morning. One nice thing about a room that is a disaster is that once it gets cleaned up, you really notice how tidy it is!

I really needed to do some work on the baby's room (we are exploding with boy's clothes up to age 2, thanks to the generosity of friends) but I ran out of steam. Oh well, I'll get to it sometime.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Small Things...

Pk is teething. There is nothing fun in that. The poor kid has always had a rough time with teeth. I had kind of assumed that we had left those joys behind but I hadn't accounted for the 2 year molars (which are coming in at 2 1/2). These have quite possibly been worse than anything that has come before. We have had sudden and sporadic vomiting (once in our bed and last night, all over the dog's head - said dog had decided that the vomit was a nice snack - ugh). Then, there is the slight fever, the icky tummy and, the best, as far as I am concern, the almost constant whining. I have tried all the usual tricks - Advil seems to be our best help but even that isn't conquering things this time and none of the other things people have suggested (amber teething necklaces, cold things to suck, homeopathic remedies, chiro, etc) have made any difference in the least.

Today, after the sitter called me to come and get her because she seemed so "off", I decided that it was time to check with our doctor, just to rule out anything else. God was good to me - our doctor posts her office hours and today, she was on at the practice walk-in clinic so we didn't have any trouble getting an appointment.

I don't know whether you find this but I have really found that there are places where I meet really nice people and places where people tend to be rude and annoying (e.g., Costco - nothing against the store itself but it really seems to be that if you shop there, you turn into an aggressive, pushy, lacking-sense-of -humour grouch who loves to cut off pregnant women). Our walk-in, oddly enough, is one of those places where people are always nice, which is interesting given that people are there because they feel like crap. Today was no exception. Pk was uber-whiny (bad mummy had only brought water and crackers and not the milk that she insisted she needed) and I couldn't get her to stop crying. It must have driven everyone else waiting nuts but all people did was smile sympathetically and try to help. I even had a very kind woman offer to let me go ahead of her even though she was there before we arrived and had waited at least 45 minutes. It really restores my faith in humanity. People really do have such a capacity to be kind. One time, at the same walk in, we even had a woman waiting in the waiting room disappear for a few minutes and then return from the pharmacy which is adjacent to the clinic with a pack of crayons and a colouring book for Pk. There is just something about that particular waiting room that seems to bring out the best in people.

By the way, it was a bit of a wasted trip. Our doctor is sure that it is teething and we need to ride it out. At least I can relax that there isn't anything worse going on. Poor little Pk. There aren't anymore teeth for a while after these, right?????

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Counting Blessings

We have very good friends who are going through a very difficult time right now. Sometimes in life, we get thrown together with people who normally wouldn't be part of our social sphere at all and that's the case with these friends. They are much older than we are and again, our lifestyles are very different but they have taken on an important place in our lives.

Sadly, it looks like the husband of this couple is dying. About 7 weeks ago, he got a bad upper respiratory virus and just couldn't shake it. After several doses of medication and inhalers and steroids, he just didn't get better. The Tuesday before Easter, his wife took him to emergency and on Wednesday, they pumped 3 pints of blood out of his right lung. After several tests, it has come to light that he has malignant cancer in one lung and cancer in his kidney, liver, spine and the other lung (while they haven't gotten results that say that the cancer is malignant in those other spots, the doctor has said that it is almost inevitable). He has been given between 3 weeks and 3 months and given how quickly he is deteriorating, I suspect it won't be long (and I pray that it will be with as little suffering as possible).

It is such a difficult thing to watch. The wife, who, it must be said, is my closer of the friends, is beside herself. Six weeks ago, they were planning vacations, setting goals and moving forward with life. In a short time, all of that has fallen apart. She is trying to hold it together but it is torture to watch this confident, capable, private man in a position of being weak and unable to care for himself. They are both very independent and having to navigate the health care system is making them both feel very helpless. I wish that I could do something but other than taking up some food to make sure she is eating and offering to help with the farm and dog sitting, there really isn't that much we can do.

At first, I was just shocked and sad, the way that one normally is in a situation like this. Over the last several days, it has really hit me how much my friend's life will change being the one left behind. There are many things that her husband has done for years and he won't be around anymore. He is a gifted chef and his barbecued standing rib roast is the most delicious way to eat beef that I have ever encountered. We won't have our evenings of cards and food. As a couple, they went on a boat trip every summer, they have a lovely farm where they lease the land out to a neighbouring farmer but they have a barn with a few animals, a pond and views that you wouldn't believe. The husband does a lot of the specialized jobs that go with a property of such a size. I don't know that my friend will be able to manage there on her own for very long. There was the annual Christmas tree cutting party that he did so much to organize and the golf days. They have truly worked out a way of living together that makes both of them happy. It is so hard to imagine that couple without one half.

It may sound a bit trite but it really has me thinking about how there are no guarantees in life and that we (I) need to appreciate every day that we are given as the gift that it is. My husband does so much to make my life easier and there are so many small pleasures that I would miss so much if he were no longer to be part of my life. Life is so busy that there are days that it feels like we are just briefly passing each other without connecting at all. It is so easy to lose sight of the fact that everything we have could so easily be gone.

Please pray for my friend and her husband. Pray that she will know that she is not alone and that she will find what comfort there is in this difficult time. Pray that her husband will take his journey with as little pain as is possible in this situation and that he can find peace in his last days of life. Pray for their family which is having to face this horrible loss. Thank God for your blessings and cherish every moment. That is certainly my plan.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Hill of Calvary Garden

I loved this idea and wanted to try it this year. Janna posted it at Mustard Seeds and it seemed such a nice way to involve Pk in the significance of Easter. At this point, she was interested in watching me but didn't want to get her hands dirty. She quickly discovered a love of the water spray bottle and the garden was watered very regularly.

I am thrilled with the way that it turned out. We didn't end up putting anything in the tomb this year but I read a suggestion to put a clothespin wrapped in linen on Good Friday and when the children open the tomb on Easter to have the pin gone and the linen left behind. I definitely think we will do that next year.
I also thought I would include a snap of our Names of Jesus garland. I got the idea last year from Monica at The Homespun Heart and I really like the way that it turned out. While you don't really get much of the effect in this photo, I like the way that our dining room was decorated in the Easter spirit without bunny overkill.

Finally, we also found a wonderful recipe that worked for us. We always have lamb at Easter but we were so busy this year, I wasn't quite sure how we would find the time. I shouldn't have worried. One of my favourite blogs, A Year of Slowcooking, featured a recipe just in time, - Leg of Lamb with Rosemary and Lemon. It was delicious, the house smelled wonderful and I was able to do all the work in the morning. That recipe is definitely going into my binder.

Overall, it was a beautiful Easter and we really felt a sense of the majesty of the gift we have all received. Now, I want to try and keep that sense of awe and gratitude throughout the year.

New Bedrooms

With the impending arrival, we decided that it was time to do some shifting. Pk has been sleeping in the room right next to ours and it just made sense to move her into the bedroom down the hall (where, hopefully, she won't be disturbed too much by a crying baby and all the nighttime action). We wanted to make the move as early as we could since we didn't want her to feel like she was being displaced.

I can't think Dh enough for the painting. In the past, I have always been the family painter as Dh HATES painting. This year, though, I have been feeling pretty exhausted with the pregnancy so he took it upon himself to get things going. Pk adores her new room. She picked the curtains and the curtain rod (she is THRILLED that it has butterflies on it) and seems pretty happy with the whole thing. I am not sure that it is quite finished but we are getting there. In our quest for frugality, we were thrilled to have a neighbour offer us the beside table and the bedframe. They were VERY dated and an ugly brown with brass fixtures. A coat of white paint and new handles made a huge difference. We really want to find a nice bedskirt for the bed so let me know if you have a good source.

We had lots of fun with the pictures on the wall. Pk has several big favourites these days in terms of books and so we bought cheap frames from Ikea and then printed off pics from the net of her favourites (Max and Ruby, Larry Boy, Spot, Clifford, Franklin and, of course, Thomas and Friends). She loves them and now, we can change them when a new love comes along.
Dh has also been hard at work in the baby's room. Again, in the name of frugality, we decided to "borrow" the leftover paint from Pk's room and use that, along with cream and, what you can't see, is the blue accent wall. I have always wanted to do a boy's room in a Noah's Ark theme and while the border isn't exactly what I wanted, I think it looks really nice. We have alot still to do but it's nice to feel like we are on the way. Pk is very excited about the Noah's Ark theme so last night, as our bedtime stories, we read Two by Two by Barbara Reid (one of our favourite author/illustrators) and in Pk's Bible, we also read the Noah story. I have been very naughty, cruising Etsy in search of some nice Noah's Ark treasures to add to the room. I haven't bought anything yet but there are a few things that I think I might just have to indulge in. One thing I like best is a Noah's Ark quilt. I made a quilt for Pk but I have just been too tired and busy with this pregnancy to make one for this baby. I don't want him to feel left out so I think I can justify buying one. I also love shopping from Etsy and feeling like I am supporting small-business crafters.
It's a bit overwhelming with all the changes but I have to admit, I am getting really excited.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Arrogance, anyone?

Do you ever have those times when an idea gets into your head and all of a sudden, you seem to run into it wherever you go? I have had one of those weeks. I've been pondering something and I don't have the right answers - I haven't decided where the line is one this one. I am curious to hear what other people think.

It all began a bit over a week ago. I am on a few attachment parenting lists. Sometimes I wonder why because at times, people can be VERY opinionated and there are days that I walk away from the computer seething about something. On the other hand, the mothers on these lists have fantastic information and often, a different perspective that I would have trouble finding elsewhere.

The first thread that really got me thinking involved germs. Actually, it was a mother who was asking about vaccines, I think, but in the course of the discussion, it quickly became evident that she was fanatical about germs. If I remember correctly, her daughter is nearly 15 months and is not taken anywhere for fear of germs. The woman spoke of daycare children as if they are as risky as putting your child with a cobra and she greatly resents relatives who want her child in contact with theirs when they may have germs from daycare. She let slip, in passing, that she doesn't allow her daughter to touch anything in public places and if she does, she gets out the GermX immediately. As you can imagine, on an attachment parenting list, that was a battle cry. Just about all of us believe in "healthy" germs and question the safely of bathing our children in triclosan repeatedly, a chemical that has been proven to have long-term health ramifications. While I would not advocate visiting a leper colony with your child or hanging around the emergency ward waiting room, I do think that some contact with normal viruses in the course of life is actually beneficial and I believe that both allopathic and alternative health care practitioners are generally in agreement about that. Personally, my reaction was concern for the child - the woman's germ phobia sounded a lot like an obsession and one of the side-effects of being a teacher is that I have seen a lot of children who are victims of their parents issues. The discussion became very heated and this woman lashed out at the rest of the group as being "bullies" for, I thought, gently raising questions about whether what she was doing was the best way of handling things.

The other thread that really, really got on my nerves was around sweets. One mother wrote in, raging because her 4 1/5 year old daughter had been sent home from montessori school with a bag of Easter candy. She felt that this was entirely inappropriate and that the school was entirely negligent in not stopping this unhealthy food (the treats had been sent in for the class by other parents). Another mother wrote in that at her child's montessori school, that they were incredibly rigid about what kinds of foods children we allowed to eat and that there was a list of "acceptable" snacks that could be brought from home and anything not on the list would be returned to the family. All food had to be low fat and low in sugar (the low fat thing really annoyed me because there are many healthy fats and while an overweight adult may choose to go on a low-fat diet, many low fat foods are poorer choices for children than their higher fat alternatives and low fat foods like low fat yogurts often contain sugar substitutes like aspartame, which is dangerous). This mother had once had a container of flavoured rice cakes sent back home with a firm note that said that they were not "appropriate". There were mothers on the list who felt that this was all perfectly in line. This made me VERY uncomfortable. While I respect a parent's right to choose what is right in terms of diet for his or her own child, if I happen to choose to send flavoured rice cakes once in a while (and, let me say, I am totally aware that they have NO nutritional value), I don't really see that it is another parent's right (or the right of a teacher who has no more nutritional education that I do) to tell me that I can't.

At work this week, I got to see the judgement of other peoples' parenting choices from the other side. I can't say too much because of legal issues but I can say that I had a new student join the class who has come into the foster care system after removal from the family for a number of choices that, to most of us, would seem to be totally unacceptable. Many of the concerns were more of a matter of interpretation (although the loaded gun in the home was a pretty clear case of parental mismanagement). Discussing the situation in the family with those involved, I came away with a very clear picture that these parents had no business raising a family. Over the last few days, I have been wondering a bit about that. How much of what I feel is "wrong" is due to my own middle-class, white, Christian values? While I feel that, for instance, having two untrained, loose pitbulls in the house is a very poor choice, does that qualify as enough for a family to lose custody of children? Do I have a right to say whether that is "acceptable" or not? As teachers, we run into these situations all the time. I often see something that is evidence, to me, of poor judgement as a parent. Yesterday it was cold (just above freezing) and I had a student come to school wearing a sleeveless shirt. She did have a coat for outside but I felt that the shirt wasn't warm enough in the classroom during the day. I really struggled over whether I had the right to call her family and tell them to bring more clothing. I settled on giving her a sweatshirt of mine and insisting she wear it but I didn't feel terribly comfortable in the situation.

We see these kinds of issues played out in the media all the time. While we all agree (I would hope!) that beating a child into unconsciousness or with a two by four is unacceptable, but where is the line on spanking? I believe that under Canadian law, it is spelled out fairly clearly but who actually has the right to make those decisions for other people and to decide exactly what can and can't be done? What about cases of children who are significantly overweight, particularly in cases where it is evident that there is a family pattern of poor nutrition? Do those parents forfeit the right to make decisions for their children because we don't agree with their choices? For that matter, what about matters of faith? For me personally, raising my child in our Christian faith is critically important and we do all that we can to raise her with an awareness of the belief system and we hope that she will integrate that into who she is. There are those out there (including many in the "new atheist" movement who are so often in the media these days), who feel that we are "brainwashing" our children and that it is a form of child abuse.

It's so easy to name other people's choices as being wrong but at what point, do we have the right to set the rules for everyone else? How much of parenting is individual choice and how much does society have the right to dictate the choices that a family makes? These are not easy questions to answer.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Ultimate Blog Party!!!

Ultimate Blog Party 2010">

I have been really negligent about keeping up with my blog and for that, I apologize. One goal for the next little while is to try and be more regular about getting something up here. I have four blog post ideas kicking around in my brain right now so maybe I will get something interesting up over the next few days.

If you are visiting from the Blog Party, welcome! I guess I need to do an introduction. I'm
Sarah, married to Dh, my best friend since we met in first year university, a terrifying amount of time ago. I am a thirty-something mom of Pk (her initials, not the initials for preacher's kid), our two-and-a-half year old and resident character. Every day is a new adventure with her and while I am finding that parenting a strong-willed redhead has its moments, motherhood has brought joys that are indescribable and I cherish every minute. At the moment, I am 7 months pregnant with what we are fairly sure is a son, so we should soon find out how the other half lives. Pk is certainly a princess and our house is overrun with dolls, pink and pretty dresses. I am not at all sure how to do the "boy" thing but I am really looking forward to the challenge. My pregnancy is going well but I will admit, at this point, I feel like a bus and I am working full-time as a teacher (my due date is June 17th and I am set to officially finish on June 2nd) so it's hard to keep up with life right now.

I'd say that my blog is a good reflection of me - all over the map. I have never really narrowed down in my mind what my blog is supposed to be about but in some ways, my life feels a bit the same. In some ways, my blog reading tells as much about me as what I write. I read a lot of blogs about faith. I am a Christian and my faith is very, very important to me and one of my biggest interests these days is Christian education - how to create a home environment that fosters my daughter growing up with a solid faith. I am also constantly trying to figure out what it means to be a Christian woman - both as wife and mother. I think that there are a lot of overly simplistic answers out there and I want to find what am I am really called to do. You might see some ramblings about some wonderful Christian ed activity or tool that I just have to share or a link to a book that has really spoken to me.

I'm a real fan of "homemaking" - creating a refuge for our family that is cozy and welcoming. I have a long list of favourite food and decorating blogs that I read. I love to cook and garden and I like the place to be clean, so housework takes up a fair bit of time (although I won't promise the place will be spotless - there aren't enough hours in the day for that). Healthy/natural living is fairly important to me (although again, I am not extreme about anything so don't expect to see anything too "out there") and I try to do most of my cooking from scratch. Obviously, working full-time has limited just how much I can do but you won't see much processed food in our house and I get such a sense of accomplishment when I find the time to make preserves, make our own butter or even just do freezer meals. I am NOT good at being frugal and one of my challenges this past year has been to work to cut back in ways that don't hurt our family and to steward our resources. Given that a mat leave is coming, that focus is a lot more pressing these days. Natural living around here means trying to use natural/healthy beauty products (we avoid parabens, ptalates and sls whenever possible), using natural cleaning products as much as we can and avoiding chemicals and plastics as much as possible. We selectively vaccinate, use a naturopath as well as a conventional doctor and try to avoid meds as much as possible. I might include a recipe now and again that really works for us, a link to a product or company that has really caught my eye or a link to an article about how to cut back.

The other big focus in my life these days is parenting and I check out quite a few parenting and homeschooling blogs (although I don't think that homeschooling is for me, I just want to supplement Pk's education at home). Again, I try not to fall too much into one camp - attachment parenting (again, a somewhat watered down version) is what works for us - babywearing, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, no cry it out... but I won't judge other people for their choices (well, within reason). Pk was NOT an easy baby, between colic and not sleeping and I found all of the judgement and unsolicited advice to be really hurtful. I am a people-pleaser and quite frankly, I found it really hard when people forced advice on me that I knew went against what I believe and what would work with my child. I have really tried to be someone who has advice when asked but who doesn't say much when I don't agree. Your choices are what is best for your child and you know him or her much better than I do. I've been really lucky that while there was all that advice, I have some wonderful, supportive friends who held my hand and reminded me that I would make it. We are in a good place in the parenting department these days and while I have moments of thinking that I am insane for going back down the infancy route again, Pk at 2 1/2 is such a pleasure that at least now, when things are crazy, I can look forward to easier days.

Finally, there are all those other interests that seem to get pushed to the back burner these days. I love to read (mysteries, novels and lately, lots of books exploring issues of faith) and now that I am in the "insomnia" stage of pregnancy, I am at least enjoying the chance to get more reading done. I am a crafter who dabbles in quilting and scrapbooking although knitting is my first love. Again, I don't have much time so I tend to spend a lot of time looking at patterns and crafting blogs but in terms of actual projects, there isn't much getting done. Gardening is another passion that gets put aside and I LOVE David Austin roses, sweet peas and morning glories. I doubt much gardening will be done this year but again, I love to sit and look at photos and dream

I am hoping to spend a bit of time visiting other blogging moms and if you stop by, I would love it if you check in and say hello. I don't have a long list of readers but I have made some wonderful online friends who have been a big help in some of the tough times. I hope that I get a chance to do some more connecting!