Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Nobody's Home

Every morning, usually while we are eating breakfast, Pk always asks me the same question, "Where are we going today?" It seems like a normal question but it took on new significance for me yesterday.

This summer, Dh has been home and it has been wonderful. While he has been outside working most of the time and I have been doing childcare by myself, just knowing that he was here really made things feel less lonely. We have been very busy, as always, but having him here gave me purpose to my day. I would finish the day feeling like things were right.

Yesterday, he started back at work (he is a teacher and is spending the entire week at work getting everything for the fall). Pk goes to daycare two days a week so that we can keep our spot while I am on leave. I felt out of sorts yesterday morning and by the time I dropped her off, I was feeling downright panicky. What was I going to do with my day? Where would I go? I started listing possibilities in my mind and then I realised that the idea of being home with an unstructured day was something that I didn't know how to cope with. It terrified me.

I have never been good at relaxing and most people would say that I am certainly a "driven" person. I always need a project and even being home on mat leave, I always fill my time. When I was home with Pk, we did two library programmes, swimming, baby sign classes, a music class and mom & tots at the church. We were out every day. I have filled most days this fall as well but over the next three weeks, many of the programmes haven't started yet. I will HAVE to figure out how to be home on my own. It's totally overwhelming to me.

It hit me that when Pk asks, "Where are we going?", she literally assumes that every day must include something away from home. I don't want her to grow up with my fear of boredom and stillness so that will be the lesson I will try to learn this year. How can I stay home and feel like I have accomplished something and stay connected to the world??? It's time to figure that out.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Millionaire's Family

What's with that? I have people say to me regularly how lucky we are to have the "millionaire's family". People assume that having a boy and a girl is every parents' dream. I love both my children, don't get me wrong, and I know people think they are being nice but the comments about the gender of my children make me a bit grouchy. Would I have been less lucky if I had another girl instead of my little Baby Bean? Would I have loved her any less? It's even worse in the family because my s.i.l. has two girls and so everyone at my in-laws' church commented on how wonderful it is that they finally have a grandson. I have to say that my parents-in-law are being really great about this. I know that deep down, they are thrilled to finally have a grandson, especially since he is their son's son and the family name will carry on but they are not playing favourites - Pk still gets spoiled rotten even though she is the third granddaughter (although my introverts f.i.l. struggles not to be driven insane by her constant chatter - I guess my other nieces weren't quite as vocal). I do worry a bit because my m.i.l. raves about Baby Bean to everyone who will listen and especially to my s.i.l., it might feel like he is getting special treatment. I wouldn't want anyone, s.i.l. or my nieces, to feel lesser for being girls.

It is nice to get to experience both genders but in my case, the one thing that is making me hesitate about definitively saying that we won't have any more children is that I would love another girl (I ADORE my little boy but I would rather have a second girl than a second boy - a good reason not to have a third in case I didn't get my wish). I never had a sister and always dreamed of having that built-in friend and would love that for Pk.

While I am venting, the other thing that drives me crazy are the questions about whether Baby Bean is a "good" baby. Again, I understand that people are asking in kindness, wanting my life not to be too complicated. On the other hand, there is a value judgement about a "good" or a "bad" baby. When Pk was so difficult, never sleeping, refusing a bottle, not napping, etc., it used to drive me crazy. Saying she was a "bad" baby implied that she was somehow inferior to other babies in my mind. It wasn't her fault that her brain just wasn't wired the way other babies are (and, according to a number of statistics I have read, gifted children are often very difficult babies, not that I am saying she is gifted). Babies have reflux, the world is a large and scary place after the comfort of the womb and teething pain is awful. It bothers me that in a way, the implication is made that being a difficult baby is a reflection on character.

Enough grouching. Enjoy your children, whatever the gender!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Autumn is Almost Here

I love the darker blue of an autumn sky and I noticed it today. Autumn is my favourite season and it's so nice to be off work this year so that I can really savour every moment.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Curb Appeal

Last spring, we developed a problem with raccoons in the roof. It was an extremely frustrating problem - we would hear them above our heads at night and then, they began to tear apart the soffits. We paid a ridiculous amount of money to have a removal company come but they were not allowed to do an actual removal (it's against the law here) but they did what they could to prevent the animals from coming in. Very frustratingly, the animals ripped open the roof and we ended up having a new roof put on (which, in the long run, needed to be done but was not an expense we wanted with me on mat leave).

It's ended up working out really well for me. As long as we have lived here, I have hated the exterior of this house. The previous owners loved a particular shade of green that looks terrible with the brick of the house and the house was looking rather grotty. The roof was dark brown with dark brown eavestroughs and it just looked really old and tired. There was a stained glass panel in the front door that I hated. We kept putting off doing anything about it because we wanted to coordinate our paint to our roof and we just didn't have the money to do the roof.

Once the roof was done, thanks to the raccoons, Dh became a machine and he has worked all summer. He has replaced the ugly green shutters, put up new lights, a new house number, stained the garage doors (which really needed it since he drove through them a few years ago and the two bottom panels of one door didn't even match and the door's original colour was a kind of orange), built a new gate at the back, painted all the sills and around the door, painted the door and replaced the insert and put a blind on the back. I love it!

Who knew that having your roof eaten could be such a wonderful thing?



Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Thanks for the Memories

A good friend died a few months ago. He wasn't the kind of friend who you would pour your heart out too, he was more of the kind of friend who had an infectious zest for life that made a day a little bit brighter. He didn't want a funeral, instead, he, who had oodles of money and could have been very posh and proper, decided he wanted to go out with a bang. On Saturday, there is going to be a large pig roast with a chip truck (serious, he wanted to serve chip truck fries) and the cost of entrance is a funny story about him. We have all been asked to send funny stories and photos to his widow and that will be compiled in a book and each family member will get a copy (and I have been told that we are being considered "honorary family" - hooray!).

I am terrible at keeping and organizing photos so the last couple of days, I have been frantically combing my scrapbooks to find pics, trying to get dates so that I have a clue where to find the files. I have kept scrapbooks for years (since the year after dh and I started dating, 1992). I think I am done but it has helped me to realise something.

I LOVE strolls down memory lane. I used to scrapbook before all the embellishments came along. My layouts were filled with pics, memories and momentos. Dh and I had fun gathering things that were scrapbook appropriate - bills, orders of service, ticket stubs, etc. My scrapbooks were all about capturing memories (I think everyone thought we were nuts when my in-laws' car got towed on Boxing Day and Dh and I asked to keep the ticket and Dh took photos at the impound lot). It was so much fun.

Somewhere along the way, it changed. Take a look at the layouts above, just a few samples, and you can see the difference - the original layouts were simple and were just labeled photos and momentos. The later pages are much more elaborate, although these layouts are far from being the most elaborate or time consuming of my layouts. I got sucked up into the "crafty" world of scrapbooking. I am not saying that it isn't fun - I love playing with papers, patterns, letters and embellishments. There are big problems, though. The cost got totally ridiculous, layouts took forever to design and there was only room for one or two pictures. I discovered online scrapbooking stores and spent way too much money on embellishments that I often didn't even use. Scrapbooking became about creativity and not about the memories themselves (at least for me).

Like most people, I have gotten to the point where I don't have time to do the elaborate layouts and I can't afford to buy all the kitch. I was thinking of giving it up altogether. Today reminded me why I started scrapbooking and how much pleasure I get from going back and browsing the memories. It's time to go back to my original scrapbooks and to have fun capturing the most beautiful, fun or significant moments and people instead of as an artistic venue. I can still have some fun with paper but it's time to go back to the essence.

I can't wait to get started!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Too Busy!

I have several posts bumping around in my head (a musing on the rise of homeschooling and what that says about the state of our education system, a great event we went to yesterday, a couple of yummy recipes we have tried, how we are doing in our character Bible study lessons) but there just isn't enough time to sit and write a real post. Baby Bean is pretty high maintenance right now.

I'll be back when I can.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Growing Up

Today, my baby went to her first birthday party without me. Not a huge milestone but one that really made me think about the fact that my baby is growing up. This is the girl who wouldn't be left with anyone other than me and her babysitter and even daddy wasn't always a certainty. When we got the invitation to this party, we weren't sure because we didn't know how she would handle it. Would we have abundant tears at the door? Would we be like the parents at kindergarten who have to be shoved out the door?

It was so easy, it's hard to believe this was my child. She marched up to the door, said hello and handed over the gift and in she went. We took a moment to give our phone number and cell phone numbers, just in case but when we left, she didn't even notice. When I went back to get her, she was glad to see me but I didn't have any sense that there was any relief in her, she hadn't been bothered at all. Actually, the mother in charge apologized for the fact that Pk got paint in her hair, which they tried to help her to wash out but which was not only in her hair but on her clothing, too. She certainly didn't refuse to participate because she was sad!

Guess she had a good time. Wonder whether she would let me leave her in the nursery at church now? Maybe I might be to hear a sermon, finally. But then again, maybe not.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Lately, I have all of a sudden heard all kinds of talk about Frances Chan. I had never heard of him before but he has become a huge name in Christian circles lately and I have seen or heard something about him at least once a week for the last while. A good blogging friend mentioned that she had been listening to his podcasts and was finding them to be really inspiring. I decided that, while I am up nursing in the night, it would be a good use of my time to do some listening rather than watching the junk t.v. that has invaded my life (I am ashamed to admit that I have become addicted to "Say Yes to the Dress" on TLC and "Chefs: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is" on BBC Canada). While I downloaded some the the podcasts from Cornerstone Church, Simi, which are available here, I decided to begin with a two episode broadcast on Focus on the Family that came from their Focus on Marriage simulcast recently, which is available here.

Wow. I was totally blown away. I was raised in a background that put a huge focus on the social message of the gospels - caring for others and the idea of "being God's hands" on the earth. Lately, I have been feeling like I am a bit too comfortable - while we aren't rich by any stretch and many of those around us have more than we do, compared to those elsewhere and many in our environment, we are completely and totally spoilt. We have become complacent and totally wrapped up in the material world around us. Yes, it is more focused on our children than on ourselves but that doesn't make it right.

One thing that Francis Chan said that really hit me was when he used the analogy of playing a game of "follow the leader", in which the idea is to be like the person who is the leader. He said that we need to be like that with Jesus - instead of memorizing what he had to say and not acting on it, we need to BE like Jesus and do the things that he did. Can I honestly say that I step out at all to reach out to people who are not convenient to help? Do I allow myself to be made uncomfortable? If I am honest, no, I don't. I might pass things on to people around me and make the odd donation to charities but do I make any significant sacrifices to reach out to others? When I stand in front of God and have to account for my life, will I be able to honestly say that I lived out my faith? As Francis Chan said, when you tell your teenage child to clean his room, do you want him to come to you and tell you that he memorized what you said and can even repeat it in the original ancient Greek or do you want him to clean the room?

I am not saying that I am going to change everything and honestly, I am not sure where to start but I do feel like this message really hit me and was something that I needed to hear. Wouldn't Christianity be in a much better place in the world if we all seriously tried to be like Jesus, instead of just being able to quote what he said?

I am going to reflect on this and try and look for ways to help. I remember reading a blog, I can't remember where, in which the author suggested trying to find an act of kindness to do each day, however small. That might be a good place for me to start. I would love to read any suggestions you might have.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Spiritual Journal

I have always been a journal writer. It started when I was four and my mom and I did a journal at the end of each day. The entries were short, usually one sentence that I dictated about my day and then I drew a picture (something I would like to start with Pk soon). I still have a couple of the journals that we did together when I was little and they are so much fun to go back and read.

There isn't a whole lot of time to journal these days (and in some ways, I feel a bit like my blog is an online journal) and when I do write, it tends to be more of a place to vent my frustrations that anything else. My journals certainly aren't something that I would want someone else to read and, to be honest, if I die, if you can, find them for me and burn them because they probably don't show me at my best. Yes, they do contain my deepest thoughts - my insecurities and my struggles and my travels to great self-discovery but they also contain my whining, my self-pity and my frustration. I wouldn't want that to be the way that I am seen.

One blog that I really enjoy reading is A Holy Experience, which is written by Ann Voskamp. Her blog is visually beautiful and poignantly reflective. It's a hard blog for me to read because it is one that needs to be savoured as opposed to scanned and I am so rarely in that kind of place these days but often, I star her posts with the intention of going back to them later. She inspires me so much in terms of being aware -as a Christian and as a human being inhabiting this beautiful world. Looking at her followers list tells you how highly other women feel about her and what she has to say.

One theme throughout her blog is journaling and she has written some wonderful posts about different kinds of journaling - a homemaking journal, a travel journal, visual journals and, most relevant to me, a spiritual journal. I am not reflective enough as a Christian. I tend to speed though everything and finding time and the emotion energy to be quiet and think is not something that I am good at. I often regret that I don't find more time in quiet pursuits because I think that I miss hearing God and feeling God's breath in my life because I am too busy running by. Ann has a wonderful series on journaling as spiritual discipline and at the end of one of the posts, she gives an excellent book list of resources to help beginning to keep a spiritual journal.

The book above, A Pen and A Path: Writing as Spiritual Practice by Sarah Stockton, is one of the books on Ann's list and I bought it for myself several months ago. It sat and sat on my desk and I didn't do anything with it and then last week, during a day that I was nursing Baby Bean non-stop, I decided to browse through it. Quickly, I became inspired and I have begun trying to work through it. Finding the time to write is really difficult right now and finding quiet writing time, when I don't have a preschooler asking constant questions, the t.v. or music on in the background and a baby in the swing beside me is all but impossible so I am trying to make the best of it. Even with the distractions, I am finding this to be a wonderful process. I read the chapter, reflect on it for about 24 hours or so and then begin the writing theme for that section. It's wonderful. I have learned so much about myself already in terms of how I perceive myself as a follower of God and the kinds of things that make me feel closer to God. It's wonderful. I hope to read several of the other books on her list and I hope that spiritual journaling is something that I can continue to do as a way of building my faith.

Enjoy a wonderful Sunday!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sleepless in...

There are people out there who have babies who sleep. Babies who sleep through the night from the first week home from the hospital. Babies who nap all the time, who have 3 and 4 hour naps several times a day. Babies who quickly settle into a wonderful sleep routine and who will sleep anywhere. I don't have those kinds of babies.

With Pk, it was awful. She would cry and cry... it was nearly impossible to settle her and the only way to get her to sleep was nursing. That would stop the crying but it didn't mean that you could put her down - as soon as she was away from the heat of her mommy's or daddy's body, she was wide awake again. I think she was about 18 months when she started sleeping through the night and she didn't nap longer than 45 minutes at a time (and usually, it was closer to 25 minutes) until she was a year old. Other mothers got things done when their children were sleeping - I didn't have that luxury so I don't remember much from that first year other than a feeling of desperation that I didn't know how much longer I could hang on.

When I was pregnant with Baby Bean, I prayed and prayed that he would be a better sleeper. While I didn't get my hopes up that he would be a "sleep through the night" kind of baby (I would never be that lucky), I hoped he would at least nap occasionally and sleep for a bit longer than Pk. When he first came home from the hospital, it seemed like he would be a better sleeper. Gradually, though, it has become more and more clear that sleeping is not his best skill, either. I am less frantic in my exhaustion because at least he doesn't cry but over the 8 weeks of his life, the sleep pattern (what there is of it) is becoming less and less inspiring. He goes down in the evening at some point, than is up at between 1 and 2 a.m. for a feed, again at between 4 and 5 a.m. for a feed and again sometime between 6 and 7 and won't go back down at that point. He won't sleep at night in anything other than our bed (please, don't lecture me about how children shouldn't be in their parents' beds - that's my only way of getting any sleep at all and I am not going to give that up). While it isn't a case of what Pk was in terms of the fact that after he has fed, he is at least willing to go back to sleep, I am finding the lack of sleep is really catching up with me. At first, during the day, he would nap at least once in his co-sleeper or his chair and often, after that 6 a.m. feed, I could put him in the chair to sleep and I could do my Bible study. Now, if I put him down in anything during the day, he is awake within 10 minutes and the only daytime naps that happen are in my arms or in the car while driving. I am back in that fog that I was in with Pk - I feel so stupid because I have trouble following a basic conversation and I say stupid things because I am just so exhausted. I haven't been able to do much of anything in the last week or so since I can't do anything that requires two hands or sitting down (I can get him to nap in the Sleepwrap but only if I am standing).

Yesterday, I was reading a blog of a sweet woman whose baby is two weeks older than Pk and she was saying that her baby often sleeps through the night (from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.) I haven't been able to get that out of my mind. I am not begrudging her at all (I would love that for everyone) but I have really been brooding over it. What is it that I am doing that makes my children into such horrible sleepers? Is it genetic or is it a flaw in my parenting? If they were older, we could discuss sleep training (which I don't believe in, at least until a child is speaking and can articulate feelings so I know that nighttime issues aren't related to pain or fear) but sleep training doesn't enter into it when you are talking about babies whose ages are still measured in weeks, not months. I don't drink caffeine, I am dairy-free, our house is quiet, I try and put the babies down at the first sign of sleepiness... I am trying not to get too discouraged but I won't lie, I have hit the wall - every day, once afternoon comes, I dream of having a nap with Baby Bean. Pk now sleeps for 2 1/2 hours each afternoon and every day, Dh tells me that the moment she goes down, he wants me to try and sleep with Baby Bean. I try and get him to sleep using all of the tools and usually, the way it plays out is that he is bright-eyed and wants to play for the first hour or so, then he gets sleepy, I rock him and he goes to sleep in my arms, I try and lie down with him and then he is wide awake. We repeat this several times and then I give up and spend an hour or more in the chair with him, either reading or trying to doze upright, all the while terrified of dropping him.

I don't know what to do but I am tired enough now that I worry that I should drive. Any suggestions or at least, any words of encouragement from those of you whose babies were the same? What am I doing wrong? I am trying not to get discouraged but it's getting harder.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Great Expectations, Again

I have written before about my tendency to build things up and then be disappointed. The hardest part of my life to avoid this in is with Pk (which I have also written about). I know I am going down that road again and I can see myself doing it. I don't want her to feel pressure but it's such a struggle.

This time, it's highland dance. Pk has wanted to do dance for a while (she twirls around, singing this funny little ballerina song she has made up and she must wear the ballerina costume from Halloween last year at least once a week). Again, if you have been around here a while, you know that I have serious reservations about many of the dance classes out there. We think we have found a solution.

A couple of weeks ago, we decided that we were going to a local multicultural festival. I went online to look up which performers were scheduled when so that we could try and go to something Pk would really like. I stumbled across some highland dancers and decided to look them up. I found not one but two schools in the area and both advertised starting kids at three. My family background is Scottish and Irish and when I mentioned the idea to my English husband, he really liked the idea (in his words, Pk will fit in with all the other "pasty faced" British kids, LOL). It's great exercise and the costumes, while expensive, don't look like something that escaped from Las Vegas. After several emails, Pk is registered for a class in September.

Over the last couple of days, I have had so much fun trying to get her costume together. For the class itself, she needs a leotard, knee socks and gymnastic shoes. We went to get those today at the local dance supply store. I was shocked at how overcome I was by her cuteness. It brought back all my memories of ballet as a child and it was all I could do to keep from buying the ballet shoe case for her that I had always wanted (at around age 6, I was ballet obsessed!) I could feel myself get really, really excited about this. Yesterday, I went looking for her first kilt (which she wouldn't actually need until January Robert Burns events but a kilt isn't exactly an easy last minute purchase). Again, when I found one (luckily, there is a Scottish shop in the town where my doctor is and I had an appointment yesterday), I could feel myself getting so excited about this. Everyone comments on how English Pk looks with her porcelain-white skin, rosy cheeks, blue eyes and strawberry-red hair and in a kilt with knee socks, she will be adorable. I never knew that I had it in me to be so overwhelmed by the cuteness of my daughter and the scary thing is, Dh is no better than me right now.

I am really talking to myself about not getting too excited about this and being ready for Pk to either be too young or to hate it. I have no fantasies about her as a dancing champion and I don't plan this to become the centre of our lives but I would really enjoy it if this was something she would like to do. I am setting myself up for disappointment and trying so hard not to. Cross your fingers for me.

As an aside, as I am rambling about parenting thoughts today, I have also been pondering how many classes are too many for a child. Let me say, I am not ambitious for my child (at least, not excessively so, I would be lying if I didn't admit to wanting her to be successful enough that she can follow her dreams, whatever they are). I don't see her as the next Mozart, the next Olympic swimmer or a champion dancer. I have always been a person who loves to learn how to do things - the list is long of the things I have learned and the list is even longer of the things I want to learn to do. It spills over to my child(ren) - this fall, Pk will take a Music for Young Children class (she's done a music class since she was 18 months), swimming lessons, highland dance and I hope to have her in the storytime group at the library. I hear so much talk about ambitious parents who have their child in everything and I worry that somehow, I am also that parent, although I have different motivations (I don't believe my child is gifted, I am not getting her into things to give her an edge over the rest of the world and I am not especially concerned that she will be behind everyone else for not doing these things). Baby Bean will do the Mainly Mother Goose group a the library and swim lessons in the winter term. How much do you think is too much? Do you see anything wrong with a child doing lots of classes? In my mind, since they still get lots of unstructured time, lots of free choice play and they aren't going to school/Montessori/nursery school, there isn't anything wrong with trying to stretch her horizons and help her develop interests. I have to admit that I have even struggled with not putting her in more, since I have heard of at least three other things I would love her to get the chance to do (soccer, horseback riding and bowling). I think I have found a good balance. I just want her to be able to find her passion and pursue it.

How do you handle classes for your children? How do you set limits or decide what to allow/encourage your child to pursue?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Character Lessons

As you know from yesterday, Focus on the Family has a good new website, Kids of Integrity. I have been really interested in doing more teaching about our faith with Pk and I haven't known really where to start. We read the Bible and do little activities but I wasn't feeling like I was really applying it to daily life well enough. Last weekend, when we were at my parents'-in-law church, I was impressed with the Sunday school programme (I had to go with Pk because she was too shy about being left). She came away with a good understanding of the Hannah and Baby Samuel story and it made me realise that, while I LOVE our church, there isn't any good programming for the pre-schoolers and if we are going to stay at this church, I will need to pick up the slack. That's where Kids of Integrity comes in.

There are a series of character traits and each trait has a number of lessons that go along with it. I decided, after some browsing, that obedience is a good place for us to start (not that I think that doing this will make Pk instantly obedient but it gives us a really good jumping off point in our discussions of what we expect). I browsed the Bible stories associated and decided that we would take a week with each story - Jonah, Noah, Adam and Eve, Shadrach, Mishak and Abednego and finally, Moses. It's been fun putting some ideas together and doing the work with Pk.

We also have a memory verse for the unit -

Colossians 3:20 “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”

So far, we have done the Jonah work and I will post about that later but this week, we have started a focus on Noah. I will post the lessons we do, just in case anyone is interested. Pk is not quite three so I am trying to find ways to make the stories meaningful to her. We keep talking about the story all week and then I have colouring pages for her to do each day.

Lesson 2 : Noah's Ark

Materials :
- Noah's Ark stories (the one I used is below, it was a gift from Pk's babysitter who gave us the entire set which are dated but tell the stories really well - I also really
like the Barbara Reid version and I need to get a copy of that)

- a children's Bible (this is one of the ones we use - I love this one because it comes with CD's that go with it with a song that goes with each story - the Noah's Ark one is "Who Built the Ark"? which Pk knows)

- a bucket
-coloring pages - here are some good printables:

Noah's Ark colouring pages - http://dailycoloringpages.com/images/noahs-ark-rainbow-bible-coloring-sheets.png

-different plastic containers that float
-paper towel
-toy animals (hollow ones that aren't too heavy work best)

Step 1 - Read the story. Ask some questions and point out the elements of the story (God told Noah to build the ark, an ark is a kind of boat, the animals come in pairs). I found that having Pk list all the animals she knows really engaged her interest.

Step 2 - Have the child complete a coloring page (I let Pk pick which one she liked best). We talked about what part of the story we were seeing in the picture and I reminded her, again, that Noah listened to what God was asking him to do.

Step 3 - Fill the bucket with water. Put the animals in the water and discuss whether they can swim (I had a cow, a cat, a pig and some teddy bears). We pointed out that those animals can't swim and it would be bad for them to be in deep water. We put one of the containers in the water and placed an animal in the container. We talked about how the "ark" we had made was helping the animal to be safe and dry. Repeat with all the animals. Try some of the different plastic containers. Ask the child whether the paper towel would make a good boat (Pk said that it would). Place it on the top of the water and try to put the animals on the towel. Discuss whether the animals are safe on the paper towel. Explain that it was important that Noah listen to God so that he knew how to make the boat so that it would keep the animals safe.

Step 4 - Review the memory verse (Pk has it memorized now if we start with the first two words).

There are a few other Noah's Ark resources that we like that we used. The first is something I have been wanting to write about for a while. I love this:
Noah's Ark puzzle - http://issuu.com/thinkpendesign/docs/blessings_spring09o
These are "family puzzle sets" and the idea is that it is wonderful for a family to be able to sit down and do puzzles together but rarely are all members of the family at the same skill level. Each set comes with three puzzles on the same theme with different levels of difficulty. Pk loves the simple Noah's ark puzzle and as she gets older, she will be able to complete the other two.

Another Noah's ark resource I like is the book Rise and Shine by Tim Warnes from the Little Simon Inspirations Series (lovely books with a faith focus).

As I design my other lessons, I will post them as well - not that they are necessarily going to be used by anyone else but I am having fun putting this together.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Focus on the Family

Growing up, Focus on the Family was something that was viewed as being "bad" - anti-woman, bigoted and pro harsh treatment of children. James Dobson's name was synonomous with hard-core, right wing, closed minded traditional thinking.

When we moved up here to the north, I started listening to the Christian radio station off and on. I LOVE any kind of talk radio other than loudmouth blathering and they ran a few programmes that I found that I liked. Much to my surprise, the Focus on the Family daily broadcast became something that I really found myself enjoying.

Before I get into all of the things that I have discovered that I really like about Focus, I do have to declare that there are things with which I strongly disagree, primarily in the area of politics (hey, I should offend everyone here, I am hitting on religion and politics in one post!) I am not an American and I have come to the conclusion that there are aspects of the American mind that I, as a Canadian, will never understand. I do not understand the need for the right to carry firearms, I do not understand (or agree with) most of the foreign policy of the Bush years and I do NOT understand what there is to be afraid of in health care reform, particularly when it might mean that people would be less likely to lose their entire financial future due to an illness, the birth of a baby that goes wrong or an injury. I turn off Focus when they are talking politics and just agree to disagree.

Now that's cleared up, I do want to say that there is a tremendous amount about Focus that I have found myself really, really liking. I love their daily broadcasts (other than a tendency to replay the same shows a bit too often). They feature many well-informed, educated and compassionate guests who are able to share a great deal of useful information about managing family life (including marriage, parenting and finances). I loved Shaunti Feldhan's book about men, Gary Smalley stuff on relationships, I LOVE what Kevin Leman has to say about parenting, the list goes on and on. These experts are compassionate, realistic, do no advocate parenting techniques that I find to be overly harsh and as a woman who works outside of my home, I don't feel like I am vilified for not being a stay-at-home mother and homeschooling my children. These experts and resources really meet the needs I have as a parent and a wife. There are many wonderful books that I would never have discovered without Focus. They also have a number of programmes featuring stories of hope, recovery, forgiveness and healing that have me in tears (which is really embarassing when I am listening to their programmes on my ipod).

They have also brought out new resources that I am really enjoying. The first is their new magazine, Thriving Family. There are six issues a year and each issue addresses a variety of issues and needs of families with children at various stages of development. The magazine is easy to read, has great ideas and fits with my family's lifestyle (as opposed to a lot of other parenting magazines, which are full of ads and are mainly designed to get me to shop). The price is right and I am grateful for it.

Another Focus resource that I have found myself really liking is their new website, Kids of Integrity. The website is organized around a series of character traits that we might want to develop in our children and then features all kinds of lessons, strategies and activities for developing those character traits. We have been working on the obedience trait (defiance is a big thing in our house these days) and I found some great stuff in terms of using Bible stories as a jumping off point for discussing obedience (our focus this week has been on Jonah and next week, we are going to look at Noah). Everything you need is there to help design a programme to meet the needs of your own child. Given that the site is free, I am really, really impressed and grateful to have it as a resource.

Another Focus resource that I have found to be absolutely excellent is the Plugged In Online. It's a website that features reviews on music, movies and other media that you may be interested in or that your children may be interested in. I find them to be non-judgemental - you get a factual breakdown of the amount of violence, coarse language, sexuality, adult themes, etc so that you can make an informed choice about what you want to expose your family to. Dh and I have used it to research movies we are thinking about and as Pk and Baby Bean get older, I sincerely hope that it continues to be available as a resource to parents!

Finally, while Pk is a bit young for it, Focus has also worked in partnership with Phil Vischer of Veggietales fame to develop a new online experience for children called JellyTelly. Jellytelly features programmes, games and other media that help children to explore their faith while being entertaining. Phil Vischer is brilliant and is able to use the modern media to reach children in a way that speaks to them in the way that other media is sharing ideas and values that go against what so many of us want for our children. It's really worth checking out. It's a subscription service but at $4.99 a month, it isn't exactly expensive.

Thank you, Focus, for doing so much to support families!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Bible Study

A little over a year ago, I stumbled across Abbie's blog and her link to an online Bible study group. I decided to give it a try and I have LOVED it. I hadn't done any of Beth Moore's Bible studies before joining the group and I have fallen in love with her approach, marrying real life application with fairly in depth study of text. I have learned so much and have really grown in my faith. It's also really nice to have joined a close, online community of women who are striving to grow in their faith and to support each other.

In September, we will be starting another study - Annointed, Transformed, Redeemed, A Study of David. If you haven't done a Bible study like this, I would suggest you join us! For more information, visit our groups' blog - Living in His Design.

Hope to see you there!

An Ode To Dairy

As you may know, if you have been around here for a while, Pk, my eldest, was NOT an easy baby that first year. She never slept, she cried all the time and nights were, frankly, a nightmare! As she got older, things go much easier but those first few months were TOUGH.

When Baby Bean was getting ready to arrive, I did lots of research and one thing I came across was the fact that I might have benefitted from doing some food restricting to see whether Pk had any sensitivities. When she was older, I did see a naturopath who took us off everything (the woman was a crackpot, if you ask me in hindsight) and that accomplished nothing but I never thought to eliminate anything at the time.

When Baby Bean started to show signs of what dh and I referred to as the "evening grunchies", I decided to drop dairy from my diet. I couldn't really tell whether it was making a difference or not but the plan was to try it for four weeks and then try introducing a bit of goat's milk into my diet and see what happened.

The four weeks were hard. I LOVE cheese and if you haven't even had to be aware of it, you would probably be surprised at the number of foods that contain "modified milk ingredients", whey powder or lactose. Because my father is lactose intolerant, I know what I am looking for so I can pretty confidently say that I was milk free. Baby Bean seemed much mellower than Pk - he had his moments but nothing like what we had seen with Pk.

Last week, we went to visit my inlaws. My m.i.l. isn't very good at looking for milk ingredients so I had to be really on the ball, which was tough, because I didn't want to offend her. Desserts were out, snacks were out and even a couple of meals, I had to eat very selectively. I took my almond milk (I love tea with milk and I have found that to be the closest substitute). I had a few things that were kind of suspicious and while we were there, Baby Bean had some moments of real grouchiness, especially towards the end of the visit. I tried to tell myself that it might be due to a different environment, strange people, overstimulation, etc...

Well, last night we had pasta for dinner and I put a bit of goat's cheese on top. From what I have read, infants are not lactose intolerant, their issues are almost always allergies to milk protein (which, thankfully, are often outgrown in early childhood). Goat's milk is a protein source that is easier to digest than cow's milk so it seemed the most likely thing to be o.k. It's not, for Baby Bean anyway. This evening, we have had glimpses of Pk as an infant. Constantly crying, grouchiness and a strong desire to comfort nurse (my breasts are in need of some serious t.l.c. at this point). I think that dairy is out of my life for the next few months, at least. I plan to nurse heavily for at least his first year and to continue nursing, at least somewhat, until he is at least 16 months (when I weaned Pk). My goal would be two given that is the WHO recommendation but I am not sure that I have it in me (when they are using sentences to ask for nursing, I personally get very uncomfortable).

Being dairy free is a tough pill to swallow and makes eating out or at other people's homes almost impossible. On the other hand, the evening crying makes me crazy and I would do almost anything to have a happy baby.

Please, if you can, go and have some cheese or ice cream for me. I am in serious withdrawal.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Changing World

Last weekend, we went up to visit my in-laws, who live in a town about 3 hours north of us. It's a very pretty town and a bit of a summer holiday destination, so there are some family entertainment areas around the town.

This year, we decided that Pk was old enough to visit Story Park. I had never been but I had heard about it. It has a few rides for little kids, a train, parks and, the reason for its name, little story houses featuring characters from popular childrens' stories. Pk was in love! As we walked around, I have to admit, I had one of those times when I become a product of where I was raised - I am, by experience, a city girl and while I really love many of the values that go with a smaller place (slower pace of life, increased contact with people from spheres other than my own, less pressure to "make it", etc), at times, the urban snob emerges and this was one of those times. We came to the Snow White house. I kid you not, it was a little house with cheap wood paneling (of the type you would see in someone's 1970's rec room), a statue of Snow White and 7 garden gnomes (again, think 1970's suburbia). Pk thought it was pretty marvelous (if only I could see the world through the eyes of an almost three year old) but to me, it just looked really tacky. Pk had a nice time and other than when my m.i.l. spent three minutes hanging over the railing trying not to throw up after going on a ride with Pk, we all had a nice time.

Later in the day, when the kids were napping, I sat with my journal writing about what had happened and I got reflecting on how much the world has changed. As a child, I would have adored a place like the one we had visited. That pleasure would have lasted quite a bit longer than it probably will for Pk. I remember adoring going to the C.N.E., Toronto's big agricultural fair (or, at least, those were its origins). It was grotty, tacky, dirty and, in some cases, bordering on dangerous but we adored it. We looked forward for weeks to going - it was truly one of the highlights of the summer. We loved the little doughnuts that we watched being made and ate hot with either icing sugar or cinnamon sugar. We always played the fishing games, knowing that we would win incredibly tacky prizes. We wandered buildings looking at livestock, snacked on food samples and saw the "latest and greatest" in home gadgets. There was an "Around the World" pavilion that featured shopping from other countries and it felt very exotic. To us, the C.N.E. was the best.

And then, along came Wonderland. Canada's Wonderland was a big, glitzy amusement park. It was clean, the rides were safe and it was horribly expensive. Everything was bright and exciting and loud. Immediately, we saw the C.N.E. for the slightly dingy event that it was. Something that had been so exciting became something that we couldn't be bothered with. It was something you did if you couldn't afford Wonderland or didn't have a way to get there. In some ways, the C.N.E. became something that was viewed as being kind of pathetic, a kind of a joke (they had a few years when they struggled with ride accidents which made it even more of a joke).

What really hit me was that there is a kind of loss of innocence that makes me sad. Pk's glee at the silly little houses and the old, tired rides and a vastly-overpriced little dish of ice cream was a pleasure to watch. I know it's easy to idealize the past and the new, the glitzy and the sophisticated make our lives exciting in wonderful new ways. On the other hand, it is sad when we begin to see things as they are, when the magic wears off. I know that Pk's childhood will contain a number of those losses of magic and I think I will be sad when each of those losses comes. Unfortunately, my experience in the last few years has been that we have less and less capacity to see magic (I immediately think of the child in dh's class who brought a teddy bear for show and tell and proceeded to tell the class that he didn't want to share it because it was stupid because it didn't need batteries and didn't do anything).

Me, I want some of that magic back. I know that it is easier said than done but I am really trying to see the world through Pk's eyes and enjoy the magic that is there. I want to silence that snob and savour those tastes, sounds and allow myself to feel that excitement. Being able to see the world through my childrens' eyes is one of the greatest gifts of motherhood for me.

Now, I have a craving for doughnuts and popcorn shrimp!