Monday, February 28, 2011

Haven: Day One

Monica, over at The Homespun Heart, a blog that I really enjoy, posted a challenge for the week (I am loving these challenges, it's such fun to have something to work towards and a direction for the blog). The timing is perfect as, with the month's change, I am so aware that my time is short - I go back to work on April 18th and I want to make the most of every day with my children (returning to work is a post for another day...) This challenge seemed like a nice way to begin the next several weeks.

For today, the challenge had several parts - begin the day with Quiet Time with God, create a special breakfast and do something to bless the nest. The challenge that I added for myself was to do something special to make the day memorable for the children. It worked out so well!

In my quiet time, I am reading through the book of Romans. A couple of years ago, our church did the Old Testament Challenge and we read through the entire O.T. Since I am behind on our group Bible study, I decided that I would work on reading through the N.T., starting with Romans (I have read many snippets of the N.T. letters but I haven't ever read through them systematically). Today's reading was Romans 4 and this is the part of the text that really spoke to me:

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed ... Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God,being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

At times, I find myself having a hard time truly trusting that God has the power to change situations that seem set in stone to me. I like that "Against all hope..." - those words leapt out as me as worthy of reflection - do I truly believe that God can do anything or do I limit myself by giving up on God?

The next step was breakfast and again, that was fairly easy. I only ever make pancakes on the weekend that they are one of Pk's favourites. Normally, she would be going to daycare on a Monday and we would be rushing (she goes two days a week to keep her spot and it gives me time with Baby Bean). It was such a treat to make her pancakes. I have also been feeling lately as if I have been very distracted and she doesn't get my full attention. I thought a breakfast of treats and reading together would be a nice way to make breakfast special, especially since dh had to rush since the roads were icy and he had to leave early. We are working on memory verses from this Susan Hunt book (marvelous!).

Sadly, I didn't get many photos of the rest of our day (I need to remember to take more!). While Baby Bean had his morning nap, I taught Pk how to print "Daddy" (the letter y was a nightmare) and she drew him a picture so that he would have something special when he got home. We followed that up by reading our phonics reader (letter D since it fit so well with Daddy) and then we went on to play the Eric Carle ABC game that she was given for her birthday last September. She loves to play games right now and I love the skills that we can reinforce.

Once Baby Bean got up, my next part of the plan fell into place. Pk LOVES, LOVES, LOVES splashing in puddles and I have been feeling ridiculously cooped up with all the yucky weather of late. It was raining when I got up this morning and by 10 a.m, it was freezing up. We got all bundled up into our snowsuits and went for a walk around the neighbourhood. We visit the new house of a friend who has just moved to town and we practiced reading the street signs and, most of all, Pk splashed to her heart's content. When we got home, we were cold and it felt lovely to come inside and to put our wet things in front of the fire downstairs.

The rest of the day was uneventful but pleasant. Pk had "red pasta" for lunch (we have to call it that since she claims to hate tomatoes but loves pasta with tomato sauce), played games and instruments in the living room and then decided to have a family nap - Baby Bean in his crib, Pk and I sharing the bed in his room with the two dogs and the cat. It was tight but cozy and I find that Pk really thrives on having that family time together. After nap, it was off to dance class and then back for supper. We finished with the children in the tub together (they adore bathing together - it's a new development and so nice, life is easier for me and they have so much fun).

Oops, I almost forgot about improving the nest. That was fun. A good friend from town gave us three bins of clothing for Baby Bean last week (I have been very spoiled with several friends with exquisite taste sharing boys' clothing with us). She is a Gymboree fan and the bins are full of outfit sets with the sweaters that I love! Baby Bean and I went through them, selecting the outfits that he will wear. I always try to mark the tags as to donor so that I can return the items when we are done and that took us a while but at least now, the bins can be packed away and out of sight!

When I finish here, I hope to finish the day with some knitting in front of the t.v. with dh (it feels like we haven't seen each other today). I'm looking forward to the challenges of day 2!

Multitude Monday 185 -

holy experience

Someone sent me a lovely link to a windows movie called God and Dog this week and it reminded me just how lucky I am to share my life with our wonderful "Furkids". We have three - Chelsea a 10 year old Brittany spaniel, Lucie, a four year old Brittany spaniel and Sadie, a roughly 3 year old orange and white cat. I know that some people aren't pet people but for us, I couldn't imagine life without their love.

This week, my gratitude is focused on them:

185. Sleeping with a warm furry body - my personal favourite happens to be sleeping with Chelsea's head draped over my legs.
186. The loving way in which the animals have welcomed the arrival of both of our children.
187. Cuddles in bed with all of the family - it's a time during which I am totally aware of how blessed I truly am
188. The gentle purr of the cat
189. walks in the forest with the dogs and the glee with which they run
190. The wonderful friendships I have formed with other dog walkers
191. The way that having animals breaks down barriers and leads people to talk to complete strangers
192. The unconditional love reflected in these eyes
193. Our wonderful vet who has become a personal friend who treats the animals as kindly as I would if I could do it myself
194. The way that I notice my surroundings so much more when I see them through the eyes of my dog
195. Our alarm system - we had to laugh, an alarm system company called and tried to sell us a system and dh told them that we already have a system. When they asked which company, Dh told them, "The brittany company. They are small but they are onto everything and always at work." "Oh, I haven't heard of them," replied the salesperson.
196. There is no better proof of God to me than the diversity of the animals around us and the love they share for us.

Friday, February 25, 2011

February Love Challenge Week 4

For our last challenge from Jessica's February Love Challenge over at Muthering Heights, the goal was to carve out at least one hour of time per child to spend quality time so that the child truly feels special. I wanted to take each child's lead to determine how he or she really wanted to spend the time together.

I was lucky - given that it was the "Family Day" holiday here in Ontario, Monday was the perfect day for the Pk part of the challenge as daddy was home and could be on call for Baby Bean so that Pk and I could go outside. A few weeks ago, the "big kids" in Sunday school at the church had done snow painting and Pk had been desperate to try it. When I saw the time component of this challenge, the snow painting seemed the perfect thing to do. At the dollar store, I bought several spray mist bottles and when I got up, before Pk was awake, I got the bottles ready with food colouring.

The only drawback for us was the extreme cold. It's hard to spray wearing mittens! I got Pk into her snowsuit from last year (I was a bit worried that the food colouring water would stain) and out we went. It was frigid but she didn't seem to mind. You may or may not be able to see that in the photo below, I had written "I love you" in the snow. We covered the snow and shivered and she had a great time.

The other thing that she wanted to, which was ridiculous in the cold, was to blow bubbles using the bubbles that she had been given in a birthday loot bag. She had been asking for days (and reminding me that we needed to wait until the "snow went back into the sky" so that it would be warm enough). The results weren't great and we didn't do it more than about three minutes but at least she could say that we did it.
After that, we ventured inside and, as after all such cold activities, we had to make hot cocoa. I asked what she wanted to do and her desire was to play Cariboo, the new cranium game that she LOVES (and of which I am entirely sick). After three games of Cariboo, I felt that I had truly done my duty and I think that Pk felt good about having mom's attention.
Carving out time with Baby Bean was a bit trickier. Finding the time itself was easy - on Wednesdays, Pk goes to her sitter (we had to do that while I am on leave to keep her spot) and to be honest, it's wonderful to have some time to do things with Baby Bean by himself. We do a swim lesson and, best of all, we have a cozy afternoon nap together. That was the focus of my time with him as it is his favourite thing to do. He is truly a cuddler and when you nap with him, he loves to cuddle up close, stroke your face and hold your hand. It's a very cozy way to sleep and, to be honest, I could spend hours just lying beside him, studying his little face and loving every bit of him. I need to get him sleeping for consistently in his crib for when he starts daycare but on Wednesday, my focus was just spending some time close to my little boy.

I feel so lucky to have been trusted with two such wonderful little human beings. I hope that I can continue this gift of time - given that I return to work in less than two months, it's really on my mind and I am trying to cherish every minute. I hope that I can continue to find ways to share precious time with each of them on their own so that they know how important they are to us. (As an aside, on this idea, in the summer, when we have to keep each one of them in daycare one day a week to keep the spot, we have decided that we will send them in different days so that each child gets one day a week with mom's and dad's full attention).

Thank you, Jessica, for giving us such a rewarding challenge! I plan to make it an annual event.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Multitude Monday 173 -

holy experience

Today is the Family Day holiday here in Ontario and of course, my mind is on my family (the source of so much of my joy).

173. Baby Bean's face looking up into mine
174. Being called Mama
175. Girls' morning out with Pk and my m.i.l. last Saturday - it's wonderful to feel the connection across the generations
176. the little things that m.i.l. does to welcome us - the blue cheese (Dh's fav), the goldfish crackers (for Pk), the favourite tea of mine
177. napping with a dog's warm head draped across my leg
178. starting new craft projects
179. days with Dh at home
180. shrimp feasts at home as a treat
181. Pk's gratitude at small things (e.g., cupcakes as a treat after dinner)
182. fleece sheets (I didn't think I would like them but at m.i.l.'s house, they were wonderfully cozy)
183. a warm bed to sleep in while in a cool room
184. a warm little body worn on my back

Enjoy a blessed week!

February Love Challenge Week 3

Jessica over at Muthering Heights has been hosting a February Love Challenge in which we have been given weekly tasks to help to demonstrate our love to our children. This weeks' task was to write a special Valentine to our children - a poem or a letter sharing what it is that we love most about them. Then, we were to read the letter or poem to them, if possible in front of the rest of the family.

This task was easy for me. A few years ago, on t.v., I saw a profile of a mother who was dying of cancer and who composed a video diary for her daughter, telling her all the things that she wanted her to know but wouldn't be able to share with her at the time. I have never forgotten that and one of my biggest fears would be to die before my children reach adulthood and to leave them without having told them things that I truly want them to know. Out of that fear, my letter binders were born.

Each binder contains letters that I write to my children. There isn't a set schedule and I don't do it all that often but my hope would be that if anything were to happen to me and I wasn't here to tell them and reaffirm all the time that I love them unconditionally, they would be able to read the letters from me, sharing my love for them, my pride in them and my total enjoyment of them. I read somewhere that children who experience truly unconditional love from their parents have a much easier time believing in a loving God and I hope that I can give my children a small glimpse of the love of God in my love for each of them. The only problem with the letters that I write is that I often find myself in tears as I write them.

This year, I wrote a letter to each child, a catalogue of things I love and I have put the letter into each binder. Pk does not know that she has a binder and while I did share this letter with her, I want the binder to be a secret. I hope to be able to give it to her either on her 18th birthday or when I drop her off at university. I plan to make the annual "love letter" a part of each binder and I hope that each child is truly able to appreciate just how much I love him or her!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

To Princess or Not to Princess...

Sadly, we have hit that stage. Pk has noticed and begun to adore Disney's princesses. We fought the fight as long as we could but now, we have lost - the world has invaded. We knew it was only a matter of time but we thought we might have managed to avoid it until school. Not so.

I actually have a hard time articulating what it is exactly about the princesses that I loathe so much. Certainly, in part, it's the impossible-to-achieve standard of beauty and the fact that the "good" characters are always what to little girls would be gorgeous. Certainly, as someone who has battled the self-image struggle my whole life and who still, at 38, has a hard time getting dressed in the morning because I feel so badly about how I look, I want to do everything I can to spare Pk that struggle. On the other hand, I am not naive enough to think that keeping the princesses out of my home would stop Pk from being bombarded by the media and popular culture. The message that uber-thin is what's in and that her primary value comes from her appearance is everywhere. Fighting that cultural message goes a whole lot deeper than banning a few Disney movies and toys.

Part of my dislike is the way that the marketing is targeted at little children. It's crass and frankly, how Disney can pretend to have anything other than cash as it's motivation is ridiculous. That's distasteful but again, I wouldn't say that Disney is much worse than any other company selling to children. For that matter, the whole Veggietales franchise and Big Idea's marketing team, which I really like in so many ways for the values that the movies contain, has really ramped up the marketing machine in recent years and are pushing "stuff" on our kids. I am not boycotting them and, in fact, we have bought more than we should for Pk since she loves Veggietales so much.

In some ways, I don't like the way that Disney seems to move our children along through their machine. Disney princesses seems to lead to the really horrible (in my opinion) tween category (all of which seems to end up being consumed by my grade 2's who are not yet tweens) and then, down to road to the troubled and disturbed messages of the former Disney girls who go off the rails (and you know who I mean). But that isn't all of it, either.

My indecision is what really leads to my dilemma. I know that some of my closest friends "get it" and feel the same way but others do not. There are family members who think the whole Disney thing is just part of the joy of childhood and who would shower Pk with princess stuff. It hasn't happened yet but it will and that leads dh and I to have to make some decisions. If I can't articulate my feelings about why I don't want to go down this road, can I really expect these people to understand? Do I risk offending them by taking a firm stand on the princesses (as I would more confidently with, say, Bratz or crop tops or bikinis)? How do I draw the line?

In the midst of all of this, Focus on the Family's "Thriving Family" magazine had an interesting take of the princess culture that I hadn't really seen as an option before now. The author of the article shared that she had looked at the Disney films for the characteristics demonstrated by the princesses that showed good character (e.g., Belle's loyalty to her father in Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella's hard work) and she framed her discussions with her daughter in terms of character rather than appearance. She selected certain films and heroines as being better than others and allowed her daughter to watch those. She actively discussed the message of each film and tried to focus on what she saw as positive. That might be something we could do. While some of the films really don't have much to grab onto, Beauty and the Beast, for one, does have a positive message that we could share. That would mean having to sit down and watch through a bunch of these films (not something I relish!)

I'm not sure if that is the answer for us. There's only so much that we can do to keep the world at bay and realistically, trying to keep everything out that we don't love isn't practical or possible. On the other hand, I'm not sure how much compromise I am prepared to do on this without feeling a bit like I have abdicated my responsibility. I am not clearly seeing where the line should be and I don't know where the comfortable limit would be for us.

Just curious, what do you think?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

When I was a teenager and single, I used to kind of dread Valentine's Day. It was supposed to be such a big deal and when single, it just seemed to serve as a reminder of that fact. Once I got into a relationship, it seemed to be a bit of a letdown, too. We'd go out for a romantic dinner and have a nice time but it just never seemed to live up to its press.

And then, came children. I have truly discovered the fun that Valentine's Day can be. This year, it has been wonderful, dreaming up surprises and putting them into action. I think this is a day that Pk will really remember.

It all began last night. I spent some time making Jelly Jiggler hearts but I made them following the "broken glass" jello idea. Mine didn't turn out quite as nicely as I would have like since I melted them too much to get them out of the pan (our sink didn't want to fit the pan that needed to be bathed in water to loosen the jello) but overall, they didn't turn out too badly. The kids will like them. I was so excited to find the idea on a blog since I was having trouble coming up with a great idea to take for the kids at the home daycare Pk attends.

The other big task last night was stringing hearts for Pk's doorway. Fortunately, she is a very deep sleeper and daddy had a good supply of 3M hooks. We had it all ready to go and when she was in a deep sleep, up they went. I was worried but the cat wasn't as tempted as I thought she would be. Pk loved them when she got up this morning. She said they were her vines (and had plans to swing on them!)
Daddy was kind and bought a little stuffed puppy for each of them. Baby Bean was more interested in the bag and the tissue than the puppy but at least daddy can know that he got his money's worth. Pk's puppy was pink so she was thrilled.

Breakfast this morning was pancakes that I made heart shaped with a cookie cutter. They were also a big hit! I wasn't quite sure how they would go over because I make mine with whole wheat flour and while Pk doesn't usually mind, with pancakes that she gets to have at McDonald's once in a while, I wasn't sure how well she would like them. The hearts worked like a charm.

These two cards were made for me by Daddy with input from Pk. That meant a lot to me, as he is generally not very crafty. He did say that getting Pk to compose a message when she had just gotten her ponies (I gather they did this after the scavenger hunt the other day) was a challenge and she was much more interested in talking about what she loved about her ponies than what she loves about her mommy. Daddy also had a hard time finding pics of me with the kids, he said. I guess my sensitivity about post-baby weight is making me avoid the camera. Time to do something about that, I guess.

I'll treasure these cards forever and the memories that go along with them. I am a very lucky woman.

Friday, February 11, 2011

February Love Challenge Week 2

At first, when I read that this week's challenge from Jessica at Muthering Heights was a scavenger hunt, I was stumped. Pk is too little to follow written clues or a map (for that matter, it's hard to get her to follow "it's over there in the toy box" or "look right in front of you on top of the piano"). I knew I wanted to do this but it wouldn't seem to come together in my mind. I knew I didn't want to do candy (I'm trying to keep that to a minimum and it seems to be everywhere - you can't seem to get away from the parties these days) and stickers wouldn't really get her excited. Then, it came to me - a "My Little Pony." Nothing makes Pk more excited than a pony. I am somewhat uncomfortable with this - we try to keep the big brand toys, especially those made of plastic, out of our house but on the other hand, we can't entirely keep them away and I am much happier with ponies than, say, Disney princesses, Barbie or, worst of all, Bratz. It helps that they are cheap and that we have discovered that the McDonald's Happy Meal toys can be purchased without buying a Happy Meal for 83 cents. You can't beat that! I splurged for this challenge and bought a real pony pack for the huge price of $5.93.

The next challenge was how to put the search together. Then, I saw the pattern for these adorable little felt envelopes on One Pretty Thing (see this post for information) and I knew exactly what to do. Dh and I took photos of the location of each clue and put the photos into the envelopes. She was able to follow the photos to the final location. It worked like a charm and Pk was over the moon.

This was such a wonderful thing to do. Dh and I were silly with excitement with the planning and we couldn't wait for her to get up this morning so that we could do it (and, if you know Dh, you will know that this was big, normally he needs to be pried, kicking and screaming, out of bed). The funny thing is that when we gave Pk the first envelope to open with the first clue, she said, in her breathless voice she uses for anything exciting, "Oh, mummy, thank you! I love my card." We could have left it there and she would have been pleased. How nice to spoil a grateful child.

Jessica, thank you for these wonderful ideas. I hope that Pk goes to sleep ever day having felt that she was loved and cherished. It's been nice to do something that goes the extra mile. I am not sure who is being blessed more, her or her daddy and I.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My Little Corner

As you know, I am trying to focus on the wonderful things that make me happy. Today, when I was nursing Baby Bean, I got looking around my room and noticed my little corner. This room, and this corner in particular, make me very happy. The parts come together in just the right way to make it cozy, light, open and peaceful. When we bought the house, I didn't love the house but our bedroom is lovely. There's a large window, double doors out to a deck and it's roomy. Quite a long time ago, Kittenpie painted her hallway a celery green and I LOVED it. We decided to try painting our room celery green (the colour is called "Neon Celery" and when we bought it, the saleswoman kept saying, "You do realise that this is a very bright colour?") With the white trim and the sunlight in the room (the windows face south with the shade of trees and west), the colour is so open and airy. The desk is my grandfather's old desk. He was a small town minister and the desk was a gift from a very grateful congregation. It's beat up and needs refinishing but it has such sentimental appeal to me - it always had a place of pride in my grandmother's living room after my grandfather died. It's my place for planning, journaling and reading when I can't risk falling asleep (which I often do when I read in bed these days). I can dream and plan and organize and bask in the sunshine through the windows. Up on the wall are my pictures of the Chrysler Building in Mahattan, which I fell head over heels in love with when we visited N.Y.C. The nicest part about the room and my spot is that in the spring, when the lilacs are in bloom, if we leave the doors and windows open, there is an overwhelming smell of lilacs. It's heavenly.

It's also a lovely place for a nap, which feels like such a luxury. Pk, Baby Bean and I have taken to having naps together in the afternoon. I know that these are times I will cherish forever and something that I will dream about when I return to work.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Rising to the Challenge

I love Ann Voskamp's blog, A Holy Experience, which, if you know me, is actually a bit out of character. Her blog is quiet yet full, simple yet incredibly complex and of such a depth that most posts require reflection and more than one reading. I'm a rushing, scanning kind of reader so I think that often, I miss the true depth. It's on the rare days that I can actually sit and read as opposed to a quick scan that I really am able to receive her message.

One of the major themes of the blog is gratitude and, as you know, there are weekly link-ups to her gratitude community. I have found that taking time to catalogue those little things that make each day so rich really changes my thinking and helps me to keep focus and to find contentment. When I saw that Ann has written a book and, even better, that the Dayspring blog is featuring a book club called Bloom and this book is the first study, I had to join in.

Truly, the timing couldn't be better. For the last several weeks, I have found myself battling a kind of creeping discontent that at times begins to crawl into depression. When I am busy, it isn't so bad and when I can focus on a project and not think (e.g., my knitting), I am not so bad but there are moments that I find myself in tears. I love my husband, I love my children and I feel so fortunate in so many ways but still, there is this gap, this void, this emptiness. I fill it with striving, with trying to prove myself, with projects and goals and busyness and yet, it's not enough. It's not a craving for material things - I don't feel a huge need for a bigger house or a fancy car or the right labels on my clothing. It's much more a sense of a need to prove my worth, to show that I have some value. The trappings I crave are the accomplishments that prove that I am a good mother (e.g., the "perfect" treats for the holiday, the child who is accomplished thanks to home teaching, the child who is confident in all situations thanks for a security in love and discipline), a good wife (with a husband who obviously benefits from my care), a good homemaker (a skilled cook with a home that is always immaculate and ready to receive visitors with warm hospitality), an excellent teacher whose students all leave at the end of the year highly successful and most of all, a Christian woman whose life reflects her faith and enriches others (through my church work, my blog, my obvious joy that makes others want to have what I have). The hard part is that I feel like I am not able to do any of those things well enough and I spend a great deal of time comparing myself to those who I think are what I feel I need to be. I am really exhausted and sick of the busyness. I know that I am missing out.

I have read the first two chapters of the book and so far, I am entranced. It's a slow read (not that it is heavy but I have to slow down to "get" it), which is refreshing in a way. I have to carve out time to reflect and to savour. I can't remember the last time I did that. I have this sense that Ann understands me. I read the following excerpt today and I felt my heart leap, yelling, "That's me! Someone understands!"

I wake to self-hatred. To the wrestle to get it all done, the relentless anxiety that I am failing. Always, the failing. I yell at children, fester with bitterness, forget doctor appointments, lose library books, live selfishly, skip prayer, complain, go to bed too late, neglect cleaning the toilets. I live tired. Afraid. Anxious. Weary. Years, I feel it in the veins, the pulsing of ruputured hopes. Would I ever be enough, find enough, do enough? (page 27)

I can't wait to continue on the journey of this book. While I know that reading one book can't solve all my problems or assuage my guilt at claiming to be a Christian while also feeling such discontent, it's so nice to feel like someone knows, someone understands and that someone is someone so wise. It's nice to not be alone. It would be lovely not to feel so tired.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Valentine's Treats

I've gone a bit nuts this year. It's so nice to have time to do some crafting for Valentine's Day. Usually, I get so busy at school that I just don't have the time to do the fun little things at home. This year, it feels like such a treat. It also helps that Baby Bean has reasonably good naps and that Pk goes to daycare two days a week (we needed to do that to keep her spot). I am trying to take advantage of that mummy time to do some things that give me pleasure and making the holiday fun for Pk really gives me that pleasure.

These jars are for Pk's teachers. We are giving one to her music class teacher and the other to our librarian who leads the storytime group that Pk attends. Both teachers are wonderfully patient and run great programmes. It's a nice way to say thank you. I got the idea from yet another blog I read, "Montrealaise en Californie". She often features great teacher gifts that she makes for her childrens' teachers.

These little felt envelopes are an idea that I stumbled across the other day. On reader, I follow One Pretty Thing, a marvelous source that offers daily summaries of craft/recipe ideas from all over the web related to various themes. If you are someone who crafts or who does programmes with children, it is fantastic. I saw these and knew that they would be perfect for our week two challenge in the February Love Challenge. There will be more about how I use these on Friday.

And finally, our Valentine treats. Normally, we just give cards and this year, I blew Pk's mind because I found Veggietales Valentine Cards. She is the world's biggest VT fan and to be able to give Veggietales to her friends just rocks her world. I saw the recipe for these Valentine lollipop cookies and had to give them a try. They weren't as finicky as I thought they would be and packaged up in a Valentine gift bag (20 for $1 at Walmart) and tied with curling ribbon, they look mighty cute. I took a few to some of her friends at music class today and based on their reactions, they are a hit! I was also really impressed because Pk wrote her name on all of the cards (she is writing her name but it takes a while and some coaching... I kept asking if she wanted me to do the rest but she was proud to do them herself). It may seem like I was going crazy doing so many Valentines but we made a list together of which friends she wanted to give cards to and the list was pretty long - music friends, daycare friends, church friends and a few library friends. When she starts school, we will have to rein this in a bit or we will be spending the entire month of January getting ready. At least, as she gets older, she will be able to do more of the work!

I was pleased with how they turned out and so was Pk. Luckily, we had enough that she could have one.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Multitude Monday 153 -

holy experience

Today is a quiet day, a day when I have been able to enjoy some time to myself while Baby Bean naps and to enjoy time cuddling with him. What a blessed relief to have some quiet time.

154. cozy, slow days when I don't feel rushed
155. the fun of a book I can't put down (I just finished Fallen Skies by Philippa Gregory)
156. having a friend who knits to get me back into the habit
157. Valentine's Day hearts and treats
158. wonderful bloggers who share great craft ideas and recipes
159. the knowledge that I am making special memories for my children
160. that my mom is on the mend and that is is quite likely that we will have her truly back to form
161. yummy food at potlucks
162. afternoon naps
163. the neighbour that we are paying to do our driveway until Dh is back to being able to do lots of lifting
164. that I still have two months at home before I go back to work
165. Pk's saying to me constantly, "You are happy, Mom, because you have two beautiful, special children" - it's nice to know that the words that she is imprinting onto her heart from me are good ones
166. being able to experience holidays through my daughter's eyes (as a teacher, they had gotten pretty tired)
167. after a bad week like last one, knowing that I could make a fresh start on a new week
168. the way that a photo or a book can reach me in ways that I can't explain (like the nursing/reading pic that Laura posted that I mentioned yesterday)
169. Baby Bean's babbling ("blah, blah, blah, blah")
170. that no matter how bad it gets, there is always something to laugh about
171. the fact that buying gifts for Pk gives me more pleasure than any gift I have ever received
172. creating things in the kitchen to feed my family

Have a wonderful week.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Must Read

I love reading Laura's blog, Nestled Under Rainbows. She has little ones, one who is just about the same age as Baby Bean and she's crafty and involved with her children and her blog makes me smile. Her post today left me with a big smile on my face - taking bored children to do random acts of kindness and then some wonderful nursing/reading. It's what life is all about!

One of Those Days...

As you know, I love bulbs and I bought these for myself a week ago. I've been waiting for them to bloom but the last few days have been really crazy and I kind of forgot about them. This afternoon, I happened to glimpse and this is what I saw:

And I thought, how appropriate for the week I have had! It was nice to have a laugh about it all - I needed that.

Mom has been sick for a long time. She sleeps a lot, doesn't seem to care about many things and seems to get very little done. I had actually decided not to long ago that she must be suffering from profound depression. I tried to broach it with Dad but, much as I love him, he only has so much room for reality when it isn't so nice and he basically brushed me off. Mom finally got in with a surgeon who told her that her problems were caused by 1. the hiatus hernia she has had for at least the last fifteen years and 2. her non-functional gallbladder. He felt that surgery was necessary a.s.a.p.

What followed was an exercise in frustration. She kept being told that she needed the surgery but she couldn't get a date. There were endless fruitless conversations with the surgeon's receptionist who was supposed to be setting everything up and, after intervention from the family doctor, a date was arranged - last Wednesday.

The family has been gearing up since then. Mom was nervous but also looking forward to the possibility of relief. We were all set to go and then last Sunday, I got the phone call - Dad was sick, my brother had taken him to emergency and he had been admitted to the hospital with his third case of pneumonia this winter (note to all - if you think that smoking for your entire life won't hurt you, YOU ARE WRONG). Mom didn't want to go through the surgery if something was wrong with dad. I was so frustrated, I thought I would lose my mind. For once, it needed to be about mom and not about everyone else.

Monday, once it became clear that dad was going to be o.k., she agreed that she would have the surgery. That is, if she could get to the hospital and the surgery wasn't cancelled due to lack of staff due to the big snowstorm that was supposed to come in. Then, on Monday night, she started to come down with a cold. Would they allow her to have the surgery???

Fortunately, the weather wasn't as bad as predicted and she got there. The surgeon seemed to think that the cold wasn't bad enough to cause a problem. The operation was done and we discovered why she has been so low. A full third of her stomach had entered her chest cavity and her breathing was impaired and she wasn't getting sufficient oxygen. She also had terrible gall stones and a stone in the bile duct (exactly the same as dh a month ago... strange coincidence). Her recovery would be slow and a bit uncomfortable but there is every chance that she will finally feel better.

For me, the rest of the week has been really frustrating. I have been essentially cut off from mom. Since I have the baby and am nursing, I can't go down to help and really, I would just be in the way. All of my information comes through my brother who, while I love him very much, makes me want to run away. He is in this anxious frenzy all the time and while he doesn't know much, he hears enough to decide that she is dying (e.g., when he heard that she had to have therapy to teach her to breathe again, he decided that she shouldn't be home because there had to have been lung damage - it took a long time for me to get him to understand that the training was to teach her to use her full lung capacity since she hadn't in years). I can't explain how awful it is to talk to him. He won't leave her alone for a minute at a time, he hovers constantly, I am not allowed to talk to her on the phone since I might exhaust her and he was trying to arrange with dh to go down there for a while next weekend since she shouldn't be left alone (in his mind) and he will need to get groceries. I think, 10 days after a surgery that wasn't all that major, that she can be left for an hour. I am getting emails telling me not to phone since I might wake her up (nevermind the fact that I haven't phoned since her operation and mom and I have agreed that I won't so she can rest). It's really hard to have to give in to his over-anxiety (he needs help for it but the family, for reasons that I don't understand, panders to his worry rather than helping him to work through it). I've felt guilty because I haven't been able or allowed to help, sad because I miss my mom and grieved by the knowledge that I have been shut out of the family (and I now know, down the road, if there is a more serious health issue, that I will be pushed aside immediately unless I really fight, which I just don't have the energy for).

It's been lots of little things, too. I have burned more recipes than I can list this week, Baby Bean is getting a tooth and isn't sleeping. When my friend, the classically trained French chef, came for lunch the other day, I made a mess of everything I served (my friend is wonderful and was gracious but I felt like a fool). I realised that I miscalculated my salary for the summer and we are going to be much tighter this summer that I had originally thought. I messed up the hat I was knitting for myself and the finished product was less than stellar (I'll share that in a knitting post). My clothes don't fit and I hate Sunday morning because I haven't got anything nice to wear to church that fits. Finally, Dh's cousin's son is missing at sea after a boating accident and is probably dead. The week has left me exhausted and discouraged and beaten down.

It's not all bad, though. I am married to a wonderful man who can make me laugh, even in these awful times. The flower, once we both noticed it, gave us a good laugh (and some jokes from dh about viagra). To finish the day off, I made us some comfort food, an apple-cheese oven pancake (these are seriously yummy). Usually, it rises around the edges and then cheese and apples and sugar are used the fill the middle. I opened the oven door, and this is what I saw:
We decided that the viagra conversation had spread to the oven... again, totally silly but I love that dh can bring the silly back exactly when I needed it.

Dinner ended up being delicious and I have high hopes that this week will be better than last. In the meantime, I'm going to have a nice, hot cup of tea, do a bit of knitting in front of the t.v. and say a prayer of thanks that I survived last week in one piece.

Friday, February 4, 2011

February Love Challenge Week 1

This week, over at Muthering Heights, Jessica shared her February Love Challenge in which we were challenged to follow some ideas for showing love to our children. I LOVED this idea (and, I might add, I love this blog - Jessica truly captures the beauty of motherhood and on days when it isn't feeling so beautiful, Jessica has a gift for including a quote that reminds me of what this is all about and making me WANT to live up to the challenge of loving my children).

For week one, the idea was to come up with a special treat and then to share about how we were surprised/blessed by our child. It didn't take me long to come up with a good surprise for Pk - she is a huge fan of hot chocolate (in our house, it's cocoa, that's what I grew up with and it seems a little bit healthier to me) and I knew that marshmallows would rock her world. We limit her milk intake to breakfast and bedtime since she would live on milk and nothing else if we allowed that. I asked her whether she wanted her milk and she answered that she did and then wandered off. It was perfect. I got her cocoa made and called her to come and get her "milk." Her reaction was priceless. "Hot chocolate for me, mummy? For good morning time? With marshmallows? Thank you" - all said breathlessly. She was less interested in hearing about how much we loved meeting and holding her but during the week, she has mentioned that we were so happy to meet her...

This was a lovely challenge. Pk is only three so next week's challenge of a treasure hunt is a bit tricky since she can't read clues but I think I have come up with something and I can't wait to share the results.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Valentine Decor

When winter is so cold and bleak, along comes Valentine's Day. While the "romance" of it isn't in my life at the moment (two young children, one of whom is breastfed and doesn't take a bottle leaves little opportunity for a romantic dinner out or a weekend at a hotel), I am loving the warm colours, the hearts and the chance to let people who I love know how special they are. I can never pass up a chance for a bit of decorating and since February has arrived, I thought it was time for a few little touches.

Excuse the mess of craft materials at the end of the sideboard. I have oodles of craft stuff for Pk these days and I don't have a good place for it. I bought the table cloth at Homesense last week. I have an addiction for tablecloths, placemats, cloth napkins and runners. Since the table is such a big part of the room, I find that changing the cloth makes a big difference in the flavour of the room.
If you have been around here very long, you will know that I made a felt heart garland for the living room. Well, I couldn't stop once I got started so I made some for the dining room as well. The "runner" on the sideboard is a hand-crochet tablecloth that belonged to my grandmother. In following pics, you will see another, one that was made for me by a elderly woman at our church when we got married. The quality of stitching and the size of the work is gorgeous in each cloth and they are two of my most prized possessions.
I love, love, love flowers and in the winter, there is nothing I love better than spring bulbs. I have decided that as a little treat, I am allowed to have something for the dining room until my bulbs begin to appear outside. My two favs are pink tulips and purple crocus and that's the combo that I have here. For me, the blooms of bulbs are like little rays of sunshine.
I made these mobile-like things to go onto the light fixture last year. I haven't been able to figure out how to photograph them well but they are pretty.
Of course, the top of the piano gets a bit of loving, too. Pk loves the candles and glass tiles (some are round and some are heart shaped). I'd love some more bulbs to go here, too, but I just can't justify the expense.

We are supposed to get a big storm overnight tonight. If we are snowed in tomorrow, it will be nice to have our warm and cozy decorations to cheer us up.