Monday, May 27, 2013

In the Midnight Hour

Pk gets terrible growing pains, especially when she has gotten overtired.  I used to have the same thing. When it happens, we are awakened to her crying and I get the hot pack for her, give her some Advil and rub her legs until the pain goes away and she goes back to sleep.  It probably happens once or twice a week.

Last night, we had another incident of it and she was in a lot of pain.  As I rubbed her legs and waiting for the pain to stop, I asked her to tell me about something that would make her very happy.  I expected something about going to a theme park or visiting grandma's house.  She really surprised and touched me with what she said.  She told me that what would make her happy more than anything would be for she and I to have a picnic, just the two of us.  She would want us to eat things from our garden and read books together.  Then, she talked about how much she loves eating parsley from the garden and that she wants me to try it, too, since it's SO good.

It's funny the way that my children can so often surprise me.  I try to do these amazing things for them to show them my love and all they want is something simple, usually that involves time together.  You can bet I will be buying more parsley to put in the garden and I'm going to put a once-a-week picnic on our summer bucket list!

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Yet again, here I am to participate in the blog hop over at the Melissa Taylor Bible Study, Stressed-Less Living.   If you are visiting from there, thanks for stopping by!

Despite the fact that Philippians 4:8 is a verse that I love (in fact, a verse that I chose as part of Pk's life verse), I don't feel as if I have anything intelligent to say about it today and I'd rather not dwell on the Goliath's I face at the moment, so I am going to just revel in some blessings in my life right now.

1.  Kind friends - As I've said here over and over again, I'm a weird introvert who needs friends.  I don't want to be with people all the time and I find making small talk really hard but I honestly value the dear people who brighten my days with their smiles, their understanding and acceptance of who I am.  I have several friends who feel like family and especially during the hard times, they are a big part of what carries me through.

2.  The miracle of a garden - each year, we plant and each year, I marvel when the plants actually grow.  My flowers are progressing nicely and more excitingly, at the moment, the heavy rain we have had is just what my newly planted seeds need.  Here's hoping we will have all kinds of salad greens ready before we know it.

3.  Books, books and books - when I was a child, my parents never had the money to order from Scholastic and when the flyers came home, I used to dream about what to buy.  Whatever else I say no to, I always find the money for a few books for the kids and yesterday, a new shipment arrived via Pk's teacher.  They are more than just something to read for me - they represent warm and sleepy times in bed with Pk as we read in the evening, adventures and leaping off into new interests (right now, with Pk it's anything about horses and with Lb, it's anything Hot Wheels or Mighty Machines).  It's a shared language for our family and I think my best memory of yesterday was seeing Lb lay down on the floor beside Dh with a book in his hand and they read there together, book after book.

4.  A new start every morning - some people may think that I am insane but I love the morning more than any other time of day. I get up early and take the dogs for a walk and it's my time to think, to plan, to dream and to pray.  My favourite spot for prayer is the little bridge with the sound of the water rushing below.  My best ideas come at that time and it's when I can shake off the stresses that have come before and start fresh.  These days, now that it is light so early and I can smell the apple blossoms and lilacs as we walk and admire the forget-me-nots that are everywhere and be overwhelmed by the lushness after the starkness of winter and early spring, it feels like a treat every morning.

I could go on forever but I won't bore you with it now.  What are you grateful for today?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Amazing Animals

This past weekend was the holiday weekend here and it ended up being exactly what we needed - a time with good friends and a time to enjoy some of the things that we don't normally have the time for that we love.  The weekend was wonderful, even for a holiday weekend!

The kids and I started by going to our local garden centre to pick up a few things that we needed to fill in a few holes.  I'm a dreamer when it comes to the garden.  It rarely lives up to my expectations but there is nothing more fun than buying plants and imagining creating a lovely space.  It's not always so dreamy when one buys plants with Lb (there was a display of ceramic birdhouses that I was afraid was not going to last through our visit) but we did manage to have some fun and the kids loved getting in to help!

From there, we ran up to my friends' farm to train the dogs.  Since we have the kids, we haven't done much in the way of bird work with them - we aren't hunters and so it's not something urgent.  We decided, though, that a bit of pigeon fun would be right up their alley and it was (and, for the record, they are homing pigeons so they were pointed and then flew back to the barn to fly another day).

The old girl may be 12 be she still knows how to find those birds!

Even our resident bonehead managed to do a good job!

The final part of the day's outings was by far the favourite.  A friend who has a horse has been inviting Pk for a while to see some things at her barn and our schedules have just never cooperated.  Well, finally, we managed to get there and our visit included meeting a week-old foal, a miniature pony who we got to feed and helping to bring our friend's horse in from the field.  Needless to say, Pk was in orbit, she was so excited.

If only every weekend could be a holiday weekend!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Garden Dreams


Cardinal Photo by By ibm4381 (via Creative Commons)

Sometimes, it is amazing to me the way that God can be present in my daily life in the smallest but most significant of ways.  It doesn't always happen but sometimes it does and I wanted to share this little story.

Almost four years ago, Dh and I were trying for another child and it just wasn't happening.  Pk had been right away and it had never occurred to us that this wouldn't be so easy the second time.  We were both in our mid 30's and I was really starting to worry that we had left things too long.  I can't tell you the pain in wondering whether you might not be able to have a child.  It was so overwhelming.  I was so discouraged and it was tainting most of my life.

One day, I took my class on a field trip.  There was this boy in my class who happened to have the nicest mom.  She was a kindred spirit - from the first time we talked, I really liked her and felt very comfortable with her.  On the bus on the way back from the field trip, she asked about whether we were going to have another child.  Sometimes, a question like that feels very intrusive but with her, there was something about the way that she asked that didn't offend me the way that it usually does.  I answered something to the effect that we were trying and it wasn't happening and it was pretty frustrating.  She was so kind to me.  They had gone through exactly the same thing and she had found out she was pregnant with her second child and the ultrasound ordered by the fertility specialist they were going to see.  She didn't make me any false promises that anything was certain but we did make me feel listened to and, more importantly, that I wasn't alone.  I really treasured that conversation.

Her son moved on a while we always had a hug and a smile when we did encounter each other, we really moved out of each other's lives.  Then, this year, she started working as a lunch supervisor at our school.  We chat fairly regularly and give each other a smile.  My class had done some cardinal paintings that really brighten our hallway and one day, she stopped by to tell me how much she loved them.  Cardinals are my favourite birds and it turns out that they are hers, as well.  She told me that she had heard a story about an old man who was at the end of his rope.  He prayed to God for a sign, any sign, of God's presence because he just didn't think he had it in him to go on.  That day, everywhere he went, he saw cardinals and in the most unexpected places.  The old man decided that the birds were God's way to telling him that all would be o.k.

During my evening prayers a few days later, it just popped into my head that I wanted to get her something with a cardinal on it as a thank you for the chat a few  years before.  It's funny how that happens - when I pray in the evening for people in my life, so often people's names come to me that I should write to, send a card or an email to or to try to make plans with.  Anyway, a few days later, I played around a bit on etsy (I love buying hand made!) and I found a lovely pendant.  It wasn't anything expensive, just a little hand-painted tile with a cardinal on it.  It took a while to get it and finally, one day, I put it in a card and left it in the office for her.  Then, I forgot about it.

About three days later, she came to me at lunch and began to cry.  She wanted to tell me that she was SURE that God had used me to show her a cardinal.  He son, who is brilliant and well-rounded and "gifted" (according to the tests) has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and in her words, her "mama's heard was aching with not being able to make things better for him."  She was really struggling and overwhelmed and then, out of nowhere, this totally unexpected cardinal.

I've been feeling a bit awestruck ever since.  It's amazing to feel like I was able to make such a difference in someone's day.

John Benson 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Little Joys

I know that I have been talking here about having a hard time with depression lately but it isn't all the time and today was one of those days that was just filled with little joys.  It's a long weekend here, which immediately makes it better and then, on top of that, I got to have a marvelous day with my family.

Our plan had been, and it worked, to go to the Farmer's Market in the morning, early.  Both kids love Crocs and I refuse to pay full price.  There's a place at the market that has them cheaply and when we go, the kids get to see all the animals.  We knew that we had to be back since Dh was meeting some children on his soccer team for their jerseys so we didn't linger.  We took Chelsea along, since we knew she would have a wonderful time.

 Another wonderful part of the day was going to pick up our CSA share.  I LOVE doing this.  We get veggies and eggs bi-weekly (weekly in the summer), 3 lbs of pork once monthly and 8 lbs of beef, again, once monthly.  When the summer starts, we'll also get a chicken a month and a hot house share a week.  I love talking to the people who grow my food, knowing that what I pay is going directly to the farmer and not to a string of distributers and I love that my kids get to play where there food is grown.  It's been fun, for me who loves to research, to learn how to use some of the cuts we aren't familiar with and to incorporate new veggies into our diet.  Today was extra special since we met up with good friends who also were picking up their share and the kids played on the combine slide, swings and we had a good look at the animals.

The rest of the day was just spent as a family and I couldn't have enjoyed it more.  We have a major garden project we have undertaken (photos to come in another post) and so we spent much of the day buying plants, working outside and admiring our work.  We have some mosquito bites to show for it and I definitely got more sun than I should have but we are all going to bed feeling a bit more ownership of home and that we got to spend a wonderful day together.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Lay Down My Pride

As you probably know, if you are here, I am currently doing the online Bible study over at Proverbs 31 Ministries, hosted by Melissa Taylor - Stressed Less Living by Tracie Miles.  As I have said before, sometimes, a book study doesn't meet me where I am at.  This one, on the other hand, I think was MADE for me!

One of the choices this week is writing about the stumbling block of pride.  This is a big one for me. Again, a topic that seems to have been designed to help me with a challenge.

When I think of pride, I tend to think of it as a kind of arrogance.  It's that boastful, confident, always-thinking-one's-right attitude.  I don't think I have that.  I've come to realise in recent years, though, that I suffer from another kind of pride and I think that's a bit like something Tracie was talking about in chapter 5.  My pride isn't the kind that's arrogant, mine is the kind that won't let me take risks because I already feel not good enough and I'm afraid of looking stupid.  My mistakes are more unforgiveable, while other people don't need to be perfect, I do.  It's such a destructive way for me to approach my life.

I don't know where it came from.  I grew up in a home where I would say that we had a sense of unconditional love and my parents didn't put a lot of pressure on us.  Somehow, though, I still absorbed the message from somewhere that I am not good enough.  I have this overwhelming sense of not being  inferior.  It's funny, those things that were supposed to make me feel better about myself (e.g., awards at school, academic success, being called "gifted"), just made me feel more inadequate.  I get an award and I feel like I don't deserve it.  I get praise and I feel embarrassed and yet, when I don't get praise, I feel even worse.  I've spent most of my adult life feeling not smart enough, not outgoing enough, not popular enough, not thin enough, not pretty enough, not a good enough mother...It's a never ending cycle of trying to be perfect to prove that I'm good enough and then feeling like I have failed and it's really had a horrible impact on my life.

Really, when I think about it, the arrogance of it is astounding.  I allow other people to make mistakes, I tell other people that they can't do it all and that sometimes, we need to accept help.  I lecture my students all the time about how mistakes are part of the learning process and yet, I don't see them that way myself, I see them only as failure.  Forgiveness is a bit the same.  I honestly do believe that God forgives me and yet, I have things that I have a hard time forgiving in myself.  Seriously, I think that somehow, my standards are higher than God's?  How does that work for me?  I consistently set the bar higher for myself and honestly, I have to admit, that is certainly a kind of arrogance.

I don't pretend that this study will make this character flaw of mine magically go away but it is certainly making me more aware of it in myself.  Already this week, I have had two occasions when I started to feel myself go into the "I have to find a way to fix this" mode and instead, I went to pray.  And the result?  I did feel some peace.  I need to "let go and let God" (which sounds so trite but honestly, is such a simple yet important truth).  Honestly, if I can tame this dragon in my life, I think the source of most of my stress will go.  Please pray for me, I need it!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Finding Me...

I've been really blue lately.  I think I struggle with depression (as do so many of us) and for the last few weeks, it's been bad.  I'm not too bad in the morning but as the day goes on, I just feel so unmotivated and tired and impatient.  I'm not really sure where this is coming from (well, that's not entirely true - I suspect that it's largely needing sleep, trying to do way too much and not getting a break).  I feel a bit like I'm sinking and I need to do something about it.

I know that at least in part, what I am going through is something that all mother's seem to feel (and isn't it funny that today is Mother's Day and this is where I am at!) but I am feeling so overwhelmed at a feeling of having lost myself.  I spend my life running to cook, clean, feed, read with, pack bags, drive and tidy.  My fantasies involve an hour of uninterrupted reading, a day at home without a sick child, a shopping trip completely alone or a meal prepared by someone else that involves nothing done by me and nobody in my lap.  Honestly, if you asked me what I enjoy doing, I'm not sure I could even answer that question.  I feel like the "me" is being sucked out of me.

It's funny the little moments when I actually get a glimpse of myself again.  I woke up yesterday to a house full of family visiting, children demanding breakfast and a dh who was sleeping in.  After much caring for everyone else, cleaning to prep for more family coming and tidying up after a last minute blueberry pie that had been requested, I managed to find a few moments to run out with the dogs.  For me, that's work that doesn't feel like work.  On weekends, we get a longer walk and I get to visit my favourite place in town.  We do two circles around the big field, walk up the trail we call the nature walk, a circuit of the soccer field and then back through the nature walk.  About half way through the walk, I started to remember myself.  I saw the dogs flying in front of me running with joy, smelled the smell of the trees and the damp and the outdoors in spring smell and heard the sound of the water.  I started to think about how much I love my girlies (and pondered the fact that perhaps, one of the reasons I love Chelsea so much, my older girl, is that she never talks to me or asks me to talk with her, she just makes it very obvious that she enjoys hanging out with me).  I pondered how much fun it was to have a riding lesson on Thursday (an extremely thoughtful Christmas present from my brothers).  I thought about how much I love the sound of wind in the trees, the fact that the little bridge over the brook is my favourite place in the world and that I wanted to knit a sweater and some socks for my walks.  I noticed and thought about how much I love my rubber boots (I ADORE rubber boots) and that I really wanted to get back to the book that I was reading.  I thought about tea and English roses that I want for my garden.  I started to think that maybe I haven't entirely disappeared, that my "me" hadn't entirely been removed.

I think it's definitely time for a bit of solitude.  I think this introvert has given a bit too much of late.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Mother-Daughter Outing

I've set a bit of a dangerous precedent in my classroom this year.  I took Lb to watch some of the boys in my class play hockey (since Lb adores hockey and I didn't really feel like buying tickets to an expensive game somewhere).  He adored it and I became "hero teacher".  Then, we were invited to see the "Beauty and the Beast" skating show in which 3 students were skating.  Since Pk is doing skating and loves it, that was a natural fit, too.  Then, came the invitation to see one of my students in a local production of "Anne of Green Gables."  How would I say no?  Honestly, I also was interested in going.  One of my concerns when we moved out of the big city was that my children would lose the chance to learn about theatre and concerts and how to behave.  This was a perfect intro for Pk into the world of theatre.

It ended up being even more fun that I expected.  Pk and I don't get to be out much and since Lb has been rather demanding lately, Pk has been neglected a bit.  I had been feeling like she and I needed some mommy-Pk time.  Even better, Pk suggested that she bring "Jenna", her Maplelea doll.  Now, Jenna has been a big connector for us, too.  She came into our lives a funny way.  Actually, it was through the student who we were watching perform last night.  When she was in my class last year, she talked a lot about American Girl dolls.  One day, out of curiousity, we had a look online and Pk was in love.  I liked them but the cost and shipping was a bit steep.  I discovered (I can't remember how) that there is a Canadian doll company, Maplelea, that is very much like American Girl but has Canadian stories and a pick-up location that I practically drive by on my way home from work.  When we found Jenna, who has red hair, a highland dance outfit, plays soccer and has orange cats, Pk was in love.

Thursday night, Pk suggested that she take Jenna to the play.  That's when my brain went into overdrive.  I was pretty sure that Maplelea had an Anne of Green Gables outfit for Jenna.  I didn't think I could get it in time (they don't sell in stores) but I decided to call them and see.  Imagine my glee when I discovered that I could stop by the warehouse and pick one up on my way home from work.  Whee!  I know, I know, it's just stuff but it was for the mummy-Pk outing AND it was Anne (who I adored growing up).  Pk was thrilled and I think she stole the show, at least in the lobby, walking around with her red hair and her Anne doll.  It was a very special evening and I feel very lucky to be able to share such wonderful times with my daughter.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Stressed-Less Living -Blessed

I have been so excited since I saw that one of the topics for this weeks' blog hop at the Stressed-Less Living study hosted by Proverbs 31 was women who have shaped us on our faith journey.  While I have a few I could mention, I'd really like to introduce you to my grandmother.

Grandma was born in Northern Ireland in a large family.  Her parents were Salvation Army officers  in various low income areas.  After two of her siblings died of measles (and she spent a year in bed), they decided to look for a new environment for their children and moved to Canada.  Grandma was 12.  She never lost that gentle accent or that connection to "the old country."

Grandma was my favourite person in the entire world other than my mother (and it would have been a close race!)  I was the first granddaughter and she was a lover of all things feminine.  I would go to her apartment for the weekend and there would be scented bubble baths, having my hair done in elaborate braids and I wore a skirt or dress all the time (which was the absolute opposite of my hippie mother, who only wanted me in brown bell-bottoms, which I thought was cruel and unusual punishment).  A wonderful thing about Grandma was that after many decades of her life as first a minister's daughter in the prairies in the 1920's and then as a minister's wife, she had learned to live in genteel poverty in a way that made us all feel rich.  She always set a lovely table, her home was always wonderfully comfortable, she was always well-turned out and most of all, she always had a warm smile, a lovely lap and she always made me feel as if I was the most important thing in her world.  She also did the most wonderful knitting and I am sure that I am a knitter because of those few early lessons that she gave me.

There were several things about Grandma that I have really carried with me as good life lessons and while I don't always accomplish them, I do my best.  She lived her faith in each stage of her life and she planted that in each of us.

1.  Always being gracious and showing kindness to those around you.  Grandma may have had a few quirks (which I learned about later, as I child, I only knew how amazing she was) she would NEVER be rude to anyone, ever (and it most certainly would NEVER have been tolerated in any of us).  She treated everyone the same way, whether a rich congregation member or a street person.  Before her marriage, she worked on the docks in Montreal helping new arrivals to Canada and between that and her parents helping the poor men getting off the trains in the prairies during the Depression, she learned that every person is precious and that part of her calling was to be blessing to those around her.  I still remember that she always had Life Savers for the local street kids that came to our church on Sunday mornings and if she wasn't in the choir, she would have them sit with her.

2.  Family is a gift and should never be taken for granted.  Grandma most certainly taught me lessons about unconditional love.  Family was the essence of life and came before anything else, other than God.  She cherished us all and we all knew that no matter what, she would be there for us. It was a wonderful model of God's love.   It gave all of us a stability that helped us to get through some of life's tougher times.

3.  Live according to your faith.  Her faith was most definitely not a "Sunday morning" faith, it permeated all of her life.  We would sing hymns together (I still remember her singing "The Holy City" and she had a lovely voice - while it is very dated, I will always adore it), read Bible texts together and pray together.  Church was the center of her life and it was not just a social experience, it was a place to go to be part of God's family.

4.  Live as though you are rich.  I don't mean this in the sense of having a lot or spending beyond your means, just that there are gifts in each day and we should cherish and enjoy what God has given us.  Especially here in North America, we have so much and yet, we complain that we want more.  Grandma was this side of destitute after Grandpa died (his church pension was next to nothing and they had never earned enough to build up any savings) and yet, because she shared so much and lived for love rather than things, one never had a sense of being poor.  I am not anywhere near as grateful for everything that I have as I should be and I would love my children to have wonderful memories of a mom who created a lovely world for them, full of what is most important.

Grandma died when I was 12 and, almost 30 years ago and other than mom, nobody has had the same impact on me.  I am so grateful to God that I had her and I would like to try to follow her lead in how to live life as a Christian.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Against the Current Parenting

I am loving the "Stressed-Less Living" study over at Proverbs 31 Ministries.  It's funny, sometimes a study meets me where I need to be and sometimes I just don't connect.  This one is a definite connection.

In chapter 3, the chapter for last week, there was a section on parenting against the societal current.  I relate to this so much.  For me, it's combination of my value system and my years in education.  I do find myself flowing against the current when it comes to parenting and I sense that subtle disapproval.  Whether it's my pursuing of an "attachment parenting" style, my high amount of filtering media or the way I dress my kids, I often feel as though people are judging my choices.  It's an odd place to be because I am very sure that this is the right path for my family but it can really lead me to doubt myself sometimes.  I also am thrown into situations when I feel a bit left out with other moms, even some who are wonderful friends - it's not anything they do, it's my own internal struggle.

 I remember, when I was a student teacher, I did a placement at a school in a very affluent area.  These students had many opportunities, came from educated families and lacked for nothing.  Many of the kids were very successful in school but there were a few who really stood out.  One of the students was Ned (I can name him because it was years ago and he's probably in university now, ugh!)  He was just different.  He was calmer, he was so much more creative than the other kids.  The only thing that I could put my finger on was that his family did not allow video games or television.  I remember thinking at the time that he and his different way of approaching things was something that I wanted to remember.  I realise that it is a mistake to base everything on one child but it's a pattern I have noticed that longer that I teach.

I don't judge other parents for the choices that they make but I am pretty strong in the things I hold as being important for my children.  At times, that's hard.  For me personally, the longer I keep video games out of our home, the better.  So far, now that my children are young and Pk isn't especially interested anyway, it isn't a problem.  It also helps that I am not anti-computer (Pk and I watch things online and sometimes, I even let her play a bit), we just are extremely choosey about what she is allowed to use.  I have friends whose kids are on their various systems often and they buy early systems for their two year olds.  For me, that is incomprehensible.  Again, I think it's my teaching that has shaped me that way - the grey-faced boys who only ever talk about video games and who require so much stimulation.  If given a bin of blocks, they stare at you blankly and their attention span with books lasts 5 minutes at best.  Other children, the ones who play outside and have creative toys and are forced to entertain themselves, are the ones who never complain about being bored, love writing stories and are so much more engaged with the world around them.

The other thing that I am noticing more and more in my teaching, and that I want to avoid, are the children who are "old beyond their years."  Whether it's the t.v. they watch, the clothing they wear or the topics that they seem to be knowledgeable about, it makes me really sad to see that, as far as I can see, childhood is being lost.  It warms my heart that Pk and Lb still watch "Word World" together (the all-time favourite show it my house), I haven't heard "that's baby stuff" yet and they still have an innocence.  Yes, I know that the day will come when we start to hit up against all of that but for now, it just makes me so happy that they are content to be kids.  So many of the kids I see who are "older" are unhappy, constantly wanting more and just seem so lost.

I guess this long post is to say that it's hard to be an "against the current" parent, especially when you are facing the criticism of other moms (don't get me started on the sleep issues that we had and the judgement that we faced about it).  I have times of really doubting myself but honestly, in looking at my own kids, at least for now, all of those struggles and all of that disapproval is worth it.  I does cause me stress but I know that when I feel like I have compromised on what I think is best for my children, that stresses me more. 

How are you "against the current"?  How do you balance that?