Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Easter Randomness

As I get older, I have become so much more attached to traditions and I grew up in a family for whom traditions are very important (as I have explained in other posts).  I don't have lots to say about Easter this year other than that while it was reasonably simple, it all felt so meaningful this year.  So often, it creeps up on me and we end up spending it in a frenzy and I feel like I have missed out.  Not this year.  I am not entirely sure why but I managed to slow down enough to truly enjoy.

I won't do a full summary but some highlights - Palm Sunday at the Wednesday night service I attend at the Anglican church - I hadn't gotten palm branches or the sing my favourite hymns on Sunday and not only did we sing some favourites on Wednesday, the priest knew that we weren't singing my favourite so she used it as the postlude.  That meant a lot!
Thursday night - the wonderful and meaningful service at the Methodist church and several friends were there who haven't joined us before.  They held a "Last Supper" event for the kids downstairs and my children came home as impacted as I was.
Good Friday - a service filled with worship songs that spoke to my heart and then, a fish dinner with very close former Catholic friends and Dh's parents.  It's become a tradition for us and quite a nice one.
Saturday - a Christian Seder with my parents-in-law who truly entered into the spirit.  My kids LOVE doing this and having wine glasses is such an exciting thing for them.  I made my own matzoh and charoset (this year's was awesome!)  Click on the links for recipes.
Sunday - Easter service (I got to sing with the worship team) and then a wonderful traditional family  dinner with my parents.
Monday - the Easter Bunny arrived and we continued the tradition begun by my parents of giving a living gift to remind us of the new life through the resurrection.  My kids LOVED getting a cactus as much as my brother and I did as kids.

Some random photos -

The kids and I made hot cross buns on Friday (and they were devoured so we made more on Monday to go to school in lunches and to teachers as a treat).  I love this recipe.

Our Seder - I used Ann Voskamp's service and it was marvelous.

My grandmother was the jello queen and we enjoy jello treats more than the average family.  My kids LOVE these jello eggs and to help syringe in the jello to the egg molds.

IJ loved playing chess with Uncle Josh and I was so grateful Josh would play - I  hate chess and so does Dh.

Two of my favourite "old girls" -  mom and our old dog, Lucie.

Easter baskets on Monday morning.  Two very happy kidlets!

Christ is risen indeed!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

On Being a Christian Nomad

I am a big podcast listener.  I walk a lot and to keep myself from getting bored, I listen to podcasts.  My tastes are diverse and range from everything from parenting to faith to true crime, depending on where my ADHD brain is bouncing at any time.  Lately, though, I have really been enjoying one by Pete Enns called The Bible for Normal People.

Recently,  I listened to an episode that was a replay of an interview they had done with Richard Rohr, who is one of those names that just keep resurfacing in reading some of the people who speak most to my heart these days.  I have several of his books, one of them I have read and a few others that are coming closer to the top of the to-be-read pile.  He speaks on a diverse range of topics and one that has interested me is the issue of spiritual development.  As a teacher with a background in child development, the idea of stages that we pass through really is a language that I speak and a reality that I see in action on a daily basis.  What Rohr had to say during this podcast really interested me.

He said that faith development (and I am wildly paraphrasing here, so forgive any confusion) can be seen as being three boxes.  The first box is "Order", the second is "Disorder" and the third is "Reorder."  The first box is something like that childhood faith we have - issues of black and white, right and wrong, binary, dualistic thinking.  To spend life in that box means having a faith that is fragile and can't stand up to the hardships life throws at you.  That box involves all answers and no questions and is all about certainty.  Unfortunately (or fortunately for our longer-term development), that kind of faith rarely sustains us in the long term.  Box two, "Disorder", is the box that represents when those ideas that we held so tightly don't work anymore.  For some people, that's where they deconstruct and then either abandon faith entirely and spend life in a chaos, or, if they are lucky, start asking the questions that they need to ask to move to the third box.  The third box, "Reorder", is the box in which it is safe to live with doubt, in which we move to a more mature faith, a faith that does not rely on black and white and that can exist in the grey.  It's a faith that is deeper and yet, allows much more room for questions and challenges.  It is a faith that can see truth in stories (even when they are not 'fact').  It is a box in which we no longer have to fear the questions and can ask, knowing that, at least here on earth, we may not find the answers but that there is beauty in merely asking the questions.  I feel like that is the place to which I have arrived in my faith and yet, I haven't found a church that is there.

Box one for me was the mainline church of my childhood.  Contrary to the belief of many of the evangelicals around me these days, that faith was anything but dead.  I come from four generations of ministers in the denomination and each and every generation had people who were passionate about God, who tried to serve him to the best of their ability and who felt called and challenged to follow Jesus.  It wasn't the most exciting world, at times, but it had security and consistency and a kind of beauty that I had to reach box three to appreciate.  Social justice and liturgy were very important in this system and we sang the hymns that my grandparents and great-grandparents had sung.  We valued a very educated clergy and there was certainly never any unseemly emotion in a service.  We  lived in seasons and there was a quietness and thoughtfulness that might not be visible to the outsider but that was most certainly there.  I grew up happy but with a strong sense that this was the only way and once I hit my teenage years, I began to drift.  The church in which I grew up really didn't exist anymore, most of those attending either were over 70 or went because their parents told them that had to.  They didn't have any knowledge of a greater Christian culture and other than Sunday morning, most of the people around me were not distinguishable as Christians when they weren't in a church.

That was when I arrived at box two.  Having grown up only knowing one thing, I began to question what else was out there and whether these strict definitions (and prejudices against the "born agains" and the "holy rollers") were fair.  I went away to university and, for the first time, met people who called themselves Christians whose beliefs weren't the same as mine.  I attended a Lutheran weekly communion service, I had friends in class who came from every end of the spectrum and I met (and eventually married) a man who had been raised in the Salvation Army and whose family were about as evangelical as you could be.  I started to question so much of what I thought I knew.  I started hearing names and ideas I had never heard before (some of which interested me and some of which horrified me) and I encountered scary things like "the end times" and questions about whether I was saved and met people whose lives largely revolved about faith.  Their friends were evangelicals and there was this entire culture and sense of belonging that kind of appealed to me on one hand and yet that I could not reconcile to the loving God and need to accept difference that was essential to the faith of my childhood.  It was a confusing time because I was trying to find something that was true to my perceptions of who I was as a Christian while also fitting in with the "right" people and not being one of those mainline "dead" people.  It was a world that was rife with judgment and left me with lots of answers but not a lot of comfort with the questions.

I would say that I have transitioned to box three over time probably during the last ten years after Pk and Ij were born.  It has been a slow process.  We moved from a more mainline (but poor fitting) church to the evangelical church in town, following their terrific children's programmes and some pretty good preaching.  I began by just really viewing church as something for my kids and for community, with a sense that my faith needs would be largely unmet.  I have come to LOVE a lot of music by Hillsong, for instance and to appreciate scripture that I had never really heard during the lectionary teachings of my childhood.  I now have managed to find "my tribe" of progressive evangelicals online, meaning those people who do have a strong, orthodox faith on the one hand but also, a commitment to love and justice on the other.  I love the fact that ours is a church at which we can do children's events because we have a large number of very committed families whose children come to programmes weekly.  I have also discovered that while some hold some opinions with which I am VERY  uncomfortable, generally people are kind, loving and willing to allow some space for difference.  The biggest lesson for me, though, is that I belong to the family of God and not to one church or another.  I used to feel that I had to be a member of one church or another and that membership made me ineligible anywhere else.  These days, I go to our local evangelical church on Sunday, teach Sunday school and sing with the worship team.  My kids go to a wonderful Lego programme and I do some women's things at the Free Methodist church and on Wednesday night, I go to a very traditional service at an Anglican church.

It's taken me 45 years but I have come to terms with the fact that there are ways that I feel closest to God and in which I want to worship and they don't have to be the same ways as people around me.  I can totally get lost in Be Still My Soul (Finlandia) during one service and weep at an especially good Hillsong selection another.  I can read through a liturgy that is entirely printed out and that I read at one service and raise my hands to praise at another service.  I still love liturgy and I especially find that in the evangelical church, I miss the rhythms of the seasons (I'm really struggling with the "Good Friday shouldn't be sad because we know Easter is coming" of our Evangelical church, I want to sit in the sadness of Good Friday before I arrive at the joy of Easter). On the other hand, it bothers me that the order of service at the Anglican church actually says that communion is only open to baptised believers.  My children are eligible because we did baptise them as young children but almost all of the other children at our evangelical church are not baptised and would not be welcomed to take the elements at the table.  I have had to learn that there is something to be taken and savoured from each setting and that, unless a church is preaching hate or heresy (and short of questioning the divinity of Jesus or the existence of God, I'd be open to at least considering quite a lot), I need to go in with ears to listen to what God wants me to hear.

And anyway, there's always somewhere else to try if I need something else.  It's a much more comfortable place to be when I don't question whether I might have to leave because I might just not belong because I can't check all of the boxes.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Preparing for Easter

One thing that my mother did a terrific job of when we were little was in making special memories of the special moments.  Memories and traditions are really important in our family (as in most) and Mom always understood the place that these traditions could have in shaping who are were and our lifetimes of faith.  I will always be grateful to her for that.  I think the fact that we are such a close family and that we we tend to continue these traditions even now, when we are in our forties, is that they connect us back to who we are.

When I was growing up, there were two traditions that we engaged in every year at Easter.  The first was creating our own paper tomb scene.  We coloured the figures and punched them out of the book and the model always lived on our mantel in the living room. I don't think you can buy the one that we always used anymore (it was 35 years ago!) but I did find this one, if you are interested in trying it at home.   The other was that every year, the "Easter Bunny" always brought us something that was alive - a plant, a cactus or even, one year, a bowl with a goldfish.  That might not sound very exciting but to us, it was amazing.  We didn't  have much money and gifts were never elaborate but they were always well thought out and we learned from them.  I have been wanting to make those memories for my own kids, especially at Easter, which seems to me to often take a back seat to Christmas in the celebration department, even though it should be the highlight of the year.

We have embraced several Easter traditions in our family and now that Pk is 10 and Ij is 7, they are starting to ask each and every year, "When are we doing...?'  I will share the Lent/Holy Week/Easter traditions as we engage in them this year.  I have to say, it's been hard finding ones that fit with our lives and our beliefs - Catholic families seem to be much better at this than we Protestants.  I am trying, though, and it's fun to see the results.

This year, so far, we went to an Ash Wednesday service (the first "Mainline" service Ij has attended since our local church in town is definitely more Evangelical in orientation) and they were both fascinated.  They had never gone up to take communion directly from a priest (Anglican) or, to Ij's absolute fascination, been at a communion service with real wine!

This past weekend, we engaged in another Lent tradition (feel free to look up more info on it, I can't say that I know a ton, just that it IS a tradition), making pretzels.  My kids never tire of baking bread and watching the impact of yeast always seems a bit magical.  We tried this recipe and they were so good, I needed to make an extra batch because so many got eaten right out of the oven!

I found these wonderful tags to print and they have taken pretzels each day this week, along with the tag.  I feel as if our faith so often isn't talked about during the course of a busy day and this little lunch addition seems to help.

How are you preparing your children for Easter?

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Family "Dates"

In the last 24 hours, I have heard about four impending divorces.  None of the couples involves are in our closest circle and yet, it's shocking to me.  I know that the stats say that something in the area of 50% of all marriages end in divorce but Dh and I have been very, very lucky in that we have only had one set of friends along the way who did opt to live life apart and so I am probably very naive.  It's also been on my mind as, on the last day of school before the break, a confident, smart and outgoing 5 year old girl entered the classroom, sat disconsolately on the corner of the carpet and, when we asked what was wrong, she informed us that her parents had told her that her dad was moving out on April 1st.  She was despairing.

I don't really know what leads to that point of needing to be apart from someone that you loved so much.  I know, people change, wants change and circumstances can cause so much hurt.  We have a situation in our extended family in which we discovered back last fall that a spouse had been cheating (and it was discovered in a most distasteful way!) and we have all been rocked by it.  They are still together, though (although I suspect that may not be the final outcome).  I am not judging, it's just that Dh and I grew up in homes where we watched people struggle through it and both sets of grandparents are now very good friends and have exemplary marriages.  In our world, you just keep at it, you persevere and you hang in there.  We've been lucky in that, I think, because of the God end of it, nobody ever viewed leaving as an option, so people just didn't give up.  I think that has made a difference in that, when both spouses go into it with the understanding that it is forever and both are committed to making it work, it's easier.  I've seen cases in which one spouse is doing all of the work of the marriage and the other is either emotionally absent or on the edge of leaving, and I can't imagine how heartbreaking that must be.   It's just so sad to see all of that hope, all of those dreams and all of that love gone.  It's also hard because, as a teacher, I have seen what it does to children and the kids I have taught whose parents have divorced, are so traumatized by it all.  It's like a nuclear bomb has been dropped into their worlds and they spend a long, long, long time trying to pick up the pieces. 

I'm just musing here and again, I hope that if anyone actually reads this, that I don't come across as being judging.  If there is abuse, emotional, physical or sexual, if there is hatred and quite likely, in other cases that leaving is justified, of course, things need to end.  I am coming at it more from a sense of sadness and bafflement rather than of judgement or superiority.  It just makes me sad to see families disintegrating. 

So, what does this mean for me?  Well, it serves as a good reminder to me that I can't take my family or my relationships for granted.  I do tend to get really wrapped up in my own head and my own day-to-day stresses and I don't prioritize time with those who are important to me.  I've tried to remedy that this year by implementing a "date" monthly with each of my immediate family members - Pk, Ij and Dh.  It's been fun and so far, we've had so much fun.  Pk and I have gone to buy yarn and then to Starbucks to knit and drink tea and hot chocolate, to the mall for earrings and lunch and to Laura Secord to buy a Willow Tree ornament and for ice cream.  Ij and I have gone to Tim Hortons and Mastermind to explore Lego and to see a big exhibit of Scouting badges from the past and to have Booster Juice (his favourite) and, best of all, Dh and I have started having a weekly t.v. date once a week after the kids go to bed and this week, since grandparents were here, we went out to our favourite Japanese restaurant and savoured a delicious lunch (and it's a restaurant we have enjoyed for about 12 years).  It's critical that I make time and give them my attention and that is something from my January goals that I plan to keep as a regular thing as long as they are willing to enjoy it with me!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Enjoying Beauty

As you know, over the course of the year, I am working through the Sally Clarkson book The Life Giving Home workbook.  It's amazing how it manages to be exactly what I need each and every month.  Life has been rather stressful and I've been getting bogged down in my own head.  I hate to sound trite but I am so lucky and it's so easy to forget that.  This book from Sally Clarkson does so much to help me to avoid getting bogged down and to see how lucky I am.

For March, the idea is to focus on the beauty around us, to create beauty where we can and to restore our souls and those of those around us.  It's so important but it can be so hard sometimes.  My goal for the month is to slow down a bit, to live in the little moments and to keep my focus on how blessed I am.

We ended up being given that chance early in the month.  We have wonderful neighbours across the street who have become very close with our children.  They have three children and no family locally.  They moved here from overseas (dad is originally from here but mom is Japanese and has no family in our country at all).  At first, mom stayed home but she has fairly recently been able to find a job (which is so hard for newcomers here).  They were leaving their kids home in the morning together before school (they had no other options) so we offered to take them in the morning before school.  It makes our mornings a bit crazier and yet, it's totally worth it.  My children love having them here and I know how expensive daycare can be.  I'm fortunate in that my own children's schools are early start while Dh and I are at late start schools so I can put the kids on the bus and then make it to work myself. 

Tuesday night, I got a rather frantic phone call from the dad to say that they both had to be out Wednesday night and had no childcare and were in a bind.  Of course, we said we would take them.  Dh was out at a union meeting and it was me with five kids but I couldn't say no.

It ended up being so much fun.  We are discovering that the girls LOVE our family food, especially anything English that I learned from Dh's family and so I offered to make "English Pancakes."  We very rarely have them here but when we do, the family adores them.  They are very simple - yorkshire pudding batter cooked up similar to crepes and then dotted with sugar and drizzled with lemon or orange juice.  I won't lie, I was exhausted and not really feeling it all but when they kids got to dig in and had SO much fun, it was all worth it!

I am not a food blogger or a food stylist and the pics are taken on my phone, which has been dropped in water a few times so the camera isn't great but still, I wanted to capture a joy.

"English Pancakes"

1 c all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1/2 c water
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
butter for frying
lemon juice

Combine the flour, milk, water, egg and salt and mix until no lumps remain.
Heat a fry pan and melt some butter.  Pour batter into a circle the size of a large pancake and then, swirl the pan to spread the batter out thinly, roughly the size of the pan.  Carefully use a spatula to loosen the edges and when, the pancake will hold together, flip.  Cook until golden but still soft on both sides.
To serve, put on a plate and sprinkle with sugar (roughly a tsp).  Drizzle with lemon juice or orange juice and roll up.  My kids also love them with maple syrup.

I often get bogged down in life and forget that having guests can actually restore me, especially when they are children who really don't care how tidy the house is or how nice the meal is!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Family Time

I have been keeping a gratitude journal for the last several years off and on and in the last year or so, I have become really good at ensuring that I record something every day (actually, three somethings).  I used to think that it was a bit of a "fluffy" idea, something with little substance that wouldn't really make a difference but I decided to try anyway.  It's become a way of life for me and honestly, I have come to appreciate how much change it has actually made in the way that I view my life.

I am especially finding that it makes a difference in the hard times.  In the greater scheme of things, my life is so good these days but I have had some real struggles this year with some very negative people at work.  I am NOT good at conflict and it tends to eat away at me (while the people involved who are creating the conflict always seem to sleep so well at night!)  I've been coming home feeling agitated by it all and having trouble sleeping and yet, the start to every prayer, and this is habit, not intention, is "Thank you for.."  Life is so good this way!

I wanted to share a few of the things for which I am grateful at the moment because life IS good!

I feel like we are really in a sweet spot with our children right now.  Pk is 10.5 and IJ is 7 and they are both so much fun and so connected to our family.  We have so much fun reading together, having monthly parent-child dates, watching t.v. together (we have some shows we all love) and lately, hiking together.  I walk the dogs almost every day after school and in the past, I went on my own.  The kids didn't want to come and if they did, it was dragging them around, unhappy.  Now, they LOVE that time and we are having such amazing adventures while making our dogs really happy and getting to enjoy the beauty of the area in which we live.  We've enjoyed sunsets, climbs and rock collecting and, most of all, having really important conversations.  I am so grateful that we aren't missing this time together!

I also feel very gifted because my kids are at a stage of life when they are exploring the world and discovering their passions and they are excited to have me be a part of that.  Pk has always loved riding horses (and that continues) and she has also become a passionate figure skater.  That was NOT something we saw coming as neither of us have done a great deal of skating (and dh, being English, did not grow up skating and has zero interest).  Pk, surprisingly, seems to have quite an aptitude and loves it and we are at the arena Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and  Saturday and somehow, I have become the secretary of the skating club.  I always vowed I wouldn't have my child overbooked but as I see her joy and the maturity that has come with her pursuing her passion, I cannot say no.  We are also really lucky that she is in a really, really nice cohort of girls and families and her coaches are really unique in placing as much emphasis on character as on skating skill.  I couldn't have asked for anything better and, as a bonus, I am getting so much knitting done at the rink!

This photo was taken at a competition and it meant so much to me and illustrates so well what they are learning.  They were at a synchro competition (which meant that there was a team of 10 competing) and it happened that it collided with an individual performance for one of the girls on the team (who happens to be one of the youngest and least confident skaters).   The girls all went to watch her and when she was finished skating, they exploded in cheers for her and seeing the smile of the skater's face made me truly appreciate the lessons that they are learning about friendship.

Little Man has also expanded my horizons as I am now "Red", the Scouter and the registrar for our town's Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, Venturers and Rovers.  I NEVER saw myself in that role but surprisingly, it's been really fun and it has allowed me to connect with some wonderful people that I would not otherwise have met.  IJ and I have gone on several camping trips together and we have started collecting something from each trip to add to our collection of momentos of camping together and every time I look at the pile, I feel happy.  One day, he won't want me there but at this point, he does, and it brings me more joy than I would have ever imagined!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Knitting Pleasures

It's been a really difficult couple of weeks at work for me.  There are some very toxic people and it's been a real challenge to try to stay above it all and to, as my husband always says, "make sure that my side of the street it clean."  It's so hard to keep from being drawn into other people's drama but I have been really making the effort to be calm and compassionate (which has been difficult!)  I've been looking for ways to find the little pleasures in each day and one of my pleasures is knitting.

The past year or so was the year of the hat for me.  One of PK's skating coaches asked for a messy bun hat in "worksocks" colours which has become what the skaters refer to as the "Roots" hat.  I ended up making an entire set for her synchro team and I then go requests from people who don't skate :-)  Christmas was all about slippers (I'll do a post on that another time).  I had a colleague ask for a bun hat but she didn't want the worksocks colours, she wanted black.  The pattern that I had been using would just be too boring in black so, after some searching on Ravelry, I found a pattern that I really like.

Of course, I had to make one first to check tension and whether I actually like the finished product and yes, I LOVED it.  It's the Yellowstone Skate Ski Hat by Selena Miskin and available for purchase on Ravelry and I have been really happy with it.  I find winter so bleak and I love lighter colours when possible so, of course, I made it in my favourite cream colour.  Now, I have the black one is the works and I can't wait to finish it and pass it on to its recipient.  My only sadness is that the black really doesn't show off the lovely cables the way I would like.  At any rate, it's cabled enough to look very pretty (and impressive to those who don't know how easy cables are) and yet easy enough that there isn't so much counting that my eyes go crossed.  It's such fun to pass on a little surprise like this to someone.

PK is my model so the adult size is a bit big on her but it's perfect for me!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

My Life Giving Home

Life has been rather grueling of late and I won't lie, my spirit hasn't been coping all that well.  I always struggle at this time of year - my body desperately needs sunshine and this year, we seem to be in this endless darkness that does me in before I am out of bed in the morning.  I'm trying to keep my head above water but I have to admit, when I am feeling this way, I am especially vulnerable to all of the little weaknesses, such as my chronic insecurity and anxiety.  It's something I hate about myself and I wish I could stand up against it more firmly.

Because of all of that, a day like today is especially precious.  I've been working through Sally Clarkson's The Life-Giving Home and the workbook and I am loving the fact that it forces me to sit down and be intentional, even when I only want to curl up and hide.  For January, my goals are to create special times with my family throughout the week to make sure the know they are loved and accepted, to spend 10 or 15 minutes of quiet time in the morning before the house gets up and to spend some time in prayer over some worries that I haven't been coping well with.  Sunday has become a wonderful time with my family and it changes everything.

Today, after church, the kids and I went for a hike in the forest with the dogs.  We finally had a warmer day and the sun was shining in between the trees.   Yesterday, PK and I saw three deer in a field as we were driving to skating and on our hike today, we saw a fox up ahead.  Foxes are IJ's favourite animal in the world and it felt like magic to have sunshine and animals appear for us!  Getting into the outdoors is a major help for me at this time of year and having the kids enjoying coming along (unlike when they were younger and complained the entire way) is such wonderful therapy for me.  I feel so lucky that we live in an area that gives us so many options for outdoor exploring and especially since IJ has become such a happy member of Beavers, we seem to be spending a lot more time outside.

One of the things that seems to really speak to PK at the moment is that she is loving to cook and bake.  I have always tried to avoid processed foods when I can for them (not because I look down on anyone else for using them, just because I enjoy cooking and for some reason, having my kids take food for lunch that is homemade makes me feel as if I have sent them a bit of a sign of my love).  We do a homemade treat each week and since the cookie jar was empty (I know, I'm silly, but I love having some cookies we have made in the jar), we thought making gingerbread cookies together would be fun.  I am learning (slowly) to leave my perfectionism behind and to give them a fair bit of freedom.  PK picked some favourite music of us to share, I rolled out the dough and they had a great time choosing the shapes for their cookies.  Years ago, I got a set of letter cookie cutters and they were so excited to make their names.  Little do they know, they each get and 'I', a heart and a 'U' tomorrow in their lunches.  I hope they actually notice.

One other pleasure that we have discovered together is listening to books.  We buy them from Audible and then listen together while we do things we enjoy.  Over the Christmas holidays, on a long drive, Audible suggested The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood and it turned out to be one that the kids loved (having a woods and animals integral to the story definitely helped).  We had finished book 1 and so this evening, we started on book 2 while I coloured, PK knit and IJ worked on Lego.  It was a wonderful way to finish the weekend and I hope it will give us all some treasured time together to help carry us through the challenges of the week.

Friday, January 5, 2018


In this cold weather, it is a great time for some "hygge" and I am a bit one for comfort at home, when I can find it!  I have an addiction to foxes and my husband found me the most lovely fox mug for Christmas and we were gifted some Yorkshire Gold tea, which is exactly as I love a cup of tea - strong and full-bodied without being "stew-y".  I got several gift cards for Chapters (a Canadian rival to Amazon) and ordered myself the Inspire: Psalms colouring book that I have been wanting.  I have to find balance with my colouring books because, while I love them, they can be a reminder, at times, that I don't have the time that I would like to quiet activities like this.  I have a very bad habit of keeping lists for myself of things that I would like to do (and then, becoming frustrated and overwhelmed when my to-do's don't get checked off).  Last year, I bought myself a Coloring Psalms agenda and it was nice to do small pages but when I didn't keep up, it really frustrated me.  This way, I can work through the Psalms when I can and there is no timeline connected.  

The book is lovely and I really enjoyed my time with it last night.

Our Family Reading Culture

I haven't posted here in a long time and I suspect that I have lost any readers that I may have had but that's o.k.  I like to use this space for me, anyway, and it's a fun way to create a kind of an online journal of the things that make me happy.  It's been a very, very busy fall, given my inability to say 'no' which has led to new roles as the secretary of the skating club AND the registrar for Scouting in our town, along with all of my current involvement at church.  I can't lie, while it is NUTS, it's also been so much fun, since all of these activities allow me to be involved with my kids and the things that they are passionate about!

One thing that has made me happy for years (and my cluttered beside table attests to) is reading.  I love books, I love reading, I love getting books in the mail and from the library and, most of all, I love finding books that become part of our family.  I grew up the daughter of an Anglophile and traditional English books were a huge part of my childhood.  I have wanted to share that gift with my own children.

With a 7 year old boy and a 10 year old girl and time at a premium, it's challenging, sometimes, to ensure that we are reading as much as I would like.  We have tried to find books that both kids enjoy and that has actually been easier than I thought.  We went through a HUGE Dick King Smith phase (the Author of Babe: The Sheep Pig and the Sophie series as well as many other wonderful tales).  We dabbled in Roald Dahl but honestly, that wasn't such a success.  We have also spent a lot of time with the Famous Five by Enid Blyton (although there are a few that were just too scary for my son) and we have also been big fans of the Magic Faraway Tree series, also by Enid Blyton.

There was also the wonderful discovery of audiobooks as a family, after a particularly contentious drive up north when the bickering about DVDs in the car led to mom losing her cool and declaring that we would never watch a movie in the car again.  That left me scrambling for a way to keep the peace and minimize the whining on the three hour drive up to visit grandparents that led us to discover the wonderful world of Harry Potter.

Recently, I discovered the podcast Storyformed via Sally Clarkson (I will try to write a post about her book Different at another time, which was EXACTLY what I needed at a particularly challenging time).  I don't want to describe the podcast too much and get the details incorrect but allow me to say that this is a wonderful podcast about the impact of wonderful children's books and books that are so worth reading with your children.

More importantly to me, the Christmas podcast, Episode 20,  has been such a gift.  We do the "Pinterest" Christmas idea that I discovered a few years ago in which we wrap 24 Christmas books and read one each night (these are all previously read books but the kids still adore finding favourites from years ago).  I wanted to take the reading a bit deeper and a few of the suggestions from this episode have already become a part of our family Christmas culture and I am so grateful.  I love the way that books can build connection between the members of our family.

The book we have enjoyed the most, and that is perfect for the age of my kids, is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson.  We bought it on Audible on sale, no less, and it was worth every minute that we have spent listening.  My son, in particular, laughed and laughed and laughed and the kids kept begging me to listen to a bit more before turning it off.  The Herdman family have become a joke in our family and my kids keep trying to come up with different scenarios that fit the idea of a Herdman adventure.  There were also wonderful lessons to be learned in the true meaning of Christmas (which sounds like such a cliche and yet is so true).  We have listened to the book three times through on drives this Christmas season and all four of us have enjoyed it.  I think I am going to have to buy a paper copy, just to have a place of honour on the shelf with our other Christmas favorites.

We also discovered a wonderful book by J.R.R. Tolkien, Letters from Father Christmas.  He wrote and mailed letters to his own children from Father Christmas over a 20 year period and this wonderful book is a compilation of his letters to his children outlining the adventures being had by Father Christmas.  My children and I are loving this so far!   The kids are enjoying the illustrations and accompany each letter.  I was worried that they would find it too dated but, in fact, I think that the historical nature of the letters is actually making them more exciting for the kids.

I hope to post more regularly about what we are reading and how those books are impacting our families and I hope that, should I find any audience here, that you would be willing to share books that you are finding are enjoyable for your family.

Monday, January 1, 2018

My Word

I haven't made resolutions, I'm doing my "one word" again this year and this year's word is a bit different. My life verse is Micah 6:8 ("And what does the Lord require of you? To do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God"). I've always viewed this as a command and earlier this fall, after an interesting discussion, I started to reflect on it more deeply. I realised that "walking humbly" could be both a command and a gift - walking "humbly" implies that I don't need to be trying to be great, I am allowed to be human and to make mistakes and to have failures and to not try so hard all of the time. My word, this year, is "humble" and I am going to work at being easier on myself and allowing myself some space to be weak and meek and to relieve myself of the weight of expectations of other people a bit. It won't always feel good but it's a lesson I need to learn if I am going to move forward. Does anyone else have a word?