Book Review and Sign Off

Dear readers, friends, family and fellow bloggers,

If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you know that I constantly am going on large breaks from posting. I am an inconsistent blogger. I always have been and I’ve come to realize, I always will be. I have three wonderful and crazy kids. They are 10 months, almost 4, and 6 years old. I have a fantastic husband. We are involved in a terrific church. We have two extended families mostly living close by. We have a wonderful private school nearby. We live in one of the most beautiful and rich places in the whole world. We are truly and abundantly blessed.

With all of that, we have come to the realization that in order to raise the best kids we can in this post-modern, secular culture, we need to concentrate on our relationships with them. This takes time and patience, as any parent will testify. However, in the last 50 years, it takes a lot more time and patience. Our grandparents were able to raise large families with much less proactive parenting than we must today. They didn’t have the nearly as many distractions in their lives, technological or otherwise. Up until the 1950s or so, you could send your children off to play and have fun with the other kids around and be sure that your neighbours held similar moral and cultural ideas to your own. You could live simply because, quite simply, that was the only way to live. That is no longer the case.

I have just finished reading “Hold Onto Your Kids” by Vancouver psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld. I won’t go into a long review here, except to say that I wish I had read it when it first came out in 2004. It is the only “parenting” book that has ever made complete and total sense of everything. I wish I had listened to my instincts when I first came across his name and theory when Emma was a baby, 5 years ago. I wish I had gotten rid of the baby trainer books right from the start. I wish I had cultivated an intentional attachment village. I wish I had spent less time worrying about things. I hope you will all pick it up at the library or buy a copy or borrow mine and read it. It has changed the way we think. Not since God came into my life have I ever been so transformed by and convicted of anything. For those that have or will read it: it may not be “Biblical” in that there are very few scripture references or mentions of God. But look deeper, between the words into the message. The God of the universe is the God of relationship. He is relationship himself. When you understand that, it makes absolute and total sense.

I am most grateful to God that I have the chance to mend my ways. I am not perfect. Neither is my husband. Or my kids. Or anyone else in our world. Only He is. And he gives us second chances. Every day, every breath, we are redeemed and forgiven. Over and over again. And it is with this grace, this renewal, this beautiful gift, that I sign off from the blogging world. It has been great to share of myself and our family and ideas, but it is not a passion. It is not a requirement for our family. It is not an income-earner. It was a hobby and a sporadic one at that. When I got into a consistent groove, it ate up a lot of time. When I wasn’t consistent, it was constantly simmering in my mind, heaping guilt on my conscience. Of course, that comes from no one else but myself, but as I said, I am not perfect.

And so blogging world, I have left my (minuscule) mark. But that doesn’t matter. I could have left a giant crater or nothing at all and it still wouldn’t matter. God doesn’t look at what we do, He sees what it is our hearts. And we are turning our hearts towards our family, on the firm foundation of our Lord, Jesus Christ. As you meditate upon His awesome sacrifice this Easter season, ask Him, again or for the first time, to be the Lord and Master of your life. To forgive you. To redeem you. To free you. And He will – He is a faithful God, abounding in steadfast love. That’s what the cross is about.

To Him be all glory!

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Cookie Cutter as: Sandwich shaper

We’ve been having rough nights with Mr. T waking up a lot due to his cold and growth spurt, so the last 2 mornings J took E to school and let me sleep in while the other 2 kids were sleeping late. Thank you, love of my life! Yesterday, he did what I did last week and cut E a PB&J boy, so that counts as Day 4 of Cookie Cutter week. Today was CRAZY again so tonight I’ll post the cookie tree and other things…

PS: You moms of three (MOTHs) and four (MOFOs), do you ever get “back on track”? I feel like each day I get further behind in life! Some days it’s all I can do to get everyone fed and dressed and keep a moderate semblance of tidiness in the kitchen plus referee the sibling screaming.

We’ve done it

We’ve become one of those families. One of those “trampoline” families. It was not a planned thing. Since we moved into our house last summer, our yard has sat blissfully empty of any of the typical yard things: playhouse, swings, ride-ons, wading pool. We have a small inflatable pool and the girls have bikes and trikes, but the yard is only adorned by one, small tree:

There really is a small tree in the back there, it’s just very spindly and hard to find. I’d like to take it out (I’m not even sure what kind of tree it is) and put something in more flowery, like magnolia, dogwood or cherry. J is opposed to it. I guess we’ll have to see what “blooms” on this thing this year. It was pretty sad looking last summer.

We’ve talked about getting a shed, installing a clothesline, starting a garden, setting up a compost, buying a playhouse, pouring more concrete patio, and other such yard jargon. But we decided this year to let most of it go (having a baby and all!) and sticking to the essentials (a shed, the patio, and possible a playhouse).

We love to spend time outside when it’s nice – look how beautiful it was this day! Sunshine, birds in the trees behind us, mountains in the distance, hayfields right behind us. We have neighbours on either side whose houses are pretty close, but nobody behind us so it’s a very private and open feeling at the same time.

The problem with putting the girls outside to “go and play” is that they are girls and they need more structure than an open field. Boys would go out there and race and wrestle and find sticks and frogs (yes, frogs!) and things to do. Girls? Not so much. They need things to play with. They have some beach toys, their bikes and trikes, and some mini-sized sports equipment like balls, baseball bat, badminton rackets etc. But they’re only 3 and 5. They can barely throw and catch to each other.

I don’t have any pictures of them, but I have helped them setup tea parties and picnics with their dolls and dishes. That went over pretty well. And when it’s really hot we’ve set up the wading pool or the sprinkler. They are getting a bit more creative, but for awhile there, all they wanted to do was take their beach shovels and dig holes in the dirt.

Not cool for a guy who finally is taking landowner pride in his lawn…

And so, enter the trampoline:

This is the day we set it up. The girls spent literally all day on there. And as you can see, it was cloudy and not very warm. It’s actually been unseasonable cold here for April. But that hasn’t stopped them! J’s brother also came by with his kids. I love this pic because my little nephew is only 1 and clearly doesn’t have the balance of the girls…

The funny thing is, only one of our neighbours had a trampoline, two houses down. But in the last few weeks, two others have gotten them as well. So when you look down the row of backyards, it’s a line of trampolines and bouncing kids, calling to each other, challenging each other to go higher and showing off their. The difference is that our kids are 5 and 3. Some of the others are quite a bit older. Plus two of the other tramps have nets around them and ours doesn’t. Which means people can fall off. Like lil C did the other day – twice.

So now the girls know the rule: if someone falls off, no more for the rest of the day. They are pretty good about staying away from the edge and away from each other. And I’ve been amazed at the exercise they are suddenly getting! Going to bed on tramp days has been great – they are so worn out they fall asleep fast and sleep hard.

I can’t wait for the warmer weather when we can have the hose or sprinkler on it – J remembers that growing up and it sounds like fun!

Fancy a bounce?

From Centsational Girl: Waverly Fabric GIVEAWAY

One of my favourite DIY home decor blogs, www.centsationalgirl.com, is doing a fantastic giveaway of some fantastic fabric. Waverly’s beautiful prints are inspiration for any room – my sister in law just did living room drapes in Cheri Panther:

 

 

Waverly Cheri Panther from fabric.com

 

Would this be lovely as drapes in my girls’ room?

 

Waverly Cheri Flamingo from fabric.com

 

Well, Waverly has just come out with new line, their Modern Essentials collection:

Click Waverly Fabric GIVEAWAY to hop over to Centsational Girl and enter to win some!

Getting Things Done

Thank goodness it’s Friday! It’s been a busy week for us, with late nights, lots of driving around, and plenty of things getting done. This week I’ve made two pillow covers with my  new sewing machine (pictures to follow) and started to (finally!) recover our kitchen chairs. I’m also starting to get antsy about the baby’s room. We don’t plan on doing any major decorating in it, like paint, until after the birth because we don’t know what we’re having! But I did put together this lamp:

 

Layered shag pendant lamp from Torre & Tagus

 

I think it will look great over our Ikea Poang chair in the nursery with this cover:

 

So maybe a black and white nursery is on the horizon? I also picked these up at Ikea:

They’ll look cute on the dresser, full of baby things.

This baby is starting to get very active and strong. A 30 week old baby is only about 3 lbs but it sure is making me tired! All of this GTD work lately is tiring, not to mention taking care of my rambunctious girls, daily household chores, cooking, and this week, a bunch of family it town. I’m starting to learn the power of saying “no” but it is not always as easy as it sounds. I’m also still suffering from some mild cough; not sure if it’s leftover from that nasty bronchitis last month, but it’s a terrible sounding cough and some mornings I wake up with a sore throat. It even wakes me up at night. Funny that, because you’d think kicking baby would, but actually, baby never seems to wake me up. I don’t even get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night or get something to eat… I’d better watch out though – now that I’ve said it, I bet I’ll be up peeing and eating at 2am.

Oh the joys of being a mother…

A new toy for me

I finally did it. I bought a sewing machine. Well, actually I bought two, but I’m returning one. That’s what happens when I get excited about something before finishing all the research. I went into a store last week, tested a machine, it was on sale, so I bought it. Then I brought it home and when J and I “talked” about it we ended up having a heated discussion because I had gone over budget. All because I got excited and didn’t fully do my research… sigh.

Then I did a bit more research, found a demolition sale and a liquidation of new machines, called my mom (who knows machines and has been sewing for decades) and we went to the sale. The entry-level Janome SUV1108 was on sale and only slightly over our budget. So came home, talked it over with J, and went back today to buy one.

Then I went to Value Village to browse around because my first project is to recover some cushions for the girls’ window bench. I bought a couple of small cushions and even found a tablecloth that will make perfect covers. Yay for thrifty! I haven’t sewn in a very long time so I figured pillow covers (straight, no curves) with a simple zipper made from thrifted material would be a good start. I’ll be sure to post pictures when I do one.

Even E got excited about the prospect of mama being able to make things. Like doll clothes. Except she wants clothes for her Transformers.

Handmade home and domestic sewing bliss, here I come.

 

Girls’ room: wallpaper

With baby on the way in under three months, the nesting is going strong. It’s probably also a combination of spring fever – I have an intense desire to GTD (Get Things Done). Most of the Things are projects which involve decisions of colour and pattern of fabric, paint, wallpaper etc. Most of them involve a sewing machine (which I don’t own), a staple gun (which I’ve borrowed), entire walls (which haven’t been prepped yet). So it feels a bit like crunch time. Oh wait. That’s the taxes calling…

Choosing wallpaper for a feature wall in the girls’ room hasn’t been easy. There are some beautiful prints out there, but there is also a lot of not so beautiful. And there is also a huge range in price and materials. This is the look that inspired what I want to do in their room:

Photo courtesy Style at Home

Our girls don’t have hardwood/painted floor (boring beige carpet) or black iron beds (matching pink Ikea beds) but they do share a room and I love the happy, almost cartoon-like wallpaper. It’s whimsical and grown-up at the same time. Plus I want walls that aren’t too little girl. I don’t want to redo them in a few years! Let’s hope for five plus years before they want a tween room (I shudder to think about those years…)

The wallpaper above is from the Unikko print from Marimekko, a Finnish company that happens to have a new store in Vancouver. It’s also available in fabric among other things and comes in these colours:

Aren’t they all lovely? The only catch is that the wallpaper is around $150 a roll. And I need four rolls. I love my girls but that’s just way over my budget. On the bright side, when I was in HomeSense yesterday they had a brand new display of their spring stuff out and there was a table of Marimekko dishes – cups, plates, trays etc. I think my patio will have a new look this spring!

Marimekko also has this one which I love:

Lumimarja by Marimekko

But again it’s expensive. Even if it’s available locally without shipping. $1000 for one wall? I’m not there…

So then I found this wallpaper:

Albany Wowee FD14864

It’s not quite the same but it’s a pretty print. A lovely poppy-design for about $25 a roll. Reasonable? Yes. Available? Only from the UK. So the shipping costs more than the paper. Worth it? Not sure…

But then I came across this:

Amy Butler Memento in Sunset from Graham & Brown

And I’m smitten. Isn’t is beautiful? It’s lovely and feminine and whimsical and grown-up and the right colours and not too busy and all the things I want. It’s $85 a roll but is available in North America.

Honestly I have seen next to nothing else that suits what I’m after for their room. And I can’t choose paint, curtains, or window seat fabric until we’ve picked the wallpaper. What to do? We want walls that we are going to love, not hate every time we see them. We want the girls to love them and we want quality without being extravagant.

Decisions, decisions… hopefully we’ll make it soon. What do YOU think?

Children’s Artwork: solving the paper piles

If you have kids, you probably have arts and crafts in your house. Not that you necessarily do arts and crafts with your kids, but they do them anyway. Mine do arts and crafts at home, at playschool, at preschool, at friends’, at relatives’, at the library, at the museum, at restaurants… basically anywhere they can get creative, they do. And the paper pile (not to mention the feathers, poms poms, glitter, tinsel, ETC) can be overwhelming. I’m not a super-sentimental person (I don’t save everything anymore!) but I do want to remember this especially wonderful time of uninhibited creativity.

Having a 5 year old and a 2.5 year old means there is a wonder in their drawings that is pure, genuine, and special. Lil C has figured out how to control her movements enough to draw recognizable faces and sometimes animals. E draws mostly people but has branched out lately into animals, robots, buildings, rainbows, and mandalas (colour-wheels – thanks to Grandma!)

So what to do with all of that artwork? For awhile I tried saving it in a binder but every time E showed it to someone something would fall off (feathers and pom poms) or get ripped. Then I tried putting it into a box. But that got messy. Plus, when gluestick gets old it fades and looks yucky.

Then I saw this:

photo courtesy janeleni.com

And now my paper pile is being tackled. The collage above is a professionally done piece. I believe she actually photographs each piece of art, resizes it, has it printed, cut, and mounted behind glass. Beautiful, but too much work and expense for me.

So my scanner has been hard at work tonight. I’m scanning all of the creative beauty my girls have made that I’ve so far saved and then am going to make my own collages out of them. I haven’t decided how I’m going to print them yet, whether to do them at J’s office (free is good!) , Kinko’s or Staples, a local printhouse, or an online photo site like Snapfish or Shutterfly.

But seriously, how easy is that?

Artwork saved, paper recycled, space reclaimed, naked walls decorated.

It’s a win-win-win-win situation. I think the collages will make great gifts for family members, awesome keepsakes for the kids, and look great on the walls. At this point I’m not even buying new frames for them, I’m going to use up some old frames lying around and get rid of another pile at the same time.

I’m either brilliant or I’m nesting…

Snapshot of the last month

The last month or so has been a lot of fun. Here’s a peek at what I’m up to and a some pics for you to enjoy too!

On My Nightstand: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. If you’ve never read a Neil Gaiman book, you must go do it right now. I recommend Neverwhere. That’s where I started. And I truly never want to be without a Neil Gaiman book close by again. He also writes graphic novels (Coraline) and children’s books (although those are a bit too out there for my girls so far.) I just finished a “space opera” called Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross. It was one of those books about the robotic future that seemed kind of close to home and kind of unbelievable at the same time. It also made me laugh out loud. A lot. Like on the plane to Mexico. And on the beach in Mexico. And in my room in Mexico. I did a lot of laughing in Mexico, but nobody knew why I was laughing.

Want To Read: Lord of the Rings again. We watched the movies again over Christmas (hooray for Blu-ray) and it made me miss the books. But they’re a bit heavy for my liking right now. I’m also really into cheap or free books right now. We go the library a lot and I just pick something from the feature shelf or buy something from the sale table. Seriously, 25c for a book? That’s just awesome. Thinking about the Kindle too. J’s cousin had one on the beach in Mexico and I have to say it’s was pretty slick.

TV Worth Watching: Don’t watch too much lately but I’ve always liked Rachel Ray. J and I have started to watch the original Battlestar Galactica series because we liked the new one so much. But it is so terribly bad that I’m not sure if we’ll get far in it. I’m also taking out a lot of old movies from the library. Especially Audrey , my all-time favourite girl to watch. I often put something like that on when I fold laundry in the evening (yes I spend some evenings folding laundry. I know. Great date night.)

Movie I’ve Seen (in or out of the theater): Tangled 3D with the girls was awesome! What a cute movie. And the two movies on the plane weren’t bad: Life as We Know It with Josh Duhamel and Katherine Heigl was better than I expected (even though it was predictable) and Going the Distance with Drew Barrymore and Justin Long (and a great portrayal of a mom by Christina Applegate) was cute. And one day in my hotel room while I was futzing around before heading to the beach I ended up watching Inspector Mom 2 – totally cheesy but I couldn’t get over Danica McKeller – Wonder Years, anyone?

super epic rainbow cakeIn My Kitchen:Before we left for Mexico I went on a let’s-eat-everything-in-our-house phase. So we bought very few groceries and tried to eat what was in the freezer and cupboards. So it made for some interesting meals and combinations. But I did make a “super epic rainbow cake” for E’s fifth birthday (thanks to Whisk Kid for the recipe!) and it was a total hit. I also made some delicious fried fish (kids love it), steaks (hubby loves it), and mini lemon bundt cakes (I love it).

In My Ears: Hasn’t changed much lately. I listen to the radio and whatever’s in my iTunes library. I have a lot of old music and I listen to a lot of kids music. Harry Connick Jr. is permanently in my car because the kids love it (ask lil C to sing the Oompa Loompa song for you…) . I did some karaoke in Mexico and got a couple of good cheers too!

Places we went: Huatulco, Mexico. Getting there was alright. Being there was awesome. Coming home was a nightmare. Our flight was delayed 3 hours (meaning we spent 6 in the airport waiting area), then made an “emergency” fuel stop in Abbotsford (10 minutes from Vancouver -were we running on fumes?) which turned into a 2 hour in-plane wait for a new crew (with no food or water offered). Pregnant lady was hungry!

Looking forward to going: nowhere! Baby is due in early June and there are no travel plans between now and then. These days I look forward to going to the bathroom and to bed. And to the fridge 🙂

What I’m Looking Forward to this Month: Valentine’s Day and a night away at a marriage retreat with J. Love you, man!

NOW then.  Your turn!  What are YOU into this month?  Fill up the comment space or borrow this for inspiration on your own blog.


Kung Hei Fat Choy: resolutions & a year in pictures

Happy Chinese New Year! This is the year of the rabbit. Is it ok to make New Year’s resolutions now? Considering that I actually never followed through on my previous 2 years of resolutions, it seems counter-productive to me but here goes.

Lose weight

Well, since I’m pregnant, I will both be gaining lots and losing lots by virtue of baby growing inside and then coming out. Done.

You can see my belly finally! Oh yeah, that's E's fabulous fifth birthday cake. Thank to Whisk Kid for the cake recipe!

Eat healthier

We don’t really eat unhealthy to begin with, but since dark chocolate is good for you, I can eat more of that. Plus I’ll hopefully be nursing. I tend to eat really well when I’m nursing. Done.

crickets and mole sauce. Yes, he's actually eating the crickets and mole sauce. No, they weren't good.

Quit smoking

Never started. Done. Don’t even have a picture remotely resembling anything like this. Except maybe a campfire.

roasting marshmallows. And this photo is almost 3 years old.

Be more organized

I’m going to have a kindergartner (starting in September), a preschooler, and a newborn. I’ll either be organized or be dead. Done.

you can only see part of our luggage here!

the charging station in the prisoner transport – definitely a fire hazard

Declutter

See above. Done.

decluttering is easy when you have to move your stuff

Exercise more

See above. The average toddler takes 176 steps a minute. She’s not a toddler anymore but still has legs. And we start walking to kindergarten in September. Done.

J diving at Cultus

I think that's a dive

at the Olympic celebration site in Holland Park. Who knew curling was so hot?

Take more pictures

I actually have a problem where we take too many. So really I need to take less. And edit and print more. Oh wait. My last Snapfish order was 700 pictures. Plus I’ll have a newborn. So…Done.

self-portrait

Spend more time outside

Did I mention the walking to kindergarten? Done.

preschool field trip

Read more

I read pretty much every day for myself (novels as well as blogs and magazines). Oh wait. I have kids. They like mama to read to them. A lot. Done.

start 'em young!


Spend more time with family

Again, having a newborn means we’ll probably be at home a lot more. And there’s a family reunion of J’s extended family this summer that we might go to. Done.

in Mexico at the Kasbah

in San Diego

Thanksgiving

I’m going to stop now, I’m wearing myself out with how resolute I am so far! No, in all seriousness, we don’t really make resolutions. We rely on God to lead us further up and further into life and faith. Hopefully we learn from the last year and enjoy life more this year.

So, Kung Hei Fat Choy to you! And may God be with you too.