Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

As I begin this New Year's Eve day, listening to the happy sounds drifting up the staircase, recalling the bounty that has characterized the past week, only one word fills my mind: BLESSED! Gratitude has been my personal theme for the past couple of months, and as 2011 draws to a close I find myself especially grateful for this new perspective I've adopted. Our Christmas was far too decadent, and I think we were in part trying to compensate for what was missing this year in not having our usual visits with family. It wasn't necessary. This has been a truly joyful Christmas holiday. In fact, as I attempt to put away all the gifts under the tree, I realize that these are not at all what I think of when I consider what a wonderful Christmas we've had. It was our first one that did not involve any travel. In fact, aside from one trip to town, a Dad/son date and Mommy/daughter date, and Connor's playdate yesterday, our week consisted of the four of us cozy together within the four walls of our home. We played games. We watched movies. We ate lots of turkey. We played with our new toys. We were content. We are content. I am loving this vacation and I don't want it to end!
My Christmas Eve blessings!
But today is December 31, and I cannot stop the New Year from coming! With it comes all sorts of challenges. Chris heads back to work on Tuesday, although thankfully not to the brutal pace that he has endured the past two months. I have a number of resolutions that I am determined to keep this year: more to come about those! Connor and Janelle have one more week off before their busy schedule resumes. Life rolls on and we try to roll along with it. If I allow myself to really consider what lies before us in these coming months and years I know I would find it daunting. But I remain content in knowing that my biggest responsibility is to look to the Lord and His Will and His Ways, and to try to align my own to the center of His. He is the Rock that I want to build 2012 upon.

This afternoon we drive to Oakville to spend the evening with family. I am so thankful we have this opportunity to nurture relationships with Chris's sisters and their families. We'll celebrate the coming of 2012 at Lori and Ben's New Year's Eve party, then bring all the kiddies back to Kate and Pierre's to spend the night and enjoy a lazy New Year's Day. I'll be thinking of my family and friends in NB, and I'll look forward to seeing them again in 2012. But I'll be happy to be spending the holiday exactly where I am.

Happy New Year to all!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thankful for Old Friends (and New Ones!)

Way too busy to post today! I've been planning a shopping day with two sweet friends for weeks now. They are both took a vacation day, picked me up at 9:30 a.m. and we were off. Jocelyn and I have been friends for 28 years, but I'm so glad she was here in London to smooth my transition. She introduced me to her good friend, Tina, who is now my good friend, Tina! We had a lovely day, got quite a bit of Christmas shopping accomplished, and got home just in time to start my Thursday whirlwind. I met the kids at home, picked up the car from the mechanic (both vehicles now have snow tires — bring it on!), put a pizza in the oven for the kids, took Janelle to dance, took Connor to basketball, stopped at Tag and Chapters for a few gifts I didn't have time to pick up today, folded four loads of laundry, put Janelle to bed, answered the phone when Chris called from the gym and said yes when he asked if I wanted him to bring home Chinese food.

Now there is still laundry to do, and the spare bedroom and kids' bathroom to clean before tomorrow. One of my oldest friends and most faithful blog readers is coming for a weekend visit. I can't imagine doing anything more tonight, but tomorrow I have to be up early to tackle the rest of my mountain of preparation. See you tomorrow, Jules!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Welcome!

Got the exterior lights up before the first snow, which was falling in big graceful
flakes this morning when we woke up. It's gone now, but we've had a taste.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Loving My House!

It's one of those nights again. The kids are sleeping and Chris is working late, and I'm alone in a quiet house. And I'm loving it. The Christmas decorations are up (all but the trees), the kitchen is clean, the fire is glowing in the fireplace, a "Twisted Peppermint" candle is burning on the coffee table, and I can't imagine cozier place to be.
Those who know me may remember that this house wasn't our first choice. On our second day house hunting in London we fell in love with a house just outside the city. It was one of those moments that you wait for when you're shopping for a new home. I was out of my element, far from home, seeing house after house after house that didn't meet nearly enough of the "must haves" on my list. At the end of the first day I felt so discouraged, but when we drove in the driveway of the first house on the second day I felt like things might be looking up. Nice neighbourhood, beautiful lot, lots of curb appeal. Then we walked in the front door. As soon as I stepped inside I felt like I was home. The more I looked, the more I loved it. And Chris felt the same way. It was perfect for our family. Right in our price range. Just like we knew He would, God had led us to the perfect house. We went back to see it twice before we made the offer the next day. That was when we realized that house was not meant to be ours. The owners really didn't want to sell it after all. Nothing we offered would convince them to sell it to us. It would never be our home.

It took a while for us to get over that house. Yes, we went out again the next day, found this house that met just enough of our "must haves", and bought it that day. It took Chris longer to let go of the other house than me, but it took a long time for this house to feel like "home" to me. I loved the neighbourhood immediately, although I wish our street had a few more mature trees (more than none, that is). We live within walking distance of the kids' school, and nearly every other amenity that we could possibly need, and under a five minute drive from everything else. We found a wonderful church practically around the corner. But the actual house? Aside from the jacuzzi and super-duper shower in the master suite (both of which I fell in love with immediately), the house took me a while.
But now I love my house. We have done a few things that have made it feel much more like our home. First of all, it isn't quite so white anymore. I chose colours that I love and painted the main floor and upstairs hallway. We bought furniture that makes it cozy and warm. We built a play structure and a shed in the backyard, planted trees and put in a garden. It isn't the same house that it was the day we first saw it. Yes, the basement is still a work in progress, but I have faith that someday in the not-too-distant future we will be enjoying that space, too. Our house is a home now. We have made it ours, and it is where we are meant to be. And that is what I'm thankful for today.

Monday, November 28, 2011

My Christmas Book Addiction

They fill a whole bookcase!
Signs that Christmas is coming to our house:
  1. Decorations adorning every available surface.
  2. Christmas music heard from stereo speakers, piano keys, and children's mouths (and mom's!)
  3. Christmas movies whenever we want to watch them.
  4. Festive lights twinking outside our windows.
  5. And my favourite of all: hundreds of Christmas books brought out of boxes, ready to be read in a cozy chair after school, snuggled into bed at bedtime, or any time we feel like it!
A few of my favourites.
Yes, here is where I make my confession to the world (although all of my closest friends already know), I suffer from a serious Christmas book addiction. It started as a collection, but it got a bit out of hand. We have so many Christmas books that we cannot possibly read them all every holiday season. But I love them! I love to look at them. I love to hold them. I love to read them. And most of all, I love to share them with my kids. And now that I'm not teaching (and therefore not running a Scholastic Book Club — yeah, that was my downfall, all those reward coupons!) I have decreased my influx of Christmas books to only one or two a year. And this year I haven't even bought one yet! Isn't that a sign that I'm breaking free of the addiction? (Unless you count that Barbie's Perfect Christmas book that Janelle bought at the book fair, which you really can't count because #1 Janelle bought it, and #2 it does not meet the standard of my Christmas book collection.) There literally are hundreds. I haven't even gotten them all out this year. I'm sure there is a box missing, but I'm not putting much energy into finding it because I think we can live without those books until next year. I think we have enough to keep us reading until 2012. We have our favourites, old classics and new stories that must be read every year. The kids are happy. I'm happy. The Christmas season has begun.

I'm thankful for Christmas books.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Favourite Christmas Movies

There's nothing like family movie night, and there's nothing like a good Christmas movie to bring on the Christmas spirit! Last night after we got home from the basketball game, the kids decided they wanted to watch Elf, so I dug into the back of the entertainment cabinet and brought out all of our Christmas movies. We all love Elf. We watched it with the kids last year for the first time, and just like then, this time we were all rolling on the floor laughing. It is hilarious! So many one-liners that are just perfect, that we all repeat over and over again. When I came downstairs this morning the kids were watching it again, and this afternoon when Connor and I came home from church, Chris and Janelle were enjoying it again. I'm sure it isn't the last time we'll see it this holiday season. We love it.

After lunch Chris settled into the Lazyboy for a nap, and the kids were starting to act a little stir crazy. It was pouring rain outside, and I wanted to get most of the Christmas decorations up, so I decided to put on another movie for the three of us to watch while I worked away at decorating. This time I chose The Polar Express, another of my favourites. I loved it originally as the beautiful picture book by Chris Van Allsburg, and was thrilled when Tom Hanks and Robert Zumekis made it into such a great movie. Connor shared memories of his Polar Express day in Grade Three, when his class wore their pajamas to school, made train tickets, drank hot chocolate, read the story and watched the movie. There is one part of the movie that frightened Janelle a couple of years ago and she wouldn't watch it last year, but I thought this year she might be ready to try it again. She flinched at that part, but otherwise, she loved it. And I did get some decorating done, but not as much as I had hoped. I spent too much time watching the movie!

There are many other Christmas movies I love: Miracle on Thirty-Fourth Street (the original), It's a Wonderful Life, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the cartoon), to name only a few. Christmas isn't Christmas without a viewing of each of these at least once a season. Today I'm thankful for great Christmas movies. What are your favourites?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I LOVE Being a Basketball Mom

Last week I wrote about how I'm thankful that basketball is a part of Connor's life. He loves it, and it is so good for him. Today was the first game day for his team. They played two games in Guelph, one right after the other, so we pretty much devoted our day to driving to Guelph, watching two games and driving home. But you know what? I would not trade today for anything in the world.

I have never claimed to be a sports fan. This is the sixth year that I have driven Connor to practices and games and warmed a bench, usually with a book in my hand. Okay, not during games. During games I usually paid attention to the action, unless of course there was someone to talk to, and then I was often far more involved in my conversation than in the game. I have even declared on occassion (much to my husband's chagrin) that the last couple of minutes are all that really matter anyway.
White number 7 is my boy!

But all that changed today. Today I was riveted! The first game was an easy win. We were ahead from the first minute on, and ended up taking the game 57-12. It was a great way to start, though. The boys' confidence was building throughout, and although Connor wasn't being very aggressive, he was really concentrating on defense, and was getting his hands on the ball some of the time. But it was the last few seconds of that game that took my breath away. My boy caught the ball, looked around, made the decision to shoot, focused on the basket, and sunk a three point shot! Wow! He was so excited! When the buzzer went I could hear other kids on the team congratulating him: "Nice shot, Connor!" "Way to go, Connor". High fives all around. He was so proud! He was still walking on air when the next game began.

It was just the boost Connor needed to get himself in position and sink another basket in his first shift, and another three pointer later in the game. This time the teams were much more evenly matched, and kept within a few points of each other, trading the lead back and forth for the entire game. I was quite literally on the edge of my seat, and so was Chris. So were all the parents. Only Janelle, with her DS and activity books, was blissfully ignorant with her back to the game. In the end, we won by four points, and the boys were pumped! It took quite a while to actually get them off the court and ready to pile into cars and head home. The coach told us before we left that every single player had scored, which is his whole philosophy in coaching. They all took part; they all contributed, they all shared the win. I am a very biased mom, but I think that was the best basketball I've ever seen.

Shortly after we got home, while Chris was preparing supper and I was upstairs hurrying Janelle into the shower, I heard a bounce, bounce, bounce outside on the driveway. I peeked out the window and sure enough, there was Connor shooting baskets in his uniform (shorts and tank — at the end of November), flying high from his victory. Something tells me he'll always remember today.

And I am full of thanks.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Just Thankful

Here I sit, at 11:25 p.m., searching my soul for something inspiring to write. It's NaBloPoMo so I have to write. I made a commitment to express my gratitude every day for a month, so I can't just tell a story about the Canadian Black Friday shopping I did today, or the stomach bug that seems to have tracked me down so soon after I finally got rid of my cold. It has to be deep and meaningful.

But, to be honest, I'm too tired for deep and meaningful right now. It has been another very busy day, and I don't feel well. I feel like falling into bed and revelling in not having to set my alarm for the morning. Before I came upstairs to write Chris casually mentioned "Yeah, your blog posts have been a little lacking this week". If that doesn't inspire me to be poetic, what will? But tonight I don't have it.

But that's okay. Because I know that deep down I am thankful. Despite fatigue and illness, I am thankful for so many things. I am thankful that I was able to go shopping today, and buy Christmas gifts for my family and have lunch out with a friend. I am thankful that my kids are old enough to understand when I don't feel well and need to just lay on the couch for a while. I am thankful that Chris came home in time for us to enjoy some time together before I need to retreat to bed. I am thankful that tomorrow we are all heading to Guelph for Connor's first competitive basketball games. I am thankful that my house looks like Santa's workshop exploded inside it, and even more thankful that it will soon be organized and beautifully decorated for the holidays. I'm thankful that I have an extremely comfortable bed just waiting for me to climb into down the hall. And I'm thankful that in about two minutes I'll be in it.

I don't always have to be poetic. But I always have to be thankful.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful for Busyness

Today has been a full and busy day:
  1. It started with working at our school's Scholastic book fair all morning.
  2. This afternoon I helped prepare for the School Holiday Sale by sorting and pricing items for children to buy for their families for Christmas.
  3. After school Thursdays is always a whirlwind of homework, supper, dance, basketball, and bedtime.
  4. Tonight I am busy working on some Christmas surprises of my own.
I'm thankful for busy days.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Not Ready for Snow!!!

Today I am thankful I live in London! Here is why:

This is what is happening in New Brunswick today! And I am sooooo not ready for snow! For a number reasons, but I'll list just a few.
  1. We have cleared the front of the garage of summer paraphenalia enough to park both cars, but the back is jammed full of bikes and other seasonal items waiting to be stowed in the shed. I've been putting it off until a sunny day when I don't have a miserable cold. I think that day is today. I don't want to have to push bicycles through snowdrifts to get them packed away in the shed!
  2. Neither of our cars have appropriate tires yet. Last year we never did put the winter tires on the Neon, but I don't think the all-seasons will cut it for another winter. The van does have winter tires on, but we left them on through the summer because we knew we'd have to buy new ones in the fall. It is usually Chris's "job" to arrange these things, but with his workload these days I'm afraid I may have to suck it up and do it myself. I don't want us to get caught in a snowstorm with two unsafe vehicles.
  3. I haven't decorated the exterior of the house for Christmas yet. Also on my "to-do" list today, because I'll be out all day tomorrow, and I hate to get beyond American Thanksgiving with no evidence of festive spirit on my house. Plus, it's going to get way too cold for that kind of work. Must get it done before the snow falls!
Usually I welcome the first snow of the season. It was nearly a year ago that "Snowmaggedon" descended upon London, initiating us brutally to our first winter weather here. I was thrilled! I would have been happy for it to go on all week, all four of us tucked up cozily in our home, with Christmas carols drifting through the house while I decorated and baked cookies. But this week I am just not ready yet. Once I get these three items checked off my list, bring it on! Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! Until then....

I am so thankful I live in London!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


The wind is howling outside the window, and rain is beating its steady rhythm against the glass. I just left my daughter's cozy bed after reading two chapters of Vacation Under the Volcano, our latest "Magic Tree House" book. Connor is getting his pajamas on, and soon I'll climb up into his loft bed and read a chapter of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. There is something wonderful about bedtime reading with my kids.

I love this time of day, especially when Chris is home and the kids are tucked in bed and it's time for us to have "us time". Tonight, Chris is working late. He'll be working late for most of this week, so we met him for supper out between piano and Kids Night Out so we could still manage some family time. But I'm still planning on enjoying every minute of my "after bedtime" time. I'll dim the lights and settle in on the couch, the fire crackling in the fireplace. I'll probably tune in to the finale of Dancing With the Stars, and then I'll crack open a new book. Peace. Quiet. Serenity. The best time of the day.

I'm thankful for good books I can read with my kids, and for the fact that they still want me to read with them. I'm thankful that Chris got the fireplace in good working order on the weekend. I'm thankful that although a storm is raging outside my window, my children and I are safe in our cozy home. I'm thankful for bedtime.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thankful for a Cold?

I have had a nagging cold for nearly a week now, and today I think I am starting my way onto the upward swing. At least I have decided that it's time to get better. I volunteered in the hot lunch program at school today, I'm going in Tuesday and Thursday mornings to work at the book fair, and my house needs some serious attention (ask anyone in my family). So I don't have anymore time to be sick.

But I am thankful that this weekend I did have some time to lay in bed or on the couch and concentrate on getting better. I'm thankful that my husband took over kitchen duty in the midst of the pile of work he had to do, and my kids found ways to entertain themselves. I'm thankful that my Sunday School co-workers took over and allowed me to sit quietly in the service with Chris yesterday morning. I'm thankful that I had time to finish a really good book (yes, the one with the missing pages). And I'm extremely thankful for cold medicine which allowed me to breathe and therefore enjoy my time on the couch.

And once in a while, don't we need an excuse to just hang out on the couch? Sure, it would be better without the pounding headache and painful coughing, but as I said, that's what cold medicine is for. So I'm ready to get better, but in the spirit of true gratitude, today, I'm thankful for my cold.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


I love Sunday afternoons when all I really have to do is lay on my bed, read a book, occassionally glance at the television while my hubby channel surfs, maybe pay the kids some attention once in a while, and try to kick this cold in the butt. There are a million other things I could be doing today, but that is what I'm choosing.

Sunday is my favourite day of the week. I'm thankful.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Operation Christmas Child

The Operation Christmas Child boxes are due this week, and just like every year, we are filling them up at the last minute. I was feeling miserable this afternoon with this cold I can't seem to shake, but this is a yearly tradition that I refuse to skip. I love it. I love everything about it.

I am so thankful for this organization that brings a little bit of the joy of Christmas to hundreds of thousands of well-deserved children every year. I am thankful that everyone has an opportunity to be a part of it in small or large ways, whether they are part of a church or a business group, whether they want to fill one box or ten, whether they want to contribute to a box that someone else will fill, or whether they want to volunteer to load a truck with boxes. And as a mother, more than anything else, I am thankful for the chance it gives me to help my children focus on making Christmas special for another child, one they haven't met, but a very real child who will get nothing else for Christmas this year.

Every year we pack two boxes, one for a boy Connor's age and one for a girl Janelle's age. They choose the gifts, and they give part of their allowance toward the gifts they choose. Today, when we went to the store together, I told them that they would not be allowed to talk about things they want for themselves. This trip was going to be only about the child they were buying for. I even threatened to fine them every time they said "I want this". When we brought our bags home they enthusiastically joined me in filling the boxes, excitedly talking about how their friends across the world will react when they find each item. I know it isn't a mission trip or working in a soup kitchen, and it isn't really asking my kids to deny themselves much, but it is a small way of making real to them the difference that exists between them and most of the children in the world. They will think about these children, and we will pray for them as a family. And the eyes of two precious children will light up someday soon because my children chose gifts for them to make their Christmas special. And my children's eyes lit up thinking about that. And I am very thankful.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Reading Frustration

Have I ever mentioned that I love to read? Mmmm... Yep, anyone who knows me understands that about me, sometimes from the first time we meet. And one of my favourite things to do is to stretch out in a warm bubble bath with a good book. I've been feeling under the weather all week, so last night after both kids were tucked cozy in bed, I decided to retreat to my bathroom with the latest novel on my book club list.

It's a good one. The Birth House by Ami McKay is just the book I've been waiting for. It captured my imagination from page one, and I can't wait to discuss it with my book club. I love that it is set in the Maritimes, although not in a place I can remember visiting. But still, the familiar tones of Maritime life are there. I settled into my tub and immersed myself in the pages, and let all the demands (grocery shopping while sick) and stresses (parent-teacher interviews) of the week float away.

Until I reached page 135. Correction: until I did not reach page 135, because page 135 did not exist in the copy of the book I own. Or page 136 for that matter! At first I didn't believe it — How could this book just be mysteriously missing a page? How is that possible?  So frustrating! So unfair! And of course, as I read on I realized something rather significant took place on those two pages. Or at least I am left to assume that it did. Grrrrrr!!! My peaceful oasis was interupted and ruined. I got right out of the bath so I could go complain about it to my husband (who, of course, did not recognize the importance of my complaint — "Oh, two pages are missing? Huh! Isn't that funny?" Grrrrr!) I went to my computer to see if I could find anyone else's complaint about two missing pages in The Birth House. I only found one passing comment in a review.

I'm assuming this was only a problem in the one printing of this book, which I purchased at Walmart in Fredericton at least two years ago. So today, a P.D. day for the kids, we are off to the book store, so I can find a copy of The Birth House and read pages 135 and 136.

By the way, I am truly thankful for this book, since I've been craving a book for a while that I could just get lost in, and it fits the bill. I'm also thankful for my book club, which is the reason I finally picked it up off my bookshelf to read. I would highly recommend it to anyone, with one warning! Before you buy it, turn to page 135 and make sure it is there! Then go settle into a warm bath and enjoy.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


I'm the opposite of a jock. Talking myself into any kind of exercise is a challenge, and I hardly ever consider it fun. It is for this reason that I am overwhelmingly thankful that my boy loves basketball.

I was on basketball duty tonight. Usually I go inside the gym and stay for just a few minutes before I head off to run errands or wander around the bookstore. Tonight I still wasn't feeling well from a cold I've been fighting all week, so I decided to plant myself on a bench and stay. I brought a book to read, but I decided to watch for a while. This is the sixth year that I've taken Connor to basketball practice, and tonight I realized that he has come a long way since those first years on the court. I guess I should have figured that out when he made the competitive team. He's never been an aggressive player, but he has always been an enthusiastic one. He loves the sport, and he enjoys every minute of it.

It's not the same game that it was when he was playing in the school gym in Marysville, either. This coach works these boys hard, and he expects a lot from them. Connor has to bring in a tally sheet showing he has done 500 shots every week. He also has a fitness routine he has to complete three times each week. Practices are intense, and I am amazed that those boys are still walking at the end of it. On Thursday nights a fitness instructor comes in at the end of their hour and a half practice and does a half hour workout with them. Knowing my somewhat lazy son, I would expect him to be complaining through the workout routine, but I noticed tonight that he does everything asked of him with a smile. And he's good at it! He not only keeps up with the rest of the boys on the team, he excels at these exercises! He is a far cry from his mom, and I am so thankful.

The team will play their first games next weekend in Guelph, and the boys are all excited, and a bit nervous. I'm looking forward to cheering them on, to cheering my boy on in the sport that he loves. What a great experience this is for him, to be part of a team, to have hard work expected of him, to learn to win and lose with grace. Twenty years ago I would never have thought I would add this word to a gratitude list, but tonight my heart is overflowing with it: I am so deeply thankful for basketball.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Super-Dad to the Rescue!

Yesterday Connor came home from school and set right to work on a presentation that was due today. I had spent some time with him on the weekend choosing pictures that represented his subject, but he wanted to put in transitions and labels and set it all to music. I have no idea how he does it — he is becoming far more computer savvy than I am! He spent nearly two hours getting it just right, and after we had dinner and he had gotten ready for basketball he tried to burn it to a DVD. I was downstairs cleaning up the kitchen when I heard him howl.

"It's all gone! Everything I did today is gone!" He was inconsolable. Nothing I said could reassure him that it would be okay. We had to leave for basketball practice, and he was in a state of hysteria. I didn't have one clue what to do to find that file on the computer. Chris was staying at work until it was time to pick Connor up from practice, so I called him to see if he had any kind of "magic fix". At first, Connor wouldn't even speak to his dad on the phone. He was determined to scream and cry and insist that he would be getting an F on the project. Finally, between Chris and I, he calmed enough to get in the van and head to practice. I was able to talk to him a bit about his response to the situation while we drove. I told him that having a fit when something goes wrong (which I'm sure he either learned from me or it's something we share in our common DNA) is showing God that we are not trusting him to take care of the situation. We prayed together on our way, and by the time we reached the high school, Connor seemed ready to go in and focus on basketball for two hours. I headed home, continuing to pray for my boy as I drove.

As I mentioned yesterday, I was hosting our Community Group last night, so when Chris and Connor arrived home we were in the middle of our meeting. I heard them go upstairs and assumed they were looking into the problem. Only ten minutes later they came downstairs, Connor heading to the refrigerator for a drink, and Chris joining our group in the family room. I mouthed across the room to Chris "Did you find it?" and he nodded with a smile. Relief flooded through me, and I winked at Connor as he made his way upstairs to bed.

Chris is amazing with just about any computer problem. Sometimes it takes him hours or even days to figure it out, but I have yet to see him permanently stumped. I am completely boggled by almost anything computer related. Sure, I can navigate my way around things that are intentionally made easy for dolts like myself, but I do not in any way understand the inner workings. I am so thankful that Chris's talents fill in where my own are lacking. Parenting isn't easy, but at least when there are two of us we can cover most of the bases. I know there are many single parents doing an awesome job on their own, but I am eternally grateful that I am not one of them.

Today, I am thankful for an amazing husband who is a Super-Dad to our kids. And I am thankful for an opportunity to teach my son something about leaning on God to take care of our problems instead of immediately panicking. Sometimes He uses those situations as little reminders to me as well.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Friendships Abundant

I am cleaning today. I have a goal in mind: a housefull of guests this evening in my cozy, neat and tidy home. My goal keeps me going and helps keep me from getting distracted by things like Facebook or that novel I'm just getting into. Chris always says "Don't you want to keep your house tidy for yourself or for your family?" Of course I do, and I try to keep from falling too far behind in that, but it really is the urgency of having others in my home that pushes me to keep going when I'd really like to collapse on the couch and watch Ellen or The View.

I love having company in our home, and here that is especially sweet. Probably because for so many months we had no friends whom we could just invite over, for coffee or dessert or a games night or Bible study. In Fredericton we hosted a Home Group for six years. We led it and hosted, and to be honest, after six years we both became a little burned out on it. But I can't tell you how intensely I missed the people in that group after we moved here! In Fredericton we were surrounded by people who loved us. We always had someone to call if we needed a favour or an ear. We always had someone to sit with in church. We shared life with people we loved. I couldn't imagine how that could be duplicated. And honestly, it can't be duplicated. Those people are unique and wonderful and hold a special place in our hearts that can't be taken by anyone else. But a new group of people take their own place in our hearts, too, now. And tonight, they'll be gathering at our house.

Last fall God answered the cry of my heart. Few times in my life have I ever been so desperately in need of friends. So when our pastor asked people to sign up to be placed in a community group, our names were first on the list. We had nothing to do with where we would be placed, other than an email I sent describing our situation and stage of life. We were placed in a group meeting just a few minutes from here. I was nervous the first night, assuming I would be the only "new kid" in the group, but was surprised to find that none of the other couples knew each other before. Well, we know each other now. In fact, our group has a bit of a "super-group" reputation in our church. We have bonded. They guys have served the men of the church by putting on Men's Breakfasts a number of times. The girls regularly get together for coffee or movie nights. My trip to Cleveland last weekend was with a couple of the other girls in our group. We enjoy being together, we have great discussion, and we lift each other up in prayer. We appreciate each other. I appreciate them. And I am so thankful for them, just as I am for all our wonderful friends in New Brunswick.

Because of other commitments and babysitter issues, scheduling our group meetings this year has been a challenge. To make it a bit easier for us, ferrying Connor back and forth to basketball Monday nights, we have offered to host every second week at our house, starting tonight. So I have some work to do. Time to tear myself away from this addictive computer and get my house in tip top shape!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I Have a Mommy Ache

Friday was the day that the first progress reports came home from school this year, and somehow, for the first time ever, I forgot about it. I didn't realize it until this afternoon when Connor was digging in his bookbag to find out if he had homework to finish. His discovery sent Janelle rushing off to find her bookbag and hand me hers.

Connor's report card was fairly good, pretty much as expected. He isn't leading the class, but he has a pretty good handle on everything, and other than a few issues with keeping focus and staying neat and organized, his teacher thinks he's an awesome kid (which he is, of course).

Janelle's report card made me heartsick. She has always struggled with staying focused, because she has such an active imagination, but her teachers have always managed to be positive and cheer her many strengths while encouraging her to speed up and stay on task. For the first time, her teacher seemed to find far more negatives to highlight on her report than positives. "Needs Improvement" was more common than "Good" or even "Satisfactory".

I wasn't taken completely by surprise. The teacher had called a couple of weeks ago to discuss Janelle's progress in reading, saying that she knows she can read well, but because she reads so slowly her reading level would have to be set back. I got off the phone miserable, and in the end, quite angry. Janelle loves to read! Am I supposed to take something she loves to do and insist we use a stopwatch every time she does it? Does adding that kind of pressure really help? She is a pokey little puppy! Everything Janelle does is at the pace of a turtle. She will never suffer from stress or high blood pressure. She cannot be hurried, but her work is always neat and perfectly done. When I asked for suggestions, the teacher was not helpful.

At suppertime we tried to talk to Janelle about the importance of staying focused and on task and completing her work more quickly. We tried to impress upon her the importance of keeping her mind on what she is doing, but I know that urgency is not a concept Janelle really understands. Since birth she has done things when she is good and ready. She was born six days late, didn't walk until 17 months, didn't talk until she was two (when she opened her mouth and surprised us with full sentences). She is amazingly self-assured and confident, and I hate the idea of compromising that in response to a negative report card.

So tonight I have a Mommy ache. I'm hurting because I know I have to start getting tough with my little girl. I'm hurting because I feel like her teacher doesn't recognize how amazing she is. And I'm hurting because I don't really know where to go from here to make it all better. Time to get on my knees!

Tonight I am thankful for Janelle, my imaginitive, articulate, brilliant daughter. I wouldn't trade her for all the speedy little girls in the world!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thankful Saturday

Today I am thankful for:
  • Lazy Saturday mornings. The kind that find me still in jammies at 2 p.m. and that's okay.
  • A sunny day in November.
  • Warm temperature for tonight's Santa Claus Parade.
  • Stew in the crock pot.
  • A game of Mastermind with my daughter.
  • I don't have to mow the lawn in November!
  • A two-car garage that we'll soon be able to fit two cars inside.
  • Christmas music on the stereo, except when Chris or Connor is listening.
  • Girls Night tonight with two of my favourite girls.
Life is good. I am thankful.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Remembering the Mothers

This morning I attended the Remembrance Day ceremony at my children's school. Janelle's primary choir sang "Blowin' in the Wind", and I wanted to see her first performance so I chose to go to the service at the school, rather than at the cenotaph downtown. While I was sitting at the back of the gym, I noticed Connor sitting on the floor with his class, just a few metres from where I was. I don't think he noticed me watching him. Janelle had caught my eye when I walked in and gave an enthusiatic wave and a bright smile, but Connor had his back to me. I kept my eye on him through much of the service. He seemed to be paying close attention, taking it all in. Yesterday we went on a field trip to the Tillsonburg Airport, where many of the planes that were used to train the RAF during WWII are located. It was a great field trip, and I think it really helped the students connect with the things that would be talked about today. Connor was fascinated. He put his head inside the cockpit of a plane that many soldiers trained in and breathed in the scent of history. Maybe it helped me make a connection, too.

While I watched my son during this Remembrance Day service I couldn't help but think about something that was impressed upon the kids and the parents at the airport yesterday. Many of the soldiers who served in the world wars were not many years older than these kids, our kids, my son. Looking at my precious son, I think about another boy. A boy I've never met. I don't know his name, but I know his mother's heart. I know she loved him every bit as much as I love Connor, when she sent him across the sea to the waiting enemy guns. That heart felt like it would tear out of her chest when she gave him one last embrace before whispering her teary goodbye. And on the day she received news that he would not be coming home, she wondered how she would go on living.

Thousands of Canadian mothers gave up their sons for our freedom. That is the sacrifice that pulls at my heart today. They did not love their sons less than I love mine. And the idea of sending my son across an ocean with a gun is inconceivable to me. Today I am thankful for the brokenhearted mothers whose sacrifice bought my freedom. I remember.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Out of Control!

Today was a crazy day. If it weren't for my NaBloPoMo vow I certainly would not be writing tonight. I spent the day on a field trip with Connor, then ran to a shoe store to use a Groupon that was about to expire, then picked up the kids at school, both of whom had more than the usual amount of homework. Of course! On Thursday! Our crazy day! I was ahead of the game enough that I had dinner on the table by 4:30, but after that, everything spun out of control.

Janelle had to write two Christmas letters to soldiers overseas, plus a spelling test to study for, and Connor had an interview write-up to complete, rough copy and good copy. Janelle got most of hers done in time for her dance class at 5:00. I dropped her off planning to head right home and make sure Connor was getting his project done before basketball time, but before I made it out the door I heard one of the instructors remind parents that it's "open window week", the one week of the month when we can actually stand at the one-way mirror and watch the class. I haven't seen Janelle's class since she started, so I thought I should stay for at least a while. After watching half and hour of stretching I decided I better check on Connor's progress. When I got home, he was watching TV! He decided he needed to wait for me before he started his good copy! Grrrrrr.... And we needed to leave in less than an hour! I got him organized, and mostly finished, before I headed back to get Janelle. Meanwhile, I sent Chris a text to make sure he was on his way home from a meeting in Hamilton. I needed to know for sure that he would be able to pick Connor up so I could bring Janelle home to finish homework and go to bed.

I didn't hear back from Chris before it was time to leave for basketball, so I tried calling him. The call was immediately sent to voice mail. I knew that probably meant his battery had died, but as the evening wore on, that excuse wore thin. The last thing he said to me this morning was that he would be in touch about logistics for the evening. Surely he wouldn't just not call. Janelle and I sat through a two-hour basketball practice, my daughter happily finishing her homework and then entertaining imaginary friends, while I foolishly allowed my imagination to run wild. By 8:30, after multiple unanswered calls to Chris's cell phone, I was sure my husband was in a ditch off the 401. I was practically picking out music for the funeral! I was in such a state that Connor immediately sensed something was wrong when he finally got off the court. I told him I just wasn't feeling well. When we got home Connor insisted I try calling Chris's office number, which I had already tried and was sure he wouldn't answer. But to appease my son, and a bit out of desperation, I tried. And my husband, who is very much alive, answered! He told me he had called my cell phone 15 minutes earlier, as soon as he got to a phone. His cell phone battery had died.... Surprise, surprise! I must not have heard the ring in the noisy gym as we were packing up to leave. It's amazing how much better I felt after I finally heard his voice!

Tonight, I'm thankful that my husband was kept safe on the road home from Hamilton. I don't know why I allow my imagination to go in those directions. I know I shouldn't worry, but after a busy, exhausting day I just can't seem to manage my emotions. Now my kids are tucked in bed, my husband is on his way home (or at least he better be), and all is right with the world. I think it's time to climb into bed myself, end this crazy day, and start over. And tomorrow, I'll try not to let my world get out of control!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Our October Treat

I've been so busy since the MacPhees' visit that I haven't had time to share about our time together. We had a jam-packed time, and I am so thankful that they could come and bring a little sunshine to our autumn. The kids were so excited to see each other that Jillian literally fell down when she first saw us at the airport! We teased her about that for the rest of the weekend! Tracy and I did quite a bit of shopping, although I don't think I got her to all five of our Winners stores, which was her goal. She was successful in leaving some money here, and I was able to spend some, too.

The boys attended the first exhibition game of the new London Lightning basketball team, and the girls giggled and screamed along with thousands of other little ladies at the Selena Gomez concert. I am so grateful that we were able to get tickets! Justin Bieber did not show up as hoped, but Janelle was having too much fun to care. It was such a special experience for Tracy and I to share with our girls.

Great Wolf Lodge truly is a kid's paradise. The waterslides, the wave pool, the lazy river, the water coaster, the giant splash bucket — all four kids loved it all. I told Chris that Great Wolf Lodge is a place I would have dreamed up as a child when imagining the perfect hotel. Since we were there in the middle of the week we practically had the place to ourselves, so no waiting in line for the good slides. The kids even got to dress up in their Halloween costumes and "trick-or-treat" around various places in the resort. It truly was very cool, and especially cool that my kids got to experience it with their cousins.

What I'm thankful for today, on top of a family visit, Selena Gomez tickets, and Great Wolf Lodge, is the reminder that one of my worst fears in leaving New Brunswick has not been realized. More than anything I wanted my children to grow up close to their cousins, sharing experiences with them, and staying in close touch often, and I was afraid that would change if we moved to Ontario. It hasn't changed. They love each other as much as they ever have. They have more fun together than with anyone else. And we can still make those special times happen, perhaps even more intentionally now. Tracy and I are pretty good at dreaming up fun plans to share together, so I think there's a pretty good chance it's going to keep right on happening. We counted down days for months before the special treat of this visit. I wonder what we'll do for the next one?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Family List

I missed the beginning of National Blog Post Month. To be honest, I really never even thought about it until I saw the first seven posts of my friend Denise's NaBloPoMo entries. Last year I wrote a blog post for every single day in November, and I'm kicking myself because I didn't hop on the bandwagon this year. It wasn't easy to come up with something for every single day of the month. It wasn't easy to find the time. But I did it, and I was so proud of myself for finishing that I vowed I would do it again this year. And I missed the beginning of it.

But who says I can't hop on that bandwagon now? Who says I can't start my own bandwagon? So here goes: I'm starting NaBloPoMo, but with a twist.

I've been thinking a lot about gratitude lately. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the wonderful book I've been reading on the subject, One Thousand Gifts, and shared that I'm beginning my own list of the many gifts in my life. The Sunday School curriculum that I'm teaching this month is all about gratitude, so that is also turning my thoughts to daily thankfulness. This month America celebrates Thanksgiving, and even though the Canadian holiday has passed, I feel surrounded by the idea of giving thanks, and recognizing the many simple everyday gifts I may otherwise take for granted. My friend Robin has begun a collection of "Thankful Thoughts" on her blog, and it has inspired me to turn NaBloPoMo into a bit of a collection of my own.

Today I'm thankful for two amazing children, who are humoring their mother on her quest to recognize the gifts in our lives. It seems that daily I am realizing more and more that gratitude is the key to so many things in life: the key to joy, faith, humility, confidence, generosity, and so many more virtues that are being revealed to me as I embark on this journey of thankfulness. Taking my focus off the mundane and the stress in my life, and placing that focus on a search for every little thing that I can be thankful for, puts all things in a new and more positive light. And if gratitude is the key to making the world a brighter and more joyful place, I need to share that key with my children! So yesterday I went out and bought a brand new notebook (one with a flower on the cover, to Connor's dismay), and told the kids this morning that every day they will be expected to write down at least three things for which they are thankful.  Of course I got the expected "But what if we can't think of three?" from Connor. I explained that this is exactly why we're doing it! Because there are always at least three things we can thank God for, but if we don't take the time to think of them and write them down, we will miss them! Janelle's eyes lit up — I knew this project would be right up her alley. She grabbed the notebook and wrote down her three things in no time, and asked if she could write down more after school if she wanted to. Just before he headed out the door, Connor jotted down his three. I'll have to remind him that he should try to come up with new gifts every day. I forgot to offer Chris the opportunity to join us, but I have a feeling Janelle will be proudly sharing the list with Daddy tonight at supper time. I am so thankful for her exuberance.

So from now until December 7 I will be sharing my gifts, my own thankful thoughts, right here. I am so excited about this new twist on the challenge! Anyone want to jump on my bandwagon and come along for the ride?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Traditions

I know many of my friends aren't crazy about this particular holiday, but I love the fun of it. Carving pumpkins with my kids is one of my favourite yearly traditions, and in this quick post today, I wanted to share their creations.

Connor's "Harry Potter" pumpkin
Each year I get the kids to draw the face that they want carved into their pumpkins, and I attempt to recreate what they have drawn (sometimes with more success than others!) This year, Connor decided he was going to carve his own pumpkin, which I thought was fine, and I suggested that for a first try he might want to try something simple. You know, a couple of triangle eyes, an upside down triangle nose, and a big, wide smile. No, my very creative son was not having any of that! He schemed up a Harry Potter jack-o-lantern, and I think it turned out pretty great. It looks awesome lit up on our doorstep.

Janelle knew exactly what she wanted, as she does with everything. She chose cat eyes, a silly nose, a very crazy mouth, and even some freckles! She did let me carve it, and aside from a few strays from her original design, she was pretty happy with the outcome. It also looks awesome lit up. Today at school she'll be carving her own pumpkin. Hopefully she'll stick to a simple pattern, but who knows with my kids!

Janelle's creation
Tonight we'll have an early supper and then begin the festivities. Connor may "trick-or-treat" with a friend this year, which makes me a little sad, but I think as long as they stay in their own neighbourhoods they'll be fine. I'm happy for him that he is old enough to venture out on his own with a buddy. I still have Janelle to tour around the neighbourhood with, visiting with our neighbours as we go. Chris will probably hand out the candy, which he enjoys doing, checking out all the cool, cute, and scary costumes. Then we'll all meet up at home and sort through the candy.

Halloween can be fun, or it can be awful. I remember a Halloween when I still living at Mom and Dad's, when my little brother (about Connor's age or a bit older at the time) came home crying after having his candy stolen by a bunch of older kids. I was furious with the whole holiday and wondered whether I would ever celebrate it with my own children. I'm glad I chose go ahead and enjoy it, and allow them to as well, but I pray that they never have such a painful Halloween experience. It only takes a few people to ruin it all for kids who are just out to have a little innocent fun.

So despite the scary, creepy aspects of Halloween that I hate, I plan to enjoy this one to the fullest. My werewolf and cowgirl have stars in their eyes this morning, thinking of all the fun to be had tonight. They are off to school in their orange and black, ready for a day of special activities and maybe even a few treats. And I am off to the grocery store to make sure I am well stocked for the visitors to my door this evening!

Have a very safe and happy Halloween!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Counting Blessings

I'm such a fiction junkie that I actually made a commitment a few months ago to read a chapter of some form of non-fiction each day before I allow myself to become immersed in a story. There were several reasons for this challenge to myself: to get into something edifying to myself, to plow through some of those parenting books sitting unread on my bookcase, to make my brain work a little bit! Last month I finished a parenting book, so this month I decided to read something just for me, a book that I've been wanting to get into for quite a while now.

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp is truly a beautiful book. I've found myself lost in the pages and forgetting all about the novel waiting to be opened! The author weaves words like a poet. She tells her story and her message in such a way that I am not surprised this farmer's wife from rural Ontario has found herself on the New York Times bestseller list! She speaks about gratitude in a new way — suggesting that until we have named the gifts God has given us, we have not truly accepted them. Her challenge, the one she accepted herself long ago and offers to all of her readers, is to create our own lists. Lists of things that we love. Lists of things that bring us joy. Gratitude lists.

I'm starting my list today. Here. I won't always share my list for all to see, but from time to time I'll add a few items, just to focus my mind and my heart. Even when it is hard to think of something. Especially when it's hard to think of something! Here goes...

  1. Freshly painted walls dappled with sunlight.
  2. Cousins laughing together at play.
  3. Joyful and long-awaited news from a friend.
  4. A cozy blanket on a frosty morning.
Anyone care to join me?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

One More Sleep!

The kids and I have been counting down days for a month now, and tomorrow the long awaited day will finally be here: the MacPhees arrive for a whirlwind, action-packed, 5 day excitement filled visit! Actually, Tracy and the kids arrive tomorrow night, and Blair will join them Saturday evening. Connor and Janelle are so excited they can barely stay inside their skin, and I'm pretty excited, too. Tracy has been here once, just a month after we moved in, when she completely surprised me by showing up at my door unannounced (in collusion with Chris, so I actually did have a spare bed set up!) Things have changed around here quite a bit since then, and I'm looking forward to showing all of them around our home and our city.

The agenda is pretty packed! Tracy and the kids fly in tomorrow night at 5:20, and I know my kids will be asking "how many minutes" from the time they get home from school! I'll have something yummy waiting in the crockpot, and the kids will give their cousins the "grand tour" of the house. Saturday will probably involve some shopping, maybe some fun stuff for the kids, picking Blair up from the airport, and maybe dinner out. Sunday afternoon all the boys are taking in the London Lightning basketball team's first exhibition game at the John Labatt Centre, and they just might come home to a turkey dinner. Monday, despite huge protests, my kids are going to school and leaving their cousins to fend for themselves. Tracy and I may sneak away to get a bit of shopping in then. Monday night is the Selena Gomez concert, which causes Janelle to absolutely sparkle whenever mentioned, and I'm pretty sure Jillian lights right up too! Tracy and I can't wait to share this experience with our girls. Tuesday morning we all get up bright and early and head to Niagara Falls for a couple of days at Great Wolf Lodge. What a way to cap off the visit! Wednesday afternoon we'll all head home and take the MacPhees to the airport. I know it is going to fly by way too fast! But we're going to soak up every bit of fun that we can!

I must get back to my preparations! The vacuuming won't get done on it's own (although wouldn't it be great if it could!) Don't expect another post before Oct. 27! I'll be too busy making memories!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

New Braces, and Construction, and Thankfulness

Could this smile be any bigger? Janelle is thrilled with her new braces, which she got a week ago Monday. There is no complaining at all, even when we have to turn the expander to stretch them every day. She loves them, especially the bright pink elastics she chose herself. After two weeks, we will go see the orthodontist again, and if he feels her jaw has expanded enough, he will apply the wire to hold her new smile in place. I was completely terrified of this as a child! I'm so proud of my brave girl!

As you can see in the above picture, Janelle played the "foreman" on the weekend. Chris took advantage of our summer-like Thanksgiving weather to build shelves for the shed. Yes, it took time away from work on the basement, but this had to be done before winter weather set in. And what better way to spend a weekend of 25C heat in October! Connor was a super helper, and I gave a hand now and then when I could pry myself out of my lounge chair. I had to soak up every bit of those last rays of sun before Autumn decides to stay!

I am thankful for so many things this year. Thankful for the shelves Chris built for the shed so our garage won't be such a tight squeeze this winter. Thankful that we enjoyed such gorgeous weather on Thanksgiving weekend. Thankful that Janelle is happy about her braces and not hurting and whining. Thankful that Connor made the competitive basketball team and is happily out practicing his shots daily. Thankful that my basement is getting closer to finished every day. Thankful that we were able to have a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner in Burlington with family whom we are now able to see on a somewhat regular basis. Thankful that the MacPhees will be here in just over a week to share another turkey with us, and make lots of precious new memories. Thankful that my Mom and Dad are able to leave today to embark on their long awaited train trip across Canada. Thankful for friends, old and new, that are only a phone call away, or just down around the corner. Thankful that London is finally feeling like home.

Why are you thankful this beautiful autumn?
My birthday gift from Lori, which she gave me on Sunday.
I love it so much I just had to post it here!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Apple Land with Cousins!

Don't tell my husband, but there are some things about fall that I just love. What better way to spend a rainy autumn day than a trip to Apple Land Station with cousins? Okay, so we could have done without the rain, but we had enough fun that a return trip is already planned for next fall — with a check on the weather report first, of course!

An apple orchard with a train! It doesn't get better than that!

The whole gang — besides the photographer, you-know-who!

Sweet Remi! Always ready to share an apple, or a hug!

All aboard!

The Labelle Family

The Haines Family

Janelle and her little admirer, Madeleine!

Time to go home. Last smile before braces tomorrow!

Goodbye Apple Land!
We had a great weekend visit with Kate, Pierre, Maddie and Remi. The kids had a blast together, Chris and Pierre made lots of noise, and progress, in the basement, and Kate and I did lots of talking and had a long and wonderful trip to the used bookstore. We rounded it out with a trip apple picking just before the Labelles headed home. We are so glad they've moved to Ontario! Now we can look forward to another visit next weekend for Thanksgiving dinner in Burlington at Lori and Ben's. Mmmm.... Thanksgiving dinner, another thing about fall that I love!