Friday, October 28, 2011

Redeeming Hallowe'en - Family Matters Post

Hey y'all! That's right, I included the oft forgotten apostrophe in the word Hallowe'en.  I feel all Mean Ol' Schoolmarm when I do that, but I kind of like how it looks.

I've got a feeling...that today's gonna be a good day, today's gonna be a good, good day. (Everybody sing with me!)

It's my birthday, and this means the day is going to contain lots of food, friends and facinators, which I'm sure you know is the trifecta of birthday perfection. It's also a great example of alliteration and could almost be a three point sermon outline.

Birthdays might make me a bit hyper.  Sorry.

It's also a great day because another post I wrote for Family Matters is up for all to see.

Here's an excerpt for your enjoyment...

The best day of the year to build community is on Halloween.
People leave their fenced yards, their closed-in garages, and all the other necessary amenities of life that by their very nature detract from people getting to know one another, and walk about the neighbourhood.
This is why, if you can somehow make it work for your family, I suggest getting out there and celebrating with everyone on your street...
Enjoy today friends!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Flashback Friday

There were lots of summer moments that were blog worthy, but were alas, not blogged about.  I whined about it a few weeks back, then I thought of this excellent post name:  Flashback Friday - made for the procrastinator in all of us.

Try not to be astounded by my brilliance.

I promise not to act shocked if 37 other bloggers have already thought of this fantastic idea.

I don't know how often I will do Flashback Fridays, but today seems like a good enough day to start!

Rain, Rain Go Away.

The beginning of the summer was less than stellar, weather-wise.  The backyard was still soaked from months upon months of fall-winter-spring rain, and it was cold and miserable. it was a necessary exercise to embrace the rain, and make the best of inside days.

Rainy home days often start the same: with a cry of "No one wants to play with me" (translation: someone older than me doesn't want to play with me).  Because I am no fun, I often give them the option of doing a chore, or playing with someone younger than them.  I'm inspirational like that.

I love how each kids unique talents lead them to do different things with their younger siblings when they are "forced" to play together.

Nate's specialty this summer - was fort-making.  He loves to create and pretend.
Not to be mistaken for an overgrown Laundry Monster!
Fort making is happy making
King of the Castle

Brennan's specialty, is train track design.  He started perfecting this skill when he was three, and although they tracks don't get taken out very often since Lego, Bionicles, and Wii have taken over his list of favourite things to do, he can rock out a pretty good configuration in no time.

Morgan, when she chooses to bless her brothers with her playtime, usually ends up directing, filming, and starring in "shorts" than they kids dream up together.  This has actually been a great deal of fun for all of the kids and their friends when they get together.  They make up silly interviews, or they reenact their favourite Star-Wars Scenes, or do stop-motion films with various toys.  Usually the emphasis is heavy on the silly side of things, and because I don't want to ruin their future chances for employment, I won't post any clips, but did manage to steal a few screen shots.

My specialty on rainy days, and everyday I feel like it, really, is food.  Sometimes if they day seems boring, I try to make the food fun. This probably why i feel like I need to lose 5 pounds - it was a rainy summer.  I made lots of fun food.

Soup in a mug is twice as fun!
And that was a rainy day well spent.

I think I like Friday Flashbacks.  We get to relive the fun, without the calories!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Growing Patience

In a moment of temporary insanity I asked Keaton to help me plant tulip bulbs on Saturday. Sometimes, because I like to be so fast and furious in every task I undertake, I will intentionally ask one of the kids to do a project with me, because I know I need practice in the area of patience.

He didn't want to help so much as do it all by himself.  He might need a little practice too.  He might be an awful lot like his mother in more than one way.

It was a lesson in patience for both of us.

And eventually he got bored and went to do something else he loves.

"Mom, I jes' go jump on de trap-o-LEEEN, and den I be right back"  Which is a lot like "dat's go-be all done"

As Keaton was off enjoying some solo time on the trampoline, I had this crazy "life is like gardening" thought and the more I thought about it, the more it encouraged me.

Sometimes I think raising kids is an awful lot like planting bulbs.

You do a lot of work, and you really don't get any feedback that tells you that you have done a good job.  In fact, a lot of the time it looks like you haven't done anything at all. Sometimes it looks like despite your best efforts the only thing you are growing is weeds.  Bulbs will do that to you.  So will kids.

Bulbs left without nurturing and proper planting will never become a flower.   Kids need nurturing and proper planting too.

Whether it's a big thing like trying to teach a child to control their temper, or something little like training your little one to stay in bed till 7 am, you can spend months wondering if you've done it right in the first place,if what you're doing is making a difference with your kids.  

And all you can do,really, is wait for spring and hope your bulbs have been growing beneath the surface.  You hope flowers poke through- not too early and not too late, and then bloom.  You hope the beauty that you knew was hiding in the gnarly brown seed is now made evident.

With parenting, you hope all those good qualities you've been working on are growing in your kids too.

The waiting can be hard.

Being consistent with your kids, while you're waiting for something beautiful to grow within them can be much harder.

But hang tight.

Spring is coming.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Grand Day Out

Once a year, Tyson needs to go to Children's Hospital to have routine bloodwork and other medical check-up type stuff (at least, that's the very technical term I am using) to monitor the blood condition he has.

This year, just he and I went in together.

I love all of my kids a whole I even need to say that?  Yes, I do, because all mothers do. It's like we're worried people will think we favour one kid over another if we talk about something we appreciate about one without mentioning our undying devotion to the remaining silly, but now that I've said it, you know it, so we'll be good.  Amen.

I digress.  One thing I love about Tyson is his general good-natured-ness, especially when it comes to being out and about.  He is a great travelling companion.  Even when he has to be brave and get poked and prodded with needles and get asked all sorts of questions that he doesn't appear keen to answer.

On the magically delicious drive in to Vancouver I told Tys that I thought we should go out for lunch together when we were done the appointment.  He could barely contain his excitement. I asked him where he'd like to go, and it typical form, he smiled a big smile and asked:  "Where would you like to go, Mom?"  ,because that is how Tyson rolls.  He wants you to be happy, so he can be happy.

We had left two and a half hours before the appointment because last time we tried to get to Vancouver for a different event, at a similar time of day,  it was the road trip from h-e-double-toothpicks, (that's right, I just did some Christian blog swearing) and traffic was a total nightmare.  On this day, for whatever mystical reasons - we were there with an hour to spare.

What's even more amazing, is that they let us in right away; we waited for nothing - which I am pretty sure is unheard of in the medical world.

We talked to the doctors and nurses, and had all the regular conversations that leave me feeling like an inadequate mother.  You know the ones - "What kind of food do you like, Tyson?"  Pizza and dessert!, and then they ask -"Do you like vegetables?" To which Tyson cocks his head and stares at them like they are speaking Danish.  Which then leads me to blurt out something sarcastic (shocking!) about how because I am actually an ogre I do make him eat fruit and vegetables, it's just he'd rather not.

Then my favourite question is always some variation of "What school do you/your siblings go to?"  which of course, royally confuses a five-year-old kid who doesn't go to school.  And nobody knows what to do when we explain that we do school at home.  The conversation just ends. Enter crickets and awkward staring.  We move on, I try and make light hearted conversation, and talk about you know, Justin Bieber or something really hip and relevant to prove that I am a cool Mom who's up with latest important news.

My goal is always the same - to have them think that we are their very favourite patient-family. Ever.

Like we're gonna leave and they're gonna say "Oh my goodness, are they not the best people...ever?" "That kid is so sweet and cooperative and the Mom is so hip and yet so medically competent." "No one is more informed about the necessary precautionary steps for potential hymolitic crisis."  "If it weren't for patient protocol I would totally ask them to join us on our next vacay!"

Tell me I'm not the only one?

Are those more crickets?  Dang.

Tyson is sweet and cooperative, although he is usually much quieter there than anywhere else.

He is so brave when he gets his bloodwork done.

I love the questions he asks in the quiet times in between while we wait.

He consistently says things like "Mom, you're doing such a good job getting me a snack."  Followed by an unprompted kiss.  Tyson is a great encourager.  If you ever need someone to notice the hard work you are doing - he's your boy.

In the end, he decided against Boston Pizza  - "Mom, I still hate Boston (Bruins)" and picked White Spot over McDonalds - dude knows a good thing when he hears it.  Free ice cream and a sweet potato fry upgrade wins with this boy every time.

"Mom, I just love sweet fries."  I'm pretty sure he thinks they are regular fries with added sugar - cause he would always choose more dessert if possible.  (See previous conversation with Dr.)

We lunched, and visited.  He drew me pictures of sunflowers.

He told me that his favourite thing about our family is when we do things we have never done before, "like camping, or maybe bowling or something."  He loves his Daddy because he works so hard for us.  And he really is on the fence about Keaton.  He did eventually admit that sometimes they do have fun together.

The purpose for the trip might not have had fun written all over it,  but we made the best of it, my little companion and I.  We added one more coin to the memory bank, and it was indeed, a grand day out.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Another Day in Paradise

On the Thanksgiving weekend, we managed to align umpteen schedules and almost everyone was able to go to Mom and Dad's for our Thanksgiving dinner.

I was going to collage all these pictures, but Paradise (aka, the farm) can't be contained to a collage.  Bear with me while I have a moment...
This moment of perfection brought to you by God

Cue angels singing 

The Cattle are Lowing

Cue the music!
And by music I mean the sweet sound of a chainsaw getting the job done.
Dispensing with tradition, we had Thanksgiving around the campfire.  It was fantastic and memorable - hot dogs and smores, when cooked on the hottest bonfire in the history of, well, my life, just gave me one more thing to be thankful for.

Loni and Mom - notice the hands on the hips...Pretty sure I'm on my way to that stance in the picture too.  I love that.

The older I get the more I discover that it is not in the perfect moments that memories are made, it's in the less than perfect ones that memories stick with you and make you smile.  Thanksgiving on the farm delivered loads of almost-perfect moments.
Grampa and Tyson talking about Math, if I remember right.
You say fallen log by a tree, they say ninja fortress

Who needs toys?

Hotdogs being barbecued by kids ranging from 5 - 12, who because of the intense heat can't get close enough to the fire, so they settle for half cold/half-burnt variations, is a good memory for starters. To be fair to the kids, I don't think that adults fared much better in their barbecuing endeavors.  Adults just know how to sell it better.  "Oh yeah, this burnt crispy layer on the one side of the dog is just how I like it. And when it's still got a touch of cold in the centre, while blistering hot on the outer layer.  Totally perf." 

All trying different roasting techniques.  I'm covering my face -from the intense heat, all the while telling my kids to be brave and just go for it.  Such a double standard Mom.
One set of sticky fingers...
There are memories of little kids and big kids climbing on the tractor with sticky hands from marshmallows and from juice poured in tippy plastic cups on the back of the "hay wagon".  I know Dad is going to appreciate that memory every time he climbs into the tractor over the next few weeks.

Sticky fingers and faces from marshmallows oozing out the sides of smores with almost-perfectly roasted marshmallows and chunks of jerseymilk chocolate bars that never melt no matter what trick you try began the sugar rush memory of the day.

In my mind, the most memorable part of the bonfire was the not-so-little reminders left here, there, and everywhere all over the fields, telling us that we aren't the only ones on the farm.  The spins around the field in the dune buggy drove that point home in a big way.

One thing my sisters and I were most thankful for was Mom's stash of clean pj's, and her washing machine when all the fun was done.

Maybe that is the Thanksgiving lesson to take away from Paradise - if we had let the threat of cow poop keep us from going out into the field to try something new, we would have missed out on all those great moments, that's we're still talking about today. The crap in your life makes things messy,  but way more memorable.

Here's to being more thankful in all things, and many more Thanksgiving bonfires.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tweens are Great! - FM Guest Post

Morgan and I went out on a coffee date again this past week.

We got Josh to take a picture to mark the occasion.

It looked like this:

It should be noted I am wearing 3 inch heels to appear taller than my girl.

And then the batteries died.  

We wanted to go out.  

Gelato was calling. 

So we left.  Food trumps picture taking prowess in our house.

Despite the bad lighting, and the bad quality setting, I love this picture.  Because it shows off a moment in our relationship that is growing and becoming so good.

I wrote about our dates for Family Matters this month. Here is an excerpt: 

 A tween is often defined as someone between the ages of 8 – 12.  Other times a tween is defined as an alien who has taken over a previously innocent child’s body…either way, you know you’ve got one when you get there!
It has been for the most part, a fabulous journey, one that makes me look forward to the coming teen years.  There are good times to be had in Tweendom, people!  I hope that some of the fabulousness is due in part to some choices we have made and habits we are growing to help us make the most of every age and stage of life and parenting we go through.
The beautiful photography work in that post is courtesy of my sister, Kyla.  She does amazing work!  You can check out her business, Pinball Photography, here.
Happy Monday!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Good Things

Morgan's cake making and decorating skills continue to expand.  Yay for her, bad for my waistline.
I love fall.  I was born in the fall.  I got married in the fall.  I married someone who was born in the fall.

Here are a few fall things that can be added to the endless People and Things I'm Thankful For list:

1)  Fall Projects
The spring and summer tend to be filled with more backyard/ flower-bed/ future-garden projects. But now,  the projects move indoors.  The project for the day:  taking these boring, faded chairs and make some fabulous slipcovers for them.

I say project for the day - that's the optimist in me talking.  It probably will take several sessions throughout the week to make four slipcovers.  And, if it works really well, I'll probably go all crazy and make a couple more - because we need some additional seating in our living room, and they would require new chairs with new covers...first world problems, hey?

EW - please release me, let me go.
Poor naked chair
I don't know for sure that my pattern-making and sewing skills are up to the task. However - they are chairs MADE for slipcovers.  And to do it myself for $20 a chair, with a fabric that is way more fabulous than what is available from IKEA,  but way less expensive than the fun covers available at BEMZ - well, it's just too much to resist.
The ultimate seam-ripping experience.  This cover gave it's life that it might become a pattern for the others.
I have confidence in the fact that it CAN be done because people on the internets tell me it is so.

Enter the soundtrack to my life:  "I have confidence in sunshine, I have confidence in rain...I have confidence in confidence alone..." that soundtrack gets me into a lot of trouble. Thanks, Rogers and Hammerstein . :)  I'll let you know how it turns out.

2) Cozifying the Home
I am not sure if the word cozify should have one y or two, if it should have a hyphen, or in fact, be hyphen-less (ironic, I know). What I do know is that it should definitely be a word.  I found these great corduroy pillows on sale at Superstore, of all places.  They are perfect for fall, and they add just what the room needed.  I hope it distracts from the chairs in the room that obviously need new covers.
Do they distract from the faded leather?  I think so.

About the chairs.  I had this moment last week, when I realized that there wasn't a room in the house where we could all sit together, save for the dining room.  So I played musical chairs with the outdoor set, the tub chairs in the seating area by the school room and moved them here.  I like it, except for the colour  - (see point 1)

Welcome Fall
This little guy keeps fixing the lovely tipped basket of pine cones on the hearth.  He just doesn't get the whimsical and cozified decorating scheme I am going for.  He'll learn to ignore my decorating soon enough.  For now we play this great game of  "fix the basket".  Good times all around.

I have big plans for the pictures and the "L" above the mantle.  How quickly those gets done has everything to do with how the chair covering project goes.

3) Fall Routines
Am I the only one who feels like September up and smacked me in the face? It took me a long time to fall in love with this one again this year.  Josh often comments on how funny it is that I crave routine, and yet I push against it.  I need wide boundaries and strong fences, it's true.  It just took the whole month, and a desperate email to my fantastic support teacher to figure out a reasonable schedule for this year.

It has been a big adjustment adding a new student to the schooling mix.  I don't know why I didn't anticipate it, but it was difficult figuring out how to teach four kids. I blame unmitigated optimism. Months like that are hard on the ol' confidence soundtrack.  So much so, that I questioned whether or not I should continue homeschooling.  But through much prayer, wailing, whining, and gnashing of teeth,  I kept coming back to the same answer - Yes, this is the right thing for now, but No, it won't always be easy.

I needed a big reminder that building endurance comes through walking through hard stuff without quitting.  So, if September also smacked you with a big two by four, and it hurts not here, or here, so much - let me stand and cheer from the sidelines and say a great big YOU CAN DO IT!!!! (or i can sing Fat Guy in a Little Coat for you if you'd like).

I have my Mom and Dad to thank for building endurance in us as kids.  Mom also taught me the very important lesson of seeing my own shortcomings and then doing what you can to grow in those areas.  It's just the way I am, was never a good excuse around our home growing up.  I'm thankful for that now.

We have found a good rhythm now, and it includes good moments like this almost every day.

"Vanilla Milk" whilst reading history at the BEGINNING of the day (what a difference the timing makes)
It's important to note that I re-learned a great four letter word this September:


What did you think I was going to say?

4) Fall Food
Barbecues are great for summertime.  Sure, we like to rub it in to all our relatives in Manitoba that we could barbecue hamburgers in the rain on Christmas day if we wanted to, but the lion share of it gets done in the summer months.

The food of fall is rich and warm, and calorie laden.  What's not to love?
Mini-Pumpkin scones.  Made mini so I can have two, or three, or four in one sitting.

My favourite fall recipes usually include pumpkin.  Or zucchini.  I have yet to try zucchini and pumpkin together though.

I promised a friend I would put my chocolate zucchini cake recipe on the blog.  I actually reduced the sugar and fat a bit from the original recipe, and made them into cupcakes/muffins.  It's a very good recipe - and worked well as muffins.  True, it's no Last-Minute Brownie sugar rush, but it's a totally guilt-free-serve-to-my-kids-for-breakfast-or-lunch recipe, speaking of hyphens.

I'm only a month late Kim, but if you can find some overgrown zucchini in your garden, here it is! If you click on the recipe title, it should give you a pdf document to print out!
Prep Time : 20 min
Muffins served in:  40 minutes
Yield:  one 9 by 13, or 2 dozen muffins
Cake served in an hour
½ cup butter
2 ½ cups flour
1 ¼ cup sugar (original recipe – 1 ¾)
4 Tbsp. Cocoa powder
2 eggs
1 tsp. Baking soda
½ cup buttermilk (or milk plus 1 tsp lemon juice)
½ tsp. Baking powder
¼ cup veg. Oil (original is ½ cup)
½ tsp. Cinnamon
¼ cup apple sauce (omit if making original recipe)
½ tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 – 1 ½ cups chocolate chips (I’m just guessing – I just sprinkle it on top of the cake, or in the mix till it looks right!)
2 cups grated zucchini – peel first if you are opposed to green flecks (which I love!)
·         Spray 9 by 13 pan (or muffin tins) with non-stick spray, if needed.
·         Preheat oven to 325° F
·         Blend butter and sugar
·         Add eggs, milk, oil, apple sauce, vanilla, and mix well.
·         Add zucchini and mix.
·         In a separate bowl mix all dry ingredients except chocolate chips.  (This is very important to do separately when making a reduced fat recipe.  You really need to be careful not to over-mix once you add the wet to the dry, to ensure a light and fluffy muffin – especially when the fat is reduced!)
·         Add dry ingredients to wet, and mix until just combined.  I believed I “pulsed” the mixer 6-7 times.  You can also mix by hand, and that works out very well too.
·         If making muffins – add chocolate chips now and barely mix them in J Scoop into muffin tins and bake for Approx 20 mins, until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean.
·         If making cake – Pour into prepared 9 by 13 pan and sprinkle chocolate chips. Bake for  approx 40 minutes, until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean.

Happy Thanksgiving!