i resolve

2 01 2010

We happily celebrated the conclusion of 2009 and the anticipation of 2010 with a houseful of guests… 52 to be exact – adults and children, including our own.  What a blessing to conclude a year in the company of extraordinary friends and family!  Each time the doorbell rang – although we were quite certain who was attending – it was sheer joy to greet each face as though we were completely surprised!  We look forward to continue connecting with all of the special friends who support and encourage us throughout the year!

On a personal note, for 2010 my plans include:

  • reading through the Bible chronologically using the One Year Bible Online
  • reading each day to the boys from the Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
  • do a few self-studies on biblical topics such as marriage, finances, parenting
  • increase involvement in church ministry, writing for RACreporter and hopefully starting a womens’ running group in the spring
  • grow my hair out
  • play Wii everyday to get some exercise (even if it’s minimal, it’s better than nothing!)
  • start photojournalling
  • model enthusiasm and a positive attitude for the boys
  • continue adventures in cooking!

december baking tally

29 12 2009

*yikes*  For someone who was planning on making two Christmas treats only this year… there seemed to be a lot of activity around my kitchen during the past few weeks.  I was honoured and thrilled a few weeks ago when a friend asked me to assist her with baking desserts for a Christmas Banquet for a community which our church supports by hosting weekend breakfasts, sewing classes, family hair day… and numerous other activities and practical giftings – located in a lower income area of the city, consisting of many single-parent families… it was truly a treat, so to speak, to participate and serve this community through the yumminess of goodies.  And, so….. the baking began!  After that — well, I was kind of on a roll and there were a few other Christmas events on deck.  Not all baking successes, mind you — there were a fair number of mishaps, crispy bottoms, and complete failures.  So, for my records, here is a tally of Christmas Baking 2009:

4 batches Cranberry Bliss Bars = ~128 bars

2 batches Pecan Cranberry Squares = ~60 bars

6 Pumpkin Pies

2 Cranberry Cherry Buckle cakes

1 Best Banana Bread loaf

1 dozen Raspberry Bran muffins

2 pans Red & Green Rice Krispie Squares (cut into star and candy cane shapes)

6 1/2 dozen Oatmeal Chocolate Chew cookies from the Nutfree Gourmet cookie dough

2 dozen Oatmeal Raisin cookies

2 dozen Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk cookies

2 batches Christmas Granola

3 batches Parmesan Biscotti

2 batches Honey Spiced Nuts

a LOT of Chocolate-dipped pretzels

Skiers French Toast for Christmas Day breakfast

No wonder I’m exhausted!

give meaning

10 12 2009

I wanted to follow up on a guest blog that I posted on Lovable Labels’ blog: Label Me Crazy! Taking a reduce-reuse perspective, I commented on a few tips to minimize the traditional holiday paper pile-up…. from holiday postcards to recycling kids’ art as gift wrap… making fabric gift bags to buying alternative Christmas gifts – gifts that don’t need flashy gift wrap.  I have really settled in to contemplating alternative gift giving.  My boys are still very young and our nuclear family is still in its infancy so it’s a perfect time to start traditions.  At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and the priceless gift of salvation that he gave us.  Santa Claus (and I’m referring to the iconic jolly man in the red suit) is incidental.  To me, he’s kind of like Mickey Mouse – cartoonish, fun, you can get your picture taken with him and we might pretend that he gave you a present, but he’s just a character in a story that, coincidentally, is told at the same time as when we celebrate the coming of God to earth.  I just don’t want them to grow up anticipating presents, presents, presents under the tree.  I want them to learn early on that at Christmas we give – and we are intentional about being creative and giving to those who have more need than we do.

So, here are a few great ideas for alternative gift giving:

Buy Nothing Christmas – I think this initiative has had the greatest impact on me so far.  “Buy Nothing Christmas is a national initiative started by Canadian Mennonites but open to everyone with a thirst for change and a desire for action.  Buy Nothing Christmas is a stress-reliever, and more people need to hear about it… The point is to get people thinking. It’s an idea whose time has come, so get out there and make a difference!”  These guys have hit the proverbial nail on the head (and I’m not partial because I have a Mennonite heritage!).  If you go to their website and click on “alternatives” you will discover over 50 special gifts you can give that require little or no spending.  I have one of my own which I’m keeping under “wraps” … if you will pardon the pun!

TOMS Shoes – I think this is really cool.  “TOMS Shoes was founded on a simple premise: With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One. Using the purchasing power of individuals to benefit the greater good is what we’re all about.”  When Blake Mycoskie, Founder of TOMS shoes was in Argentina in 2006, he realized that he wanted to help children who wore no shoes to protect their feet.  Today, when you purchase a pair of TOMS shoes, another pair will be given to a child who has no shoes.

World Vision – “Canada’s Most Meaningful Gifts.”  For $30 you can give 3 soccer balls to children in an underdeveloped country or for $100 you can gift immunizations to a community.  It costs roughly $15,000 to drill a well that will provide up to 11,000 litres of clean water a day.  You can purchase a share in a well project for $2500.  We have friends who are raising money for this special gift by selling bottled water for $10 a piece… something you could bring to a party as a hostess gift.  How awesome to have a global impact and demonstrate ways our children can connect with children overseas.

My challenge to you: come up with one way this year to simply change your perspective on gift giving and re-orient to the meaning of Christmas.  Engage your creative side!

meet our friends, Phil & Ted

28 11 2009

For the past three years I have been stopped at minimum once every time I visit the mall for someone to oggle my red stroller and say, “I have never seen a stroller like that before!”  And when C1 and C2 are riding tandem, for some reason it’s never apparent that there’s a passenger in the backseat.  If I had a nickel for every time I heard, “Oh!  You have TWO!”… well, you know — I could probably buy another stroller — not that I would because we purchased the Phil & Teds (then E3 model) so that we would never have to buy another stroller.  Just the other day, P was stopped by a woman who is evidently a gramma-to-be who wanted the 411 on our revolutionary Phil & Teds stroller to pass along to her expectant daughter.  So, here’s the “skinny” on this ultra-lean, very slender, inline buggy.

Phil & Teds strollers and other products are designed in New Zealand (manufactured in China) by what appears to be a very cool working group – at least, their website is fun to navigate!

In Canada, you can take a Phil & Teds for a test drive at most major baby stores, including Babies R Us.  There appear to be several models now available, which vary by some convenience factors.  (We bought the E3 three years ago, which looks like the “Classic” model they now sell.)  The base model retails for approximately $500 – so this one is kind of middle-of-the-road.  Add-ons, including storm covers, UV sunshades, saddle bags, cocoon, travel kit (to attach an infant carrier), and the doubles kit range from$35-70.

I have to admit, I can’t accurately comment on the new models, which obviously have been tweaked over the years…. but, I can tell you that, overall, our experience with the E3 over the past 3 years has been quite positive.  Weighing in at 24 lbs (I can’t be sure, but I think this is with the doubles kit attached), the P&T stroller is 24″ wide, rivaling an umbrella stroller for stealth – great for getting through tricky places in stores – especially the check-out at the grocery store.  It’s a three-wheeler with a front wheel that can adjust to be stationary, presumably for jogging or “off-roading,” or swivel for urban strolling.  I prefer the swivel – it is highly maneuverable.  The older model has two positions for the handle-bar; I believe the new models have an infinitely adjustable handle-bar.  Remember, I’ve said before that an adjustable handle-bar height is important when considering stroller selection.

The front seat has four positions, from fully upright to fully reclined (which is recommended position for your newborn).  It’s great – today I was out with C2; he had fallen asleep in the car and I was able to transfer him into the stroller lying down where he slept for an hour while I shopped!

Everyone always expresses concern for the guy riding in the back… “But, he doesn’t get to see!”  Well, C1 loves to ride back there because he thinks it’s the “cave.”  I mean, I honestly don’t know what C2 thinks about getting a back seat, but he can see plenty from back there and at his age, I doubt he’ll have any memory of what he saw or didn’t see from his vantage point… and he hasn’t complained so far.  Afterall, he doesn’t live in the stroller.

Is it a jogging stroller?  Err… well, kind of.  It was originally recommended for occasional jogging.  An authentic jogger has the large wheels.  I have jogged with my P&T a fair bit and have found it to be perfectly fine… although not so much with two kids on board — it becomes too heavy to comfortably jog with (24 lbs of stroller + 60 lbs of children).  Some people have told me that their legs are too long and they connect with the back of the storage space.  I personally haven’t experienced this — I’m around 5’4″.

I have had my P&T in for repairs three times – once for each wheel.  The front tire came away from the rim, which I think was because I neglected to inflate it properly.  Both rear axles needed to be replaced due to rust.  To be fair, my stroller has been through sleet, snow, ice… and the salt – in a Canadian winter, one should expect this type of wear and tear.  Fortunately, we have a great baby shop in our neighbourhood that specializes in stroller repairs – Macklems in Roncesvalles – and they’ve gotten me back out onto the streets in no time.  Anyhow – the tires are great for the trails and Canadian winter weather (and the storm covers keep it unbelievable toasty warm inside!).

There is a tipping factor.  Phil & Teds do address this in their manual about safely operating the stroller.  However, I believe this is a bit of a design flaw that could be remedied by attaching some anti-tippers (like you see on wheelchairs) to the rear.  You always have to remove the back child from the stroller first.  If you don’t, the stroller becomes back-heavy and will tip over.  I always adhere to this – but, it is a bit tricky from a logistics standpoint – C1 often wants to get down – NOW!  And taking the little guy out isn’t always convenient for whatever reason.  Of course, you can overcome this little issue with a bit of pre-planning.

I’m so thankful for the tip I received from a colleague of mine to check out the Phil & Teds.  When we had our first baby, we anticipated having a second (and were blessed!) and selected a stroller that we knew would accommodate a growing family.  Phil & Teds is really the only stroller brand that offers a solution for the toddler-newborn, toddler-toddler combinations in the tandem configuration (of course, you can always go for a bulky doubles stroller).  I’m pleased to say we have only had one stroller and hope that Phil and Ted are with us for a few more years to come.

the danger years

17 11 2009

Confession: I have been completely consumed playing Cafe World on Facebook – mostly trying to come up with the most efficient layout to serve my customers and recently with figuring out how to time the cooking and serving of dishes to maximize profits.  Check it out – the “Buzz Rating” (the thumbs up in the top right hand corner) maxes out at 105.0 when everything is flowing perfectly in your cafe!  I admit it — I am a little bit obsessed with Cafe Revolution.  I mean, in many ways, it’s much like managing my household.  Keep high traffic areas free of clutter, make sure there’s enough money in the bank account for groceries (and upgrades!), keep the hungry mouths fed throughout the day, create an inviting and homey atmosphere for friends & guests – add a bit of personal flare – and there you have it!  A home away from home, so to speak!  (And, if you’re not convinced, start playing the game and you’ll understand!  Hey – we all need an outlet.)

In light of my recent online gaming addiction, some of my domestic duties have fallen by the wayside — just a little bit.  But, I DID do ALL of the laundry this weekend, including the linens.  Made amazing carrot muffins for C1’s pre-school class.  And, did a fair bit of reorganization – I had to re-locate a number of items out of a certain pre-schooler’s reach – childproofing is an ongoing task.  Never assume you are completely safe.  Always be on your guard for the new thing your little explorer will Houdini his way into – especially those curious boys!

So, what I have been meaning to share for awhile are simply a few of my favourite childproofing items – I’ve tested and tried many, many different items with varying degrees of success.  You will ultimately need to do the same as you are figuring out what degree of lock-down you need your home to be in through these early years.  I am not a safety expert.  There are many exhaustive lists and materials for you to read on baby- and toddler-proofing (I am a big fan of the Ann Douglas The Mother of All… books – very comprehensive Canadian information).  These are just a few products that are functioning well in our home right now.

Right now, these door stoppers are by far my favourite.  Patrull, from IKEA retails for 4.99 for a pack of 2.  Kidco (available at Babies R Us) are 7.99/pair.  I have three doors leading into my kitchen and I have two boys with an affinity for doors.  If it weren’t for the stoppers I would have pinched fingers and doors slamming every 2 minutes!

These are the Safety 1st door knob covers, 4.99 for a pack of 4.  Note that these ones have the open finger holes that only a bigger hand can manipulate – and have proven challenging for many of our friends!  Other door knob covers with the grey buttons on the sides were ineffective.  I have to reinforce the seams with duct tape, because C1 can pop the covers open with minimal effort.  They even fit over our front door knob – otherwise, he’d be perpetually wandering around our neighbourhood.

Of course, outlet covers are a must. Safety 1st has a 24-pack for approximately 2.99.  I like these “press n’ pull” ones.

The multi-purpose appliance latch (4.99) by Safety 1st (along with other adhesive cupboard latches) have been most effective at keeping the boys out of the fridge – until now, C1 has figured out how to unlatch and now is learning that he must ask permission to open the fridge.  I have had to replace them every so often, but well worth it.

I don’t have a personal recommendation for a good gate – we haven’t had to use one (in a condo for awhile and now we have a locked door to the basement).  But, if possible, the best type is one that bolts to the banister and/or wall.  I wouldn’t cheap-out on a safety gate.  $70 is the ballpark.

Tub stickers – the Safety 1st package contains 10 and is 7.99 at Babies R Us.  I think you need about 15 to adequately cover the tub.  If you install them according the the instructions, they adhere perfectly.

What hasn’t worked – and again, this is just for us – toilet locks (didn’t suction well enough), adhesive corner protectors (not sticky enough), drawer/cupboard latches (the kind that screw inside the drawer – too finicky).  There are some great-looking safety latches for closet doors and windows, but I haven’t found one that seems to work on ours.

The majority of childproofing in our home has simply involved the removal and storage of contra-ban items, which is why, when you come to our home, it looks like we’ve just moved in – it’s pretty sparse.  With boys on the loose in the house, I’ve found it’s pretty much futile to keep anything beautiful or decorative.  No plants, nothing on the mantle, no lamps, and probably no Christmas tree again this year *sigh*.  Home electronics are up high (although they could be climbed to by a determined child).  I have just removed everything from the under the sink in the bathroom… until now, the bathroom has been locked, but since C1 is toilet trained, he spends a lot of time going in there… and tends to linger… *groan*.  It’s just for a “season” of our lives, right?

Naturally, we do a LOT of teaching, re-directing, reinforcing, re-directing, reminding,  But, it’s a lengthy process and until the age of about 4, it’s difficult to rationalize the concepts of danger and safety with a child.  And, as you have probably already guessed at this stage, it’s much easier to teach your child to do something good than to UN-TEACH him to do something that’s not particularly good or safe.  Let’s face it.  Patience is a virtue.

I’m curious to know what others like, dislike, and have used with some degree of success.  There is tons to discuss on this topic which I haven’t even touched on. It could be a good forum for sharing.

We are not by far out of the danger years… just trying to keep them happy, healthy – and alive!

front and centre

5 11 2009

IMG_2420Three things have been front & centre on my mind over the past week – and I just want to air them from least distressing to most distressing.  As always, I welcome all comments and even a drawn out discussion!

H1N1 hype vs. hope

Media makes me crazy!  So unreliable, so untrustworthy.  The primary objective of the media seems to be to mobilize social chaos.  Is that how we want to live our lives?  In some elevated state of irrational fear based on speculation and hype?  Not I.  With no reasonable evidence in the media – or on the mommy blogs – of an expert or professional opinion on the efficacy and safety of the H1N1 vaccine, I was thankful for two insights that surfaced last week – one from my cousin’s wife who is a paediatric emerg doc at the U of A hospital in Edmonton, who encouraged us to vaccinate our children (whose boys sadly caught the virus just before they could get the vaccine).  And, two – through a Facebook thread where I realized that the only thing that mattered is that we relinquish control (once again) over our children placing the whole thing in God’s hands, who gifted them to us in the first place.  By succumbing to the fear mongering and becoming paralyzed by that fear, no matter which decision we made for our families, we were essentially saying that we did not believe that our God is Able.  He may not spare us from suffering, but he promises a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11)… it just may be a different future than our human imaginations can render.


I just want to take a moment to encourage my mom friends… actually, I want to sincerely congratulate all of you!  You all look fabulous when we meet up, you are all perky and positive, you are still clever and witty, you are interesting and talented – and I know that you are all on significantly reduced sleep; you have babies who cry a lot; you have toddlers who are defying your “authority” (and I use that term loosely) at every step; you have pre-schoolers who are exerting their independence and testing the limits; they are teething; they are ill; they are bonking their heads; they are thwarting your best laid plans.  But, motherhood looks so good on you — your children make you glow with pride and gush with adoration.  Glowing and gushing trumps stress and anxiety.

On another note, I have pretty much decided that I will write a parenting book for moms with boys, because I’m convinced that most of them were written by mothers of little girls.  More about that later.  🙂


This is huge.  It’s material for 50 or more blogs.  But, this has been the most distressing thing on my mind for the past several days.  It has recently come to my attention that the marriages of many of my friends and acquaintances are already fractured or in trouble.  I am not aware of the circumstances in most cases… I have no intention of judging, it’s not my place.  But, I am so sad.  I know that there have been unspeakable hurts.  Actually, I don’t want to get into it at all… at least not today – just to say that it’s been very distracting and has been the subject of a lot of my prayers this week.  I hope you will join me in asking God to protect our families and to position Himself as the central figure in our marriage relationships – and in all of our relationships for that matter.

one card

30 10 2009


A note or email is always welcome encouragement, but I love the sentiment of a paper greeting card… especially “just because” or one with a lengthy, endearing message like the ones that my maid of honour often writes… so heartwarming, so personal.  I have saved every birthday card my mom has given me since I was about 4… I remember that one vividly – it had a photo of a collie pup.

$3-7 for a greeting card… that, unless you’re a saver, is likely heading for the recycling box.  Plus, an envelope – more paper.  As your family grows… more occasions, more cards!  The tally of the cost and the impact of greeting cards started to tweak my conscience.

So, in our home, just among our immediate family, I have designed one card.  Starting with C2’s first birthday, we will use this greeting card for every birthday from now until….. ?  Well, it will be interesting to see how long we can stretch out the tradition of the one card.  I love entertaining the thought that we will bring out the family birthday card 25 years from now and read about all of the memories written there.

For other occasions – birthdays, Mothers Day, party invitations – I have been designing postcards using my own photos and an online photo editing website called Picnik.  Unique, personal, with limited environmental impact.  Nice.

Olivia's Birthday Card joan birthday cardFathers Day Card 2009Mom's Birthday Card