Tag Archives: home-making

Mommy’s Superpower

hero signThe ability to fly.

That’s my answer. To that classic nerd conversation starter: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Invisibility? Super Speed? Visions of the Future?

I can see how each one would enhance my parenting. Invisible Mom knows exactly who started it, and her children would be motivated to behave even when they are “alone.” Super Speed Homemaker gets more done in a few minutes than the rest of us in an entire day, and still has time to watch her favourite Food Network show. Psychic Mama can prevent the tantrum/fight/locking-keys-in-the-van/decorating-the-walls-with-sharpies BEFORE it even happens.

Sadly, none of these are my actual superpower.

That’s right. I have a special strength that allows me to perform beyond normal human parameters. It empowers the whole household to run smoothly (okay, smooth-er). It helps me endure when my strength is almost gone. It carries the weight of our whole family without breaking a sweat.

Routine is my superpower.

It’s not the sexiest, most exciting one out there. And it doesn’t require a cape or comic book inspired costume (though I’m not ruling that out). But I promise you, it packs a wallop!

I brush my teeth every morning. I don’t think about it. I don’t have to plan. I simply do the same thing, at the same time, every day. My lack of morning breath and significantly fewer cavities may not count as “saving a damsel in distress,” but a similar process also allows me to take daily medication and feed my children and keep my house (relatively) tidy and get our crazy family out the door each day. All these add up to a pretty heroic feat.

No matter what your age or stage or particular brand of dysfunction, you too can harness the power of routine! If you happen to have children, it can be a lifesaver. If you happen to have children with special needs, it’s an absolute necessity. Here’s why:

Routine frees up valuable time and energy.

Remember science class when you learned about levers and fulcrums and how they allow you to lift a heavy load with less effort? Routine is like that. As you shift behaviour from “intentional” into “something we do without even thinking about it,” you are able to do more, with less effort.

Get out the door in the morning. Keep the household mess from coming to life and eating us whole. Make bedtime and sleep time mean the same thing (we’re getting there).

I don’t know about you, but I need all the time and energy I can get my hands on. Trying to remember every little thing that needs doing, reacting to behavioural problems, and doing everything myself gets exhausting. Routines simplify life, prevent problems and empower children (and spouses, let’s be honest) to keep things going.

Routine makes life feel safe.

Secure children (and adults, FYI) know what to expect from their world. The stress of wondering what will happen next, and if I will-like-it/be-able-to-handle-it/am-entitled-to-watch-more-tv-right-now-instead, makes for grumpier children and parents. All children, even young toddlers, flourish when they can predict a first/then schedule and simple cause/effect.

For instance, when you get home from school you must sit on the potty, THEN you can have a snack. First comes pajamas, THEN music, rocking, cuddle and finally bed. If you throw your plate on the floor, THEN you lose it. If you do a cute dance and smile really big, THEN you get attention. If you do all your chores without complaining, THEN you can go out and play. If you do all the dishes and clean the kitchen, THEN your wife will be much more likely to give you a massage.

We’ve used pictures and symbols to reinforce routines with our children. B had a long strip of velcro on the wall; she had a picture of each morning task stuck up there (thank you Boardmaker software and Aunt Emily), and each time she finished a task she would put it in the “Finished” box at the bottom. We put new ones up for the afternoon and then a batch for before bed. She no longer needs such a detailed routine aid, but at the time, it gave her the sense of control she needed and made necessary transitions productive and less like a scene from the WWE.

Routine is inevitable.

Systems and structure aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. There are some weirdos people who prefer to wing it, to live reactively spontaneously. That may work for you in most areas, but everyone has some routines, whether we choose to or not. The unintentional, destructive ones often go by the name: bad habits.

I have just as many negative routines as positive. Sleeping until the last possible second, even though I know it’ll make our whole day much more rushed. The fight with C about proper outerwear on every rainy/cold/day-that-ends-in-y day. Eating a snack before bedtime, so it will be converted directly into fat. There is a dark side to every superpower: we are our own arch enemies.

The best way to conquer bad habits is to replace them. If you can figure out a positive routine which will supplant the destructive one, you are halfway there (you’ll have to read an article about willpower somewhere else, since it is NOT my superpower).

Routine is a servant, not a master.

This is where routine can get a bad rap. Especially from people who either a) don’t understand it or b) have an unnatural fear of change. When you are learning to cook you need to follow the recipe closely, but once you get the hang of it you can be creative, change things up, all while staying true to the spirit of the dish. In the same way, routines are not set in stone. Once they are established, they can be stretched, tweaked, negotiated and even temporarily suspended until they work for you.

Routines are a tool, not a destination. Make a plan. Try it out. Give it time to sink in. If it doesn’t make life easier, scrap it and start again.

So here’s me, saving the world one chore chart at a time!

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One Word to Rule 2013

It must exist. That magical combination of sounds and symbols which will inspire and motivate the new me.

The healthier, skinnier, more organized, kinder, wiser…resolutions list

not to mention hospitable, well-read, well-groomed, attentive…

DAILY: meditating on God’s Word, giving my husband massages, writing my blog and/or novel, doing speech therapy exercises, inspiring good behaviour in pre-teens, reading to and with littles, quizzing spelling words…

cavorting with unicorns, catching a leprechaun, giving up sugar…

the too-good-to-be-real 2013 me.

I was determined that this year’s One Word project would surpass last year. I combed through the words on other blogs and even cracked open the dictionary. I perused the many lists and goals and plans of attack I’d put together in years past. I kicked around words like: “Better” and “Higher” and “More.”

Glen laughed at my ideas of course. “That’s so YOU,” he says, and suggests I might as well pick “Should” or “Guilt” while I’m at it.

By the end of Day 1, I was deeply tired and discouraged. And I hadn’t even started yet!

I used to ride that wave of unrealistic New Year optimism for days, sometimes weeks. This is the time of year I buy my pants two sizes smaller. I stock up on baskets/organizers/folders and hum contentedly at the thought that soon my life will be streamlined and clutter-free. I prepare my answers for the “your kids are so well-behaved… what’s your secret?” conversations that will inevitably follow our newest strategies. I float through January on a cloud of beautiful, beautiful expectations.

But this year the cold, hard grip of reality refuses to let me go.

Stupid reality.

The vast majority of my best intentions come to nothing in the end. I get overwhelmed juggling the needs of others, the tasks of basic survival and my self-improvement projects. Soon I am crushed under a mountain of my own expectations. I focus on me, me, me. I am angry that God doesn’t just swoop in and fix my life already. I am disillusioned.

I reread the purpose of One Word: “One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live.”

ow468-look2

I do want to be better, to aim higher, to do more… but the harder I try, the worse I do. And I don’t have enough energy left to try even harder still. And I can’t fool myself any longer that the right plan or strategy or WORD will make all the difference. And I could so easily throw my hands in the air and give up: eat my weight in Christmas candy, scream at my kids until they shut up and stay in bed for the rest of the year.

God help me.

Then it came to me. I don’t need to conquer a lifetime of bad habits or wrestle a year’s worth of problems into submission; I only have to deal with TODAY.

I will live in the precious moments of TODAY. No wasting the now on what-should-be; instead I will live, enjoy, savour. No fighting the flow of turbulent, wonderful, imperfect reality. TODAY is enough.

I will handle the worries of TODAY. No beating myself up about yesterday’s faults and failures; TODAY is a new day. No fretting about tomorrow’s what-ifs and could-bes; I will trust God with my tomorrows. TODAY is enough.

I will do what I can get done TODAY. No pressure to be perfect; I will do my best, no more and no less. No expectation to be anything but what I am. TODAY I am enough.

Thank you to Melanie at onlyabreath.com for the graphic!

Thank you to Melanie at onlyabreath.com for the cool graphic!

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now,

and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow.

God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

Matthew 6:34 (MSG)

So here’s me, one day at a time.

Enough about me… what’s your word/resolution for 2013?


There’s No Such Thing as a Perfect Day

Monday was a good day.

Let me rephrase. Monday was a GREAT day!

The sun was out for a change. I dropped my happy children off at school and took an impromptu detour to the zoo. Just the boy and I with 14 squirrel monkeys, 1 kangaroo, 2 pythons, 4 ducks and a dozen baby bunnies. Only a handful of words two months ago, but today he was talking my ear off. So exciting, and his attempts at the word “duck” were particularily funny (but I’m just immature like that).

When we got home he “helped” me vacuum the whole house AND mop the kitchen floor (apparently it IS still white under there); we did laundry, cleaned the kitchen and sang songs together. By “we” I mean he came behind me and undid everything I was doing, spilled a bowl of Cheerios on the kitchen floor and danced to my off-tune rendition of “This is the way we clean our house…” During nap I read a chapter of an actual book, worked out, and wrote a blog. After school I read to my children, prepared a delicious edible meal – and if this all isn’t amazing enough for you – I MADE JAM!

NOTE – the making of jam is approached with much stress and trepidation since the Great Jam Debacle of 2005 (a long story involving broken shelves, a video camera, and a pile of shattered jars of blackberry jam), and also the Tragic Jam Overflow of 2008 (which filled the stove top, stained the counter/floor/cupboard below and destroyed every cookbook I owned at the time). I would stop doing it altogether, but in his most pathetic voice, my husband tells me that he can only eat MY jam, because it’s just so much better than anything else. Let me tell you, flattery works.

Suffice it to say, I was flush with my unprecedented success. I surveyed my domain with a sense of deep satisfaction. Eat your heart out Proverbs 31 woman!

Once I got the boy to sleep, I could head out to coffee group with my girlfriends. FINALLY, I was going to show up (I have cancelled more often than not lately) AND I was going to be in a good mood. Wearing make-up and jewelry and a clean shirt. With GOOD news: I think I’m finally getting the hang of this!

In 23 minutes, I went from Overcomer, Valiant Keeper of My Home and Queen of my Universe, to a bawling, frustrated hot mess.

Just like that.

There’s something about a screaming toddler. The sound is designed to jangle our nerves and disrupt our calm. And he was MAD that night. And his teeth hurt. And he didn’t want me to leave him. Or rush his bedtime routine. Or lay him down in his bed. Or let go of his hand. And Glen was busy with B, so I was on my own.

Most nights, this wouldn’t be that big of a deal. It’s not that unusual. After a bit of a snuggle, some rocking in the rocking chair and rubbing his forehead, he usually calms down.

But tonight I could feel my temperature rising.

I had PLANS. The is THE DAY. The day when I got it all figured out and things worked like clockwork and I reign supreme. How dare he defy me?

I made one of the most crucial parenting mistakes: I took it personally. In my head, it wasn’t bedtime or sleeping or being alone that he was fighting – it was ME. My success. My plans. My time to myself.

So I made the situation worse. Soon I was too frustrated to snuggle or rock him. Turns out harsh whispers of: “Just. Go. To. Sleep.” are not as helpful as you might think. Even though we aren’t supposed to let him cry it out with our adoption so new, I had to leave the room to collect myself.

After an hour, I ended up leaving the house. He had chewed through two soothers that day, so I ran to the store to buy some more. By the time I got back he was finally quiet and Glen was ready with a hug for me.

Sigh of relief.

Then, from the next room, B started wailing for Mommy. Somehow, I ended up in bed, wearing flannel pajamas, blubbering something like, “I’m done. I’m just done.”

So here’s me, and I missed coffee group that night. But I watched a show with my husband and the boy slept through the night and my jam… is delicious.

I’m not sure what the moral of this story is. What do you think?


From Precipice to Poopy Diapers

A life hangs in the balance. Literally.

Stretched to the limit atop a precipice, men form a human chain, intent on saving the one who has fallen over the edge. Their strength begins to wane. They are slipping closer and closer to gruesome death. Dangling over the edge, the last man realizes what is at stake. With a sigh of resignation and a look of absolution, he lets go; plunging to his death, rather than risk the lives of his comrades.

“NOOOOOO!” Cut to primal scream of the main character.

I can think of half a dozen movies with this scene. Change a few details, rearrange the sequence, tweak the wardrobe… it’s a classic bit.

Sometimes it’s a bullet. Sometimes it’s a bomb. Sometimes it’s a grizzly bear. Sometimes it’s a burning building.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13)

We replay it in the media over and over again, because it resonates. These hero stories appeal to us. Like Christ, who sacrificed himself to save us all. We want to believe that sacrifice like this happens. We want to believe that WE would do the same thing.

When push comes to shove comes to the edge of a precipice… I like to believe I would. Especially for my family or my friends, but even for a stranger. In my daydreams, these Messiah moments are bold and dramatic, with a stirring soundtrack playing in the background.

But it’s not a likely scenario. The closest I’ve ever come is the time I fell down the stairs with baby in arms and turned to take the brunt of it on my back while holding her out of harm’s way. That was maternal instinct, and over in a split second.

The really great love, the kind our world needs more of, is not as glamorous and sexy as those cinematic scenes. It is giving up myself to help someone else in a thousand small, everyday ways. It doesn’t feel heroic, but it is.

Not running into a burning building, but listening to that elderly relative tell the same story for the third time in one phone call.

Not fighting off a rabid grizzly, but scrubbing the bathroom, doing the laundry and making dinner.

Not throwing my body on a grenade, but mopping up vomit, changing the sheets and putting on a sympathetic face.

Not throwing myself in front of a bullet, but calmly handling one more screaming tantrum, knock-em-down-drag-em-out fight or weepy confession.

Not sacrificing my life, but sacrificing my time, my energy, my comfort, my sleep, and maybe even my chocolate (gasp!).

In some ways, it’s a lot harder than the big dramatic exploits. I’m pretty sure I could make the impressive gesture, if given the opportunity. But the daily grind kind of sacrifice… mine is not an Oscar worthy performance EVERY time.

I whine. I get frustrated. I am consumed by my own performance. I overlook all the heroes around me. I resent.

But sometimes I love. Sacrificially. Heroically. Not anything they’ll make a movie about. Not anything people will notice or applaud or hand out awards for. But that’s kind of the point of sacrificial love, isn’t it?

Scroll down to the comments section. How many acts of sacrificial love, that will never make a movie trailer, can we think of?

So here’s me, wondering if diaper changes would feel more heroic with the right soundtrack in the background. Next time I’ll play this song:


The Great Root Beer Debacle

I realize that this blog has gotten pretty schmaltzy lately. All misty-eyed posts about my sweet, soon-to-be baby boy and the miracle of adoption… That’s bound to continue, so brace yourself. But today I will share a not-so-sentimental moment in my day.

It was supposed to be a special treat. C picked out pop for our Mother’s Day picnic: a 12 pack of Vanilla Root Beer Float. Yes, it was every bit as sweet and disgusting as you are imagining, and I LIKE root beer. But the kids were thrilled. And halfway to sugar coma by the end of a can. And prepared to crown Dad the shopping King of the Universe.

The real problem was finding a place to keep the rest of the case. We never seem to have quite enough shelf space in the kitchen. As I played pantry jenga to find a spot, disaster struck!

I lifted the box above my head and started pushing it onto the top shelf, when the box broke. One by one the cans fell down, hit me in the head (ouch) and hurtled to the ground. As they hit the floor, several burst open, skittering around the entire room, spraying root beer everywhere. All over the floor, the cupboards, the walls, the ceiling, and yes, me!

My children have never moved up the stairs so quickly. Apparently “Girls, dinner’s ready!” does not have the same draw as “Aaaaaaahhhhhhh! Noooooooooooooo!”

As I stood there covered in a sticky film, looking at my white floors and cupboards, now speckled biege, with a small sea of soda in the corner, I had two choices: laugh or cry.

I did both.

My children simply laughed until they cried. In the end, I’m pretty sure they cried only because all but one of the cans of root beer were wasted.

Perhaps this is housekeeping karma coming to collect. I don’t wash my floors nearly often enough. I had to mop the kitchen three times to eliminate the tackiness (in retrospect, the steam mop was a bad idea – it just evenly distributed the sticky).

At this point, I generally insert a “moral of the story” here. Something profound and spiritually meaningful. Today, I’ve got nothing.

Into every life, a little root beer must fall.

So here’s me, realizing that root beer isn’t as great for the skin as you might think. I now have a rash on my legs. I’m itchy, I’m tired and my kitchen is STILL sticky. But it’s a good story, and I’m always in the market for one of those.

Do you have a good story of things gone terribly wrong? I’m eager to share the misery…


How Do You Find The Time?

It’s a question I’ve asked many times. I ask people who garden, people who decorate their homes, people who floss… How do you find the time?

It’s also the most frequent question I get about blogging. How do you find the time? The answer is simple.

You don’t.

Time does not spontaneously appear when you say the magic words. (Unless they happen to be “we-don’t-really-need-TSN-in-our-house”, because I’m sure my husband’s free time would grow exponentially at that point.)

Time is a limited resource, and often one that feels out of our control. I’ve always admired those buttoned up, disciplined souls who manage their time with military precision. I’m an orderly person, but trying to emulate them leaves me exhausted, cranky and desperately unhappy. Usually I find myself somewhere in the middle – enough routine to keep life moving, but margins for the unexpected (and the occasional hour of blissful uselessness).

Whether you wing it from one moment to the next, or plan your day down to the minute, we are all subject to the same limitations.

86,400 seconds

1,440 minutes

24 hours

Each day, everyday, it’s all we’ve got.

I’ve said it before and it bears repeating. In this day and age, we can do almost anything, but we can’t do everything!

When I choose to make something a priority, then I am going to have to sacrifice somewhere else. The older I get, the more comfortable I am with this necessity. No one has it all together – even if they look the part. Look at Martha Stewart. She has a large, talented staff and a bazillion dollars to help her get things done. But even she drops the occasional ball along the way. Her foray into white collar crime wasn’t terribly successful.

This is why my backyard looks like the set of Jurrasic Park. Who decided grass was the superior weed anyway? Dandelions are cheerful and prolific, plus my kids love them. This is also why I have boxes of pictures in the garage, not from our most recent move, but from the one before that nine years ago. I’m honestly working on the flossing thing. My brother-in-law is training to be a dentist and I don’t want him to know that I’ve had five cavities in the last year. Shhhhhh.

You don’t find time for the things that matter to you, you make it. In my busy life stage, this tends to be in bite-sized pieces scattered throughout the day. We pray in the van on the way to school. While driving, I’ve also found time to discuss important issues with my kids – like sex, work ethic, the value of money and whether American Idol is better with or without Simon Cowell. I talk on the phone while I fold laundry. I write my blog posts anytime, anywhere… there are notebooks all over my house, in my purse, in the car. I have written entire posts in blue crayon, because that was all I had at the time.

This is my very first blog post.
Written in my daughter's My Little Pony colouring book.

Right now:

Mount Clean Laundry is mocking me from atop my bed.

Life-Span in Human Development is taunting me from the kitchen table.

I can hear echoes of crucial sibling posturing in the hallway.

So here’s me, quite happily blogging away. THIS is how I find the time.

How do you find the time to do what matters to you? What are you willing to sacrifice?


Parenting is a Made Up Song

Tonight I took a peek in B’s room while Glen was putting her to bed. She was sitting behind him with her little arms wrapped as far around him as she could, rocking him back and forth, back and forth, for all she was worth. She was singing “lullaa-byyyy an good-niiiiight. i loooove you. good sleep daaaaady. naaa-night” She then proceeded to rock and sing a personalized song to both her blankie and her stuffed Pluto.

Most nights we sing a few songs with her before prayers and good-night kiss. Twinkle, Twinkle and Jesus Loves Me are the perennial favourites. For the past month she’s also insisted on the “Lulla-bye Song” which, apparently, requires us to scoop her into our laps and rock her vigorously back and forth. There’s only one small hiccup…

neither of us know the words.

We know the tune and the opening line, but that’s about it. I tried to entice her with other songs, funny songs, sweet songs, songs I know the words to. I even tried the somewhat disturbing Rock-a-Bye Baby where the baby is strapped to a branch in a windstorm and is sent hurtling to the ground – very relaxing.

No dice. It’s the “Lullabye Song” or bust. So we did what parents have been doing since the dawn of time: we faked it.

We make up the words as we go. It’s become an intensely personal experience. I’ve included such phrases as “no more snotty nose” and “I hope your hic-cups get bet-ter”. Mostly we sing that we love her. We serenade her with our hopes for a good sleep and a fun day the next morning. It’s as much a blessing as the prayer that follows.

I’ve often lamented the confusing state of modern parenting. We no longer have the clear standards and uniform expectations that families in centuries past took for granted. Everything is up for debate:

homeschool, private school or public school

babywise or attachment parenting

limited screen time, immersed in technology or Amish

healthy food, vegan food, gluten free, organic or whatever you can scrounge off the floor of the McDonalds play structure…

There’s such a wide range of “good parenting” practices, with each one claiming to be the most successful/psychologically sound/biblical way. Usually there is some value in that particular philosophy. Usually I know at least one family whom I respect that embraces it. Usually I am left feeling confused and overwhelmed.

I don’t know the words to this song. And it kind of freaks me out.

We’re making it up as we go along. The harmonies change from one child to the next, because they are each so different. We find what fits the rhythm of our family and each situation. And most days the melody works.

Parenting is a made up song. It is a one of a kind composition. The tune is familiar, but each family is unique. So why should I worry if mine isn’t exactly like the book or that Stepford family at church? It’s not supposed to be.

So here’s me, a little bit off key most days, but still singing.


10 Ways to Celebrate Leap Day

Sometimes it’s more of a curse than a blessing to have a child with a long memory. My, now 11 year old daughter clearly remembers celebrating Leap Day last time, when she was 7. Those were my homeschooling days when I spent a lot more time coming up with fun and “educational” things to do everyday.

Today, I have a sick child at home, 2 papers due for school (now that I’M the student) and a backlog of household chores that make me want to cry. But I’ve decided that they will still be there tomorrow.

February 29th only comes around once every 4 years. It hardly ever happens. I’m always complaining that I need more time, and here I have a whole extra day! Of course, it usually gets eaten up with the ordinary hustle and bustle. Just one more day in the rat race. What a shame! What a waste!

Why not take advantage of this bonus day to do something special?

Or, if you can’t think of something special, here are 10 silly ideas the girls and I came up with to celebrate Leap Day:

1. Play Leap Frog. The girls remember doing this last Leap Year with our friend Shannon, who was quite pregnant at the time. They were impressed!

2. Sing and Dance to “Jumping Songs”. If you have children, you can let them join in too!

    • 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed
    • If You’re Happy and You Know it Leap Around
    • Jump Your Jigglies Out
    • Jump for my Love – Pointer Sisters
    • Jump Jump – Kriss Kross (remember them!)

3. Declare this to be EXTRA day – and give everyone extra. But only the good things: extra hugs, extra game, extra ice cream, extra Wii time…

4. Hide frog gummies all over the house. These are always fun, because you find candy in weird places for months to come.

5. Buy a box of EXTRA gum and hand it out to everyone you know.

6. Serve food that LEAPS: Kangaroo Steak, Bunny Tail and Jumping Beans for dinner. I suggest steak, mashed potatoes and green beans, but you can be as realistic as you like.

7. Watch Annie and try to work “Leaping Lizards” into every conversation.

8. Make a frog cake, then sing “Happy Leap Day to you!” Or you could be like me and buy an ice cream cake instead!

9. Write letters to yourself for next Leap Day, then put them in a time capsule to be opened in 2016. Futureme.org allows you  to e-mail letters and photos to yourself, and will send it to you at some future date. You can even include pictures. This is so much easier than trying to keep track of it myself!

You can even get an app for your iPhone or iPad – only $0.99!

10. Watch Larry’s Leap Year Lesson. I must admit that I floundered when they asked me why we have leap year, something to do with the earth’s rotation and how we calculate the calendar… Larry the Cucumber cleared it right up for me.

 I’m always looking for more ways to build memories and embarass my children. How do you celebrate Leap Year?

So here’s me, celebrating my made up holiday, because that’s how I want to use my extra time. I wonder what my kids will remember 4 years from now.


Basking in the Glow

I like to organize. Cupboards, drawers, storage rooms… When I find the time to tackle a project, it is strangely addictive. Though the world spins out of my control (how dare it!), I am the master of this small domain. With each item I discard or donate, I hum an anthem of freedom. Chuck! Chuck! Chuck!

But the moment of true decluttering nirvana comes at the very end. When each item is in its place… boxes and bins neatly labelled and lined up for inspection. Ahhhhh.

For the next several days, I find myself returning to the scene of my great triumph. Each time I pass by I must pull open the door and gaze in wonderment. Is that the Hallelujah chorus I hear in the background?

Where I once would squint my eyes, reach in to grab the needed item, then hastily slam the door, now I linger. After overhauling the craft cupboard, I pulled a chair in from the kitchen so I could eat my lunch while basking in its tidy glow.

Is this strange? I wonder if my world is too small and trivial. Perhaps I should get a life… or hours of therapy.

But celebrating our successes, even the small ones, is important. Especially the small ones. Because a life that is full of celebration is a victory in and of itself.

This week between Christmas and New Year’s is a pause. The holiday craziness is over, but the vortex of real life has yet to begin. I’m sure that I will get caught up in the promise of resolutions and new beginnings with everyone else. But this week I will pull up a chair and bask in the glow of the year that has been.

So here’s me, thankful for a line-up of successes big and small.

Renovation. B reading her first words. Understanding God in a new way. Discovering blogging. Grand opening. Art and worship. Pointe shoes.  Family vacations. Online community.

What successes are in your line-up? Have you taken time to “bask in their glow”?


Christmas Countdown: Fair Trade Style

We are a family that counts down. We start young with “Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, We’re Going To The Moon,” and it never stops. Ask my husband, at any given moment, how many days until a long weekend, our next family holiday or the massage his doting wife promised him, and he can tell you accurately without a moment’s hesitation. One wonders what he might be capable of if so much valuable brain power wasn’t constantly engaged in keeping track of the minutes and hours… but I digress.

So, advent calanders, ya – we’re all over that. We hang a tiny little ornament on the quilted tree Oma made each night. The girls faithfully cross the days off their calanders. And we fight about which daily christmas devotionals we are going to use for the month. Right now it’s a throwdown between the cheesy, but beloved “Adornaments” and “What God Wants for Christmas”.

But the MOST crucial countdown of all is the cheap cardboard chocolate calander we get each year. I’ve been informed by experts in the field (a 9-year-old girl and her Dad) that it is not really Christmas without it.

One of the very first wails of protest when Mom’s fair trade crusade began was about this very important issue.

I was tickled to learn that there are, in fact, fair trade chocolate advent calanders to be had (Divine). Not only that, but these contain ACTUAL chocolate to pop out each day. As opposed to the brown coloured, chocolate scented ear wax we are used to. Not a bad option.

But as committed as I am to my family’s happiness and the end of child slavery, there is another virtue very near and dear to my heart.

I am cheap.

At $8-12 each, these are not unreasonably priced. BUT when each member of the family (including the one with facial hair) must have their own, that’s 8…16…24… way-too-expensive-for-mom-to-swallow Dollars.

This is not a blog where you will learn how to turn a shoebox and 4 pennies into a fully functioning shoe rack. I cannot tell you how to create the perfect turkey dinner for under $10 – I have never even roasted a turkey at all. But this is one crafty/home project that fits my profile: simple, fast and foolproof. So here it goes:

I bought this advent cupboard on impulse (it was on sale and I’m a sucker for deals I don’t really need). But a stack of envelopes would work just as well. There are SO many amazing advent projects that it is overwhelming. I say, keep it simple. Who need another reason to Grinch out this Christmas.

In each “day” I put:

  • a mini muffin cup
  • filled with 5 Cadbury’s FAIR TRADE chocolate buttons (1 per person)
  • an advent verse and/or prayer (free printables)
  • a fun family activity, outing or service project for that day (written on a strip of leftover wrapping paper)
Glen and I had fun brainstorming simple things to do as a family to honour Jesus and teach generosity, without driving us to drink (well, anymore than usual).
  1. Call GiGi (great grandma) and sing her a Christmas song.
  2. Christmas party tonight – have fun!
  3. Decorate the Christmas tree.
  4. Bake Gingerbread Men with Mom.
  5. Collect as much change as you can find around the house to give to the Salvation Army Santa at the store (winner gets hot chocolate to share with everyone).
  6. Drive to Candy Cane Lane to look at the Christmas lights.
  7. Go to the store and buy food for the Food Bank.
  8. There are 12 cherry Candy Canes hidden throughout the house. Ready, set, go!
  9. Draw a picture/write a letter to our sponsored children (World Vision and Compassion).
  10. Create an e-vite and invite friends to our New Year’s Eve party.
  11. Make Christmas crafts with Aunt Judy!
  12. Everyone give a foot rub to someone else tonight.
  13. Christmas Shopping date with Dad.
  14. Paint your own pottery at the ceramics store – make a special gift for someone you don’t normally exchange gifts with.
  15. Celebrate Grinch Night – everyone wear green, eat all green food and watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Invite the neighbours to join us!
  16. Pick a project from the World Vision Catalogue to donate your charity money to (our kids save some of their allowance each week to give).
  17. Plan games and food for our New Year’s Eve party.
  18. Create a “Welcome” banner for all the family that are coming to stay with us – especially your brand new cousin.
  19. Pack for our trip – we are driving to the timeshare today. Pick your favourite carol to sing in the car (even Dad will join in) (Dad’s Note: he will??? Doesn’t sound like something he’d do.).
  20. Movie night with the Aunties – wear pajamas, eat cararmel corn and watch Sound of Music.
  21. Choose Christmas e-cards to send to Grandma Lindsay every day until Christmas.
  22. Play Christmas song charades.
  23. Chowder Party at Oma and Opas.
  24. Build a Gingerbread house with Uncle Miguel
  25. CHRISTMAS!

Advent Box – $20.00

Muffin Cups – $1.00

Cadbury’s Buttons (2 packages) – $8

This is the part where I should say “Advent family fun….ah…priceless!”

But it was actually $29.00 plus tax, which is a pretty good deal in my book and can be used for years to come.

So here’s me, 18 days until I get to snuggle my brand new nephew for the first time, 32 days until I pack it all back in rubbermaid containers and 366 days until we start it all over again.


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