I don’t even know where to begin…

Oh blogging. The thing about blogging is that when you disappear for a year you kinda feel like you have to explain yourself. It’s like so many things, once you’re out of the habit it’s hard to get back into it. But I’ll try…

This last year has been a big one for change. I told Julio recently that all I really want for the next while is BORING. Beautiful, simple, BORING. That sounds so glorious these days. I know that when life is boring I get stir crazy so that’s not the real me, but right now it sure sounds appealing.

Oh the changes. The first big one happened almost exactly a year ago. I got a 0.75 time, permanent job. It blew my mind – getting the interview, meeting the principals who were so warm and personable, getting hired THAT AFTERNOON, and then having it sink in that it was a permanent position. It’s like the blessings were raining down. It was a lot to absorb, and quite frankly, I think I’m still trying to absorb it. Teaching grade 8 French immersion Math and Science wasn’t the job I dreamed of, but it is definitely the one I should have. Besides all the crazy hormones and chronic weirdness that comes with grade 8, there’s a lot of fun quirkiness and those crazy kids are actually fairly endearing. I’m having fun. And speaking French all the time and not feeling weird about it anymore. It’s been a lot of change, for our kids and us, but they’ve all handled it like champs and we’re doing just fine – with a bit more whining about doing some extra chores but overall doing just fine. The trade off is trying weird science experiments together and tackling problem solving questions as a family over dinner. And I’m never at a loss for a story about the goofiness that comes with being in grade 8.

The other news is that we’ve moved! We bought a lovely house in a great neighbourhood, with a park across the street and new friends for the kids…it’s been a fairly wonderful transition, other than a week of brutal sickness for me when we moved in. I’m so thankful that’s behind me and that these new walls are feeling like home, and that everyone feels glad to be here (now). We’re building a suite in the basement for Julio’s mom and looking forward to her moving in around July or so.

And now it’s time to read to the kids before bed, so I’ll go. Hopefully it won’t be another year since I write!

Zooming In and Zooming Out

The online world is a funny place.  How does one truly be oneself out there? Sometimes I want to be vulnerable, and other times it feels too much. I was looking at my mess of weeds this week, and managed to find a couple of surprise flowers sitting there. Quick – phone! Instagram! Something went right and pretty, must capture!  But I’ve realized lately that I zoom in to these pretty moments because they are more the exception than the rule. When I see my yard, I often just see the weeds and the work, and don’t always take time for the flowers that come uninvited. When I look at my body I see the lumps and bumps instead of being grateful for working limbs and a heart that can enjoy a leisurely bike ride or walk with a friend. When I see my kids I too often see their faults – isn’t that awful? – how I wish they’d get along better, try harder, be kinder, whine less, lean over their plate, and make their bed instead of just loving them for who they are, as they are. They aren’t perfect, but they are mine. I read in my Jesus Calling devotional this morning a bit about being clothed in righteousness – God’s righteousness. What a gift. I can’t even begin to fathom it, I am way too stuck in trying to conjure up a bit of righteousness of my own and it’s not working out too well. God chose us, accepted us, and clothed us with His righteousness. I want my kids to get that. The acceptance first, righteousness second bit.

So the following photos are some zooms in and zooms out. The way it is and the way I wish it was.

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A zoom in on a day I actually exercised. I wish it was more the norm than it is!
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Food reality – it’s not always pretty, elegant, healthy or even in focus. 🙂
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A pretty food moment – I got to make 200 of these for our pastor couple’s 20th anniversary of being at our church party. They turned out well but by the end of the night they were a bit soggy and falling apart.
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My three babes, all jumping and getting along and laughing. This probably lasted 5 minutes but I needed that to be in my brain. Five happy minutes. So much fighting lately. And whining. So I was so pleased to capture a moment when it was how I wished it was more.
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A pretty salad. We have maybe 5 dishes that are sure hits around here and this is one of them. One meal where I don’t have to hear “what is that? do I have to eat it? All of it? It looks different than last time? Why? Does it have fake meat or real meat this time? (I’ve been cooking more with lentils and tofu, with mixed reviews).
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My pretty peony. So nice to have something just take charge of itself and bloom without any help. I see, now, the lure of perennials. They are so grown up and mature, they don’t need the same watering and caring and planting that the annuals do. This gardening thing has kicked my butt for years but I’m hanging in there. And perennials are leading the way.
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I have hardly been to my backyard this year for gardening, as it makes me instantly grumpy. We are desperately trying to grow grass, so the lawn is patchy, and there is less light back there so gardening is more of a heroic endeavour. But in the midst of my patch of weeds, these little beauties rose up. Bless their colourful little hearts.
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My patchy lawn. So much seeding and watering and coaxing. So many children and dogs romping on this fragile earth to play and be.
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Zooming out on my weeds – see that pretty columbine? It is surrounded by, well, who knows what. Looks like weeds to me.
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Lettuce that we didn’t plant this year. It just showed up. I think my garden is finally learning that if it wants to get going in spring, it may as well take the reins. With soccer and end of year shenanigans, who has time to garden?
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Hearty little bean plants. I plant them every year because they WORK. They burst out of the ground with gusto and now that I’ve discovered pickled beans, it’s a match made in heaven. My tomatoes are doing okay too – after two casualties from cutworm I think we’re finally having some success.
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Work in progress. I love these perennials because they are finally coming back year after year. I lost so many plants here but now I’m hopeful. It still needs some help – removing the sidewalk blocks, making a nice edge, seeding grass in a bit more – but a bike ride or walk to the park usually takes priority.
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Anna planted the flowers in the big pot and has been watering them like a champ. I would love for her to take over watering for me, as I usually lose steam.
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My happy morning coffee spot, when I make the time.
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Clutter.

I realize as I post this that I could zoom out more. Be more real, show more of what my reality looks like. But I don’t want to, because I want to see what’s beautiful in my life instead of just seeing the mess. I see it enough anyway, so forgive me if I take a picture of a colourful curry or a flower in bloom, but know it’s because I just can’t bare to look at the messy kitchen and the sea of dandelions.

A different kind of classroom

About a month ago I had a Thursday free and decided to volunteer at my church’s harvest food bank ministry.  I was feeling kind of low and thought maybe I just needed to get my mind off my petty problems for a bit. It was exactly what the doctor ordered. The people there are so warm and kind, and I immediately felt that I had a place and that they were glad I had come.  The volunteers are church members and people from the community, some of whom receive groceries from harvest too, and most of the volunteers have been there for years and years. They are a loveable bunch.  Lots of hugs and honest sharing and true community. Mostly Luke was excited to go to church in a baseball cap and regular clothes, as opposed to the frightful collared shirts I like him to wear on Sundays.

Like all good days, this one started out with a hearty breakfast. We went to Pancake House and in a surprising and lovely coincidence, my dad just happened to show up too and joined us! That was the first of a few very pleasant surprises to our day.Our next pleasant surprise happened when we showed up at church – a family we have become closer with this past year are homeschoolers, and even though they hadn’t come to volunteer at harvest in years, today they decided to show up. Coincidence? I really don’t think I believe in those anymore.  It was great for Luke as I had prepared him for only “old people”, so to have people to chat with was pretty great. They needed some muscle upstairs to move some pews around while we waited for the Harvest truck, so he happily went with the two older boys from that family and the pastor’s two boys who ended up coming as well. Another bonus of today was the youth leader who “happened” to be volunteering today, and took the time to chat and connect with Luke and the other boys. I saw Luke smiling and laughing with them on a few occasions and was so glad this was the day we decided to come.

Watching the truck getting unloaded is pretty cool. They have a metal ramp that they roll all the racks and boxes down on, and the mounds of bread alone is pretty impressive. Luke got involved right away, stacking big boxes and unloading the food that 100 homes got to benefit from today.

Here’s Luke sorting peppers with Lauren, the youth guy.

After the unloading process, Pastor Al gives a little talk, reminding us all that what we all need more than the food we are serving, is the true life available to us through Jesus. People piped in freely with their thoughts throughout his message and he gladly accepted the additions and sometimes quirky comments. Some of these people know what it means, in a way I’ll never truly understand, to need and find a Savior, and I can’t help but be a tad envious of their openness. Having grown up in the church and knowing nothing other than the comforts of this faith and church community, I sometimes wonder what it would be like to get to know Jesus for the first time as an adult, after years of struggle.

After the message, we all ate together and got assigned our stations for the afternoon distribution.

Luke learned how to break down the boxes from Mr. Dueck, the octogenarian from church who has been volunteering probably longer than I’ve been alive.  He was so gentle and patient with Luke, and by the end they were laughing together. Watching that moment was one of the highlights for me.

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Luke and I were in charge of one table for distribution, and Luke took charge quite quickly of organizing and stacking his energy bars and pop cans that were in his charge. I got Viva Puffs and Red Velvet cupcakes and we had fun making towers and trying to make our table look appealing. Luke was like a salesman, as he told the recipients that they could have two energy bar boxes and one drink, and pointed out his two different flavours of bars. I was very proud of his courage in talking to strangers, and I could see he felt important. He was all business but a lot of people commented on how great it was that he was there helping, which was nice to hear.  Halfway through he asked if there was a real job like this he could do, like, for money, when he’s older.

He was surprised, later, to learn that these people didn’t have to PAY for this food, especially as he eyed the Viva Puffs wistfully. He asked why we couldn’t just do our shopping here, FOR FREE! and so we had a little chat about how at different times in peoples’ lives it can be hard to make ends meet. After hearing about his “need” for an ipad for school next year the last few weeks, I thought a little visit away from his somewhat affluent school community was in order. It was a good reminder to me too. Sometimes having more is having less, and sometimes those with less teach us far more about true community and the richness that is found in each other.  There is something absolutely magnetic about that place and my day is brighter from having been there today. And by the smile on Luke’s face as we walked to school to pick up the two who didn’t play hooky, I think Luke’s is too.

Happy Pi Day!

This Pi day is extra special. This year March 14 (3.14) has the extra advantage of being on the 15th year! The first four decimal places of Pi are so happy today. To celebrate…I made pie. 





Happy Pi Day everyone!

A taste of riches

My days alone are like little treasures. Especially the days that I have not booked anything, unsure if I’ll get a call to sub or not. When the sub call doesn’t come, I can’t say I’m too disappointed. Yesterday was one of those days. I actually did get asked to sub for the afternoon but even a morning of quiet is a beautiful thing.

My mind has been a bit restless lately, feeling discontent with certain aspects of life and overwhelmed with others. I’m in this limbo phase of life, where I’m contemplating next year and getting a real teaching position and it’s all overwhelming, a bit exciting, and hard.  Waiting for the next thing is always hard, at least for me.  All that not knowing. It’s like dating, nice and romantic and whimsical in theory but all that uncertainty just makes me happy for my wedding ring.  Anyway, I feel like my main job these days is to keep remembering that I’m not in control, and that the One who is, is extremely capable. When I can remember that, and experience that peace and contentment, it’s a great feeling, all five minutes of it.  Then I usually sink back into my spinning thoughts and frustrations, wishing for a bigger house, an ensuite, room to walk around our bed without bumping a shin, and a full time job to help fund it all. Life is so expensive it seems.  Yikes.  Anyway, I was fortunate enough to have nearly an hour of that bliss yesterday, and let me tell you, it was therapeutic.

I still can hardly believe that this spot is literally 5 minutes from my house, in the middle of the city. The weather has been so mild lately that the streets are filled with pools of brown water, which leaves no appeal for walking, especially with a dog. Plus, I love letting Jack run off leash, I always feel like he looks back after a good romp and sniff with a big, goofy grin and thankful eyes. I wasn’t sure what the forest would be like, but it was still dry and perfect.  I couldn’t help thinking that this time alone, to think and breathe in the cool air was far better than being in a classroom of noisy kids. That maybe I’ve been wishing away too much of my time looking for riches in the wrong places, in money and security and that sense of belonging and purpose that a teaching position could bring. Instead of looking at all those things, I looked at the riches surrounding me. Big, majestic trees, forming an archway to my steps and spreading out their delicate fingers against the bright sky.  Snow, sparkling in the sun, a sea of diamonds before my very eyes and yet it took me half my walk to notice them. How is it so easy to miss these riches?  My goofy, sniffy companion, our routine so set that I don’t need to say a word and he’s always there, a few paces ahead or behind, always aware of where I am and where I’m going. I kept snapping pictures because each turn seemed to reveal more beauty, another reminder of how much I have right now.  Okay, so I look a little grumpy here but I probably had the sun in my eyes. Really, it was such a gift. One I had to write about so I wouldn’t forget, so I could look back and remember this day when all the overwhelming things started to get to me again. To remember that the One who created all this beauty has a plan for me, and that my main job is just to keep looking up. I’ve never been much for poetry, it usually confuses me and then I get frustrated because I don’t get them, but I love haikus. Our friend, Steve, is a haiku master and has been writing haikus to go with pictures a lot lately. They’re fantastic and now I think I get it. When I was walking, I felt like all this beauty deserved a poem. So here’s my haiku, to celebrate how rich, indeed, I am.

Carpet of diamonds

At my feet. Majestic trees

Surround. I am rich.

The boys take over

On Thursday night, my cousin, the infamous Jessica from Smart Nutrition, came over to make corn tortillas with me for our families. She has spent time in Guatemala and was craving genuine corn tortillas, and since it’s a good GF option and she knows I love to cook, it was a win-win to do it together. Much fun. No pictures. Well, unless you count pictures of her adorable son dancing while riding Jack, but that’s a blurry one because those two move too much for any sort of nice clear picture of their adorableness. All that to say, the boys were a little jealous of us cooking together so they decided that Friday night was their turn. Luke took out a couple of cookbooks from the school library and has been pouring over them all week. Together with Sam they came up with a plan for an appetizer, salad, main course and dessert. There was very little parental intervention, and I got promoted to dishwasher for most of the time. I figured if I could keep on top of their messes, my stress level would be moderate and I could try to actually enjoy the process a little. It’s tough having too many cooks in the kitchen and I’m sure I was one too many at times. But we all survived, through the joys and tears, and what resulted was a very edible, well presented meal. Way to go boys.

Their menu was:

Appetizer: Devilled eggs

Salad: Spinach with balsamic vinegrette

Main course: beef and lentil samosas

Dessert: Chocolate peanut butter bars

Interview with the chefs:

Me: How did you decide on your menu?

Luke: I just looked through the recipe book and found what I liked. Actually, we voted for some stuff. Like the dessert we voted on. Well, that’s not exactly true, we voted but then we changed our mind.

Sam: Um…I looked for something appetizing and then I asked if they wanted it.

Me: What parts of cooking a meal did you find the most enjoyable?

Sam: Putting the melted chocolate and peanut butter on the bars that we made.

Luke: The devilled eggs.

Me: What parts were frustrating or difficult?

Luke: The eggs because some of them broke. And the samosas because it took a long time and I was hungry.

Sam: Waiting for the dough to get out of the oven for the dessert.

Me: Out of all the recipes you tried, which ones would you do again?  Which ones would you do differently?

Sam: The dessert I would DEFINITELY do again. But next time that I make the samosas we should actually use egg roll wraps. (We used rice paper wraps and didn’t quite do it right.)

Luke: Um, the salad I would do differently. I would put less balsamic vinegar. And the devilled eggs I would do again because they were fun and they tasted good.

Me: Was the process of making a meal from start to finish harder or easier than you expected? Why?

Luke: Harder because it was tiring and it took long.

Anna: And we didn’t eat when we were supposed to eat! (There may have been a moment when I was sure we had rice paper wraps and didn’t and I had to go to the store. Which was a good thing because I needed a moment. Cooking with multiple chefs = intense)

Sam: It was a bit harder than I expected. Like, harder to wait and a bit harder to go back and forth between looking at the recipe book.

Me: Did anything unexpected happen when you were cooking?

Sam: It turned out right!

Luke: Yeah. We didn’t have rice wraps.

Me: Are you glad you cooked for our family? Would you do it again?

Luke: Sure but no, I don’t want to do it again. I might do one course but I don’t want to do a whole meal again. It was too stressful. Maybe when I’m older.

Sam: Yes I’m glad I cooked for the family because I got to do the dessert. And that it tasted good.


 



Highlights for me were when Luke actually acknowledged that my method for peeling the eggs worked. I often hear “I know how to do this mom!” or “I don’t need help!” so it does feel good to have positive help acknowledged once in a while!  Also, I think it was Sam that said, “How do you do this every day?  And it doesn’t take you as long!” We ate around 7pm and they started cooking around 4pm. By the time we actually ate they were kind of cranky. Next time – one course! But, it was great to see their enthusiasm and also their competence with a lot of it. Way to go boys!  I’m proud of you!

Culinary challenge – Indian food

I asked Julio this afternoon what he wanted for supper and he said, “curry”. So I looked for a relatively quick butter chicken recipe and then decided to try some GF naan. I was pretty happy with both recipes. The overall consensus with the naan was, “It’s different. But it’s pretty good!”  Julio thought it tasted more like a pancake at first, but with the curry it was pretty tasty. Everyone had at least one and then started ripping bits off the rest, so I’ll call it a success. You can find the recipe here.

This butter chicken recipe looked promising because they mentioned the importance of caramelizing the onions and not rushing that part. Preaching to the choir. I gave those onions about 40 minutes and it’s just so neat how you can taste the difference once the sugars come out. It loses it’s onion-y bite and because truly sweet and calls you back for more.  My Indian food repertoire consists of Palek Paneer and Butter Chicken, what other recipes are doable at home?

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