Friday, December 28, 2012

::Ornaments 2012::

Salt Dough Animals. I saw a Noah's Ark version in a Martha Stewart magazine years ago, and it stuck. I never did hunt down cookie cutters like hers, but found these instead:
HOW TO: Canadian Critters Salted Dough Ornaments
1. Prepare a batch of Salt Dough.
2. Cut out your animals using cookie cutters and insert small eye-hooks at the of each animal. I found mine at Home Depot, but you can always make hooks using wire.
3. Bake for 4 hours at 200 degrees. Yes, I know it takes forever, but it's worth it.
4. Once cooled, they will be good and hard. Trace your animals onto pretty paper. I used green scrapbook paper. Cut out their outlines, and Mod Podge them onto the backs of the cookies. I did this to hide the brown spots on the side of the cookie that was face-down on the tray. But it also means your ornament looks pretty on the tree even if it gets trued around.
5. Once dry, draw details onto the non-paper side of each animal.
6. It is important to spray varnish the first coat or the ink will bleed. It may still bleed a little. The next coat can be brush-on varnish.
7. Next, I snipped all but 1 cm off the ends of red-tipped sewing needles. Use whatever colour you like, I just found the red to be very festive. These pins can now be pushed into the dough as embellishments. If they don't go in easily, pre-punch a hole using a thumbtack and then apply a dot of crazy glue to the hole before putting in the pin.
8. Last, feed ribbon or twine through the loop and tie.
Six Canadian animals for the tree:

Sunday, December 23, 2012

::Decade-old insight::

At the age of fourteen, in a sea of lost, anxious teens trying to establish a place for themselves in the pack, I found Chantal. Friendships come in all shapes and sizes. Some are borne from a violent collision of circumstance. Some through grudging admission. Some through persistent effort. Ours was simply borne when two girls, who were more comfortable in a pair than in a mob found each other at the right time and the right place.

As is usually the case in the present, and with a little teen narcissism thrown into the mix, we took each other completely for granted at the time. But, a dose of decade-old hindsight has lead me to conclude that Chantal, in many ways, saved me from myself back then.

I was a wildly passionate girl, prone to following the paths of my emotion to the most complicated ends, until I was good and snared. But this girl kept me grounded. Her honesty and unapologetic integrity of self was invaluable to me, because I didn't feel at all comfortable with who I was. So, in the face of my repeated misadventures, followed by deep self-pity, she did not say what she thought I wanted to hear. She did not say that I was a victim, ill treated by some heartless jerk. No. What she said was; "Well, that was stupid, what did you expect?" And what was so brilliant about her was that she didn't necessarily say this in words. She had a way of saying nothing at all, but her eyes would twinkle with suppressed rebuke. And the message would be received.

When I wasn't busy making stupid choices, and she wasn't busy watching me do it, we had So. Much. Fun. And I mean good, old-fashioned drug-free, alcohol-free fun. We used to sit up on the highest step of the huge cathedral by my house and watch people walk by. We'd walk for hours, from one end of center town to the next. We would ride on the handlebars of the neighborhood boys bikes and laugh with heads thrown back. We would make our way up to the old train tracks and watch the sun set over the river. Sometimes we'd jump in. . .  Scratch that. Sometimes I'd jump in. She'd stay dry. And safe. Like I said, my stupidity was a spectator sport she observed.

We soon became extensions of each others' families-- as though an unspoken joint-custody arrangement had been imposed. Every weekend was a sleepover. We just alternated houses. I stopped trying to win over Duke, the temperamental dashound, and resigned myself to his less-than-friendly greetings-- barks, snarls and growls. (Usually mellowing into grudging acceptance as the night wore on.) I ate many, many spaghetti meals at the dinner table. And we could have picked our way across the rocks of the Britannia piers with our eyes shut.

As for my noisy, always bustling household, she learned that it was customary to be bear-hugged at the door, and jumped on by hyped-up little boys, and mandatory to speak about one's feelings, no matter how uncomfortable. We knew every crack in the pavement of my neighborhood. We loved to make studies of people. As we'd walk, we'd observe every detail around us and muse aloud about them. I think the practice of really taking a good look at the world around us is gift we've taken with us into adulthood.

And so, you see, those four years, that can be so painful for so many kids, were, for us, years of security, adventure and wonder. We looked at the unembellished world and saw possibility. Every day Chantal and I would choose to shed the high school veil of introspection and self-indulgence, and head out into the world looking outside of ourselves to the people beyond. Looking and hoping for people to interact with, whose lives we could enter into, even if for just one night. And I think it made us the richest teenagers around. We were a pair of story collectors.

Thank you for that, Chanty. Thank you for helping me get through the late 90's without self-destructing. Thank you for helping me love outwards. And for helping me learn to be thrilled by the mere possibility of each new day.

Monday, December 17, 2012

::Nativity Angels::

Stunning little winged creatures.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

::Caelah's Prelude to 10::

Almost ten. A Piano Recital Party was one way to celebrate.
 Tonight she'll be watching the Nutcracker ballet with Oma. And Sunday she'll turn ten with angels wings affixed to her back as she recites her lines in the nativity play. Lots of celebrating. Lots to celebrate.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

::Tree Day 2012::

Our favourite tree farm just keeps getting bigger and better.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

::Praying John 17::

Take one minute to flip to John 17. If you don't have a Bible handy just click here.  Jesus prayed this passage to his Father about us. Us. His treasure. His longed-for ones. Us. Offered back to God by a thanks-filled Son. Jesus really loves us. But, he recognized us for what we were. Gifts-given.

I found myself praying these verses with intensity. A mother for her children.
I am praying for them. For the children you've given me, because they are yours. Every child I've ever called "mine" is yours, and I am blessed by the gift of them. And one day you'll bring me to you. Out of the world I'll be taken, but they will remain. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, as your adoptive daughter, that they may be a part of this family, even as I am.  

While I've been with them, I have raised them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded and protected their reckless little bodies, but especially their reckless hearts, and I pray that not one of them will be lost. Put your joy deep in them. Keep them coming back to the deep well of it.  

I have given them your word. Poured over over it with them to unlock a glimpse of you. Waited to see an eagerness for you. The world will hate and ridicule them because they are not of the world-- outsiders, just like like their mom. I'm not asking you to bring them to you yet-- not until you're ready.  But, please keep them out of his hands-- the liar who steals and kills joy, hope and life itself. They don't belong to him. They're yours. 

Clean them with the truth of your scriptures. Even if it hurts them. Make them ready to meet you.  You asked me to accept pain for your sake. Out there in the struggling, messy, wounded world. I did. I will. And I'm sending my kids out there too. I won't hide them away. I'll send them out. For you.  

In the time I have left here with them, for their sake, help me slough off clingy sins and fears and other baggage that muddies the glory you could be shining through me for them to see. Clean me up so my kids can see you in me. I'm just their mom, but you are so much better. You are Truth.

::Night Fairy::

e spend a lot of time in the car. And that much time in a confined space does funny things to the kids. They find all sorts of creative ways to poke and prod and make each other yowl until I nearly steer off the road. So, audiobooks. I just keep them coming. This latest one was a surprise. I thought it would be decidedly girly, and cause my boys to protest. The silence in the backseat(s) suggested utter enchantment.

Which was confirmed when the last chapter came to a close and I heard a sigh drift up and over quiet heads. Five minutes later, another sigh.
Gabriel: "I just can't stop thinking about that book."
"You want to fly don't you?" I guessed. Because that's what I'd been thinking myself as we heard about our fairy-friend's adventures on the back of a hummingbird.
"Yeah. On a bat. That would be so fun."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

::Homemade Soft Pretzels::

 "Soft Pretzels" from Canadian Living

Thursday, November 01, 2012

::A Robot. Not a Cellphone::

Elijah made this costume all by himself. I am so impressed with my creative boy. (I tried to convince him to keep the arrow on his "pressure gauge" set to red, as he tends to blow a gasket more often than I'd like. He didn't laugh.) After all the hard work he put in, Lij did not appreciate being mistaken for a cellphone. But any ruffled feathers were smoothed out each time his costume was awarded a verbal "best-of-the-night."

Thursday, October 25, 2012


There's something I've done for years now. It started when I placed my first baby into her crib at night all those years ago, and I wondered if she'd ever wake up again. I put one hand on her warm, gently-heaving back, and the other up towards God. In the dark, I told Him that He could have her.

She was already His, of course. I didn't think her up. I didn't string together her impossibly complex DNA. I didn't knit together tiny bones, and paint that coffee stain under her left eye. But, somewhere along the way, I took ownership of her in my heart. I suppose I made her mine with every muted kick she gave me deep inside, and later, with every needy cry that only I could quiet.

I let myself forget that I'd been honoured by the mere gift of her. She was given to me for a little while by someone who loved her long before, and far, far better than I ever could. I know it. I believe it. And for that reason, I have "no fear for my household." {Prov. 31}Each child is wrapped in blood-red robes of a promise that has stood, and will stand. Always.

I know. I believe. I am not afraid.
"Ever notice how God gets you on a theme?" A woman asked this the other day, and I caught myself nodding. Yes. He does. He pelts me, just like that big oak in the lane way does in the Fall. It makes such a racket that I just have to look up. Looking up is, in fact, the point. And it so happens that I've been in a hail storm of messages, on a theme, for weeks. It was echoed by sixteen tear-thickened voices at a retreat. Then it seeped out of scriptures through a character I hadn't expected. Yesterday, it was spoken out loudly from a screen I couldn't turn away from, reverberating in my ear drums until I cried; OK, God, I hear you. I hear you. I sat there, fists to mouth, rocking to keep in the tears so no one would know that it's true. I'm afraid. So afraid.

Of what? I know what I am not afraid of. But what nameless thing have I been stepping over and around, like a homeless person I'd rather not look in the eye? Yesterday it's name came to me. It's like we shook hands, it and I. It leered, and I wept.

Fear doesn't paint us all with the same brush. It has a sickening ability to customize. To be tailored to each of us like a Versace dress. And my fear fits me too well. So well, in fact that it is the forgotten garment I wear under my other clothes. It comes along with me, undetected until it's too late and I am gripped, constricted, gasping for air.

My fear is not for my children. It isn't for my home. Or my marriage. Or even for my life. What I fear for is nothing I can hold in my hands. And I have been asked to look it in the face over and over again. It has slunk up to me in the shadows and accompanied me as a vague unease. And at other times it has come roaring out of my core, all ice and sharp-edges, leaving me ragged and numb at the same time.
What I've always known, and what was repeated to me yesterday as I hid in my hands is that "courage comes from a heart that is convinced it is loved." The word courage actually comes from the Latin word 'cor'-- heart. So, clearly, my heart has a reservation about what God's perfect love can offer me when that fear comes calling.

And so I am left with only one real option. I will grapple. I may know it's name, but that doesn't mean it'll lie down and die for me. I've had to sit down with this fear of mine and take a good look at it's newly defined contours. It's a truly ugly thing. And I have told it what I know. That I am loved. But it knows that I don't really stand behind that yet. Not where it's concerned. What's worse it knows that it will have the pleasure of showing up again and again until I do. 

So I will be in conversation with God a lot. I'm going to ask Him to teach me that His love doesn't get shored up at the borders of this fear, but passes right through it to reach me. No thing is big enough and dark enough to stop Him from loving me to fearlessness.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

::Blobs, dashes & squiggles::

I went to a workshop at 4cats studio to try my hand at impressionism. It did not come easy. Our instructor asked us to do blobs and dashes and squiggles. And somehow it was supposed to look like a waterlily pond. Half-way through I was in complete despair. Now that it's over, I don't despise it. But I never did embrace the technique. I didn't commit to my blobs and squiggles. And it shows. Try, try again.

Friday, October 12, 2012

::Eleven Questions::

I was asked eleven questions this week by my wise and wonderful Aunty B. Here is my reply:

1. What is your cultural background?
I am a waspy blend of everything the British isles has to offer: scones, bagpipes, sheep. Lots and lots of sheep. But I call myself simply Canadian.
2. What are a few words that would describe your family of origin?
If by that we're referring to my parents and siblings: Affectionate. Communicative. Quick to laugh. Always striving, never resting. If by that we're referring to those who hail from the land of scones, bagpipes and lots and lots of sheep, well then I haven't a clue.
3. In a few words, what is your first memory?
I remember moving day when I was two. The big truck was crammed with all of our furniture, little room to spare. But my Uncle Danny wanted to squeeze in the back for the short 4-block trip. He knew I'd be thrilled be the novelty of riding in the back of a truck with all of the objects that were familiar to me crowded topsy-turvy all around me. So he reached down to scoop me up onto his lap. I can see his open arms. And I can see mine stretched up to him. I don't remember the ride. But I remember his reaching hands. (He died not long after that.)
4. What did you enjoy most about school?
I loved completing tasks, and receiving a grade. I was genuinely eager to find out what value was placed on my labours. That hasn't changed much. I love to see results. Unfortunately, the work of a mother isn't tidily quantified. No latter-grades with stickers pasted beside.
5. Where did you meet your spouse?
I married the man who moved into the house next door. And when I say next door, I mean that we shared the wall of a duplex. He could hear me belting out songs while I was at my parents computer.
6. How would you spend next Saturday if you had no responsibilities?
My favourite days are ones where my husband and I take all the kids out into the beautiful world and watch them run and holler and play. And we get to hold hands and seep in the richness of our blessings.The best way to end a day like that would be to welcome people into our home for a meal.
7. Which historical character would you most like to meet?
I think we all know what the average Christian would say. And I would be no different. But, for the sake of not stating the obvious, I'd say that my current studies in Esther have me deeply curious about her. I would love to ask her about the struggle to live for her God in the hotbed of secular culture. Oh, and I would like to ask Akenhaten if his 'One God,' was my one God. Oh, and I would have loved to hand Singer Sargent his brushes when he painted Carnation, Lili, Lily Rose. Oh, and I would also love to give Spurgeon a big hug and tell him thank you for speaking poetry every time he preached. Although, I'm not sure he was the hugging type.
8. Which historical character would you most like to delete?
Again, there are very obvious answers that seem instinctual: Hitler, Stalin, those guys in the Congo making soldiers out of tiny kids-- is Morgentaler still alive? That said, is far as I know, God's never hit delete on any of us. So, he must know something I don't.
9. Which fictional character would you most like to meet?
Impossible to choose who I'd like to meet most. But I did love my sojourn through the world of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. And I would gladly hang out with those folk for awhile. And I would help Devin fight for Tigana-- until it got too scary. And I would sit for tea with Bilbo, but only if Gandalf was visiting. And I would be Jane Eyre-- but only before she finds out there is a crazy lady in the attack. And I would love to have tagged along with Oskar from Extremely Loud & Incredibly close when he visited all of those people. And I wish I could taste Vivienne's chocolates. And Margaret George's Cleopatra is probably not even remotely like the real woman, but I'd have liked her as a friend. . .
10. If you could choose any country to live in for a year, which would it be?
I think that it would be a healthy choice to go north to Alaska. Let me explain. Choosing to go South to a paradise like Seychelles, or to eat my way across Europe would appeal to my body, taste bud, specifically. But it would probably not feed my soul. At would actually distract and clutter, I think. But going north. . .  Vast emptiness. Dancing streaks of light in a strange sky. Echoing cracks of icebergs that would make me feel so small. Time. I think I would see God's face there, more than anywhere else. And I would come home to the warmth and business of my life gladly. Stronger for having been somewhere where I could wait and listen. 
11. If you could choose any century to live in for a year, which would it be?
I am far too comfortable right here and right now to imagine committing to a hundred years sometime else. Especially as a woman, and especially as someone who'd love to live past the age of 40.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

::Rose Garden Photoshoot::

his annual photo shoot meant more to us this year than it usually does. Normally, we are freeze-framing moments as benchmarks. Images to mark changes that we'll have a whole life to watch unfold. But there is a certain little girl who is only ours for a short time. And we thought that we were saying goodbye to her this week. So when he took her photo, we were capturing last moments. Forever the toddler with the huge moon-eyed smile. Our sixth little girl, just for awhile.
 It turns out we'll have a bit more time with this little girl. So these weren't goodbye shots after all.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

::Apple Day 2012::