Thursday, 26 December 2013

Christmas Family

Yesterday was my daughter's third Christmas. At just barely two years old, it was the first Christmas that she could fully enjoy with all her senses. And enjoy she did. The twinkling lights reflected in her eyes. The fancy trees all decorated uniquely. The lovely music in all forms, including awe inspiring bells. The manger display that showed one of her favorite animal filled biblical stories in full dimension. The over abundance of food (and sugar). The precious time with family. Oh, and the gifts. 

Even though she still lacked full understanding of what was going on, she will probably be asking for Christmas for the whole month of January. (She has finally forgotten about the pumpkin patch.) And next year she will have memories that will add to the anticipation and excitement. 

The best part of the whole experience is watching her bond with family. To see her cautiously approach an uncle over and over and over again with curiosity. To see her randomly run over to her great grandmother, whom she does not see often, and give her a big kiss. To see her playfully greet one after another. To see her share food with others. Mostly corn. She can't get enough corn and even after three servings of her own she had to ask others to share.

I am so grateful for every person she gets to spend time with and I long for her to get to see so many more family members. She briefly talked to her cousin on the phone (the five year old asked her if she was still little). She Face Timed her sister and niece. She told her Oh-Oh-Oma that she loved her (she has decided that there is Oma and then her great Oma is Oh-Oh-Oma). Today we will call some more people, as yesterday just had too much. 

The morning with family over was so overwhelmingly exciting that it was very difficult to get her to go to sleep for her nap. (The new bed added to the dilemma.)  I had to promise her that after she slept she would go see her grandparents and uncles. Then, at bedtime, after all those hugs and kisses, we had the same thing. She just couldn't shut down. 

As I enjoyed company I couldn't help think of those who were lonely this Christmas. My grandmother was spending her first Christmas alone. Others couldn't even find reason to celebrate. I was reminded to treasure every moment with my loved ones. Even when the conversation lulls or when misanderstandings occur. 

Family memories in the making. And more to come. More hugs. More laughs. More delicious corn. 

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

I Told You!

We have somewhat of a schedule. Part of that includes devoted daddy and his daughter walking the dogs first thing in the morning while mommy prepares breakfast and gets herself ready for work. The other day, daddy had to leave early and so, even though mommy had a busy scedule, it was my turn to give the dogs their morning walk.

My big to-do list was running through my head. Even though I was calculatingly watching the clock, this was a welcomed distraction because we all really enjoy being outside. The dogs were overwhelmed with anticipation, as I personally have rarely taken them, except in the truck, since my jaw surgery nine weeks ago. 

I bundled us up (the humans, that is) and sat my warm cutie in her sleigh. I stuffed the leashes under the cover of the sleigh where my daughter sticks her feet. She immediately protested. Usually daddy carries them around his neck and so I thought she didn't want the leashes there. While she cried I told her they would be okay there and hurriedly got us outside. Once we started she smiled. 

I pulled the sleigh through the fresh snow with the two dogs galloping around us and nipping at each other in excitement. Damp snowflakes glistened on our hats and slippery ice threatened from below the blanket of snow on the ground. My daughter sat quietly. Almost pensively.  Then, a block from home she softly called out. 


I stopped walking, as I could barely hear her through my knit hat and the hood of my jacket. "Yes, dear?"

She pulled her legs from under the cover and stuck her feet out from inside her snow pants. Cautiously, she stated, "I need boots". Snow fell and stuck to her socked feet. 

I threw my head back and laughed. I'd put her shoes on the wrong feet many times. I've lost a half a pair a few times on outings. But I have never forgot them all together. Especially when she was trying to tell me. 

I could argue that she was fussing and hard to understand. But it was more likely a case of not listening than it was a case of not communicating her point. I thought she wanted the leashes off her feet. And so that is what I heard. She actually wanted, no, needed, boots on her feet. 

We turned around, much to the dogs' confusion as this looked like the shortest walk ever. We retrieved her boots and were therefore ready to go back, this time all the way to the end of the road to play in the snow. The dogs were ecstatic that we were trying again.

I would probable say one of my biggest pet peeves is feeling unheard. And I know, just like when I misunderstood my daughter, the lack of attention is usually not intentional. People filter words through their busy minds and automatically misfile comments. Potential conversations flutter into the air without any follow through. 

So often, something I don't feel too passionately about is taken too seriously, or something I want to concentrate on is pushed aside. The everyday casualties of living in this busy world with too many distractions for imperfect people. 

I try thoroughly to listen to my daughter. Of course, at two years old I often have to play a guessing game. Sometimes I get a bullseye. Many times I have no clue. But in the end, I hope she'll know I genuinely tried and that I care. 

The boots incident was a reminder that failing to listen is quite easy to do. Even when the other person is raising their voice. 

Tuesday, 3 December 2013


After work, I picked up my daughter and we spent the frosty, dark evening driving around in an impromptu search for Christmas lights. She stared intently forward, waiting for the next twinkling roof line or brightly wrapped terrace or a glimpse of a bedecked tree shining out of a cozy living room. As we approached each display she would point and happily call out, "I see Christmas!"

At an extravagantly lit corner house we got out of the truck to face the biting cold for a closer look. "Wow!" As she analyzed the busy display, she declared there were zebras on the lawn. She wanted to go on the snow for an even better inspection and I told her we couldn't because it was not ours. She adamantly pointed at the driveway and said, "THIS way Mom, THAT'S ours."

What I love about toddlers is their appreciation of all levels. Across the street were three plainly lit trees. Even though she had just seen a bright display of numerous reindeer and sleighs, Santa and wreaths, snowmen and the nativity, she still asked to go see the trees. 

As we continued to drive down the road, I thought she couldn't get any more excited each time she yelled out, "I see another one!" But then she saw a large, lit up star. What an amazing site to see! She squealed with glee. After the star we rounded a corner and there was an oversize, blown up snowman. She insisted she had to get out to give him a high five. Give him a hug. Give him a kiss. Anything! She begged to stop as I slowly continued to drive. When I told her that we unfortunately could not touch it because it wasn't ours, she responded, "Well, I want to buy him!"

This girl learns fast.

At one point, there were lights at a few different houses on both sides of the road. She counted the houses. She pointed out the colors. She decided that icicle lights were raindrops. 

We definitely have a joyous Christmas tradition in the making. Lastly, we looked at our own lights. And then she ended our twinkle search by pointing to the sky and bringing our attention to the awe inspiring display of stars. Albeit a small display through the spatter of clouds.   

I can't imagine what she'll do if daddy puts lights blinking to music like he wants.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

I Wish That You Knew

I wish that you knew...

You were not meant to do life alone. Fellowship. Conversation. Counsel. We all need people. 

The toilet has to be shut before flushing or the germs fly. Ew. 

We must take responsibility for our own health. Many ailments are preventable. Educate yourself and make good choices. 

Life is short. And unpredictable in its span. Look outside yourself and make the most of it.

We all have to work in life some how. You get out what you put in. Don't whine that you get no harvest if you don't plant anything good. 

Unforgiveness hurts you more than those you won't forgive. Mentally. Spiritually. Physically. 

The toilet paper goes over the top of the roll.

Learn from your mistakes and move on. Holding on only holds you back. 

You don't have to agree with family in order to love them. But they will always be family. Embrace that. 

Face to face relationships are way better than cyber space relationships. Harder sometimes, but much more beneficial. 

Life is fuller with a dog. Occasionally, full of more hassle. But worth it in the end. 

Hating the weather won't change it. You can't control Mother Nature. You can't even influence her. Find something you love about every season.

Children are precious. Even if they are loud, slow, and unpredictable. They are a blessing. And they won't be children for long. So pay attention. 

Chocolate is good any time of day. No excuses. 

People can change. If you let them. Believe in them. Support them. Encourage them. This applies to almost everyone. 

Beauty isn't just physique, hair, makeup, and wardrobe. It is greatly impacted by confidence, a smile, and kindness. 

Giving is rewarding. Especially when there isn't a reason. Exponentially when you know there will be no recognition. 

You can only assume someone's motives. You are unable to get in their head and comprehend every part of the chain of events. 

Nature is invigorating, relaxing, healing. Get out there. 

We have more freedom than you could imagine. 

Everyone has struggles. No one has it simple. We all have choices and battles and regrets. 

Fruit makes a great snack. Did you eat your rainbow today?

Thankfulness is like a beautiful sunrise. Or an unwinding nap. Or a warm hug. Or whatever makes you feel amazing. 

Uniqueness is to be embraced. Know what you like and why. Don't just follow the crowd. 

Only you can choose how something makes you feel. No one else is responsible for your feelings. 

Jesus loves you. Really

Sunday, 17 November 2013

No Nap With Mom?

I just made an earnest attempt to get my daughter to join me for a cozy, snuggly Sunday afternoon nap. There was a time that, more often than not, this was the way it was. Whether she was cuddled close in bed next to me or asleep in my arms or a carrier as I went about the day. She is very snuggly. I think she was at least 5 months before she first slept alone.

But trying to get her to sleep anywhere but her room during the day has become difficult. The stroller doesn't happen anymore, as she wants to explore, so no more long walks with the dogs. At home, if I'm there she just wants to read or play, no matter how exhausted she has become. Oh, she'll snuggle. But there won't be any shut eye. After my jaw surgery we got a bit of down time together but eventually she starts playing and gets quite rambunctious. On days like today, I need her to sleep and don't want that second wind to kick in.

So I gave up trying and picked her up and put her in her crib. She called out to me a few times but then she was quickly deep down in dream land. 

And now, instead of just sleeping like I wanted to, I am trying to resist the indefatigable temptation to get up and consume some decadent chocolate (even though I already had some today). I was getting so good with not feeling like I needed sugar but now that I am on a liquid/soft diet I find my sugar consumption has increased. And, unfortunately, so have my cravings. Every day I want some ice cream or some chocolate melted with peanut butter (mmm, seeing those words makes it sound even more delicious). And I know the more I give in, the more intense that it gets. There was a time, when in my twenties I could first eat chocolate without a migraine, that I used to eat simply to stop an intense craving. Not for the purpose of enjoyment. I also know it's worse when tired. I'm tired right now. Not hungry.

And my daughter was very tired as well. I'm so glad she is asleep. She still sleeps in her crib during the day. (And with us at night. I don't know why she won't do it another way. How does she know the difference?) Her dad wants to give her the toddler bed. As I've mentioned before, I have concerns about that idea. Getting into things. Making a mess. Hurting herself. 

But in light of her needing certain conditions to sleep, I wonder if taking her crib away will end naps? Will she just grab another beloved book? Go for her toy box? Try to leave the room to play with mommy or daddy (or bring us said book)? I am actually quite certain this is what would happen. And so, she would get up and not nap. 

I've heard that when naps end it can be nice because then you don't have to plan outings around that necessary sleep. You can attend things at all times of day. And you have more time to plan bigger undertakings and trips. It sounds great. So I won't be upset when the time comes. 

I just don't want to make it happen prematurely. She is still quite a long napper. Two and a half to three hours is normal. Some days I even have to wake her because she'll go four hours. And the days she doesn't get one, it is always noticeable. She is more emotional. And less willing to push through when something is difficult. So I know she still needs them. I try to tell myself if she really needs them, they'll keep happening. She is only two. But I don't want to wreck what is working!

At this point, I've agreed that she could get her fun new bed for Christmas. That's just over a month away. Time will tell...

Now, time for a short nap. I'm good with half an hour naps. I don't need the 3. Man, that long and I'd be up until the wee hours of morning. Oh, wait, I often am. 

Friday, 15 November 2013

Deck the Halls

It's nearing the time to deck the halls for Christmas. The entrance and front room, at least. Which, for me, means taking down my daughter's long-lived birthday party decorations. We still have copious balloons and streamers hanging from our ceilings (I was worried the balloons would deflate putting them up a whole day before and they are still full a month later). Some of them are red, as the Dr Seuss party was red and blue. I could leave the red for Christmas. Red is festive and beautiful. 

But what else will I add? I have a young dog that likes to chew on things and I have a curious toddler. Nothing is safe! The dog ate my husbands dress shoes. My toddler drew on the computer screen. I'm thinking that the items on the tree are not going to stay on the tree. Obviously, the top is going to be a little more embellished than the bottom. Last year, my daughter had just started promenading on her two feet a month before Christmas. So the bottom of the tree only had a sparse few items. Which she frequently liked to try to take off and put back on the tree. She left the presents alone, though.

I regretfully admit that I haven't been too excited about sprucing up the house in the past because I was closed minded about what that meant. I wanted matching, magical, and methodological. My husband, on the other hand, wanted entertaining, extravagant, and enormous. Which of us do you think already went through parenthood? He knew how to make it fun, and I was good at ruining that. I would rather have a dismal nothing than an embarrassing tacky. Go ahead, you can roll your eyes at me. I do, too. Now, as a parent, I'm realizing that fun and full are great things. Important things, actually. Though, I will still have to draw a line. Right?

But, the point is, I want to decorate for Christmas. My sincere apologies to my wonderful step daughter for having to live with me through my transitioning period. Would it help if I said being a step mom and step grandma greatly improved my ability to be a good mom?

I look forward to my new little helper going through the boxes with us and picking out the amazing items that catch her interest. Right now, she really loves to exclaim, "Wow!!" She will say, "Wow, it's dark" or "Wow, the moon" or "Wow, a light". Imagine a slow wow with a very rounded mouth and big eyes. Another current expression of hers is the question, "What's that?" Oh, so many new things each season. Maybe we will go down to a second hand store and look through some more possible treasures. Then, together we will listen to carols and give our abode a yuletide feel. Green is my most cherished color and red is my husband's. And so it is easy to find Christmas things we like. Though, I tend to gravitate toward silver and he is attracted to gold. Does the rest of the world live with such differences? Soon, we'll have the opinions of the third as we get our home looking festive.

I am excited about next year, making home made decorations. I have fond memories of doing that with my Dad's wife. Popcorn garlands and paper hoop garlands. And so many ideas will be available to us online! Home made clay ornaments. Painted straws. Twine wrapped items. Paper mache... These are the things that excited me about becoming a mother!

Food and decorations. Stories and prayers. Family and fun. That'll be our Christmas. I'll have to somewhat skip the presents this year. Maybe one for the children in the family. But I'm learning that tight times really develop the focus. I was going to blog with a challenge to creatively wrap gifts with recycled materials or reusable things like tea towels. Every year I am so bothered by all the wasted paper and ribbon. But, I wont do a whole blog on that because I don't have a gift giving budget. And I know many others don't this year either. But there is always putting up a tree, getting together, eating (and eating some more), and being thankful for all that we have.

I have a home to decorate. I have friends to celebrate and have Christmas parties with. I have a little girl to watch treasure Christmas. We have a great church celebrating the birth of Jesus. And of course, there will be snow. No falling short in that area around here.

Every day I am growing. Every day has its struggles. I still can't eat solids and wont be having anything crunchy until the new year. But, it is going to be a joyous, festively adorned Christmas season.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

I miss you. I am capable of that.

I shock myself sometimes with the things that took me so long to get. And the stinking process to get there. Thing is, my surprise is based on developing character you would already expect from any sane, functioning adult. I think I was barely making it at one point. I have just come into true existence. Really. A compassionate, loving existence, at least.

Since they moved in the summer, I miss my step daughter and her children. Deeply. It pains me to know I wasn't there for either child's birthday this year. I ache to watch them grow. To see their personalities develop. To be there for their mom.

There was a point in my life, especially as a hormonal, hurt teenager, when I didn't think I was actually capable of rooted, devoted, loyal feelings toward another. Miss someone? Nah. They wouldn't miss me. There was never a close enough bond to be missed. My apologies if you thought long ago we had a connection. I needed people. I wanted friendships. But I didn't trust. I didn't value myself enough to feel listened to or wanted. I'll be honest, I don't even think I expected to truly have simple cordial feelings for another. You can't imagine the thoughts that went through my head toward strangers or acquaintances I had to deal with on a day to day basis. Not that I focused too much on my constant, negative thoughts toward them. My mind was always redirected to telling myself how stupid I was. I was so hurt, so self centered, so self absorbed that my longing for love blinded the true path to receiving love.

To receive love you must delight in another.

I didn't. I saw faults. I felt offense. Oh, I frequently felt offense. I was smothered in the constant distractions of it's not fair or what about me? And so, ultimately, I missed out on so many opportunities. One way friendships. Relationships with walls. Surface interactions. And, loneliness.

Until I met my husband. The most unlikely of candidates. The laid back personality that regularly ripped at my type-A mind, driving me crazy in the process. The impulsive nature that incessantly pushed my cautious tendencies. The disorderly spirit that frequently tested my need for organization. The tireless workaholic that shamed my lazy self-centeredness. The just-do-it attitude that counteracted my default of becoming frozen in fear. In all our clashes, one thing always shone brightly before me. His love. His love for me. His love for his daughter. His love for people.

Love that truly is unconditional. Even when I am moody. Tired. Fed up. It passes any test. "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" 1 Corinthians 13:7.

I learned so much about that love watching him with my step daughter. I didn't think it was possible for a parent and a teenager to have such a close relationship. Whether or not there were cool friends around. Whether or not they saw something on the same level. Whether or not one of them made a mistake. And mishaps and blunders happen. I stood on the sidelines. Angry for them. Hungry for justice. Wanting lessons to be painfully learned. Expecting the process of feeling bad and regretful apologies. But that was not their way of doing it. They were there to support each other. Apologies need not be earned because they were assumed. It was automatically okay.

What a gift it is to be a part of that now. I'm a mess. I screw up. But I have them. They are mine. They always will be. It took me so long to embrace the feelings of loving someone even when I am not necessarily pleased with their actions. It took me so long to really believe that I am cared for in such a way that I cannot be simply tossed aside. This is something everyone was meant to experience. Love doesn't turn off and on. Love is.

And always will be. Which makes me miss my step daughter and her children even more. And hope that I will again see them soon.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Jaw Surgery and The Home

Three years ago I finally made the expensive decision to get orthodontic braces. It essentially became a choice I could no longer avoid. My bottom teeth were digging into the top of my mouth and this would repeatedly cause painful swelling that would prevent my back teeth from being able to bite together, which would make it impossible to eat. Eating is very important. I love food. 

Two weeks ago I went through the most drastic step in the realigning process. I had jaw surgery. The surgeon sliced my bottom jaw and slid it forward and plated my new jaw together. Ouch. My apologies if that makes you shudder. At my first meeting with him I actually almost threw up when he explained it to me. I'm sure I was almost hyperventilating when they wheeled me in to the operating room. But they talked so calmly and kindly and promptly sent me off to dreamland. 

I woke up in much less pain than I expected. I tried morphine twice and decided that I did not like the feeling of it at all as it made me sweaty and itchy and light headed. The pain was definitely bearable. And healing has been relatively great. I was so worried about the recovery process with an energetic, cuddly toddler. But in most ways, it has been better than expected. 

I thought I would be stuck on the couch all day, getting up briefly when I determined that my almost two-year-old's activities were becoming dangerous. Dreading every time she was hungry. Watching my house fall apart and itching to get out. But instead, I had my two days rest in the hospital and then went home to taking it easy but still doing things. We snuggled and read books, took the dogs for nice walks, went to play group, went to the grocery store, and lived an almost normal life. 

Almost. Mommy has been very tired. The first week I let her fall asleep to movies too many times and suddenly she wouldn't go to sleep without one. So I had to put an end to that. Movies were much easier on my face than reading books through gritted teeth, but she still understood my words and so reading it was. Frequently, upon her request. Yes, a relaxing activity. But not for a sore mouth. I think my incessant talking is why I bruised so badly.

But the bruises were helpful. They were a reminder to my girl to be careful. Every once in a while she would say, "Let me see your chin." And then she would announce matter-of-factly, "I have bruises, too." It seems that she is also a little better at entertaining herself now, too. No, mommy can't spin. No, mommy can't bounce. Mommy's no means no. No, mommy doesn't have the energy to run. 

Or do housework. I have never let my floors get so bad. But that's just the way it has to be. Leaning forward is the biggest issue. And I get enough of that with changing her bum, washing her hair, soothing a nightmare. And dealing with the dogs. I've had to scrub manure from one dog's back and cut burrs from the armpits and behind of the other dog. 

I've learned that adequate health for day to day tasks is truly a blessing. One day I had to clean the tub because it just wasn't usable and it was the most difficult task ever. Another day I wanted to start the pellet stove and had to keep bending over to reach the controls again and again because I couldn't get it to work. It was beyond frustrating. 

I'm so very glad that I have the ability to enjoy my daughter. I'm so very blessed to be able to take care of two large dogs (though I'm thinking the idea was a crazy one). I'm so happy that we can all get outside and enjoy this beautiful place we live. And once I can sleep without an incline and on my side again, I will really appreciate the blessing of being able to do something as simple as sleep if I would like.

I really take advantage of the many blessings that I have and all the things that I get to do with my day. Like nap time. Today I sit here enjoying her nap time for the first time in 5 days. She's been sleeping soundly for two and a half hours after going down no problem. So many times the last few days I wanted to nap myself but just couldn't get her to comply. And I know she needed it. It showed in her lack of patience and unwillingness to try again if something didn't work. I don't know if it was her reaction to changes with me at home. Or throwing her off with a late drive on Sunday. But she hasn't had a good nap since Saturday, and today is Thursday. I'm sitting here with the dogs, ready to pounce on them if they dare make a noise as they insist on wrestling. Hey, stop growling.

And I'm trying to figure out how to quell the hunger in my belly. Blended soups, milk shakes, protein shakes, fresh fruit and veggie drinks. I've even tried blended lasagna and blended sausages and potatoes. I'm kind of glad I had this surgery when I had a toddler. I've still had to provide healthy food for my family so it has ensured that I am getting proper nutrition. Tonight is fish and carrots and roasted potatoes. Oh I miss crunchy things and fresh salad! And pizza. 

Having a toddler has also kept me from feeling sorry for myself. I still have to get up and face the day and set an example. And she has helped me to enjoy each day. I'm sure the "old" me would have stayed in bed and become quite bored and then took forever to get out of the slump. Day 7, 8, and 9 were probably the most unbearable. I was tired of drooling food on myself as I attempted to consume enough calories with a tightly closed jaw. I was too uncomfortable to sleep. But on day 10 the elastics were cut and I was allowed to open my mouth again and this made drinking and taking medication much easier.

It's amazing what they can do now! They used to have to wire the mouth shut for six whole weeks. That would have been torture! Before I know it I will be on solids and this will be all behind me. And my mouth will finally, in my late thirties, be comfortable. The pain and bruising will go away. I'll be able to exercise again. And life will be back to normal.

And eventually, my daughter will get to see her mom without metal in her mouth. 

Friday, 1 November 2013

Meandering in the Woods

We meandered along the forest path rimmed with thin, bare trees. The dogs merrily darted ahead and then fell back again, questioning your steady, but slow, pace. We followed down an unknown, majestic path where none of us had ever been. The branches and needles dripped with moisture onto the forest floor caked with earthy orange and brown leaves.

You curiously crouched down to look at something at your feet. With a small stick you poked the side of a slender slug. I was grateful you did not try to stomp on it like you have previously done. Promptly, it's motionless existence lost your interest and you trudged on, letting me know we were going this way.

Off the path was a mossy log that called to you for a relaxing break. With tongue-sticking-out determination, you braced yourself through the uneven, grassy terrain and positioned yourself next to the log. You paused to ponder some small mushrooms and turned your back. You comfortably sat and then called your dogs, inviting them to come and sit with you and enjoy your perch. Of course, I delighted in assisting in your idea so that I could take a picture of you and your beloved companions on your outing in the damp woods. 

You asked me to sit with you. As I did, you looked around, contemplating the next interesting spot that you would explore. You decided to venture back into the woods themselves. You didn't make it far as the ground was tangled with rooted branches and tasseled grasses and provided too much resistance for your short little legs. So you turned back toward the easy path that had been trod down by many dogs and their owners and by outdoor joggers.

We approached civilization behind the natural canopy and I announced it was time to turn back the way we came. You grumbled at my request, as if it meant that our impromptu adventure was coming to an unfortunate end, even though we still had to backtrack all the way that we had come. I distracted you by showing you how the water was held so fragile in droplets on the greenery that hung by our faces. One by one, you reached out and gently touched a frail drop and watched it release from its perch into cool moisture that ran down your fingers.

You ardently called the older dog to share with her what now tickled your fingers. She sniffed and turned away uninterested, leaving a clump of damp fur on your hand. You repeatedly broke drops of water and insisted you share your experience with your four legged friend, until she was no longer willing to express curiosity in what little you had to offer. 

Your legs became tired and you snuggled close into mom's side as you scanned the beautiful surroundings and breathed in the fresh air. You expressed concern at a fallen log that sprawled at an angle on the hillside. As we approached the vehicle your energy was suddenly renewed and you protested loudly. I placed you down and you sprightly ran along the dirt road, aiming for every puddle. 

You waded out into a mud puddle so dirty that you could not see your shoes. You tested it with your hand, only to find it cold on your fingers. You stepped out and tossed in a few rocks, enjoying the splash. You decided to intensify the stir by kicking at the water. The dogs joined you in excitement as you stomped and kicked.

A passerby asked if you were having fun, to which you replied, no. She hoped that you would have some fun before you were done your task. We stepped off the road as a car approached. And then another. Then we were off walking once more. You took me down a side road, again announcing this way. Here, you decided to be carried again. We looked upon what had been a fire the night before, still containing a flicker of fire at its center. Litter was unfortunately scattered around the area. You pointed to a second spot where another fire pit had once been located.

You tried to play with a stick only to have it confiscated by a dog. You whined that it was yours and tried to follow him into the long grass to receive your prize. I reminded you how much both dogs loved sticks. I took your disquiet as an opportunity to bring an end to your damp venture. I scooped you into my arms and placed you in the truck. Inside I promptly turned on the heat as I removed your drenched pants and mud caked shoes. I put on dry pants and left them long over your feet as I had nothing extra to cover your damp, pink toes. You smiled contently at the completion of your adventure. You had climbed. You had sat. You had run. You had skipped. You had splashed.

We drove toward home along the bumpy road with the dogs happily running beside us. First, we stopped to let in the older before driving farther with the younger galloping along with his tongue hanging out. Then we collected him as well as we finished our outing. You asked me to turn up the fan and we enjoyed the hot air as we listened to music and returned to our base. 

It didn't matter that the air wasn't warm or the sun didn't shine. It didn't matter that the ground was wet and slippery with mud. It didn't matter that we had no destination or goal. It didn't even matter that mom was still in her pajamas. What mattered is you spent time with mommy and your dogs. Outside. 

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Contemplating Her World

It is a wonderful experience to behold my daughter interact with her world. Today, I walked in on her intently watching the dog eat one of her stuffed bears. Usually, she gets rather upset and takes every opportunity to tell him that he is bad. They have quite the love-hate relationship. But, she very closely observed for a bit as he pulled stuffing from the nose. Then she nicely grabbed him his toy and made an exchange, saying, "This one, buddy."

She has been a little more contemplative recently. More observant. Sometimes quieter. The last few times we were in the truck she was very silent and gazed out on the road. One trip saying nothing at all. The next, briefly pointing out a train and telling me to stop at the light. Usually, she is non-stop. On the way home today she sat quietly in her seat while I fueled up the truck, giving me a little wave.

I asked her what she did today, to try to get some conversation. She told me clouds, spiders, and... um... cupcakes. I love to ask her about her day. She matter-of-a-fact announces a list, with a few ums here and there. Often she will revert to the latest exciting memory. She always declares that it was today. Every day she tells me she went to the pumpkin patch and went on a train today. She really wants to go again.

Another thing that has changed is her ability to play alone. Maybe it is because of my jaw surgery and the bruising on my neck. She seems to be okay with dancing alone instead of always needing me to dance with her. She'll read in her room with the door closed and ask me to leave if I come in. I seriously did not expect that before two! My little girl is becoming independent!

She even went to the neighbors to play without me. A dog had ripped open a garbage and as I cleaned it up she went and played ponies. She didn't ask me to follow. She just left me with my task. And she wasn't happy to be asked to return, either. "Play ponies later. Later!"

Soon, she'll be walking the dogs alone. Having a sleep over. Getting her own snack. It's crazy how helpless she was just yesterday. Time is passing too fast. I plan to enjoy every interaction with my amazing little monkey. Her curiosity is intriguing. Her compassion is adorable. The way most of her play revolves around singing lullabies and putting her dolls to sleep is so sweet. Her love for the outdoors is refreshing. 

I'm excited for our future conversations. Her upcoming revelations. The adventures we have on the horizons. What an amazing blessing to be her mother.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

To Boo Or Not To Boo

Even though I see many wonderful costume, craft, snack, and decorating ideas, I refuse to create a Halloween board on Pinterest.

What is my problem?

For some reason, I have never been a fan of Halloween. Maybe my history of fear issues. Or maybe growing up insecure. My own memories are of walking around freezing cold to strangers' houses and then analyzing the goods for tampering.

I was so worried my daughter would be born on Halloween day. Which would have been perfect, with her beautiful orange hair. My adorable little pumpkin. Thankfully, she came into this world a few days after, in a completely different month. But still, I am a mom. And every year this comes up. What are we doing, or not doing, for Halloween?

I know people who've been adamantly against any involvement. Some have their reasons that they can explain. But many just oppose because they do. It is how they grew up or what were told they should do. Likewise, others see no problem at all and love every aspect. The majority have purely innocent, fun intentions. 

So, personally, I have to figure out my choice for something I'd be okay without. Every day I'm bombarded with things I find unnecessary. Television. Really stupid music. (Seriously, why do you like those words? Because someone else does?) Slutty magazines at the checkout. Fast food. My daughter has many influences.

And Halloween is one of them. Last week play group had a jack-o-lantern craft, witch and ghost play-dough cutters, and Halloween themed books. Every time we go out she points at the skeletons. As we entered the dollar store she was apprehensive about the big decorations and whether they were scary. I wouldn't be keeping it secret, that's for sure. 

I love dress up but hate how half the people want to dress around the theme of pain and fear and the other half wants to be slutty. Okay, it's not that bad. There are many cute bunnies and monkeys out there. My girl has been a winged unicorn repeatedly this last week. She loves her costume. 

I dislike the focus on candy. Candy has progressed from an occasional thing to an every day over consumption for so many people. And candy isn't what it used to be. It's not just some sugar and flavor. It's a chemical concoction that often pretty much resembles poison. So far my daughter has lived without candy. She knows fruit and whipped cream or a nice baked good make a great treat. I dread all the invitations for candy she will get. And all the people who will think I neglect her if I don't let her have it. Seriously, I'll be ruining her life

Which brings me to my main reason for not loving Halloween. Why do I have to do something just because someone else does? How many traditions and rituals do people follow when they don't want to, just because they want to fit in or not be seen going against the flow? They don't want to inconvenience or offend. We are so blind in our decisions. I dislike how the consumer industry dictates so much of our lives. Really, they do. I don't want to do something just because the candy and seasonal goods industry tells me that I should so they can make money. The big push to buy, buy, buy drives me crazy. I feel like society is a bunch of zombies following trends for the purposes of someone else's pocket book. 

If I want to do something I want to do it because it has substance to me. Because it blesses my relationships. Because I enjoy it. Not because someone told me to. Not because the retail, consumer, and food industries need me to. And definitely not simply because it is what everyone else is doing.

I like carving pumpkins and dress up. I love get togethers. I enjoy planning and decorating. I always appreciate photo ops. I want to be involved with my family and what they do. So, I am not shunning Halloween. We'll participate. And it'll be fun. My daughter will enjoy learning about something that happens every year in her culture. But we'll keep it low key. And every year I will have to revisit this question again. What will we do or not do, and why?

And I decided to start an Autumn Pinterest board.   

Monday, 28 October 2013

Dr Seuss Book Party

I'm excited to share with you the food from my daughter's second birthday. I love themes and she greatly treasures books, so I used Dr Seuss. There were plenty of ideas on Pinterest. I wanted to keep it a little healthy with no pop or chips. I did all the decorations ahead of time, which my daughter found exciting. She kept saying "Wow!" at the balloons and banners. I loved when she looked at my Green Eggs and Ham cut out and declared, "I do not like Green Eggs and Ham!"

"I do not like Green Eggs and Ham!"

I prepped the food that day. I ended up behind because we had an accident and I was at the hospital with her dad that morning. So when guests showed up I had them chopping fruit and slicing meat and buns and icing the cupcakes for me. But it all worked. I just wish that I had more time to print the labels that I was short on, like a Grinch label and Green Eggs and Ham labels that I totally missed. But here are my results:

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas-- Grinch Smoothie. Spinach, banana, yogurt, and milk. It was a hit!

My Dr Seuss food table. Like my homemade cupcake stand?

Horton Hears A Who-- Horton's snack tray. Elephants love vegetables. And there is Grinch Dip in the back.

Hop on Pop -- For my label with the buns and spreads, they have a picnic with Mr Brown and Mr Black.

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas-- The Roast Beast.

Green Eggs and Ham-- Minus the fancy labels.

Fox in Socks-- Three Cheese Trees. I saw lots of hanging or tooth-picking ideas, but towers worked (briefly).

One Fish Two fish-- Gotta have fish :)

The Lorax-- Thank you to a friend for bringing the Truffula Fruit.

Yertle the Turtle-- I went to buy blueberries and there wasn't any. Chocolate covered it was! And to the right is my Cat in the Hat banana and strawberry skewers that I didn't get pictured.

Cat in the Hat-- Red Velvet cupcakes (made with beets) with blue icing for Thing One and Thing Two.

The Lorax-- Truffula seeds (raisins).

Horton Hears a Who-- The elephant's peanuts.

And that is my collection of Dr Seuss birthday pictures. There were 10 children. We had a great time, with coloring, crafts, a book walk, and we watched The Lorax with popcorn (Hop on Pop-corn). By the way, my popcorn maker didn't work so I just microwaved the seeds plain in paper bags. Success!

In the end it was a very happy birthday. My birthday girl received many new books that we have already read over and over and over. I look forward to the next party. 

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Was That Me ?

Sometimes I look back on my childhood and it is like I am looking at someone else's life. Who was that? I see the pain and know I felt the pain but the memory of its severity diminishes over time. I see the stupid reactions and decisions from that pain and shake my head. I am very grateful that it isn't always sharply on my mind because if it was, I am afraid that I would worry way too much for my daughter and her experiences. 

I recall many nights staying up and fretting over being rejected. Crying for hours over something mean that someone said. Going over a scenario and thinking about whether it was my fault and what I should have done. Feeling so much heartache and regret. Agonizing over confusion and not understanding how people can hurt others so easily. Wanting to give up, over and over. 

The emotional torment spilled into my physical being. My digestion, my skin, my muscles, my everything. I remember a specialist told me that if you continuously carried a bag and added some bricks you would get stronger. But if you kept adding bricks it would get too heavy. The bricks of hurt and regret and embarrassment and shame and unforgiveness would add up. Your body would break down under the stress. He told me to get rid of some bricks. 

Those bricks hurt. And some were hard to let go of because even though they were negative they were earned and they were what I was used to. It's easier to hide and pout and sleep than to step out. But over time, with their release, those bricks have brought me the strength of who I am today. Sometimes I might see myself as that weak, burdened person. But truly looking and being aware of the difference, I know I am much stronger. Much more free.

I am not perfect. Very far from it, actually. But I can socialize. Or be comfortable alone. I can talk about others. Or share about myself. I can truly enjoy the successes of others. I can honestly love people. Unimaginable things at one time. Long ago I thought I was going crazy (which I relived a little postpartum). But, now things are good. Even in their bad moments. Like when I get mad at my husband or do something I know is wrong or try something new and scary or forget a promise. 

I so immeasurably wish I could vividly show people the difference inside. I long to impart in others a sample of the feeling of utter change. I know so many live in pain from their lives. So many feel it will never improve. I wish I could show them it can. I had a counsellor once who I stopped seeing because I had a hard time about an experience I'd had and she told me it would always be there. Yes, my past hasn't changed. But my belief in who I am and what I can do has. And I am not controlled by the past (usually... um, a work in progress). 

Where we come from may require some work. Some figuring out. Some forgiving. Some letting go. Some stepping out of our comfort zone. It may require patience, instruction, and love. It may require trying again and again and again. But it is not an excuse. 

We can't choose what has happened to us, but we can choose what to do with it.

Life has to much ahead for us to stay back there. 

Friday, 25 October 2013

Acceptable Uniqueness?

Uniqueness. Unless you're some crazy over analyzer like myself, do you realize how many different areas this can encompass? So many things contribute to our make up. Genetics. Upbringing. Environment. Religion. Culture. Relationships. Temperament. Stressful events...

Uniqueness. There are obvious, easy to accept areas. Like what pleases the palate. One may favor basic, like a steak and potato, while another will appreciate something more piquant like an aromatic curry or a fiery salsa. (Frank's Red Hot? I put that sh*t on everything.) One may be indifferent to chocolate while another can't complete a day without quelling the need for a taste of anything containing cocoa. (If you have any tips on subduing the addiction that rages like a chocoholic monster inside me, I'd love to know.)

We are all different in our size and shape, from our height and weight down to the length and straightness of our toes. I remember a Sienfield episode where George stopped dating a Lindy because her second toe was too long.

We all think differently of fashion, television, religion, spending, pets, diet... And even if we find someone who appears to think the same, they still have developed different life filters and thought processes and somewhere along the train of thoughts, their train will take a different track than yours. Even two children from the same home have many dissimilarities. 

I am a people watcher. I am absolutely fascinated by the range of opinions and reactions and self perception people have. (The questions I'd love to ask sometimes, yet I have no place!) At work, I constantly see people who parsimoniously feel the world owes them, no matter who else it takes from. People who have every excuse for not taking responsibility for their own actions. People who aren't afraid to push to get their desires met. Likewise, there are other people who would hate to inconvenience others even just a smidgen, even to their own detriment. Then, there are those who want to know every imaginable detail of the steps they need to take before making a decision, sometimes never being able to come to a resolution. And people who let others push them around with no objections.

Every day there is the opportunity to roll our eyes at the action or opinion of another. Bit if we could get a play-by-play list of all the details that led to the moment (which is quite an extensive path), we may be able to have at least a little understanding. Or not. We can remain pretty closed and focus on the fact that our own reasoning is not being understood. Our self centered thought patterns can make us oblivious to the truths around us. (Ever had one of those discussions where the other isn't listening?!)

For me, my over analyzing can have two opposite effects. I can be critical and jidgemental. I can let first impressions block opportunities. Or, I can keep looking. Keep listening. Keep caring. And give people a chance. 

Because I don't care how absurd someone is in their ideas. They all have something to offer. I can learn from each one. I can probably enjoy each one if I give them a chance. 

So can you. You've probably missed many opportunities for a great interchange.

Or, maybe you are easy going and love all. Good on yah!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Sleepy, Sleepy, Best For Me

Earlier this month, I attended an informative talk about stress management. Some things were an obvious reminder. Some information was refreshing. But one fact kept jumping out at me, accusing me with very good reason. Something I brushed off as acceptable for my life. 

I need more sleep.

I've blogged before about my decision to rank all other things before sleep. There is so much to fill into a day. (How on earth do people get bored?) Once everyone else is asleep I get in cleaning mode. Or reading mode. Or writing mode. Or work-out mode. Or just enjoy myself mode. I've made an attempt to cut out some stuff so that I don't put off sleep too much. I left Facebook groups, like my November 2011 babies group. I stopped playing games like Sudoku and Words With Friends and Scramble. I sigh at the idea of wanting to paint. To learn to sew. To bake my own bread. Not now. 

But, sleep still gets pushed back repeatedly as the final prerogative. Even when I have to drag myself through the afternoon and tell myself I won't do this again! I will go to bed early! Yah right. Time just ticks away. Then, days when I do get to bed earlier, something interrupts it, like my daughter having a bad dream or my dog having midnight diarrhea (I'm not talking small here). These inconveniences aren't as bad in an otherwise optimal schedule. 

But I've let it get out of hand. I totally missed a stop light and nearly caused an accident. I forgot something extremely important. Many times. (Like driving three hours each direction and having no wallet for gas!) And I am not investing in my health. 

I am very aware of our actions and how they influence our health. I've turned my life around with positive thinking, relationships, spirituality, diet, and exercise. But in this busy life it is so difficult to keep the balance. How many times have you ever said, "I'll never go back?" Just to find yourself asking, "How did I get here again?"

I would cut down on sugar and love the results and then have a moment, like a movie theatre pig out (family bag of m&ms for one?) that would result in continuous cravings that pulled me back to old habits. Or I would feel strong in my core or my running and be determined to continue but then suddenly excuse after excuse would lead to missed workouts. 

Over time I have become more perseverant. (Goals are helpful.) But I will always be aware that I am never immune. Temptation will always loiter in its sneaky way. Distractions will evermore pop up. I am a human and must religiously keep on guard. 

And I need to start guarding my ZZZZs. I'm very, very bad at this! Just today I was going to nap as I had jaw surgery the other day and I only slept until 5am this morning. But what did I do instead? Looked at photos. And more photos. Always something! 

For me, being aware of the reasons is a motivator for action. It'll still take time to develop good habits, yes, but with educated mindfulness, success is more likely. I know it hinders my concentration and memory. I know it influences my food choices. I know it lowers my ability to be patient. I know it increases the chance of injury, from things like car accidents and falls. (And I know it does these things to my husband too. We have a household epidemic!)

These should simply be reasons enough. But looking into the long term is something that I need to do to push my proper decision making when faced with each day to day opportunity. Really, as a society we aren't as good at focusing on long term affects as apposed to short term gratification. 

Sleep deprivation is detrimental for the heart. I could tell myself this doesn't apply to me. I run. I have a low pulse. So much that warning beeps accusingly alarm whenever I have my blood pressure and pulse checked at a clinic. But taxing it heavily in one area isn't necessarily erased by good habits in another. It helps. But only helps.

Continuous lack of sleep can damage the brain. These foggy, tired moments don't want to become permanent. I want to age well. Bad sleep habits can increase insulin resistance, even for a healthy eater. I don't want to make this effort to eat properly be all for nothing. Lack of shut eye makes it harder for the body to prevent and battle many things, like other stresses, colds, cancer, osteoporosis. 

Sounds like good enough reasons to give sleep antecedence. I'm not just living for today. For this week's to do list. For this moment's pleasures. For the people in my life now. I am living for the future. For my children and grandchildren. For the issues my loved ones will endure down the road. For many things that I can't even imagine. And I want to be healthy enough to experience all of them physically and mentally to the utmost fullest.


Nap time. 

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The Greatest Conversation

I have had a few opportunities to be away from my daughter this month. Earlier was to attend a ladies conference overnight and just recently I was out of town for an operation (I had my jaw moved for comfort and bite reasons and look forward to good results after 30 years of issues). Of course, each time I was away I missed her immensely. But, having spent so much time with her I'd never before had the opportunity to talk to her on the phone. 

And the experience made me giddy like a child.  

At the conference, I called her in the morning. She immediately announced, "I love you, mom!" My heart melted. The rest of the conversation consisted of me asking questions and her copying word for word. 

"Are you with Daddy?"
"With Daddy."
"Are you having a good day?"
"A good day."
"Are you going for a walk?"
"Going for a walk."
"Are you going to the bottle depot?"
"The bottle depot."

Even though she just repeated, I loved this new experience of talking to her over the phone. She knew I wasn't there but that I was talking to her. And she was happy. She has such a loving, amazing, devoted daddy. And she ended the call with a few more declarations of I love you.

Yesterday, I talked to her from the hospital after she returned from supper at Grandma and Grandpa's. She mostly copied but told me a little bit more, with Daddy's help. Then I asked her if they were going to watch Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. She became very excited. "Chitty Bang Bang! Chitty Bang Bang!" She wants to watch it but only makes 10 or 20 minutes before declaring she's done. It has given her a new favorite lullaby. "Hushabye Mountain." Currently it is the only one she wants.

Her phone ability has greatly progressed. It seemed to take forever that to convince her to actually place it near her ear. She would hold it on top of her head. But she was making her effort to do what he saw we were doing. One step at a time. 

Right now I have returned home and I am relaxing before my little chatter box gets dropped off by my mom from her day care. I love listening to my curious girl's commentaries. Her excited recollection of events. She often brings up the fire alarm that happened at the school last week. It meant, "Everybody out!" I'm frequently explaining to people, even strangers, why she is animatedly, with a bit of seriousness, talking about fires.

I miss her muchly. And even though I am tired with a sore jaw, as one trip to the pharmacy required explaining, through gritted teeth, my situation to a dozen people, I look forward to seeing her. Maybe tonight I can get her to read her books to me