Monday, December 31, 2012

starting the new year right

Last year from October 2011 to sometime in March 2012 I was off Facebook. Such a good decision. As this year ends and a new one begins, I'm going to be off Facebook for the month of January. I'm probably not going to blog as much either {not that I have been as of late}. It'll mostly be some photo updates and the occasional entry if I'm so inspired.
I'd like to start this new year on the right foot, and for me that means taking a step back from social media {specifically Facebook} and just focusing on living. Right here. Right now.
You're welcome to email me as I'll still be checking email or just leave a comment here!
Wishing you a very lovely new year!

Friday, December 28, 2012

on not being "here" forever

i don't really like griping and groaning on my blog. but perhaps that's why i've been so scarce around here lately. jamie and i feel like we're running on empty and while we know it's just for a time, blaise is wearing us down. barely napping at all during the day, doing decently at night, but it really depends - sometimes the nights are bad too. and then we've got two older ones who have had far too much screen time and seem to constantly need us to entertain them or they're at each others' throats.

needless to say, life is not super easy or fun at the moment. not that i expect it to, but it's sometimes hard to be stuck at home in a country with very little support and no family nearby. i know this phase will pass. i know it will. but that doesn't make the here and now any easier.

God is still good. and good to us. i know He hasn't left us and He gives us daily mercies as we fail daily at this whole parenting/missionary/life thing. He gives us good things and we are thankful. and Christmas was actually quite lovely. full and tiring, but good. not stressful.

my friend kelly was over yesterday and i was sharing some things i've been reflecting on lately. it was good to know my brain isn't completely mushy and that i am taking time {when i'm rocking blaise for the fiftieth time} to process and reflect on my life here and this past year as well as think about what 2013 will look like for us. to know that we won't always be in this stage. to know that the future holds good things for us and while the future won't be free of difficulties or hardships, it's nice to know in my heart that even though i feel worn thin and physically exhausted, i'm not going to be here forever. i'm not going to be in kampala forever. i'm not going to be in this phase forever. i'm not going to be a mom to little boys forever. i'm not going to be on earth forever. it all passes.

i don't say all this to receive sympathy or pity. i know i'm not alone. i'm not despondent. i'm thankfully not experiencing PPD this time around. and i know we'll be into a new phase of life soon enough and that this time won't be our lives for forever. but if you're feeling this way, please know that you're not alone either. the trenches of life {whether you are married and have kids or are single or whatever your situation} can feel really deep and cold and sludgy with mud sometimes. but we're not here forever. life is forever changing. and then it's done. i guess that's why they say, "carpe diem"!

in the meantime, Lord give me strength...

Monday, December 24, 2012

merry christmas 2012

wishing you all this and more as you celebrate christmas this year.

Hark the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King.
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled."

we've been singing this song a lot this season with the boys. perhaps because it's the song they sing at the end of charlie brown's christmas, but either way i like it. 
but one night i found myself explaining to the boys what that last line means. and it hit me afresh. this is what christmas is about. this is why we celebrate. we've been reconciled with God because of jesus humbling himself to enter into time and earth as the most helpless of creatures - a human baby. 
this christmas season, i am thankful again for the love of a saviour who would come as a baby, a light into the darkness, to rescue me. to reconcile me to God. 
amen and amen.

Friday, December 21, 2012

this city life: breakfast goodies

today i'm over at This City Life doing a guest post for my bloggy friend, sarah who is expecting baby #3 any day now!
sarah and i actually know each other in real life {IRL i guess is the cool acronym} but she lives in vancouver and before moving to uganda, i was in the toronto area - on the other side of canada. that's far. but our husbands both work for the same non-profit and that's how we met. it's been over facebook and twitter and blogs that we've gotten to know each other and i think it's cool that both of our #3 babies will have been born within a few months of each other.
so i'm over there doing what i do best - baking and taking pictures of food. just keepin' it real.

Since moving to Uganda a year and a half ago, I feel like my baking skills have been tested like never before. I've learned to improvise {I was a strictly-by-the-recipe girl before} and guess at things like temperature {we have no temperature gauge on our gas oven} and substitute for things I don’t have or can’t get here. 
I've even learned to make up new recipes. I know some people never use recipes. But for me, this is a huge thing! 

if you're here from sarah's blog, welcome! feel free to poke around here and stay awhile!

Monday, December 17, 2012

3 months

Dear Blaise,

You are three months old today! It really does seem like you've been with us for so long - much longer than 3 months.

You are growing and changing so much these days. You coo and are starting to babble a bit. You are full of smiles - usually reserved mainly for family, but often a stranger can get a smile out of you.

Your core and neck strength is still unreal. I put you down on the couch the other day with a pillow behind you in a slightly reclined position. Seconds later, you were pulling yourself up using your neck/core muscles! Your balance is not quite there yet so you fell over, but you're definitely getting there!

We are back to swaddling you as we had briefly experimented with not swaddling. But you definitely need it. I have to admit, buddy, this last month has been rough. You are definitely my fussiest/most difficult baby yet. You aren't colicky, but you have a set of lungs and you know how to use them. And you also like to fight taking naps throughout the day or only take 25 minute cat naps. {Oooh, I hate the cat nap.} We thought we would try some sleep training last night but after two hours of you hollering and me going in to briefly soothe you, I decided you weren't quite ready and within a minute of rocking you, you were out cold. Poor guy. The good thing about having to hold and rock and bounce a 17+ lbs baby is that it sure does help with shedding the baby weight!

You do really well when we are out and about and you are almost always calmed down by being brought outside.
For now you are tolerating being held by other people. I hope this continues - especially when we're in Spain {where I hope to put you in childcare for a bit of each day}.

You are eating every 3 hours in the day and as of a few weeks ago, at night as well. At one point you were waking up every 4 hours throughout the night, but these days it's been 3 hours. I hope that changes soon. Mama's getting a bit sleep deprived.

I'm not sure how much you weigh - we're taking you for your 3 month appointment on Wednesday so we'll find out then - but I guess you're around 17 pounds, possibly more? You're also really tall and I need to put in you in at least 6 month sleepers {when I do put you in sleepers. It's been too hot around here for sleepers lately.} so your feet aren't too squished.

Your hair continues to grow and it also garners the most comments from strangers when we're out and about. It's on the cusp of being too long to stand up and is starting to fall over, especially at the front, but for the most part, you're our little Ugandan Crested Crane.

Your brothers really love you although the ways they show it is quite different. While Noah is sweet and gentle with you, Jude is usually all up in your face shouting "HI BLAISE!" and rocking you a bit too roughly. We're working on it, bud. But before we all know it, you'll be socking him in the arm just as hard as he can sock you.

Your Mommy and Daddy are quite tired these days, and often we have to remind each other that soon you'll be out of this phase, but we love you oh-so-much.

And speaking of the cat nap, I hear that you have completed yours.

I love you so much,


*see how Blaise grows!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

our christmas favourites: traditions

the other day i remarked to jamie how excited i was when i was a kid to open my chocolate advent calendar each day. then we discussed {as adults do} how much better and thicker and bigger the chocolates used to be {in the good ole days}.
we didn't have them last year for the boys {as they don't sell them here}, but some friends sent us some this year so the boys get to participate in the "chocolate-after-breakfast" tradition of the chocolate advent calendar.
but what does advent mean? and is eating a tiny piece of cheap chocolate the extent of which we want to teach our kids about it?

this year we're doing some of the same things we started last year. you can check out the books and resources we use in this blog post.

i also found a fantastic guide to reading your way through advent using one of our favourites, the jesus storybook bible. you can find that reading guide here. {i think we might do this next year as the storybook bible is one of our favourites.}

we're doing our advent envelopes again and so far we've opened some new {to us} christmas books {thanks, mom!}, purchased a new nativity set from the craft market, decorated gingerbread cookies and so many other things - i have to admit, though, i'm behind on filling the envelopes and we've been switching around different activities depending on the day. such is life with three little guys.

the boys having a picnic in front of the tree!

i also was ambitious and bought the truth in the tinsel ebook and while i don't think we'll get around to doing a craft every single day, it's good to have the resource for this year and years to come. check out the truth in the tinsel here on their website or on facebook.

we'll keep up our tradition of a daily reading of luke 2 with the boys - i've seen and heard how they can memorize ridiculous conversations from movies and songs, so it's my hope that perhaps they can memorize this small part of luke 2 as we read it to them every day for the month of december. noah can already say the first 7 verses with a bit of prompting.

i always had a tradition of opening up one present on christmas eve and it was always a new pair of pajamas. we'll be keeping this tradition with our boys {this year they'll get batman pajamas!}. who doesn't love new pajamas?

and when talking traditions, you can't forget food! i've compiled my list of holiday baking that i'd like to do. there are about 13 recipes. we'll see how far i get. so far i've made gingerbread cookies {and decorated them this morning}, lemon-pecan shortbread, chocolate gingerbread drops, peppermint patties and earl grey tea and jam cookies. left to make are still almond biscotti, cheese stars, layered fudge, buckeye bark, cran-crazy cookies, chewy molasses spice cookies, christmas sandies and chocolate crinkles. whew!

this year will be our first year doing a birthday cake for jesus on christmas morning. i haven't figured out what  i'll use for the "cake", but i am thinking something like some sort of coffee cake or loaf. we'll have candles and sing happy birthday and everything. i think the boys will like it and it will help us all to focus on who christmas is really all about.

jamie and i have been going through the free advent devotional put out by desiring god. we're only 1 day behind now, but so far it's been a great selection of thought-provoking short articles by john piper.

anyway, so we have lots of traditions and more that i'm sure we'll develop over the years but for now i'm trying to soak up these moments of the here and now. when i'm missing out on watching national lampoon's christmas vacation because i'm rocking blaise to sleep in the other room. when i've got two little boys who insist on fighting with each other or giving me some sass. trying my utmost to lean into HIM and show them the grace and love that i've so freely been shown.

what are some of your traditions? how do you embrace the messy while still enjoying the wonder and anticipation of it all?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

earl grey tea and jam cookies

the sounds {grass cutters, birds chirping) and sights {green trees, sunny blue skies} outside right now tell me it's summer. and summer does not equal christmas.
however, the calendar says it's december 8th. what's up with that?

a few years ago i introduced my closest friend, jen, to the wonder that is cheese stars. i make them every christmas. they are delicious. make them and then grab a few and enjoy with a large glass of red wine while they're still hot. you're welcome.

anyway, in return, she introduced me to these beauties; earl grey tea and jam cookies. as i recall, we made a triple batch and had dozens of these cookies sitting on every surface in her kitchen. {i miss you, jen!}
so yesterday i made them. i didn't make them last year, but this year i wanted to. they're so delicious. almost like a shortbread cookie, but not quite. and not too sweet either. if you like tea and cookies {who doesn't?} these are the perfect cookie for you.

do see the flecks of tea? amazing.

here's the recipe:

earl grey tea and jam cookies

1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp earl grey tea leaves {approximately 2 tea bags}
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup jam {any flavour will do. i chose strawberry and apricot}

beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. beat in the egg and the vanilla.
in a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, tea and salt. then stir it into the butter mixture until just combined. the mixture will be a bit crumbly so feel free to get in there with your hands and shape into a ball. {if they're just way too crumbly, add some water, a tablespoon at a time until the dough is a bit more manageable. this dough is not a sticky dough, so don't add too much.}
refrigerate for about 20 minutes.
using a tablespoon, roll about 1 inch balls place on a cookie sheet.
using the tip of a wooden spoon handle, make indentation into the centre of each ball, almost to the bottom.
bake in the top and bottom thirds of a 350F oven, rotating and switching halfway through until light golden {15-18 minutes}.
transfer to racks and then spoon 1/4 tsp of jam into the centre of each cookie. let cool.

alternately, if you want to make these ahead of time, let them cool and then freeze in an airtight container and then add the jam before you want to serve them.

i froze just over half of them {mine made just over 3 dozen} and we enjoyed the rest of them last night.

and while we're on the subject of keeping things real {see previous post}, here's today's attempt at making cocoa roasted almonds. epic fail. i really need a temperature gauge in my oven. and to pay more attention when i'm baking things. and to set a timer. especially when i have guests over. jamie says they're okay and not to throw them out. but they're pretty burnt. oh well.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

life, lately

to be honest, i'm tired. i feel like that's been my standard answer now for oh...2.5 months now? good. but tired. 

half of the advent activities we've supposed to do haven't happened. 
i've missed out completely on most of the advent stories/readings that jamie does with the boys because i'm putting blaise to bed. 
noah struggled with his temper yesterday. 
jude peed in his pants four times. 
blaise screamed no matter what i did. 

i'm not complaining, but i do want to be honest here. because i never want to come across as a "super mom" or someone who seems to have it all together on this blog or in real life. i think there's enough out there that compels us to compare ourselves. at least it's something that i struggle with. 
so let's keep it real, shall we folks?

it's amazing, though, the third time around how my perspective is so different. jamie came into the kitchen today as i was making tortillas {yay for a dinner that everyone will eat!} with a fussy blaise in his arms and said, "this shall not pass." jokingly, of course. because we both know this time around how quickly this time actually does pass by us. pretty soon he'll be crawling and shoving noah's rogue lego pieces into his mouth and mauling jude with his drool. 

jamie and i are behind on our advent readings and despite my best intentions, it's after 11pm and i'm still up. 
there are hard things and hard times in everyone's lives. but there are also good things.
such as...
us investing into a new friendship with another couple here and also getting some free baby stuff - yay for a crib for blaise that's not a lumpy, bumpy pack 'n play mattress! 
homemade peppermint patties. lots of work {and a recipe i won't try again with kids running around me} but oh so delicious straight out of the freezer. because ya know, it's too warm around here to keep it out. hard life, i know. 
a date at the movies with my hubs who generously holds and rocks mr. fussypants by the entrance way so i can watch the movie and not miss out. {skyfall was awesome, by the way!}
taco night. 'nuff said.
grace spoken to my heart and patience amidst frustrating circumstances.

so let's not kid ourselves; life is hard sometimes. and sucky. but also? so good.

Monday, December 3, 2012

three in december

taken while they were opening new {to them} christmas books as their advent envelope activity.
blaise's face in the bottom right one is hilarious.
don't mind the shirt-chewing going on with noah. it drives me crazy, but i have a feeling it's genetic {jamie used to chew on his shirts and i used to bite my fingernails}.

oh my boys.

it isn't easy this whole raising three boys thing. and that with a particularly fussy littlest, but i'm doing it the best i know how.

i know that it gets better and easier and then harder and then easier and then harder and then's always in flux.

i've found myself praying a lot more for patience and love and for selflessness - especially in the thick of things or as i head in to break up {another} a fight or pick up a screaming baby, or put down my book to answer yet another question. jesus is changing me. slowly by slowly {as they say here}, and i continue to see how weak and unable to do this on my own, but there it is. christ in me. the hope of glory. in the meantime, though i think i need to make myself another cup of coffee!

*linking to steph who posts pictures of her four kids on the fourth.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

our christmas favourites: toys and decorations

we've been keeping ourselves busy around here. we had some fantastic visitors for the past 4 days and had a blast eating out and enjoying some good conversation together. 

but it is december first {already!} and i think most of our decorations are up so i thought i'd share with you what we're doing this year in terms of christmas decoration.
we bought all the christmas decorations/tree/ornaments last year while here in africa, so there hasn't been a need to buy any more this year. i've kept things pretty simple and used what i already had to christmasify things here.

we're doing our advent envelopes again {stay tuned for my post on our favourite traditions} so i hung them up this year with red yarn and clothes pins. i also used red yarn to hang some christmas cards that we've received. our stockings are hung and our tree is up. i let the boys decorate however they wanted this year although after repeatedly dropping some of the glass ornaments, i had to direct jude's ornament-hanging to the plastic/non-breakable ones. 
we purchased some ornament sets that we'll likely sell before we leave here {that are lovely, but generic}, but there are some beautiful and unique handmade ornaments that i'll hang onto for our future christmas trees.
i've set up our wood-carved nativity set on top of the bookshelf in the living room and my new soap stone nativity on the buffet in the dining room. 
tomorrow's advent activity is to pick out a nativity set from the christmas market we'll be going to - i have my eye on a sweet banana fiber one but we'll see what's there. 

the boys loved when i pulled out their little people nativity set a couple weeks ago and have played with it pretty much every day since. i've also let them play with the santa hat we have here as well. noah insisted on wearing it for the first few days. 
and they were so excited when i pulled out all the christmas books they have forgotten about. 

so we've kept things simple and even though the house is in a perpetual state of mess, at least it's a christmasey mess. right?

Monday, November 26, 2012

our Christmas favourites: music and movies

it's no secret we love our christmas movies and music. in fact, last year someone told me that i own more christmas music than anyone else they know {my iTunes "christmas jollies" playlist has 191 songs.}. i take that as a compliment.
and then this year jamie suggested {aka challenged} me/us to watch all our christmas movies. in the words of barney stinson, "challenge accepted!".

so... music and movies - christmas style. {insert gangnam style music here.}

first up is boney m. seriously. does anyone NOT like boney m at christmas? maybe i shouldn't ask that. i'm sure there are some out there who very much do not like boney m. but me? LOVE it. i wonder if it's because it makes me think of my sister and i love my sister. last year i bought mary's boy child and have already had numerous dance parties to it. besides, if there's any christmas music that feels appropriate to listen to in africa, it's mary's boy child. by boney m. watch this video. it's a-maze-ing.

and mariah carey. i love her christmas album. i love mariah. is it really christmas if you haven't listened to "all i want for christmas is you"? i think not.

last year i was introduced to an incredible band called folk angel. they first released a christmas EP in 2009 and then an entire album in 2010. last year i bought both and loved listening to both old favourites and new songs that they cover. their music goes deeper than santa and christmas trees. i blogged last year about their spoken word piece called "god with us" - the lyrics are incredible. definitely worth a listen to. they just released their newest album. it's likely i will buy this one as well. {because i'm so close to 200!}

i love chris tomlin and diana krall and michael buble {seriously. check out that link! so fun!} and sufjan stevens. third day and christmas with the rat pack and jewel. i love 'em all. there's tons of fabulous music out there. but i need to get onto movies!

 so. this year we're attempting to watch all our christmas movies. we made a list and we've got 21 christmas movies. here they are {if you're curious}:

the holiday *
love actually *
how the grinch stole christmas {cartoon version}
how the grinch stole christmas {jim carrey version} *
national lampoon's christmas vacation *
the santa clause
the santa clause 2
the polar express*
home alone
home alone 2
white christmas
charlie brown christmas
8 crazy nights
elf *
christmas with the kranks
miracle on 34th street
christmas carol {the old version}
simpson's christmas special 1
simpson's christmas special 2
all i want for christmas
muppet's christmas carol

the ones i've put an asterix by are our favourites. national lampoon's is a family favourite and tradition from jamie's family and i've grown to love it. {that's marriage for ya.}
the grinch is a big favourite of mine because i love jim carrey. {the holiday is also quickly becoming a favourite of mine. because really? i love jack black. i think i have a thing for funny guys.}
and the boys really love the polar express. i like it too. 
i've crossed out the ones we've watched already. so it looks like we're 6/21 so far. 

we have a bunch of other kids christmas movies that we haven't "counted" towards our list, but the boys have already watched a bunch of them. one i got last year that is sweet and tells the story of christmas without annoying music {actually, the music is pretty good!} or voices is the very first noel. i highly recommend it. it's told from the viewpoint of one of the wise men and it's all in rhyme. it's very well done. you can actually watch the whole thing on youtube

so those are some of our favourites. what are yours?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

sugar-free, egg-free, gluten-free banana peanut butter chocolate chip cookies

that's a mouthful, eh? {get it? mouthful? okay. i'm done.}

i made these after having the recipe saved on my computer and hearing rave reviews from friends who had tried it. {i can't find the source
truthfully i was looking for something sweet to snack on.
these totally fulfilled my craving AND they are healthy to boot!

we were at mishmash for lunch today and i picked up some all-natural peanut butter from one of the vendors. the perfect addition for these cookies. 
{i seriously still can't believe these don't have any added sugar in them besides for the chocolate chips!}

anyway, i think these may be my go-to chocolate chip cookie from now on. i won't feel so bad letting my boys have an extra cookie now. {not to mention sneaking one or two more myself!}


banana peanut butter chocolate chip cookies
slightly adapted from the family kitchen

3 large bananas
1/2 cup all-natural peanut butter
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups oats
1/3 cup coconut
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup chocolate chips

preheat oven to 350˚F.
in a large bowl mash the bananas with the peanut butter, oil and vanilla. in another bowl stir together the oats, coconut, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients along with the chocolate and stir until combined.
drop spoonfuls of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake for 12-14 minutes, until just set. makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

{these are only gluten-free if you are using gluten-free oats.}

Friday, November 23, 2012

a gobblety goop of things

it's been a good week. but it hasn't been an easy week.

we're currently experimenting with not swaddling blaise for his naps. he sleeps no better, but no worse. we'll see how it goes.

blaise got his 2 month immunizations on tuesday. he's been a bit irritable during the days. thankfully still sleeping really well at night.
i'm tired. and most days i feel like i fail more than i succeed. but there's grace. and strength.
i'm feeling a bit lonely and missing face-to-face conversations with people who know me and love me and understand me. but there's grace. and strength.

i had a bit of an ache in my heart the other day as we drove the streets of kampala. i was thinking about how i'll miss living here when we leave. i'm very much excited for the day we return to canada, but right now? kampala is home for us. and there are many things i'll miss about living here. {noah remarked to me almost seconds after i thought this that he is glad we're moving back to canada because the streets are bigger and don't have pot holes. yeah. that'll be nice.}

i crocheted a scarf. it's incredibly soft and thick. and warm. much too warm for here. but i'm saving it for when we go to spain in january.
you can find the pattern here.

i haven't exercised all week {tired much?} and i've been scarfing down chocolate. holding crying babies makes me crave chocolate.

jamie challenged me/us to watch all our christmas movies this year. we figured out that we have 22. so far we've watched five.

our tree is up. the stockings are hung. we're listening to christmas music. and i'm loving watching the boys act out the christmas story with their little people nativity set. the other day i heard noah yelling at jude: LET US IN! WE NEED A ROOM!!! LET US IN OR I'LL PUNCH YOU!
i looked over and found that he was holding mary and joseph and jude was holding one of the wise men. i think maybe he was supposed to be the innkeeper. i'm not quite sure that's how it all went down, but i like jospeh's protective and assertiveness.

a wasp flew into our living room the other day. as it was flying around, it got stuck in a spider's web. i have never seen a daddy long legs {or whatever this african equivalent is called} move so quickly! seriously. the spider was on that wasp so fast. but the wasp got free and we eventually "swooshed" it outside again.

i would like to sleep for the entire weekend. but that's not going to happen.
there are so many good things in my life. but life is not always easy. no matter your stage in life or where you live.
wishing you a wonderful weekend! {and a happy thanksgiving to all my american friends and readers!}

Monday, November 19, 2012

our favourite christmas iPad apps

so it's getting to be that time of year!!!

we love christmas around here. usually we wait until american thanksgiving to begin decorating and playing christmas music but this year we decided to move it up a bit due to the fact that it doesn't really feel like christmas here with the hot weather. and that's okay, it just means i get to play my christmas music a bit earlier than usual. so this weekend began the christmas season for us here in the strickland household {although we did almost "cancel" Christmas before we even had our tree set up due to whining, hitting and general bad behaviour. oh life.}.

in the next few weeks i'll be blogging about what are our favourite christmas things including:

music & movies
toys & decorations
ways to give

first up is iPad apps
jamie recently got an iPad and i've been going nuts downloading tons of fun {free!} christmas apps for us all to enjoy.

i tried this one out for the first time and had to stifle a laugh because noah was in the next room and i didn't want him to come and see. it's hilarious! you get to work in a barber shop and cut santa's hair. there are options to comb, cut, colour and grow back his hair. check out toca boca's hair salon. {you can also trim a tree as well. get it? trim a tree? aha.} the boys both love this one so it's an all 'round hit!

i absolutely love this one. it's a gingerbread cookie maker. so you guys know i love to cook and bake for reals, but this is baking without all the mess {well, and the actual cookie to eat, but whatevs.}. i love how you get to add the ingredients and stir it all together and even roll and cut out the cookies. once they're baked, you get to decorate them with icing, candies and nuts. this one is free and fun!

there are tons of free countdowns and of course you have to get the talking gingerbread man. my kids can't get enough of those silly apps. 

as for beautiful books you can read on your iPad here are my favourites:

this one isn't free {$2.99}, but it's beautifully illustrated and with the accompanying music of Tchaikovsky, you can't go wrong. it's a great way to introduce your kids to some great music and a beautiful winter/christmas story.

and this one is a classic. if you're going to pay for any iPad christmas app, let it be charlie brown's christmas. it's lovely. and i always love how the real Christmas story is told. word for word, straight from the Bible. love it. {there's also a free "trim the tree" Charlie Brown app, as well.}

what are some of your favourite yuletide apps?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

2 months

dear blaise {aka "blazer", aka "smalls"}

you are 2 months old. amazing. it almost seems as if you change from hour to hour!

you are wearing 3-6 month and 6 month clothing. it would seem you are taking after your oldest brother in this regard. some of the clothes we were given didn't even get worn by you because you're growing so quickly!

speaking of clothes, how cute are you in your tuxedo onesie from your auntie bean? answer: SO CUTE.

you are at your smile-iest right after you've woken up and have had been fed {well, who wouldn't be?}. your smiles kill me and melt me right down into a puddle. wide, open-mouthed, gummy smiles.
your brothers fight to hold you {pretty much every morning} and you {for the most part} tolerate their over exuberance in hugs and kisses.

you will sit in your rocking chair for a bit, but you definitely prefer to be held. and by me. but whatevs. i know it's a short, short time and before i know it, you'll be tall and lanky like your brother noah. crazy.

you aren't really gassy anymore, {thank goodness!} but you do spit up after every feed but this only gives me an excuse to change you into another cute outfit.

and your hair! the number one thing people comment on is your hair. it just spikes up on its own! you also have developed the dreaded cradle cap. guh. i hate cradle cap. but i went to town on it after your last bath with a little comb and just combed as much of it off as i could. apparently you're like me in that you like your hair/scalp to be played with/combed/touched/etc. as you fell asleep shortly after i started.

you're doing swimmingly at sleeping at night. you generally go to sleep easily around 8pm and i'll dream feed you at 11pm and then you usually wake up to eat around 3 or 4am and then it's back to sleep until 6:30 or 7am. {sometimes later if i'm lucky.}

however with naps we've had to continue to work on and fight through. {why don't babies like to nap during the day? why?}
but you'll usually take a decent nap in the morning and then i have to be diligent in watching for sleepy signals in the afternoon but that last nap in the early evening is fought tooth and nail as you prefer to be held. {isn't that convenient?}.

your daddy and i often wonder what you'll be like as we've watched your two older brothers' personalities come through. you certainly seem to know what you want and aren't afraid to let us know. you have a smile that could melt the hardest heart and i think you'll be quite accomplished in the art of persuasion - using good old-fashioned charming methods, of course.

we love you oh-so-much and look forward to what the next months will hold.

i love you,

*see how blaise grows!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

things i'm loving lately

we're slowly getting into some semblance of a routine. blaise only woke up once last night to eat at 3:45am and then slept 'til 7:30am. glorious. absolutely glorious. he's getting better at going down for his naps, but we're still working on it.
i've been baking lots more and crocheting and am currently on the hunt {which likely means i'll just ask my mom to send me some} yarn that's in the colours of angry birds which i can hopefully crochet for christmas for the boys.
we've sorta scrapped the "screen time tickets" for now, but we do only let the boys have 30 minutes on the iPad at a time. {noah would literally play}

anyway, i thought i'd share with you a few lovely things that i'm loving these days.

chocolate. all things chocolate. i hit this phase every time i have kids. i mean, i love chocolate in general, but this is intense. it comes on strong at the 2 month mark post-partum. i could just eat bar after bar after bar of chocolate {and i have. but not every day.}. it's ridiculous and i'm trying to curb it. but right now i'm currently loving snickers and twix. chocolate and caramel-y goodness. *drool*

lullabies. even if you don't have babies or young kids {or kids at all} get this album. re-done hymns speaking God's truth and peace to your heart. so lovely. {i absolutely love Page CXVI and would recommend all of their albums for anyone who loves hymns.}

i finally got into angry birds. it took angry birds star wars to do it for me. i think it's cute. and i secretly try and beat all of noah's high scores when i play but man! the kid is shockingly good! an addicting game made even better by using one of the best movie series of all time.

i downloaded this book to my kindle a couple weeks ago when someone posted on facebook that it was free. i thought, why not? a free book on parenting couldn't hurt and if i don't like it, i'll just delete it.
i have thoroughly enjoyed this book so far {not quite finished}. as i've entered this new phase of parenting three little boys, jamie and i have been reflecting on parenting and what life was like before kids and how things have changed since. benjamin kearns is funny and speaks frankly while also communicating some powerful truths about parenting and God's desire to refine and shape us as parents. it's not free anymore, but it is only $2.99. well worth it, i'd say.

i'm still loving the homemade graham crackers i posted about last week {just took a batch out of the oven minutes ago. the house smells lovely!}. i'm itching to pull out our christmas decorations out and get started, but that will have to wait until this weekend.
and speaking of christmas, i'm hoping to post a few entries on some of our favourite christmas things. stay tuned for more!

happy wednesday!

Friday, November 9, 2012

a new friday links

somehow i've managed to crochet and try out new recipes. in a lot of ways it refreshes me, even though it does tire me out sometimes. get to benefit from my experimenting with new crochet patterns and recipes!

so here's a variation of friday links for ya!

this adorable crocheted elf-hat has been a pattern that's been saved on my computer for months. maybe longer. i finally got around to crocheting it with this incredibly soft golden yarn that my mom brought over for me. the cream-coloured yarn is not as soft and a bit bulkier, but i think it works. you can find the pattern here.

yesterday i tweeted that i had made homemade graham crackers. they turned out deliciously! i froze half the batch but the first half is almost all gone so i'm thinking of baking up the other half today. these are delicious and simple and the boys loved them. i followed this recipe exactly and i will definitely be making them again.

now these are only half done. yep. i still need to slice 'em up and bake 'em again. what you are beholding is a recipe for rosemary raisin pecan crisps {although i substituted craisins for raisins. i also omitted the flax seed because i didn't have any, but i'm sure it would be delicious and extra healthy with the flax added in.}. in similar fashion to biscotti, they need to be baked twice. they smell delicious and i'm excited to see how they turn out. i'm sure they'll be gobbled up just as quickly as the graham crackers. many thanks to my friend hannah for recommending that i try this recipe.

and i didn't take a picture, but last night i made a delicious slow cooker {o slow i love thee!} meal; coconut chicken curry. it was a bit time consuming to get the chicken off the thighs, but worth it. it was delicious. i don't remember where i got the recipe from, but if this is yours, let me know so i can give you credit!

coconut chicken curry
makes 4 servings

8 oz red potatoes, cut into small cubes
1 tbsp chopped dehydrated onion
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1 (14 oz) can tomatoes
1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
1 tsp regular chicken bouillon granules
3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into cubes
salt and pepper

1.  stir all ingredients (except salt and pepper) into a 3-5 quart slow cooker. 
2.  cover and cook on LOW for about 4-6 hours, or until potatoes are tender.
3.  salt and pepper to taste and add in additional seasonings, if needed.
4.  serve over rice.

my boys {the older two} often play well together, but lately they're starting to fight more as well. whether it's noah's quiet, but antagonizing comments {o hello fellow eldest child! how i know you well, for i am also one.} or jude's mass chaos and destruction to noah's carefully constructed lego the number of fights in our household is increasing. rapidly. i came across this website today and was drawn in immediately by the honesty and frankness in the style of writing {it's a marriage website, by the way}. then i came across the idea for a "kindness jar" and i was hooked. in fact, i'm making one today. we'll see how it goes and i'll report back here if it has worked for our family.

and one last link. i may be addicted to starting new blogs. i'm not sure how long this one will last, but lately jude has been doing and saying too many funny things. so i made up a blog specifically to document them. they probably won't always be long entries and they might not even seem funny to you, but they'll serve as a great way to remember this stage he's in. you can check it out here.

happy friday!

Thursday, November 8, 2012


every morning they argue over who will be first to hold blaise.

i suppose that's one argument i don't mind hearing. 
especially since it won't last long.
{how is my youngest baby already 7.5 weeks old!?!}

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

to market, to market

this morning we all decided to go out for a walk to the market to buy some bread. i put blaise in the carrier and we all headed out.

it's a bit of a jaunt but despite the boys' {fake} huffing and puffing we made it to the market {which i discovered also hosts a craft market! maybe just on wednesdays but o joy! crafts! this mama can't resist looking at all the pretty things...}.

on our way home we decided to stop in and say hi to some friends that were on furlough in the US for the past few months. we chatted with them for about an hour and then other friends dropped in on them so we decided to walk back home and have some lunch.
for some reason jude was full of energy, running up ahead of us all and not complaining about walking. he raced down the hill and up onto our front porch with noah in close pursuit of him and when i came around this is the scene i came across:

actually, this was the scene about 30 seconds after i came around the corner. jude was peeing into an old water container while noah was holding it for him. seriously. my first reaction was, "what are you doing!!!" {which hilariously made jude pull out, spray noah and then aim back into the bottle} and then jamie and i started laughing so hard. these kids. never a dull moment around here, folks.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

5 things i've learned since becoming a mom: love

this is the final entry in a five part series of things i've learned since becoming a mom 5 years ago.
click on the links to read part one, part two, part three and part four.

becoming a mom helped me to see the selfish idea of love that i had. sure i was married. sure jamie and i had dated for 4 years {plus 10 months being engaged}. but having kids and becoming a mom opened my eyes to my shallow definition of love. jamie and i had sailed through our first couple years of marriage with relative ease. sure we had fights, but we probably would have had even less if i had learned to really love and put his needs before my own.
but becoming a mother taught me about how to 


i remember sitting at a dinner table with a close friend of mine and watching her give up her strawberries from her salad for her son who loved {at that time} all fruit and vegetables that were red. i understood, but i couldn't imagine gladly giving up a fruit that was one of my favourites. {so immature, right?}

just today i have wiped two different children's bums and also picked up a large turd off the floor and deposited into the toilet {where it belongs}. 
i probably got 5-6 hours of sleep last night. and the littlest little is screaming his heart out in rejection of his nap. that he very much needs right now. {that i very much need him to take.}
i have listened to many a children's cd that i can't stand because it brings them happiness.
today is jamie's birthday and i managed to scrap together a slice of banana bread and vanilla earl grey tea for his birthday breakfast this morning. {he was very gracious and gladly accepted.}
i repeat myself over and over and over again as i attempt to teach my boys how to speak politely to grown-ups. 
i pray for my boys - for who they are. for who i hope they will be. 
i have devoured dozens of books on parenting. 
i have read the same bedtime story for months in a row.
their loves and passions have become mine. their accomplishments are exciting and joy-filling to participate in with them.
i have devoted countless hours discussing with friends about parenting challenges and issues with my kids. 

in learning to love these little boys, i have already gained a wider understanding of what it means to love my husband. it's hard. we have not so easily sailed through these last 5 years. no sir. i have learned what is meant by the saying "marriage is work". it is. but although our lives are so different now and sometimes we reminisce what it was like before we had kids, i wouldn't change a thing. having kids has deepened our love for each other and strengthened our marriage. 

love doesn't always mean giving my kids what they want, but it does mean that i'd gladly give them something that i used to selfishly keep to myself. whether it's a strawberry or my time...i'm learning to love with a more selfless, Christ-like love. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

three in november

blaise's face kills me. 
but i finally finished crocheting his blanket. 

i think he quite likes it. 

and the reality behind these pictures?
i was hoping blaise wouldn't spit up all over everything. {he saved it for the second i picked him up afterward.}
i also decided that if i couldn't get a non-crying shot of blaise, then i'd just tell noah and jude to pretend they were crying too. {blaise has been a bit fussier as of late.} turns out that he was more than happy to oblige me with some shots of him and his big brothers {he absolutely adores them}. 

last night was a bit brutal and the sleep deprivation is catching up to me as i {apparently} was frantically searching through our sheets and prodding jamie in attempt to find blaise {who has been sleeping in the pack 'n play now for a few days - he outgrew "the box" and i wanted my bed back}. whenever i start "being crazy" is when i know i need more sleep. oh sleep. i miss you. 

but life goes on and we're getting ready to say good-bye to my parents who leave tomorrow night to fly back to canada. we'll miss them a lot. and we'll have to adjust to only having one iPad around for the boys to play with {this generation. psh!}.

happy weekend to you!

i got this idea from steph who takes pictures of her four kids on the fourth of every month.

Friday, November 2, 2012

nutty granola

my parents are here. but they leave on sunday. *insert sad face here*

it's been a great month of having them here, doing life together and watching the boys play and laugh with their grandparents whom they haven't seen in over a year!
but whenever we have guests {yes, even family are "guests"}, i feel the need to offer more than our traditional "toast and cereal" for breakfast. this is a fantastic recipe that i modified from my friend kelly for the most delicious {and healthy!} granola that you can enjoy with milk or yogurt {oh how i miss really good yogurt!}, drizzled with maple syrup on top. it makes a big enough batch to share with guests, but i doubled it when i made it last week and we've still got a bit left over. i was inspired to turn kelly's regular granola into a nuttier version when my mom brought me 3 big {costco-sized} bags of nuts! enjoy!

nutty granola

start by baking 3 cups of oats at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes.

then add the following:
1/4 cup coconut
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup powdered milk
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup almonds, chopped
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

the uncooked granola, ready to go in the oven

bake for 15 minutes. and stir often! don't worry if it doesn't seem completely crisp when the 15 minutes are up as it will crisp up as it cools.
i used quick-cooking oats last time and it turned out fine. this time i found "barley flakes" that looked like old-fashioned oats so i decided to do half barley flakes and half oats and it turned out fine! feel free to experiment with different types of grains. i've even recently seen a quinoa granola recipe!
you can put in a pretty jar and give as a gift or enjoy it however you like your granola!

Monday, October 29, 2012

5 things i've learned since becoming a mom: slow down

part four in a five part series of things i've learned since becoming a mom 5 years ago.
you can read part one here, part two here and part three here.

this has been a lesson i've whole-heartedly engaged in over this past year.

slow down.

i'm going to be honest here. we lead a pretty slow life here. some would call it boring. heck, some days i would call it boring. we {the kids and i} don't often leave the house. we don't have preschool or kindergarten to go to. we don't do extracurricular activities and have struggled to find a church to belong to. there are no sidewalks here and walking along the road you're likely to get side-swiped by a taxi {public transit-type van} or a bodaboda {motorcycle}. there aren't public libraries or swimming pools here. we have nothing we're obligated to attend here and for awhile it felt wrong to be so unencumbered by programs or places. 
but then i thought about it for a moment and realized it was a gift. i will never have time like this again with my children. my children will never again be this age and giving me all of their time. every single minute of every single day is spent soaking up time with me. to some this might sound like a death sentence, but i've chosen to see it as a gift and a blessing. i always wanted to be a mom. i wanted to stay at home and raise my kids and right now? now i get to. 
it's amazing to me that noah is 5 and jude is 3 and blaise? he's 6 weeks old as of today! 

i've learned {and am continuing to learn} the beauty and value in slowing down. living in the moment. time goes by fast enough without me wishing for the next stage. how sad it would be for me to blink and realize that i'm 75 years old and i've spent my entire life wishing for time to go by faster so i can get to "insert a time in the future here". there is beauty in the here and now with my children. 

the long, lanky legs of my 5 year old, racing up and down our driveway. 
the hilarious "hey wait" that jude says every other sentence.
the sweet coos from blaise as he makes eye contact with me.

these are the moments that disappear before i can appreciate where i am if i'm always looking for what's coming up next.

i am tired and sleep deprived and sometimes short on patience, but this time is short and it will pass and i will have difficulty remembering the harder moments. all i will remember will be the sweet moments of sitting with jude on my lap at the table as we draw pictures together and giggle at the way jude calls a scarf a "scarft". the moments where noah throws his arm around jamie as they sit together on the couch. the moments of holding a sweetly sleeping baby who sighs and smiles in his sleep. these are the ones i want to remember and soak up.

so i am learning to slow down. in fact, this one lesson has been so incredibly valuable and precious to me that i already have small fears creeping in about returning to canada and the fast pace of life that i will encounter and undoubtedly struggle with. but that will be another lesson to be learned. all in good time, right?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

five years old

in five years you can get a university degree and start your first year of work.
in five years i started dating jamie, we got engaged and then got married.
in five years i gave birth to 3 children and am now a mommy to three handsome little boys.
one is not so little.

noah peter strickland was born five years ago today. it hasn't always been easy and most some days i feel like i'm not doing so great in this whole motherhood gig, but at the end of each day i still get hugs and kisses from my biggest boy.

my noah. he loves sweet treats and all things dairy {strawberry milk, strawberry yogurt, cheese, ice cream...}. he is extremely ticklish and loves to wrestle with daddy. he can write all his letters and he even wrote out a birthday card for me this year!
he has a helpful heart and is tender and sweet towards blaise. he is patient with jude {most of the time} and always eager to pretend that they are "super secret spies".

he's got a fiery temper and can slam a door louder than you'd think was possible and struggles not to get angry when he gets let down. {but who doesn't, i guess?}

he is shy at first and likes to observe new people, places and activities before participating and engaging with others. 
he loves playing on the iPad {angry birds!} and watching Tom & Jerry cartoons and has recognized the hilarity in slapstick humour. i love watching him laugh while watching cartoons.

he has a "thing" for hands and feet and will gladly hold your hand if you put it out for him to grab. i often find him playing with blaise's hands or feet and if he's sitting beside jude on the couch, i can almost guarantee that he is playing with jude's fingers or feet {ew!}.

he is five. i think every age must have its pros and cons. i have loved watching the growth in noah's comprehension, his writing and his drawings. i love that he plays with legos and builds boats and airplanes, houses and monsters. i love his imagination and his sensitive spirit. i love that he pays attention to rules and loves order and predictability {classic firstborn, methinks}.

noah, i've said it before and i'll say it again; you made me a mama. i love you and i'm thankful for you and i can't imagine our family without you.

mom {mama, mommy}

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

5 things i've learned since becoming a mom: trust your instinct

part three in a five part series of things i've learned since becoming a mom 5 years ago.
you can read part one here and part two here.

the panic and anxiety inside me was building up. i felt sweaty and a bit frantic. i ripped into the last few remaining presents with gusto while pasting an attempt at a calm smile on my face.

it's okay. he's fine. i'll go get him in just a second. i don't want to keep you all here any longer.

i could hear noah's cries start to get more and more frenzied and my heart beat just a little bit faster. my palms were sweaty. finally at their urging i got up from my present-opening and went and got my baby from the upstairs and after a quick feed and an attempt at calming both of us down, i came back out to the baby shower. my baby shower.
this was supposed to be happy and joyous and exciting. all these women were here to celebrate the birth of my first child. so then why did i feel like curling up in a ball and crying for hours?
after the last of the women left i did go back upstairs into my parents' bedroom and cry and cry.

so i had post partum depression after noah was born. the mad torrent of emotions and hormones swirling around inside of me combined with unrealistic expectations and a head full of knowledge of how things should be {plus the sleep deprivation of having a newborn} led to me feeling confused, desperate and unhappy.

i am a knowledge specialist by nature. that is to say, when i'm interested in something i will google the heck out of it, borrow books from friends, the library and ask anyone and everyone who will answer me on that subject. i did this when i was pregnant with noah. i read about pregnancy, breastfeeding and parenting philosophies. i think there is a value to gaining insight and looking into things you're not sure about, but in this case i forgot one major part of parenting;

trust your instinct.

i forgot to trust my natural gut feeling as a new mother. i just read the books and thought everything would fall into place accordingly. so when things didn't turn out and i had a screaming baby and my hormones were screaming just as loudly i fell apart. 
after about 3 months of feeling antisocial and unhappy and constantly on edge and worrying about if the baby would start crying again, the clouds lifted and my hormones leveled out somewhat. i decided to implement a routine and things started to become more manageable.

but when noah turned 6 months, we were on a plane to tanzania, africa for two months. this was a huge step of faith for me, but it turned out to be one of the most valuable parenting experiences for me. internet wasn't readily available. i didn't have my friends with me to ask my questions. all i had was me. so i learned to trust my instinct. i learned not to be so rigid in my expectations. i learned the value in having a routine, but not being a schedule-nazi and that diverting from our usual routine every now and then wasn't the end of the world. 
i learned to trust that i was a good mother for noah and that i could trust my instinct to hold him or to let him cry, to keep him up or breastfeed him to sleep. 

noah on safari in tanzania

me on the carrick-a-rede rope bridge in northern ireland with noah. this thing freaked me out. 

as noah has grown and i've had two other babies since then, i've been a lot more easy-going {like i thought i would be from the very beginning!} and i've really learned to just go with the flow. i've listened to my gut on things like whether or not we needed to take noah to the hospital for a dislocated elbow {before we knew what it was, of course}. i've trusted my instinct on delaying potty training, giving up on cloth diapering and moving our family to uganda. 
there are countless stories from other moms who have regretted not trusting their instinct about different things concerning their child's development. there are also countless stories about moms who have trusted their instinct and pushed for answers and were right despite others telling them nothing was wrong. 

my approach now to things is to use a combination of books and resources {including friends and other people} but to think about how their advice/recommendation fits with my child, my children and/or my family. if it's not working for our family as a whole, it's likely not going to work or last for very long.

so if you're a new mom, don't forget to put that book down every now and then and trust what feels right for you and your family. you are the best mom for your child and whether you choose breast or bottle, CIO or co-sleeping, to wait it out with baby tylenol or a trip to the hospital, don't forget to trust your instinct. it's God-given and it's unique to you and your child. 

i think if i could go back and tell PPD vanessa anything, it would be this, from 2 timothy 1:7,

"for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control."

as someone who loves Jesus, i know that i have his spirit within me and i can trust that He is guiding me and will give me wisdom in all situations - including parenting!

*as a side note, if you are struggling with PPD, please talk to someone and get some help. it doesn't always clear on its own and feeling unhappy and depressed and desperate isn't normal. here are a few resources to get you started. Post-Partum Support International, PPD/PPA resources
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