Monday, December 30, 2013

on throwing a neighbourhood party

I wrote this on the 22nd of December but, you know, life and all that. Many of you have been asking how our neighbourhood drop in went and so I wanted to do a bit of a write up for you all. I also wrote this in the hopes that someone may be inspired to do the same and just go for it! 

Jude's got the flu but is finally feeling well enough to cozy up on the couch with some cartoons. Noah is doing the same and Jamie and Blaise are in the basement playing/watching sports {I would imagine}. I am sitting at our dining room table with a freshly brewed cup of coffee now that our power has come back on!
We got hit pretty bad with the ice storm last night and our power conked out this morning but we're hoping it stays on now! {All reminders of being in Uganda with power outages, although I would like a little bit of heat if I'm going to lose power.}
So thankful to have a house and warm clothes and smartphones to stay in contact with the outside world. 

Many of you were wondering how our neighbourhood Christmas drop in party went so I thought I'd update via blog post.
In short, it was perfect. At least that was what Jamie said when all was said and done. And I don't mean perfect in that everything was out of a magazine. No, it was far from that. We don't even have baseboards up in the living/dining room or the guest bathroom. It was beautiful. I guess it was perfectly beautiful. I've been reading a blog where the mantra is, "it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful." And that's exactly it. I chose to love my home with all it's flaws and "not doneness" and welcome people into our home and our lives. Perfectness only serves to alienate I think. When others see that you are just like them, it helps in providing an atmosphere of authenticity and vulnerability. Okay. I'm done my rant. The nitty gritty:
We had about 10-12 people drop in and most of them stayed for the entire time, which was pretty cool. 
There was music and candles. 
I pulled out a bunch of chairs from the dining table and kitchen into the living room and had the dining table set up buffet style. I put out a few plates of Christmas goodies (including the ginersnap s'mores which were as easy as they were awesome) and had some hot drinks in the kitchen (of which there was way too much left over, but that's part of the guesswork with drop ins). People mostly sat and chatted and the boys ran around (Blaise was in bed before the guests arrived) and snuck extra sweets. 
We engaged in "get to know you" type conversations and I was surprised how often religion and spiritual themes came up. It was interesting and I often found myself just listening to others. Which was great! 

I am so glad I did it and if you've been thinking about doing something or reaching out to someone or you've been dreaming a big dream, Go For It! You won't regret it, but you probably will regret not trying at the very least. 

I will definitely do this again next Christmas and I'm already dreaming up some warm weather get together ideas! 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas morning 2013

So I did it! I did adjust the position of the camera a few times and it's not perfect, but it's real life. Here's a taste of what our Christmas morning looked like! Enjoy!

Christmas morning 2013 from Vanessa Strickland on Vimeo.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas from the Stricklands!

Wishing you so much love and joy and peace this Christmas and in the new year!

These verses have been stirring in my heart with hope and sometimes I feel like I might explode with the kindness and love of God. We were in dark. Lost. And then He came. The Word became Flesh. For me For you. 

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.

Isaiah 9:2

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:1-4,14

It's because of the Word becoming Flesh, it's because of Jesus that there can be peace and joy. No matter the situation, no matter the circumstance. There is peace and joy because of Jesus. 
Merry Christmas to you!

Friday, December 20, 2013

weekend {before Christmas} links!

It's the day of our Christmas party and I'm excited and happy that I got a lot of what needed to be done ahead of time so I can enjoy the day with my family.
The boys and I built a snowman this morning and I got to Facetime with my friend Kelly and see her brand new baby girl!
About an hour before the party I'll put together the cinnamon infused hot chocolate in one slow cooker, and the wassail in the other {thanks to my friend Christina for lending me hers!}. The cookies will get put out, the candles will be lit, the music will be playing and we will wait for our first guests.

You like the way those cookies above look? They're gingersnap s'mores and they were ridiculously easy and the perfect party food as far as I'm concerned! While I'm all for making everything from scratch, when you have a lot to do and you're hosting a bunch of people, sometimes it's best for your sanity to do things the easy way. There ain't nothing wrong with easy now, is there? Check out the instructions here for Gingersnap S'mores.

Have you seen the video with Jean Claude Van Damm where he's standing between two trucks and then does the splits? If you thought that was impressive, you can be sure Chuck Norris can make that look like doing hopscotch! Merry Christmas from Chuck Norris.

I read this blog post from Jamie the Very Worst Missionary about how Christmas isn't always candy canes and presents for everyone. It can be a difficult and painful time and we need to be aware of this {if you aren't already}. Sometimes Christmas can be sucky.

My friend Beth wrote a post the other day that speaks to this balance of experiencing joy and peace in our own lives, and yet holding in our hands the pain and suffering of those around us. She quotes CS Lewis in this: To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. Check out her post here. It is both beautiful and vulnerable. 

On the same note, if you are the praying type, would you please pray for my friend Andrew? He is battling Leukemia for the second time around and his situation is not looking good. Just today, his white blood cells have jumped to a very dangerous level and there is risk for stroke and brain hemorrhage. He's married to a close friend of mine, Suzanne and they have two little boys (aged 3 and 8 months). My heart is breaking for them and we are praying our hearts out for a miracle for Andrew.

I've posted this video before {this is a typographic version}, but every year it speaks to me so strongly and I pray it encourages you and reminds you of what we wait for during Advent season and why we celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

a kindness

We survived 10 days without Jamie! He got in last night and we were all super psyched to see him again. I love watching my boys love on their Daddy. Seriously. Is there anything more adorable?

And this morning it was as if my body knew Jamie was home and I woke up feeling nauseous and with a migraine. I slept for a bit and now I'm feeling a bit better, but honestly I don't have time to be sick! I want to enjoy every last second of this season and I also have a bit {okay a horseload as my friend Tamsin would say} of baking to do before our neighbourhood Christmas party on Friday.

Also my brain has gone completely mushy and I totally thought yesterday was Friday and almost wished Jude's teacher a good weekend. Goodness. And then because I was all mixed up, I forgot that we had made plans to visit our neighbour who has chickens. But being the sweet lady that she is, she came over with six lovely eggs for us! I felt so bad, but we're going to try and head over there on Thursday during the day some time and meet the chickens.

We had scrambled eggs for breakfast!

Yesterday I lost my phone and I almost had a full-on cry in the parking lot. I had Blaise with me and had thought my phone fell out of my pocket and so there I was, walking around staring at the snow and slush covered parking lot for my white and brown phone. Awesome. I must have traced and retraced my steps three or four times. And I wasn't really upset about the phone itself. I meant I would have been sad as it was expensive and I've only had it for a few months, but it was everything else! Lists, to-dos, people's numbers, pictures, videos; everything is on there! Eventually I went into a store and asked to use their phone so I could call my phone. And then mercy of all mercies, someone picked up! A man had found it and had come inches away from running it over. He was working in the pizza shop and I could pick it up there. Thank you Jesus!

I have just experienced the sweetness and love of God in so many ways this past week and it's been in the little things and some unexpected blessings. One thing I've wanted to do forever is pay for the person behind me in drive thru so while the boys and I were picking up hot chocolate for a friend we were about to see, I decided I would do it. Well the lady at the window was such a sweet heart and ended up giving me three large cookies for the boys for free {especially cool as we were able to share a cookie with our friend's son too!}! It was so sweet and a cool way to show my boys that sometimes when you show kindness to those around you, people often will show kindness to you.

So all that to say, I'm hoping that our neighbourhood party would be a kindness to the people we live near and that this would be a fun first step in building a true community of people who look out for one another and freely show kindness to each other.

If you remember, pray for our little party this Friday night between 7-9pm!

Friday, December 13, 2013

weekend links! {let it snow!}

Of course it would snow practically every day that Jamie's been away. I haven't shovelled the driveway yet. Eep. It is beautiful and it seems like it's here to stay so we'll have a lovely white Christmas!

I'm sure you've seen this video, but if you haven't please watch it! It's happy and it made me teary. Well done, WestJet!

So I wanted to share how excited I am about something big coming up: we're doing a Christmas drop in for our street next Friday! Me and the boys will hand out the invites today after school and I'm hoping we'll get to know a bunch of people on our street! We'll be serving hot drinks and Christmas goodies and I'm thinking I might serve up this awesome cinnamon infused hot chocolate! I mean, it's Joy the Baker. You can't really go wrong with Joy.  Although I might have to test it this evening. You know what they say, never try a new recipe when you have people coming over. Right?

Another great post from the Art of Simple. Three simple tips to keep the joy in entertaining and at this time of year, it's always a good idea to do a heart check.

So I have really dry hands. I think it's a combination of my skin adjusting back to this cold, dry weather and perhaps just getting older {eep!}, but I have never seen my hands look and feel so cracked and dry. It's horrible and makes me want to weep. I'm constantly moisturising but what I really need is a pair of dish washing gloves. Yes. That is what I need. So anyway, I came across this list of 7 ways to keep your hands soft this winter and I might try all of the things. What do you do to keep your skin (specifically your hands) soft and moisturised? Please tell me you have a magical cure and what it is.

And one last video. Check out The Lower Lights for some fabulous, folksy tunes. They have two Christmas albums and I can't get enough of them!

Happy Weekend!

Monday, December 9, 2013

learning to lean

I am not the most spirit-filled person at 6am. Especially when it's 6am and I am changing wet sheets on the top bunk. True story.

I was driving home from my parents' house on Saturday night and all three boys were asleep. At a stop light, I turned around and stared in their sweet, sweet faces as they breathed deeply in absolute peace and relaxation and I felt so blessed. I am blessed. And in that moment, thoughts of wet beds and early mornings are about the farthest things from my mind.

But then 11:30pm comes and Jude throws up all over himself. And it's sheet-changing time again. But we get through it. And both boys {Noah had a fever} napped on and off all day on Sunday and today woke up feeling well enough to fight with each other so I sent them both to school. Also a true story. 

Last week while I was sick, Jamie took Blaise and Jude {on his non-school day} to the Y in the mornings and one morning, Jamie came to pick up Blaise and he was on the other side of the play area, away from the other kids. The childcare worker handed Blaise to Jamie and said, 
So Blaise had some difficulties this morning with other children.
He was hitting children.
On the head.
With a book.
Oh my. I laughed out loud when I heard this but not out of pride {of course I'm not proud} but it's just what it is. Poor kid has learned to hit from his older brother and is doing what he knows. So we're continually emphasizing his need to be gentle and not to hit. When we were out for dinner last week, Blaise was getting rough with Noah as he was grabbing Noah's arm and pinching him so I said, 
Blaise, be gentle. Gentle touches.
Blaise looked at me and then looked at Noah and embraced his arm and gently stroked it. Again, I laughed. He's a smart cookie and he knows. So we'll keep working on it, but it's good to know that he's learning to be gentle and understands how to do it.
And today after a wicked spin class at the Y I picked Blaise up and they said that instead of throwing a ball at the baby's head {!}, he waved instead. Progress indeed!

Right now I'm sitting in a very quiet house. Blaise is asleep. The boys are at school. I'm munching on sugar snap peas and hummus {I'm trying to be good although I totally sabotaged myself by buying a bag of peanut butter cups. Sigh.} and it's so quiet that I'm tempted to put some music on. But then I stop and just embrace the quiet. There is so little quiet in my life that I need to soak it up and remember what quiet feels like.
Today the wind is blowing and it's a winter wonderland out there. I am thankful for a home with heat and hot showers. I am thankful for a good school for my kids and a fridge with yummy food in it. I am thankful for parents who come and spend the day with us on Sunday to help keep the crazies at bay. I am thankful for Jude and his sweet heart that I see tuned towards Jesus, especially in prayers like this, "And thank you God for sending Jesus as a baby and that He died on the cross so I didn't have to die." Such a gem. Such sweetness in my heart.
Even though I am missing Jamie, I am learning how to lean even more heavily upon Jesus and His people.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

weekend links!

Today we went with my family for the annual Christmas tree hunt and chop. It sounds so barbaric. But it's always so much fun, even if it is ridiculously cold and the baby is melting down by the end of it. And this year's tree {my parents'} is bigger and better than ever before. At least I think it is. Noah snagged a stray branch and I just finished cutting it up into smaller pieces and placing them in jars around the house. My house smells like a Christmas tree and I'm loving it!

Have you started listening to Christmas music? If not, WHY!? If so, check out this free album from Sleeping at Last on NoiseTrade {you can leave a tip if you wish}. It's a great acoustic album and if you like Sigur Ros or Bon Iver you may like this too! Plus, it's free. Just sayin'.

I have a confession. I don't like egg nog. It kinda grosses me out. But egg nog waffles? Now that I can get on board with. For reals. I do feel bad about not liking egg nog as it just seems so festive, but with these, I can partake in the merry without feeling like I'm drinking a raw egg {which is what egg nog has in it, folks. Just sayin'.}.

My friend wrote this blog post a little while ago and it went viral. If you're buying presents for a child this Christmas, please read this.

And on a materialistic note, I am absolutely in love with this shop and this shop on Etsy. Such lovely, beautiful things on Etsy. I can't go on there too often. It makes my heart want, want, want.

Okay, it's 9:45pm on Saturday so I'm going to just post this and call it a night. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

December THREE {on the fourth}

I've been dog sick for the last two days. It's kinda weird, actually because I wasn't hugely congested although that was part of it, it was mostly a brutal migraine that made me want to pass out and throw up all at the same time. So that was fun.
But I'm so over-the-moon thankful for my husband who happened to have this week off. And although shuttling around kids and cleaning wasn't his idea of how we'd spend this week together, it was exactly what I needed. Because if I'm going to get sick, let it be now when he's around! He flies to Tanzania on Friday and it's just me and the kiddos for the next 10 days.

Oh yes. These three crazies. Jude had a complete meltdown tonight when we had our friend Trevor {who we lived with for our first year in Uganda} over for dinner. He refused to come down and ended up going to bed without dinner because he just didn't want to come and see Trevor. I felt bad for both of them, but I think Jude was just tired after another long day of school. These long days really tire him out! Hopefully the early bedtime will mean a more rested {and happy} kiddo for me tomorrow.

You can see Blaise & Jude really enjoying the window stickies. That was yesterday's advent activity. Simple, yet enjoyable. Today's {paper snowflakes} just didn't happen. Oh well. Tomorrow I am excited to teach them about St. Nicholas and leave out their shoes at night and see what happens {a chocolate coin in the morning!}. There seems to be confusion about Santa around our house these days. They know he's not real but sometimes liken him to God because they can't see either. So what's the difference?
I tried explaining it to Noah tonight and talked about how if God doesn't exist then we've wasted our lives ambition and especially the last two years in Uganda. Persistence in teaching what is true and consistency with how we live our lives as parents I think is key in guiding our children and teaching them God's Word. The rest is prayer and the mercy of God.

I've been a bit emotional these days and I'm sure there are many contributing factors but I am trying to be more introspective and as I listened in to Jamie explaining communion to Jude in church this past weekend, I almost burst into tears as the sacrifice that Jesus made was revealed in a fresh way to me. Skin and bones and blood, just like my little Jude sitting on the chair next to me. And for me He died! Gratitude overwhelms my heart and the tears spill over.

I love these kids. My heart yearns for them to love Jesus and know Him as I do. Some days I feel like I'm not doing them any favours by planning fun little advent activities. I should be reading the Bible more to them. I should be seizing more opportunities to explain the gospel to them. I should pray more for them. I should pray more with them.

I am never going to be a perfect mother. I was never meant to be. Again, thankfulness overwhelms that I don't have to be perfect. Jesus already did that.

He's so good. Every time. All the time.

every month I {try to} take pictures of my boys on the third. see past months here

Friday, November 29, 2013

weekend links! {Canadian version 1.0}

Weekend links are back, folks!

Blaise's hat / Joe Fresh {bought in store}

The tree is up, the candles are burning, some presents are even wrapped! I have not started any Christmas baking but in an attempt to curb my sugar intake, I'll only be baking for specific events and not to stock up and just have lying around our house. But I'll for sure be making the ever-favourited Cheese Stars. Other than that, I'm not too sure. Definitely some sort of shortbread, possibly a Vanilla Bean Shortbread since I still have tons of vanilla beans from Uganda. I'm on a charcuterie/cheese platter kick right now so it'll be lots of lovely cheeses and fruit and yummy crackers {like these} and meats that I'll be bringing/putting out for different events.

Advent envelopes are assembled and our first activity on Sunday will be to make bird feeders. We have this lovely bush in our backyard that tons of tiny little birds love to gather and sit upon so I'm hoping it'll be the perfect addition and a nice treat for those sweet little guys. There are also three squirrels {two black and one grey/brown} and a chipmunk that like to terrorize each other and the neighbourhood so I'm kinda looking forward to seeing what they'll do with the feeders. So anyway, I dug up an old Weekend Link from last year because I had remembered posting this sweet tutorial on making your own bird seed hanging. We'll be following from this one and possibly making this one too. Stay tuned for pictures on the outcome!

Finding your way through the commercialism and loud materialism during the Christmas season is not easy or pretty. I know in my own heart I yearn for simplicity and a sweet, simple focus and anticipation of the return of Jesus and the celebration of His birth. And yet I am a walking contradiction because my heart also longs for all the pretty things in all the stores, sparkling and gold and white and oh! How I want it all. And so my friend Kelly posted this exact same thing on being torn between the two things this season and how ultimately we want Jesus and we want our lives to reflect Him. I also found this post helpful with 5 things we can choose to do with our families during Advent to help us eagerly anticipate Jesus' birth.

My friend Barb blogs about the lost art of letter writing and all things relating to it. {You can check out her blog here.} This relates in that I bought a little something special and exciting - a personalized return address stamp for all our Christmas cards {and other letters and cards we send throughout the year}. It's lovely and it makes me happy. You can check out tons of designs on Etsy but the one I bought was this one. And it's on sale today!

Happy first weekend of Advent, everyone!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

it's 9:15 and this is my life

I stack a few plates to make room on the kitchen table for my computer. Ella Fitzgerald is singing about New Years Eve and Blaise is happily munching away on  banana bread and swaying to the music.
I'm trying out a new class at the Y this morning and looking forward to it. I haven't done an official Pilates class other than the videos I did in Uganda but I'm hoping it's a good, hard class and I'm hurting tomorrow. I like workouts that aren't a waste of my time.
I cut a few more cubes of banana bread for Blaise and we do a bit of a face off as he whines for ALL THE CUBES instead of just the four I've plopped on his tray. I win.
Noah and Jude are already at school and I wonder what they're up to right now.
I've finished my Advent envelopes and I stare at them through the doorway that connects our kitchen to our dining room. I'm thinking about that article that's gone viral -
Blaise is finished his cubes and wants more. I make a stack of four on his tray and watch him knock it over and then try and replicate the tower I made. We both hear the heater come on and he points to the front door.
- so back to that article. It was about celebrating Christmas with "littles" and how we as Mothers shouldn't strive for perfection, but rather to be present. And I think this is true and good. Lately I've tried to only do things that bring joy and refreshment to our family. I don't always succeed, but if something is really stressing me out, I scrap it. This is my approach to advent activities. I love them and I know the boys do as well, but if it's overwhelming me, then I opt for something more low-key like watching a favourite Christmas movie or listening to Christmas music and making popcorn.
I think this will be key for us all as I'll be solo parenting for 10 days this December as Jamie is in Africa encouraging the team that took over for us when we left.
The milk sippy cup gets chucked onto the floor. I had forgotten this "throwing all the things on the ground" stage. It's annoying. But Blaise is now trying to make me smile and laugh by making cute noises and bonking his head. A talent he no-doubt gets from his brothers.
He wants his milk back and adorably signs "please". I praise him and hand him his milk.
He's done eating and it's almost time for us to head to the Y.
I'll go a bit early so I can spend a bit of time reading the Word. I'm longing for my heart to be set right during this Advent season.

And with that, it's time to pack up and go!

Monday, November 25, 2013

things i'm loving, lately...

The smell of Christmas. I've been simmering a pot on my stove and it's making the whole house smell delightful! 
All you need is:
1 orange, quartered
a handful of cranberries
a few cinnamon sticks
a tablespoon of whole cloves

Put all the ingredients in a pot, fill it with water so everything is submerged and then simmer and enjoy the glorious smells wafting through your house.

Songza Christmas music mixes. My current favourite is Lauren Conrad's Holiday Soiree. Check it.

White Christmas lights on our tree and around our big bay window. So magical.

Bath & Body Works Candy Cane Bliss hand soap. It's in our powder room and my boys can't get enough of it. They'll wash their hands {bonus!} and come out waving their hands in everyone's faces saying, "Anyone wanna smell mint!??!" But seriously. Next step is to buy a candle in the scent because it's amazing.

My new advent envelope artwork by Naptime Diaries. So gorgeous and now I don't have to decorate new envelopes each year. 
Now to figure out the activities I'll be doing. I still have a week, right?

Having people over in our house. Okay so I've loved that for a long time, but it's nice now that we're more settled to have the space to accommodate them all! We had both our families over after the Guelph Santa Claus parade last weekend and with 10 adults and 3 kiddos it was a full house and I loved every minute of it! 

Can you believe my boy are the only kids on both sides? So far! I'm loving the fact that I'm going to be an Auntie come May! My sister is pregnant and I am thrilled at the prospect of being an Aunt for the first time! 

I'm attempting to do an Advent devotional this December and I'm using this free one from Desiring God
So technically I haven't started yet, {although I have read the introduction} but I am looking forward to taking time each day to focus and still my heart in preparation for the celebration of Jesus' birth. I'm loving that I get this privilege of talking to and hearing from the Creator of the Universe who came to Earth as a humble, helpless baby for me and you. Amazing.

And I'm loving that my boys are so ecstatic about the snow. Noah proclaimed yesterday as the snow fell and stayed on the ground, "This is the best day ever!". They want to go outside and play every day and I am definitely loving the fact that we have a built in sledding hill in our backyard. Yet another reason God picked this house for us. 

I am loving spending time with friends and family. Being in their homes and having them in mine is such a lovely blessing and I am soaking it all up. 

What are you loving, lately?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

on being a school-mom

I am a school-Mama. My boys take the bus to school and so I get to meet the bus kids and parents and then I pick up my kids from school at the end of the day thereby getting to know the parents at the school. It's been fun and awkward and interesting. Interesting because all the other parents of first graders have been at the school {or a school} for the last two years. They know the routines, the teachers, the rules. But I'm the newb. It's okay, though, because I feel like I'm slowly getting the hang of things. 

Today I volunteered in Noah's class for the second time and somehow ended up in charge of making these incredibly complicated paper chain Christmas trees with the kids one-on-one. Seriously. These were hard core. I actually had to re-do one little girl's tree because I had totally done it all wrong. As my boys would say, awkward

But it's been good. I'm slowly figuring it out. Mainly I want to be involved with Noah's teachers, his friends and the school. I have no problems with bringing in baked goods to the office staff so I can get on their good side and be remembered. My Mom was involved at my school and while I am not nearly as extroverted as she is, I am doing my best to put myself out there and get to know the people that are seeing my kids for six hours a day. 

On Friday we have parent-teacher interviews with the boys' teachers and I'm looking forward to sitting down with them then.

On an aside, what do teachers want for Christmas? I know they probably get tons of chocolate and stuff. I love to give homemade/meaningful gifts, but I don't want to pile them with things they probably will get tons of anyway. Both boys have female teachers. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

settling and preparing

It seems as though we are finally settling into a bit of a routine and it seems to be working. The boys are doing well at school and I'm finally getting in some exercise at the Y {now that Blaise has dropped the morning nap gloryhallelujah}. Jamie and I are getting out every now and then and the Christmas and Advent preparations are in full-swing.

I'll be doing Advent envelopes with the boys again and I'm looking forward to continuing that tradition with them. We'll also be reading the first bit of Luke 2 every day with the boys and you better believe that the Christmas music will be playing non-stop. {Have you heard that Page CXVI is putting out an Advent album? It releases on December 3rd! Get your copy here!}

I have so many hopes and dreams and things I want to do but I'm striving for simplicity. So some things will have to wait. All good things. But sometimes the best things are few. Refined and focused and lovely and soul-refreshing. So we will do a few of the best things and wait and anticipate celebrating Jesus' birth here in Canada. Surrounded by family and friends in the snow and cold with slippers and hot chocolate, winter coats and boots, church and neighbours and candles and sparkly Christmas trees. I am embracing Christmas and winter and choosing to love each and every moment of it {even when it's so cold that tears stream down my face. *sob*}

Sunday, November 17, 2013

a 14 month breastfeeding journey

Blaise has been such a ham these days. It's such a fun {but ridiculously busy} age. He's dropped his morning nap and has started to self-wean from the breast. I'm sad, but also happy about how it seems to be going. I've just sorta let it be whatever it is and the other night he rejected his bedtime nursing so I just cuddled him for a minute and then put him in his crib and left.

Even though he's still not sleeping through the night {so far that's only ever happened once} at least he goes to sleep super easy and will go down for others too.

Last week Jamie and I went out with a bunch of friends to a concert in Hamilton. It was the longest I've left Blaise during the evening. If I'm gone in the day, I'm usually back to put him down for the night. But we left at 4pm and my Mom single handedly fed the boys and put them all down for the night. Even Blaise!

So...weaning. We'll see how it all goes. I'm happy it's lasted this long as he's likely my last biological child and so there's that sentimental part of me that is soaking up every last minute nurturing him from my body {I'm still amazed by this} and wondering when it will be my last time to breastfeed him.

It does make sense that he is self-weaning though, because in the last month and a bit his appetite has increased dramatically. It's like he realized how awesome solid food is and he just can't get enough of it. He still is picky {I would say}, and he definitely has his Mama's sweet tooth, but he eats a lot now. I believe this is the part where we enter the whole "three boys are going to eat us out of house and home" part of life.

So that's my journey so far. It's been incredibly liberating and empowering to be able to breastfeed all three of my boys and to get to the point where I don't feel the need to "cover myself" in public while breastfeeding. I'm so thankful for all the bloggers and friends and online resources I had access to that encouraged me. Oh and living in Uganda. Cuz that was awesome.

Happy 14 months to my baby!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Christmas cards

I love sending Christmas cards as much as I love receiving them. Actually I think I love sending Christmas cards more. Is that weird? So be it. I'm weird. But you all knew that already, right?

Look at our wee family in 2009!

Ah yes. This was a goodie from our first Christmas in Africa. Good times.

I've used Tiny Prints and Minted to send out cards. I've designed my own and had friends help me. This year I decided to try somewhere new. I was originally thinking Shutterfly but they were going to charge me $31 in shipping costs alone! Nuh uh. Ain't nobody got money for that. Well, obviously some people do. But I don't. So I looked elsewhere. A friend suggested Printstagram and I remembered that I had wanted to use their company but had forgotten so I went online and realized they have an app {Print Studio} that you can download onto your phone and print pictures with them {and greeting cards} without having an instagram account {which is the whole premise behind Prinstagram.}. So I edited our family picture that my sister took and then from my phone I ordered our Christmas cards! Technology is so amazing, eh?

They'll be simple this year and I'm okay with that. Kinda like what I'm aiming for in our lives. Simplicity. Beauty. Family.
When they come in the mail, I'll make sure to give you a full review but I'm definitely excited to use Prinstagram to print off a huge poster of my instagram pics of this past year.

Do you send Christmas cards? Do you design them? Buy them from a company with templates {like Tiny Prints, etc.}? Send them via the interwebs? Give me all the informations!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

November THREE

Nobody sits still in this house any more. Not even me. Only I wish I could.
But I digress. Needless to say, life is BUSY!

Blaise wants whatever we have. Gone are the days of sneaking sweets or other food in front of him {and away from the big boys}. He knows. And he wants it. Whatever "it" happens to be. Today it was Jamie's Pepsi and the old camera the boys were playing with. And he knows when he's touching something he shouldn't. The other day I had a box of tampons sitting at the top of the stairs waiting to be put away. {Just add it to the list, please.} Well I heard him crawling up the stairs and so I went up after him. He heard me, scampered up as fast as he could, headed for the box of tampons, grabbed a fist full and ran down the hallway as fast as he could move those chubby little legs. I laughed so hard. Oh yes. It's on the blog. And you will be so grossed out one day, mister.
Also? I discovered the bottoms of his feet are super ticklish. It's really cute.

I don't know where he's getting it from, but Noah's Mister Pose these days. Seriously! He's got great poses whenever I've held up my camera. {Check out this post from Halloween for another awesome pose he did with Jude in their costumes. I love the hand on the hip and the other arm around Jude!}
He's slowly starting to sound out words and gain the confidence he needs to sound out words he doesn't know or recognize. He's been sounding out words and writing them in school assignments and it's cute to try and read what he's written.

Jude is still the family comedian and a full-time resident of Planet Jude. Today while I was out grocery shopping after church, Jamie sent me a text message with a picture of Jude taking a nap in his closet. Apparently it was his idea and Jamie helped him get set up with his pillow and blanket. Not that I'm surprised.

These boys. I've not been the most patient Mama {or wife} lately. I continue to be aware more than ever of my shortcomings and lackings and am learning to lean heavily upon Jesus to be my all so I can love my family better.

There is so much to be thankful for. The most recent and exciting? I'm going to be an Auntie! My sister is due with her first baby in May and I am so excited!
So there is much. I feel like I should have figured out life here by now. But I haven't. Slowly. And with much grace and humility. I'll get there. I hope.

Every month I {try to} take pictures of my three boys. Check out past months' here.

Friday, November 1, 2013

friends and birthdays and Halloween {o my!}

Last week worlds collided. Our best friends from Uganda came to visit us from New Jersey! The Hallahans {you can read about our times in Uganda here and here or you can check out Kelly's blog here} were doing a road trip across America and stopped in to visit with us for a few days. It was awesome and such a gift. 

Kelly and I. I was super pumped to be able to see her and her baby bump {a girl!}.

Happy {loud} times with these boys reunited. 

It was great to catch up and chat with friends who understand what life is like in North America but also what life is like in Uganda. That is a precious gift to me that I honestly didn't think would happen. So glad they came!

Their visit was perfectly timed with Noah's birthday {and party} so after school on Noah's birthday we had his party which included a couple friends from school, the Hallahan boys, a friend from church and Jude. Of course. 

Noah wanted to have a Star Wars Angry Birds party and I {of course} waited until pretty much the last minute until calling in a {HUGE} favour from my Mom to bust out the cake skills and make one for Noah. 

Right? I mean, mind = blown. 

So that was awesome. And we played Star Wars Angry Birds bingo and one of Noah's friends kept winning but he had THE BEST declaration of bingo I think I've ever heard which made me laugh every time so it was all good.

And then yesterday was Halloween! 
We totally rocked the group theme costume.

These crazy kids. Such troopers and highly motivated by candy. Seriously. They walked around the neighbourhood with no complaints in the wind and rain and cold. For candy. Reminds me of this:


Noah was Clone Commander Rex {from Star Wars The Clone Wars}, Jude was Darth Vader and Blaise was an Ewok. Cute, eh? {I'm biased, I know.}

And then my family came over for dinner to celebrate my sister's graduation ceremony from University. It was such a happy night and I love my house being full of noise and love and laughter. Exactly what I had pictured in our living room {which is coming along! Hardwood laminate floors and white walls. No art or baseboards but it's getting there.}. Good food. Lots of laughter and love. Can't go wrong there.

Happy Weekend to you! I am trying to keep up with my blogging. Eventually I'll figure out a way to stay up to date here while also staying present in the real world. Thanks for hanging in there with me!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Noah's 6th

Dear Noah,

You are 6 years old. Six! You are funny and smart and tender-hearted and likeable and curious and feisty and I love you more than I really could ever express.

This year has not been easy but it's been oh-so-amazing. I've watched you conquer fears, experience transition, become a big brother for the second time, move back to Canada and start school for the first time. You're learning to read and do math. You're making friends and it does my Mama-heart so good to hear friends calling after you. You are loved and it seems obvious to me why. You are kind-hearted. You care for others and that draws people to you.

You like being silly. Whether it's having a dance party or making up jokes, you love it. You can dance with the best of them and both your brothers look to you for the best moves.

And as for being a big brother - you are totally rocking that role. Seriously, kiddo. You are such a fantastic big brother. I always wanted a big brother and you're exactly the kind I would have wanted. You are funny and sweet and helpful and loving. You selflessly give up the toy or food or position you wanted for Jude or Blaise. You're not perfect and you definitely have the skill of knowing just the right buttons to push on Jude {and in a quiet, subtle way a-la-classic-eldest-child} but I have seen you time and time again give up what you wanted - whether it's out of the kindness of your heart or because you really don't want to have to deal with Jude throwing a tantrum, you still do it.

And I love you for that.

You and I have butt heads on more than one occasion. You are strong. And stubborn. You can thank me for that some day.

But I trust and pray that your strength will not blind you to your need for Jesus. That you aren't meant to struggle through this life on your own strength, but that Jesus came for you. To walk with you through this life. That you need him and that He loves you so incredibly much. He made you, He cares for you and He's going to use you. You just have to let him.

I am so proud and honoured and blessed to be your Mama. You have taught me more in these last 6 years than I could have ever imagined and I can't wait to see where the next 6 years take us both!

I love you,

Friday, October 18, 2013

make ya smile Friday!

Last night I was up until 1am but it was TOTALLY WORTH IT.
Know why? {I reminded myself of Jude right there.}
I removed the last piece of that wretched, wretched textured wallpaper from our hallway! Self five! 
And this morning I painted one of the walls in the boys' bedroom this morning! While I was taking a breakfast break I came across this video on Facebook {sorry about the cussing in the status. I couldn't figure out how to get rid of it.}.
Consider your day, made.

Happy Friday everyone!

*edited to add this full-length video minus the cussing Facebook status. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

a recounting of our weekend seasoned with sarcasm

I am breathing a huge sigh of relief. We made it through the long weekend. It was long. And full. And crazy. And fun. But I'm kinda glad it's done.

It was my sister-in-law's wedding on Saturday {rehearsal on Friday night} and our whole family was in the wedding party and Thanksgiving on Sunday and then we installed new floors on Monday. Ridonc.

I don't have any tips on doing stuff like this.
Jude drew on Blaise's face with blue marker on Friday. It eventually came off, but it wasn't a washable marker so I had a moment of panic. Then he {Jude} got stung by a bee on his pinky finger. Friday was pretty awesome.
We didn't do the rehearsal dinner on Friday night and opted to leave right after to get home and sleep in our own beds before the big wedding day. Jude threw up seconds after arriving home. Yeah, that happened.
Noah fell down the church steps moments before the processional and then refused to walk down the aisle.
I made little fun bags for the boys to open during the ceremony and promptly forgot them in the car. So that was useful.
Jamie and I had many moments where we just looked at each other with wild, harried looks in our eyes wondering what on earth we had gotten ourselves into.
But the wedding was beautiful, the weather was absolutely perfect and we definitely had fun and enjoyed ourselves. It was hilarious and adorable to watch our boys tear up the dance floor. They loved pulling out the dance moves, sneaking candy from the candy table and taking hilarious pictures in the photo booth.

Sunday was fun and family and food. Ain't nothin' wrong with that.

Sunday night my brother Curtis slept over so that on Monday he could help us install our new floors in our living/dining room. He's a freakin' superstar. And our floors look so good. They almost make me giddy.

This morning I realized Noah had no pants to wear that were clean and threw in the jeans I had forgotten to dry into the dryer this morning in hopes that they would dry before school. {They did. Whew.} Jamie walked Noah up to the bus stop and came back and said, "So today was picture day." Hashtag face palm.
I just hope he didn't have yogurt smeared all over his face.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

more fall pictures. and random thoughts.

I seriously can't get enough of fall.

I'm pretty repetitive these days. I'm sorry.

Yesterday I pretty much lay in bed as much as I could. {I got hit Sunday night with a brutal head cold.} I missed the boys' bus so had to drive them into school. After dropping them off, I was unbuckling Blaise's seatbelt and a gust of wind blew by and I swear I smelled winter. It was crazy. It stopped me dead in my tracks and the thought that I haven't had a Canadian winter for two years woke me up from my head-cold induced fogginess.
So you'll excuse me a bit if I wax poetic {again} about how amazing autumn is.
Won't you?

My Mom came over today to help me with the boys - thankfully I didn't feel so Sicky McSickster today and actually got a few things done like folding laundry and eating food accomplished. We ended up going for an epic walk in the Guelph Arboretum. It's lovely there.

I saw this tree with the sun streaming in behind it and I almost cried with the beauty. It was absolute perfection.

I have a pie pumpkin waiting to be cooked and turned into pumpkiny deliciousness. Tomorrow.

A couple weeks ago I made these pumpkin energy balls. My boys went bonkers for them. Absolute bonkers. I recommend sticking them in your freezer and eating them cold. It's like a piece of cold pumpkin pie!

And now I have a new kitchen light fixture just waiting to be installed. If only I could get one for my dining room now. {As in, there is currently no light fixture in my dining room.} Oh Ikea. Why don't you have any of the things I want in stock? {Also related: Are you in cahoots with my husband?}

Also what is it with schools and fifty bajillion fund raisers? I'm so not on board with this part of being a school mom and I guess I need to figure out how to get on board. Or something.

Aaaand, this weekend my sister in law is getting married and we're all in the wedding party. Yup. The whole fam damily. So my brain has mostly stopped functioning. I am a list making maniac because I honestly cannot remember and will not remember everything I/we will need for the day without my precious lists. I am so excited for her and her fiance. But weddings in which I or any of my family are involved in take a ridiculous amount of thought and planning. *deep breath*

Here we go!

Hello gigantic leaf. You are awesome. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

october THREE

It's still the third! I missed last month. But I'm getting my blog groove back {I think}.

These boys...

I love them so. This morning was a weird one. Jude slept 'til 8. I felt groggy the whole day. And me, Blaise and Jude stayed in our pajamas until we had to go pick up Noah from school {since he takes the bus to school now!}.

Jude and Blaise are starting to "play" together on the days that Jude is at home. Sometimes. When Jude's not totally mauling the little guy. But Blaise is starting to be able to hold his own with Jude. Nothing is off limits. Oh they've got a bright future, they do.

Blaise still lights up when he sees Noah first thing in the morning and when we pick him up from school. It's really sweet.
And they all really have a lot of fun together. When they're not fighting with each other. Such is life when you only have brothers.

My three boys. They are full of life and love and joy and crazy and sass and I wouldn't trade them for any other kids in the world!

Every month I {try} to take pictures of my boys. View past months here.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

i heart fall.

It's fall! I love the fall. I missed fall for the last two years and I am determined to soak up every single golden, spiced, pumpkiny, crisp, cozy second of this fall. Because yes. To all the colours.

We went up north to "cottage country" this past weekend for a student retreat. Every year I go and every year I'm so glad I did. I get a little less sleep, but my soul can just breathe when I'm there.
The boys happily frolicked {such a good word!} outside, running around the mini golf course, building castles in the sand and even swimming with their clothes on. At the end of September. In a lake.

Because why not?

I made some delicious Pumpkin Spice syrup for my coffee and have been enjoying the poor man's version of a PSL in the comfort of my own home {for a fraction of the cost!}. Easy, cheap and delicious. Directions here. 

Glory hallelujah.

Yesterday I went to a pumpkin farm nearby with my Mom and brother and his girlfriend. It was lovely. And pumpkiny!

How weird is it that I've been back in Canada for three months now?
I still feel like I haven't really processed the last two years. I still miss friends {both here in Canada and abroad}. I still don't feel like I have a handle on day-to-day life and being a "school Mom". I still don't feel like I quite fit in here.
But that's okay. In the same way that it seems like my house is going to take a really long time to be in a place where I'm happy with it, my heart is also taking a really long time to sort itself out.

And with that...we head into one of the craziest times of the year; weddings, Thanksgiving, birthdays and Christmas. Jesus hold me.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


There are moments where I ask myself,
Did the last two years even happen?
Because everything seems the same. I seem the same. They seem the same. This city and all the familiar places seem ... the same.

And then there are moments that are almost like a slap in the face with clarity and realization that scream in my face, YES. The last two years really did happen and I wasn't here. I was in Uganda. I have changed. So has everyone else. In one way or another.

Isn't it funny that what I missed most while I was in Uganda, is the same thing I miss now that I'm back in Canada?
Being known. Belonging. 

It's like re-learning the lesson of where I truly belong and can call home all over again.
This isn't my home. I'm not meant to feel truly settled on this earth.

I'm struggling to find my routine. To figure out where and how I fit. To figure out what I'm supposed to be doing here. In Guelph. In this life.
The simple answer is giving glory to God in all that I am.

But what does that mean for me, a Mother of three boys, two of which have just started school for the first time? What does that mean for me, a wife, married to my best friend, but trying to find time for our marriage in the middle of chaos and a fast-paced life? What does that look like? What does it mean for me?

And the things that Jesus is teaching me are things He's already taught me before. And the way He continues to reveal the ugliness of my soul can sometimes feel devastating and frustrating.

But there is grace. And sweet gentleness. And unconditional love. And mercy.

Last week I read through the book of Ephesians {hands down, my favourite book in the Bible} and once again was just struck with the depth of my need for a Saviour and how despite my rebellious, ugly nature, Christ died for me. He loved me. Before I ever did a thing to love him or move toward him with any good intentions or repentance.
Before I was repentant
He came for me.

So I don't really know a lot these days. But I do know that I am loved. That He chose me. And I think that if I really internalize and ruminate upon that truth, all my actions will flow from His love for me. 
And that will be enough. 
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