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!
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