You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2009.

I scooped up the yellow flowers that I had strewn along the center of my dining room table and popped them onto ordinary bamboo skewers and then into some ten cent vases.  They look a little quirky but they definitely add perk.

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I’ve been tinkering in my living room for the last week or so.  The calendar tells me it’s Spring now and there have been days where the weather seems to agree with that.  I have had the inexplicable urge to “Spring-ify” my favourite sitting place.  Priority for me was to get all traces of red out of the room.  Silly I know but that red was somehow making the room feel like it was stuck in winter.  So I got busy, shopped the house and replaced all the things with red in them with brown or green things.  Those colours happen to be favourites of mine and ooze Springtime vibes.

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I even replaced a picture on the wall since it was too “Winter-y”.

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The family photo and pretty frame didn’t have enough presence for the bigness of the spot I hung them, so I taped (yes, taped) a larger frame I had around them.

The room feels right for the time of year now.

Then I did something that I’m not very prone to do.  I cleaned the windows.  I didn’t just Windex them like I normally do.  I took the bay window completely apart and gave it a good scrubbing inside and out.  The windows are designed to come apart but obviously haven’t been for a very long time.  It took a lot of grunting, groaning, pulling and interesting uses of various “tools” to get the four inner windows off.  Our living room bay window is a sunny spot (when the sun decides to show himself around here) and is a fly hangout.  They literally come by the dozens to that window to die.  Yes die!  They bask in the sun until they dry up and fall off.  DA and I aren’t sure where they come from but even if I vacuum up all the live ones by days end there are at least ten more.  They seem to spontaneously generate out of the window.  I don’t mind flies too much except that like all living creatures they poop and fly poop takes some elbow grease to get off.  Taking the inner windows off gave me the chance to really, REALLY work on getting that excrement off.  It also gave me a chance to clean in between the window panes.  I got on a roll and got the ladder out in the garden to thoroughly scrub the outside panes too.  I couldn’t stop there.  I scraped off the paint that was flaking on the sill and casing and gave the whole shebang some fresh white paint.

If you can’t do anything else in your house, please, please, PLEASE take apart your windows and really clean them, especially if it’s been a long time since they were last done.  It’s work.  It takes time.  It’s definitely worth it.  Nothing makes you want to sit down, relax and enjoy more than a view out a super clean window.

Now if only nature would cooperate with my Spring cleaning madness.  Today, I still have clean windows and that means that I can see that it’s snowing out again.  BIG SIGH.  I want to see plants pushing through the dirt.  I want to see green things.  I want to see a robin.  I want to go running without mittens and toque.  The good thing is that when winter finally takes a bow and leaves the stage, the way is clear for me to see all that I’m longing for.  Spring will come and now that my big window is spotless, I’ll be able to see it much better.

Canada produces about 85% of the world’s maple syrup.  That’s because here in Canada, we have the right kind of trees living in the right kind of temperatures for sap to run in abundance.

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DA tells me that all trees produce sap but the maples we tap flow heavier than most trees because of the winters they have to endure here.   That speaks to me.  I love trees like some people love mountains or oceans and I can’t help but pity them during the long cold months of winter.  When the temperatures drop below zero, I have the option of bundling up in warm clothes and blankets, of retreating indoors, of soaking in a hot tub.  Trees don’t have options.  They must stand nakedly where they are and endure all the fury winter hurls at them.  It’s the trial of the extreme winters we have that causes them to produce sap as a kind of anti-freeze for their roots.  When the nights are cool and the days warm, the  build-up of sap creates a kind of pressure inside the tree.  If the tree is tapped with a stile the sap naturally flows out just like blood out of a wound.  Of course, the wonderful thing about sap is that it can be boiled down into maple syrup.

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It’s a pretty site in the Spring to see shacks like these in the woods with smoke billowing out their tops.  It means sap is undergoing its trial by fire to become the sweet, sticky liquid we love to smother our pancakes with.

All of this got me to thinking.  I often feel sorry for people who are going through what seems to me a long or particularly difficult trial.  Some of these people to me are like trees in the winter.  There is no escape for them; they simply must endure.  I wonder though if the trial is quietly producing in them something like sap- character perhaps- that can be tapped into at a later date when circumstances aren’t so harsh.  I wonder if all that they’ve suffered can bring about something that can be used to bless others – the maple syrup if you will.

My natural tendancy is to want to pray people out of “winter season experiences”.  I don’t like to see others have to suffer and bear up under difficult circumstances.    If I were God, I would rescue them and make life easier, healthier, more prosperous.  If I were God the sap would never run because there would never be long harsh winters.  If I were God there would be no maple syrup.  It’s a good thing I’m not God.  The world would miss out on many sweet blessings because I am ignorant and short-sighted as to what the trials are doing in people’s lives.  I don’t pray hardship on anyone and if I can help and am led to do so I will help but for those individuals I can’t deliver from what has befallen them, I pray that they’ll become “sappy”, that is, filled to bursting with something that can be transformed at a later date for the blessing and betterment of many.

I didn’t take this picture

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but I saw something like it yesterday while delivering papers.  Somebody had laid asphalt beside a restaurant but obviously didn’t take into account what was under the soil.  A row of what I think are tulips had pushed through the asphalt and were growing despite it.

It was one of those sights that reminded me of the old saying “bloom where you are planted”.  Sure conditions may not be ideal but that doesn’t mean that you can’t push through and be all that you were meant to be.  I doubt that anyone would have taken a picture of such a punie solitaraire daisy except for the fact that it was growing in the middle of a road, a most unlikely spot!  Maybe what will make your life or mine stand out is not the fact that we are so different (daisies and tulips are pretty common after all) but that we can bloom and grow in places where we really shouldn’t.  A simple picture and a simple thought but it’s helping me to think of all those less than desirable things in my life in a new way.  Changing the way I think about things – that’s a beautiful thing.

One of the best things I ever did was buy a digital camera for myself.  I carry it with me often and it has become a tool in my hand to help me see the beauty that is all around me.

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Loveliness isn’t always the first thing that strikes me.  It’s still cold and bleak and muddy out here.  The back yard is riddled from vole damage.  My son was angry with me this morning because I hadn’t finished to the laundry quickly enough.  Don’t I know that he only has three pairs of pants that fit him?  Actually I didn’t know that and gently explained to him that I thought that all those other pairs of pants in his closet were still acceptable.  I can choose to think about any of these negative things and it will affect me.  If my focus is on the temperature or on the mud getting tracked into my house or my son’s outburst I will feel unhappy and become a complainer.  I don’t want to feel unhappy or complain so I choose what I think about.  I do have a choice.  I can control what I dwell on.  When I go out with camera in hand, I look for beauty.  I spy things through the lens and try to capture what I see.  Instead of looking at the mud I look to find footprints of recent furry visitors.  In place of being depressed by the ravages of winter I look for the signs of life.  Are there buds on the trees?  If so I can rejoice knowing that soon things will turn from a monotonous brown to vibrant greens of many hues.

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Really, I choose the same when I am indoors.  Rather than focussing on all that isn’t in my home, I look at what is.  Even the mud on the floor is a reminder that my kids are healthy and that they’ve been playing outside.  It’s not such a big deal to clean up.  Even an outburst from one or both of my kids is an opportunity to master patience and to kindly discuss how things can be made better.  It’s a reminder to me and them that if we work together the problems don’t have to persist.  It’s also a lesson in how to deal with things that are troubling us.  Is throwing a hissy fit really necessary?  How about trying to calmly explain the problem and suggesting a solution instead?  Where there is no obvious solution we have an opportunity to pray and perhaps learn from suffering.  I can’t fix everything and even my best plans don’t always work.  Do I have to get depressed about that?  No.  I have a choice.  I control what I think about and what I think about determines my mood.  Learning to let go of the negative and embrace the positive (in Christ, there is always a positive to embrace) I am becoming a happy person.  My circumstances aren’t always amazing,  but that doesn’t mean that I can’t be amazingly content.

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Even the worst of situations can help form more Christlike behaviour.  It depends on my choice.  I can carry my circumstances like boulders and be weighted down with them or I can lay them down at the foot of the Lord and use them as  stepping stones to move on.  I am realizing more and more that sometimes that is what is needed – simply to move on.  I can get stuck and be stubborn insisting that a certain trial lead to a certain result when all the while Jesus wants me to lay it down, trust him and simply move on.

I have a file folder of beautiful pictures I’ve taken over the last couple of years.  I look at those photos from time to time and it brings me joy.  I haven’t travelled much, most of what I am wearing comes from used stores, I’ve never had a manicure or a pedicure, I don’t have a successful career and maybe I never will, I have two boys approaching puberty and I’m living in a time of “global economic meltdown”.  Does that mean I can’t be happy?  No, it doesn’t.  I live in a beautiful country, I have enough clothing to wear in every season,  my hands and feet are beautiful au naturel, I’ve had the privilege of being an at-home mom, I have two healthy, growing sons and I’ve always had enough to pay the bills.  Those are reasons to rejoice.  My pictures remind me of that.

Not happy today?  Check what you’re thinking about.  You do have a choice and how you choose will make all the difference.

Spring has sprung and I really wanted to reflect the season with a simple but pretty tablescape.  DA was barbecuing and we were expecting his family for dinner.  I’d have to leave room on the table for plenty of food.  I came up with this easy arrangement.

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I took the floating greenery candles and spaced them down the middle of the table and then scattered bright yellow flowers and aqua jellybeans around them.  It was fresh and tasty too!

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I whipped up some matching napkin rings using the same lemon coloured flowers, some homemade rings of aqua cardstock and some tape.  Not difficult but definitely colourful and cheery.

I pulled out the shoes, the socks and the stopwatch today and decided to start over.

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Running that is.  I got off to a good start but then got sidelined by a nasty sinus infection that dragged on for way too long.  Well, the antibiotics are done, the weather is at least sunny and bright and it’s time to get back on track.

Rewind a bit.  You’ve been introduced to my fancy running shoes.

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Now meet the rest of the team.  When I talked with the fellow at the sports store about what I wanted to do he was very helpful in getting me into the right shoes.  When I went to pay, he threw in a pair of socks for free.  That may not sound like a big deal but these aren’t your cheapy tube socks that come in a package of eight.  These are moisture wicking socks that retail for $15.99 a pair and are designed for your right and left feet.

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Do you see the R and L on them?  That’s so you get them where they are supposed to be.  They have padding in all the right places and are definitely an asset when you are starting out.   They’re probably an asset all the time but I wouldn’t know that.  All I know is about starting out.

And here’s my stopwatch.

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This was a gift from my mother-in-law.  The boys had showed me that there is a stopwatch on my cell phone but after several minutes of button pushing and still not figuring out how to start, stop and reset the thing, I really appreciate this stopwatch.  It only has two buttons:  a start/stop one and a split/reset one.  Good choice for a techno-simpleton like myself.

We went out the today, the three “s’s” and I.  (Techinically, I’m an “s” too, a “starter” that is.  But I digress…)  Boy, did it feel good!  I can hardly wait for Wednesday when we go for it again.

It’s D’s birthday today.  Thirteen years ago I gave birth to my first born son and he’s brought me joy ever since.  He’s been hyper and disobedient at times, talkative and argumentative, fussy and demanding but he’s also been lovable.  His biggest wish for this milestone birthday was to eat out at Wild Wing.  Wish granted.  Here’s the birthday boy at the restaurant of his choice on Friday night (DA’s day off).

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He only asked for a dinner out but DA and I think that thirteen is something of a milestone so we decided to get him a bigger than usual gift.  P made him a candy mosaic (D’s never been a big cake guy) that gave a big hint as to what D could expect as a gift.

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P and I had a great time making this and both D and P are enjoying themselves (often!) eating it up.

The candy mosaic had a “watch for bicycles” sign on it so guess what D got.

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He got a funny little card that he can exchange for a bike.  We’ll watch the flyers and go shopping together to get him something that he’ll like.  Happy Birthday D!

You know it’s really spring when the sap starts running and everyone flocks to the local sugar bush.  I took the boys there this afternoon with the intention of eating pancakes with fresh maple syrup in the sugar shack.  We got there, did the horse drawn ride and walked through the bush but we didn’t get in the sugar shack.  The line up was VERY long and didn’t seem to be moving at all so the boys said, “Nuts to that idea!”

I brought the camera with me (big surprise!) and tried to get some artsy shots.

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I kind of liked this one of the horse drawn wagon pulling up.  The colours are a little blah but then again everything is a little blah this time of year.

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“You’re taking pictures of a rock?”  That’s what my “too cool to be seen with a mama carrying a camera” children asked.  It’s not just a rock.  It’s a rock with something inscribed in it.

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This is my fave.  It’s the guys trying to run and hide realizing that I had the camera pointed in their general direction.  I was tempted to keep it up.  I wanted to see if they would dive for cover.  There was a lot of mud on that trail and therefore great potential for wipeouts.  I’m such an evil mother.  Muddy boys.  That’s good picture content.

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Here’s a shot of the old way of doing things.  So much prettier than the techno-coloured lines they string up now-a-days to collect sap.

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One more from a different angle.

Some people treat boredom like it’s a bad thing.  I disagree.  I think boredom is a natural part of life and since I want my kids to grow up in the “real world”, I allow for boredom to happen.  Eventually, they will get jobs and homes of their own and things won’t always be fast, stimulating and scheduled.  Even the best of jobs have boring elements to them and the last thing I want is for my kids to move out and not know how to handle down time.  So I don’t schedule every minute of their day.  We’ve done some things together this March Break but I’ve also left them to their own devices for vast periods of time.  They like to watch T.V. and play on the computer but eventually even those get boring and they move on to other things.  My boys know better than to come to me whining that they are bored.  I always have a list of jobs around the house for kids that don’t know what to do with themselves.  Instead the boys have learned to entertain themselves.

I thought this paragraph, written by Cynthia Reynolds, a homeschooler of a large family, summed things up quite nicely.

Kids need control over their own play,” says Jane Hewes, chair of the early childhood development program at Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton. “We have to give them room.” And part of that is room to be bored – more and more child experts say boredom is a key mental state that eventually launches innovative and flexible thinking, creativity and an intrinsic motivation to explore. But well-intentioned parents rushing to fill that void are mucking up this time-honoured process, and in the place of dynamic, self-reliant youth are creating a strange new generation of young adults who are lost without outside direction, feel entitled to be entertained by others, are unable to tolerate basic silence and crave a constant stream of stimulation. If that doesn’t scare you, consider this: these are the kids who won’t just hang around their parents’ house until they’re 35, these are kids who will never ever leave.”

Here’s the proof that kids can get creative when they’re bored.  This is what D and P built one morning when they had nothing to do:

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It started out as a domino tower and then got cards added on to it.

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It was an impressive height!

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A base of cards was constructed next.

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Then some impressive card circles.

The guys literally worked on this for hours.  It doesn’t serve any purpose but it did require thinking and planning, experimentation and collaboration – all good life skills.  It was great to hear them excitedly say, “Mom, Mom, come down and see it now.” I also got the magic words that I love to hear:  “You can take pictures, Mom, and put this on the blog.”  The boys were proud of their accomplishment and happily entertained, all because I didn’t plan anything for them and just let them be.  So, yes.  I’ll say it – “Yay!  The boys got bored!”

Ecclesiastes 3:11

He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time.