Thursday, December 14, 2006

34 weeks.

People keep commenting on how huge I am. They keep telling me that I must be going to have this baby any day. But seriously, I remember being at least this big last time around at this stage. I was much bigger by 41 weeks, when he decided to finally make an appearance.

Anyway, as you can see, baby is growing well. The doctor is pleased and says the baby seems to be excellent and that the heartbeat sounds "blue" to him. I just wish it would sound "early" to him. I am starting to feel ridiculous, and my due date is still a month away.

The month of November was so cold around here that even being completely stuffed with polyester and covered in fur was not enough to keep warm. We had the most snow on record since 1943, and the average temperature must have been somewhere around - 15 or -20. It was a crazy month. Being from much warmer climes, Foundy the monkey was not thrilled with the weather.

Hungry Catterpillars, Toddler Bowling and Holey Socks

One of Andrew's latest favorite games is something I like to call toddler bowling. He especially likes to play this at playgroup, where there are five or six kids right around the one year to fifteen months mark. They are smaller than him, and still a little bit wobbly. He likes to go up to them, size them up, and bowl them over. Just one push in the middle of the chest, he has discovered, will do to cause a GIANT reaction. Not only does he get to watch them fall over, but then there are the tears and the mommies and all the excitement that ensues. I have tried to talk to him about this. We have got across the idea that one should say sorry after pushing a kid over. So he will go up to a kid, push them over and then say, matter of factly, "Sorry, Macklin." and walk away. We were on our way to our toddler Christmas party the other day, and I was trying to remind him NOT to push kids. So I said, "What do we need to remember when we are at the party, Andrew?" and he said "Sorry."

Andrew also has quite the imagination. As I have mentioned before, this means he is constantly a puppy, mouse, rabbit, Bob the builder, fireman, etc, etc. I am, of course, expected to keep track and greet the creature of the moment, or risk being corrected. This overactive imagination also means, I have discovered, that I must be very careful what I read to him.

My moms' breakfast group has started meeting in homes instead of at the co-op, because almost all the kids are now running around, and its just easier that way. Well, in Saskatchewan, it is the very poor hostess who does not provide at least 3 choices of breakfast. This is, after all, plate of dainties country. So, the first woman to host us had been to a bake sale and had cookies, cupcakes, cut up melon, bagels, muffins and an assorted fruit bowl, plus coffee and juice. Let me tell you, they're going to be very disappointed when its my turn -- I'm making my whole wheat carrot muffins and putting out some oranges.

Andrew is a good six to eight months older than the other kids, so they were all too young and short to notice the food on the table. My boy, however, instantly noticed the food. And pulled up a chair to the table and sat on it. And proceeded to eat: one cupcake and the icing off a second, one cookie, half a bagel, a mandarin orange, about a third of the honeydew melon and a glass of chocolate milk. When I asked him if he was hungry, he said "Oh, I'm a very hungry caterpillar, mommy."

In "The Very Hungry Catterpillar", the caterpillar eats: 1 apple, 2 pears, 3 plums, 4 strawberrries, 5 oranges, one piece of chocolate cake, one sausage, one slice of swiss cheese, one slice of salami, a CUPCAKE, one lolipop, one piece of cherry pie and one slice of waterMELON. I suppose my son felt the need to eat in a similar fashion.

The other big drama around here lately is socks. My son is obsessed with the wellbeing of his feet. His nails must be properly trimmed, or he will come to me and say "cut my toenails, mommy?". His socks must fit properly, with the heels covering his heels and contain no holes. If they have holes, he can not walk in them. He literally will sit or stand where the sock has been placed on his foot and cry and panic until the sock is removed from his foot. The other day a hole appeared in one of his socks while he was walking. He was about 4 steps away from me. Being very pregnant, I kept saying "Come over here and I will take off the sock". But this was impossible. He stood, completely immobile, in the middle of the hallway sobbing "Take it off! Take my sock off mommy!" until I managed to scooch my way across the floor and remove the offending sock.

Needless to say, life is a daily adventure around the Chapman residence these days. You just never know what will happen next.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas Lists

Just wanted to say that this is a really funny Strongbad email. Especially since I'm the classic "home made gifts girl". And to think I had already bought enough clothespegs to do a whole set of ornaments for all my family and friends . . .

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Andrew's First Kids Christmas Party

Andrew and I went to our first kids Christmas party today.

We have met this group of women who met when they were all on Maternity leave from their teaching jobs. They started a weekly breakfast and a weekly swimming time to hang out together and get out of the house for the year. Gradually, a few other women (myself included) ended up being invited to and tagging along with this group. Well, today one of them held a Christmas party for all her son's "friends". I felt like I was entering a whole new world.

To begin with, we were an hour late. I had decided to make jiozas (see post above) before hand, and by the time I was done that at 9:30, Andrew had torn the kitchen and living room apart, so we had to tidy up his mess and the floury countertop and get dressed before we could leave. We left the house at around 10:30. The party, incidentally, started at 10:30.

As we were driving out to the main road, I realized two things: a) we needed gas and b) I didn't have my wallet. So we went back to the house. Then we went to get gas. By the time we had finished all that it was 10:50.

At this point, I need to explain something about Saskatchewan. All the land in the entire province, except for Reserve land, was at one point parcelled out to individual farmers by quarter sections. The entire southern half of the province is more or less covered in gravel grid roads, all of which used to have their own little towns and communities every 15 miles or so. Most of those communities are ghost towns, and many of those who are still farming now farm several full sections rather than just a quarter section. The grid roads, however, are still there. But for whatever reason, no one has ever bothered to give most of them NAMES or NUMBERS of any kind. So directions to anyone's farm tend to be along the line of "you go 5 miles and then turn west at the road after the Bowmar Seeds sign, then you go 2 miles and turn north . . . ".

I should also explain something about myself. I get lost a lot. I have a very poor sense of direction, especially when thinking in terms of north and east. I also tend to confidently set out to places, assured that I know exactly how to get there, only to discover that I am going the wrong way. The only way I ever get anywhere is to break out the map and carefully chart my course, then keep the map within arms reach and refer to it after every turn to make sure I haven't got turned around.

Let us suffice to say, for the sake of brevity, that it took me another 40 min. to get there, and I explored several grid roads around the house where the party was taking place. By the time we got there, all other 11 or 12 children and their parents were already at the party, and all the good toys were gone. I still had to boil water and cook the jioza before lunch, which was in about 30 min. So I quickly greeted everyone, trying my best to get into the kitchen to get the silly things cooked (I should have just baked muffins instead of trying to show off). I got Andrew suitably distracted, asked one of the other parents to keep an eye on him, and darted into the kitchen.

The gyoza got cooked, but in the meantime, Andrew was brought to me, sobbing. His fingers had been run over by an enthusiastic child on a tricycle. That was the end of Andrew's independent play for the day. So he sat on the counter top and drank juice while I boiled water and chatted with whoever was in the kitchen and tried to stay out of the way (this is easier said than done when you are 8 months pregnant) while the other food was put on the table and served. By the time the jioza were ready, about half the people had already got their food, and only about 4 or 5 people even tried the jioza -- I should have known better than to bring exotic food to a pot luck in Saskatchewan. I should have made jelly salad.

So then Andrew and I sat down to lunch on the floor, as did all the other parents and kids. Most of the parents are those responsible middle class kind of parents who thought to bring a chair to sit their child in, and so their children actually ate food. My son was sitting on the ground, and he ate two pear slices before he ran off to play with all the now abandoned toys. It was about here that I realized that I was the only woman who had not brought her husband with her to the party. Oops.

I ate, and Andrew was mesmerized with a plastic push-truck that made sounds and had exciting battery operated moving bits, so lunch was fine. It was nice to visit with some of the women that I hadn't seen since they went back to work, and all was well.

Then, we gathered all the children to sing songs at one end of the room. The mom who was hosting the party is a school librarian, so she is very organized. The words to the songs were all typed up on her laptop and projected on the wall. There was a keyboard there to accompany us. All the other little children danced, and did the actions, and rang their little jingle bell arm bands more or less in time with the music. My son sat and watched. Every time I tried to get him to jingle his bells, or do an action, or participate in any way he would say, matter-of-factly, "No." At least I won't have to worry much about peer pressure effecting him when he's older. While the children sang and danced, the parents that were not holding them started running around with cameras, taking pictures of them being good social animals at their first Christmas party. It was then that I realized that I had forgotten my camera. Oops.

After this, Santa showed up with the sack of presents we had all donated to the cause. Once Andrew realized that all he had to do was go up to this guy to get a present he happily went up (holding my hand, of course) and took a present out of Santa's sack. I knew him well enough not to ask if he wanted to sit on Santa's knee. We got a book and a little snake flashlight. He liked the book, and whenever I show him the snake flashlight (which opens its mouth and hisses when you push the flashlight button) he says "I don't want it." I coveted the parents whose children got foam floor puzzles and blocks.

Then the official part of the party was over, and the hostess turned on the Chipmunks Chrsitmas video. All the other kids, who mostly have the tv on all the time at home paid no attention and went about their business. Andrew was glued to the tv for the entire show, which gave me the opportunity to get packed up and ready to go. I visited for a bit, and then we left.

It was a fun party, but I felt, as usual, like I had not quite got it "right". Oh well. Someone has to be the odd duck, and I'm generally a good candidate; apparently my son intends to continue this tradition into the next generation. At least he'll always have an understanding parent to talk to about it.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Reality is Sinking In . . .

I am now 34 1/2 weeks pregnant. That is the point where you are way past being cutely pregnant or even happily pregnant. It is the point where you are counting down to the time when you can sort of have your body back and breathe and walk properly again. It is also the time when you have to start actually getting things done because the end is in sight, and you want to be prepared.

I experienced my first "its getting too small in here, mom" stretch yesterday. Formerly full body stretches were kind of tickly and funny, because there are bits of fingers and toes and poking out of you at funny angles (you can't see it, really , but you can feel it). But this was the first one where one limb hit a hip bone and the other hit my rib cage and they kept pushing for more space.

I washed all my newborn diapers today and all my light coloured baby clothes. It was the strangest sensation to pull these little tiny outfits out of the box and then pull out the Ivory snow for something other than my son's diapers, and see that two huge arm loads of tiny clothes only made one load of laundry. I realized that I am going to have another child.

Not that this hadn't occured to me before now. I mean, I've been pregnant for 8 months now. I have had moments of excitement, joy and sheer terror at the thought of having a newborn around again. But it hadn't really been real . . . it was something that was coming in the future. But that future is quickly approaching. And tonight, I am wondering, "What was I thinking? Am I really ready to have a second child? Can I do this? Is it too late to turn around and go back?"

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Christopher Robin? Where are you?

This morning as I dozed quietly on the futon and listened once more to the narrator's opening lines of "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh", I had a thought. The narrator says something to the effect of "Now, Christopher Robin lived in the middle of the 100 Acre Woods where he could see his friends and help them with all their troubles". It cuts to a shot of Christpher Robin hammering Eyore's tail back on under the supervision of Owl and Kanga. A few moments later, Christopher Robin helps Pooh in his attempts to get honey. Then when Pooh gets stuck in Rabbit's hole after eating too much honey, Christopher Robin comes to help pull him out. Christopher Robin helps rescue Piglet, he throws Pooh a hero party, and generally, thoughrough the movie, does all the things a responsible care giver would do for a small child that is growing in independence and responsiblility, but still gets in trouble now and then.

I realized that in the later, and far less classic, Pooh movie "Pooh's Grand (Great?) Adventure", Christopher Robin is not there to help Pooh. In fact, at the beginning of them movie he says "I am going away. You must do things for yourself now, but remember: You're smarter than you think you are, stronger than you imagine . . . " etc, etc. Basically he layers on the self - esteem, positive thinking stuff that will help Pooh and the gang get through their problems by themselves. This second movie is very dark, so dark that my son was afraid of it, and didn't want to watch it a second time. Essentially, Pooh and his friends beleive something dreadful has happened to Christopher Robin and they go looking for him. They travel through a bleak and barren rocky landscape, have many not so merry perils. They finally discover that Christopher Robin is at school, and their fear was all in their minds. But they were up to the challenge and helped themselves because they were smarter than they thought they were, etc, etc.

The thought that swirled through my pre-caffinated, pregnant brain was this: I think its okay that Christopher Robin rescues the animals in the Hundred Acre Woods. I think there is something really good about the fact that the animals have someone to turn to when they get out of their depth, and that there is always the reassurance that if they mess up, Christopher Robin will be there to help them. Small children should live in a world where they have a deus-ex-machina to remedy situations too complex for their small bodies and minds. It is a good thing and it helps them feel secure to know there are bigger people in the world who can help them when they are overwhelmed.

I find the whole premise of this second movie where the animals must rescue Christopher Robin really disturbing. For a small child (Pooh usually wears off around 8 at the latest, doesn't he?) the message this sends is that you may be alone, but you are strong enough to deal with it. You can handle your problems on your own, and they are overblown in any case. I suppose the idea behind the movie is to build a child's sense of independence and self-esteem. But doesn't our self-esteem grow first out of a healthy dependence on a reliable adult?

It is through our early experiences of trust and nurture that we learn that we are someone worthy of respect and trust. We gradually learn that although some things in the world are scary and dangerous, we can face them and conquer them because we are supported by a loving community that allows us to face hard things and take risks we might otherwise fear. As we develop in this supportive environment, we are then enabled to seek out our own community, first of friends and then of family, that will fulfill our needs for mutual encouragement, support and respect. Ideally, our community does not one day cut the apron strings and leave us alone and afraid to fulfill this mysterious task of "growing up" alone. Rather we ourselves are given leave to gradually seperate ourselves from the family support and find our independence.

Perhaps the second movie is a reflection on modern North American parenting styles. How many parents these days are so busy living their own lives to the fullest that they forget about the small, vulnerable people who rely on them? In how many families, especially in the '80s when this second movie was made, are children left to sort through the ravages of divorce and family break up, and sometimes to even help and comfort their parents? How many people bear children without really considering that they must give up a great deal of their own time and interests to properly raise and support a child, and then refuse to make the sacrifices necessary to invest in their child's life? How many children in our culture are left asking, "Christopher Robin? Where are you?"

No wonder I already had a headache by 9 this morning. I'll try to make my next post happier. Honest.

Isn't Technology Supposed to Make Your Life EASIER?

I have a bunch of little photo posts to put up, but my memory card is so full (and there's only one digital photo kiosk in town) that my camera can't even seem to find the new pictures on it in order to transfer them. Or something. Anyway, we are experiencing technical difficulties. Please stay tuned.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

How Would You Describe Your Family?

My dear friends in Winnipeg, the Lukins, just started a family blog. Its great, because they just had a baby (the one I made the monkey quilt for) and its fun to get updates from them. Also Jeff is a musician and they have written songs for baby Sam already, and so its a pretty fun site. In the description column, they have "We are a warm, affectionate and spiritual family. We love Jesus and each other". Which is totally true. They are wonderful, warm, hospitable people.

For some reason, it made me laugh when I tried their description on for size in my own family (Dave, Andrew and I . . . we won't even get into the extended families). So I started wondering how I would describe our family in a few short phrases. The best I could come up with was: "We are an intense, adventurous, truth seeking family. We desire to know God and follow him with integrity. Oh yeah, and we love each other, too."

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Speaking of Being Stupid . . .

Read the NEXT post, Pregnancy Update, first, then come back and read this.

So, as I was saying, I get really stupid during pregnancy. In fact, as I was typing that post, my stainless steel kettle was slowly roasting on my stove top. I had filled it up with water and left it to boil when I came to start my quilt post. But I had not flipped down the little thing that makes the kettle whistle, so the water boiled dry and the kettle began boiling itself.

I'll add a picture later, but suffice it to say that the stainless steel has turned gold. The heat proof handle is bubbling where it is attatched to the metal. The little knob on top of the lid to the kettle has detatched itself from the lid and migrated 1 cm to the left. The kettle has been making gentle clicking noises (similar to those that canning lids make as they seal) ever since I took it off the element. And I just put a pot on the stove to boil some water, because I still want some tea. I think, in the present circumstances, I should go and disprove the old adage and watch my pot boil. Only hopefully this time it will only be the water in the pot . . .

Pregnancy Update -- 33 Weeks

So, we are in the home stretch. Less than two months left to go, 7 weeks or so to be precise. According to our latest calculations. Which could be off. So I have something less than 10 weeks to go.

Physically I'm doing quite well. The occasional sore back, since this baby is nestled in my pelvis, unlike Andrew who was nestled securely in my ribs, and some fatigue. That is all part of the pregnancy thing, and so I'm not too concerned. My mobility is severely decreased. I can hardly get in and out of the car, I end up huffing and puffing by the time I reach the top of the stairs, and I have to use two hands to prop myself up when I get off the floor (but I can still sit on the floor, so we're not too bad yet). I need some new shoes, because my only non-tying shoes are heelless and that just doesn't really work with 10cm of snow. I can still tie my shoes, but not well enough that they stay tied up. So I am getting big and awkward. Again, I accept this as part of the pregnancy game. This is my second time around, so my vanity about my physical appearance has already taken a pummelling, and I just do what I can and know it will be over soon and in about a year from now (barring another pregnancy) I will be back to as close to my old self as I'm going to get.

What has always been the real kicker for me in pregnancy is what it does to my mind. Generally I am a really good multi-tasker and can keep track of innumerable bits of information about people and places (in no particular important order, unfortunately). Also, I am generally fairly easy going. Something might bother me for a while, but then I can let it go. Not so with pregnant Jill. Pregnant Jill not only loses her memory and ability to focus on anything outside of the sphere of my immediate household (and even then its tentative some days), but is very easily irritated by things non-pregnant Jill would just laugh off. Um, you might have noticed this in my past few blog entries. Fortunately, Pregnant Jill still has, for the most part, her brain filters in place (these filters have been developed through years of painstaking idiocy and social blunders, and contain several back up firewalls. Sadly they are still, on occasion, insufficient to keep my tongue in check). This means that I do not begin tearing things off the shelf at Toys R Us and shouting "Crass Commercialism! That's all any of this is about! Sheer Crass Commercialism" and get arrested. This means I do not yell at nice church ladies who invite me over for tea just when my son is supposed to be napping and thus interrupt our very hard won sleep schedule for weeks on end. This means I even restrain myself from smacking the grocery store clerk who has not yet figured out (after a 5 hour shift) that the Royal Bank's machines must be down, rather than assuming that her debit machines "have just stopped taking about every 10th person's card. Sorry, I guess you're person 10". Anyway, the point being that I just get a) stupid and b) grumpy at the end of pregnancy. So don't ask me any questions and stay out of my way.

On a brighter note, I will share a silly very pregnant Jill story from this morning. So, I woke up and realized that I had not washed my stretchy black pants that I always wear to church now. So I started rummaging through my very limited wardrobe for something to wear. I had my khaki overalls and my khaki pants clean and an assortment of shirts. Okay, I thought, I'll wear my white t-shirt with my overalls. No, too casual for church. Oh, look! This sweater is in my pile of clean clothes. I put it on to discover that there is a small spot of something off a grimy toddler hand right where my belly button protrudes. Maybe not. I find another sweatshirt that goes well with the pants I have, only to discover that a greasy hand has wiped itself off on the front of my shirt right where other things generally protrude. My other "clean" shirt has coffee on it. I begin to think, "Who put these clothes back in the drawer? Oh yeah, me." Finally I end up going to church in a shirt that is much too short for me with my big zip up hoodie over top of it, zipped up most of the way, and my belly hugger fabric tube pulled down to stop my pants from sliding down and my hair . . . we won't even mention my hair, because it was unwashed and unbrushed and pulled back in a ponytail and wrapped around with a scarf. After I spent 15 min. getting dressed, there was not time for such trifles as hair, especially since Andrew was running around the house in just a diaper saying "I go to church naked." and Dave's freshly dry-cleaned robes were in the back of my car and needed to be at the church before the service started.

Fortunately, one of the good things about being this pregnant is that no one expects that much of you. If you manage to show up and your clothes generally fit, they are pretty impressed. That's my theory, and I'm sticking to it for at least another 7 weeks.

Touch My Monkey and Go!

Does anyone remember this quote anymore? Its from one of Mike Meyers' characters (Deiter) on SNL back in the good old Mike Meyers - Dana Carvey - Adam Sandler days. He was a german talk show host who had a little, vicious monkey in a cage behind his obligatory couch and chairs that would bite his guests. When I first started teaching, I said this one day, and got nothing but blank stares and a couple of surprised looks. I forgot that the kids I was teaching thought they were saavy if they knew Mike Meyers had been in the Wayne's World movie as well as in Austin Powers.

I digress. This is my second quilt. It is a baby quilt for baby Sam -- Kym and Jeff Lukin's new son. They are kind of artsy and alternative, so I wanted to make them a fun, cool quilt. I quite like the results, and surprisingly so does Dave. In fact he liked it so much that he harassed me for two weeks to mail it (I had it stashed in the closet pretending it belonged to me -- I didn't want to give it up), because he was so proud of it. You'd think he's sewn it or something.

Its made from two charm packs and two 1/2 m. of fabric from the collection "5 Funky Monkeys". Charm squares are basically a set of 5" squares of all the fabrics in a given collection. The only problem with them is that they cut them so that all the edges are zig-zags (I assume this is so the fabric doesn't fray), which makes it hard to tell if you are really catching the actual fabric of the quilt or just the points when you are stitching it.

This picture was of the quilt before I washed it. I decided to wash it becuase I had a tiny fray happen between two of the squares while I was quilting it, and I thought, "Oh, maybe I didn't quite catch the fabric on all of the edges". Well, sure enough, when I washed it I ended up with about 8 little tears right along the seam lines. Also, the red from the flannel backing bled through the white thread I quilted with, causing the white monkey borders to have little pink lines in them. So I had to spend a good 3 hours securely hand stitiching all the edges that had torn back together again. I hadn't pre-shrunk the fabric (magazines and fabric store owners tell you not to bother), so I think that had something to do with it to.

So, as well as being a successful and cute quilt, I learned a lot from this quilt:
a) prewash your fabric if you intend to actually USE the quilt and wash it
b) don't use light thread to quilt if you have a dark backing that is likely to run
c) make sure you have a good 1/4" on all your seams.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Media Tie-Ins R US

Two weeks ago, I had a glorious opportunity. I got to go into "the city" all by myself. No two year old in tow. No time limit. No errands to run. So since Christmas is approaching, I decided to check out the Toys R Us and see what they had.

I entered the store, and was quite pleasantly surprised to be greeted by an imagination section. There was a shelf of wooden toys and puzzles, some easels and a ton of Crayola crafty products. I though, "Hey, maybe this won't be so bad. And now I know where to get some of these cool chunky puzzles for Andrew".

Right next to it was a book section. I sauntered over and looked at the first book I saw -- a Curious George collection. Hey, wait a minute, I thought, this says "H.A Rey's Curious George" not "Curious George by H.A. Rey". I opened the book to discover that these were not the classic Curious George tales I had been reading to my son. They were not even the much inferior books - based-on-a-cartoon-series- from the 80's. Instead they were . . . new stories that tied in with the movie and cartoon. As I looked around the book section I discovered that aside from some Dr. Seuss books, all I saw was Maisy, Dora, Bob the Builder, Harry Potter, Little People . . . all series that have followed Disney's lead in creating small movie / tv show / toy / book / play sets / backpacks / clothing /website tie in empires. I frowned a bit, but thought maybe I had just hit a rough patch in the store. After all, I was sure I saw play kitchen stuff just past the battery opereated-flashing-lights-with-25-sound-effect push cars.

I went to check out the pretend food and kitchen stuff. I really want to get Andrew a tea set or a little juice pitcher and glasses, since he is realy into pouring right now, and I'm tired of him raiding the apple juice in my fridge and pouring it into every plastic container he can easily access in the house. So here I was in pretend kitchen heaven -- blenders, coffee makers, pizza, picnic sets, mini-rolling pins and cookie cutters, tea sets, 50 piece imaginary food sets and entire broom-dustpan and mop ensembles when I noticed something. All the dishes were pink. All the tea sets had lovely floral designs on them. All the children happily playing with the toys on the boxes were girls. Wearing pink. With ribbons in their hair. I moved on, thinking I would have to order the stuff from Ikea that comes in the plain, unexciting white boxes and is cream ceramic.

I skipped the next few aisles' outright, as they were all babies and bratz and etc and I have no use for plastic reproductions of Cosmo cover models. But before I left what was, ostensibly, the "girls'" section of the toy store, I found an aisle of realistic babies. This interested me, since I am sort of thinking of getting Andrew a baby of some kind to have when the real baby comes. Again, as I started looking at the boxes, I was less than impressed. First of all, there was the general pinkness . . . pink boxes, pink clothes, pink accessories, pink bows to put on the poor little newborns' heads. They all came with such newborn essentials as bottles and bouncy seats. Then there was the proliferation of bottles and pictures of little girls happily bottle feeding their babies (I am not a breast nazi, Kris, but really). And most of them seemed to have some sort of battery operated something or another. So, if I do get my son a doll, it will not be from ToysRUs.

After this came the kids' furniture. I was momentarily excited, because I would like to get Andrew a table to go with the two chairs I picked up at the flea market last fall. But apparently I can buy a plastic one with a bumpy finish (great for colouring on), or a wooden one with a "Stars and Stripes" theme (great for Canadians), or one with Thomas, Dora or the Princesses on it. Same with the chairs. And the step stools. And plastic baskets. And collapsable storage bins. And . . . well, you get the idea.

I don't think I even want to get into the multitudinous Little People tie-in products (it is almost impossible to find anyting without lights / sound / music, or to get enough people to play with (2 tops in a play set) without buying extra expansion packs). Or the leggo which no longer seems to contain small pieces (yes, this is not a choking hazard, but it also tends to impede creativity). Or the numerous trucks, tractors, action figures, ninjas, knights, pirates and GI joes, all with their matching co-ordinating accessories, none of which are interchangable with each other in any way. Or the lack of dress up clothes (lots of weapons), non- Baby Einsten music, or non-tv-tie-in books on cd. Or the cheap, disney themed party section. Or . . . . well, do I really need to go on?

I was quite surprised at my outrage. I don't consider myself to be THAT crunchy or anti-consumerist. We read Thomas books and take the videos out of the library. We have Little People and Weebles and will soon get Mega Blocks and Leggo in our house. I'm sure I will buy my son ninja / GI joe / pirate / knight action figures. Should I have a daughter I will probably buy her Strawberry Shortcake or My Little Ponies or whatever the equivalent is. I don't mind the fact that we have a little tigger, pooh bear and kanga floating around our house, and I bought my son a plastic effigy to Bob the Builder containing bubble bath that gets regularly fed and slept with.

Nor do I consider myself a radical feminist. I'm fine with the fact that my son prefers trucks to dolls, and turns everything into a tractor or train or power tool. I don't dress him in pink. I expect him to be more active and aggressive than female friends his age (although I realize these generalizations don't always hold true).

But I was really angry. As a mother, and a teacher, and someone concerned for the future of our civilization in genreal I was furious for a few reasons. First, I was angry that there was so few toys that lent themselves to open ended imaginative play. Next, I was angry at the blatant sexism contained in the packaging and processing of the toys -- some of which are totally gender neutral (think food or blocks). Third, I was furious that marketers use childrens' natural and healthy tendency towards obsession with various characters and ideas to become a ploy for hocking cheap, disposable, badly produced merchandise.

'Nuff said.

Is There Youth Ministry After 30?

Two weeks ago I turned 31. Last weekend I helped co-ordinate and run a youth retreat. Yes, at 31 weeks pregnant with a toddler in tow. And I realized, not for the first time in the last couple of years, that your cool factor just goes way down when you are 1) old, 2) a mom and 3) pregnant.

My first sign of this was when I arrived on the grounds of the retreat. As I was getting out of my car, a guy and a girl came running out of the main lodge. The guy was chasing the girl with a hand full of snow.
I turned to my fellow leader and asked, "Some of the kids are here already?"
He replied, "No, Jill. That's the band. Those are the Bible college students."
I said "Really?"
And he responded, "That's right. We're adults now."
I think I said something like, "Oh my goodness. How did that happen?"

Let me explain a little bit further. When I was younger, I was the cool leader. The one that all the kids were excited about seeing. The one who stayed up talking with the kids in her cabing until 2 am and kept the other kids up. The one everyone wanted to sit with. The one girls started dressing a bit like by the end of the weekend / week. The one who kids hovered around just because I was kind of fun and interesting.

Now, I am generally ignored, or politely tolerated until I go away. Kids will answer questions I ask, but generally the answers are more of a "nothing" or "I don't know" quality of answer. I feel old, and out of touch. I was already in highschool when these kids were born. Movies they watched over and over as kids were playing when I was in university. And now that I am a mom and don't get out much, I haven't even seen the movies they are all talking about, or heard the music they are listening to.

So I began to ask myself, last weekend, is there youth ministry after 30? Should I really still be doing this, or is it time to pass the torch onto younger and cooler people? This is a new generation, after all -- they need new leaders who understand them. They need people in their 20's that they can look up to and feel a bond with. They don't need me, who could tell them all about the advantages of wearing babies in a sling or give them half a dozen helpful hints on teething issues, but has nothing interesting to say about what matters to them. They don't need me who comes from a generation so much more disillusioned and frustrated than their own, more hopeful generation. What can I offer to them now?

I really struggled with this last weekend, and have been struggling with it over the last few months as I have taken on a position as a local youth leader. And I had an answer come to me while I was out shovelling snow into piles for my toddler to run through, and the kids were all in the building listening to one of the talks. The answer was a little sentence that popped into my head (this usually means its from God, but I don't like to assume). The short, pertinent message was, "Its not about you; its about them and God".

The fact is that for now, I am still called to work with teenagers. No matter where I go and how I try to escape it, some sort of volunteer or paying position involving teenagers always surfaces. And no matter how long I try to avoid it, no one else shows up to fill the position. But at the same time, I am not called to the exact same role with youth. I am no longer the young, fun youth leader. But I am still someone who can think of interesting and fun things for them to do on and Friday night. I am still someone who can give them spiritual guidance and encouragement. I am still someone who can pray for them and teach them. And I am still someone who is really and truly interested in them and their lives.

For all those reasons, I can still be in youth ministry. It just smarts a bit more, because I have to try harder to build relationships and to get involved in their life. It hurts my pride to no longer be as "cool" as I once was. To no longer be the one they are drawn to immediately. They are more resistant to me initially because I don't fit into their matrix. Some of them will never warm up to me becuase I don't look like someone they would identify as being cool. But doesn't that teach them a good lesson? Simply by still being interested, and by being myself, they see that the world might be bigger than their little boxes. That appearances and first impressions are not always right. And is that not a lesson that our current, media- saturated, looks - concious teens need to learn?

So, yes, there is youth ministry after 30. It just doesn't feed your ego in quite the same way. I guess that makes it servanthood. Which is what its supposed to be.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Things that are Annoying me about Saskatchewan

Generally speaking, I am a pretty mellow person, and relatively tolerant. But its usually the little things that really get to me, both about places and people. And here are a few of the little things that are bugging me about Saskatchewan right now:

1. Lack of a Time Change:
Talk to any Sasktachewan naitive and one of the things they will be proud of, one of the things that distinguishes them from the rest of the continent, is that they don't change their clocks. Which on one level is great: you never have that embarassing Sunday morning situation where you show up an hour late for church, you never lose an hour of sleep, and the sky is so big in Saskatchewan that I guess it doesn't really make much of a difference, does it? Where it DOES make a difference, however, is when you have friends in Ontario and B.C. and New Brunswick and you are trying to figure out when it is civilized to phone them. Is it a two hour difference, or a three hour difference? If you try to, for example, phone someone in B.C. beore they leave for work, are you going to catch them before work, or wake them up? If it is 9:30 in Saskatchewan, is it the reasonably civilized 10:30 in Ontario, or the outright rude 11:30 at night? It is really too much brain power for me to figure out.

2. Parking like its winter all the time:
In the winter, you can not see the lines in the parking lots around here, because of the snow and ice. Also, you don't really want to park too close to anyone, in case you are under ice; you might slip and bump their car. But that is no reason to continue to disregard the lines and park two metres away from other cars in a small parking lot (like the one at my bank). The results of this is that there is NOT QUITE enough room to park in between most of the cars, but there is often enough space that you think, "If both of these cars had parked within the lines, I could have fit in the space three away from the bank instead of parking a 5 min. walk away."

3. 3pm Rush Hour:
This may not be province wide, but in my town, you should never attempt to go anywhere at 3 pm, because the streets are clogged, and there are crazy line ups at the post office and grocery store. It took me a while to figure this out, since teachers and students are still in school, and presumaby other people have jobs, and someone has to be IN the stores dealing with the 3pm rush. But then I heard on the radio that Saskatchewan has the highest population of senior citizens anywhere in Canada. Which is fine, but when they have all day to go shopping, why must they all shop at 3 pm when I'm trying to get my mail and then get my grumpy toddler home for a nap?

4. The Wind:
I am in the general habit of peeking at the thermometer, sticking my head outside for a humidity check (yes, its 10 years on the West Coast that does that -- here its pretty much always dry) and dressing accordingly. Unfortunately, because of my neighbours' big trees, I always forget to take the wind into consideration. Then, once I am down my laneway and onto one of the main streets, it hits me. Its actually about 5 degrees colder because the wind is pummelling me. It is about this time that I realize I should have put the plastic cover on the stroller to keep my son warm, but am just too far away from home to make it convenient to run back and get said cover. This is also about the point that my son realizes that its really windy and the wind is cutting through his 2 blankets and three layers of cold, and his nose is freezing. One day, I will remember about the wind, dress accordingly, and there will be no wind. Just watch. Its out to trick me, I just know it.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Revised Due Date -- WooHoo!

This post deserves to be in a font with the grand name "Lucida Grande". Who comes up with these font names? I suppose the kind of people who spend all their time creating fonts by playing with letters at the level of very small pixels. Its one of those professions you just don't randomly encounter at dinner parties. "So, what do you do?" "Oh, I design and name computer fonts." Actually, I've noticed this with baggage handlers, too. You never actually meet airport baggage handlers, or the guys that drive those little carts around all day. But then, maybe due to tightening airport security they are no longer allowed to fraternize with the general public.

Oh, right, this was a post about my due date. I am glad to say that my due date was wrong! I am in fact due around Jan. 11, instead of around Feb. 1! I was starting to get nervous, because in early Oct. I was feeling VERY big for being just 20ish weeks, and a bit worried that I was already starting to hit the fatigue wall. So I'm glad that I am actually now 28ish weeks (instead of 24), and counting. I think I can still acceptably grow for another 12 weeks. But another 15 weeks was going to be pushing it. I was thinking I was going to run out of skin.

On a related note, I am sad to say that there are definitely not enough females around my house. No one is really that interested in feeling the baby move. Both my husband and my son get impatient if they do not feel movement in under a minuite, so they have rarely felt anything, despite my attempts to get them to stick around until the baby kicks again. Ah well. I, on the other hand, am thorougly enjoying being battered from within. Except for the really hard kicks that land on internal organs. Those are not fun. Otherwise it is pretty entertaining to have someone bouncing around inside you.

I really don't think its supposed to be winter yet.

I am sad to say that winter is here. It snowed (for the second time, I might add) last Monday. I had this funny idea that since it was the middle of October the snow would melt away in a day or so. HA HA HA. There is less snow, but none the less we have snow and ice. The high this last week here has been +2 C. So I have to rethink Andrew's halloween costume . . . that's what I get for planning something that can't fit over a snowsuit.

Let the Imagination Games Begin

My son's imagination has exploded in the last two weeks. In a good way, not in a Monty Pythonish incredibly fake blood and brains everywhere kind of way. Instead of being eager to get out of the house and experience everything around him, it is now a stuggle to get him out the door. Instead, he would rather link my laundry baskets together and push his "coaches" (yes, we've been watching Thomas the Tank Engine) around the house. Or lie on our couch "sleeping" or "watching tv" (our tv is not in the living room) then fall out of bed and come running to me saying "I wake up. Good morning, mommy!". I find his plain wooden blocks stacked up on plates and in old yogurt containers around the house when he has been making "birthday cake" and "sandwiches" for me. The shoe rack he dismantled last winter now doubles as railway tracks, forklifts that must be attatched to his tractor, snow plows, trailers . . . the list is endless. At least a thousand times a day I find myself being asked to greet a small plastic person or animal, and engage in conversations that go something like this:
"Hello, hippopotamus, how are you."
"Oh good. I eat some cake"
"Is it yummy cake"
"Birthday cake"
"Oh, hippopotamus, that looks delicious."
"Yummy cake"
"yes, I see."
"Mommy eat it"

At which point a large wooden block or plastic plate or alligator or pillow will be thrust into my face until I pretend to chew and swallow and say "yum, yum."

Needless to say, this makes my days quite interesting. And as long as I am nearby, it means I get a bit of a break from endlessly reading "Curious George Rides a Bicycle" and "The Very Hungry Caterpillar", and can actually read something I might enjoy. Until I get dragged away to look at what Thomas is pulling on his tracks, or forced to move off the big "car" or . . . well, you get the idea.

I was just saying to Dave tonight that I don't know where he gets this overactive imagination from . . . imagine us having a child who is perfectly content to live inside his own head.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Dare I reveal my not-so-secret-identity?

I'm thinking of adding a picture of me to my profile. I know this lessens my internet anonymity greatly, but I'm not too too worried about being stalked, and I don't really think I'm big prey for internet predators, being over the age of 14.
So, faithful readers, time to help me out. You (all 5 of you) know the persona I present in this blog better than I do (since I see inside my head and unless you are very amazing you do not). Here are my three choices for a picture to match my blogger identity. Let me know which one you think I should use. If you know me IRL, pretend you don't.

1. The cute "I'm such a happy mom with my darling boy" pose.

2. The "that wasn't funny but, okay, it really was" pose (courtesy of my dear husband saying something silly and taking my picture at some ridiculously late hour of the night). My friend Joel, in university, used to do and say things specifically to attempt to get me to make the pursed lips expression that generally preceeds this look.

3. The "smiling and looking slightly crunchy" pose. Also known as the "I've been travelling in a car without taking a shower or brushing my hair for 3 days now" pose.

Clery wives "retreat"?

Once a year, the clergy in our diocese go on retreat. Basically, this means they go to a Benadictine monestary, get fed fresh organic food grown by the monks, spend half their day in silent contemplation, and the other half in such spiritual disciplines as soccer and bowling. I think they may do some prayer and discussion of biblical texts or the like in their extra spare time.

At the same time, my friend Sharon and I have established our own clergy wives' "retreat". This consists of us and our multiple children hanging out for 3 days at Sharon's house. We do such things as put children to bed, take them to school, the park and library time, make food we hope will be eaten, clean up the floor after meals, and carry on an ongoing discussion of life, motherhood, politics, religion, and feminist issues (ie -- children, marriage, work possibilites for the future, child rearing philosophies vs practical realities of parenting, rights to life/ death / conception / children's care, and how generally frustrating it can be to be the mother of small children), not to mention the really important things in life like clothes and paint colours and curtains. My son is happy, because he has new toys to play with, and Sharon's kids are happy because they have a new friend to play with all week. And we are happy because they are relatively distracted from missing their dads.

Last year, Sharon had two children and was 8 months pregnant. This time, she had three kids and I had Andrew and am 6 months pregnant. Since she is, reportedly done having children, I guess I'll have to manage to be pregnant again by next year to keep up our tradition of adding a child every year.

It was a good week, and quite refreshing. Its nice to split up some of the cleaning, cooking and housework (although Sharon did the lion's share and I slacked off -- but I did make lots of coffee and hot chocolate). Its especially nice to have another like minded, intelligent woman around to share my thoughts with (thus my lack of need to blog last week). And its fun to see my son's world expand to include people other than me and Dave.
The Hetke's house is one of the only places we go where he will enter into the fray without hestitation or extended periods of leg-clinging. He adores Edmund, as only a little boy can adore a bigger boy who will play with him. He and Bea tell mysterious jokes to each other over dinner (something to do with "castle?!?" that they though was hilarious, and that changed slightly every meal) and explore the world together. Andrew even defended Bea at one point: Sharon said "Bea, take that string off your head, its not a hat." and Andrew said "For pretend". He is fascinated more each time we go to visit by this growing person we call "baby Marie", who is now moving and taking stuff away from him.

One of the highlights for me was that my goddaughter, Marie, recognized me this time. She would crawl over to where I was sitting and look up at me, smiling, trying to pull herself up to the couch. Then I would pick her up, and she would snuggle into my shoulder in a way that is totally foreign to me with my active, high-strung boy. It was really sweet.

Three days was the perfect length of time for our retreat. On the last day Andrew was starting to really miss his dad, and get overtired and overstimulated. Sharon and I had not yet run out of things to talk about, so we didn't have any of that aukward "well, we've run out of things to say . . . what now?" time, and, hopefully, she was not quite sick of cooking for 5 instead of 4, and finding Andrew's food - filled shirts bundled up in odd places in her kitchen. I was not yet feeling that urge to just be back in my own house that is so strong in women when they are pregnant and caring for young children.

So, although we may not have been pampered as much as our husbands, and our time may not have been quite as tranquil and contemplative, it was none the less refreshing. I'm glad we did it, and I hope we can carry on our tradition next year. As my friend from theatre classes used to say when asked to give feedback to a given performance, "I like it, it was good."

Friday, October 06, 2006

Musings on Pregnancy

Last time I was pregnant, I was struck with the thought that God is always present with us in the same way that my unborn child is always present with me. Sometimes I notice I am pregnant, and sometimes I do not. Sometimes there is a ruckus going on inside of me that makes the child's presence unmistakable. Sometimes, I can forget for a day or so that anything special is going on. It was a profound and moving thought that I cherished for quite a while.

This time, I am fascinated by the less profound and much weirder thought that I am a human incubator. It is kind of a weird thing to just be walking around, sleeping, eating, conversing, buying groceries, brushing my teeth, typing on the computer and going about other mundane daily tasks, while I am cooking a new human life. I get images in my head of all the equipment that is used to keep a premature baby alive, or of the little incubator we had in grade 5 when we tried (unsuccessfully) to hatch chickens. Only all that rigmarole is somehow contained within my skin -- all my major organs have been diverted to the secondary purpose of establishing and sustaining this second life within me. My lungs, heart, stomach, bladder, ribcage, hips, and uterus are no longer my own. They are the pipes, pumps and heaters used to keep this tiny life growing and thriving. When I start thinking like this, especially in a room full of women where several are pregnant or new monitors, I find that I have to back away from the thought. It is too strange and wondrous for me.


Hey, look! When did these dkoiuernk fonts appear?

And why is this one named Trebuchet? I thought that was a piece of seige equiptment. One moments please . . . ah, I see I was right. "A medeival catapultlike device or throwing heavy missiles. The missle, on the long arm of the lever, was hurled with great force by the sudden descend of a heavy weight on the short arm". These are what grace the walls of Gondor and are torn apart by the Nazgul in the Return of the King. So, how can I not use this font from now on? Its impossible. Lisa will be glad to know I have been converted from Times (I love the typewriter look, but she thinks it is slightly blasphemous to use a typewriter-type font when not actually producing it on a typewriter). Well, its seige-oriented fonts only from here on in, kids, so I hope you like it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Little Han Solo

I was looking at the ultrasound picture we have hanging on our fridge (the clinic here only gives you one tiny picture) and I've been staring at it and staring at it trying to think what it reminds me of. Han Solo. Yes, my baby is a charming space pirate frozen in carbonite. Well, not quite, but its really funny because it is a profile shot, and baby was head butting the camera (we could see it head butting and I could feel it) while she was trying to take the picture, and she just happened to get baby when his/her head was thrown back in mid-bump with its mouth wide open, and one hand raised in protest, in the same position that Harrison Ford is basically in before they unfreeze him in Return of the Jedi. Maybe this babe will be like me -- I have my mouth open in mid-sentence or joke in about half the pictures we have of me. We both learn to just shut up and smile already!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Finally finished!

I finished binding the edges of my quilt yesterday, so I thought I would show off my finished product. It is kind of ugly, I know, but I'm proud that I perservered through all the different steps and finished it. There are all kinds of little snags and errors (can you find the block placed upside down?), but for my first quilt, I think its pretty good. I don't know if you can see, but I tried to compensate for the vortex of terror effect (ie, the big empty black squares) by quilting spirals into them. I don't know if that lessened the vortex effect or emphasized it. I do like the black and white checkerboards, and its quite comfy. I tried it out this morning while I lay on the floor, semi-concious, watching my 2 year old play with his tractor at 5:30 this morning. Ah, the joys of parenting.

Do Not Immerse in Water

There should really be an label like this on apples. About a week ago, I carefully picked the apples off of the crab apple tree in the back yard. They are great baking / saucing apples, and I was excited about making some pies and some more apple butter out of them. But we had a lot of rain. Like, 5 days of straight rain. The apples were, unfortunately left out in a large, 22 gal tub, where they were immersed in water. Today, I was cleaning up the deck and tidying up the apples and I discovered, to my dismay, that apples do not do well when left to soak in water for a week. In fact, due to osmosis, any apple that is not just perfectly firm absorbs water until there is an equal amount of water inside the apple as there is outside the apple. Since this is usually more than the skin can contain, the apples burst, then quickly go mush and rot. All of my biggest, most beautiful apples that I was excited about making a pie out of are now gone. I had to throw away at least a third of my apple crop. And the ones left on the tree have been eaten by all the migrating flocks of birds. Apparently birds feel no need to eat the whole apple. They simply gouge large trenches in them and then move on. Once more, my attempts at being an earth mother - type gardener person are thwarted by mother nature.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Its a Conspiracy, I tell you!

Since I got back from vacation, my computer has been PLAGUED with pop-ups. I have been spy/adware scanning my computer every day, I have upgraded to a new yahoo tool bar, I have added the Norton Anti-spy-wear icon to my stupid new yahoo toolbar and STILL, I can't go online without getting the same 4 pop-ups slowing down my attempts to use the internet. It is so annoying.

I went to the yahoo pop-up blocker question thing where it says "Why am I still getting so many pop-ups" and the #1 reason, apparently, is because people who design pop-ups are always trying to outsmart people who design spyware and vice versa. Which leads me to the question: how do we know they are not one and the same person?

I'll bet its just a conspiracy. Think about it, you make pop-ups so annoying and insistent that none of the free spyware and pop-up blockers will work anymore, so you have to BUY something more heavy duty -- that is probably designed by the people who also made the pop-ups. So, since they know what can and can't be blocked by that program, they make new pop-ups that get around that program, so you have to buy ANOTHER program . . . and on and on it goes.

I really wish it would stop, because I don't want to play online poker, nor am I excited that I was person # 4576893749674 and that I have WON (every time I access the internet I have apparently struck it rich) nor do I want to rate Steven Harper. I just want to be left alone. Its worse than telemarketers. At least I can just stop answering my phone. By the way, always leave a message -- I don't answer my phone anymore.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

You Can Never Cross the Same River Twice

Although Munstrum Ridcully disputes this assertion, I must say that I have found it to be true in the last few months. ("Well, Archancellor, you can never cross the same river twice" "Don't be ridiculous, Mr. Stibbons. This is a bridge.")

There is nothing quite so strange as going back to places where you used to live. There is this sense of everything being familliar, almost as if no one even noticed you were gone. And then there is this contrasting sense that you don't quite recognize things -- they are not as real as they used to be. It is like when you are dreaming (okay, when I am dreaming) and you go to "your house", only its not really your house. But for the span of the dream it is familliar and you know it like you know your own house. Your feelings say "of course this is my house", but your head says "this is not what my house looks like at all". That is the kind of disconcerting feeling I got when I was driving through Thunder Bay.

The strangest thing about Thunder Bay is that, other than my parents, and a few of my nieces and nefews, no one who I knew as a teenager still lives there. All my friends from highschool have moved to Toronto or New York or Sudbury or Somewhere Else. My old highschool has been turned into a satelite campus for the local university, one of my elementary schools is now a care home and another has been torn down. My parents don't live in the same house, or even in the same part of town that I grew up in. All the things that drew me to Thunder Bay, and made it an important place are gone.

And yet, I felt the urge to drive down Court street and see my old house and neigbourhood. I went to the Hoito for breakfast and had the same Finnish pancakes I used to have. I even got a parking ticket there (a typical Jill happening). I wandered around Hillcrest park and looked and the Sleeping Giant, right above the old house where I spent my childhood. I bought Persians to share with my friend Lisa. I longed to go to Merla Mae for their home made soft ice cream (the first soft ice cream in all of Northwestern Ontario) and wander through the Comic store below my friend Lisa's last appartment before she moved out of town. I wished I had been able to bring a loaf of bread down to the marina to feed the seagulls with my son. The feel and taste of the place were comforting to me, recently relocated as I am.

I felt young again and I remembered who I was when I left at 18, full of the beauty of the universe and confident in my own ability to do anything I chose. A young woman who had never second guessed herself or, for that matter, thought before she acted on most of her impulses. The authour of a hundred ridiculous adventures that I shared with my friends, mostly involving 7-11, hamsters, pay phones, hats, a small red Toyota Corolla and a crowbar named Allouicious.

I smiled, and remembered all my antics. And my friends. And that 18 year old who was so full of adventure and fun. And I was a little bit sad.

I am glad that I think before I act and (usually -- really Nonie, I do) before I speak. And that I have learned to control my impulses a tiny bit. And that I moved beyond Thunder Bay. I can never go back, never cross that same river. But I can still taste and hear and smell the things that bring me back to that river. And once in a while, for a short time, its a good thing to do.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Finally Home For Real!

I have returned from my mad dash to Thunder Bay and Sudbury this week. All I will say right now is that it is not a good idea to travel alone with a 2 year old while pregnant. Especially if you ride a total of 8 planes, have 4 stop-overs (three of which are over 2 hrs long) and only have one to 4 days in between these jaunts. Especially just after security has become so tight your bags get constantly searched for "dangerous" items such as diaper cream -- I seriously had a security guard confiscate a 2oz tube of Burt's Bees diaper cream (98.3% natural; 1.7% explosive?) -- and your stroller must be swabbed for "substances that could be harmful to the safety of the flight" (that's a direct quote) at EVERY security depot. Especially if your toddler is fighting any form of restraint and screams every time you must hold him for a plane to take off or land. Especially if . . . well, lets just leave it there, shall we? I really do try to make this an interesting and amusing blog, not just a place for me to whine.

More reflections on airports and going "home" to follow on better days.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Abstract of my Vacation posts.

The next three posts after this are my vacation seperated out like I tend to seperate things in my travel diaries. I divide my days (in this case my whole vacation) into higlights, lowlights and reflections. I find it a clear and precise way to remember the most important and funny things that happened.

A breif overview of our trip would look like this: We left on a Tuesday morning and tented our way out to B.C. Then we stayed at the Wagners' lovely home for about 2 weeks in their basement. They were on vacation when we arrived, and then they came home in the middle of our time there. During this time we visited a lot. Then we stayed with Brian and Jean Butcher and their 6 children in Langley for a few days and visited with them and made little side trips here and there. On Sunday morning we met up with our friends Shawn and Nonie Lynn and their two kids and went on the ferry over to Vancouver Island to visit our friends the Smyths (we used to be a "set" -- Chapmans, Lynns, Smyths = great party). The Lynns could only stay for one day, but we stayed until Wed. Then we drove to Salmon Arm and caught the Saturday of the Roots and Blues Musci Festival. After that we drove home, camping or staying with friends of friends. Dave picked up his new motorcycle in Calgary and Andrew and I drove in the car by ourselves the last two days (well, with new baby who kicked a lot). That will put the posts below in context.

Trip Highlights

Driving through the Rocky and Kootenay mountains. You all must do it at least once in your lifetime.

Staying in the Wagners' amazing house for 4 days by ourselves. Talk about luxury accomodations.

Hanging out with great friends: the Lynns, Allie and her mom Patricia, Aggie, Szabolcs, Melissa (too short of a visit), Rita and Jer, the Wagners, the Butchers, etc, etc.

Watching my son gradually warm up to my friends' children and play with them.

Having my belly expand so much one week that I could feel my child pushing against me, demanding more space for his or her rapidly growing frame. I literally had 3 days where I felt like someone had put a balloon inside of me and they were going to blow it up until I burst. Feeling this new, enthusiastic life rolling and kicking and punching through our many car rides and visits.

Starbucks. Oh, how I have missed my lattes and tazo frappuccinos.

Ikea. We really need to bring trailer next time we go to an Ikea . . . Sigh.

Eating great foreign food. Seeing people who weren't white. Hearing other languages swirling around me. Checking out the Indian fabric stores and touching the silks and cottons and polyesters and brocades. So much sight, sound and culture to experience everywhere.

The ocean. When we drove into Twassen to get on the ferry to Vancouver Island and I smelled the fishy, salty sea air I almost wept.

Travelling on the ferry with the Lynns, and staying in a hotel in the room next to them and eating the free continental breakfast together. We pushed two little tables together and loaded up on free food. It was so surreal and fun. Especially now that we have three and a half kids between us.

Cowichan Bay, this lovely little seaside port town on the east coast of Vancouver island with a harbour, a view of Saltspring across the channel and really cool and funky shops and resteraunts (fresh organic bread, anyone?).

The big pile of sand they brought in for the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival that kept Andrew happy all day. Also this amazing workshop with Feist, Hocksley Workman and this up-and-coming new yorker named Jennie Starr. Fantastic -- the whole crowd was dancing by the end.

Also, just soaking in a day of great, interesting music, including Iranian Tabla, blues, Finnish fiddle, fantastic young singer / songwriters, raegae and calypso. And watching the fascinating feast of people who attend folk festivals -- all in their folkiest finery. My favorite was the big, bare chested man with a pirate like beard, shoulder length dreadlocks and a kacki kilt. Where else are you going to see that (or indeed, where else would you ever want to see it?). Then after a day of being baked in the sun and overstimulated until your rational faculties are beaten to a fine pulp, sitting in the cool evening listening to an amazing musician (Feist again in this case -- she is a great performer) who has the ability to burn her music into your now defenseless psyche. Then following this with a hot chocolate at Tim Hortons while discussing the intersection of Hippie idealism, Postmodernism and Christianity (that is another post all together).

Staying with this wonderful, warm and hospitable missionary couple from Japan in Canmore, Alberta. Despite their weak English and our inability to speak Japanese, we really enjoyed our time with them. It was a little oasis of warmth and humanity in the midst of a very long drive home. Such good people.

Watching my husband enjoy driving his new Suzuki VStrom home from Calgary, and seeing my son's eyes go big every time he said "Daddy driving a MOTORCYCLE".

Finally driving the familliar 2 hrs from Saskatoon to our home, soaking in the beautiful colours of the ripened wheat and canola, smiling at ever-shifting and beatiful big, big sky and feeling glad to be home at last.

Trip Lowlights

Here they are, in order:

- camping in Cereal, AB our first night. Imagine a small prairie town with a closed gas / resteraunt store, a trucker's cardlock and a very empty city-run camping park as the only things on the highway. Your family is the only one camping in the campsite. The sky is dark as thunderstorms roll by on both sides of your campground. You husband decides that he needs to go and check out the town, leaving you and your toddler alone in this campground, feeling like the masked chain saw murderer must be about to appear out of the trees behind you at any moment . . .

-the third day of our car trip to B.C. when Andrew had a 40 min. screaming fit during which he was unconsolable and we had to get out of the car and walk him on the side of the highway and a trucker almost stopped because he thought we were hurt, then finally I had to put him back in his chair, pin down his flailing arms and force him to drink water until he calmed down and went to sleep.

- the second week of our trip, which was supposed to be devoted to relaxing and visiting. Instead we all got the stomach flu and had to cancel everything so we didn't pass it around.

- the many meltdowns Andrew had in the third week of our trip when we had to condense all the visits we had planned to do over two weeks into about 4 days.

- ending up caught in the middle of one of our friends' ongoing marital disputes.

- leaving all Andrew's toys at the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues festival and not having them turned in to lost and found the next day.

- driving through rush hour in Calgary after Dave picked up his motorbike with a fussy toddler in the back and a kicking baby in my belly and, well, rush hour traffic. Nothing like trying to turn around in the driver's seat while pregnant enough that you no longer have your full range of motion to try to retrieve a toy or sippy cup at a red light.

Trip Reflections

The most amazing thing about our trip was that we were really glad to get home. I was worried when we left for B.C., becuase I was feeling like I had finally settled in Saskatchewan. I was afraid that going back to see all my friends and all that beauty would lead me to become dissatisfied when I got back. But it didn't. I realized that where you are at personally and in your family life is way more important to happiness than where you live geographically. I have really spent the last year and a half trying to learn how to live a life of order, discipline and contentment, to make my years as a homemaker and mom somewhat monastic in nature. And although I miss my friends, and Starbucks coffee, and Olympic organic French Vanilla yogurt and the mountains, I don't miss eating at least a meal a day in the car, driving for 2 - 3 hrs a day, and feeling hurried and hectic all the time. I rather like the slow, meditative pace of my life here.

This was something that I had to work through, though. I had a few days of mourning for my old life, where I was running an all different directions, and had the freedom to pick up new activities and hobbies and friends whenever I wanted to. I miss being able to run or excersise every day or two. I miss having the time to act and direct. I miss my summer Mondays, when I used to bike 40 min. across Langley to see the 2 pm matinee (whatever it was that day), then bike to Chapters and have a coffee and read books, then wander around the mall (while trying to avoid the fact that I had to go back up the killer hill to get to my house), and finally going home. I miss trekking down to Ethical Addictions (a fair trade coffee shop) to soak up the alternative youth culture and write or draw or just sit and listen to whoever was playing on a Thursday or Friday night. I miss just being able to go somewhere and do something fun without having to make sure I have diapers, wipes, food, toys, appropriate clothing and footwear for my child, and then chase a boy around the house trying to get him ready to go and possibly squeak in a moment to brush my hair and put on mascara before I run out the door and off to whatever. I miss having my fully functioning brain. But this is a short and precious time in my life and I have decided that the best thing I can do is savour it, just as I did that time of freedom and fun.

The other cool thing was that with most of my friends, it was like I had never left. I just walked right backinto these wonderful relationships with people as though I had just seen them yesterday. I was sad that I had missed some really exciting and some really sad events in people's lives, but I appreciated the fact that I still had the same friendship with them.

The third thing that really struck me is how little time I've been spending in meditation and prayer since I moved out here. I know this largely has to do with having a child who doesn't sleep much. But I feel like I've lost my close connection to God, and thus a lot of my impact on other people. So one of the goals that comes out of my vacation is to set up my Jesus corner again somewhere in the house and spend time there at least twice a week.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

This is just for Shawn

All right, so I am home from my holidays. Its just that I"m going away again in 4 days, and I have a tree full of apples to pick and do something with, and zucchini (oh, the zucchini -- they deserve and will eventually receive a post all to themselves) to eat / bake up and unpacking and re-packing and youth group stuff to attend to before we go (I should really be making newsletters right now, Shawn) and so I don't have time to do proper justice to the adventure that was my month long road trip / visit to B.C with toddler in tow. And I really must do it proper justice, because so many fantastic and funny things happened. So stay tuned, when I get a chance to breathe I will write more. But for now I must make apple butter and youth group newsletters. I've been blogging in my head all month, and I shall commit some of those fascinating thoughts to . . . paper? . . . as soon as I get the chance. Promise.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Jill's Not In Right Now, But Please Leave a Message . . .

Well, my faithful readers ( all four of you -- its so exciting when you can double your readership), I am off on holidays. In just one day we will be setting out on a month long adventure to British Columbia. It should be great to reconnect with friends and family out there, and I can't wait to see the mountains and the ocean again, and introduce my son to tide pools and beach combing.

It will be kind of strange, becuase I've changed so much since I was last there. I've grown my hair, become a mom (I was technically a mom when I left, but 6 weeks into momhood does not equal identity change, it just equals a blank, bleary-eyed stare), a minister's wife, and a resident of Saskatchewan. How can I possibly sum up my experiences in a few hours' visit? Especially since many of my friends have had similar changes -- some have moved, others had more children, or become pregnant, or changed jobs or left a marriage. It makes me sort of nervous.

But then I remind myself that true friendships are based on something simultaneously more solid and more insubstantial than these things. They are based on a connection of two souls, a delight and interest in another person, and a desire to enter into their world: their thoughts, experiences and emotions. And this connection will still be there, no matter how we change on the surface, no matter what happens in between visits.

And then I am excited to go back and rediscover the parts of myself that I left with these people and totally fogot about. For me, visiting old friends is like going to the Lost and Found. I always realize "Oh yeah, I'd forgotten about that . . . that is a part of me. That is how I was, how I still am somewhere in here. These are the things I liked to do when I was here or there." Its like picking up lost fragments of your past and clicking them into place, seeing yourself through the eyes of the past. And I love that.

Also, generally speaking, it is like going to the Lost and Found because I have inevitably left something at their house . . .

Have a good month, everyone. Talk to you in Sept.

Favorite Things About Late July

Coming from British Columbia, you get used to seeing an array of exotic plants blooming all through the year from Feb. right through to about November. Here in Central Saskatchewan, the variety is more limited. There are blooming things from about May to September or maybe October, and then there is snow. But to compensate for this, there are some really beautiful things that bloom in those months. Here are a few of my favorite Saskatchewan perennials:

The Lilly. The reddish orange lilly is Saskatchewan's provincial flower, and a version of it grows wild in the bush. I've seen them around Emma Lake and they are lovely. These domesticated ones do well, and are spectacular for several weeks.

The Hollyhock. These particular ones were about 7 ft tall, and the flowers are bigger than my hand. I know they came from England, but they always look to me like they arrived from another planet.

The daisy. Not an exotic or rare plant, but here they grow in huge, glorious wild mounds. Our entire front garden consists of mounds of daisies, a peony and a wild pink rose. The dasies bloom atleast twice if they are cut back, need very little care and zero extra watering, except during heat waves. What could be better for a sad and sorry gardener like myself?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Exciting News!

Before I get to the exciting news, thanks ladies for your nice comments about my blog. I was so flattered I couldn't write anything for a week (so much for me being such a regular blogger, Anna!). Also Andrew is still not sleeping and Dave is thinking of buying a motorbike, so all the free evening computer time is taken up with "research".

All right, drum roll, please . . . .

I am expecting baby #2!! Some in late Jan. or early Feb. I will be parenting two children. A newborn and a 2 and a half year old.

Am I terrified? Yes. I keep thinking, "What if its twins? What if this baby is also colicy / fussy / demanding like Andrew was? Will I survive? Will Andrew survive? How will I deal with a newborn when it takes 3 hours to get my toddler to sleep at night?" and on and on and on.

Am I excited? Yes. I wanted to have my children close together (possibly even closer than this) so that they could grow up together -- something I didn't have a chance to do -- and so that I would get all the baby and toddler insanity over with in one fell swoop and then go back to work when they're all in school. And the thought of bringing another amazing person into the world and watching them blossom into this fascinating and unique individual is thrilling.

So I am scared and excited and , well, very tired all at the same time.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Adventures in Marinating

At the grocery store on Wed, I bought some Ziploc bags to marinate some marinating steak to put on the bbq. Yesterday, I thawed out the steaks, and mixed up the marinade (lemon juice, canola / olive oil blend and chopped garlic -- delicious). I slid the steaks into two bags and in a moment of unusual fortune and foresight, decided to pour the marinade into the bags over the sink. I poured it in, and noticed that the oil was leaking out everywhere from one of the bags. I quickly tossed it in the sink and started cleaning up the mess. Which is when I noticed that the OTHER bag was also leaking. To have one Ziploc bag leak is unusual. To have two leaking from the same box is almost unheard of. It wasn't just a little leak -- it was almost as though the marinade was sweating off of the bags. Quickly, I grabbed a reasonable sized container from my plastic cupboard and dumped the steaks and the remainder of the marinade into it.

I wondered what was happeneing, but I didn't really have time to check at that moment becuase I had an awful lot of oil to clean off of the floor, the dishes in the sink, the sink, the counter, and myself. Today, however, I checked the box of "Double Zipper Vegetable Bags", It has the following helpful explanation on the side: "To keep vegetables fresh, you need to maintain the right amount of moisture. Otherwise, they get too dry or soggy. Ziploc Vegetable bags help maintain the right moisture balance. There are hundreds of freshness vents (micro holes) on every bag. They are designed to let excess moisture out while holding the right amount in, so your vegetables stay fresher, longer." Oops.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Things I'm Loving about Summer in Saskatchewan

(in the order they occur to me, not in order of importance)

1. Feeding the birds. Our neighbourhood birds are now tame enough that they will land on our feeder even if we are sitting 3 or 4 ft away. Its pretty fun to watch them.

2. Feeding the red squirrel. The squirrel actually gave Andrew and I a lecture the other day for being in his way when he was trying to get to the food. There is nothing quite so amusing as watching your toddler watch a squirrel perched on an 8 foot fence post chatter and squalk at him. I explained what I thought the squirrel was trying to say, and now whenever Andrew sees the squirrel he says "Squirrel wants eat!"

3. Building castle walls. We bought a big bucket of sand toys this spring for Death's Sandbox (see post of that title). I bought this particular bucket because it has molds for a castle wall, a round turret and a square keep. Its pretty cool. I showed Andrew how to build castle walls. Once every couple of days he wanders over to me and says "mommy build castle walls". I go and attempt to construct a castle out of the sand molds. Andrew helps me pat the sand down, watches with delight as I pull the mold off the wall, and then crushes it. Its a pretty fun game.

4. My garden. I am actually growing vegetables. I am sure this amazes you all, but I ate spinach out of my garden tonight, my carrots have leaves, my sunflowers are about a foot high, and my zucchini plants have about 5 or 6 leaves each. I was really excited the other day and said to Dave, "look, Dave, my garden is growing!". He responded, "That's what happens when you actually plant one, Jill". Ha ha.

5. The mosquitos. Who doesn't appreciate this fine insect. I love the humm of them as they swarm around my head. I love watching them land on my son's face so that I have to rush over to him to try and smack it away, and instead end up making him nervous. I love the constant burn of mosquito bites on my legs because, while I am very dilligent about putting bug repellant on my son, I tend to foget myself. (um, yeah, this one is meant to be sarcastic).

6. The park. What a brilliant way to amuse my child. I wander around after him and comment on his activity, and he wears himself out. Its great most days. His favorite activity at present (ironically enough) is the swings. He likes them because they are facing the four way stop just outside of the park, and a fairly major (by our town's standards) road -- not Main St, but a fairly main road -- intesects there. So he gets to have a ride and watch all the cars and trucks and people go by. Its perfect. And a great arm workout for me.

7. The barbeque. My husband eagerly offers to cook on it. Everything tastes great grilled. THere are no pots and pans. How can I not love that?

8. I can wear shorts and no socks without social ridicule or risk or frostbite. I really am not a big fan of socks. Unless someone is expected at out house (in which case my husband likes me to be civilized and wear socks) I go barefoot in the house all winter long. I have really hot feet, and they like to breathe. I also hate having my legs covered. It aggrivates me. I can't really explain this, but it is a fact. Also, I love my ankles -- I have decided I should have been born in the Victorian era because I have damn good ankles.

9. Walks. Walks keep my son and I on good terms. He gets a much needed break from activity (which he will only otherwise take in front of the television or when I'm reading to him) and I get a break from his constant need for attention and stimulation. How can this not be a win-win?

10. Hair. My hair looks redder from all the sun in the summer. I know most red heads hate this, but I love my hair. Since the birth of my son, the middle of my body is all squishy, but at least I have great hair and great ankles.

11. Hats. Okay, so I wear a variety of hats all year, because I have a number of very cool hats. But summer sun mixed with fair skin is a particularly good excuse for a great hat.

12. Watermelon. Nuff said.

Hope you are enjoying summer as much as we are.

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream . . .

When will my son learn to sleep? Many people I know with almost - two - year - olds have children that sleep. Some of them even have kids that put themselves to bed at night, or tell their parents when they want to sleep.

We had about 2 glorious weeks of sleep, when my son would say "go sleep now" and we would happily go off to bed and "quickly" (for Andrew that means in under two hours) fall asleep. Unfortunately Dave's watch broke. And we were invited for two evening visits in the same week. And since he had no watch and he was busy being interested in the people we were visiting, our whining son and my many reminders of "we really need to be going" just didn't sink in. So he stopped beleiving that mommy would put him to bed when he was tired and he could peacefully fall to sleep. So he stopped sleeping again.

Now, instead of Andrew falling asleep right around 9 on the dot, he is falling asleep closer to 11. This is after the usual bath - stories - nursing and songs and backrubs routine, followed by any number of other "essential" bedtime things, such as the backpack ride with mom when she needs to get things done, the car ride with dad, the stroller ride if Dad has the car, the cuddle stories in bed, the late night snacks, the "I give up just go and play while I ignore you and do something on the internet" times, and, my favorite -- the time when I marched our bleary eyed but not sleeping son into the study and passed him off to Dad, saying "I have put this child to sleep for 21 months now. I have woke with him in the middle of the night and every morning. It is your turn to deal with him." Its one of those times when you have a nice, peaceful night and you think "aha! I have it now!" only to find that it only worked that night . . . and never works again.

Ah well, in a few years I can just put him in bed and he can pretend to sleep when he thinks I'm there and read in bed with a flashlight or the light from his closet which is cleverly attatched to a long string so that it can be activated from his bed . . . not that I have any experience with such things. The point is, eventually he can not sleep and bother no one but himself. Inevitably by that time I will no longer have babies and toddlers in the house and so I will also be prowling around late at night sewing, writing, emailing, and otherwise getting up to mischeif. Hey, wait a minute . . . maybe there's something to that whole genetics thing.