Sunday, April 30, 2006

Musical Musing

I have played the piano since I was six years old. I took lessons until I was nineteen, and I taught piano for eight years. This fall I choose not to continue teaching in order to have more time for my growing family. (It turned out to be a wise decision. I found out I was pregnant again in October!)

I love practicing piano --- though it wasn't always so. Through my teenage years practicing was often more of a chore than a pleasure. I almost quit lessons a few times. Looking back, I am very glad my parents encouraged me to continue. Piano is now a part of my core identity. It is a leisure activity I enjoy. Also, my ability to teach music has equipped me with an employable skill.

This September I started taking piano lessons again for the first time in many years. I started out slowly with one lessons every two weeks. I saw it as a trial --- getting my feet wet again after many years. I wanted to see if I could find the time to commit to quality practicing.

I've been taking lessons for eight months now, and I love it! I am studying towards my ARCT Teacher's Diploma. (ARCT stands for Associate of the Royal Conservatory of Toronto). It is basically equivalent to a college diploma.

Attaining my Teacher's ARCT certificate is an ambitious goal. Most students require at least two years of study before they are ready to take the exams. I estimate I will need more like four years. The requirements for the diploma are quite daunting --- two practical exams and five written ones. (Though, I need not take them all at the same time.)

Why would I choose to do something like this?

I already had enough certification to teach piano in Alberta, but I felt that I was not the best teacher I could be. If / when I decide to start teaching again, my ARCT diploma will be very useful. But more importantly, I wanted an academic goal to work toward.

Sometimes, as much as I love being home with my children full-time, I feel like my brain is going to mush. Practicing a challenging Mozart sonata, or working out the complexities of music harmony, give me a creative outlet and identity outside of "Mommy". The greatest reason I am pursuing this diploma is for myself. It is satisfying to have a lofty goal to work towards.

Is finding time for practice a challenge? Every day! Many days I am only able to squeeze in a half-hour or forty-five minutes. Some days I can't practice at all. I often have "helpers" as I play, plunking away on the high notes. I often practice for an hour in the mornings while the boys play trucks at my feet, or they run around the living room as I try to ignore them!

However, I feel it is healthy for my children to see their mommy working towards a goal. My preschooler, especially, understands that practicing piano is "Mommy's work". He seems to enjoy listening to me play, and often makes special requests. "Mommy, can you play Baa (Bach)?" he often asks. He is very much looking forward to starting music lessons himself in the fall. Some mornings, the most wonderful ones, my boys are so mellow they will cuddle on the floor and listen to me play for more than an hour. Those are the times I love.

With the new baby coming, I am unsure how I will continue to eke out the time for piano. Next year I will be studying under a new teacher, and my lessons will increase to one-and-a-half hours per week. After my "trial year" I have decided to go all out toward my goal. I don't believe I will progress as quickly as most students, but I figure "slow and steady wins the race".

I believe it is better to take baby steps towards a goal, rather than decide the finish line is too far away and never try at all. It may take several years before I finish all my exams. At the end of it all, though, I think I will look back and say, "It was difficult, but I'm glad I did it!"

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Language Explosion

My youngest son is a year-and-a-half. He's been saying a few words since he was about one, but it seems this week his vocabulary has exploded. It is as though a light bulb has suddenly clicked on in his brain. I remember the same process happening with my first son. It is an exciting time, and I think one of the most interesting stages of childhood development.

What has my young toddler been saying?

He has named his special stuffed lion "La La". He can say "nank" for his snuggly blankie. He's been calling for "Mommeeeee" and "Daddeeeee". He often says "pees" and "ank you". It seems his vocabulary is most extensive when it comes to food: "milk", "juice", "cheese", "cookie", "bun", "cracker" and "na na" are all common words. This evening he even said "suitcase" clear as a bell.

I love seeing his little personality develop as he learns to communicate. My toddler an outgoing, happy, full-of-fun child. I think he will be a real chatterbox in a few months! I am very thankful to be at home 24-7 to witness his transformation from baby to little boy. It is a privilege to be "Mommeeee" to such a sweet little guy.
Date Night

It's funny how things change when you have kids. In the past, Friday night "date night" may have involved dinner at a nice restaurant or going to a romantic movie. These days, "date night" usually consists of an early supper at a fast-food joint with a play place.

Tonight we sent the boys off to Grandma and Grandpas' for a sleepover. Did we take time alone for fun and romance? Well .... not exactly. We spent the evening up to our elbows in paint. (I finally convinced Ben we needed to re-decorate the boys' bedroom).

However, my fun-loving / paint-loathing husband finally convinced me we needed to take advantage of our kid-fee state. We diligently applied a coat of paint, took quick showers and changed out of our grubby clothes. Then we went out to a late movie.

Romance is alive and well in the Inkster household! (What am I still doing on the computer?)

Thursday, April 27, 2006

A Warm Fuzzy

My preschooler has a special blue crocheted blankie. He calls it his "nank". "Nank" is never far from my son's side as he goes through his day.

This morning we came downstairs for breakfast. My little boy discarded his "nank" on the living room floor (in order to avoid spilling pancake syrup on it). Our windows face east, and the room was filled with early-morning sunshine.

The blankie lay for half-an-hour in a puddle of sunlight.

When my preschooler had finished his breakfast, he lay down on the floor to give his blankie a quick snuggle. He sucked his thumb contentedly for a few seconds, and then with a touch of wonder in his voice he said:

"Oh Mommy, God made my nank warm for me!"

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Loving Husband

My husband is a certified computer geek. His idea of a fun evening activity is checking site statistics on Google Analytics. Oh yes ... he really knows how to keep a girl entertained.

A few days ago Ben began tracking my site with the Google statistics software. I will admit, it is pretty interesting to see how many hits my site gets each day, and where they all come from. Ben likes to take site tracking a step further, though. He mines for more detailed data.

Last night Ben was having great fun checking the Google key words people used in order to find my site. For example, Google Analytics tells me that someone searched for "Splash the baby hippo" and was directed to Ben thought it would be fun to see what other words and phrases he could come up with.

That was when he broke ... The Sacred Husband Code.

(Definition: The Sacred Husband Code states that there are certain things a husband must never say, imply, think -- and certainly not write -- about his wife. And he must never, ever, ever, use them as search terms on Google.)

My loving, caring, sensitive husband typed the following phrase into the search engine:

"Lindsay the pregnant hippo".

My site came up second on the list.

I have no further comment.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Baby Brain

You know you are tired when:

You finish showering in the morning, turn off the water, step onto the mat, dry off and realize you forgot to rinse the conditioner from your hair.

You know you are really tired when:

You finish showering in the morning, turn off the water, step onto the mat, dry off, get dressed, pull your hair into a ponytail, go through most of the day, and then realize you forgot to rinse the conditioner from your hair.

(Bonus points if you come to this realization two minutes before your dinner guests are due to arrive at the door.)

Monday, April 24, 2006

Super Soup

On Easter weekend my mother-in-law gave me the remnants of the holiday turkey. I put the bones in the freezer, intending to make soup. (And then I promptly forgot about them). This morning I corrected my memory lapse and pulled out my trusty stock pot. Nothing beats a hot bowl of homemade soup with freshly-baked bread!

Here is my basic turkey (or chicken) soup recipe. I usually add "extras", but this recipe is a good place to start. I always double the ingredients.

Turkey Vegetable Soup (from Company's Coming: Holiday Entertaining)

1 turkey carcass, broken up
14 C. water
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp. salt
3/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. sugar

3 medium carrots, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
3 celery ribs, sliced
1 tbsp. instant chicken bouillon powder
1 tbsp. parsley flakes
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 C. long grain rice
2 C. chopped turkey

Put turkey carcass, water, bay leaves, salt, pepper and sugar into large pot. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 2 hours. Remove carcass. Discard bay leaves. Return any bits of meat to pot. Discard bones.

Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes until all vegetables are cooked. Taste for seasoning. Add more water if too thick. Makes about 15 cups.

A little note: I save my empty plastic peanut butter containers. With their wide mouths and screw-top lids, I find them perfect for freezing soups and stews.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Little Monkey

My toddler will officially be one-and-a-half next Monday. He is a fun-loving, sunshiny little boy. He has an impish, outgoing personality. His curly blonde hair is his trademark, and if I had my way I would never, ever cut it. (Contrary to my husband's pleas!)

Over the past week Mr. Mischief has learned a new skill --- climbing. Watch out! He has discovered that he can drag around a kitchen chair, climb up onto it, and play with fascinating things when Mommy is not paying attention.

This week I caught him crawling across the kitchen table, pulling photos and magnets off of the fridge, and rearranging the forks and spoons in the cutlery drawer. My little guy also enjoys pushing the "page" button on the phone cradle. He knows how to flip on the coffee maker, and has attempted to operate the microwave oven. He's into everything!

A few days ago I left the boys alone for two minutes to use the washroom. When I returned to the kitchen, I found that they had pulled a chair over to the counter. Two little boys were standing on the chair side-by-side with tell-tale brown rings around their mouths. Our bowl of chocolate Easter eggs was missing from its perch on top of the microwave.

With great difficulty I swallowed a smile. In my most stern "mommy voice" I said, "What are you doing?"

"Just eating chocolates," my preschooler replied.

The Toddler looked up at me with wide, innocent eyes that seemed to say, "It wasn't my idea."

I really wanted to take a picture of the two of them, but decided to restrain myself. Instead, I played the part of the "disappointed Mommy". The Preschooler was sentenced to a time-out and given the punishment of "no more sweets for an entire day". My toddler was banished to his play pen.

I love that play pen.

Some days it is the only way I can keep my Little Monkey from climbing right into the dishwasher.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Signs of Spring

Spring is definitely in the air.

The grass is turning green, our trees are covered in hundreds of tiny buds, and street sweepers are busily clearing gravel from the roads. This week the landscaping company mowed the lawns and did a "spring clean up" of our condo complex. The sun is still shining when we put the boys to bed in the evenings. Last night we even ate our supper out on the patio for the first time this season. Yes, winter is finally on its way out and spring is bounding in.

Well, almost. This is Calgary, after all.

This morning we awoke to a lovely surprise:

Hmmm. There went our plans to take the boys somewhere outside. We had been planning a Saturday excursion to the playground, or maybe the zoo --- you know, somewhere we could enjoy the sunshine and balmy weather.

Instead, we gathered around the kitchen table and made play dough creatures. Play dough is a big hit with our preschool-aged boys. They industriously worked on squishy dough projects for more than an hour today. (And the lure of play dough was hard to resist for an artsy-type like their mommy, too.)

I suppose spring will eventually come to us here in the Great White North. Until then, I may have to run out to the loonie store to replenish my play dough supplies.

Friday, April 21, 2006

I'm Dreaming of a ..... Large Horse??

I have read that pregnant women often have vivid and imaginative dreams.

I suppose there are a number of reasons for this. Pregnancy hormones do all sorts of weird and wonderful things to a woman's mind and body. I have also heard the theory that a pregnant woman can have a lot on her mind, so her subconscious works through issues within dreams. As well, I think some of the strange things pregnant women eat may contribute to unusual dreaming.

That said, I have a puzzling dream to share.

This afternoon I took my customary mid-day nap. As I snored away, curled around my mountain of pillows, the following scene played out in my subconscious ...

I was in labour in a hospital room. I was the only person in the room, and I do not know where Ben was. However, I was not alone. There was also a large, chocolate brown horse in the room with me. The horse was very calm and placid. He was just standing there. I was having labour pains and was standing and rocking my hips, hugging the neck of the horse. His hair was very soft and thick --- not unlike the fur of a teddy bear. I remember thinking, "This is such a wonderful horse. I feel so safe with him."

This dream is weird for two reasons.

First, I will tell you a little known secret. In real life I am scared of horses. I know, I know --- how can I be an Albertan and frightened of horses? Let me share a story ...

When I was thirteen I took riding lessons at summer camp. I was assigned to a clever, old mare. I was just learning to properly bridle and saddle a horse. When I pulled the cinch strap to tighten the saddle in place the old mare played a dirty trick on me. She puffed up her sides with air. As I was riding, of course, she let the air out. The saddle started to slip and I slid right under the horse's belly. I was terrified! Ever since, I have not trusted horses.

There is a second reason why my dream is unusual. Though my first two boys were born in the hospital, for this birth we are planning to stay home with a midwife. To tell the truth, I have not had any terrible hospital experiences. I am not opposed to going to the hospital again. At the same time, I am very much looking forward to staying home for this labour and delivery. Seeing a midwife has been a vastly different experience from visiting an obstetrician in a hospital. Whenever I visualize this third birth, the baby is born at home and not in a hospital room.

So I am left puzzling over this strange dream. Does it mean anything? Certainly, I could read many interpretations into it. However, suffice it to say I think the dream was mostly influenced by the leftover smokie with spicy mustard I ate for lunch. (Or maybe it was the ice cream sandwich ... )

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Mom Time

I did some quick arithmetic the other day and came up with the following statistic: When our new baby is born in June I will have been pregnant or breastfeeding (or both) for 50 consecutive months.

I enjoy being pregnant, and I have come to love babies. I will admit, though, that the "young motherhood" stage of life is often exhausting. Therefore, I would like to offer my own "top ten list" of affordable pick-me-ups for tired moms:

10. Buy a fun nail polish colour at the drug store and give yourself a home pedicure. (And if your pregnant belly prohibits you from reaching your own toes, have your dear husband do it for you!) Cost: $3.

9. Put the kids to bed and have a long soak in the tub with a good book. Cost: free

8. Call a girlfriend on the spur-of-the-moment and go to Tim Hortons for an large decaf double-double. Cost: $2

7. Load the kids into the double stroller and take a walk out in the sunshine. Cost: free

6. Put the little ones to bed early and spend an hour browsing in the library. Cost: free

5. Ask Grandma and Grandpa to babysit and go out for pasta with your handsome husband. Cost: $20

4. Go to the YMCA and work up a good sweat. Cost: monthly membership (which is free if you become a volunteer)

3. Take the whole family to the park after supper to play ball or frisbee. Cost: free

2. Read The Message: Remixed version of the Bible. Cost: $35 (or free if you borrow it from the library)

1. Send the children to Grandma and Grandpa's for a sleep-over and plan a romantic night with your husband. Cost: free if you stay home (but every once in a while I highly recommend splurging on a hotel room)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

"Going Wobbly"

Do you ever wonder how the mind of a three-year-old works? I certainly do ... pretty much every day.

My husband has been doing some home-improvement work in the basement. Ben has a home office downstairs, and he spent the day stuffing sound-proofing insulation into the ceiling. As a safety-conscious do-it-yourselfer, Ben was handsomely attired in work gloves, long sleeves, a breathing mask and safety glasses.

Our three-year-old saw Daddy's get-up and was fascinated by the safety glasses. I'm not entirely sure why the glasses were so interesting. He had seen them many times before --- they are the same goggles Ben wears to ride his motorcycle. For whatever reason, tonight the safety glasses were the best thing ever.

Now, here is where things start to get confusing. My preschooler became obsessed with an imaginary pair of "white safety glasses that we keep in the closet downstairs". He would talk of nothing else. And when a bewildered Mommy and Daddy could not produce said safety glasses ... pandemonium ensued.

The tears. The screaming. The fist shaking. My goodness! Over a pair of imaginary glasses?!

When a child throws a monumental temper tantrum in our home we say he is "going wobbly". It is a term we adopted from Tracy Hogg (aka: The Baby Whisperer). I believe it's a British phrase meaning "my-child-is-going-absolutely-bonkers-and-I-can't-for-the-life-of-me-figure-out-why."

What is a parent to do in such a situation? Well ... we undressed our screaming preschooler, dropped him in the bath, washed and dried him, attempted to brush his teeth, put on his pajamas, read the Bible and prayed, kissed him goodnight, and left him wailing in his bed. (Heartless, I know).

He was asleep five minutes later.

When I figure out the mind of a three-year-old I will let you know. In the meantime, I am on my way to the kitchen for a stiff glass of milk and a wagon wheel cookie.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Sweet, Sweet Sleep

"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint."
Isaiah 40:29-31

"... for He grants sleep to those He loves."
Psalm 127:2b

I am the type of person who requires a great deal of sleep. In order to function well I need 9 -10 hours of sleep per day. Sounds like a lot, doesn't it?

I have read several articles that say most people operate on a "sleep debt". Our society does not seem to value proper rest. We are always pushing and striving to fill every minute of the day. We are compelled to produce more, to experience more, to accomplish more. It is a badge of honour to say, "I only got 4 hours of sleep last night, but I feel fine."

But is this God's best for us? The Bible says that sleep is a gift from the Lord, and that He gives rest to the weary. Right at the beginning of the Bible it says that "on the seventh day He rested from all His work" (Genesis 2:2). Even God, the Creator of the Universe, needed to rest!

I run a busy household and have two active little boys. How do I get the rest I require? I have a nap every afternoon. I've been blessed with small children who still take long naps. We all log around two hours of sleep each afternoon.

Yes, it has been a challenge to develop the discipline of napping. (And I do believe it is a discipline, not an indulgence). There are a million things I could do to fill two hours in the afternoon. However, I believe that I can be a better wife and mommy if I am well-rested. In fact, I find I can get more done in the remaining hours of the day because my energy is high and my head is clear.

Sleep is a very good thing. The Bible even says so! (And if you call my house between the hours of 1:00 and 3:30pm I will not answer the phone. I will be catching up on my zzzzzzzz's).

Monday, April 17, 2006

Yummy Soup

Yesterday I cooked an Easter ham for our supper. Today we had mountains of leftovers. This is the tasty soup I made with the ham bone. Enjoy!

Best of Bridge Bean Soup (from The Best of the Best and More)

1 lb. hot Italian sausage
2 smoked pork hocks or 2-3 C. cubed ham
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 medium onions, diced
3 celery stalks with leaves, chopped
5 carrots, peeled and diced
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 C. chopped fresh parsley or 2 tbsp. dried
3 - 14oz. cans kidney beans
14 oz. can tomato sauce
28 oz. can tomatoes, chopped
1 -2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. worcestershire sauce
2 garlic cloves, crushed

Boil sausage to remove excess fat; cut into bite-sized pieces. Skin pork hocks and remove excess fat. Brown sausage and pork hocks in a large, heavy pot. Drain. Add all other ingredients and add just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 2-3 hours. Remove pork hocks and cut meat into bite sized pieces. Return meat to pot. Serve with crusty bread.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


Thought for Easter Day:

Why do grandparents give their young grandsons mountains of Easter chocolate when they know it is not the kids who will be eating the chocolate?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

If At First You Don't Succeed ...

"Could you please bring a dessert for dinner on Saturday," my mother-in-law asked.

"No problem," I innocently replied.

And so began the saga of The Strawberry Cream Cake.

The recipe looked simple enough. I found it while flipping through an old issue of Kraft Canada magazine. Graham cracker crust, jello mix, strawberries and cool whip. How hard could it be?

The instructions read: "Prep time: 15 minutes". They lied.

Whoever decided the "prep time" of our recipe has obviously never had the help of a three-year-old and 17-month-old ... One and a half hours later the delectable dessert was finally chilling in the fridge.

Fast-forward four hours later. The recipe had read: "Refrigerate 3 hours or until firm". The dessert looked stable enough to me, so I gently placed it on a serving platter and popped open the spring-form pan.

Disaster!! My Strawberry Cream Cake went from culinary perfection to a melting blob of pink goo in two minutes flat.

"Ahhh! Help me Ben!" I cried. I madly scooped with the spatula. With a surgeon's precision, my husband refitted the ring around the sides of the pan. What a loss. My dessert looked like it had been made ... well ... by a three-year-old and 17-month-old.

What have I learned from this experience? It is probably best not to try an untested recipe for the big family holiday meal. And the next time I make Strawberry Cream Cake I will put it in the freezer "until firm".

Also, I am supremely grateful that Sobey's bakes tasty pies.

Friday, April 14, 2006


This morning was a scramble. We were running late for the Good Friday service at church, and I needed to put breakfast on the table quickly. I reached into the pantry and pulled out an unopened box of cereal. The label on the box proclaimed one word in bold letters: LIFE.

I paused. I had been so caught up in the morning's hustle and bustle that I had forgotten the purpose of this special day. Jesus died so that I may have life.

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23

The Bible describes the Christian walk as a marathon, not a sprint. I pray that as I run the race of faith I will not overlook Jesus' sacrifice for me. I pray that I will not get so caught up in the busyness of living that I forget the reason why I have life.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ, my God.
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

"When I Survey the Wondrous Cross", Isaac Watts (1707)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

A Delicate Topic of Conversation

Pregnancy is a special time in a woman's life. A pregnant women marvels at the miraculous transformation of her body. She glows with maternal expectation. Her growing belly hides the secret of a new life forming within.

However, pregnancy also holds some unpleasant side effects for most women.

The hormones released during pregnancy are designed to relax a woman's muscles. This is a good thing when it comes time to birth a baby. It is perhaps less appealing when applied to a body process such as digestion.


Like most married couples, my husband and I engage in "pillow talk" every night before we fall asleep. We rehash the events of the day, talk about the kids, philosophise and strategize. Last night our conversation went something like this:

Wife: (burgle, burgle) I'm sorry. Supper must not have agreed with me tonight. I'm so gassy.

Husband: Weird. You only ate a huge helping of chili with beans for dinner ... and did you really think it was a good idea to serve broccoli salad on the side?

Wife: I, um ...

Husband: I mean, what were you thinking?

Wife: Well, I didn't even really want to make chili for supper.

Husband: Why on earth did you do it then?

Wife: There were a few things in the fridge that were going to spoil soon, and I wanted to use them up ...

Husband: So let me get this straight. You made chili --- the most flatulence-inducing food known to man --- with ingredients that were practically rotten, and you served broccoli slaw on the side, and you wonder why you're so gassy?

Wife: I'm sorry ... just don't sleep with your face under the covers, ok?


Yes, pregnancy is a miraculous process, isn't it? Maybe for the next ten weeks I'll just pass on the beans.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Play Date

Earlier this week Mommy, The Preschooler and The Toddler went to play at a friend's house. This was an extra-special play date for my three-year-old because this particular friend is a girl.

Oh my, what fun! Apparently girls' toys are much more interesting than the toys we have at home. His friend had an entire play room full of them! Dolls, cute stuffed animals, pretend food, princess costumes, jewellery, and much more. My boys happily immersed themselves in the wonderous toys.

After about an hour my preschooler finally paraded down the stairs. He was adorned with several sparkly necklaces, a purple hair band on his head, a backpack filled with stuffies, and pink makeup artfully applied to his left cheek.

"I'm going on a adventure, Mommy!" he exclaimed.

As we were preparing to leave the tremendously successful play date, my little man had the following conversation with his friend's grandma at the door:

Grandma: And how old are you?

Little Man: I'm free years old! (holding up the appropriate number of fingers)

Grandma: Well, I wish I was three years old.

Little Man: (said with great feeling) I wish I was a girl!

I am glad that our newest family member is expected to be a little sister. I believe my little guy will enjoy having some dolls around the house. You know --- in case he wants to take them for a spin in his front-end loader.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Spaghetti Pie

This is a favourite meal in our household. I made a triple batch of it tonight -- one for supper and two for my freezer.

My boys eat this dish with "much gusto and relish". My three-year-old even managed to get spaghetti sauce on his socks at dinner tonight. Don't ask me how ...

Here is the recipe for a double batch:

500g Italian sausage, casings removed
2, 284ml cans of sliced mushrooms, drained
1 chopped onion
1 clove chopped garlic (or 1 tsp. from a jar)
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1L tomato pasta sauce
4 C. small broccoli florets (frozen works well)
6 C. cooked whole wheat spaghetti
3 C. shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, cook sausage meat. Break up large chunks with a wooden spoon. Cook until meat is no longer pink. Drain in sieve to remove any fat. Return to saucepan and add mushrooms, onion, garlic and spices. Cook, stirring often, until vegetables are softened. Add pasta sauce and heat through.

Combine cooked spaghetti and sauce mixture. Arrange on the bottom of two 9x9" casserole dishes. Top with broccoli and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes at 350F or until cheese is melted. Cut into wedges and serve. Each casserole serves 4.


Monday, April 10, 2006

My Secret Desire

Now is the time to dish some dirt; share what few people know; let you in on my secret life ....

In my heart of hearts, if I could choose any profession in the world, and having children and making money were not issues, do you know what I would choose to be?

A librarian.

Are you shocked and scandalized yet?

Yes, it's true, I secretly pine to be a librarian. I have since I was a little girl. I love going to the library. I probably visit our local branch two or three times per week. I even hold a TAL card --- a special library card that allows me to borrow books from any library in Alberta. My night stand is permanently stacked with library books waiting to be devoured. I suppose I am what you would call a library geek.

What is it that I love about libraries? I love touching the books, smelling them, browsing through the stacks looking for "treasures". I love watching the families I see using our local library. I love taking my boys to the childrens' section to search for colourful picture books. I love the elegance and simplicity of the Dewey Decimal System. I love the sense of peace and scholarship that pervades the atmosphere of many libraries.

As a university student I would spend hours in the library. I would find a secluded study carol and read, write, complete assignments, study for exams and (more often than I'll admit) take catnaps. The University of Calgary library is an imposing structure, with floor upon floor of heavy, academic tomes. I believe it took most of my university career to figure out the complexities of the Library of Congress catalogue system. I still don't consider myself to be a skilled researcher.

And libraries are about so much more than books. At their essence they are about sharing information. Books, music, videos, periodicals, archival materials and electronic information galore; you can find it all, if you know where to search. That is what I love about libraries --- the potential for discovery, for learning something new and interesting.

Yes, I am a pretty geeky girl at heart. I'm ok with that. Hey, I married a guy who spends almost every waking moment glued to his computer, who plays the bagpipes, and who loves Star Trek. I think we're a well matched pair. We even go to the library together on date night.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Brotherly Love

"How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!" Psalm 133:1

I know I am a blessed mommy.

I have two little boys who genuinely like to play together. They often give each other hugs and kisses, and get along very well. I can honestly say that I have seldom seen sibling rivalry in our home.

What is the secret to our success?

When I figure it out I'll let you know! Ben and I recognize that we are fairly new to this whole parenting game. We've only had three-odd years of experience as "Mommy and Daddy". We are hardly seasoned veterans!

However, I have a few theories as to why our boys are such good buds:

1. We pray every day that they will grow up to be best friends.

2. Our boys are only 22 months apart in age, and are interested in many of the same toys and activities.

3. We try to be vigilant about nipping any hint of sibling rivalry in the bud. We never let mean or hurtful behavior slide.

Will our boys always get along smashingly? I am sure that their relationship will flow through many seasons. But I pray that they will be best buddies to one another, just as Ben and his brother are best friends. I pray that my boys will go through childhood, the teen years, marriage and raising a family together. I pray that they will walk through all the stages of life as friends.

I'm starting to learn that the best friends you can have in life are the ones found in your own family. They are the people you will spend your whole life with. I believe it is difficult to maintain outside friendships that last a lifetime --- but you will always have your family. That is why we choose to make family relationships a priority in our home.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

"I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas"

Have you seen the commercials for Telus with a baby hippopotamus on them? Today I can verify that the little hippo on the commercials is as cute in person as he is on the small screen.

Our family has season's passes to the Calgary Zoo. This is something I would highly recommend for any family with small children. The zoo is a terrific place to let kids run off energy, and it is interesting for the adults too! When the weather is cooperative we can go to the zoo for an hour or two in the morning. We bring a bag lunch, and have the boys back home in time for a long afternoon nap.

This morning Mommy really wanted to see Splash the baby hippo. He is on loan to the Calgary Zoo from Quebec and will only be in the city for a couple more weeks. Oh my, he truly is an adorable little guy (for a humongous, smelly, river-dwelling mammal).

When we spotted him, he was sleeping cuddled up to his grandma. They were both lying in the water, and Splash had his little snout propped up on Grandma's back. His eyes were closed, and the baby had an expression of pure contentment on his face.

Now my three-year-old, on the other hand, was surprisingly unimpressed with the adorable scene in front of him. No, he only wanted to see one thing --- the poo fish.

For the uninformed, the hippo tank at the Calgary Zoo is filled with a large school of rather ugly, gray fish. Their primary purpose is to, well ... clean up after the hippos' messes. The poo fish are the absolute highlight of any zoo excursion for our young preschooler. Go figure.

Anyway, Mommy enjoyed Splash the hippo. Daddy and The Toddler enjoyed Splash the hippo. The Preschooler gazed in wonder at the poo fish.

Friday, April 07, 2006

A Sticky Situation

Thought for the day:

What is the irresistible attraction between a newly washed floor and the sticky side of an open-faced peanut butter and jelly sandwich?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A TV-Free Existence

As newlyweds, Ben and I decided that our first home together would be TV-free. Six years later we still have not succumbed to the temptation to purchase a television. You know, I would be surprised if we ever do.

We both feel that TVs are time-sucking black holes. They are noisy, distracting and interrupt valuable family time. Is there anything really worth watching these days, anyway? And I know my own weakness. When I am tired at the end of the day, and the kids are quiet in bed, it would be awfully easy to kick back in front of the TV for a couple of hours. Instead, I am motivated to read good books, go to the YMCA and work out, or spend time with my gorgeous husband.

However, before I come across as overly pious, you must know that Ben and I are completely addicted to our high-speed internet connection. I don't know how we ever survived without a wireless network in the house. (There is something utterly luxurious about sprawling on the couch with a notebook on my lap, checking my e-mail or catching up on CBC news).

We also watch DVDs on the laptop from time to time. We have all three seasons of Star Trek the original series. The boys are allowed to watch a half-hour video on the computer every day at lunchtime. (I find it keeps life sane for the hour leading up to nap time). We are not totally cut off from popular media by any stretch.

There was one period of time that I really missed TV, though --- during the 2004 hockey playoffs.

I am not exactly a hockey fanatic, but I will admit to being caught up in "Flames fever" during that time. We had the flags on our van and everything. On game nights Ben and I would argue over who's turn it was to go to the gym, and then watch the game while sweating on the elliptical trainer.

We finally resorted to listening to games on AM radio. Now you have to realize --- Ben and I are far from hockey experts. Listening to the motor-mouthed announcer was like trying to discpiher a foreign language at times. What's a power play? You mean Kipper is not simply an adorable orange spotted dog? And what in the world is icing?

But we persevered right through to the Stanley cup finals, and groaned with the rest of the city when Calgary lost in game seven.

And now playoff season is right around the corner again.

No, we won't be rushing out to buy a TV this time around. The good old-fashioned radio will have to suffice. And now I know who Kipper and Iggy are, what the penalty box is, and that the crease is not part of a nicely ironed uniform.

Go, Flames, Go!

"Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to Your Word." Psalm 119:37

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Pre-schooler Logic

My eldest son turned three years old in January. Three is, shall we say, an interesting age. Sometimes my young pre-schooler is an emotional mess, not unlike a teenager in the throes of puberty. At other times he is the sweetest, funniest, most adorable boy on the face of the planet.

Ahhh .... the joys of parenting a pre-schooler!

Here are two recent conversations I had with my three-year-old:

Episode 1:

My mom had taken the boys to the playground for the morning. Afterward, we were all sitting together at the table eating lunch.

Me: I am so glad that our boys are not picky eaters.

Three-year-old: But mommy, I pick my nose and eat it ...

Episode 2:

We were again sitting at the table eating lunch. My little boy innocently looks up at me and asks:

Mommy, does the baby in your tummy eat her lunch through her utility cord?

So when my little man is in the midst of a tantrum, the kettle is boiling over on the stove, my toddler is eating crayons, the laundry buzzer goes off for the fifth time, and the phone rings .... I just smile knowing that I am blessed to have the sweetest kids in the world.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

... Render Unto Caesar

I have seen a bumper sticker around town that appeals to my "do-er" sensibilities. It simply states "git 'er done". Short, concise and to the point. Why stand around thinking about something when you can get to work and do it!

That said .... it is the middle of April and I am still working on preparing our taxes for the accountant. I have most certainly not "gotten 'er done".

It's not that I loathe bookkeeping or going through our files. I am a neat and orderly person. It is not an ornery process to get our paperwork together. I actually do enjoy lining up the rows and columns of numbers, and seeing everything balance in the end.

It is just that there are so many other things that I would rather do on a Tuesday evening.

I suppose my motivation is also low knowing that at the end of the month we will be required to cough up a painfully large chunk of change for the Canadian government. Self-employment has many benefits --- tax time is not one of them.

Enough moaning and complaining. I have procrastinated long enough! It is past time to "git 'er done".

"Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." Matt. 22:21

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Nesting Instinct

My husband teases me that I am "great with child". I am about seven months into my third pregnancy. To tell the truth, I enjoy being pregnant. So far I have been blessed with easy pregnancies and births.

However, this pregnancy has been slightly different than my first two. I have caught a severe case of the nesting bug.

For the uninformed, the nesting bug is characterized by an overwhelming urge to organize, decorate, clean, purge and otherwise "ready the nest" for the coming birth.

To date we have painted the entire interior of the house (save the bedrooms and one bathroom), refinished the floors, reorganized the basement storage room, cleaned out all the closets, and de-cluttered the kitchen cabinets. This evening I just finished painting the small downstairs powder room.

And wait .... I have plans for more. I've purchased wallpaper borders and am ready to paint the boys' bedroom, I have a pattern chosen to sew a crib quilt for the new baby, I need to wash all the windows now that spring has arrived, and I'm in the process of filling the deep freeze with casseroles and soups.

Phew! I will admit, I am a "do-er" by nature. I love to have projects to work on. But even I can see that perhaps the nesting instinct is taking over. (Just don't tell Ben. I need to convince him of my plan to redecorate our bedroom!)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

An Introduction

Last night Ben finally talked me into it.

"Why don't you just log onto and see what it takes to register a site?" he slyly suggested. "You could see if the name you like is taken..."

Fifteen minutes later I was officially a member of Blogland, and here I stand with a little fear and trembling.

This evening I told my mom that I had started a blog and her first question was, "So, what will you write about?" That is the million dollar question, isn't it?

My life is pretty ordinary --- I spend my days chasing after the two most precious boys in the world, keeping house, and loving my husband. I enjoy simple things like taking my boys to the playground and practicing piano. I try to be a devoted Christian and a good friend. My life is filled with mundane, everyday happenings --- and I wouldn't trade it for the world. I am truly content, and am grateful for all the ways God has blessed me.

So, welcome to my journey. I hope you enjoy walking beside me.