Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Random Updates

Sadly, Claire the spider has disappeared. We're not sure whether she's died or simply hidden herself away for the winter. Our family had grown quite fond of the spider these past few months. Ben and I made a habit of admiring her web each evening, almost as part of our nightly routine.

On a totally unrelated note --- this post made me laugh very hard yesterday. Go read it.

Monday, September 29, 2008

So That's Why He Wouldn't Stop Crying At 4am...

Our little timbit had a big surprise in store for us today. He cut his first tooth! What a big boy!

How old have your babies been when they've cut their first teeth? Here's a rundown of our family's toothy debuts:

Baby #1: 6 months
Baby #2: 4 1/2 months (and then he got a whole mouthful all at once)
Baby #3: 11 months (she was the slow poke!)
Baby #4: 5 1/2 months

I think our little timbit will be chewing up steak before we know it!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Menu Plan Monday
September 29, 2008

Here's my menu plan for the upcoming week. The lentil curry is a new recipe I dug up from an old Everyday Food magazine.

Monday: No cooking (supper with my parents)
Tuesday: Lentil curry, brown rice
Wednesday: Encore performance
Thursday: Squash and bean chili, corn meal muffins
Friday: Lasagna (from the freezer), green salad
Saturday: Clean out the fridge
Sunday: No cooking (supper with Ben's parents)

Check out Menu Plan Monday each week, hosted by Org Junkie.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Quote of the Day

"That caterpillar was ferocious, Mommy! He had teeth and he bited me!!!"

Friday, September 26, 2008

Words to Live By

"The grass may be greener on the other side, but you don’t know how much manure they used to get it that way..."

Ben and I have never claimed to exhibit great fashion prowess. Our clothing is quite ordinary. Ben loves his stripy shirts. I like Value Village.

Fashionistas we are not.

Lately, we've begun a new love affair with LL Bean. The clothes are good quality and reasonably stylish. Ben likes wearing the LL Bean button-up shirts. I love how perfect his shirts look straight out of the dryer. I recently bought two LL Bean fleece sweaters, and I must admit, I enjoy any shopping experience that doesn't involve trucking four small children through the mall. (The duty and shipping nearly make me faint, but that's another story.)

Along the same lines, I recently did truck several small children though Eddie Bauer. The store had a terrific clearance sale. I wasn't courageous enough to brave the dressing rooms with the Inklings in tow, but I sure enjoyed browsing through the racks. Someday when we're rich and famous I could get used to shopping at Eddie Bauer ;-).

All that to say, I've been feeling a wee bit insecure next to my super-stylish friends. I could never pull off the skinny jeans and 80s tops. Lulu Lemon gives me hives. I prefer comfy cargos and a fleece pullover any day. Hemp jewelry is cool, right?

Ben and I may be nabbed by the fashion police sometime soon. Ben's new tweed jacket must surely count as a minor offense. That's okay, though ... at least we'll have comfortable clothes to wear in jail.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Eight-Legged Friend

A rather large spider lives on our back deck. Her name is Claire. She's been with our family for several months and spends her days hidden in the corner of the house. At night she weaves her web by the light of the moon.

Claire is properly known as an orb weaver. We believe she is a cat-face spider.

Our spider friend is impressively large. Her body alone has grown to nearly an inch in diameter. Neither Ben nor I have seen a bigger spider in the wilds of suburban Calgary. We wonder if Claire will stay with us through the winter. Will she hibernate in the corner of the siding? Can she survive the cold?

We do not mind sharing our deck with this eight-legged friend ... just so long as she stays outside of our house.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ode to Autumn

Here's a neat little meme started by my dear (real life) friend, Prairie Girl. Be sure to head over to her site and join the contest in honour of Autumn. A subscription to Martha Stewart magazine is up for grabs!

1. My favorite fall colour is chocolate brown.

2. The fall meal I am most looking forward to enjoying is beef stew with baking powder biscuits.

3. My favorite fall activity is baking.

4. I am looking forward to wearing mittens again.

5. If I were to fill my thermos/coffee mug with any beverage, it would definitely be peppermint tea.

6. My favorite fall tradition is Thanksgiving dinner!

7. My favorite spot to "take in" fall colours is driving through the mountains.

8. My favorite fall sound is the school bell.

9. My favorite fall smell is wood-burning fireplaces.

10. Fall makes me feel cozy and productive.
Fall Into Reading 2008

Yummy! Nothing beats a crisp fall day, a warm cup of tea, and a delicious book. I'm thankful Katrina has, once again, chosen to host the Fall Into Reading challenge :-).

This season is a busy one for our family. As a result, I've chosen a very modest reading list this time around. Here are my book selections:

This book is the third installment in the series I'm slowly working through.

Okay, I can admit my weakness. I'm a hopeless fan of Christian romance. (Pathetic, I know, but I can think of worse vices.)

This is an older book, but one I've long been curious about.

I had to add something to my list to make me look serious and scholarly.

If you would like to check out other Fall Into Reading book lists please visit the Mr. Linky at Callapidder Days. Better yet, join in on the fun yourself!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Week at a Glance

I must admit, the upcoming week is stressing me out. I'm not sure why, really. This week is not much different than any other. Maybe I need to catch up on my sleep?

At any rate, I've decided to map out my tasks for the next few days. I know it's not exactly riveting for most other people, but hey, this is pretty much my life these days!

Here goes:

Monday: unpack, laundry, bank blog posts (done, done and done!)

Tuesday: groceries, clean van (ew!), last-minute birthday shopping

Wednesday: make cheesecakes, clean house main level

Thursday: (Ben's birthday!) Play date, clean upstairs, laundry

Friday: Buy tree, finish digging flower beds

Saturday: Plant tree, baking

Sunday: Church, visit with friends!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Menu Plan Monday
September 22, 2008

Better late than never, right?

Monday: Scrambled eggs with sauteed veggies, whole wheat toast
Tuesday: Pasta with meat sauce (from the freezer), green salad
Wednesday: Repeat performance
Thursday: (Ben's birthday!) Curried chicken and artichoke casserole, brown rice, steamed cauliflower and broccoli, mocha cheesecake and brownie cheesecake for the party!
Friday: Chicken noodle soup, homemade bread, melon cubes
Saturday: Leftovers
Sunday: Lasagna (from the freezer), green salad

Check out more great recipes and menu plans at Org Junkie.

This weekend our family went to my cousin's wedding in Kelowna. It was certainly a whirlwind trip! We left at the crack of dawn on Friday and returned late last night. We had intended to return in time for school and work this morning. In retrospect, if we had known a mudslide would close the TransCanada highway I think we may have stayed in Kelowna an extra day.

The wedding was very nice. It was good to visit with my extended family, if only for a day. The kids were awesome. Considering we kept them awake late, all shared a single hotel room, and spent most of the weekend driving, the kids were incredible. They had a terrific time cuttin' up the floor at the wedding dance. Too cute!

I'm ready to be done traveling, that's for sure. It feels like we've been gone every weekend lately. (Though we haven't, really.) I'm such a homebody, I'd choose to stay home all the time if we could. Ben and I definitely haven't been bitten by the travel bug like my sister and brother-in-law!

(As an aside ... my sister bought a new house last week and it's only three blocks away! We are very excited to welcome Lori and Matt to the neighbourhood!)

Ben has one trip coming up in October and then we are done! No more traveling for our family for a good, long time. I'm totally looking forward to nesting through the fall and winter. It's time to settle down.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Quote of the Day

This morning our three-year-old told us we had to learn all about bats on icky-pedia.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Little Visitor (Part 2)

As of last night, "Buggy" the bat was still alive. My heroic husband stayed up late constructing a lovely bat box for him. (I decided to go to bed.) Ben gently prodded Buggy into his new home, where he crawled up to the top and hung upside-down. Ben took it as a good sign. Since it was late and dark, Ben put the bat box out beside our fence but didn't hang it up.

This morning our entire family was very curious to learn Buggy's fate. Ben built the bat box with a hinged front. At breakfast time he went into the backyard to check inside the box, but alas, our bat had flown the coop. The box was empty.

We're hoping Buggy went out hunting bugs and stayed safe last night. I'm not sure whether he could fly with a torn wing. I hate the thought that a cat or some predator may have caught him. At any rate, Buggy was a wild creature and we didn't want to keep him in the garage too long. He deserved to be out and free. Maybe he will return to the bat box tonight. Who knows? We'll hang the box on our fence in hopes that a small nocturnal resident will soon call it home.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Little Visitor

Our family hosted a tiny house guest last night. He slept in a shoe box in our garage. He was small, furry, and actually quite cute.

Our guest was a little brown bat.

Ben found the bat in his parking lot last night after work. It was lying injured on the pavement. (The bat has a torn wing.) Ben carefully placed the bat in a box and brought him home to show the kids.

We won't let the kids get too close to the bat. I'm scared he might try to bite if he gets frightened. Once the children were in bed last night, Ben went to the pet store and bought some meal worms. We don't know much about bats, but we thought the bat might eat the worms since he won't be out hunting flying bugs any time soon.

This morning the bat actually looks a bit better. (I wasn't convinced it would survive the night.) He is hanging upside down from the side of the shoe box, has had a bit of water and might have eaten a meal worm or two. If the bat lives through the day, Ben is planning to build a bat box for the backyard tonight.

Ben and I have talked about building a bat box for years. We think bats are pretty interested creatures, to tell the truth. They are impressive insect hunters. Ben read that a single brown bat can eat 1000 mosquitoes in a hour! Ben will hang the small bat box on the side of our fence and we'll see if the little bat will make it his home.

Link: How to build a bat house
An Original Composition

This morning our two-year-old made up a song to the tune of O Canada:

Toothbrush, my friend
Our home and native land

(Repeated over and over and over and over and over...)

Monday, September 15, 2008

I Hate Being Indecisive

I think we've finally reached consensus. Ben and I will hold our almost-four-year-old back a year from starting kindergarten. His November birthday and outgoing personality have really thrown us for a loop! However, we've decided it's best for him to be five (almost six) before he starts school.

Next year we'll register our son in the same jr. kindergarten program his big brother attended. I think that extra year will be really beneficial for our little guy.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Menu Plan Monday
September 15, 2008

I'm looking forward to this week because I'll need to spend very little time in the kitchen. I do enjoy cooking (most of the time) but it's always nice to get a little break. Later this week our family will be traveling to a wedding, so my menu plan will only run from Monday through Thursday. As well, my kind mother-in-law blessed us with a large lasagna this evening :-D. Our meals for the week are almost set! How awesome is that?

Here's my proposed menu plan:

Monday: No cooking! (Supper with my parents)
Tuesday: Vegetable frittata, sweet onion muffins
Wednesday: Chicken lasagna (thank you!), salad greens
Thursday: Clean out the fridge

I don't believe our hotel room this weekend will have a fridge. I'm planning to bring a few simple things in our cooler so that we won't totally rely on fast food:

juice boxes
bottled water
string cheese
yogurt tubes
fruit leather
granola bars
cream cheese

If you'd like to see other great menu plans and recipes, check out Menu Plan Monday at Org Junkie.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Fascinating Factoid

In a pinch, a glass pie plate works great as a crock pot lid.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Today I am grateful for guardian angels.

I was out running errands for most of this morning and returned home just before lunch. As I pulled into our driveway, I clicked the button on the garage door opener. Nothing happened. I clicked a few more times. Nothing.

"Drat," I thought to myself, "The remote's battery has gone dead."

I put the van into park and stepped onto the driveway. I punched our code into the key pad on the side of the house and waited. Nothing. The garage door didn't budge.

Double drat.

I punched in the code one more time and listened carefully. The motor was running inside but the garage door wouldn't move. Something was broken, for sure.

The kids and I left the van on the driveway and went in through the front door. I walked through the house and out to the garage, flipping on the light. I pressed the button from the inside.

The garage door motor started, the chain pulled the lever across the ceiling, but the arm was no longer attached to the door. All the bolts had pulled free. It took a moment for the ramifications to sink in.

What if those bolts had given way when the door was open?

What if one of the children had been under the door when the bolts gave out?

Our children had run under that door just hours earlier as we left for school...

I shuddered.

And I thanked God for sending a big, burly angel to shoulder that heavy door in order to keep our family safe.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Every so often a day of unexpected productivity catches me by surprise. In a season where I usually feel three steps behind, it's nice to get a bit ahead of the game. (If only for a day.)

I think I like the back-to-school routine.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Big Boy School Kids

Today is our five-year-old's first full day of school. (He's especially looking forward to eating his lunch in the cafeteria!) Our son also has his first ballet lesson later this afternoon. I'm thinking we'll have one tired boy come the end of the day. A seven o'clock bed time should be just fine, don't you think?

Our almost-four-year-old seems to have taken to preschool like a duck to water. I don't even get a goodbye at the door anymore! He's a sociable little guy, and I suspect he'll do just fine at making friends. We had originally planned to keep our second-born back a year from starting kindergarten because his birthday is in November. (The school's cut-off date is Dec. 31.) We're now considering registering our son to kindergarten next year after all.

Our boys are 22 months apart in age, but I think they may end up being only one grade apart in school. Keeping our five-year-old back a year was definitely the right decision. (He is a January baby.) Would it be the right decision for his younger brother too? I'm no longer convinced. They're two very different little boys.

I mean BIG boys! (They're always reminding me!)

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Not-So Virtuoso

So I've been practicing piano again, getting ready for my next round of exams at Christmas. Let's just say ... it's been a loooooong time since I've seriously sat at the piano. (We're talking years). The fingers, they are slow. I'm totally out of shape.

So I pulled out Hanon's trusty piano exercises for "the virtuoso pianist". If those babies can't whip my fingers into shape, I don't know what will. (Groan.)

While our youngest kids nap in the afternoon, our five-year-old takes a "quiet time" on our bed. He's a creature of habit and likes his own space, so this actually works very well. I've been playing piano while all the kids rest. This afternoon our son commented on my new practice regime.

"Hey Mommy! I really liked your piano playing!"

"Thanks, Buddy."

"You know what part I liked the best?"

"No. What?"

"The really fast part, right at the beginning! All the notes in a row!"

Our son wasn't interested in the fun stuff --- the children's songs I've been learning for my exam. Nope. He was into the heavy stuff. He liked the Hanon, all those scales and finger exercises.

What a crazy, crazy kid.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Menu Plan Monday
September 8, 2008

The weather has certainly turned cool the past couple of weeks. It's funny that we went straight from running our air conditioner to using the furnace. It seems the fall season has very suddenly come upon us. I don't mind, really. Fall is one of my favourite times of year. I love cool-weather cooking and like to use my oven. I even started baking again last week. Mmmm.

As an aside, my project for this week is to decorate our living room and kitchen area. I think I've finally found a vision for the space. I needed to live in our new house for a couple of months before I could decorate and make it feel "homey". This afternoon I purchased fabric for valances, some new drapes, and three curtain rods. I think once I dress the windows the space will feel more warm and inviting.

I'm still finding our family's groove with the new back-to-school schedule. This will be our first full week of the new routine. I'm not sure yet how everything will play out, but my big boys both had a great time at school last week. I'm loving living across the street from our son's school. It's a great time saver, and it's nice to get out for a little walk and some fresh air.

Here's my proposed menu plan for the upcoming week:

Monday: No cooking (supper with my parents)
Tuesday: Lasagna (I made a huge batch of sauce last week. I plan to make two lasagnas and freeze one), green salad
Wednesday: Encore performance
Thursday: Best of bridge bean soup, homemade multigrain bread
Friday: 5-minute southwest salad, cornmeal muffins
Saturday: Grilled hamburgers, japanese cabbage salad, corn on the cob, baked beans
Sunday: Clean out the fridge

Check out Org Junkie for more Menu Plan Monday goodness.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Funnies

Our two- and three-year-olds have been experimenting with humour today. Their original material is incredibly cute. Here's a small sampling:

"Knock, knock!"
"Who's there?"
"Cookie who?"
"Don't cry. It's only a joke."

(Our daughter's jokes basically all involve cookies in some way.)

Our three-year-old told the following joke at the supper table this evening. He's never attempted a light bulb joke before.

"How many worms does it take to change a light bulb?"
"I don't know. How many?"
"Just five, Mommy."

Friday, September 05, 2008

One Thing

Here's my random observation at the end of a long day:

Peanut butter tastes really good spread on banana chocolate chip muffins.

That is all.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


Today was a real mixed bag. I accomplished a great deal (gotta love checking things off the list). I paid for the productivity though :-(. While I was working the kids decided to throw every single toy they own into a great big pile in the middle of the floor. They called it the "mess tent". If you know me, you know this was a huge headache. I have all the kids toys categorically organized into tidy little plastic bins on shelves. Ben and I have spent way too much time sorting everything out this evening.

Oh well.

On a happier note, I learned two new kitchen tricks this morning. I buy pretty well all our meat in bulk from Country Lane Farms. I often choose to buy the chicken variety packs and cook the whole birds in my crock pot. Then, I strip the meat from the bones and freeze it in small portions for casseroles and soups. Yesterday I had the bright idea of cooking a chicken through the night in my crock pot. I put a whole cut-up chicken in the pot, topped it up with water, and added a little salt, pepper and a bay leaf. I set the slow cooker on low and let it run through the night for about nine hours. This morning I had a fully-cooked bird and dark, rich chicken broth. It worked great!

I also made roasted red peppers this morning. They were embarrassingly easy to make, and so much less expensive than buying roasted red peppers in a jar. I simply washed the peppers, placed them on a foil-wrapped cookie sheet, and popped them under the broiler. Every three or four minutes I turned the peppers so that the sides were evenly blackened. When all the skin was black and bubbly, I took the peppers out of the oven and let them cool in a bowl. The skin peeled right off. I sliced the peppers in half, took out the stems and seeds, and stored them flat in freezer bags. It was totally painless (except for the part when I set off the smoke detector).

Here's what I made with my chicken and red peppers. This is a tried and true family favourite in Inksterland. I found the recipe a couple years ago at our local YMCA:

Red Pepper, Tomato and Chicken Pilaf

1 2/3 C. quick-cooking brown rice
3/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1" pieces
(I use 2 C. of cooked chicken from my crock pot)
1 (14 1/2 oz.) can stewed tomatoes
1 (14 1/2 oz.) can fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
(I use homemade broth)
1 (7 oz.) jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
(I use one or two homemade roasted red peppers)
1 sm. onion, chopped
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 C. frozen peas

1. Preheat oven to 375F. In a 2-quart casserole dish combine rice, chicken, tomatoes, broth, red peppers, onion, oil, bay leaf, paprika, oregano, pepper and salt. Stir well and cover. Bake 40 minutes.

2. Stir in peas. Bake, uncovered, until broth is absorbed, 10-15 minutes. Remove bay leaf and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Big Day

Here's our young scholar, about to embark on his first day of kindergarten. I love his stylin' tie. (It's a clip-on.) This picture was taken from our back deck and you can see our kids' school along the horizon. What a blessing to live so close!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Back to School Shopping

The living's been easy. Our kids have worn grubbies. (Shorts, t-shirts and sandals.) The new school year dawns and the weather turns cool. I pull out their sneakers. The long winter pants. And nothing fits. (When did that happen?) The kids have all grown near six inches, I swear.

The boys need new shoes.

We dash to the Payless. Plain black runners for school are top on the list. Our three-year-old needs some new sneakers too. "What size are their feet?" the salesgirl asks. I have no idea. The numbers keep changing! "I'll measure them both," she kindly suggests.

Size 12 1/2 and size 10. We're off to find runners. The three-year-old wanders around, changing displays. "I'll take him over to find a size 10," the helpful clerk offers. I rush to find some black shoes on the shelf. Size 13s. Good enough.

"Diego!!" I hear my son gleefully cry. "Mommy, I found them!" he calls over the shelf. I come round the corner and spot my big boy, big boy shoes on his feet. Diego runners. Of course. They light up, no less.

The salesgirl shrugs, "He found them himself." (She's been well taught.) I cringe at the price tag but swallow my thoughts. "They're perfect," I say. And they are.

Two pairs of new shoes. Two happy boys. One boy, in particular, admires his kicks. He won't take them off. Not even to sleep. "Can't I pleeeease wear Diego to bed?" he begs and he pleads.

That's where I draw the line.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Labour Game

Here's a fun meme from Rocks in My Dryer. In honour of Labour Day it's all about (you guessed it) labour.

How long were your labors?

Baby #1 --- 6 hours
Baby #2 --- 6 hours
Baby #3 --- 4 1/2 hours
Baby #4 --- 4 hours

How did you know you were in labor?

With all the babies there was just a point where I "knew". Strong contractions woke me up in the middle of the night or early in the morning. All the labours followed basically the same pattern.

Where did you deliver?

Babies#1 & #2 --- the hospital
Babies #3 & #4 --- waterbirths at home




None, praise God.

Who delivered?

Our first two babies were delivered by the doctors on call at the hospital. I had never met any of the doctors before. (Rather impersonal, though not altogether bad, experiences.) Our next two babies were delivered by my wonderful midwives at home, in an inflatable pool in our kitchen.

Head over the the Mr. Linky on Shannon's blog if you'd like to play along :-).
Just One More Day

Tomorrow will be our family's final day of summer vacation. Our two oldest sons start school bright and early on Wednesday morning. (Kindergarten for the five-year-old and preschool for his younger brother.) I feel like September has suddenly leapt upon us. Where did the summer go? Is it fall already?

Our family has been away from home a lot over the past week or so. The kids are all out of routine and have not been sleeping terribly well. The baby is especially thrown off. (The poor little guy's been fussing and crying most of the evening because he's so tired.) I'm afraid this week we'll require a major reboot in the areas of discipline and routine.

I'm taking a deep breath and trying to enter the upcoming week with a brave face. Our babies are going to school! I can't believe it's actually happening. Our family is entering a whole new season.