Thursday, December 30, 2010


I'm welcoming the return to normal around here.

Not entirely normal, though.
Our wall is covered in cheery Christmas cards and photographs.
The Christmas tree and decorations will remain until Epiphany.
We have two New Years' celebrations with friends coming up.
And as the house slowly is completed, every new step is a celebration.
(We ordered our flooring on Tuesday!)

But the laundry and dishes continue,
E takes her daily naps,
We go for daily walks.
And weekly trips to the library.
And all this is good. Routine and rhythm is a beautiful thing.

And as the Twelve Days of Christmas continue on (it's the Sixth Day today),
we consider further how our own personal beliefs and values (specifically those regarding Christmas)
will be exemplified and/or taught to our children.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

[Don't] Eat Pray Love

Eat, Pray, LoveEat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was expecting way better. I will give Gilbert points for writing style. She's easily readable, and I thought the way the book was set up (with the number of chapters corresponding with some kind of rosary-esque number of beads...can't remember exactly) was neat. Some of the chapters were very short and others were longer, and they were often more of a non-fiction essay than a chapter in a novel. Which could have been really cool.

But. While I enjoyed the flavour of the Italy section, and especially her description of her sister, I did not enjoy the rest. I was especially disappointed by the "happily ever after" kind of ending. So predicable...why did she have to go there? This self-prescribed search for meaning in life ends with finding a man? No thanks.

View all my reviews

Quick like a Fox

E is getting very dexterous. And very sneaky.

This morning she was sitting on the floor with some toys, close but out of reach (I thought) of the Christmas tree. But then I looked over and she had reached a paper bag (that had been under the tree) in her lap, dumped out, and the tinfoiled Christmas cake from inside it out on the floor, and she was calmly shredding the tinfoil.

Then, later, she'd pulled over an empty tea mug and was ripping the teabag apart, chewing the bits of chamomile that were in it.

A pictorial example:  
"E snags Mom's cell phone."
 If I just reach a bit further...
 Aha, got it! And now, for the mandatory taste test...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

It's here

One way or another, Christmas is here. 
It's a beautiful sunny morning and we're all together.
All is well.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tilting toward God

From a wise friend: "Today the earth begins its tilt toward inevitable spring & summer
This season, we celebrate that history began its tilt toward inevitable perfection & joy.  
Thanks, God. Nice job on both fronts."

I find it incredibly apt that these two events, Christmas and the Winter Solstice, virtually coincide. However, this year the solstice weighs much more heavily on my mind than does the birth of Christ. This year, more than ever before, I'm feeling the short days of early winter. Feeling them more than Advent or Christmas. 

Some have argued that we celebrate Christmas when we do to coincide with and offer and alternative celebration to the winter solstice celebration of pagan religions of the past. I will not weigh in on this discussion with my uneducated opinion, but I will say that if that is in fact the case, then it was aptly done. We, or rather, I, NEED something to celebrate to combat the cold and dark. At this time of year, we light candles, sip hot drinks and get together with family and friends. All excellent remedies for long dark nights, and for that I am thankful.

With the passing of the solstice, we will slowly but inevitably and surely slip towards spring. This event I feel in my body. However, as the days slip closer to Christmas, I find my grumpy spirit wondering how it is any different than any other day. I NEED to feel this event in my soul as much as I feel the lengthening of days in my body.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Closer Again

Another tumultuous week brings us closer to Christmas. B and E are sick with some yucky combination of a cold and flu, which I have as yet avoided (but not likely for long). We're all home for the day today, spending some quiet time trying to recuperate in time for Christmas.

What interesting Christmasy things have we done this week?

Gifting: Did a lovely afternoon of Christmas shopping, during which I remembered just how much fun it is to find cool things you just know the recipient will love. And also realized that Chapters sells a whole lot of very neat stuff. I could spend SO MUCH on' books, cookbooks, art coffee table books, biographies, travel guide books, and of course FICTION.

Celebrating: Had a wonderful quiet Christmas party with J&M during which food and wine were consumed, games were played, E experienced her first gift-opening, and we rediscovered what a talented artist my sister-in-law is.

Church:  Attended an old-school Lutheran Church that follows the traditional Lutheran liturgy including the Apostle's Creed, and the Lord's Prayer. It felt so comfortable to fall back on that traditional order of service.

Thinking: Spent a long time contemplating faith and Christmas with some insightful discussions with friends...and have come a bit closer to understanding why we choose to believe what we do. Does that sound complicated? It IS complicated.

Family: Had several family gatherings, both planned and spontaneous, both working and lazing about, which made us once again appreciate our family. Christmas really is an important time to be around family.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Traditions

We've spent quite a lot of time lately thinking about and discussing Christmas traditions over the past couple of days and I think it's been quite productive. We've been thinking very carefully about what it is we're trying to celebrate and hold important and how we want to build that into our family. It has all become much more imminent to discuss, now that we have a Little One for whom we want to create a family routine. So far, we've come up with a couple of traditions to set in place:
Tradition #1: head west to pick out and cut down our own Christmas tree. 
We did this first last year in the -40 degree "crispness." This year was much, much warmer and equally as fun. I can't wait til next year when E can participate in the jollity to a greater extent.
Tradition #2: attend Christmas Eve service. 
I often attended a candle light service growing up, where each person got their own candle to light and hold, and the flickering mix of darkness and light always filled me with awe. Last year we went to a Midnight service downtown Calgary and that was also very precious and meditative time, our last Christmas as "two."
Tradition #3 (not quite clearly thought out yet): extend the holiday.
Last year we considered drawing Christmas out to the "twelve days"--that is, the days between Christmas Eve and Epiphany in January. This year we're celebrating Advent, the four weeks prior to Christmas. We want to draw focus away from simply celebrating Christmas Eve/Day somehow.

And more: we're always interested in hearing about other people's traditions. What do you do as a family to celebrate St. Nicholas/Christmas Eve/Christmas Day/Epiphany/12 Days of Christmas or any combination of the above?

Third Week

Borrowed from Cyberbrethren
For the Third Sunday in Advent, we traveled back to our home church in the city, to see old friends and revel in being a part of that community again. The sermon (though I missed part of it) was based on Luke's account of Zachariah and was about Christmas, which I was really blessed by. The story is pretty amazing, when you think about it--an angel appearing to a man in the temple, a baby born to parents too old to bear children, a baby who was prophesied to have a hugely important task in life preparing the way for Christ.

I think it might be important that we find a church that will acknowledge the events of the church calendar...or at least not be opposed to acknowledging them. It's not a matter of placing too much emphasis on tradition and not enough on relationship. It's a matter of appreciating the richness and depth of the history of the established church and the concern ancient Christian founders had for understanding the doctrines of Christianity. More on this to come.
Advent is relatively easy to celebrate. As our pastor friend explained it, it's a holiday where "the world celebrates with us." It's easy to prepare and anticipate and await because everyone is (though perhaps anticipating different things) whereas I think it's going to be more difficult with other things, like Pentecost. At any rate, right now I'm actually really glad that everyone is celebrating with us, because I don't have a lot of energy to be the carrying force for the celebration. So the fact that celebrating is built into these four weeks of December is a blessing. Eggnog, decorations, candles, the happy celebratory feeling...these are all readily available to us and we partake with glad hearts!

And, as a side note, how thankful we are for the people who have offered us their kitchens to bake cookies. We had an opportunity to do some baking Saturday night thanks to B's parents and these delicious recipe suggestions (note: sea salt is a tasty addition to chocolate cookies).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Nothing Profound

Still searching for Advent answers, but mostly just living out the mundane of life.
Baby things like vaccinations and teething and washing diapers.
Winter things like finding lost mittens and remembering to wear thick enough socks.
Renovation things like re-tinting paint and making to-do lists.

But there are moments where we remember why we're here.
Purple candles on our Advent wreath signify the royalty of Jesus Christ, King of Kings.
The coming of the CPR Christmas train demonstrates that, overtly Christian or not, Christmas is a time when everyone remembers to give and share and be kind to one another.
And Bela Fleck playing Joni Mitchell's "River," while unusual, is still a contemplative beautiful piece of music to listen to while observing it all.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

I forgot

I forgot how beautiful snowflakes are. 

But today, as I was out walking with E, I looked down to see this beautiful little white sparkle on my jacket.
My first instinctive thought was "What's that? How did that get there?" Because I'd forgotten that snowflakes aren't just white globs, they're delicate intricate little white...sparkles (for lack of better word).

When all other reminders of God seem far, far away,
When I question everything about my faith,
One thing remains ever present.
That the One who made this earth,
Who made water,
Which freezes in the air into snow,
Which falls not as ugly blobs,
But as one-of-a-kind beautiful flakes
This is a God who appreciates beauty.
One thing always remains certain:
Larger than everything in this world is a Creator
A One who is creative mastermind of the universe.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Waiting for Advent/Searching For Joy

Such an all-over-the-map week and it's only Tuesday. 
The search for Advent continues. 
The wait for normalcy also continues.
The mission to celebrate Advent has gotten a little lost in the exhaustion/weariness of daily life.

Dare I hope this is a low point amidst the four weeks of Advent?

Some thoughts:
I was heartily disappointed in the lack of acknowledgement of the Season at the church we attended on Sunday. There are many, many good things about the church, but if we're not going to acknowledge and learn about Christ's birth at Christmas, when else are we going to? The sermon preached was passionate and thought-provoking, but I'd rather learn about, for instance, why it is paramount that we believe that Jesus was born of a virgin. There is so much to learn about Christ's birth and why Christmas is distinct from the pagan practice of Saturnalia.

[Giant grumpy complaining alert]. Confession: I'm feeling sorry for myself. There's no way we're going to be living upstairs by Christmas. While this possibility is not that big a deal in the bigger picture, I kind of had my hopes up. There is so much to be happy many reasons in our lives to be joyful. I'm just tired of feeling like we're not able to quite have a functioning normal family life. Feel free to give my head a shake and make me grateful for all we DO have. Which is lots.

And the rest of my grumpiness in one quick breath so I get it out my system: drywalldustbabydoesn'tliketosleepatnightimmunizationstomorrowschedulingChristmasnoovenforcookiebaking

Ok I'll quit now. Praying for glimpses of God--"sparkles of joy" as one dear friend puts it and the energy to continue the conscious waiting (Adventing) for Christ.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

In which...

In which we went on a hunt for Christmas trees
...and met with success all around.
In which we planned on embarking for said hunt with eggnog lattes in hand
...but S'bucks was out of eggnog.
In which we intended on carrying E in her trusty Beco carrier
...but forgot the carrier and made do with a tie down strap.
In which we planned on borrowing M's dad's Chevy pickup
....and ended up driving a reindeer named Chevy (complete with nose and antlers) that looked oddly similar to a pickup truck.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Chocolate, of course!?

So, to be entirely honest, Advent isn't all about spirituality around here. It's also tied up with the phenomenon of the Advent calendar. My mum has given each of us siblings a calendar almost every year since we were old enough to eat the waxy some-amount-of-chocolate concoctions.

A longtime friend from Switzerland dropped by last week and brought us a LINDT chocolate Advent calendar. No waxy there's-got-to-be-some-chocolate-in-there goodness for us, we get the GOOD stuff.

Er, I mean, E gets the good stuff. It's supposed to be hers, but she's only getting chocolate second hand these days.

But she did get to help open the first window last night. She just didn't know that it was a chocolate that came out, not the slice of orange that she got to munch on afterward.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

In Advent

It's the first of December. Days whirl by for us lately, what with our normal daily routine of work for Brent and chores and routine for E and I, and then packing as much work on the house as we can into our evenings. Our big wish (one might even say Christmas wish?) is to be living upstairs by Christmas...but I have great doubts this will actually happen.

Especially since, as we were furiously assembling kitchen cabinets last night, we ripped open a box to discover it was the WRONG product...that the IKEA kitchen lady had ordered us one cabinet in birch rather than white, necessitating a flustered trip to IKEA this morning for E&me. The good news? A spontaneous lunch visit with S&R is in the works, and we haven't seen them since...June, I think.

Anyway, the point is, Advent is supposed to be a quiet contemplative time to consider Christ's first coming and the promise of His second coming. I like the idea of Advent being countercultural. That amidst the materialism and busyness that our society counts as part of Christmas preparation, we are offered an opportunity to stop in our tracks and consider, for four weeks, the character of our Saviour and the sacrifice He made in coming to this earth.

Yet, though I say I value this chance to move in slow motion against the current, that's not what is actually happening in our lives. We're furiously trying to get done the house and so we organize our days around this, to the detriment of our relationships and possibly our sanity.

So one goal of mine for the next month is to carve out time each day to contemplate, to love and to pause. We'll see how that goes, since at the same time, I really, really want to actually move into our house...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Why follow the Church calendar for a year?

For two reasons.
1) As a learning project for my own spiritual journey. I grew up in the Lutheran Church, which is very calendar-oriented, but as I grew older and attended more modern evangelistic churches, the annual recognition of things such as Pentecost and Annunciation was not part of the weekly service. I want to go back and re-learn about these events that are so important to the Christian faith, meditate on them, and work them into my daily life. For a year. At which point I will re-evaluate and decide which traditions we want to continue, what things we'd like to add or do away with.

2) As a framework for orienting our family-of-three life towards God. We're newly parents, with a little girl, and a promise to God to raise her in the faith. We're also very, very slowly settling into our new home in a new town. So this combination of new family, new home and new location present a great opportunity to learn new to us but actually incredibly old Christian practices and think about implementing new traditions in our family.

On a related note, as a stay-at-home-mum/Type A overachiever, it's important to me to set goals and feel like I accomplish something every day (or I go crazy). So the idea of daily thinking about and putting into practice something that will (hopefully) teach me something, strengthen my faith, and shape our family for the better sounds good to me!

So, dear readers, you hold me accountable.
To a year, beginning this past Sunday with the commencement of Advent.
Of paying attention to the annual rhythm of the Church Calendar.
Of meditating on the role of God's promise and plan-carried-out in our daily yearly lives.
Of building family traditions.
Of exploring and learning, questioning and believing.
And most of all,
Of carving out time for God, not just on Sunday mornings or prayer-before-meals, but in the minutiae of daily life. To build our every activity upon the wonderful mystical story of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Let it begin.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Here already?

It's the first Sunday in Advent already.

I like Advent. I have, beginning in my early years in the Lutheran Church, when each Sunday meant  lighting another candle in the wreath, a candle of a different colour, that symbolized another part of the Christmas story.
I love the anticipation of the coming of Christmas
I love the mystical quality of the story foretold long, long before Mary and Joseph were even born.
I love the quiet trust and courage of the young Mary.
I love the Holy magicalness of it all... the unborn John and Jesus meeting; the shepherds' star-gazing experience.

I love the many symbolic aspects of Advent. What each candle represents; what the colours represent; all aspects giving us the opportunity to reflect on the importance of Christmas--not just for one day but for a whole month. And longer, if you include Epiphany, which I do.

Thus begins my year of following the Church Calendar. I will be posting more of an explanation for the reasoning behind spending a year meditating on and abiding by the Church year soon.
But in the meantime, may this first Sunday in Advent find you anticipating the season ahead, and may you find time today to reflect anew on the birth of Christ.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

More Cold

Sunny and frosty Alberta winter
 Self portrait amidst the fence posts.
Still cold out, but today was wonderfully sunny. E and I headed out this afternoon again for a brisk walk in the beautiful light. E enjoyed looking around at the crisp whiteness (that is, before she fell asleep) and she didn't protest the scarf as much as I expected. But we're definitely still in the market for a heavier (down-filled?) snowsuit for her.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Leaning Towards Advent

Hello Winter!

It. Is. Cold. Which means E and I need to get very creative if we want to head out for our daily walk. For instance, by the time we had all our layers on today, we had (over top of our normal clothes) toquesmittsscarfsnowsuitextrasocksinsulatedcoverallsfleecejacketDaddy'shoody. And all in a unique combination that allows me to fit E in her front carrier under my overalls and a coat. The outcome was that we got outside for 3/4 of an hour in the -20 (-4 for my American readers) whiteness. It was beautiful. And I'm sure we looked hilarious in our get-up.

Less than a week away from the beginning of Advent.
And the beginning of my attempt to blog for a year straight through the Church Calendar year.
I'll have lots more thoughts on this in future posts.

But, my forty or so mostly silent readers, I will ask you this for now:
When I say "Church calendar year" what days come to mind for you?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Traveling with Baby

Thought we'd post about our experience traveling by air with a 6 month old baby, for anyone looking for information on the topic. We asked for and received a lot of really helpful advice before we went.

For background: we had two flights each direction. The first was a four hour flight across the country, the second a shorter flight, but crossing the border into the States. Our holiday was ten days long and we explored beautiful Cape Cod and Boston both by car and on foot.

Booking the flight: B phoned to book our tickets because you can't book infant flights online. Even though it's technically "free" for babies under two, it costs twelve dollars so that they have a "ticket" of their own...apparently so Homeland Security can keep track of who is coming into the country. The Air Canada agent very kindly booked us seats so that if there was a possibility of having a section of three seats, we would have the two outside seats and potentially an empty one between us for her to lay and wiggle on while we were in the air. This ended up working only for our one flight across Canada, but let me tell you, it was so worth it to be able to lay E out. She could move around freely and play with her toys and it gave us a break from holding her as well.

Pedestrian-style: We have our own style of packing and moving when traveling--we don't like rolling luggage. Because we tend to do a lot of walking when we travel, we like to utilize our big big hiking backpacks instead, so that we're always able to get places on foot easily. Consequently, we decided that for our ten day trip, we'd pack one big backpack, one smaller one, and one diaper bag. Then, when we were all loaded up, I would carry E in a sling. So picture B with a big backpack on his back, a smaller one on his front, and me with the diaper bag on my back and a little girl on my front. This worked surprisingly well, though it was a lot of weight on our shoulders.

Security and customs: we were worried about how this would go since we'd have a potentially grumpy little person who might also be carrying scissors or fingernail clippers in her pockets that we'd have to answer for (you never know ;) ). But everyone was incredibly patient with us as we made our way through--including the security people and the customs and Homeland Security people as we crossed the border. It helped that E smiled at and made friends with everyone. :D

Airplane specifics: It was worth getting on the plane during the early boarding call. Because we had a baby and not an active toddler who might have benefited from getting on last, we took the opportunity to get on first. That allowed us to get on and find our seats, pull out toys/receiving blanket/changing paraphernalia and have it all organized and ready for quick access.
The attendants wanted me to hold E in an upright position as we took off and landed, but I found the best way to keep her calm and enable her to adjust to the air pressure changes was to breastfeed as much as possible. It ended up working really well--she'd settle down and feed and would fall asleep and not even notice that we'd left the ground. I'm pretty comfortable with nursing in public, and I think this helped E to be really comfortable and relaxed too.We also encouraged her to chew on her toys lots so that her jaw worked. We are non-soother non-bottle parents, which determined how we handled this situation.
Traveling Accessories: we chose not to bring a stroller or car seat, because they were added weight and we were trying to streamline. However, from watching others, I know that the airport staff are very accommodating for these. However, we chose instead to carry E everywhere in a sling or in our trusty Beco carrier instead, so that we weren't trying to maneuver a stroller. This flexibility came in especially handy for exploring old churches with narrow steep stairs and for keeping E dry when it was pouring rain (she could tuck away under our coats or umbrella and share our body heat).
We rented a car seat from the car rental place rather than bring our own, again so that we didn't have that extra item to haul around.
Further on the sling, our first flight was very early in the morning and our little girl likes to sleep in. So upon our arrival at the airport at four in the morning, I tucked E down hammock-style in the sling and she fell sound asleep, warm and secure against me. She could have been screaming mad to be up and surrounded by strangers, but she was not.

Extra items: a friend advised me to bring 1) a heavier blanket and 2) toys E had not seen before. These both turned out to be helpful things indeed. The blanket came in handy during the time after security and before we boarded, and during layovers, because we could lay E out on it and she could freely play and wiggle and we didn't worry about germs and dirt on the floor. The new (to E) toys were a great distraction for E when she was getting bored or tired, because she'd never seen them before.
Also, we dressed E in soft waistband-less clothing for the flight (ie a sleeper) so that there was nothing constricting and annoying her. This also made it easy to strip her down for diaper changes, and to delayer her when the plane suddenly got really warm.

I was pretty worried about how it was going to go, traveling internationally, over eight hours and two planes and surrounded by strangers and totally new circumstances, but E took it completely all in stride. She was a joy to travel with and we'd have it no other way. So, I hope this information can help someone else!

As Time Moves On

Yesterday B and I were musing about all that has transpired over the past year.
How a year ago I was graduating with a Master's Degree.
And just starting to tell people that I was pregnant.

 I thought these photos gave a good comparison.
Granted, the first photo was taken closer to January, but nevertheless, my striped belly represents one of the major changes that have taken place in our lives over the past year.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Yoghurt is Good for the Complexion

Now that I'm old,
I like to feed myself.
Just hand me a loaded spoon,
and I know what to do with it.
It's very important to season one's face
and table
in addition to actually consuming said food.
Just so you know.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Moments of Beauty

I try to get out for a walk every day,
to soak up the dwindling sunlight,
get some fresh air and exercise,
escape the dusty clutter of the basement,
and appreciate the beauty that is an Albertan fall.

Today there were hundreds of Canada geese on the lake...
Some of them swimming, others awkwardly walking atop the bits of ice sheet.
The cacaphony of geese chatter was friendly and comforting.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Last stop

We couldn't come all this way and not go to Harvard. So the last place we visited before going home was Cambridge Massachusetts,  home of Harvard University.

It's a beautiful campus, full of Roman columns, brick buildings and wrought-iron archways. We wish we'd had time to go on a guided tour to hear more, but we were there only long enough to wander around by ourselves and admire, before heading back to the hotel, who had graciously stored our luggage for a couple of hours, and then catch the train out to the airport to head home.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Life in the City

Boston is a beautiful city.
The view out our hotel window

As country/small town hooligans
from a land where white people history goes back only two hundred years or so,
we absolutely enjoyed
the busy streets of brick and cobblestone
with buildings and graveyards from as many as three hundred years ago
and people with Bostonian accents who were so willing to admire our baby and give us advice and directions
("I have a cousin who used to live up in Toronto...")

Walking on cobblestone
Today we walked the majority of what is called Boston's Freedom Trail.
The walk took us past a number of Boston's most famous landmarks,
relating to the settlement of Massachusetts,
the Revolutionary War with Britain,
the American Civil War,
the Abolition movement,
the immigration of English, Irish, Italian, and other peoples to the city.

Statue of Paul Revere with the Old North Church in the background
The Paul Revere Mall
The crypt beneath the Old North Church
A anti-homophobia march

It was a wonderful day exploring.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Just Ducky: Boston in the Rain

Today was a soggy day. A day for the ducks indeed.
There is a famous children's book set in the Boston Common called Make Way For Ducklings.
I've not read it, but we're going to buy it at some point, so I'll report back.

 At any rate, we've driven back to Boston, dropped off the car, found our hotel and went for a very very soggy walk in the Boston Common. Upon which walk we came across several ducks, bronzed and real.

And then E and B had a chat about the pros and cons of flowered pyjamas.