Friday, November 30, 2012

Things That Make Me Laugh

Sam and Rachel having a parade...

...and the two of them dancing and giggling hysterically!

I love that they get along so well.

Show Us Your Life - Appetizers

Today Kelly is doing appetizers and I have to say I LOVE appetizers. In fact I could eat a whole meal of just appetizers. I have a ton of favourites but I would have to say my all time favourite one is 7 layer dip. One year for our New Year's Party we had everyone bring an appetizer and we had three different 7 layer dips and that's all I ate all night! I couldn't find any pictures of ones I had made so I had to steal the above picture from here. But I have to say I love the artisticness of it. I could never be that arty!

There are tons of recipes out there but I basically mix 1 package of softened cream cheese (about 1/2 lb) with 1 cup of sour cream and 1 package of taco seasoning. Then I cover it with salsa and Dave's homemade guacamole (recipe below). Then I cover the top with shredded cheddar cheese. (If I'm feeling lazy I stop there -- but I know that's not really 7 layers.) If I'm feeling fancy (or I have time) I chop tomatoes and green onions to put on top. I've also had it with a layer of black olives, a layer of beans and/or a layer of meat (but I'm vegetarian so I find those ones disappointing now since I can't eat them.) The beauty of this dip is that it's really good and you can put as much or as little effort into it as you want.
Dave's guacamole recipe is from Canadian Living and you'd have to check with him for the exact recipe because I can't find it right now but I think it's 5 avocados chopped in large chunks, 1 tomato (also in large chunks), 1/2 red onion finely chopped, and the juice from 1 lime. Mix together and serve. (I think you can also add some chopped jalapeno pepper but he always leaves that out because I don't like spice.) This is a really good guacamole because it's all large chunks instead of a smooth one.

Again, I don't have a picture of the finished product but the picture above is of Dave making it for Sam's second birthday party. You can also eat the guacamole on its own which is also good. And we eat both of these things with nacho chips. Yum!

And now I'm going to check out the rest of the appetizers because, as I may have mentioned once or twice, I LOVE appetizers!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Walking The Labyrinth

Tonight was the last night of LOGOS for the Fall term. Every Fall ends with walking the labyrinth. The chairs are cleared out of the sanctuary and a labyrinth is set up with greenery. Each kid gets to walk to the middle with an unlit candle where they are met by two of our pastors. They light the candle and gave each child a blessing. And then the candle gets placed on a silver star. The sanctuary is in total darkness and quiet Christmas music plays.

My pictures are not really great because we don't have an awesome camera and I didn't want to use the flash and disturb the ambiance, so excuse the blurriness. During Advent the cross is taken down from the front of our sanctuary and a huge wreath of greens with lights is put up. At first that was the only light in the place. (You can see the wreath in the upper left hand corner of the pictures.)
The Youth and Jr Youth started everyone off because it was super-dark with only a couple of candles and the wreath lit. There were about fifty or so kids, and even Sam and Rachel got turns. Because it is a long evening the coordinators even let us go earlier than we normally would have so we could go home. No adults get to walk the labyrinth unless they are accompanying a child who needs help. So I went with Sam. He did such a great job of being quiet, walking slowly and holding his candle carefully. He really got the solemness of the occasion. He even picked out a star ahead of time to place his candle on. Of course it was at the beginning of the labyrinth so he had to carry his lit candle (which was a tealight placed in a jar with some sand) all the way back through the labyrinth. But he was so careful.

Dave helped Rachel go through and she walked the whole way to our pastors but then got tired. Rachel was also pretty quiet which was amazing. But what is more amazing to me is that even my young kids picked up on the sacredness of the occasion.

This was a beautiful celebration and I was so glad that my kids could be a part of it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mission Accomplished?!?!

I have been really tired for the past month or so. And I'm blaming it on the alligators. For awhile it was tigers, but now it's really the alligators' fault. You see, every night for about the past month, Sam has been waking up sometime between 2 and 5:30ish, and coming into our room. He shuts his door first, which is what wakes me up, and then there is a little face on one side of our bed (he doesn't seem to have a preference for Dave or I; it's just random), and Sam says, "There are alligators in my room." Depending on the time we have either been letting him crawl into bed with us or taking him back to his room and sitting in his rocking chair for ten to twenty minutes until Sam falls asleep.

But I am tired. So last night I put my foot down. I said, "Sam, you cannot come into our room tonight. Mommy is so tired and you need to figure out how to deal with alligators on your own." I suggested setting up a guard of stuffed animals near the door so they wouldn't come in, a guard on his bed so they could only stay on the floor, etc. Dave suggested a "No Alligators" sign and Sam was all over that one. So he and Dave made the above sign. Sam added the smiley face so the alligators knew it was a happy thing that they weren't allowed.

So this morning we woke up and Sam was sleeping in the hallway outside our door. He said, "The alligators stayed out but I just wanted to be not in my bed." sigh. We didn't get woken up in the night but I'm not sure our problem is solved.

Oh, and did I mention that Rachel woke up crying at 1am this morning so we didn't get to sleep through anyways? If only we could figure out what is visiting her room at night and disturbing our her sleep.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Compare And Contrast (Alternate Title: What A Difference Three Days Makes)

On Wednesday it was 12C and sunny. Today it was -1C and snowy. Here is the difference in how our yard looked on those two days. Fortunately we had some warning it was going to get colder and snowy this weekend so we'd had a chance to do some yard cleanup, including emptying our rain barrel (which is why you see the hose in the flowerbed on Wednesday's picture).
These two sets of pictures were taken about 72 hours apart. And the forecast for the rest of the week looks like this:
Winter is here to stay.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Does Anybody Know...

...why Miss Rachel walked around with her shoe in her mouth for about five minutes this morning? It was especially funny when she was also shaking her head back and forth with said shoe in said mouth. My theories are that she knew her mommy needed a good laugh today or that she was a dog in a former life. What do you think?

The Promise of Things Hoped For...

On our living room and bedroom windowsills sit pots of paperwhites. I planted them when my parents were here and in just two short weeks they have gone from bulbs to six-eight inch high plants, each with a bud. And in a short amount of time, the buds will turn into beautiful white flowers, at least that is the promise. And I trust in that promise.

This post should go somewhere a lot more profound after that beginning but where it's going is here... I have not been feeling well this past week. I don't have energy. My big toe hurts. My left arm hurts. My stomach hurts. And I am tired. My house is dirty, horribly reproducing dust bunnies and dirt at an incomprehensible rate, my dirty dishes are multiplying like nobody's business and I just want to curl up in bed and sleep for about twelve hours. And I still have 200 pages to read in my book for Sunday night's book club. There is nothing seriously wrong going on but I feel blah right now.

But... like the paperwhites, I have the promise that eventually my life will burst into bloom. By Sunday (possibly even by tomorrow) our house will be clean, my book club book will be done and the dishes will have been washed and put away (and dirtied again and washed and put away again and...) So all I have to do is wait for a few days (or even 24 hours) and things will be looking up. Until then I'm holding onto the promise...

It's a tricky thing, this thing called Life. The ups, the downs, the blahs and the hope.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Friendships Continue: The Next Generation

I first met Anali and Kristen when I started at university. Anali was in my year and Kristen was a couple of years younger. They lived in a small town about fifteen minutes away from my residence and I still remember being invited there for a sleepover during Reading Week. Over the years I got to know Anali, Kristen and the rest of their family quite well. Kristen and I traveled to New York City together and I went to visit Anali in Washington, DC and Boston. So I have known these two women for over twenty years.

And last week Kristen had a baby. Kristen is a single mother by choice and her daughter Julia is adorable! Since Anali and her son, Stefan, are visiting this week from Missouri, I went over to their parents' house yesterday to visit. Stefan and Sam played together for over two hours and us women (and Julia and Rachel visited).

I even got to hold Julia for a bit. As you can tell from the picture below I couldn't stop gazing at her. And thankfully Rachel was not at all jealous and brought a bear over for Julia to have. I was thrilled that Rachel was so sweet to her and not grabbing at Julia's face or freaking out because I was holding her!

And before we left we got a picture of the three of us together with our four children. Wow! I can't wait to have many more good visits with these amazing sisters and good friends. And it's hard to believe that in a couple of years Rachel and Julia will also be off playing together while Kristen, Anali and I catch up!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Stuffed Acorn Squash: A Successful Experiment!

To those of you visiting from Kelly's Korner, welcome! I made this for dinner tonight and it turned out really well. My main impetus for making it was the two acorn squash which had been sitting in our fridge from our CSA.
This is the recipe I based my meal on. I didn't follow it exactly however. My comments are in the italics.

  • 2 small acorn squash, halved and seeded
  • 1/2 cup water (I just put about a 1/2" of water in the bottom of my baking dishes.
  • 1/2 pound ground beef (I used a whole package of veggie ground round which says it's the equivalent of 1 1/3 lbs hamburger)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion (I used a whole red onion since it's all we had on hand.)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped celery (I used however much we had in the fridge -- about four stalks)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (I didn't use salt; I rarely do in cooking.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage (I just used ground sage and didn't measure -- maybe a teaspoon. You really couldn't taste it.)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cooked rice (I used about a cup of cooked rice.)
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I used enough to liberally cover the tops of all the squash, so likely about 1c or more.)
  • I also added about 1c of frozen mixed veggies because it seemed like a good idea!
  • Invert squash in an 11-in. x 7-in. baking dish. Add water and cover with foil. Bake at 375° for 50-60 minutes or until tender. 
  • Meanwhile, cook beef (if using veggie ground round add a bit of oil and cook the onion and celery first, then throw the ground round in before adding the flour and stuff), onion and celery over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in the flour, salt and sage until blended. Add milk. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened and bubbly. Stir in rice (and frozen mixed veggies).
  • Transfer squash to a baking sheet. Fill cavity with meat mixture. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Remove from oven; sprinkle with cheese and bake 3-5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.
    This was really good. Rachel had two helpings and Dave commented that "It felt very autumnal."

    Will's Baptism

    On Saturday Will, who is the son of our friends, Jen and Mike, was baptized. Jen is Catholic and so it was at a Catholic church. I was surprised by a number of aspects. First of all I was expecting a large old cathedral, kind of like the church which is across the street from us. This church was quite modern and very warm (temperature wise). (I think of the stone churches as cold so I was prepared to freeze!) Second of all, there were lots of kids and, most of the time, my kids were not the most disruptive, which was actually a pleasant surprise! Of course, Dave said that it was because I was sitting between Donny and Marika and didn't notice how disruptive they were being. Ha ha ha!

    The priest was quite funny and I really resonated with his sermon. Last time I went to a Catholic church the homily just made me really mad. And I realize that every homily, and priest/minister/pastor is different but it was just a bad memory. I wanted to be able attend this church more! But it's in Newmarket which is a couple of hours from here.

    There was a part at the beginning of the baptism where all the parents and godparents were invited up to the front and there was a bit of the ceremony which happened then. After that the priest made the sign of the cross on each child's forehead. Then he invited all the baptised friends and family of the children to come up and make the sign of the cross on the children's forehead as well. It was a way of welcoming them into the body of Christ. So I went up and welcomed Will. It was so meaningful and special to be able to do that.

    I am so glad that we were able to celebrate with Jen and Mike and Will on Saturday. It was a very meaningful service for me and I'm so glad we were able to attend. And thanks to Jen for sharing her pictures with me since our camera was in the car. The first picture is Donny and Marika, Mike, Will and Jen and our family. (We had to bribe Sam to be in the picture with being able to play on Marika's iPhone on the way home which is why he is being so cooperative! Ha ha ha!) Below is Jen, me and Marika. I love these two friends!

    Saturday, November 17, 2012

    Movember Madness

    Dave here, taking a moment from Natasha's regular blogging for a special message. I am, for the second year now, taking part in "Movember", a campaign to raise awareness -- and funds -- for prostate cancer research and other men's health concerns. The idea, if you haven't already heard about it, is that men grow moustaches for the month of November and, as people become aware of the unusual facial hair, use that as a means to fund-raise for prostate cancer research, etc.
    I must admit that I have somewhat mixed feelings about participating, for a couple of reasons. First, while I am (I think) reasonably capable of growing a moustache, I am not very good at fund-raising. I don't have the necessary extrovertedness/gumption/salesmanship required to prod people for donations. Thus, last year I ended up quietly growing my moustache for a month, and then donating some money to the cause.

    This year, I have resolved to be a bit more pro-active. For one thing, I have signed up for a Movember website (a "mo space") where I can direct people to donate. I am also trying to follow up on people's "Nice moustache" comments (or their horrified "What is that thing on your face?" questions) with more information about the Movember campaign and my website URL. Finally, I'm "harnessing the power of social media" by posting about Movember on Facebook and, of course, here on the blog.

    My second reason for mixed feelings is a bit more philosophical. Historically speaking, men's health concerns have tended to get much more attention (and funding) than similar women's health problems (neonatal care, etc). So, with this in mind, I feel a bit conflicted about taking part in the campaign -- a bit like fundraising for a private school when a poor inner city school is languishing down the street. However, I am all for supporting cancer research and improved health in any area, and the effort involved (that is, not shaving my upper lip for a month) is extremely small. Also, my growing a moustache and encouraging donations for men's health concerns doesn't negate any similar efforts undertaken for women's health (e.g,. the pink ribbon campaign, CIBC Run for the Cure, etc.), and I think that my historical concern is less true now (in first-world countries, at any rate) than it has been in the past.

    Finally, as part of creating my Movember website, I was asked what my "motivation" was for participating in the event. The best way to summarize my motivation (which Natasha actually came up with) was "so that Sam wouldn't have to participate when he grows up", and this is certainly true. However, I also feel strongly that one shouldn't need a specific "reason" to participate in this sort of thing -- the cause of improving men's health and working towards curing a form of cancer should be reason enough.

    All of this is to say that you should definitely support Movember (again, you can donate from my Movember website), as well as other concerns and campaigns that you feel drawn to. For instance, after taking up jogging this past summer, I am planning on participating in next fall's Terry Fox run, which raises money for cancer research in general. And if you do decide to donate, thank you in advance.
    And finally, here is some Movember humour with Nick Offerman from The Office:

    Friday, November 16, 2012

    Seventeen Months!

    Rachel you are seventeen months old!

    First I must note that it was hard to get good pictures of you this month because you are more interested in looking at the picture on screen than being patient while I take the picture to go on the screen. It is a self-defeating process and I ended up with more than one picture with no you in it at all or just your back as you headed around to my side of the camera.
    I weighed you this morning and you are now 23lbs, 2oz. You tripled your birth weight of 7 lbs, 8oz this month!!! FYI, you were supposed to do that by one year :) You are wearing a size three diaper and 12-18 or 18 months clothes. You are still in size 18 month sleepers although you have outgrown the Pekkle 18 month ones. It's been so cold though that you are in Carter's fleece sleepers every night.

    We have started putting you to bed a little earlier so you are usually in bed between 8 and 8:30. You were a little sick this month so you wake up at night more than you used to but most of the time you still sleep through the night. We tuck you in with Funny Bunny on one side and Lobster on the other, we cover you with blankets and you just snuggle in. You wake up between 9 and 9:30 and you are in the happiest mood. I found out about night diapers and since we've been putting those on you, you wake up with dry pjs! Yay! I still put you down for your afternoon nap anytime between 1 and 2:30 and you sleep about two to two and a half hours. On Wednesdays and Fridays now Sam is going to preschool so you only get to nap from 1:20 until about 3pm which is a little short for you.
    You have sixteen teeth now. No sign of your two year molars yet.
    You eat two yogurts for breakfast and some Cheerios. Sometimes you eat a bit of Mommy's bagel, if she's willing to share, and sometimes some toast. For lunch you eat leftovers and then for supper you eat what we do. You really like eggs, bread and cheese. This month you really enjoyed cheese strata and leek/turnip/potato soup. We feed you if the meal is messy but otherwise we put things on your tray and you feed yourself.
    You still babble and scream and coo but you still don't have clear words, although you are beginning to repeat more sounds. You are "talking" a lot more and we're sure actual words are just around the corner. You love waving "bye bye"but you have stopped blowing kisses :( And you have stopped freaking out when we leave you in the nursery for LOGOS or when I go to Bible Study. That makes Mommy soooo happy!

    You have started having temper tantrums which is kind of funny and a little frustrating, although we know this is normal. You immediately burst into tears when you don't get what you want, whether it's another muffin, a toy Sam has taken away from you, or not being able to go in the bathroom when Mommy does.
    YOU CAN WALK!!! You really took off about two days after you turned 16 months. It happened one night at LOGOS and you walked all around the Fellowship Hall at church. You hardly ever fall down and I NEVER see you crawl anymore. I think you were just waiting until you were perfect at it. You may have inherited Daddy's perfectionist tendencies! We have been working on how to go down stairs backwards but mostly you just want to head down like everyone else does and you get super-mad when we won't let you do it!
    You and Sam still get along so well. I love it. You are each other's favourite person to be with. Lately you have enjoyed playing The Hat Game. You guys put on hats and run around the main floor laughing and laughing. It's very funny to watch. You still just adore Sam and I love watching the two of you play together.

    You still like pulling all the shoes off the shoe rack, doing anything in Sam's room, and reading books to yourself in your crib. Your favourite thing to do in the dining room is still pulling all the recycling out of the bin. You also started to get into the garbage this month so we had to childproof it. You have gotten so much better at your baths this month which makes Daddy really happy. He says you play and laugh in the tub and it's fun to bathe you again. I don't know what changed.

    You got pretty sick shortly after you turned 16 months. You had a fever for three days and then a big rash. You didn't sleep well AT ALL and were awake for most of three nights. It was a rough go. Fortunately you are better now and sleeping again. Yay!
    You are getting so much bigger every day Rachel. I can't believe by my next monthly letter to you,. you will be a year and a half. You're growing up so fast and we love you so very much Miss Rachel Roo. Here you are at seventeen months and, last November, at five months! You were such a little Rachel then.

    Thursday, November 15, 2012

    Day In The Life -- Thursday

    Yes, Day In The Life is back for one last day as last Thursday I was sick with an ear infection, Dave stayed home, and I napped in the afternoon. That was NOT a typical Thursday, but hopefully this one will be. (I'm starting to write this post at 8am so I don't know yet how the day will ACTUALLY turn out!).

    I have a goal (not always successful) of working out early in the morning one day a week. I try to do it on Thursdays and this morning it happened!!! Whoo me!!! I woke up at 5:40, ate a yogurt, got ready to go and was doing my bike warm-up and weight circuit at the gym by 6:05. At around 6:30 I got on the cross-trainer. I set it for "weight loss" and it gave me 28 minutes of loveliness to do. At the halfway point I tried to pause the program to get a drink of water, but it reset to the beginning. So I did the first half twice. sigh.

    I got home around 7:15, hopped in the shower, and made myself breakfast -- a cinnamon raisin bagel and Turkish Tea, which my parents actually brought me from Turkey a couple of years ago. It's probably losing its potency which is why I'm trying to drink it now.
    I then planned what I was doing at LOGOS tonight. This is a mid-week program at our church for Grades 1-12. The kids participate in four sessions -- Bible Time, Worship Skills, Rec and Play and Family Time which is the meal. I teach three Grade 4&5 girls Bible Time. This session has been focused on learning about how, and why, we worship which I love to talk about so it has been a great time for me. Sam and Rachel go to the nursery, Dave sets up for the meal and then we all eat together. This week we will be learning about the Christian calendar.

    At 8:30, Sam woke up. I did some business on the computer (renewed library books, checked bank accounts, etc) and then Nathan arrived around 9am. I babysit Nathan one day a week. Sam watched a Mighty Machines episode and Rachel woke up around 9:15. I fed Rachel breakfast and put Nathan down for nap around 9:40.
    Sam continued eating breakfast and watching Mighty Machines, Rachel played (and ate Cheerios off the floor), Nathan slept and I started catching up on my backlog of Canadian Mennonite, my church magazine. I am currently reading the issue from January 2012 and it comes out every two weeks. As you can imagine I have A LOT of reading to do.
    At 10:55 Nathan woke up, Sam and Rachel were playing and I did dishes.
    By 11:20 dishes were done, the kids were playing (mostly!) happily and I read some more Canadian Mennonites. (Remember when I was writing about my life about a week ago and sorting pictures to print was my big project? Well I finished that one and now this reading is my next big thing to do.) I also read through the weekly flyers looking for deals.
    At noon I decided to do a quick tidy of the house, and Sam helped, to a certain extent. Then it was time for lunch. Trying to get lunch for three kids, two of whom can't really feed themselves is a bit of a challenge. Rachel, Nathan and I all had cheese strata and a leek/turnip/potato pureed soup. Rachel ate a ton of the soup (even getting some of mine after she screamed for it) and Nathan didn't eat a lot of anything! Sam had summer sausage and a peanut butter and jam sandwich.

    At 1pm, I put Rachel down for nap. As you can tell she was really tired.
    Then I put Nathan and Sam down for nap and quiet time respectively.
    By 1:20 I was doing some more reading, eating a pumpkin chocolate chip muffin and enjoying some lemon fizzy water. I've been using our SodaStream a lot lately and I'm lovin' it!
    Nathan woke up at 2:45 and Sam came out of his room from quiet time. Rachel woke up too. I looked for hats for funny hat night at LOGOS and made some Coke with the SodaStream. Then I wrote part of the blog post for tomorrow. (Hint: It's about Rachel!) At 4:20 Sam was playing with the recycling, Nathan was just playing and Rachel was in time out for pulling all the wipes out of Nathan's wipes package in his diaper bag. sigh. The time from 4:20-4:55 when Karen picked up Nathan is a bit of a blur. I changed my clothes, got the kids dressed, and dealt with a temper tantrum from Sam.

    At 4:57 we were in the car heading for LOGOS. I taught my girls Bible Time (all about the Christian church calendar) and then we had Family Time. I ducked out early to go meet Julia, my friend Kristen's new baby, who was born on Monday. Kristen is a single parent by choice and I am so excited with her. I hope I can be a good support to her in the days, months and years to come. We talked for about an hour and then I rushed back to church to pick up Dave and the kids.
    After I picked them up we headed home after making a very quick stop at the library. Sam watched a video (and now Dave is putting him to bed), between the two of us we got Rachel to bed and then I ate a huge bowl of leftover salad from LOGOS. I'm always hungry on LOGOS nights.
    And now I am super-tired, likely since I've been up for sixteen hours, and I'm going to bed. Good night.