Father’s Day Fail

When Ben and I got married, someone gave us the book “The Five Love Languages”. I dutifully read it and took the test. When it told me that I best understand expressions of love like quality time, words of affirmation, and acts of service, this made sense. Gifts and physical touch, not so much. I like practical stuff, and I’m not a huggy person.

Ben never could figure out what his love languages were for sure. He didn’t take any test, but he thought physical touch was most important for him, and based on seventeen years of living with him,  I guessed acts of service were high up there as well. But I was pretty sure words of affirmation weren’t a big priority. Every year on his birthday, I used to write meaningful notes in birthday cards. I still write loving blog posts about him every year, and I always wait anxiously for him to read them. And his reaction is the same – he says, “Thank you. That’s very nice.” And that’s all. Since it never seems to blow him away, I just assumed words of affirmation were more my thing.

Here’s where my giant failure comes in: This year for Father’s Day, we were super sneaky about getting a gift that would surprise him, and we talked about what would be fun to do together as a family, but when the idea of a card crossed my mind, my thoughts were “A card? Hmm….nah, he’s not really into cards and words of affirmation”, and I totally ditched the idea.


So we were sitting in a restaurant waiting for our food on Father’s Day, and the topic of love languages came up. I was ready to get some answers out of this easy-going husband of mine, so I found a test on my phone, and made him take it right then and there. The results? WORDS OF AFFIRMATION!!! What in the world?! Also, physical touch and acts of service, just like we’d guessed. But I totally did not see that first one coming. And I skipped the card! And didn’t get our kids to make a card!!


Never again. I won’t let his easy-going reaction fool me anymore, and he will receive the most beautifully worded cards from now on.

Words of advice for everyone reading this: Take the test! And make your loved ones take it too! And never skip the card!! Sheesh.

But we had a fun day, and it was great to celebrate Ben.

I really, really love Ben. He’s the most wonderful person to be around. He is always in a good mood, he changes the atmosphere of any room he walks into, he draws people to him and laughter out of them, and he brings all the fun into our home, along with large doses of wisdom and level-headedness. And fortunately, he’s so easy-going that I’m sure he’ll be totally fine with my late attempt to honour him with words of affirmation! But I’ll do better next year.;)

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I Was There, Too!

Every year for Mother’s Day, I make our moms a little photo book of all our best pictures from the year. They have quite a collection built up already, and I have fun seeing the changes in our family from year to year as I work on the photo books.

But I made a sad discovery as I put the albums together this year this year – there were no pictures of me. There were about a million of Everett, of course, with Kaylia coming in as a close second. Ben showed up a healthy number of times, but Anika made less appearances than other years because she’s entered her, “Don’t take a picture of me!!!!” teenager shrieking stage, but I still managed to get a few shots which she considered acceptable. But I’m completely absent in the photo book, because I’m always the one taking the photos.

I love taking photos, and I’m passionate about seeking out the beautiful little moments in our ordinary life, but apparently I have a problem with remembering to include myself. It’s my goal to change this, because someday, when our kids look back on the pictures from when they were little, I want them to see my holding them, caring for them, reading stories to them, in the kitchen cooking,  exercising, or whatever – all the little things they see me doing every day. I guess I want to see that, too, when I’m a little old lady, looking back on my life of lovely memories.

While I was reading to Everett before his nap today, snuggling and singing to him before putting him in his crib, he squirmed around until he was facing me, put his hands on both my cheeks, and said, “I love you, Mommy.” Then he messed up my hair, stroked it back down into place, and said, “You look nice with long hair!” (Which came out more like, “You wook nice wiff wong hair!”) He told me he loved me a few more times, then settled down with his head on my shoulder, and my heart exploded. 🙂 I want to remember all these sweet moments, but I also want the pictures to look back on, and they should include me, too.

We spent the long weekend at the lake, and I made a conscious effort to hand the camera off to someone else sometimes, so there’s proof I was there, as well! When I told my family about what I was doing, Ben argued that he takes lots of pictures of me. This is true, but most of them aren’t good pictures, because Ben delights in catching me at super awkward moments. He takes a million pictures all at once, hoping there will be at least one good one, and giggling at all the terrible ones, and then I have to delete the 999,999 bad pictures, and seriously edit the one decent picture, which is all very time consuming, so I guess I’ve become unmotivated to make it happen. But I have fresh incentive to give him another chance, so we’ll see how that goes.

In the meantime, here’s a peak at our first weekend at the lake this spring, and I was there, too!;)

 

We used to drive this stretch every week or two when we were living at camp. It was a pain to be two hours away from civilization in a lot of ways, but Ben and I always had the best time talking on those drives. Those hours in the van are something we look forward to, and the scenery, conversation, and bags of chips make the time pass quickly.:)

My parents spend the winter in Florida, and my older sister’s family lives an hour away from us, so it feels like family gets a bit disconnected during the winter months. Spring means getting back together again regularly, and the long weekend in May is when we always head out to the cabin together. It rained the whole time, so there was a lot of movie watching, game playing, and rock painting.

We celebrated Kaylia’s birthday there, and it was her dream to bake an Angel Food birthday cake with Grandma.

And if the goal is for my kids to look back on pictures of what they see me doing every day, then a picture of me taking pictures is appropriate!

Now I’m curious to hear – do you struggle with capturing your everyday moments, or are you a selfie-loving pro?!

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Mother’s Day Favorites

I heard a beautiful quote yesterday: “I haven’t done many great things in my life, but I have greatly loved my children.” (Suzanne Stabile)

I needed to hear that right now. Mother’s Day is a lovely idea, but sometimes I struggle with the idea of being celebrated, because I’m too aware of the ways in which I fall short. I can think of many ways in which I would love to improve my mothering skills, but if there’s one thing I do greatly, it’s love my children.

I wonder if I would enjoy Mother’s Day more if there wasn’t so much of an emphasis on being pampered and feeling special, but rather it could be a celebration of the opportunity to be a mother. A day to celebrate the chance to deeply love these sweet children of mine, a day to thank God for the answers to all my prayers during the years of infertility and miscarriages. I need the reminder that it’s not about getting it right every single time – it’s about all of us being sanctified and beautified as we become more like Jesus.

There are hundreds of ways I’ve messed up as a mom over the years, but I’d like a day to remember that love covers over a multitude of wrongs, and some time to remind myself that if great love = a great mom, then I was made for this. I was given everything I need to do this well. They are my greatest work.

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Eating Gluten-Free With Kids

I’m often asked about what our family eats, because most people who know us are aware of the issues we’ve had with food intolerance. (All of our kids have the same digestive issues with gluten and dairy – I did my part in passing on that gift…)

I love it when people ask about how to survive eating gluten-free with kids, because I’m happy to share any helpful tidbits we’ve learned over the years, and I’m pretty passionate about finding great food to eat even when we haven’t been able to enjoy gluten or dairy. Fortunately, our kids are able to eat more than they were in the past, because a lot of their digestive issues have cleared up, but I clearly remember how overwhelming it was in the beginning when we first found out that we’d need to make some serious changes in our eating habits, and if there’s anything I can do to help others with that learning curve, I’m glad to do it.

Because of the questions I’m asked, I’ve decided to make one massive food post. If you are one of those lucky people who can eat whatever you want, skip this post and go eat a bunch of gluten-y chocolate chip cookies for the rest of us.

But if you find yourself in the same boat as our family, we welcome you aboard, and want to assure you: life can still be awesome with dietary restrictions.

Obviously, you’ll need to find your own way of making this work for your particular situation, but here’s a look at our weekly menu and our favourite recipes to get you started:

Monday: Oatmeal, usually with Cinnamon + apples or strawberries mixed in (depending on your level of sensitivity, you might need to get oatmeal that’s specified as being gluten-free)

Tuesday: Lazy Apple Crisp – slice up some apples and mix with vanilla + lemon juice; mix oatmeal with oil + cinnamon, and layer over apples; bake for about 30 minutes.

Wednesday: Scrambled eggs & ham

Thursday: Soaked Oatmeal

Friday: Honey Cloud Pancake

Saturday & Sunday: Applesauce Pancakes/Waffles (We always triple the recipe and freeze the leftovers for quick snacks throughout the week.)

Lunch

We will usually have leftovers for lunch. If there are none, we’ll make quiche (this recipe, without the crust), soup of some sort, or cubed/roasted potatoes with leftover meat + veggies. I roast a whole chicken regularly so we always have cooked meat in the freezer. I also make huge pots of spaghetti sauce to freeze so we can have a quick meal every once in awhile (Costco gluten-free pasta is the best taste/price we’ve found). I find it very time consuming to bake bread, and often make biscuits instead because they’re faster and easier.

Supper

Monday: Roasted Veggies + Meat (whatever combo I’m hungry for, or have veggies in the fridge that need using up, like potatoes/broccoli/chicken, or carrots/onions/potatoes/chicken, etc. Toss with oil and seasonings like garlic and oregano on a cookie sheet, and roast it for about 45 minutes.)

Tuesday: Casserole of some sort (Shepherd’s Pie, Enchilada Casserole)

Wednesday: Salad with chopped veggies + chicken on top, with smashed potatoes

Thursday: Stir-fry or Broccoli Noodles (I love using the asian noodles Superstore sells, made from pea/bean starch for this meal)

Friday: Taco Salad

Saturday: Loaded Baked Potatoes (Everyone adds their own toppings like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, black beans, chicken, cheese, etc.)

Sunday: Fish + Chip Potatoes (can be made with potatoes or sweet potatoes) + steamed veggies

*You may have noticed that our family eats a ton of potatoes, which some people think is unhealthy. But there’s also the pro-potato people who feel the potassium in potatoes is so good for us, we should eat two a day. (Anika says she heartily agrees.) So for now, since I can’t eat any grain, potatoes are cheap, and my body seems to respond really well to The Perfect Health Diet, we’ll go strong with potassium.

Snacks

Our kids eat a lot of fruit, nuts, sunflower seeds, rye crackers from Superstore, or sweet potato crackers from Costco. We also make chocolate balls, granola bars, cookies (Apple Spice Cookies or Chewy Coconut-Oat Cookies, subbing honey for any sweetener), rice pudding, Breakfast Bread, and muffins (Gingerbread Muffins).

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So that’s pretty much it for food at our house. I want to clarify something very important:

We did not make these changes overnight.

It is hard and overwhelming to make changes when it comes to what you’re cooking, and what your kids want to eat. I made one change at a time. When we were first encouraged to take gluten out of Anika’s diet, she was eating toast and cereal for breakfast every day. We tried to cut back, and made her scrambled eggs instead of her usual slice of toast. Gluten-free cereal was an easy switch, and that took care of breakfast. Next I tried to change her snacks. Then lunch. I used to make separate meals for our family, but finally Ben said, “Just make everything gluten-free, I don’t mind.”

It made things SO MUCH easier, and Ben actually felt better staying away from gluten, even if he can handle eating it. So it was a long process, and there were lots of times when I felt very lost. Make small changes, and go easy on yourself. One step at a time.

And one day you’ll look back, and think, “It’s really not that big of a deal anymore.” It will be awesome and delicious.

Any favorite gluten-free recipes you have to share?! We’re always up for trying something new!

 

 

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Finding Room to Breathe

I recently heard an explanation for why some people feel overwhelmed in large crowds of people, and others don’t. Some people get frustrated about having to fight their way through all the people on a crowded street, or at the mall right before Christmas. They see all the people in their way, as obstacles to maneuver around.

But there are other people who face the same challenge, and instead of seeing all the people in the way, they see the spaces between the people – gaps they are aiming for so they can slip easily through the crowd, almost like a dance with complicated but graceful steps to learn and enjoy.

Sometimes, my life has the same energy as a shopping mall on Christmas eve – lots of hustle, bustle, bodies everywhere, trying to get something done with obstacles everywhere, feelings of joy, feelings of frustration, lots of noise, lots of chaos, lots of busyness. I have three people talking to me at once, more often than not, and the introvert in me starts to go crazy, even though I love almost all of it.

But there are also times when my three angels are playing together so sweetly, it almost makes me hurt because I feel so much joy.

Everett wraps his little arms around my neck, Anika and I explore the depths of fantastic conversation, and Kaylia bares her soul during the quiet moments before bed. These sweet moments make the times of chaos completely worth it, and I start to see there are gaps to aim for.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed and all I can see are the obstacles. But things always balance out, and I find the spaces between the craziness – not because we aim to avoid the hard stuff, but because they don’t seem as a big a deal when we’re not focusing on them.

This morning, I was making granola in the kitchen, and I suddenly became aware of how peacefully quiet and content everyone was. Kaylia and Everett were playing together, and Anika was doing her schoolwork. The house smelled heavenly, it was cleaner than usual, everyone was fed and satisfied and happy. I stood there by the oven, and just breathed it all in, because in that moment, everything was…perfect.

And then the moment passed, and things got crazy again, but that was also wonderful, in a different kind of way.

I’m trying to remind myself to look for the gaps where we can slip through easily and breathe deeply, and slide along through the tough spots, because the obstacles and the gaps together make up my little world right now. We need a balance of both.

So here’s to a beautiful life that slips easily through the tough spots, and we find the gaps to enjoy, as well as the obstacles to challenge us.

 

Waiting For Pretty

It’s that ugly but exciting time of spring – when everything is brown, but we’re just so happy because the snow is gone, and we know the green growing things are coming soon. I was looking out the window the other day, thinking about how there is so often an ugly aspect to growth and change – the discomfort of shedding the old and reaching toward the new. But it’s the hope, anticipation, and excitement of something fresh and different which carries us through the discomfort, and keeps us going.

So we watch spring creeping in, and we squeeze out every bit of joy from the ordinary little moments. Lately, we’re enjoying:

Early morning snuggles.

Saturday morning pancakes.

Smooth, bare skin.

The eager anticipation of good food.

Creating.

The best seat in the house.

More creating.

More anticipation.

Learning to share and play together.

And I realize once again that when I take the time to grab my camera, there is so much worth capturing, even if we’re still waiting for things to pretty up a bit outside.

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Best Parts of the Day

Each day at the supper table, we have a little tradition called “Best Parts of the Day”. Everybody has to share at least one thing that brought joy during the day. There are a few rules – you have to say SOMETHING, no matter how small it is, and you can’t say the same thing every day (this rule was made after Ben said “Coming home from work” a few too many times in a row – but it’s true, we do have a pretty great place to come home to!). You are allowed to say your favorite part hasn’t happened yet, if you are really looking forward to something coming up that evening (which sometimes has included “bedtime” for me).

I love this. I love that it’s part of our family, I love watching our kids learn the skill of searching for joy in the little things, I love hearing their thoughts. It’s hard sometimes – when Kaylia was younger, she went through a stage where she kept saying her favorite part was “climbing trees”, even though there isn’t a tree big enough to climb anywhere in our area. She just couldn’t bring herself to say something serious. But as she got older, she opened up more, and I love the glimpse it gives me into her thoughts. She is a deep, deep well, that one.

Everett is currently learning the art of “Best Parts of the Day”. Right now he says, “Paying wiff Anka”, or “All day” every time. Then he turns to me and says, “Best part day, Mommy?” I can hardly handle the cuteness of it.

K&EK&EKayliaEverettKayliaMy life at home with these sweet kids is wonderful and beautiful and amazing, but it’s not perfect – there are still times when sickness, lack of sleep, or whatever else can creep in, and we forget how blessed we are. We can become so focused on a hard challenge we’re facing that we get tunnel vision, and can’t see the joy around us, waiting to be discovered in the little things.

Ben and EverettSome days, it’s very easy to think of best parts of the day, but other days, it’s a bit harder. Those are the days when it’s even more important to find something to appreciate.

Kaylia and EverettTogether, we are learning to pay attention. We’re choosing to notice the good things instead of taking them for granted. There are lots of things I hope to pass on to my children, and this habit is definitely one of them.

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 So if you had to say what your best part of today is, what would it be?! I want to hear it!

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