35 Days of Favorites: Songs

Last year, I had a favorite secular song, and a favorite spiritual song. Without really trying, I find the same thing has happened this year.

When it comes to needing something happy and upbeat, our family has become a Taylor Swift family. Oh, my word, I would never have seen that one coming. But there it is. I wrote in fall about how our vacation song was We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together, but right now, everybody’s favorite seems to be 22.

I never meant for this to happen. It’s Ben’s fault. Ben and that falsetto voice of his, belting out Taylor Swift, and our girls jumping around and singing along. And Anika, loudly singing, “It feels like the perfect night to dress up like hamsters”, instead of “hipsters”. Oops.

She also came up with a lovely version of Red, which she switched to Yellow, and made up with her own lyrics.

I was actually really sad that we didn’t go to Taylor Swift’s concert. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to go to a concert in my life before. I hardly feel like myself. What is up??

Anyway. 

On to the wholesome, serious stuff, if it’s even possible to write a blog post which includes Taylor Swift and a worship song.

My favorite worship song would absolutely have to be Bless the Lord, by Matt Redman. I love that song.

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

Oh, that last line – “Let me be singing when the evening comes.” No matter what.

It’s so fitting for what I’ve experienced in the last year, as I’ve been counting blessings and gifts from God. This year has been about learning to give thanks. “For all your goodness I will keep on singing. Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find.”

I hope I keep counting for the rest of my life. And I have a theme song now.

What’s your favorite song? Please share! We had so much fun checking out all of the suggestions last year!

35 Days of Favorites: Teaching Anika Piano

Once upon a time, I was a piano teacher.

I spent eight years of my life teaching a little crowd of students, and I completely loved it.

When I wasn’t teaching piano, I was practicing my own music, any spare minute I had, getting ready for my teacher’s exam.

I’ve written before about how I lost the ability to play, and for many years, I dealt with it by blocking it out of my mind. During the five years we lived at camp, I just took a break from it all. There weren’t any students to teach, and I didn’t have the strength in my arms to play, anyway.

But slowly, with time, things have been getting better, and I’m able to play a very tiny little bit.

And now we’re back in Niverville again, and I could teach if I wanted to, but I’m trying to figure out what exactly it is that I want.

In the meantime, I’ve been teaching Anika how to play piano, as well as my friend’s daughter, and it has been bringing me such immense joy.

There is just something about being able to pass on my love for this instrument to my own girl. I love it that she wants to sit down at the piano many times a day. I love seeing how quickly and easily she catches on to the new concepts I’m teaching her.

Anika playing piano

Because I blocked my love for music and playing the piano out of my life for five years, I never realized how much I want Anika to love playing.

We have friends who love biking. I have never met anyone as passionate about biking as they are. When their daughter learned to bike, it was a HUGE deal to them. I didn’t completely understand it, until Anika learned to play piano.

I think we just want to pass our joys and passions on to our kids. We want to share in things with them. It always brings me joy when our girls do well at something, or succeed at learning something new, but it’s extra special when it happens to be something we love, too.

Have you been able to pass on a skill or hobby to someone you love? Do you wish you could help someone learn something you love to do yourself? (We’re nearing the end of “35 Days of Favorites”, and anyone who comments during this series has a chance at winning a prize! )

35 Days of Favorites: Serving Together as a Family

During the years when Ben was a youth pastor, we often took our youth group to different service opportunities, like sorting potatoes at Winnipeg Harvest, or “Bible-stuffing”, which involved stuffing a pamphlet into Bibles to be given away.

Those kinds of opportunities often make me feel dread ahead of time – like I’m going to hate doing it, but they always turn out to be amazing. It’s as though Satan tries to keep us away from the very thing we should be doing, and tries to convince us that it will be awful, but if we overcome, and do it anyway, it turns out awesome.

It had been a long time since Ben and I had sorted potatoes or stuffed Bibles, so this last winter, when we had the opportunity to go to Winnipeg Harvest to help out as a family, we were excited about the idea of doing it together with our girls.

We really want to be that kind of family. But actually going out and volunteering, and truly being that kind of family is another thing.

The old feeling of dread and not really wanting to go came back nice and strong, even though there was a part of me that truly wanted to go and help out.

I wrestled through it, we went to Winnipeg Harvest, and it was awesome, in so many different ways. I loved doing that kind of thing with our girls. I loved seeing how much even Kaylia could help out. I loved the idea of our girls getting used to serving in different kinds of ways, at a young age.

Potatoes!

A few months later, we had the chance to go help out at a soup kitchen downtown. And guess what? Even though helping at Winnipeg Harvest had been amazing, I was still dreading the soup kitchen! The night before, I wanted to cancel in the worst way. I knew we couldn’t, but I really, really wanted to.

But we went, and….guess what?! It was amazing!

We all had a great time. Kaylia and I made spaghetti and meat sauce for 60 people. I didn’t know I could do that. There was someone there to tell me what to do when, just to get the timing right, and there was another family working with us, so everybody else was busy with making garlic bread, getting the food onto plates, serving coffee, and talking with people.

It was out of my comfort zone, but it was good. I want to do it again.

But I don’t.

But I do.

And we will. Because this conflict within me will only go away if we keep doing this kind of thing. And I’m curious – if we do it as a family often enough, will our girls grow up so used to it that they don’t feel this same dread inside of them when they’re older?

Right now, they’re excited, up for anything, and feed off of my emotions a lot. If I act excited, they get excited.

So the other day, I saw this picture on Facebook of an empty shelf at Winnipeg Harvest:

Winnipeg Harvest

I called Anika over to show it to her, and she was horrified. We followed the link to the list of suggested food items to donate, and she got out a piece of paper to copy it all down for the next time we went shopping.

I want her to care about that kind of thing. I want her to learn to act on it, because it’s so easy to think, “That’s a great idea! Let’s do something!” And then not do anything. I do that all the time.

So we are practicing doing something about it. We’re writing letters to our sponsor child, and we’re memorizing items on the food list so we know what to grab when we go to the store. We’ll go back to the soup kitchen in fall.

The selfish, lazy part of me doesn’t always want to make time for these things, but that part is getting quieter all the time.

Lots of people ask me where we find these opportunities. It’s easier for us, because we’re part of homeschool groups that organize these things for anyone who’s interested. Our schedule is really flexible, because we can go during the day, when other kids are in school, and that’s when a lot of the opportunities happen.

But if you want to help out with your family, make it happen! Find out what you can do. Anyone can get a sponsor child, or go to the store to buy some extra food. Pack up the baby clothes and equipment you’re storing up in your basement, and let me know if you’d like to donate everything to a new ministry I’m starting to get involved with called “Baby Blessings”.

There are so, so many ways to help. Sometimes it’s hard to choose. I used to sit around waiting for some kind of miraculous sign, some great passion for a specific opportunity.

But then my friend Sarah came to me and said, “Want to help with Baby Blessings?”

At first I said no, because I was too busy, and I just didn’t feel passionate about it. But finally, I agreed to help her out over this summer, and I went on my first delivery a few weeks ago. We drove around downtown, bringing bags of clothes, diapers, toys and a crib to three different women who were expecting or already had a new baby.

Same old dread, totally didn’t want to do it, but it was fantastic! And as we were driving around, the verse stuck in my head was from James – “Care for orphans and widows.”

Not because you have a specific passion for it. Not because you have certain gifts and abilities. Just because we’re all commanded to.

And if you find yourself not really wanting to, just do it anyway! And if you can do it together with your family, even better!

Any opportunities you’ve had to serve together with your family, or some other group of people? Do you find it difficult to know where to start? Anyone else dread it beforehand, and then have an amazing experience?

35 Days of Favorites: What We’re Watching These Days

Every year, my list of birthday favorites has included our favorite TV show of the year. Last year I shared how Ben and I were hooked on “Once Upon a Time”. Apparently, we really like watching it, because even though it just finished up the second season, we’re already watching it over again.

Once Upon a Timesource

But here’s the difference: we’re watching it with friends.

My favorite TV show hasn’t changed this year, because I’ve been learning that what we’re watching isn’t as important as who we watch it with.

A few months ago, my friend Sarah and I started talking about how we spent so many evenings stuck at home after the kids were in bed, and decided that we should start hanging out more in the evenings, even if all we were doing was watching TV together. She lives three houses down from me, so we agreed to run over in sweatpants, get comfy, and start sharing more life together.

We were going to watch “Once Upon a Time” together, just the two of us, but one day when we were having supper together as families, we started talking about our”Once Upon a Time” plan with Ben and her husband, Joel. I would not have pegged him as a fairytale type of a guy, but something about our description of the show seemed to catch his attention, and he said he’d like to watch it with us.

Our kids had been playing together for a long time already that evening, and it was past bedtime, but nobody wanted to stop hanging out, so we said, “Put your kids to bed here, and we’ll start watching it tonight!”

They ran home to grab bedtime stuff for their girls, we put all the kids to bed at our house, got some popcorn ready, and had our very first evening of watching shows late into the night, talking, snacking, and procrastinating on ending our time together.

It was so good. We loved it.

Sarah and Kendra

And now we do it often. Summer’s been kinda busy, but we still manage to hang out as often as we can, and I love it for so many reasons:

1) I love sharing something I love with people I love.

2) I love it that Joel and Sarah’s kids like coming over to our house for a mini sleepover, and I love it that our girls want to stay at their place, too. They have their usual sides to sleep on in Joel and Sarah’s bed, and Kaylia has even requests goodnight hugs from Uncle Joel. (When it’s time to go home, we scoop the girls up in their sleeping bags, drive back to our house, and plop them into their beds. They barely wake up!)

3) I have completely gotten over my need for planning these things far in advance, having a spotless house, or fancy snacks. Spur of the moment works just fine! It has become real, normal life, and I am so glad we get to share it with them. My happiest moment yesterday: Sarah saying that we’re not really “company” anymore. 🙂

Ben and Joel

So, yes, we’re still watching “Once Upon a Time”, but it’s so much more fun than it used to be!

Any TV favorites out there? Who do you like to watch with most?

35 Days of Favorites: Getting Flowers

During the years we were living at camp, I could count on one hand how many times Ben bought me flowers. It was very difficult for him to get me any, because the surprise factor is almost more important for him than the flowers themselves, and smuggling a bouquet of flowers home from the city when we went in together basically every time was a bit of a challenge.

He managed to surprise me a few times, and it was very special, but most of my enjoyment of flowers came from the wild daisies growing everywhere in the Whiteshell (which we weren’t supposed to pick, because we were living in a provincial park).

However, now that we’re living in civilization once more, Ben has easy access to the flowers.

At first, this did not seem to increase my chances of getting flowers. But then, we joined a bunch of couples for a weekly Bible study group, focusing on better marriages, and my absolute favorite thing that came out of this was the session on a husband romancing his wife, which Ben interpreted as “buying flowers”. (If “flowers” were a love language all on their own, it would be mine.)

Since that session, I have enjoyed many beautiful bouquets of flowers, and I am quite delighted with the whole thing. I feel spoiled rotten, and I’m pretty sure our marriage will reach very romantic heights.

flowers

Someday, I’ll have enough flowers growing in our yard so I can pick them anytime, but until then, I’m extremely thankful for my very romantic husband.;)

What makes you feel “spoiled rotten”?:)

35 Days of Favorites: Grass!

This post is part of a series called “35 Days of Favorites”, in honor of my 35th birthday. You can read more about the details here

It’s been awhile since I’ve had any grass to enjoy.

When we were living at camp, the grass was thin and patchy. Then, our yard was given a fantastic makeover, and we got some thick, beautiful sod, but we moved away before we had much time to enjoy it, and spent this last summer with a new yard which looked like this:

weeds

(So scary, I know. People kept telling us to mow our weeds, but we ended up just killing them all in the fall.)

Last fall, Ben put sod down in our front yard about 2 seconds before it snowed, and our backyard was done two weeks ago.

grass!

Oh, my goodness! I love grass!!!

Sometimes I lie down on my back in our grass, just because I can. Last night, Ben and I flopped down in our front yard, and just enjoyed sitting on our grass and talking.

Next project is landscaping. I hope I love that as much as the grass….

Do you have a yard to enjoy? Loving any grass or gardening or anything green this spring?

35 Days of Favorites: Family Traditions

I’ve been reading about bedtime routines lately, for a couple of reasons.

First of all, Kaylia is having trouble going to bed at night, and we need to make some adjustments to her routine.

But the second reason is that I came across an article about why adults need bedtime routines, too! If you want to get to bed earlier, and improve the quality of your sleep, a bedtime routine will send the message to your body that it’s time to wind down for the day.

This past year has been about messages getting sent to our bodies – in many other ways than just bedtime routines.

In the last year, we have had to adjust to a new house, a new town, a new church, a new job for Ben, with very different hours from what he was working before, which meant a new adjustment for the girls, too. In some ways, moving away from camp was almost like a cultural change, too! Very extreme, in so many different ways, and yet, as I look back over this last year, I’m a bit surprised by how quickly everyone has adjusted and settled into Niverville life.

This last weekend, I think I finally figured out one of the reasons why….

We spent the weekend at the cabin, and on Sunday morning, I was watching Ben and the girls search for clues to our family’s Annual Father’s Day Treasure Hunt. I think Ben had been awake for a total of about 2 minutes that morning before the girls eagerly pounced on him, begging to begin the treasure hunt.

Father's Day

We’ve never done it at the cabin before – the tradition was started while we were living at camp, and Anika thought it was tons of fun to have all these new locations to use for hiding clues.

Father's Day

As they went from the dock to the microwave to the picture frames, I suddenly realized how much our treasure hunt accomplishes. The girls get so excited about it each year, and it’s just one of those things we do.

It doesn’t matter where we are – it always feels like Father’s Day, as long as we have a treasure hunt.

Father's Day

The more I thought about it, the more I realized how all of our little family traditions have held us together through this past year. We can be in a completely different place, living a very different kind of life, and yet we still feel like “us”, because we have these anchors holding us down, keeping us safe and steady, even when everything else is changing.

I’ve always loved our little family traditions, but this past year, I’ve seen how much we need them – how fast someplace can feel like home, because we make it home with what we do together as a family. We’re sending messages to our bodies to settle in and get comfy!

I think it’s time to get even more intentional about adding in some more family traditions…

What are your favorite family traditions?

35 Days of Favorites: Space to Organize!

Hello, Friends!

I just have to say – I am loving your comments and suggestions for new things to try during this 35 Days of Favorites series! Laura’s Carrot Cake Bites sound amazing, and Stacie’s love for The Well-Behaved Child has convinced me to add it to my reading list.

Alicia’s favorite quote is one that I’m going to put up on my fridge:

“I have sought how I might make God more loved by other souls…and have not found any other or more powerful way than kindness.” Lucie-Christine (1844-1908)

I’ll be trying this Homemade Shea Butter Hand Lotion, and I’m almost ready to make a decision about what new cookie sheets to buy, thanks to Julia and Chantelle’s comments, which have given me something to consider and research. Andrea’s success with clothing swaps has gotten me curious, and I’m looking forward to attending the next one!

Thanks to everyone for contributing so far. It’s what makes this so much fun for me! I love hearing from you all.

So. I suppose today’s favorite could also be labelled “Ikea Coming to Winnipeg”, because all of our best storage solutions were bought there.

But it doesn’t really matter to me where it comes from, I just love having enough space to put things away in a neat and orderly way.

The organizing space I’m loving most right now is this one:

storage cabinet

I wrote about the trauma of dark paint, and then the white cabinet recovery in this post. And now I just love it all. There is so much storage in this unit that I still have empty shelves to figure out what to do with.

Our TV fits perfectly, and I love being able to close the doors to hide it:

TV

I keep most of our homeschooling supplies in this cabinet, as well as games and puzzles for the girls:

homeschool supplies

Ben wants to put some trim on the top and bottom of the shelves to finish things off, and I’ll probably keep rearranging those shelves for the rest of my life, but other than that, it’s been a fantastic solution for our storage needs.

I got the idea from this blog, in case you want the details on how to shop for and assemble the whole thing.

Okay, everybody, you’ve heard how much I love your comments! Today I would love to hear your organizing secrets! Or maybe you have some crazy, out-of-control areas that you’d love to find a storage solution for? Any Ikea-love out there? (A little reminder: I’m bribing your comments with a prize at the end!)

35 Days of Favorites: Snacks!

This post is part of a series called “35 Days of Favorites”, in honor of my 35th birthday. You can read more about the details here

I love snacking.

My girls love snacking.

I am always looking for new treats to try, and we came across some awesome snacks this past winter….all in the form of balls:

Raw Cookie Dough Bites

Raw Coconut Macaroons (which I make into balls)

Chocolate Coconut Cookies

Chocolate Coconut Cookies

All of these snacks are gluten-free and sugar-free.

They are super fast and easy to make, and I love it when the girls pull up stools and help me in the kitchen.

helping

These treats are so delicious, you should try them all!

What’s your favorite snack?

35 Days of Favorites: Supper

This post is part of a series called “35 Days of Favorites”, in honor of my 35th birthday. You can read more about the details here

Oh, what to share for my favorite main course dish?

My true favorite is actually the same as Ben’s, which means I already shared it here. We loooove this casserole, but our girls DO NOT! Guess what we’ll eat all the time once they’re grown up and moved out of the house?!

Until then, my next favorite might be this vegetable dish:

Potato Side Dish

I make it as a side dish (it goes really well with salmon), or add chicken to serve as a one-dish meal. It can be made in a foil packet and grilled on the BBQ, or it can be baked in the oven during the winter. Very versatile, nobody complains when we eat it, and it’s what taught our girls to like green beans! It’s pretty and colorful, and has a bunch of different vegetables in it:

Potato Vegetable Dish

5 potatoes, sliced
2 cups carrots, sliced
2 cups green beans
1 cup chopped red pepper
4 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. chopped dill
salt and pepper
1/2 cup butter, melted

Layer vegetables in a casserole dish. Mix garlic, dill, salt, pepper, and butter together, and drizzle over vegetables. Bake at 350 for an hour.

Just thinking about it is making me hungry – going to make it for supper tonight!

Okay, you’re turn! What’s your favorite main course?