Tuesday, June 9, 2015

She Died Three Months Ago Today

There has never been anyone like our mother Jean.  She loved poppies, flamingos, and Mick Jagger. We've always known this about her but we only recently asked her why.  Her response says a lot about who she was, "They're just so improbable."
Her stories about her childhood are full of mischievous times spent with her three brothers and her sister, as well as her cousins.  From her mother she inherited a strong sense of fun, from her father a love of learning.  As her children we knew family relationships were important to her and she taught us to make them important too.
It was not easy to be a single mother to four children, but she always told us that we were her greatest joy, a joy that increased with grandchildren.  In her words, "I never got to hang out with the cool kids, so I had to grow my own."  She made an effort to show us we were loved.  Just last week, she told Blake he was her favourite --something she said about each of us on occasion. She didn't just keep the things we made for her, she displayed them proudly--whether the fillings Blake learned how to do at Dentistry camp, or Annie's toilet paper tube angel that went on top of the tree every year.
Another special thing she did was share her love of music.  Her taste was eclectic--from the Monkees, to Rogers and Hammerstein, to Joni Mitchell, to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, to Gordon Lightfoot to Rita MacNeil to the Rolling Stones, and our lullabies were chosen from among these artists.  Any moment could trigger a song. We were frequently woken by her singing Awake and Arise O Ye Slumbering Nations.  She definitely had a favourite song.  We can remember her often patting the dashboard of her car, telling the radio to "play Ruby Tuesday."  One of her pleasures was playing with the "boys in the band" which was her name for the backup music programmed into her keyboard.  Another was singing alto with the ward choir.
She was also brilliant.  In her hospital room the week before she died, her visitors were doing a crossword puzzle aloud.  Without even looking at the puzzle she knew the answers before the others understood the clues.  A regular Saturday errand sent one of us to the store for a newspaper with the New York Times Crossword Puzzle which she completed weekly.  She did logic problems for fun.  We learned from her the importance of mental exercise. In her mid thirties she got her GED and went on to obtain her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology--a huge accomplishment for a woman raising four young children on her own.
Her sharp mind also showed in her sense of humour.  It was elusive to many.  But her laughter was always contagious.  She liked to follow up her own jokes with a good knee slap and an exclamation of "I'm such a hoot!" or, "Why don't other people find me as funny as I do?"
About five years ago, out of the blue, she started taking art classes.  She bought herself a drafting table, beautiful paper, and special paints.  When asked about it, she shared the Vincent Van Gogh quote on her studio wall, "If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced."
Mom couldn't go anywhere without bumping into someone with whom she had worked in the community from the Schizophrenia Society, the Canadian Mental Health Association, Harbour House, or LaHave Manor.  She particularly enjoyed conducting educational workshops and presentations for schools, clubs or local events.
Something we admire about her was her unwavering honesty and sense of integrity.  More than once she returned to a store to give back an overpayment of pennies.  Our whole lives, we've witnessed her quiet selfless giving.  Over the past week we've been especially touched by stories of lives affected by her kindness. She was profoundly generous.
Central to everything that she did was her faith.  She had a testimony of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon, latter-day prophets, and the temple.  She loved researching Family History.  Because of her faith in eternal families she spent many hours at microfilm readers, in archives, and in cemeteries around the Maritimes and even in Ireland searching for the names, dates, and stories of deceased ancestors.  As her children we would describe her as steadfast and diligent.  In the hospital, when she could no longer do it for herself she had me read from the Book of Mormon in the morning and the Bible at night.  One of the last things she asked me to do for her was pay her tithing.
Mom's given us so much--her creativity, honesty, sense of humour, brilliance, love, and each other.  Like poppies, flamingos and Mick Jagger, she was improbable.  Goodbye Ruby Tuesday, we're gonna miss you.
*The night before our mother's funeral, my brothers and I stayed up late and wrote this eulogy.  We were right.  We miss her.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tracking Ripples

Last Wednesday, a dear friend paid me the most beautiful compliment.
I smiled for days.
So, on Saturday, when I needed new black shoes, instead of my usual flats, I came home with the three inch heels I've always wanted to try.
On Sunday, I let someone in.
On Tuesday, Mary couldn't remember the last time I lost my temper.
Yesterday, my head finally touched the floor in a wide-legged forward fold.
And I took Beth's advice and wore bright red lipstick.
She has been smiling for days.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Cold Tea

I've been setting aside space in the morning to be free from urgency.  I wake up at five.  I turn on a lamp.  I steep some herbal tea.  I curl up under a pretty blanket.  And I think about stuff.  Maybe I'll blog with that time, maybe I won't.  Today, as I boiled the water for my tea, I looked around the kitchen.  Yesterday was a long (and beautiful) day of rushing around until we all crashed into bed.  That kind of day in a (or maybe just my) family of seven always creates a mess in the kitchen.  So, I thought about what my family really needed, and I filled the sink with hot soapy water.  Several hours later, I leaned against my sparkling countertop, chugged my now cold herbal tea and got on with the day.  Sometimes I need to be pensive. Sometimes I need to be practical.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

There Will Be Beauty Too

My favourite thing about being me right now is this sense I have on being on the cusp of some great discovery.  When my eyes open each morning, it's with anticipation.  Before I close my eyes again, I'll have dozens of little (or maybe gigantic) failures and sadnesses among the sticky floors and laundry and snow banks that compose my life right now.  But there will be beauty too.  I will read stories and chat with a friend and find a hidden store of courage and make something good and practice yoga and sing and help someone and drink a cup of herbal tea and remember something and there will be vegetables and hugs and comforting and laughter and sound effects and games and scripture and maybe poetry and nice socks and blogging.

Monday, February 16, 2015


For my first blog post back in months, I think an inventory is appropriate.

Areas in which I'm in over my head

How I'm going to handle them
get more spiritual
buy a book
one inside out balled up sock at a time

Books I've read lately
Maeve Binchy's Full House

Something delicious simmering in my house today
Vegetarian chili with cauliflower, peppers, and carrots

How I'm surviving 40 below freezing with a grin
hot yoga and gratitude

Something I enjoy about...

He's gentle with our children's weaknesses.

She has time for everybody, whether they're ten years younger than she is, or eighty years older.

Creating surprises for others thrills her.

Kittens make him melt.

She is super-speedy on one rollerblade.

When I tell him that I love him, sometimes he says, "I love you too, Pumpkin."

I laugh more than I used to

Other delightful things my two-year-old has said lately
"Daddy is cute!"
"Buttocks! Buttocks! Buttocks!"
In response to the question, what do bears say, "Oh bother!"

Monday, December 8, 2014


When I get up in the night for our new puppy, it's a bit of a struggle.  I drag myself downstairs, put my winter coat on over my pajamas, and stumble out into the dark.  I do this every few hours. 

Who am I kidding?  My teeth may be chattering as I stand out there in the snow, but I love every second.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Me Too

"When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy,"  Matthew 2:10.

When I make Christmas decorations with my children, I feel the same way.

*This post is part of a series.  I've set aside one afternoon  (or morning) a week to do fun activities with my children.  In an effort to work out why it both draws and repels me, I choose these activities from Pinterest.  This one comes from here, and I've pinned it here.*

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Jared Might Not Accept Future Snow Shoveling Offers

I woke up early today and it was a day like any other day.  I read for a couple of hours before the others began to stir.  I gave some good morning hugs.  I was ready for my workout when Jared came downstairs.  We noticed the snow blocking the van.  I offered to shovel in exchange for breakfast.  For the next forty minutes, I picked away at the icy chunks left by the plow.  It was twenty five below.  And I decided that I am a winter embracing Viking and needn't wait for spring to get the dog I've always wanted.  Then I convinced Jared that a puppy would make a great Christmas present for "our children," fell in love with a photo on the animal shelter website, adopted a black lab hound mix whom we've named Josephine, or Jo for short, took five wriggling children to buy a leash and food and toys, and sang Daniel to sleep with the following ditty, "Jo, Jo, Jo is a dog, and Daniel is her boy."
In other words, today I tricked my husband, made a fifteen to twenty year commitment, got in over my head, and made the dreams of five children and their mama come true.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wegan Wofu Wurry Woodness

I don't mind admitting that I forgot about this curry simmering on the back burner.  So the beans are not photogenic.  Big deal.  It's still pure tofu coconut curry vegan comfort food with nuts on top.  I think I've said enough.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Happy Birthday!

I turned thirty-four on Sunday.  I woke to breakfast in bed.  Mary is only twelve, but she makes the creamiest scrambled eggs.  I lingered over them before I plunged into my day.  Then there were songs, and chocolate, and special gifts, and hugs, and phone calls, and laughter, and prayers of gratitude "for Mama's thirty-four years on the planet," and cake with sprinkles, and pistachio ice cream, and a long hot bath.  It was a wonderful day.

I only thought about aging twice.  Once when Beth let me know that I'm so old that she can't imagine ever being my age, and once when the ladies at church told me that I'm much too young to understand menopause.  I suppose I'm a grown up, but am I young one or an old one?

As always, Raffi knows just what to say.

Monday, December 1, 2014


Sometimes, I sing to my children. 
Sometimes, I call them goofy names. 
Sometimes, I do both at the same time.

Monday, November 24, 2014


When there is cake with frosting in my freezer, I feel like I have a secret. 
It shows up in my smile.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Easy As 1-2-3

This sweet little book tugged at my heart. 
The story is simple. 
And now I want to see the best in everyone.

Monday, November 17, 2014


Sometimes when my children are in need of comforting, in amongst the, "Poor sweetie little pumpkin,"s and the "Shall I sing a song,"s, there's a secret, silent, "Dang it! How long is this going to take!"

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Without the Bow and Arrow

This was fun.  Plus the hero is a hard-working young girl.  Who loves her sister.  And thinks critically about ethics.  And politics.  And illusion.  I may be raising people like this.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Winestrone Wikes Westo (Wo Wo Wi)

This minestrone is a new staple.  I will make it regularly for the rest of my life.  But I can't decide whether that's because it comes together in minutes, is colourful, flavourful, and nutritious, or because it is a vehicle for pesto. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Day in Bread

5:46am The furnace just turned on.  The children are still sleeping.  I'm sitting cross-legged on the kitchen floor blogging in the dark.  The cat keeps wandering by.  My list today is long.  I'm considering playing hooky.  Or, I could bake some bread.

10:04pm The children are asleep again.  Jared's reading beside me.  I'm blogging in bed at the end of a long day with my belly full of bread and jam and hot citrus tea.

Monday, November 10, 2014


Saturday was a cold night for the Santa Claus Parade.  I stepped out of the house eagerly enough, but by the time I had hopped around Third Ave for twenty minutes waiting for the thing to get going, I was feeling a little grinchy.  Finally it begins and there are horses and firetrucks and dancers and treats.  And cold little children.  Who want me to read every sign that goes by, "That one says The Timmins Kinsmen Club."  My toes are ice cubes and I'm pretending to enjoy myself.  There may be some internal cussing happening.  Then Hannah says the words I've been longing to hear, "I'm cold.  I wanna go home."
"Are you sure," I gleefully ask.
That's good enough for me.  Jared agrees to stay with the other children and I turn to go, Hannah's hand in mine.  We only make it a few metres before I notice Hannah's ambivalence, "Hannah, do you really wanna go home?"
And it hits me, "Hannah, are you sad about missing Santa?"
"Should we go back?"
And just like that I'm back curbside, waiting for the big guy.  My heart three sizes bigger. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wean Woat Woup

This soup is more than the sum of its parts.  Somehow, it becomes more than soy sauce, sesame oil, minced garlic, red pepper flakes, vegetable stock, bean sprouts and green onion.  It's nourishing, nutritious, and flavourful.  It's kongnamul gook.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Big Cats and Cold Feet in the Moonlight

Last night, for Family Home Evening, we donned our winter coats and jumped on the trampoline.  My children taught me how to butt slam.  We lay back and looked at the moon.  And the stars.  Our feet grew cold.  We were ready to wind down when someone suggested some Animal Fighting.  I'd never heard of Animal Fighting.  It's a game Mary invented when she was six--six years ago.  For the next twenty minutes, I sat beside Jared on the edge of the tramp and watched in amazement.  Those children became panthers (or maybe tigers).  I could almost see muscles rippling under black fur as they leapt at one another growling.  Hannah snuggled next to me and in occasional comments, explained the game.

"They need to bite each other on the neck to get a point."

"Right now, they're playing for three points."

"Oh!  Jonah's not supposed to do that.  Standing up is against the rules."

"They don't actually bite, they just do this (her mouth opens wide in a snarl and she creates a something between a hiss and a growl).  That counts."

"Jonah has a really good leap.  Beth's is silly (she says this giggling), she looks like a frog, but she does go higher."

Mary gets two points on Jonah quickly.  Her legs are longer, which in this game is a huge advantage.  She offers to "make things interesting" by giving him two free points, "So, the next point wins."  He gets her and she shakes his hand and congratulates him before moving on to Beth.  Their match lasts longer, maybe because they keep pausing for Daniel.  He wants to be part of things and Mary lets him pounce on her with his extended claws and cute little growl.  Each time, he returns to my lap crowing jubilantly, "I did it!  I did it!  Your turn, Mama?"

Sitting there in my moonlit backyard, surrounded by the laughter of independent, interesting people, I felt deep happiness.  They had welcomed me into their rich, secret world and it was beautiful.

Monday, November 3, 2014


My bedroom's a mess, I have two hampers of clean laundry that need folding, not to mention three hampers of dirty laundry that need washing, I still haven't blogged or worked out, but all I want to do is watch a movie and crochet a mat using my old t-shirts.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Sometimes a Book Packs a Punch

Once in awhile, I read some non-fiction.  This year I've read these four.  They have all been excellent, and have improved the quality of our conversations, our homeschool, our finances, our parenting, our understanding, our connection, and our lives.  Hefty.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Finding Home

When we moved to Timmins, just over two years ago, we lived in a hotel for about two months.  There was just not a lot of available housing in any price range. So we ate a lot of microwaveable processed food, and got acquainted with Family Channel. On October thirty-first, we dressed up in our teeny room, and went out to greet our new town.  The weather was so poor, that we didn't make it a block.  Yesterday, it snowed, and I thought to myself with a smile, tomorrow must be Halloween

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Birthday Time

Birthdays make me think about time, more than anything else.  But yesterday was so densely packed with celebration, that it was bedtime before I gave any thought at all to that moment, twelve years ago, when I met Mary.  She was soft and small and scwunched.  And now, she's nearly as tall as I am.  She wants to paint her bedroom green, loves strong female characters, talks with her hands, savours the ironic, is empathetic, and loyal, and tough.  I suppose it's easy, to spend too much time baking cakes and wrapping gifts and not enough memorising her--picking her brain, and studying her face.