Friday 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end."
Isaiah 9:6-7a

Wonderful Counselor.

Mighty God.

Everlasting Father.

Prince of Peace.

And yet...He was nothing like anyone expected. A baby born to an unwed mother and laid in the animals' feed trough. A man who preached a radical enemy-love rather than overthrowing the earthly government. A Saviour Who died on a cross, hung between two thieves.

Nothing like anyone expected.

Our Advent celebrations are over. Christmas Eve is here. The presents are wrapped and tucked under the tree. The babies are snuggled in bed in their new mama-made Christmas pajamas. Cinnamon buns are baked and ready for Christmas morning. We are surrounded by loving family: my amazing mother- and father-in-law, my two beautiful sister-in-laws, my own sister, and my sweet baby niece, all of us ready to celebrate the birth of our Saviour.

Wishing you a joyful Christmas and many blessings in the new year!

Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe after all we’ve projected
A child in a manger
Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mother's shawl
Just a child, is this who we’ve waited for?

'Cause how many kings stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Bringing our gifts for the newborn Savior
All that we have whether costly or meek
Because we believe
Gold for His honor and frankincense for His pleasure
And myrrh for the cross He’ll suffer
Do you believe, is this who we’ve waited for?
It’s who we’ve waited for?

How many kings stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?
Only one did that for me

All for me
All for you
All for me
All for you

Sunday 19 December 2010


This time
last year
you were barreling through,
steam train waiting for no one,
surprising us all.

You joined us
one minute curled in my womb,
the next
with us,
angry howls filling the room
as I cradled you to my breast.
"Oh. There you are. Hello!"
We brought you to bed with us
just like we had every night
for the nine months before
and the twelve months since.
There you were.

Here you are.
You are all contrasts now.
Still so much a baby,
covered in soft baby skin,
rolls folds and creases.
Closed eyes and open mouth
hunting for
and yet -

And yet
you are standing on the verge of toddlerhood.
Standing on strong legs
taking those first uncertain steps,
joy and pride bursting forth
from your toothy grin.
Mr. Personality now
with your flirting
and your peek-a-boos,
with your determined wants
and frustrated tears
and angry cries.
Sometimes it's hard to be one.

And now we enter
a new year for you,
and soon
a new year for us too
promising growth
for you, yes
and maybe for us?

My darling baby,
I love you.

Happy birthday.

Friday 17 December 2010

Quick and easy homemade Christmas gifts for children

With just one week left until Christmas, here are some simple last minute homemade gift ideas for children.

Fabric birds

These sweet little fabric birds can be made in under an hour from scraps of fabric. They make cute stocking stuffers or small gifts for children. The tail is perfect for tiny hands to clutch, so add a bell with the stuffing for an easy baby rattle.

My preschooler loves to help make these for his friends. He chooses the fabric, cuts out the rough pattern (which I then tidy up before sewing), and helps me stuff the bird before I sew up the tail.


Beanbags are a classic toy for children. Use a variety of textured fabrics to increase sensory experience. These are easy enough for even the most beginner sewer - simply cut out squares, stitch around three sides, fill with your choice of filling, and sew up the fourth side. As an optional final step, topstitch around the entire beanbag for a more professional look and reinforced finishing.

Crayon roll

Another great stocking stuffer, these crayon rolls are ideal for restaurants, church, and waiting rooms. They also make a great addition to an art bag.


(Photo credit: lokiandazreal)

If you have basic knitting skills and some extra yarn, these gnomes are adorable and have great play value. Make them with all natural materials for a perfect Waldorf toy.

Cloth shoes

Another quick project, these cloth shoes can be embellished in a variety of ways. Add them to a stocking or use them to complete a new outfit. Great for keeping baby socks on little feet!

Pajama pants

A classic Christmas Eve gift, try your hand at a homemade set this year. This tutorial is excellent for a pair of basic pajama pants, and for an easy matching shirt, just add an applique to a plain t-shirt.

Envelope shirt

Alternatively, this 90 minute shirt tutorial is easy to follow, and the results are just too adorable. Also makes a cute daytime shirt all on its own. Make it with new knit fabric or upcycle a men's t-shirt.

Baby sets

Also perfect gifts for baby showers, a basic flannel baby set is both practical and cute. I like to include in mine:

  • an extra-large receiving blanket with a basic rolled hem (those store bought ones are never quite big enough after the first few weeks!),
  • a burp pad (cut a bean shape, sew right sides together leaving a small opening, turn, and topstitch around the whole thing to close), and
  • towel-backed washcloths (I cut up on-hand baby towels for the backing, which never find much use around here as we quickly switch to regular towels both for size and absorbency).

Package in a matching drawstring bag for a reusable gift wrap that can later be used to hold toys or bring along activities in the car.

With that, I'm out, off to finish up Christmas pajamas and tackle my frightening to-do list before our holiday travels begin. Happy crafting!

Thursday 16 December 2010


We've been busy...


and more!

Looking forward to sharing with you again!

Tuesday 14 December 2010


"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."
Matthew 5:16

The verse, read countless times before, stands out this time. I repeat it, meditating, savouring, writing it on my heart.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

We are not saved by our good deeds. No, salvation is a gift, a wonderful, undeserved, priceless gift. But what sort of faith would refuse? If we love God and seek to be like Christ, should there not naturally arise a desire to be as Christ to the world? Being a light, doing good works, bringing glory to God.

We can be that light when we reach out to others, rather than waiting to be reached out to. I am reminded of the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi:

"O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love."

We can be the light that meets countless physical needs, feeding the hungry, sheltering the poor, clothing the naked, being generous. We can be the light that meets untold emotional needs, encouraging, loving, lifting up. We can be that light today, right here, to our families, seeking to love and serve and meet their needs, rather than waiting to first be loved and served and have our needs met.

And in doing these things, we can be the light that points to the One that meets our every spiritual need.

Sometimes we get it all wrong. All of us, all different types, have our weaknesses and blind spots. A fair-skinned, blue-eyed Jesus; a pope met with worshipful fanfare that would make Peter weep in horror and disgust; a weak gospel intended to tickle the ears and increase numbers rather than save souls. And on and on and on, errors made by humans but attributed to God. The light flickers.

Sometimes we ask all the wrong questions, blinded by pride and self-righteousness, preoccupied with I'm right and you're wrong, ignoring the injustices happening right in front of us, failing to be a set apart society, turning instead to an earthly government for salvation!

What are the right questions?

How can we be a set-apart people, a city on a hill, a light in a world of darkness? How can we love the least of these? How can we care for the orphans and widows? How can we love our neighbours as ourselves? How can we love God with all of our heart and mind and soul?

We can begin by living the relational community that God designed and laid out for us, Torah persisting through the ages. We are called to be a community, a set-apart people, loving one another and loving our God. The true body of Christ, transcending denominational lines, brothers and sisters bound by love and servitude for their God, the one who knows each person's heart and is not fooled by false humility.

All of our theorizing is worth nothing if we fail to helping in tangible ways, showing love instead of judgement, serving rather than demanding. Being Christ.

If we truly live this way, truly seek to be as Christ to others...what glory. What light.

Monday 13 December 2010


I took Christmas pictures of the family this weekend.

I bribed the boy with candy.

I bribed my husband with sushi.

I'm not even sorry.

Saturday 11 December 2010

Weekend Reading

Thursday 9 December 2010

Encouraging generosity in children

It can be hard during the Christmas season to encourage a spirit of giving, generosity, and compassion in our children. The opposite is steadily reinforced with everyone from family to strangers asking them, "what do you want for Christmas?" or "what have you asked Santa to bring you this year?" Difficult or not, there are a variety of ways we can provide our children with opportunities to cultivate generosity:

Purchase an Angel Tree gift

Angel Trees allow families to have gifts for their children under the tree on Christmas morning. Consider having each child choose a gift for a child their own age. Alternatively, purchase a gift for a teenager, as they are most often overlooked on Angel Trees. Contact your local Christmas Bureau for Angel Tree locations and for other ways you can help this season.

Donate some of their own toys

Have children go through their toys and choose some to donate to Goodwill. Not only is this an exercise in generosity, it serves the dual purpose of making room for the inevitable new toys on Christmas morning.

I found this story particularly poignant (taken from this article):
"I know of a mom and dad who had their kids go through all their toys one December and make two piles. The first pile would include the toys they planned on giving away; the second, toys they felt were worth keeping. (This made room for the new toys they’d soon receive on Christmas.)

The clincher was, this mom and dad talked about sacrificial giving, and shared how they planned to give one of their cars to a needy family. Then, they had their children give away the pile of toys they had planned to keep.

Sacrifice is true generosity. It was hard for a few moments, but unforgettable in the end. Those kids still talk about that incredible experience four years later."

Perform random acts of kindness and service

Give your children encouragement and opportunities to find ways to show others kindness. Homemade gifts for a sibling or a small act of service for a parent are great examples, and are even better when done anonymously. Brainstorm ideas with them as to what they can do to bless and serve others.

A tangible way to see the results of these small acts is to add a piece of straw to a makeshift manger with each good dead performed. In this way, they are effectively building a bed for Jesus as Christmas Day approaches.

Bake cookies for a neighbour or emergency service workers

Children can assist in baking cookies and leaving them for a neighbour. Alternatively (or in addition!), take a plate of cookies to your local firestation or police station to say thank you to those spending Christmas Eve or Christmas Day at work.

Make winter kits for homeless people

Many agencies serving homeless people hand out winter survival kits as the cold weather approaches. While you can check with your local program to find what they put in their kits, the typical one will include socks, mittens, a hat, toiletries, snacks, a blanket, and a gift card, all packed into a backpack or duffel bag. This makes an ideal group project as well.

Send cards to friends and grandparents

Give the gift of honour by sending cards to loved one. Rather than a generic Christmas message, have the child be specific in sharing why they are thankful for this person. Similarly, include children in choosing and wrapping gifts for others, allowing them to take part in the joy of giving.


Serving at soup kitchens and visiting nursing homes are popular ways families can volunteer to help others. Christmas Bureaus often need volunteers to sort through toy donations. Volunteering will depend on the age of the children and the opportunities available, so check with your local volunteer agency to see where your family can help this year.


Food banks often feel the crunch around the holidays, and the Salvation Army is out with their bells and red buckets. Kids enjoy dropping coins in the bucket, knowing the money will help those who need it. To make it more personal, they can do chores around the house to earn their own coins to buy a can of food or to drop in the bucket.

Share the season

Christmas can be a lonely time for many people. If you know a college student, widow, single parent, or anyone else who might be feeling alone, invite them to join in your Christmas celebrations.

Put together a box for Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child is a wonderful program that provides Christmas gifts to children in need around the world. It is a perfect opportunity for children to be involved in choosing items to prepare a gift for a child living in poverty.

New this year is Build a Box, allowing you to customize and pay for a shoebox online, to be packed and shipped by OCC volunteers. This option is less tangible for young children, but can be a good alternative if you are short on time.

Order from a gift catalogue

Samaritan's Purse, Compassion, and World Vision all have gift catalogues that allow you to provide real, practical support to those in need. With everything from soccer balls to chickens to wells, there's something for every budget. Browse through the catalogues with your children and involve them in choosing a family gift. These also make great gifts for extended family members when purchased in their name.

Don't stop after Christmas

Cultivating a spirit of generosity and compassion is a year-round venture, and the need for generosity is in no way limited to the holiday season. Find a way to make it tangible for children. One approach is to put cash in a jar, perhaps a set amount each month, a certain percent of your income, or a few dollars every time your family does something fun that costs money (add $5 to the jar every time you go out for dinner, for example). At the end of the month, sit down with your children and decide together what you will do with the money. Choose a charity to donate it to, prepare a kit for a homeless person, or use it to bless a family in need.

Most importantly, talk about how and why we give to others, and model a consistently generous, caring, and compassionate life.

How do you encourage generosity in your child(ren)?

Wednesday 8 December 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Rawr!

(at our neighbourhood's Christmas tree lighting festival)

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Just what we needed

A quiet day at home.

A wooden boat built.

A stack of books read.

A cinnamon bun shared.

A load of clean laundry hung to dry.

A long discussion prompted by the day's Jesse Tree reading.

A quiet day at home.

Just what we needed.

Monday 6 December 2010

St. Nicholas or Santa Claus?

Today is St. Nicholas Day, a day to commemorate the selfless fourth century bishop and honour his gifts of generosity and charity.

It was from this giving spirit that the legend of Santa Claus arose. Sadly, this "new and improved" version of St. Nicholas misses out on the most important aspects of the saint's character. This article on The Real "Santa Claus" describes exactly my thoughts on how we have turned "a classic tale into a shallow, sentimentalized version for mass consumption":
"Somehow, the power of modern culture turned him into something quite different. A human saint was replaced by a jolly old elf. A patron of the poor became a judge of who’s naughty and nice. A church bishop became the CEO of the world’s largest toy factory. A man who walked among his parishioners and served the people in his community became a cosmic delivery man who visits everyone everywhere on one night during the year in his magic sleigh. A saint of the church became an icon of popular culture and a vehicle for commercialism. A story rich in human experience became a modern fairy tale we trot out every year to try and put some magic in our children’s eyes during the season."
It is precisely this discrepancy that has prompted us to leave Santa Claus out of our Christmas celebrations. There are no gifts from Santa, no threats of naughty lists and nice lists, no trips to the mall to ask for presents.

Instead, we talk about St. Nicholas. We celebrated St. Nicholas Day by buying an Angel Tree gift for a child, commemorating the saint's reputation for secret gift giving and charity.

St. Nicholas can help us draw our hearts to Christ. He reminds us of the life that Jesus commanded us to live, caring for the poor and orphans, showing compassion to our neighbour, not needing recognition for our charity.

Santa Claus asks what we want, not what we can give. He asks if we've been good enough to deserve a gift, not offering it freely to all. He tells us that he's watching us, not God.

He's actually kinda creepy.

I understand the desire to make Christmas a magical time for our children. I hope that I am doing that myself, that Christmas will be a time of wonder and delight for them, full of good memories and strong traditions. I believe I can do that without Santa, without magical elves, and without the external pressure to "be good or Santa won't leave you any gifts".

But most of all, I cannot bring myself to mislead, or outright lie, to my child. I won't tell him that Santa left him a gift, because it's not true. I won't tell him the mischievous elves turned the milk green, because they didn't. I won't sit him on Santa's knee, because it's not Santa. It's a cheap representation of the richly generous life of a godly man.

I can't reconcile sitting with my child as we read our Jesse Tree devotional over breakfast in the morning, with telling him elves came to do mischief in the evening. I can't reconcile telling him about the gift of Christ coming down to save us all with leaving gifts from Santa under the Christmas tree. I can't reconcile telling him later that yes, Santa was just a pretend game we played with praying that his faith in God lasts and grows through the years.

Perhaps my hesitance is largely because the effects of Santa hit a little too close to home for me. My sister remains without faith in God to this day because when she was finally forced to accept that Santa was a lie, after holding tight to that belief through the early years of her life, she concluded that the same was true of God. It was just a story to make people be good, just a nice hope to hold on to in the face of death.

I know many wonderful Christian families who are able to include Santa Claus and even elf magic in their Christ-honouring Christmas celebrations. I know many strong Christians who have fond memories of Santa traditions and whose faith wasn't at all shaken after discovering that Santa was a game. But for us, I cannot do it. I cannot cheapen the memory of St. Nicholas. I cannot use Santa as one more external motivator for good behaviour. I cannot encourage additional materialism during a season already rife with it. I cannot lie to my child.

I cannot assume that he will understand that one story is pretend while another is the most wonderful, beautiful Truth in this world.

I cannot.

How do you approach the idea of Santa Claus in your Christmas celebrations?

Saturday 4 December 2010

The Saturday Evening Blog Post

It's time again for the Saturday Evening Blog Post, hosted by Elizabeth Esther. Elizabeth collects the "best of" posts on the first Saturday of every month, an opportunity for bloggers to gather and share their favourite post from the previous month.

Having blogged almost daily in November, I had a hard time choosing which post to share this time. Word Pictures, filled with so many of my favourite fall memories? Capitalizing on Breastfeeding Moms, where I shared my frustrations over Similac's newest marketing scheme? The Days are Long, perhaps my most emotionally vulnerable post this month? The Hows of Discipline, my year-long "must get this written" work-in-process? In the end, I decided to share Declaration, as this is a post I've been trying to keep at the front of my mind as we enter this busy Advent and Christmas season.

If you've written something you'd like to share this month, swing by her blog and add your link. It looks like there's quite a few other interesting posts to check out, too.

Good night!

Weekend Reading

  • Spare Me Your Awareness Campaign @ Not One of the Herd
  • (Love this one. My poor husband has to listen to me rant about this more often than I care to admit.)
  • Finding Your Tribe @
  • (This is what I deeply desire in my life, and I pray that I will find it soon.)
  • My Christmas Poet @ Internet Monk
  • (Such a lovely introduction to a beautiful woman.)
  • Perfectionism @ A Holy Experience
  • (1 John 1:8 "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.")

Oh, and a bonus for the weekend, because this one had me nodding in fervent agreement while snorting back my laughter: Wonderboobs @ Elizabeth Esther

Friday 3 December 2010

Oh dear

To the man at the German Christmas Market booth spit-roasting a whole pig today:

Thank you very much for forcing me to have the whole "that's where meat comes from" conversation with my three year old, a little earlier and far more bluntly and in-your-face than I'd planned to.

"Mommy! Mommy!! Why is he burning that pig??? Will the pig be okay?"

I'm not sure which of us was more traumatized by the whole experience.

Unprepared Mother in Vancouver

Thursday 2 December 2010

Our Advent

Advent, coming, our time of expectant preparation, has begun. Our family is young, our traditions still fluid, and so we take this, leave that, seeking our unique way to prepare for and celebrate the joyous coming of our Lord.

In keeping with our family's priorities, our Advent activities this year have three goals:


We draw our hearts towards His coming. We begin at the beginning, seeing the bigger picture form as we read through our Jesse tree devotional. He is the center of this season, the One we are preparing for. This year we supplement our usual readings with the beautiful words of Ann at A Holy Experience. We keep our preparations focused.


With some sadness, we leave our Advent wreath put away this year. We will be travelling soon, visiting loved ones, and those last unlit candles always feel so unfinished. We sing the old familiar Advent hymns, and we talk, always talk, about the expectant joy of this season, but we leave out those things which threaten to become burdensome rather than useful or joyful. We are careful not to take on too much nor to allow busy distractions to crowd out our time together. We keep our preparations simple.


This season should be simple, yes, and not burdensome, but neither do we want to fritter it away with good intentions and no follow-through. We want to live with intention, and so we create an Advent calendar for our family, guiding our December with thoughtful deliberation. We keep our preparations intentional.

Instead of candy or gifts, each day holds one activity. Some big, some small. Some fun for us, some blessings for others. Some keep us indoors, some take us out into our neighbourhood or further. Each activity is recorded on a sheet of paper, then folded into an envelope and hung, side-by-side with the rest, on a string on the wall. One envelope will be opened each morning, and when the envelopes are gone, it will be Christmas.

In determining the activities, we considered our priorities, local events, and the memories we wanted to create this season. Writing them down ensures that our plans become reality. It also makes it easy to confirm that the supplies we need are on hand and ready to go.

With room for flexibility and other endeavors, these are the activities we will be doing each day:

1 Decorate the Christmas tree
2 Paint a Christmas ornament
3 Go to a German Christmas festival
4 Go to a neighbourhood Christmas tree lighting
5 Make a pinecone craft and drink wassail
6 Go to the mall to buy our annual Christmas ornaments and an Angel Tree gift
7 Phone grandparents to sing Christmas songs
8 Bake Christmas cookies
9 Do a Mailbox blessing
10 Have our friends over for dinner
11 Take Christmas pictures
12 Make Christmas cards
13 Attend the Community Carol Sing
14 Go for a moonlit walk
15 Go to a Festival of Lights
16 Make cookies for a neighbour
17 Watch a Christmas movie (Nestor the Long-Eared Donkey)
18 Leave for Oma & Opa's house
19 (The baby's first birthday) Make peanut butter cookies*
20 Cut down a Christmas tree
21 Make a popcorn-and-cranberry chain
22 Go for a nature walk
23 Read Christmas stories
24 CHRISTMAS EVE - Have a birthday party for Jesus

*The boy was continually asking me if he could give nuts to the baby yet. I told him he couldn't have nuts until his first birthday (rather foolish and arbitrary, really, since I'm quite certain I didn't prevent all of those nuts from making their way into the baby's mouth, but it feels like the "right thing to do"). The boy decided that the best way to celebrate the baby being "allowed" to have nuts would be to make peanut butter cookies for his birthday. Who needs cake? We're having peanut butter cookies!

Focused. Simple. Intentional.

What are your goals for the season? How will you be preparing and celebrating?

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Tuesday 30 November 2010

How He Loves

I haven't adored a song this much in...maybe ever. If you'll pardon the cliché, it's so beautiful it hurts.

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realise just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us so,
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us so.

Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.

We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
So Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way that...

He loves us
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.

Well, I thought about You the day Steven died,
And You met me between my breaking.
I know that I still love You, God, despite the agony.
...They want to tell me You're cruel,
But if Stephen could sing, he'd say it's not true, cause...

Cause He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us.
Whoa! how He loves us.
Whoa! how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.

Monday 29 November 2010


Mind swirling with a growing list of Things I Must Do, filling our Advent season, our Christmas celebrations, I can't sleep. I want traditions, memories, a Christ-filled season, and suddenly I realize that it has all been superficial. Have I stopped for even one moment to acknowledge His presence here, to welcome Him into our preparations and celebrations?

My heart beats, be still...

He is God.

Do I declare that? Does my life speak to His great mercies, His unfailing love? Does it bring Him glory?

I will, must, declare it. He is God. He is Good. He is merciful. He loves you.

Do I declare all that He has saved me from? By grace alone has He saved me. I am not good. Oh, I am not good. I daren't confess the depths of my sin but to God alone, but know that it is true. I am saved only through faith in Christ, Who has covered my sin, my shame, with His sacrifice, His love, His blood.

Do I declare all that He has done in my life? Those dark years, those low points, I don't speak of them often but why not? Why do I not declare, loudly, He carried me through that! He did. He held me and He carried me and how easy it is to forget, to want to forget, to move on, leave it all in the past. The idea of going back to that place leaves me breathless with terror, but how can I bring hope to others if I do not declare, He brought me through, I am here, alive, safe, filled with joy and peace, on the other side!

Do I declare His good and perfect gifts? His everlasting joy, His peace that passes all understanding. The gift of His Holy Spirit, indwelling - Comforter, Advocate, Guide, Spirit of Truth. The gift of His Son...and that is what this season is all about. Who it is all about.

I am backwards, all backwards, planning and preparing and determined that we will prepare for Him, celebrate Him, but first, first...I must enter in. I must bow down, acknowledge Him amidst all of my plans, quiet my busy spirit and enter in. He is already here. He has always been here. I have been so busy forcing, wrestling, trying to bring Him down into this season, am I doing enough?, will our preparations and celebrations be about Him? but no. He is already here, and I have only to walk quietly into this season and allow Him to prepare me. I cannot force this. My wrestling, my worry, has all been for naught.

He is here. He has come! And he will come again in glory!

Praise be to God!

He is here.


God is with us.

Saturday 27 November 2010

Weekend Reading

Friday 26 November 2010

One Christmas card

I shared a link to (in)courage's Christmas card drive in my Weekend Reading a couple weeks ago. The Christmas card drive ends on Monday, so with only the weekend remaining in which to create that card, I wanted to mention it again.

"I got asked the same question over and over again in a language I couldn’t understand by faces I could read as easily as those of my own two sons, 'Do you know my sponsor? Will you ask them to write to me?'

Sponsor or no sponsor, turns out what every kid really wants is a letter. A letter to tell them they are special and loved and beautiful and necessary and that they matter much, much more than their circumstances may tell them. When you’ve stood in a corrugated iron shack that houses a family of five who barely escaped a mud slide and watched them pull an envelope of letters that stretch back for years out from under the mattress pad you know you’re in the presence of something special."

For only a couple dollars and a few minutes of your time, you can encourage an unsponsored child with a Christmas card, letting them know that Jesus loves them and there are people out there praying for them.

This could be the most important and meaningful Christmas card you send this year.

Thursday 25 November 2010

Snow day

We began our day with plans to go somewhere - anywhere - but quickly changed our minds after looking out the window this morning.

It's not much snow for a northern Manitoba girl, but on the lower west coast of Canada it looks pretty much surreal. And while I'm confident in my snow-driving abilities, I'm not so confident in the same of the locals, nor did I think a mere handful of snow plows and an abundance of steep hills were a great combination for driving.

So in we stayed.

We read books in front of a warm fire, practiced some French, sang songs, and watched the snow falling thick outside. We drank hot chocolate with candy cane stir sticks. And while the boys were occupied with general mess and chaos, I finally finished the older one's months-old request: a baby carrier for his babies.

I first promised this carrier during a walk this summer, when I glanced over to discover that the boy was casually walking down the street with his "baby" (a beanbag animal of some sort) hanging out of his pants. He thought his underwear was a pretty clever baby carrier; I suggested that perhaps it wasn't the most appropriate way to carry his baby while in public. And so he asked me to sew him a baby carrier for his babies, just like I had for his baby brother.

I use a variety of carriers with my babies. With my first, I preferred the versatility and support of a good sturdy wrap. With my second, I find myself most often reaching for my mei tai, choosing speed over the wrap's extra support.  I do still love my wrap, though, especially if I'll be wearing him for long stretches of time.  The baby just had a nice nap on my back in the wrap while at a playdate last week.

Because the boy sees the mei tai used most frequently, that was the style he requested. Months of procrastination later, it is done.

He loves it. The first "baby" he grabbed to put in it was, of all things, a stuffed bat.

 Second was his most favoured "baby", a small beanbag puppy.  He wore the puppy in it all evening, only reluctantly taking it off to eat dinner.


When it was time to clean up toys after dinner, he asked if I'd put his beanbag bear in the baby carrier first.  Once his bear was snuggled in place, he said, "This is great!  Now I can clean with my bear!"

This kid's gonna make an awesome daddy someday.

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Ouch

Alternately titled: When You Launch Yourself Head First Off Your Brother's Bed, Try Not to Land on a Stack of Board Books (their corners are sharper than they look!)

Tuesday 23 November 2010

You win, TSA

For years, my husband has said he will not travel to the United States.

Too dangerous, he says.

They're not that bad, I counter.

Well, I've been forced to admit that he was right. (Ow. My pride.)

It was bad enough when we suddenly couldn't cross the border without a full passport or enhanced drivers licence. But fine, whatever, we'll stay here and support our own economy. I prefer to support local business anyway. I had plans to get my passport should I ever convince my obviously over-reacting husband to fly anywhere in the States.

But now?

Passport or not, we'll stick to more local vacations or other countries. I would rather not be molested through an "enhanced pat-down" nor seen naked via an advanced imaging technology (AIT) screening just to board a plane in that country. Nor will I teach my children not to allow themselves to be touched, only to turn around and let a stranger grope them in the name of "safety".

Really? Safety? Does anyone honestly believe such security theater will keep them safe?

Is there anything that country won't allow in the name "safety"?

To "ensure your safety", the American government permits:

  • mothers to be effectively sexually assaulted
    "I stood there, an American citizen, a mom traveling with a baby with special needs formula, sexually assaulted by a government official. I began shaking and felt completely violated, abused and assaulted by the TSA agent. I shook for several hours, and woke up the next day shaking."
  • rape survivors to be left in tears after being pat down
    "He started at one leg and then ran his hand up to my crotch. He cupped and patted my crotch with his palm. Other flyers were watching this happen to me. At that point I closed my eyes and started praying to the Goddess for strength. He also cupped and then squeezed my breasts. That wasn’t the worst part. He touched my face, he touched my hair, stroking me. That’s when I started crying. It was so intimate, so horrible. I feel like I was being raped. There’s no way I can fly again. I can’t do it."
  • a woman to be handcuffed to a chair for asking questions
    "The TSA chose Meg McLain for special screening. They wanted her to go through the new porno-scanners. When she opted out, TSA agents raised an enormous ruckus. When she asked some question about what they planned to do to her, they flipped out. TSA agents yelled at her, handcuffed her to a chair, ripped up her ticket, called in 12 local Miami cops and finally escorted her out of the airport. Listen to her story as she told it on radio show Free Talk Live last night."
  • cancer survivors to have their prosthesis removed
    "Bossi was asked to show her prosthetic breast, sticking her hand down her own shirt and removing the prosthesis from her bra.

    A T.S.A. representative says agents aren't supposed to remove any prosthetics, but are allowed to ask to see and touch any passenger's prosthetic."
  • a bladder cancer survivor to be left covered in his own urine
    "'One agent watched as the other used his flat hand to go slowly down my chest. I tried to warn him that he would hit the bag and break the seal on my bag, but he ignored me. Sure enough, the seal was broken and urine started dribbling down my shirt and my leg and into my pants.'

    The security officer finished the pat-down, tested the gloves for any trace of explosives and then, Sawyer said, 'He told me I could go. They never apologized. They never offered to help. They acted like they hadn’t seen what happened.'
  • young children to be subject to enhanced pat-downs
    "...the boy went through a metal detector and didn't set it off but was selected for a pat down. The boy was shy so the TSA couldn't complete the full pat on the young boy. The father tried several times to just hold the boys arms out for the TSA agent but i guess it didn't end up being enough for the guy. I was about 30 ft away so i couldn't hear their conversation if there was any. The enraged father pulled his son shirt off and gave it to the TSA agent to search..."
  • a three year old girl to be patted down while screaming "don't touch me!"
    "Why was Mandy searched in the first place? She started crying when she was asked to put her teddy bear through the X-ray machine. This made it difficult for her to walk calmly through the metal detector and she set the machine off twice, which meant she must be hand-searched.
  • a heavily armed soldier to have his nail clippers confiscated
    Soldier: [touches butt stock of the rifle] But this actually is a weapon. And I'm allowed to take it on.
  • the TSA to deliberately make the enhanced pat-downs humiliating and intrusive in order to coerce passengers to use the ATI scanners, effectively punishing those who opt-out of the scanners
    "I asked him if he was looking forward to conducting the full-on pat-downs. 'Nobody's going to do it,' he said, 'once they find out that we're going to do...We're trying to get everyone into the machine.'"
  • the TSA to detain those who refuse to undergo screening
    "The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is warning that any would-be commercial airline passenger who enters an airport checkpoint and then refuses to undergo the method of inspection designated by TSA will not be allowed to fly and also will not be permitted to simply leave the airport.

    That person will have to remain on the premises to be questioned by the TSA and possibly by local law enforcement. Anyone refusing faces fines up to $11,000 and possible arrest."
  • the TSA to lie about what the images look like and whether these images can be saved or transmitted

...all for the illusion of safety.

Many are concerned about the exposure to radiation. I appreciated this quote from a physics professor:

Peter Rez, a physics professor at Arizona State University in Tempe, did his own calculations and found the exposure to be about one-fiftieth to one-hundredth the amount of a standard chest X-ray. He calculated the risk of getting cancer from a single scan at about 1 in 30 million, "which puts it somewhat less than being killed by being struck by lightning in any one year," he told me.

While the risk of getting a fatal cancer from the screening is minuscule, it's about equal to the probability that an airplane will get blown up by a terrorist, he added. "So my view is there is not a case to be made for deploying them to prevent such a low probability event."

Airports have other options, including opting out of the TSA program in favor of private screeners. Not everyone is willing to stand for this. Many travelers are choosing to "opt out" of ATI scans tomorrow, designated National Opt Out Day. Asserting that the new policies are unconstitutional, a man was able to avoid both the AIT scanning and the enhanced pat-down when returning the the US this weekend.

But then, of course, there's always the chance the TSA will threaten you with a civil suit and a $10,000 fine if you attempt to leave the airport rather than submit to either procedure, as they did to John Tyner.

I enjoyed this summary of the issue:
"The ultimate idiocy is the full-body screening of the pilot. The pilot doesn't need a bomb or box cutter to bring down a plane. All he has to do is drive it into the water, like the EgyptAir pilot who crashed his plane off Nantucket while intoning "I rely on God," killing all on board.

But we must not bring that up. We pretend that we go through this nonsense as a small price paid to ensure the safety of air travel. Rubbish. This has nothing to do with safety - 95 percent of these inspections, searches, shoe removals and pat-downs are ridiculously unnecessary. The only reason we continue to do this is that people are too cowed to even question the absurd taboo against profiling - when the profile of the airline attacker is narrow, concrete, uniquely definable and universally known. So instead of seeking out terrorists, we seek out tubes of gel in stroller pouches."

America, land of

I'll stay right here in Canada, thanks.

Monday 22 November 2010

Simple joys

Our weekend was filled with those lovely simple joys that make the everyday extraordinary.

Snow - here! - demanded a slow and peaceful walk through our favourite forest trail. The trail was beautiful and the weather was perfect. Not so cold that we were uncomfortable, but cool and crisp enough that we arrived back home with pink cheeks, eager to warm up with a mug of hot chocolate and a bowl of butternut squash soup.

I've never liked winter, especially growing up somewhere where "winter" meant feet of snow and temperatures as low as fifty below zero (Celsius). Here,, I could get used to winter, I think.

I've finally learned to love fall, with its delicious spiciness, its warm pumpkin treats, its beautiful colours. I hold hard to summer, hating to let it slip away, but letting go means I can embrace all of this autumn glory.

Winter is more of a challenge. My hope is that this will be the year I discover the joy in it. Warm drinks, cozy blankets, hot fires, the joy of the holiday season - there's no shortness of things to love about this time of year. So why is it so hard?

Perhaps more days like yesterday, lovely long walks followed by nice hot drinks, will give me a nudge in the right direction.

Speaking of hot drinks, we ended our date on Saturday with a delicious peppermint mocha for me and hot chocolate for him. I can't even remember the last time we went on a date, just the two of us. I think it was shortly before this little bundle of now-eleven-month-old joy was born. It was time, and I'm glad we went. We took in a movie, sipped our hot drinks while walking through a bookstore, and came home to two perfectly content little boys and one much-appreciated babysitter.

Oh, and we got to talk - uninterrupted! And talk we did. Parenting, politics, religion, entertainment, the works, with no crying baby or three year old I-just-want-to-be-included-in-the-conversation interjections. We put the kiddos to bed and continued to talk late into the evening.

It was perfect.

Saturday 20 November 2010

Friday 19 November 2010


My baby is eleven months old today. Just one more month until his first birthday.

Where did this past year go? So much has happened. The birth, the holidays, the move, the settling in. It doesn't feel like eleven months have gone by since that whirlwind time in our lives.

And this baby boy of mine! Oh my. All of the sudden, almost overnight, he's hardly a baby at all. Instead he is standing right on the verge of toddlerhood, just waiting to take that first uncertain step over the threshold.

He's a cuddly little sweetheart (with his mama, anyway). He plays peek-a-boo, hiding his eyes behind his fists and ducking his head while grinning. He loves to imitate silly sounds, like blowing raspberries, patting his mouth as he says "ahhhh", or making car noises. He can say "hi" and "bye" while waving, and this sweet little boy says "mama" and "dada" too. It makes me melt every time.

Oh boy, is this one a climber! Fast, too. I think we'll have an interesting time as he gets bigger and more physically able. The general consensus from those who know him is that he won't so much start walking as go straight to running - mostly to chase after his older brother, I'm sure.

I just love this age as their personalities start to shine through. It is so fascinating to watch as they develop self-awareness, becoming their own little person with preferences and desires. And isn't that the whole purpose of parenting, to guide these little ones as they discover who they are, who God created them to be? Loving not an image of who we want them to be, but rather loving the reality of the unique person they are.

I am so blessed to know this little sweetheart, and so privileged to be charged with guiding him towards maturity.

I love you, darling.

Thursday 18 November 2010

Holiday music

With Christmas approaching, I am already (much to my husband's chagrin) pulling out the Christmas music, my favourite part of the holiday.

I really need some recommendations, though! I only have a small number of Christmas CDs, and only a couple that I really enjoy. I have the hardest time finding good Christmas albums.

I cannot stand when artists take traditional Christmas songs, change the rhythm a bit, and think they've somehow improved it. You haven't. You've wrecked it. Thanks a lot.

Nor do I like Christmas albums where the traditional tunes are left alone, but sung about three octaves higher than the average person would sing. It grates after about, oh, five minutes.

I have these exact same problems with finding hymn compilations that I like. Leave the rhythm alone, come down a few octaves, and just sing the hymns! They are beautiful as they are.

So - help! Do you have a favourite Christmas album (preference on avoiding Santa-related tunes)? What about hymns - any favourite albums there?

As for my favourites? Dawn of Grace by Sixpence None the Richer and Christmas by Alabama are two that I have listened to over and over and over again. Both of them are beautiful Christmas albums.

Now I'd just like a bit more variety!

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Brothers

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Conversations with a three year old

We still get the what's, where's, and why's, but now the questions are more complicated, the conversations more complex.

Nothing forces you to look deeper at your faith and your beliefs than having a three year old press you for answers to his many difficult questions. How to explain the abstract to a child who thinks only in concrete terms? How to know what to say when - too much? not enough? How can I know? The finer points of my beliefs have been deeply refined in the process as I have had to put them into terms a three year old could perhaps begin to understand, an unexpected blessing in the midst of such an important yet difficult time of questioning.

In typical three-year-old style, he processes things over weeks, even months. There are recurring themes to our conversations. Sometimes he will leave a subject alone for a few weeks, but when he brings it up again it's clear he's done a lot of thinking about it in the meantime. Death is one such current theme. Why do people die? When? Do cars die? What happens? Round and round we go, trying to be both matter-of-fact and sensitive, seeking to avoid pat answers or fallacies on the one hand and anxiety on the other.

He's still very possessive of his baby "bruzzer". The baby belongs to him. Recently, in a less-than-stellar parenting moment, I scooped the crying baby up and grumpily asked him what was wrong. As I walked away, the boy followed me, arms crossed, giving the occasional huff or growl. I asked him what was wrong with him now, and he told me, "you were being MAD to my bruzzer!" Can't stay annoyed with either of them after being told off like that! I hope he always stands up for his brother that way.

"Why does Daddy love Luke?"
"Daddy loves Luke because Luke is his son, his baby, and he thinks Luke is wonderful and special and he loves him very much."
"Luke is not Daddy's. Luke is Mommy's."
"Luke is Mommy's and Daddy's."
"No, Luke is mine!"
"Oh, he's yours, is he? Well then, you can get up to take care of him when he wakes up in the middle of the night, and I will keep sleeping."
"No, you get up and feed Luke when he wakes up, and I will 'nuggle him while he sleeps".
"Oh, alright."

* * * * *

"I'm gonna eat him up! Num num num num num!"
"Nooooooooooo! Don't eat my bruzzer!!!!!!!"

I so love learning more about the way he views things. Sometimes his perceptions are surprisingly wise. Of course, there is plenty of room for more light-hearted moments:

“What are we having for supper tonight?”
“We’re having pork fried rice.”
“Ahh, I don’t like that stuff, no that’s yucky.”
“Okay. What about rice with meat in it. Would that be good?”
“Yeah, that would be good, rice with meat in it, let’s have that.”
“Okay, we’ll have that instead.”

Lately, he's very big on apologizing for things. I see myself in him this way, as I've always been one to apologize too much - I'm sorry for the inconvenience, I'm sorry I didn't do it perfectly, I'm sorry you're upset. I'm only learning now, slowly, to let go of some of that misplaced responsibility. It's a fine line between being aware of how my actions affect others and not taking responsibility for their feelings and reactions. It's an even more difficult balance to pass on to a concrete child, not forcing them to accept responsibility for the feelings of everyone around them, and yet desiring them to be compassionate and empathetic individuals at the same time.

“Oof, you’re heavy!”
“I’m sorry I’m heavy. I used to be smaller...”

His two most common queries lately are "tell me about when I was born" and "tell me what are we going to do tomorrow?" I do so enjoy cuddling with him and telling him about the events leading up to his birth, the excitement, the anticipation, the joy. After he hears about his birth, he asks me to tell him again about the night his brother was born. He'll then ask for the story of anyone else that comes to mind, but those are the only two stories I have to tell. One evening I had him phone his Oma so she could tell him about his daddy's birth, and hopefully he will soon have the opportunity to do the same with his Grandma.

Asking about our plans for the following day is his favourite bedtime stalling bonding topic. I curl up in his toddler-sized bed and tell him what we'll be doing. Sometimes we have no particular plans in place, so he'll tell me his own plans instead.

"Tell me about what are we going to do tomorrow!"
"Actually, I have no plans tomorrow at all! What would you like to do?"
"My plan is to go to the play place."
"That sounds like a good plan to me."
"Yeah, and we can get bananas while we're there." (The play place and the produce market are at the same mall, so lately when he wants to go to the play place, he tells me we need bananas. Love the way that kid thinks!)
"Sure, sounds great."
"And I will just play for a short time, a short short time. Just two minutes. Just two."
"Well, we don't have anything else to do, I think we can play for longer than two minutes."
"No. Two minutes is good. Okay? Just two."

Sometimes his questions are hard to answer. Sometimes his observations are thought-provoking. Sometimes his perceptions are unique. He is sometimes sweet, sometimes stubborn.

And sometimes he simply leaves us roaring in laughter.

Daddy: "Dear God, thank you for this food and please bless it to our bodies. In Jesus' name, Amen."
Mommy: "Amen."
The boy: *BELCH* "Amen."

Monday 15 November 2010

Meal Planning

Ah, Monday. My quiet day, my thoughtful day, my day of preparation for the week ahead.

I start the morning with a slow wander through Scripture, usually a chapter from Proverbs and a few chapters from whichever Book I am reading at the time (John, currently). I would love for this to be a daily habit, but my flesh is weak, my nature distracted, even though I know that the mornings that start off this way always lead to the calmest days. Today, though, whatever the rest of the week holds, this day at least will begin as it should.

Sometime around noon, I sit down with two pads of paper: my weekly tear-away calendar where I write down our appointments and meal plans, and my grocery list, already started and ready to round out with anything we need for the week's meals.

After reviewing our plans for the week and browsing the kitchen to see what we have on hand, I start allocating meals.

Where to begin

Busy nights call for easy meals - spaghetti, usually, using spaghetti sauce from my perpetual supply in our freezer (replenished whenever I happen to have spare ground beef and a few extra minutes), or a chicken pot pie if I have some frozen spare filling from the last time I made a batch.

Evenings where plans are uncertain are typically assigned fish, as I can defrost, prepare, bake, and have it on the table in less than hour. If it turns out we won't be eating at home that night, no harm done, the fish just stays in the freezer.

If it's only the timing of the meal that is up in the air, I often pull out my crock pot, knowing that I can have a delicious stew or chili waiting for us whenever we're ready to eat.

Wide open days are opportunities for either high-prep meals or new recipes that I want to try. Ribs, tacos with homemade shells, or a vegetarian stew over cous cous are popular picks for those days, along with a scan of my bookmarks to see what new recipes I've come across recently.

A typical day gets a typical recipe. Burgers (salmon or beef), stir fry, baked chicken, or apple pork chops along with a side dish are some typical dishes here.

Leftovers are also taken into account in the weekly meal plan. If I'm roasting a whole chicken, for example, I will turn the leftovers into chicken pot pie filling the following day. A chicken pot pie lasts us two meals, and I usually get enough filling for three pies. I make one pie and divide the remainder of the filling into freezer bags for another week.

Recipe organization

To keep from getting in a rut, I have all of my tried-and-true recipes organized in Microsoft OneNote. I keep the file open in front of me as I make my weekly meal plan. I ignored OneNote for the longest time, never imagining I would love it the way I do now. It is ridiculously easy to use, lets me keep everything in one place, and satisfies my obsessive need to organize things to the nth degree. Whenever I try a new recipe and find it good enough to make again, I add it to my OneNote recipe file.

My OneNote is set up with a "Recipes" notebook and a "Personal" notebook. Each notebook is further divided into sections (Recipes: beef, pork, chicken, desserts, etc), and each section is then divided into pages (Beef: beef stew, shepherd's pie, pot roast, etc). For example, here is my Recipe notebook opened to the Chicken section (with a bonus chicken pot pie recipe if you can read the small print!):

Meal planning benefits

Meal planning has made such a big difference in our grocery spending. I am able to buy everything I needed for the week, which means less impulse buys when running out for "just one thing". There is also less waste, as I am only buying things that I will be using for a particular meal. Grocery shopping is immeasurably easier now that I'm not eyeballing the groceries in the cart and mentally putting them together into meals, hoping they'll fit into whatever the upcoming days have in store for us.

Breakfast and lunch

I only plan for dinners each week. I keep a list of balanced breakfast and lunch ideas on our fridge to keep these meals simple. When we run out of a staple, like cheese, pitas, or tortillas, I just add it to the grocery list hanging on the fridge.

  • yogurt with berries

  • bagel and fruit or applesauce

  • oatmeal with berries

  • apple slices with cheese or peanut butter

  • cereal or granola

  • pancakes or waffles

  • bagel with avocado and cucumbers

  • pita with hummus

  • veggies with hummus

  • quesadilla with guacamole

  • soup and grilled cheese sandwiches

  • fruit salad

  • green smoothie

  • eggs

Just look at that deliciously bright quesadilla, waiting to be topped with cheese!

Often we'll have either a "stick lunch" or a "cube lunch" (the boy's terms), which is basically just a bunch of fruits, vegetables, cheese, and pitas sliced into sticks or cubes, with hummus for dipping.

What does a typical breakfast or lunch look like for you?

An alternative method

One method of meal planning that I don't currently use but could make things less overwhelming if you're just starting to meal plan is to assign a particular "type" of food to each day. For example, Monday is chicken, Tuesday is beef, Wednesday is fish, Thursday is vegetarian, and so on. Or Monday is Mexican, Tuesday is Asian, Wednesday is pasta, and so on. Then each week it's just a matter of assigning something from each day's category and making sure all of the ingredients are either on hand or on the grocery list.

On the menu

As I sat down to make my meal plan this week, I started with a scan of the fridge (any leftovers or wilting food to take into account?) and a review of our week. Monday is typically grocery shopping day, so I keep those meals pretty basic. My father-in-law is visiting on Wednesday, so I needed something that met his dietary requirements and would make enough for all of us. Thursday will be a busy day with a playdate plus the baby we take care of part time, so I wanted something low-prep. On Saturday we will be going on our first date in about a year (!!!), so I needed something easy for the babysitter. With those plans in mind, this is our dinner menu for the week:

  • Monday: tacos

  • Tuesday: spaghetti (using leftover ground beef from tacos)

  • Wednesday: maple salmon with rice and carrots

  • Thursday: chicken pot pie

  • Friday: leftover chicken pot pie

  • Saturday: pizza

  • Sunday: citrus glazed chicken with rice and broccoli

For more meal plans, check out Meal Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie. Happy meal planning!

Friday 12 November 2010

The Hows of Discipline

It has been a long time since I posted my thoughts on punishment and praise. I have been meaning, for at least as long, to also post an entry on the more practical aspect - the hows.

It is a question I often receive in response to the idea of not using behaviour modification: "All of those whys are great, and I agree with them, but what about the practicalities, the specifics, the hows??" I get that. I really do. It's all well and good to delve into the myriad of reasons for avoiding punishment and praise...but then what? What can be done instead?

There is no easy answer to that. Each child, each parent, each family, each situation - they're all different. There is no formula, no prescription, no step-by-step manual, no guarantees. That is where so many of the big parenting "experts" fail - "if you just follow our method, and only our method, we guarantee you'll end up with well-behaved children."

Now, that assumes that "well-behaved" is the be all and end all of successful parenting...but I'll try to stay on track. We're dealing with the "hows" today.

I can only share tools that we have found useful in our family. They may not work for you. You may have tools that you have found particularly effective - please share them in the comments! The more tools we have, the better we can parent in a positive, proactive, and connective manner. The less we have, the more we find ourselves merely reacting to the situations our children inevitably throw our way.

First, the whole mindset for many of us needs to be completely shifted. Many, many times I hear parents looking for alternatives to punishment. "Well, if I can't punish, what can I do to deter her from doing that again?" "If the natural or logical consequence isn't unpleasant enough, how is it going to discourage that behaviour from recurring?"

We're not looking for punishment "replacements". We're not looking for consequences to teach them not to do that again. We're turning the whole thing around. We are teaching, guiding, discipling. It's hard to step out of that behaviour modification mindset. It is so ingrained in our society. Punish wrongdoing, praise good deeds, and behaviours will be appropriately modified as a result - that sort of external focus is what we want to leave behind. Instead, we want to teach our children. Not "teach them a lesson" - but actually teach them what to do.

Second, this way isn't easier. It doesn't provide any easy answers, either. It is easy to use external motivation to direct a child's external actions. We're looking deeper here. We're looking for heart-level connection, for internal motivation, for true obedience above outward compliance. It will involve patience, active parenting, and proactive measures. And it will require as its source a strong parent-child relationship based on mutual love, trust, and respect.

With those two things in mind, let's move on to the hows. These are some tools that have been working for us - not an exhaustive list by any means, but a reasonably good covering of the main ones.

Connect with your Child

None of this can be accomplished without the foundation of a strong, mutually-trusting relationship between parent and child. This relationship begins to develop from birth, as the mother responds to her child's cries and nurtures the bond between them.

Some of the things we do to strengthen that connection right from birth include gentle birth choices, nursing on demand, babywearing, and co-sleeping. As they get older, we connect through one-on-one times, special "just the two of us" outings, lots of reading, a constant flow of conversation, and physical touch (snuggles, hugs, wrestling, and games of chase). Physical touch remains important throughout the years - even a simple hand on a teen's shoulder can reinforce the parent-child connection. Talking, too, remains a priority, and listening even more so. Finally, we also work to avoid those things which would undermine our connection and relationship with our children - things like physical or punitive discipline, power struggles, and shaming. I'd love for you to share some of your methods of connection, too.

With that relationship securely in place, the child will look to the parent for cues on appropriate behaviour. The parent can model this behaviour from the beginning. Model "please", "thank you", and other such manners. Model non-violent conflict resolution. Model healthy boundaries. Model good decision making in all areas of life (time resolution, nutrition, etc), and narrate that process out loud for the child to overhear.

Be Engaged and Consistent

You can't parent from the couch (or the computer chair). Responding appropriately to a situation will often require that I get up and actively intervene. This is particularly important with young children. They need to know that my words mean something. What I say is not optional.

To make this happen, there are three things to keep in mind:
  • Stay calm. You are the adult. You are in control of your feelings and reactions. Do not give that power to your children by allowing their behaviour to influence your own feelings.
  • Speak at a normal volume. Yelling suggests to children that they don't need to pay attention to your words unless and until you yell.
  • Give the instruction once, repeat it with an offer of help, and then get up to help the child follow through if they haven't already. A long string of warnings, threats, badgerings, and pleadings tells a child that they don't need to listen to you the first time. Don't say something if you are unable or unprepared to back it up with action.
Consistency is key. Words must be consistently followed up with action.

Now, that isn't to say that I expect my children to jump the second I say so. Sometimes a child is in the middle of something and will request a few moments to finish up before putting it away. It is not permissive to respect that request when possible. This is where I find five minute warnings to be useful in helping a child prepare for an upcoming transition. If it is time to leave a fun activity, the opportunity to say good-bye provides a feeling of closure.

But the overall idea is one of consistently ensuring that my words are taken seriously. One calm instruction followed by one repeat with an offer of help followed by getting up to assist the child in carrying the instruction out. This is particularly important with very young children, as it will prevent the need for such "hands on" parenting when they are older. Once they know I mean what I say, they know.

(You can read more about this concept at Get Off Your Butt Parenting.)

Be Proactive

After consistency, prevention is the biggest thing I can do to ensure my child is able to function at his best. Adequate nutrition and sleep help to set a child up for success throughout the day. The extremes of boredom on one end and over-stimulation on the other are avoided whenever possible. Our ideal is to provide access to a wide variety of activities coupled with as much outdoor time as possible, while avoiding the trap of cramming too many structured activities, events, or errands into one day.

Along those lines, it is important to look to the root of the problem when difficulties arise. Is he hungry? Tired? Lonely? I will solve those issues first (snack, rest, focused attention), and discuss the behaviour itself at a later time when we're both feeling calm. Those calm times are ideal moments to equip our children with the tools they need to handle those feelings in more tumultuous times.

Be Silly

Playful parenting is a great way to coax a resistant child into cooperation. It often breaks the tension and allows the parent to reconnect with the child. It keeps the environment fun, light-hearted and silly. Play can be used to help a child work through their feelings. It can also be a great stress reliever and a reminder not to take things too seriously.

I recall a time, for example, when my frustrated toddler huffed at me. I could have lectured him about manners. I could have sent him to his room to rest until he was feeling more cheerful. If I believed in using violence in parenting, I could have spanked his bottom. Or...I could have huffed back at him. So I did. And he huffed back at me. And I huffed back at him. Soon we were huffing back and forth through a fit of giggles, and both of us were able to cheerfully carry on with our day.

A three week visit to Grandma and Grandpa's house resulted in another perfect example of playful parenting. As was to be expected, the boy was getting a bit grumpy by the end of the visit - a different environment, a different routine, different food, lots of people, and so on. I was sitting at the table with him one evening trying to hold on to my last shred of patience as I dealt with him heading towards a meltdown. Noticing this, his grandpa stepped in to help.

"Do I have to bring out my grumpy monster? This is my grumpy monster (holds up his hand) and he eats grumpies! Yum yum yum yum yum!"

The boy dissolved into a fit of giggles as his grandpa used his "grumpy monster" to eat/tickle him. It was a wonderful example of my dad using playful (grand)parenting to circumvent what would almost surely have been a complete meltdown in another minute or two.

Avoid Power Struggles

There are situations that warrant explanation and situations where brevity is in everyone's best interest. As always, it is important to know your child. Typically, I will give my child a brief reason for my requests. This allows a child to develop an understanding of why he should make that decision, rather than an unhelpful "because I said so". My goal is to teach my child how to think, not merely what to think.

However, there are many times when engaging with a child will unnecessarily escalate the situation, times when he is simply tired, grumpy, and not at all in a place to accept any explanation. At those times, my responses will be very brief and matter-of-fact. There's no need to dwell on the situation or attempt to convince the child through long explanations. I will not engage in a back and forth yes!-no!-yes!-no! power struggle with a child, nor will I enforce my instructions with yelling or hitting. Doing so will only undermine my authority as a parent. Remaining calm and to-the-point, I will simply answer and move on. "No, you may not keep your light on. Here is your nightlight. Which CD do you want to listen to?"

Redirection comes into play here as well, particularly with older babies and toddlers. "You may not play with that. Here is this for you to play with." I do not dwell or engage, I simply state my instruction and move on, redirecting the child to an appropriate activity.

When the situation warrants it, I will reflect my child's feelings back to him and, if needed, offer help in expressing those feelings in a healthy, appropriate, and acceptable manner.

Seek Solutions

Sometimes wrongdoings will be done. When that happens, we look for solutions, not punishments. Children grow in maturity and responsibility when they are given the opportunity to fix their mistakes. Punishment actually takes this opportunity away from them.

How this plays out in our home varies depending on the situation. It typically involves making restitution to the wronged party. I will assist him in brainstorming what this restitution may look like, but the bulk of the responsibility (and, of course, increasingly so as he gets older) rests on his shoulders. "You hurt the baby. What can you do to help him feel better?"

There must also be an acceptance of the fact that children are by their very nature not yet mature. They will require repetition in order to form healthy habits. "Try again" is a very common phrase in our home, as a reminder that what they just said was unacceptable and an opportunity for them to restate things in a more appropriate manner.


Because dangerous situations are often singled out as the situation in which punitive measures are justified or warranted, I wanted to touch on this area separately.

I do not want to spank my child for running into traffic, only to later have him run in the opposite direction from my call, fearing another spank. It is my responsibility to keep my child safe, not his.

I have found that a sharp surprised tone conveys enough "this is absolutely serious" that my child will at least hesitate, allowing me to intervene. I reserve that tone only for situations in which safety is a concern - ovens, fire, traffic, and the like. I do not believe that violence towards children is ever warranted or acceptable.

Final Thoughts

Discipline is the continuous process of coming alongside the child to teach and guide them into maturity. The idea always is to teach, not punish. This cannot happen in the absence of a healthy, attached relationship between parent and child. With that relationship in place and moments of reconnection continually sought out, we must then be engaged, consistent, and proactive in our parenting. When an issue arises, discipline will show the child what they have done wrong, give them ownership of the problem, give them options for solving the problem, and make use of natural or logical consequences rather than punishment.

Some days we may allow life to get the better of us, snapping at our children or scolding them unnecessarily. This is where it is important that they see humility modeled for them as we come to them and admit we were wrong, sincerely apologize, and ask their forgiveness.

Above all, we must recognise and honour the unique nature of each child, guiding them towards maturity with love and grace.

Additional Resources:
Gentle Discipline for Babies
Gentle Discipline for Toddlers
Attachment Parenting Series

What has been working for you? What situations are you struggling with at the moment? Let's brainstorm positive solutions together!