Tuesday 14 September 2010

The quiet place

My thoughts, my emotions, both have been such a jumbled mess lately. I feel torn in a hundred different directions and I find myself drawing inward, seeking grounding in this quiet inner place.

Part of me is reaching out, longing for stronger community, deeper connection, sincere and lasting relationships. Another part of me is drawing away, deeply hurt by other relationships, the desire for reconciliation warring with the desire to give in to the sadness and hurt and anger. Another part of me is frustrated that my desire for community and connection is so often thwarted, whether by circumstances or people or even myself. And still another part is quietly reminding me that while relationship is a good, God-ordained thing, my ultimate fulfillment must come from God alone.

I feel angered by the church, disgusted by twisted doctrines and misplaced priorities, repelled by the false humility, saddened by so many misunderstandings of God and Christ and what it all means. I long for more opportunities to serve Him, to speak of His irreplaceable Love, to fellowship with those who are sincere and beautifully imperfect, those saints who are covered in the blood of Jesus. I am wooed by my first Love, called back even as life tempts me away, and yet desperately clinging to the One truth, the One unfailing, the One unchanging, the One righteous.

I feel blessed beyond measure for what I have been granted in this life, these two boys. The weight and privilege of their upbringing bring me equal parts joy and terror. I feel confident one moment and overwhelmed the next. I want to be here for them when they need me; I want quiet moments to myself; I want time with my peers and my peers alone to develop and strengthen those soul-lifting friendships. How can I be everything to everyone, even myself?

My heart hurts for the sins and tragedies of this world. For those who are abused at the hands of another. For the children who grow up watching it, later becoming the abuser and the abused, always the cycles, those sins of the fathers! For those families torn apart by divorce. For the shocking cruelty humans can show one another. I long for Jesus to return, to wash this world of its sin.

My house began to reflect the chaos within. Odd how those habits which take so long to create can be dropped so quickly, dishes piling up, floors unswept, washing machine sitting idle, mornings beginning as untidily as they ended the night before. Interesting, too, how such outward chaos only feeds that within, not only for myself but for the rest of my family.

Again, always, it comes back to one thing: deliberation. Living with intention, with purpose, fully present in the moment.

And so I pull us back towards peace.


I clear away the clutter, climb back on top of the housework, and once again witness the calming effect that order and simplicity have on a family. I remind myself of the influence a mother has over her household. If I turn myself over to idleness, the rest follow suit. If I speak harshly and am quick to anger, my attitude is adopted by the rest. If I choose that which is easy over that which is good, I lead the rest down the same path. At times, this responsibility lays heavy and threatens to overwhelm, but I know that I must shoulder it nonetheless.


I begin to shape our days into a comforting routine. The go-with-the-flow infant days are over; my antsy preschooler and his distractable mama need a rhythm we can flow with through the days. A predictable beginning, middle, and end, with room to wander as life leads us, will lend stability and peace to our lives.

The Word

I return to my first Love, beginning our days with physical food followed by the living bread of God's Word. I sip tea from my favourite mug, warm under a blanket, and murmur the words aloud. My young audience comes and goes, sitting near me to listen for a while, then running off to play, soon back again to hear more.

It's not the quiet time I once knew, but I'm learning to work with this new reality.

"'The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.' Baby, I see you crawling towards the stairs..."

*excited baby squeal*

"'As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who-'"

"Help, I'm stuck! Mommy, let me out, I'm stuck!"

"'This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God. After this, Jesus and his disciples-' No, sweetheart, the baby can't have one of your candies."

"But I wanted to share with him!"

Such is life, my life, and I praise God for it - for these two adorable little "interruptions", for the guiding light of His Word, and for His peace that passes all understanding.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

A little tighter

Today I welcomed another mother's child into our home for the day.

Unexpectedly, I was as teary-eyed as she was, watching her say good-bye to her baby. She emailed me later, a list of all the things she had meant to tell me but couldn't get out through the tears.

The end of the day brought an equally tearful reunion. Hers were justified; mine caught me by surprise. And the baby, he just smiled and cooed, darling boy. We are so looking forward to getting to know him in the days and weeks to come.

Tonight I hugged my boys a little bit tighter than usual. How blessed I am to have been gifted with such treasures!

Thursday 9 September 2010

Etsy clothes

I've only been meaning to write this entry for, oh, nine months now. I have such a hard time finding good maternity and nursing clothes, but these two Etsy shops have made such a difference this time around!

I discovered Getti's Accessories during my last pregnancy. I don't know what it is about maternity clothes, but they all seem to want to capitalize on the woman's newfound cleavage. While I might admit to enjoying my suddenly huge, er, "tracts of land", I've no desire to show them off. Thank you, Getti's Accessories! This shop sells three different types of t-lets (square neck, straight neck, and scoop neck) as well as crop tops. The t-lets end under the bust, which is ideal for someone like me who can't stand the feel of wearing two shirts for layering purposes. I have one straight neck and one scoop neck, and these things were perfect for heightening my low maternity shirt necklines.

In addition to the great cleavage cover they provided while pregnant, I have loved them even more in these postpartum nursing days. Worn under a buttoned or low-cut tank, t-shirt, or sweater, these t-lets double as an instant nursing shirt. Unbutton/pull down the shirt, pull up the t-let, and there you go - easy access with full coverage. Love it!

On the bottom half, I love the skirts I purchased from Astraea Apparel last year (a combination birthday splurge and new maternity wardrobe). Sadly, her shop is empty right now, but I'm hoping she'll post some new listings eventually. I have two medium-length skirts, one long skirt, and one wrap skirt from her. All of them were great throughout my pregnancy - the regular skirts had nice waistbands that sat comfortably below my belly, and the wrap skirt of course adjusted to whatever size I needed. They all fit just as wonderfully now, nine months postpartum. Sadly, I splashed bleach all over the bottom of the long skirt shortly after it arrived - one of only two times I've ever needed to use bleach. Figures!

I love Etsy, I love supporting handmade, and I love the products these two shops provide. Any great Etsy shops you've discovered lately?

(Disclaimer: I have not been asked to review these products. I receive no compensation for doing so, nor for any resulting sales. I just really love these clothes.)

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Learning-rich environments for babies and toddlers

After writing about how we offer our preschooler a learning-rich environment and incorporate learning into everyday life, I received the following comment from Caitlin:

"I love your list of ideas. Sounds like a wonderful environment to grow up in! I nanny for a 14 month old, and would love to know how you set up a similar learning-rich environment for your younger son."

Well, Caitlin, I'd love to answer that with my own ideas, and hopefully readers will share some of their own as well!


Many of the preschooler ideas hold true for younger (and older!) ages. Reading is at the top of that list. Babies and toddlers do well with short stories and engaging illustrations. This is not a time to be concerned about reading through a book front-to-back, but rather to go at the child's pace - linger on each page, describe the scene, point out objects, and stop when the child loses interest. Let them see you read for enjoyment, too!


Narrate your life. With my little ones, there is a constant stream of narration as we go about our day. This narration should continue as the child grows, with increasingly detailed descriptions and complex information given. Narration is the ideal introduction to object identification, colours, shapes, math, science, everything.

"That is a lovely red block you have. And here's a bigger one! Let's stack them - you put yours on top of mine. You did it! I'm going to put this blue one on top now. Now there are two blocks! Oh look! You bumped it with your foot and it fell down! What a loud noise it made!"

"Mommy's cooking supper right now. I'm slicing the green zucchini with my sharp knife. All done! Now I'm slicing the orange carrots. Let's put them in the pot! I'm going to clean up my mess now. I'm putting the peelings in our compost. Alright, time to add the tomatoes!"

This constant narration helps the child both to develop and enrich vocabulary and to increase their knowledge of the world around them.

Spend Time Outdoors

Again, this mimics the suggestion for the preschooler (and older) crowd. Time spent outdoors has a wealth of benefits, including (but definitely not limited to!) fine motor development, gross motor development, knowledge enrichment, sensory experience, imagination growth, and health benefits (physical, mental, and emotional). Just being outside exploring nature - grass, dirt, bugs, sticks, rocks, the works - will do much for a child's growth and development.

An excellent resource on this topic is Last Child in the Woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder by Richard Louv. Another more practical resource is I Love Dirt!: 52 activities to help you and your kids discover the wonders of nature by Jennifer Ward.

Say Yes

Toddlers tend to have two common first words: "Mama" and "no". The latter is something that age group hears a lot. "No, don't touch that...no, that's not for baby...no, don't climb on that...no, don't go over there." No, no, no.

Sometimes a no is necessary, but the more we limit our no's and encourage our children to explore freely, the more opportunities they have to learn about the world around them. Even where redirection is needed, seek ways to incorporate a yes into your words: "Yes, you can climb over here...yes, you can jump on this instead...yes, you can press the buttons on your toy rather than the television." Recognize the intent behind the action and seek to affirm that by providing an acceptable alternative. There will be more than enough natural opportunities for your child to learn the concept of no without having to be told no at every turn. Encourage them to see, smell, taste, touch, and hear!

Free exploration can be either aided or discouraged by the child's surroundings. Keep off-limit areas to a minimum in order to provide the greatest number of learning experiences for your baby or toddler. When our older son was that age, these off-limit areas included the gaming system, the cat litter, and our textbooks. For our younger son (new house, new setup), they include the fireplace, the cat food, and Mommy's laptop. We reserve the bottom of our bookshelves for children's books, keep in-reach things either child-friendly or wedged in tight enough that they can't be removed, and keep harsh chemicals not only out of reach, but out of our home altogether.

I also put a lock on the toilet when they get to that age, not for safety reasons but because, well, some messes just aren't worth having to clean up!

Go About Your Day

Do the things you need to do - but include your child in them. It takes longer, yes. They're not really "helping", no. But they love to be included at this age. This practical life experience sets up good habits to be carried into the future while providing them with great learning opportunities in the meantime.

As you go about your day, draw your toddler alongside you. Hand them wet clothes to throw into the dryer. Have them move dry clothes from the dryer to the laundry basket. Let them fold facecloths, match socks, and assist in putting their clothes away. Let them splash in a sink of water with a cloth and some cups while you take care of the dirty dishes. Have them put away the utensils and their dishes. Include them in your dinner preparations. Hand them a cloth and a spray bottle of water while you're cleaning.

For the younger ones, a sling or other baby carrier is a great way to include them as you go about your day. Babywearing has numerous benefits ranging from convenience to physical and emotional health.


The majority of a child's mental and physical development at this stage happens through play. Play provides gross motor development, fine motor development, sensory experience, cognitive development, attention regulation, creativity and imagination growth, abstract thinking, and problem-solving opportunities.

Provide a rich variety of open-ended toys: blocks, Duplo, balls of varying sizes and weights, and toys for playing pretend. Puzzles, stacking rings, nesting cups, bead mazes, and shape sorters are all excellent for developing problem-solving skills. Sensory play can include sand, containers of rice or beans, textured beanbags, a sink full of water, or a bowl full of dishsoap bubbles.

Musical play is excellent as well. Sing songs as you go about your day. Play a variety of background music. Provide access to simple musical instruments such as shakers, tambourines, and drums.

We try to avoid branded toys in our home. Some Cars and Thomas vehicles have managed to work their way in, but for the most part we've been able to keep the toys generic and open-ended.

In the same vein and for a number of reasons, we have no television in our home and only occasionally watch a DVD on our computer. The AAP discourages television viewing for children under two years old. Turning off the television can do wonders for a child's brain development and imagination.

Enjoy Them!

It's so cliché to say, but these years really do pass by quickly. Enjoy your child. Enjoy their snuggles and grins and first words and joyous discoveries. They will never be this age again.

What suggestions do you have for providing the baby and toddler crowd with a learning-rich environment?