Introducing …

We added a new member to our family over the weekend:  Shelby the snail!  Topher loves watching him move around the tank, but Phinney isn’t too sure about the new addition.  She hovers around him and if she sees him start to poke out of his shell she flips him over!  I didn’t realize fish could be such bullies!

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Currently

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I’m still recovering from last week’s “vacation” in Calgary to spend some time with my sisters and their families .  Eleven kids is no vacation (!!), so instead of a weekend recap (which may or may not be coming this week, let’s be honest!), here’s a quick “Currently” post, a la Amber and Kara.  I’m still here, still alive – just very busy with work and trying to stay cool.  -40 I can handle, but +32?!?  No thanks.  

Reading // Hands Free Mama by Rachel Mary Stafford.

Watching // I honestly can’t remember the last show I watched on TV!  If it’s on during the day it’s on Treehouse or Disney Jr., and I work in the evenings so I don’t have time for any grown up TV.  Topher’s still hooked on Frozen (he won’t watch a 20 minute show on TV but his bum doesn’t leave the couch if Frozen is on!) and Nathan is watching a lot of the Food Network these days (he’s taking notes on places to eat in Winnipeg on “You Gotta Eat Here” in preparation for our trip next year!) – but that’s it.

Listening to // Neon Steeple by Crowder, Worship Initiative Volume 4 by Shane and Shane (it’s my favourite of the Worship Initiative albums!), and Be Not Nobody by Vanessa Carleton (“A Thousand Miles” is Topher’s current YouTube obsession!)

Loving //  Having a park right outside our back door.  It’s too hot to take the kids on our regular walking excursions so this week we’ve been spending a lot of time at the playground.  Topher loves the water table and Ellie can sit and dig in the sand for ages (well, 20 minutes or so.  That’s ages for a 16-month-old!)  They have two areas in the playground – one for kids Ellie’s age and one for big kids like Topher, so it’s perfect!

Feeling // hot.

Needing //  An evening off.  We were out of town Thursday, Friday, and Saturday so I had two full days’ worth of work for Sunday and haven’t had a break since.  I’m glad to have the work, but I desperately need an evening off to relax and catch up on sleep.

Spending // A lot of money on our car.  We got new tires last week and while we were in Calgary we started hearing a strange clunking sound, which Nathan thinks is coming from the brake mechanism.  We just got new brakes in March, so yeah. Oh, and we also have to replace the windshield.  I keep telling Nathan a horse would be cheaper!  I guess it’s a good thing I’ve been so busy with work …

Wishing // I could be with my mom on Sunday to celebrate her 60th birthday.  

Inspired by // Hannah Brencher, as per usual.  I can’t wait to read her book in March!

Looking forward to //  Taking the kids to the K-Days Parade with some friends on Friday, as long as the weather cooperates!

What’s currently going on in your life?

Shadowbox

shadowbox

For my first Mother’s Day, Nathan and Topher bought me a shadow box with one purpose:  Gather some of my favourite pictures of Ariel and display it in a place of prominence in her honour.

Every few months Nathan would take the shadow box – still in its packaging – out of its home in the corner of our bedroom and ask, “Are you going to do anything with this?”  I would shrug, avoid his eyes, and mumble something along the lines of “I’m just not ready yet.  For me, the shadow box was too final.  It meant Ariel was  gone - and I wasn’t ready to accept that.  I liked pretending she was still in New Brunswick, galloping around the fields with her friends at Whispering Pines and then lying down in the pile of hay when she was tired of running so nobody else could eat it.

But a couple of weeks ago I brought the shadowbox out to the table, along with a couple of photo albums.  There were a lot of memories shared with Nathan and Topher, and there were a lot of tears – but it’s finished.

It’s been four years this September, and I still miss her.

Family Photos

I take lots of pictures but I’m not a photographer by any means.

Nathan’s dad is an amateur photographer with a really nice camera  who takes fantastic pictures -

but I still arrange for my friend, Lindsay, to take our family photos at least once a year.  

Sure, it’s expensive (even though I  only book the slightly cheaper mini sessions!) and sure, it’s a pain to convince Nathan and Topher to cooperate, but I think it’s worth it! 

Here are some of my favourites from our session in June:

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And a few silly ones, just to show you what Lindsay had to work with:

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www.lindsayhoodphotography.com

We arranged to meet in a park by the lake where Nathan and I got engaged but there was some serious miscommunication so Lindsay ended up at one end of the lake while we were at the other.  It wouldn’t have been so bad but it was hot, the kids were tired and grumpy, I was wearing shoes that were too small and had massive blisters even though I was wearing preventative bandaids,  and Lindsay had another session after ours .  I think she spent 15 minutes with us before she had to rush off – yet she  still managed to get some great shots!

Working from Home, Tips & Tricks 1.0

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It’s officially been six months since I started working from home, so I figured it’s probably time to start sharing some of the things I’ve learned!

I have two jobs apart from being Mom:

  1. I work as a medical transcriptionist.  I started my own company in January and currently work as a contract worker for my previous employer.  I type for the same doctors, I just set my own hours.  It’s a pretty sweet gig, apart from the fact that I have no idea whether I’m going to have work for the day  until 3:30 p.m. (5 p.m. on Wednesdays).  Since any work I get has to be completed between then and 7:00 a.m. the next day, it’s hard to plan our evenings!
  2. I’m a freelance writer, focussing on all things equine.  Rain rot, hoof abscesses, to blanket or not to blanket.  Riveting stuff.  This job has actually taken a bit of a backseat to my typing job lately, since so many of the transcriptionists at the office are on vacation over the summer and I just don’t have the time to devote to it.  I’m a new writer so I don’t get assignments, I submit queries and pitch my own ideas, and I haven’t done one in a couple of months.  I’ve already got some ideas for September, though, if the typing slows down!

I love being at home with the kids but I also enjoy working.  Working from home has been a good fit so far – we save on the costs of childcare but I’m still able to use my education, pursue my passions, and contribute financially.   Balance seems to be an ongoing struggle, but here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Have a designated place and a designated time to work.  It sounds pretty obvious but it took me awhile to figure it out!  Right now I work in the evenings.  I start at 6:00 p.m. and work until I’m finished, which is usually somewhere between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m.  The kids don’t go to bed until 7:00 p.m. and even though we’ve had this schedule for a few months, it’s hard for them to understand that Mommy’s working so they need to ask Daddy if they need anything.  (It’s sometimes hard for Daddy to understand that Mommy’s working so he needs to deal with the kids,  if we’re being completely honest!)  Lately I’ve been leaving their baths so Nathan can just throw them in the tub when I start working, and then they can curl up on the couch with their books and snacks and hopefully be tucked in by 7.  When Nathan is busy  (he has worship practice on Wednesdays and sometimes plays football with his friends in the evenings) I start work after the kids are in bed.  It’s not ideal, and I’m always exhausted the next day, but it works!

I could work when the kids are awake but medical transcription requires me to listen to headphones and really concentrate, since so many of the doctors I work for speak English as a second language, so it’s just easier to start around their bedtime.  Besides, the whole point of me staying home is to be with them, so I try as hard as I can not to do any “work” during my non-working hours.   Topher starts preschool in the fall so we’re toying with the idea of arranging childcare for Ellie for a few hours on the same mornings so I can use that time to work on my writing.

My “office” is a desk in the corner of the kitchen.  Again, it’s not ideal, but it works, and for now, that’s enough!

Here’s what it looks like:

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 Sometimes I’m working, typing away, one foot on my foot pedal and the other foot rocking Ellie on her horse!

Pretty glamorous, eh?

This Week

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 This week included:

piano playing, dance parties, kid-sized lawn chairs, snacks outside, quality time at the playground, dump truck races, golf, hockey (because in our family, any type of stick immediately becomes a hockey stick!), Canada Day celebrations, birthday parties, a visit to the library, scraped knees and a  cut cheek, water guns, a trip to the spray park, a playdate, screaming songs from Frozen, reading lots and lots of books about spiders, hopscotch, a hitting, kicking, screaming tantrum, early morning quiet time and walks with the dog, kite flying, watching tennis, kissing ponies, an allergic reaction to a bug bite, cheap Tuesday at the grocery store, yogurt pops and freezies, slides made out of couch cushions, obstacle courses, bug catching, evening adventure walks, three trips to Target, late nights of work, and finishing Series 7 of Dr. Who.

What has your week been like? 

Link Roundup

I know most people do link roundups every week but seeing as I don’t have the time to read many blogs, once a month will have to do.  Here are some of my favourite posts from the past month (or so!):

* Kerri wrote a great post On Room Sharing With a Toddler.  We shared a room with Ellie until she was 13 months old and I was so ready for her to move into Topher’s room!  Kerri and her husband make it work, though, and I love the decor in their room!

* In Kyla’s post, The Most Important List I’ve Ever Made, she dared readers to start a minimum self care list.   Right now the only item on mine is “Get enough sleep” – which is darn near impossible between working evenings and having children who wake up before the sun, but oh well.  A girl can try!

* Hannah always writes the most beautiful posts, and Little Thing is no exception.  Read it.  

* I love, love, LOVE this post: You Are Significant With or Without a Significant Other, by Shauna Niequist.

* Amy’s post, Leaning In (And Leaning Out Again), describes how I feel.  Exactly.

* Brittany shared a story about a moment she had in Target.  Sometimes we all need a reminder to Be A Good Human.

* I just discovered Anne’s blog, and I love her post On Raising a Mini Explorer.  And seriously, how adorable are those pants?!?

* And finally, I stumbled upon this post by Lisa Jo Baker:  The False Advertising About Motherhood.  I think I’m going to print it off and include it with every baby shower gift I give from now until the end of time.

Family Friendly Recipes

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When Nathan and I did pre-marriage counselling, one of the first questions we were asked was what our biggest fear going into marriage was.  The item at the top of both our lists?  The fact that neither or us knew how to cook.  

The first time we tried to make a meal  after our wedding we ended up at a nearby medicenter.  I got four stitches in my left index finger and Nathan nearly passed out because of all the blood.  True story.  

Six years later, we’ve somehow survived, and although I in no way consider myself a cook – I have learned a few things.  I can boil a pot of water, make several different kinds of rice (including the kinds that you don’t microwave!), and I’ve mastered the art of cooking chicken.

Well, more or less …

Now that we have kids, though, cooking has taken on a whole different meaning.   I not only have to make things that are edible, I have to make things that are healthy - and that the kids will eat.  Meeting those three criteria is no easy feat!  I hate (and I do mean hate!) making separate meals, and this is what I have to work around:

Topher:  Will eat almost any kind of meat as long as you tell him it’s chicken.  Pulled pork is “spicy chicken”, fish is “water chicken” – you get the idea.  He knows what hamburger is and will eat it if it’s mixed in tomato sauce – but only one specific brand and flavour of tomato sauce, so heaven help us if the grocery store ever runs out!  He hates vegetables and the only fruits he likes are raspberries, peaches, and blueberries if they’re in a muffin.  His tastes change from day to day:  Monday morning he might love strawberries but if I offer them at lunchtime he suddenly hates them.

Ellie:  Will try anything on her tray once and if she doesn’t like it she tosses it overboard.  She might love the pasta we have for supper but if I warm it up for her for lunch the next day I end up scraping it off the floor.  Her favourite foods are zucchini, beef ravioli, graham crackers, and sausage.

Nathan:  Eats everything except brussel sprouts.

I:  Am allergic to certain types of cheese and hate seafood.  Yeah, yeah, I know, the girl who grew up on the east coast hates seafood.  Go figure.

Anyway, I’ve decided to share a few family friendly recipes that I’ve stumbled upon.  Here’s the first one:

Cajun Chicken Pasta (Source: BlogChef.Net)

Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into small strips
  • 4 ounces linguini, cooked al dente
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Place chicken strips and Cajun seasoning in a bowl and toss the chicken with the seasoning until the chicken strips are evenly coated with the seasoning.  In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add chicken and sauté the chicken until it’s fully cooked.  Reduce heat to low.  Add green onions, heavy cream, basil, salt, garlic powder and pepper.  Cook until heated through . Pour over hot linguini and toss with Parmesan cheese.

I usually serve it with a salad and voila!  All I hear from the kids for 10 minutes or so is “Mmmmm ….”  It’s fantastic!

What are your favourite family friendly recipes? 

Weekend of the Horse

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My former coach, Kim, called me on Saturday afternoon with an interesting offer:  She was looking for a home for a three-year-old thoroughbred mare she had rescued from the meat man and she wanted to give her to us.   Kim has always felt bad about what happened to Ariel – it wasn’t her fault, and we’ve never blamed her, but she said she wanted to “pay it forward”.  I need a horse, April needs a person – it just makes sense.

Except for the fact that we’re trying to save for a down payment, that is.  I’ve spent the past three days searching for a place to board that’s within reasonable driving distance and not too expensive, but I don’t think such a place exists.  We can afford to keep her, but then we won’t be saving anything.

Well, except a beautiful horse :) 

April’s not the first free horse to come  my way since we lost Ariel four years ago, but she’s definitely the sweetest.  She’s an in your face kind of filly, more interested in pats and scratches than eating her hay.  I spent an hour with her last night and I fell in love.  She has a few cosmetic blemishes from her days on the track but she’s sound.  She’ll never be a jumper or a high level competition horse, but I’m at a point in my life where that’s not what I’m looking for.  I want a nice, friendly, family horse and that’s what she is.   She’s the kind of horse I could ride and then throw Topher on and lead him around.  She’s young, but she’s kind – definitely something I could work with.  

But do I want a house, or do I want a horse?

I’ve been going back and forth for three days.  Nathan’s been a very patient listener!

The truth of the matter is that I want both.  We’ve outgrown our condo and a house is within reach.  We’re planning to list our place early next year and hopefully be in a house of our own by the time summer rolls around – and then I can have my horse.

Look at me, being all grown up about things!

But still.  We really need to start playing the lottery, and then I won’t have these problems.

Summer To-Do List

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I’ve been in the crafting mood lately but since Nathan and I are trying to save our pennies for a downpayment for a house, I need to come up with craft projects on a budget.  This one cost a grand total of $2 and I made it in about ten minutes while Ellie was napping and Topher was watching “What Does The Fox Say?” over and over on YouTube.  

I used scrapbooking paper I had on hand and cut it down to size, then added a piece of white scrapbooking paper to the top and attached “rub on letters” that I found in my craft bin.  I think I bought them for a project I made for Nathan back when we were dating, because seriously, rub on letters?  Why not just buy stickers?  Strange.  Anyway … I stuck it in a frame from the Dollar Store (which cost $2.  I miss the days when things at the Dollar Store were actually a dollar …) and got Topher to help me come up with a list of things we want to do this summer.  I wrote it on the frame with a dry erase marker so we can use it again next year!    

Sorry for the poor quality photo.  Maybe “learn to use my camera” should have made the list?