Thursday, December 27, 2012

Let it Snow!

It finally snowed last night - a real snow, that sticks!!  As the snow continued to blanket the landscape, I commented to my husband that one of my favourite things about snow is that when I look outside at night, it's so bright out still.  All the lights and the stars and moonlight reflect off the snow and make it just beautifully bright.

Bearing that in mind...

Our youngest woke up at 12:11 last night.  He came out of his room and into ours and said, "I looked at my clock and it says that it's the middle of the night."  His voice was incredulous and he must have been certain that someone had messed with his clock.

My hubby and I stifled a giggle and he said, "It is the middle of the night."

There was a beat before the boy dejectedly walked himself back to his room.  It was so bright out that he was certain it was morning. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas funnies

Coinciding with my simpler way of doing things, I often choose to clean with vinegar.  My kids clean the bathroom with vinegar.  So I wasn't surprised to hear this from my daughter...

Me (reading jokes):  What does Santa clean his sleigh with?

Daughter: Vinegar!

Me (laughing): Well, actually it says "Comet".  You know...  Like the reindeer.  But I like your answer better!

Green Grandma (who wrote Vinegar Fridays) would be proud of my little girl!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Singing, Dancing, I can't help myself!

I don't typically plug products that I like on here, but I cannot help myself.  This is too important for me to not write about it here...

I recently downloaded an album that I had been looking forward to having.  I only have one other album from this artist (who has six as a solo artist).  I "previewed" the songs on YouTube and decided that I just had to have this album.  It's not my typical music, as I usually go for Christian worship music.  But oh...  I'm so glad I did! 

As I listen to this album, I dance, I raise my hands up in joy and worship, I'm brought to tears, I laugh at the silliness, and my heart breaks for what must have inspired a song.  It is socially and theologically amazing (although not all at once.)  And it mentions God very little.

I played this album at my seven year old's birthday party.  One of the young party-goers heard a song and said "Oh, I this is my favourite!  Turn it up!"  He'd never heard the song before but it was catchy and sounded like fun Top 40 Billboard music.  (Admittedly, this album did hit #1 on Billboard the week that it debuted, something done by a "Christian" album only two other times.)

If you've heard of the album, you probably know that I'm writing about tobyMac's "Eye On It".  There are only one or two songs on here that I could do without.  TobyMac sings about keeping a family together (brings me to tears), speaking words of life to the broken-hearted (tears, again), and a few love songs/I can't live without you songs, which are directed at God (oh, I love singing those songs with Toby!) but can easily pass for traditionally romantic songs.  His song for his wife "Made For Me" just makes my heart happy.  What a sweet way to honour his life-time partner!  His son makes another appearance, this time rapping the clever and punny words "I want a Mac, Daddy" going so far as to offering to braid his sister's hair to earn money to get it.  I laugh more every time I hear it.  And my kids love that Jamie Grace (my girl's favourite artist!) makes an appearance on the catchy and very singable "Favourite Song."

Borrow it from a friend (or look it up on YouTube)...  Listen to it...  Love it.  Buy it! 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Chop sticks

My seven year old has been suffering from chapped lips lately.  I've told him to get lip balm from the corner table any time he needs it.

In the middle of eating his spaghetti, he jumped up and ran into the kitchen saying, "I need chop sticks!"  Aaron and I looked at each other, wondering why he wanted chop sticks for his spaghetti.  When I questioned him, he was reaching for the lip balm and said, "It's for my chapped lips!  You said I could use it..."

After uncontrollably laughing, I corrected him, "It's not chop sticks, it's CHAP stick!  You know, 'cause it's for chapped lips."

Thursday, November 29, 2012

10,000 Reasons

I am so incredibly blessed! I regularly think about how blessed I am. Lately, as I think about it, I honestly feel overwhelmed at the thought of it. And all I can do about it is thank God for His abundant and lavish blessings, and try to pass the blessing on to others.

I have a house to live in.
I have heat in the winter.
I have air-conditioning in the summer.
I have a phone and can call people who are not within shouting distance.
I have the internet which I can access through many devices.
I have a variety of delicious and healthy foods to eat.
I have a store that I can walk to so that I can buy food.
I have a van that will protect me and taken me places when I am too lazy to walk (which is often.)
I have enough clothes to cover my body and keep me warm.
I have a change of clothes to wear so that I don't have to wear the same thing every day.
I have enough money to provide for my family's needs and so many of our wants.
I have people in my life who I can trust with anything.
I have friends on whose shoulders I can cry.
I have children.
I have children who rock.
I have a husband.
I have a husband who rocks.
I have a Bible.
I know how to read.
I understand what I read in my Bible.
I have the gift of Salvation.
I was born in a country where I am valued as a person
I live in a country where I can practice my faith without fear of persecution.
I have a doctor that I can go to when I am sick.
I can buy medicine or other treatments when I need to get well.
I have an extended family that loves and cares about each other.
I have three living grand-parents.
I have parents who are still married to each other.
I have parents-in-law who are still married to each other.
I went to (and graduated from) university.
I can talk.
I can hear.
I can taste.
I can smell.
I can feel.
I can sing.

I am so blessed.

(That list is incredibly incomplete.  I haven't written 10,000 reasons that I am blessed yet.  Please help me add to my list and tell me how you are blessed.)

Monday, November 19, 2012

To-ma-to... Po-tah-to...

While watching The Sound of Music for family movie night...

6 yr old Simon: What's a nun?
Me: Someone who spends all her life serving God in the Catholic church, choosing not to have a husband or family...
Simon:  Oh.  I thought nuns were bad guys.
Me, giggling: When are nuns bad guys?
Simon: I don't remember what the movie is...  *thinking*  Mulan!
Me, laughing even harder: Those were the HUNS!

Friday, November 16, 2012

My Super-man

This was written many moons ago, on Nov 16, 2009.  It still applies today, three years later.

My husband is stretched out in the Lazyboy right now, "watching" MNF with his eyes closed. I take him for granted very often. He's not the most romantic guy in the world and he doesn't always say what I want to hear, but I can't help loving him anyway.

Do you know that he gets up every morning at 6:15 so he can get to work on time? And he never complains about it. He doesn't even try to make noise to wake me up. He lets me sleep until 7:30 when he's heading out the door, at which point, he wakes me with a kiss, EVERY MORNING, and says good-bye. The kids, who he's been holding off until that moment, rush into our room and ask if they can get breakfast. Let me expound... He makes his own lunch each morning (a feat among husbands from what I hear), gets dressed in our dark room, and absorbs the kids while I doze for another hour and fifteen minutes.

And then, THEN! he gets his gear on (coat, hat, mitts if needed) and bike helmet on and rides his bicycle to work. In the rain. In the snow. In the extreme heat. In the cold. It is a very rare day when he accepts my offer of a ride in the morning.

He gets to work on time every day... No wait - he gets to work early every day and makes decisions on his workday based on his morals and ethics, not on what his boss is expecting or what will be easiest.

Do you know that he takes a lunch to work every day? He doesn't spend our money on such frivolous things as pizza and chips or salad and a sandwich. He would rather spend the time making his lunch in the morning. And yes, it is our money, even though I sleep in until 7:30 and the hardest thing I have to do on any given day ranges from unknotting knotted hair to deciding who gets the last blueberry yogurt.

My husband is a superhero! I could go on about how when he bikes home from work he settles in to play with the kids and gets them to clean up before dinner, or how he reads with at least one of the kids almost every night after dinner, or how he chats with me about his day and listens if I feel compelled to complain about mine. (At this point, I'm wondering what there ever was to complain about!)

No, I don't need to tell you all that. Nor do I need to go into how he patiently taught me to understand and appreciate football, or how he goes to concerts with me even though he really would rather not spend the money on the tickets and babysitter. You get the idea without me going into all that.

I am married to Superman. He may appear to be Clark Kent, but he's Superman underneath it all. I'd say that makes me Lois Lane, but I think I'm somewhere closer to Amelia Bedelia. So I just keep thanking God for blessing me with my Aaron and hoping that he doesn't realize he's sorely mis-matched.

And as I finish typing this, he wakes from his peaceful slumber, passes gas, and flashes me his smile. I giggle. I can't help it. I'm smitten.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Simon's Guide to Not Reading

I decided to take my three kids (6, 8, and 10) to Chapters to buy brand new books (a luxury in a house that uses the library or purchases used books from Amazon) with the purpose of getting the kids hooked on some new books. The six year-old boy is a very reluctant reader, opting for the standbys like “One Fish Two Fish” when he has to endure his 15 minutes a day of reading time.

We walked in to the book store and I directed the kids to their age-appropriate sections. The 6 year-old boy picked up Captain Underpants and had settled on that. I was helping the 10 year-old choose a book when I saw this book, Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading, written by Tommy Greenwald. The 6 year-old squeaked with joy and claimed it as his choice, mercifully rejecting Captain Underpants.

After paying for our selections, donating some used gum to the trash can, and having a lovely chat with the book lady, we got back in the van.  The 6 year-old asked if he could read on the way home. “Sure, if you can see.” (It was dark already.) We got home and he kept reading, getting so excited every time he finished another chapter. He harrumphed when I told him he needed to get into pajamas and brush his teeth, but cheered when I told him he could read again when he was done. That was his fastest “Get-Ready-For-Bed” ever!

I walked in to tuck him in. After saying his prayers, he smiled his winning “Can I have chocolate?” smile and asked if he could finish the chapter. I hemmed and hawed, and slyly asked how long it was, conceding when I saw that it was only two more pages. (It must have been a long chapter.) Then he asked if he could take the book in for reading time at school tomorrow. I told him that was a great idea. Then he told me that he just might read the book instead of playing his Nintendo DS tomorrow.  Sounds good to me.

So thank you, Tommy Greenwald! Thank you for writing the book that encourages children not to read. Thank you for all the time and effort it took to publish this book, which implores children to do as little as possible when it comes to reading. You’ve failed miserably and my son is hooked on your book!

*For those who have no idea idea what I'm talking about, click on the link for the book.  The author wrote it to get his kids hooked on reading.  Pretty sneaky, huh?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Lazy Mom's Guide to Housework

You would think that someone who has her own cleaning company would be on the ball in doing her own housework.  Not so my friends, not so.  I am, instead, training my own cleaning crew to take care of themselves.  Let's just say I'm doing it in the name of responsibility.  Yes, my children need to learn responsibility; that's it!

I was telling some fellow moms about the lunch chart that I have set up, a cheat sheet on what they should pack for their snack and lunch at school.  I figure at 6, 8 and 10, these kids are old enough to get their own food.  I help the 6 year old sometimes, but since he usually doesn't want a sandwich, he takes care of it most days.  I have a list on the fridge of how many items from each food group they should take, as well as which food items we have in the house for that week.  What you do not see is the "Lunch Wish List" which is also on the fridge, so the kids can write down whatever they'd like to see in the house next week for lunches.  (My daughter has written down granola bars, so I need to make those today!)

I also have this handy-dandy chart to help them organize their morning and afternoons.  I have cut out letters from my least favourite fridge magnets so the kids can put their initial beside whatever they have accomplished.  The older two did not move their magnets over this morning, but rest assured that they did get everything done.

And finally, I'm not sure if I'm most embarrassed of this or most proud of it.  You decide what I should feel...

Our newish second bathroom is mainly used by the kids for toileting, hand-washing, and teeth-brushing.  I clean it when we have company.  And every so often, in a pinch, I try to use it in between company.  It was just too gross to use though.  My boys didn't care to aim for the toilet when they used this bathroom.  I finally got so fed up with the state of this bathroom that I gathered the kids around and told them that they would be taking turns in cleaning this bathroom.  I made a list of what they need to clean and in which order to do it.  I showed them how to clean each item.  I told them about how long it should take (5-10 minutes) and set them free to clean.

(Let me take a health and safety break here to explain how this is possible without me worrying about my children killing themselves with bleach:  We don't use toxic cleaning products.  We use vinegar and water and Norwex cloths.  That's it.  Nothing to worry about and the bathroom sparkles with cleanliness every day!)

Miracle of miracles, my kids are able to keep the bathroom clean!  Apparently, all it took was a little direction and a mandate of cleanliness.  Yeah!!!

That's what we've got so far.  I welcome any tips from other lazy moms.  What else can my kids do??

Monday, November 12, 2012

Out of the abundance of the heart...

My nearly-7-year-old boy has developed a recent infatuation with Bey-Blades.  At any given moment, I expect to hear screams of "3-2-1, let it rip!!!!" followed by the sound of spinning tops knocking against each other.

As I was tucking him in at night, he was going on about Bey-Blades and which ones worked well for which type of battle stadium.  I had finally had enough of it and let him know that it was time to pray and get tucked in.  He closed his eyes and started to say his prayer...

"Three, two..."  Eyes popped open and he started to giggle when he realized what he was doing.  :-)


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Nutrition for kids at Halloween

For the record, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers and Peanut M&Ms are my favourite treats not allowed at the kids' school so I will be confiscating them immediately tomorrow night.  Coffee Crisp bars are a delightful treat for moms will stunt their growth, so I get those too.

Monday, October 29, 2012


We had an incredibly busy weekend. It was entirely my fault. I scheduled a special kids' day at church, complete with three special snacks that I prepared and fun costumes (which I also prepared for my own kids.) We also had our Sunday morning worship, which Aaron and I led, as we sometimes do. We also had a fellowship lunch, for which I made two dishes.  And we celebrated two milestone birthdays, for which I made special desserts.

It's so easy to want to pat myself on the back and say, “Wow, look at what I did.” But instead I'm smacking my forehead and saying, “Wow, look at all that stuff that I didn't really need to do all at once.”

As Aaron and I were chatting about it on our way home from church, he pointed out that I don't have to do everything. That's hard for me to hear. I naturally try to please people by doing all the stuff that hasn't been done or volunteered to be done. Aaron, whose love language is (*supposedly) “Acts of Service” is telling me to stop doing so much. And I thought I was a good cross between Mary and Martha.   (*supposedly...  Because I really think his love languages are football, then sports, then gas.)

I've been thinking about “self-esteem” a bit lately. I'm trying to write down some stuff about it, maybe to post here, maybe to keep to myself. But what I keep coming back to is that my worth is not wrapped up in what I do or what people think of me or how awesome my hubby and kids are. My self-worth is totally and entirely wrapped up in knowing that Psalm 139 was written about me. I've read it too many times to count, and mentioning it almost seems clich
é, but it always gets me. God really loves me that much! God cares what I think that much!

Everything else fades away, at least for the moment, when I consider how truly awesome that is. I don't need to get my validation from other people, not even my husband, who loves me way more than I deserve. My validation comes from being one of God's lovingly created beings.

O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!

I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night—
but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me!

O God, if only you would destroy the wicked!
Get out of my life, you murderers!
They blaspheme you;
your enemies misuse your name.
O Lord, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you?
Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose you?
Yes, I hate them with total hatred,
for your enemies are my enemies.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Rebuke

A few months ago, I was standing in line at the grocery store. There were two cash registers open and 11 people waiting to check out. Those of us with “eight items or less” were standing in the express lane. Two customers had their purchases already on the belt. (The second one had many more than eight items.) The third customer in line, the Lovely Octogenarian, still had her groceries in her buggy. She had silky, silvery hair and moved quite a bit slower than the other customer in front of me. The lady in front of me (and directly behind the Lovely Octogenarian, and let's call her Bunny) was watching as another cashier brought her “float” over to the registers and chatted with our cashier for a moment.

The new cashier parked her float in the till and looked up at us, the expectant customers. Bunny picked up on the signal immediately, and flew over to the new till, quick as a Bunny. The most recent addition to our line, the hunched over Grandmother behind me, made a move to go into the new line. I looked at her. She looked at me. She asked, more out of social obligation than anything else, “Are you going in this line?”

I told her that I was waiting for the lady in front of me, since I thought that was the fair thing to do. The Lovely Octogenarian moved her buggy over when she finally noticed the lane open and put her groceries on the freshly vacated belt. The impatient Grandmother zipped in and took her spot in the old line while I fell into place behind the Lovely Octogenarian.

We all proceeded with our orders. While I was waiting for my turn I marveled at how impatient people can be while waiting in line. I thought of how sad it must be for that woman to always be in such a hurry instead of enjoying the journey, even if it means standing in a line of people for a few minutes.

Just as it was my turn to pay, I felt a tap on my back. It was the Grandmother. “Thank you for your rebuke. I needed to hear that,” she said, with all sincerity.

My heart fell. She was standing beside me this whole time processing her own feelings of guilt and my rebuke to her. I was standing there, just seconds after chastising this woman twice my age, judging her.

And if I ever see her again, I will thank her for the unspoken rebuke she gave me. I needed that.

Friday, October 26, 2012

How to find a job in a bad economy

As I was scrubbing a toilet this morning, I got to thinking about how many times people have asked how I started my business, The Cleaner Sweep.  Let me tell you...

About two years ago, my sister and her husband made the decision to pick up their family and move their lives to the other side of the country. They made this decision for some very good reasons, but they made this decision without jobs. I assured my brother-in-law that he would be able to get a job at a call centre to get the finances started up again, and then he could start looking for a job in his field. It took him a month and a half to get hired at one of the three call centres in the area.

Meanwhile, my sister realized she needed to get a job to help out, at least until her hubby found other work. She applied for a variety of jobs and finally got asked to come work for one of the Big Name cleaning services. She lasted two days before they told her she didn't need to come back. (Knowing what I know about her, it was certainly not her work ethic or attention to detail that bothered them.) My guess is they just didn't have enough work for a new girl.

So we  sat around and cried and worried and waited until someone called us and told us they wanted to pay us to form our own company and gave us an instruction manual on how to build a successful business  chatted and wondered and prayed and eventually one of us said, “Let's just start our own company!” We called our mom, the Tax Lady, and asked her a few tax-related questions about how to set up a business. Then we made up flyers and put ads online on those free advertising sites (Craiglist, Kijiji, etc.) and within a day or two we had a job lined up. Within a month we had five regular clients!

One and a half years later, my sister has, consistently, been working as much as she wants (which is a good thing as her husband is still stuck in that awful call centre.)  We've had to turn away business. We are known by our clients to be hard-working cleaners with great attention to detail. And it was built from an idea in my kitchen, using our hands and hard work. God has definitely blessed our determination to work.

The point of all this is:
There is work, even in a bad economy. To quote a movie that my parents enjoy, “There are the Haves and the Have-Nots.” You just need to figure out where the money is and how people are willing to spend it. Day-time childcare, house-cleaning, cooking/shopping for a busy family... There are all sorts of SAHM type jobs that someone wants to pay you to do! Find out what it is and where those people are and advertise where they'll see it.

People have asked me specifics about how we started our company and I'd be happy to answer any questions anyone has in the comments section.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My perspective on "Family Faith Talks"

(I wrote this as a comment on my friend's blog post, Family Faith Talks.  And then as I was proof-reading my comment I realized that I'm far too long-winded to be commenting and I'd better just write it on my own post.  But please read his original post to get some context on what I'm writing.)

We have been trying to read a chapter from the Bible every day since last spring (six months ago, I guess.) We're on Mark 9. We started in Matthew.

Yeah, we didn't get very far. We let it slide for a while. But when we've slumped, my husband suddenly remembers and tells the youngest to go get his Bible. (His is the most kid-friendly version to read and understand.)

The kids (6, 8, 10) really do enjoy curling up on the couch and listening to a chapter. I read since I have a better reading voice, but my hubby and I will each interject questions about what we're reading. And what I love most about where we are right now is that the kids are starting to say, "We already read that story in Matthew!"

They know these stories from Sunday School but now we actually get to talk about them and answer questions that they may not think about in the higher-paced Sunday School format. We love speculating about the Messianic Secret (although they have no idea that it's called that) and looking to see when demons were speaking vs when it was the actual person. (My smarty-pants 8 year-old girl asked just last night if a demon was speaking through Peter... Right before I read the part where Jesus rebuked the demon in Peter!)

And since our worship team practice happens a couple nights a week in our living room around our piano, we open up the worship team binders and get the kids singing along. They may not be fully participating in the worship the way we are, but they are seeing it being modeled in a real way, on a regular basis and they are "practicing worship".  (That's not to detract from their worship either.  Only they know where their hearts are when we're singing.)

As my friend said in his post, there's no Biblical command for daily/weekly family faith talks. I've found that it just becomes part of your family life, whether it's a structured time or seizing on the teachable moments. I think using the teachable moments means just as much as those scheduled times.

How about your family?  Have you been able to have structured family time to discuss faith-filled matters?  Do they come and go?  I'd also love to hear from more experienced parents whose children have left the nest to lead their own families.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Best Kind of Best Friend

Here's how you know your daughter has an awesome best friend:

My girl and her friend were playing at the park.  I just told my girl that it was time to come home.  She dutifully came inside and opened the window to yell a parting farewell to her awesome best friend.  Her awesome best friend yells back, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you!  Hebrews 4:14.  Or something like that  I just made up the last part.  I don't know where it is."

And then we spent the next minute or so discussing where we thought it might be.  (It's Hebrews 13:5, she was close.)