Monday, May 13, 2013


In the Anglican Sunday service there is a part called the "Prayers of the People" (or the "Intercessions")where someone from the congregation comes up to offer general prayers.  There are a half-dozen "scripts" in the service book that can be used, or the Intercessor (we Anglicans like to have fancy names for everything) can essentially make up their own prayers. 

We have some people in our congregation who do a pretty bang-up job of intercessing - writing prayers that verge on poetry in some cases.  Recently, one of the Intercessors added this hymn text to the end of her prayers:

Drop Thy still dews of quietness
Til all our strivings cease
Take from our souls the strain and stress
And make our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
     ~John Greenleaf Whittier

It was just what I needed to hear that day.  So much of what goes on in our heads is needless "striving" - a constant, restless searching/seeking to make things better, faster, more efficient, or otherwise different than how they are.  We're always on the lookout for that magic formula that's going to make our lives perfect in one easy step.  Thank you, John Greenleaf Whittier, for helping me put a (temporary) stop to all that chatter in my head and realize that I do not need to work so hard at "striving".  

On parenting

Over the past four years, I've read a lot of parenting books. Recently, I went on a bit of a binge and took about six out of the library at the same time. Reading parenting books can be overwhelming - so many opinions, perspectives, suggestions...

This latest round seemed to be no different. Until, that is, I started to feel like I was reading the same book over and over. Once I started to see the patterns, I realized that the same messages have been echoed in almost all of the books I've read (maybe I'm a little slow on the uptake).

So, to spare others the trouble of reading dozens of books (and to save myself from having to read any more), here is my take on the collective wisdom:

1. Foster strong connections with your kids. Tell them you love them. Play with them. Laugh and giggle with them. Learn what makes their eyes light up. Compliment them. Ask them their opinion and listen to the answer.

2. Be an empathetic listener. Let your kids know you have really heard what they are saying. Resist the urge to always jump in with a response, lecture, or suggestion. Sometimes all they need/want is to tell someone that they had a lousy day. If a response is required, they will be much more receptive to what you have to say if they feel like they have been heard first.

3. Be a strong, consistent, guiding presence their lives. Kids feel secure knowing there is a loving adult "running the show". Be clear and consistent with your expectations and values (which is not the same as rigidly adhering to rules no matter what the cost). Be as decisive as possible - avoid "waffling". If you need time to think about something, say so. If you make a bad decision, admit your mistake and explain why you've changed your mind.

4. Focus on problem solving, not punishment. Instead of trying to come up with new and more effective punishments or consequences, focus on trying to help your child avoid repeating the same behaviour in the first place. Are they developmentally ready for what is being asked? Do they have the necessary skills, knowledge, or tools? Do they need some kind of reminder or cue to remember the desired behaviour? (Nagging doesn't count!) Involve your kids in this process as much as possible.

No problem, right?

Sunday, March 31, 2013

No-Book Recipes: Tzimmes

I'm not a great cook, but i really hate following a recipe. So, I'm always on the look-out for recipes that I can do from memory, and that will come out right even with variation in the ingredients. This is one of my favourites.

Tzimmes is a traditional Jewish dish of root vegetables and dried fruit in a sweet sauce. There are many variations. Google it for lots of pics.

Slow-cooker Tzimmes

(Note: I use a vintage 4 quart slow-cooker. Adjust accordingly for smaller or larger ones. )

1. Fill slow-cooker nearly to the top with cubed root vegetables.

(I usually use carrots and sweet potatoes, sometimes parsnip as well if I have some. Carrots and parsnip take a lot longer than sweet potato - cut them in smaller chunks.)

2. Add a few handfuls of chopped dried fruit.

(I usually use apricots and prunes, but I have also heard you can use cherries - that would be yummy!)

3. Add 1/2-1 cup of orange juice, 2-3 spoonfuls of honey, and a few shakes of cinnamon.

(Remember - I said I do this from memory. It is not exact each time. For the juice I use one of Kate's drinking boxes, since I don't usually have a whole jug of orange juice on hand!)

4. Cook until vegetables are soft (on low or high depending on how much time you have).

Mine is fine if I leave it on all day while I'm at work, but I have also done it in a couple of hours on high.

Serve as a side dish or with a grain base, like couscous, to make it more of a main.

This is my favourite dish to bring to potlucks, since it suits all diets (dairy-free, gluten-free, vegetarian, etc.)


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The people you meet

I'd seen them before. Four real, live monks, complete with black robes and rosaries. Youngish guys. Riding the bus downtown at rush hour. You can't blame me for being curious.

Last week I found myself sitting next to one of them, so I decided to move from curiosity to inquisitiveness. I somewhat bluntly opened with something along the lines of "so what's your story?"

Turns out they are from a Franciscan order in Halifax and are here studying for a year. They are living in the rectory of a church near us and had to decide whether to opt for a long-term car rental or monthly bus passes to get around. I guess you get to meet more people on the bus!

We had a nice chat about Ottawa, the Pope, the work of their order, and the price of bus passes. Apparently, few people make it past the curiosity stage, and if they do they blurt out some quick question just as they're getting of the bus. Their loss. I haven't been on the same bus with the brothers again since, but next time I see them I'll be able to just say hi instead of trying not to look curious.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Coming out the other side

I wore my spring coat today.  It was -8 standing out at the bus stop this morning, but I didn't care.  It's lime green and it makes me feel happy!

The sun is getting stronger, the days are getting longer.  It's already light out when I leave for work, and it's still light out when I leave.  The long-range forecast no longer has any minus double digits - in fact, there's more than a few numbers on the plus side.  There's still mountains of snow, but you can feel things starting to turn.  It's something in the air.  When you have a mild spell in January, it's not the same.  Now you can smell the spring, smell the earth, smell the green-ness. 

We're comin' out the other side, folks. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Fun with long hair

Now that my hair's getting longer, I'm enjoying experimenting with different styles.

This is a bun with a scarf wrapped around it, and then a coil bracelet wrapped around that. Aside from the shape of the bun being a little wonky, I think I like it!

What do you think?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Budding correspondent

Kate "wrote" this letter to one of her friends the other day, while we were waiting in a restaurant for our food to arrive. I was considering adding some kind of comment about how much she's learning lately, or some kind of joke about the age of technology not affecting this kid, but I can't come up with quite the right words. I think I'll just let you enjoy it on its own...