Monday, January 2, 2012

Moving Day!!!

Today is the big day! The new blog is up and running. Want to come over and see the new digs? Check it out at the new Fuel by Barbara

I will not be deleting this blog, but I will also not be updating here with new posts. All the content of this blog has been moved over to the new site so you should be able to find all the old articles over there.

Please change your bookmarks and subscription details to the new address, and we'll see you over there for all your favourite features: Heard at My House and Foodie Fridays to name just a couple.

Thank you so much for coming by and reading my little blog. It is very humbling, and a real joy to be able to share this conversation with you.


Saturday, December 31, 2011

Open Letter to a Jogger Guy

Originally Posted May 26, 2011

Dear Jogger Guy:

I need to start by apologizing. My sincerest apologies for looking like a terrified deer-in-headlights when you jogged towards me the other night. I don't believe that an apology that blames the other person is a true apology, but in this case, I'm going to totally blame you and hope that it still counts as an apology of sorts.

Here's the deal: I'm not a total scaredy-cat. Really I'm not. But I do have an overactive imagination fueled by horrible novel selections by high school English teachers (who really should have known better) and poorly chosen television viewing habits in my university days. I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I do sort of expect that there could very well be danger lurking under every bush.

And you weren't under a bush: you were running straight down the sidewalk towards me: menacingly, with an air of malevolence and guilt. Or potential guilt. Maybe you hadn't committed a crime yet, but you sure could have.

You see, if clothes make the man, your clothes made you a bank robber. No word of a lie. You ought to consider things like that when you get dressed for a run. In May. On a warm night.

Why were you wearing a black skull cap covering all your hair? Why were you wearing a black shirt and black shorts and black socks? Why were you wearing a black balaclava?

Well, okay: that was my first mistake. Or maybe not my first, but certainly my biggest. It wasn't a balaclava, but it sure looked like one from a distance. Turns out that what I thought was a black, menacing ski mask was actually,...

*ahem* inordinate amount of facial hair.

Seriously. Dude. What's with the pitch black, thick rimmed glasses, and bushy black eyebrows, and FULL.BLACK.BEARD that covers, essentially, everything but your nose and eyelids? From a distance, all I could see was the whites of your eyes, the tip of your nose and a sliver of your mouth: which wasn't smiling, and that would have helped, just so you know.

So as I walked off the sidewalk and onto the bike path to get out of the way of impeding mugging, please forgive me. I should have expected better of you. And as I, likely audibly, sighed with relief as you passed me, please forgive my prejudice.

But really, give a girl a helping hand and at least wear a t-shirt with a big, yellow smiley face. Or leave the black hat at home. Or trim your beard. Or carry a sign that says, "I am not a crook". Any of those small changes would be considered an act of community-mindedness, and would likely decrease the chances of you experiencing a false arrest sometime in your life.

On a positive note, you have a great stride. And if you had committed a crime, I bet you could have outrun your pursuers. Nicely done.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Deal or No Deal

Originally Posted September 5, 2009

Setting: idyllic farmers' market. Bustling early morning crowd. The aroma of freshly picked peaches. Vendors calling out their prices for "the market's best corn". Bushels of colour. Children reaching for the plumpest raspberries.

I am looking at melons.

I notice a lovely barrel full of Cantalope. Beside it an equally lovely barrel full of watermelon. Behind these barrels are two vendors. I approach them, and notice the sign advertising the prices.

Watermelons: $1.99

Excellent. I place 2 in my bag.

Cantalopes: $0.75 each, or 2 for $1.50

I pause. That isn't a deal, I think to myself. That's just the same. Cheap, but the same. Not a deal.

The vendor notices my hesitation. "75 cents a piece, or 2 for a buck 50."

"Yes," I say. "That's right. But, that's the same. That's not a deal."

I put 3 in my bag, wondering whether to get a 4th, or put one back and stick with 2.

"I'll give you 4 for 3 bucks", he says.

"I know you will. Because that's the same," I say, incredulous. "That's not a deal..."

I take the four, knowing that it was a good price, but not a "deal". Confusedly, I walk away, wondering if he knew his error, or if he thought I was just very bad at bargaining at the market.

Mental note: Some things aren't cheaper by the dozen. Sometimes buying in bulk isn't any cheaper at all.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Well, At Least He Didn't Hang Himself

Originally Posted June 7, 2008

Our lovely family was to go to homeschool soccer last night, 33 degree temperatures not withstanding. And I, in my new found "let's not be an out-of-shape mom" phase decided that while my incredible husband drove 5 of the children to the field here in town, I would walk with the youngest two in my prized double stroller.

Now let me tell you about this double stroller: I LOVE it. It has been my source of sanity for the last 8 years. My blessed mommy bought it for me the Christmas I was expecting my second child, and I cried with glee. That was also been the Christmas that my blessed mom-in-law bought me the world's greatest breast pump. I cried over that too. I was pretty desperate for the right tools to do my job and a pump and a stroller fit the bill. But I digress. That stroller saved my life. It freed me to leave the house when I was going stir crazy in the spring. It made errands easier by walking instead of buckling and unbuckling children in the car a million times. I used it to hold 3 children actually. When we had our 3rd, our 1st was still only 2 (whoa) and so I could get all 3 of them in and still pound the pavement.

And pound it I did. For two years we had no car at all (except on weekends when we borrowed our fantastic parents' van...and yes I meant the parents are fantastic...the van was too, but the parents take the cake). I would walk EVERY DAY just because I could with 2, 3, and then 4 children all the way from our little house to the nearest grocery store. Looking back to that big city walk from the perspective of a now small town girl, I can't imagine what I was thinking taking such little people across such ridiculously busy corners....however, we survived. I also used that stroller as a means of getting my groceries home from that store. On several occasions I would walk to the store with an empty stroller and come home with it loaded to the brim with 2 weeks' worth of food. Good times.

Then there was the time that we accidentally left the stroller behind at a splash pad. I thought Chris put it in the back of the van. He thought I did. It was left on the wet concrete pad at a very busy place in said big city. I freaked out when I realized it was gone. Chris did too, but only because his WALLET WAS IN IT. I thought "who cares about your wallet. We can replace the cards. I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT THAT STROLLER!!!" Slight overreaction. still.

Thankfully some kindly lady took it to her house and left a note at the park saying that if someone lost a stroller we could retrieve it from her house. So glad we got there first!

And now, after 7 kids, the stroller is getting old. When I put groceries in the storage basket in the bottom it drags on the sidewalk (really annoying). And when I tried to fold it up to fit in the van, it doesn't exactly work as smoothly as it once did. But she's a beauty.

So back to last night. In my energetic frenzy I smartly put the not quite 2 year old in the front as usual and laid the wee baby down in the back. One of the things I love about this stroller is how excellently the back lays down. One hand control, a foot rest that comes up and "locks in place" to hold the baby nice and horizontal, and the very all-covering sunshade ensures that the baby can rest without the sun beating down on his face. Many a nap has been had in that stroller. Our 2nd born even slept in it overnight once in a hotel in Ottawa many moons ago. Love.this.stroller.

I was really truckin' it. I love walking. I love walking fast. It is as close to athletic as I ever get. Suddenly, my boy is crying. Funny, he never cries in the stroller. Heck, he practically never cries at all. Wisely, I stop (once I've finished crossing the train tracks) to check on the boy. Remember: I can't see him due to the all-covering sunshade.

The foot rest, after 7 children and 8 years, apparently had enough last night. It 'unlocked' and there was my wee boy, all of 4 months old today, sitting in the storage basket under the stroller with his head firmly wedged under the front seat where his tender scalp was being, well, scalped. nice. Praise the Lord my other children weren't with me, because 1) this is the kind of thing that just adds fuel to the "look at the freaky family with 7 kids" thing that I am always paranoid about (remember the Tim Hortons/Walmart fiasco?) and 2) I think I said a bad word....out loud.

So after rescuing him from the basket that (remember?) drags on the ground when weight is put into it and kissing the scratches on his scalp, I put him in the front seat that reclines slightly with a more sturdy support between his legs and put child #6 in the back where she could just sit and continue sipping her water bottle like nothing had happened.

Now what, you may be asking, was the title to this post all about? I'm thinking that it is a good thing I didn't buckle him in because when he slipped down, I'm envisioning the seatbelt getting quite snuggly wrapped around his neck. So it could have been worse.

sigh. A day in my life. Gotta love a laugh at the "mother of the year"! I'm considering adding a "donate here" button on the side bar of this blog so that you can all contribute to a new stroller for me. Any takers :-)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Heard at My House - The Existential Edition

Originally Posted January 27, 2011

A: I just don't know what I'd feel like if I wasn't a person.

Me: Sorry. What?

A: I mean, if I wasn't me, and I wasn't someone else, and I wasn't a thing. I just don't know what that would feel like.

Me: Okay. You need to explain that a little more. Do you mean, like if you were some other person?

A: No. Like, I just think there is a person for everybody.

Me: Do you mean, "a soul for every body"?

A: No. I guess...well, I don't know...I mean...

Me: Do you mean, if your dad and I didn't have you would you still be somewhere else?

A: I don't know. I just mean if, I just...Well, I don't know how I'd feel.... Oh, I don't understand what I mean either.

(mental note: I'm not sure which of my university studies would have been more helpful in this conversation: Psych 020 or a reading of Waiting for Godot.)

Monday, December 26, 2011


Originally Posted February 28, 2010
(Update: My mom served my grandma well, just like this post describes, right until she passed away on December 24th, 2011)

My Grandmother is 91. When I was little, she was old. She's always been old. I remember when she would go out on my great-uncle's fishing boat for the day with my Grandpa. I remember thinking, "Someone needs to tell her she's too old to do that. That's not safe." She was in her 60's... I guess that seemed old when I was 8.

She has always had gray hair that my mom would put in rollers for her. Little pokey black rollers with metal brush-hairs to keep her short little hair nicely fluffy. She was super cute. My mom would stand behind her, and Grandma, seated and holding the bag of rollers in her lap, would pass them over her shoulder, one at a time, to my mom.

Grandma loved going shopping with my Grandpa. They would just spend the day tooling around and eating at Bob's Fish and Chips on Hamilton Road. Some days they'd pick up Mary Brown's Chicken to eat at home on TV trays, watching a Blue Jays game.

When my Grandpa was dying of cancer, she cared for him at home, administering many, many pills and cooking several meals a day trying to find something, anything that would taste good to my Grandpa. And when he would fall asleep in his hospital cot they had set up in the guest room, Grandma would sleep on the single guest bed, holding his hand through the hospital bed bars. Then in the morning, Grandpa would say "Mary, I think there's room up here for you if I squeeze over a bit." And so, they'd have a little snuggle before starting another day of pills and no appetite.

When my Grandpa died of his cancer, my Grandma said, "I'll never be as happy again as I was with Ed, but I'll be as happy as I can."

Somewhere during these last 15 years since Grandpa died, Grandma forgot that optimistic outlook. Grandma has forgotten quite a bit, actually.

And so, as she is forgetting where she put her keys ("There, on your wrist on the elastic, Grandma, like they always are."), or when she moved into this new apartment ("19 months ago, Grandma"), or why she can't go home ("Well, you sold the house a decade ago, Grandma"), or even if she ate breakfast, lunch, and supper today, my Mom and Dad, and my aunt and uncle are caring for her and honouring her in the most tireless, loving, compassionate way.

My pastor recently looked at the fifth commandment, as we have been studying the Ten Commandments, in which we are called to Honour our fathers and mothers. My Mom is doing a brilliant job of honouring her mom in these, potentially, last days for my Grandma. She visits almost everyday (except for the days my uncle visits), does her laundry (even though the staff at Grandma's home would do it...Grandma just feels strange letting strangers touch her laundry), answers dozens of phone calls a day some days, and takes homemade cookies and fresh fruit for her to nibble on when she can't remember that she's eaten today. She even still does my Grandma's hair up in rollers, even though now, for the first time in decades, my Grandma is too tired to pass the rollers over her shoulder. She often falls asleep in the chair while my Mom puts her hair up.

What is remarkable to me in all this is not that my Mom is loving her mom so beautifully. That's not surprising. What is surprising is how she is able to consistently serve her with patience and love even when my Grandma gets tired and cranky and ungrateful. And even when my Grandma forgets who my Mom is. Somehow, my Grandma remembers that she has a daughter named Linda. She just can't connect the fact that this lady who comes every day, is her daughter Linda. My Mom just puts on a brave face and reminds her. "I am your Linda, Mom. I am your Linda." And even when Grandma forgets and calls her by another name, or asks my Mom, "When will Linda come and see me?" for the hundredth time, my Mom still honours her, and loves her, and serves her.

When I ask her why she keeps going and how she keeps going, my Mom just smiles and says, "My Mom has taken such good care of me for so long, and put up with me when I was sick, and cranky, and grumpy, and ungrateful, and undeserving of being loved. She is a woman who deserves to be honoured. She's my Mom."

Lord, make me a woman who is humble enough and others-centered enough to honour other women in my life. And make me a mother who is easy for her kids to honour as I age because of how I cared for them in their early years. I pray my daughters and my sons would honour me because I have earned and kept their genuine love and admiration, not merely their biblical duty. And bless my Mom and Dad today in a special way, giving them endurance and longsuffering as they sacrificially care for my Grandma. And for the other women I know who are caring for their elderly parents, Lord I pray for them too, that you would give them an extra measure of mercy and patience as they love those you've entrusted to them.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Wow-ful Women Wednesday Christmas Edition

Originally Posted December 15, 2010 (Made it to 3:28 before I cried this time...and that only because I was setting the table for lunch during the first 3 minutes!) :-)

This song was brand new to me last year, and I posted it near Christmas. I do believe it bears re-posting. I still always think I can get through this song dry-eyed, and everytime I'm wrong.

A Baby Changes Everything -- Faith Hill

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Countdown

Originally Posted December 13, 2010 (Still gives me chills every time!)

There are some Christmas songs that everyone covers because they are just that good. This is one of them. But there is something about this version, sung by the lyricist himself, that makes it my favourite version of it. Ever. Mark Lowry sings his song slower than most. And he sings it like he's really speaking to Mary, and really just as awed as she must have been to find out just who her son truly was.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Story, Daily Truth

Originally Posted December 23rd, 2006

Whether you recall Linus' recitation in a Charlie Brown Christmas, or whether you numbly listen to it being read again this Christmas Eve service, Luke 2 is probably pretty familiar territory. Maybe it is so familiar, that like me you have come to only think of those precious words in terms of a quiet stable, a quiet sheepfold, and a baby laying silently in a mound of hay.

Last Sunday, my pastor challenged my understanding, and opened my eyes to a spiritual truth in that simple story that I need to meditate on daily; that if I really grasp it, will change my every moment from here on. (You can listen to his sermon here: but finish reading my blog first!)

In case there is anyone actually reading this blog, outside of the 5 close friends and family that I know check in here periodically, allow me to introduce a bit of my personality to you. I am a woman driven by fear: fear of circumstances, fear of failing, fear of people, fear of man's opinions, fear of all the 'what if's' of this life...Fear.

If the fear of man is a snare, then I am a little fox with her poor ankle smashed nearly irreparably in its hinges. (and no, that does not make me a foxy mama).

But the insight I gained on Sunday may have begun the freedom and release from fear that I need. Let me explain.

Luke 2 finds us out in the field with the shepherds watching over their flocks by night. Sound familiar yet? I'm sure you remember that when the angels appeared, the shepherds were "sore afraid". So what do the angels say? Pretty sensibly, and predictably they say "Fear Not, for I bring you good news of Great Joy that is for all people. For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior who is Christ the Lord.". Okay. I get that. Angels talking to shepherds 2000 years ago about their immediate need. Doesn't really apply to me.

But our pastor read it this way, "I say to you TODAY "Fear not, for I bring YOU good news of Great Joy, that is for ALL PEOPLE (including you and me). For on THAT DAY in the city of David there has been born for YOU a Savior who is Christ the Lord."

Oh. So something about that baby being born way back then has something to do with me not fearing. Well, sure. I know, He is my Savior so on the Last Day when I stand at Judgement I don't need to fear because Christ saved me from my sins. But what about today? What about everyday between now and then?

The Westminster Cathechism says that Christ has three offices: Prophet, Priest, and King. So on that day in the city of David not only was my Savior born but also my Prophet, Priest and King.

The Cathechism says that I need Christ to be Prophet because I am ignorant; Priest, because I am guilty, and King because I am weak and helpless. Sounds like the roots of all my fears.

So Lord, let me meditate, live in, dwell on, hold fast to, love, and soak in the truth that I can Fear Not. You were born not only to be the Savior from my sins and to free me from the condemnation of Judgement at the Last Day, but also to be the Prophet to teach me the Will of God everyday, the Priest to forgive my sins everyday, and the King to rule and defend me everyday.

That should all add up to a very Merry Christmas, and the happiest of all New Years.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Clean Floors

Originally Posted March 29, 2010

How often do you wash your kitchen floor? I mean, really clean them. Not just run-the-Swiffer-over-them clean, or kind-of-sweep-them clean, but on-your-hands-and-knees-hot-and-soapy-water clean?

Rarely, if I'm being honest. But I would like to tell you about how it came about that I washed my floors like that on Christmas Eve morning.

Faithful readers here may recall that months ago I promised a series of blog posts, one inspirational and one funny. The inspirational one has been posted: today's is the funny one. (That was your prompt and licence to laugh at me with great vigor!).

Imagine with me, if you will, what a typical Christmas Eve morning is like. As I see it, there are two options. It can be an idyllic, quiet, contemplative time around the tree, with hot apple cider in one hand, Bible in the other, and good snacks (post-delicious brunch, of course) always in easy reach. The children are contentedly playing, loving on one another with the compassion of Mother Theresa, the housework and gift-making are caught up, and the Roast Beast is simmering in a red wine flavoured broth preparing for a magical, culinary experience. We are patiently, yet breathlessly awaiting the candle-light service at the church. The children all say, "Santa who?" and instead prepare cards and gifts for the birth of Christ the King. All is right with the world.

That is option one. That was not our reality this year.

Christmas Eve was a Thursday in 2009, as you may recall. That is only significant in that my daughter's flyer route needs to be worked on Thursdays. Only. Period. Wednesday or Friday delivery of flyers constitutes grounds for immediate dismissal. Thursday morning it is.

Plus, this was the year that I jumped back into the world of "Church Drama" and was preparing for the second night of Christmas Plays. Let's just sum that up by saying my brain is not as sharp as it was 7 children and 11 years ago! Hello, Memory? Anyone home? Right. Didn't think so.

Plus, this was the year our church jumped back into the world of "Choir", which is such a highlight for me that I may need to do an entire post on choir someday. This required me to go through an intense period of humbling as I stared at myself in the bathroom mirror, hairbrush in hand (to my mouth, of course), repeatedly asking myself if I have any clue how to sing!

Plus, this was the year that I decided to be a mock-athelete and began running for the first time since the boys in the playground were throwing rocks at me.

Plus, this was the year that I thought I should really try to sew some lovely bags for some people I love as gifts. Like my Grandma. Who I would be seeing tomorrow. Whose bag I hadn't started yet. Oops.

And so it was, that I was in a very happy place that Christmas Eve morning doing a lot of things I loved and enjoyed, but found my mind a wee distracted...

The whole gang of us piled in to the van first thing in the morning, and delivered my eldest's 95 flyers, in record time, glad for the nice weather. Then we came home to realize the basement was about to be declared a national emergency site due to the unusually large amount of toys strewn around. So here I am in the kitchen, beginning lunch, barking orders for the basement to be cleaned, kissing my husband who just came home from his morning at the office, putting the baby down for his nap, and thinking the breakfast dishes should be washed, and then thinking I should go and check on the cleaning efforts in the basement.

As I go down to check on the basement overhaul, I realize that my physical presence there with them may be the thing to speed their endeavor, and so I sit and check email. It is in the email that my fate was sealed, I believe. My lovely friend, Kristina who I love, sent me a link to a stunning video of Celtic Woman singing "O Holy Night". Stunning. I sat spell-bound for the 5 minutes of vocal bliss. My bliss was radically, sharply, disasterously ended by my 8 year old's cherubic voice, innocently asking me, "Mommy, what is that water?"

Water? What water? And so I look in to the (praise the Lord) unfinished part of our basement to see water, no sheets of water, falling, pouring, gushing out of my duct work. Did I say gushing? I meant flooding. Rapidly. And spreading fast. Now there is a leak over our freezer. Now it is coming out over the laundry area.

My dear husband is wondering if a pipe froze and burst. "Where is this water coming from?" he cries? "Go make sure everything is off while I shut of the main!"

And my dear oldest daughter says, "Mom! I saw you turn on the kitchen sink!" She flies up the stairs to turn off the kitchen sink, but before she can reach the faucet she falls squarely on her heiny. The water has flooded the counter, and spilled, hot and soapy, all over the kitchen floor. Should I remind the gentle reader here that we have porcelain tiles in our kitchen? Mental note to self: porcelain tiles + hot, soapy water = ice rink.

So as 7 children are screaming "GET MORE TOWELS!!" and "EMPTY THE GARBAGE PAILS TO CATCH THE WATER!!!" I am trying to remember when exactly I turned the sink on. Clearly, somewhere in the "I thought I should wash the breakfast dishes" moment, I actually plugged the sink, squirted in the soap, and turned the tap on full hot.

And now I am sitting on the floor, sopping up water from the inside of my cabinets, and the drawers and the entire kitchen counter, trying really hard not to say out loud any of the names I'm calling myself in my head because there are 14 little eyes and ears watching and listeing to see how mom reacts in a crisis.

At one point, my 8 year old who is notorious for saying the funniest things without trying to be funny, is in a full out fit worrying about how this is going to play out, says with great fervor, "And Mom, this better not become a Facebook Status, because this is *NOT* funny!"

Soon, the basement is dried up, the kitchen is dried up, my husband is reassuring the 8 year old that the house is fine, and sound, and no damage done. I am hiding in the garage, giving full vent to all the pent up rage and self-disgust I previously held inside. I hear my husband's loving voice ask one of the girls, "Where's your mom?" and I get the courage to come in and dry my eyes on his shirt collar. He is half laughing at me, half consoling me. I need both to get through this.

I figured I had ruined Christmas Eve. What happened instead was my kids saw that even "the best mom in the world" makes stupid mistakes, which gives them the freedom to try and fail too. And my kitchen floor got "on-your-hands-and-knees-hot-and-soapy-water clean".

All in all, it was the perfect Christmas Eve morning.