July 29, 2011

Little Valley Days

having aunt Angie come for a visit was a special treat for all of us

I've been parenting my children long enough to know that no matter how long or short our visit with grandparents is going to be, I still need to bring at least one change of clothes for each child. We met up at a campsite for a lazy Saturday afternoon lunch, unloaded the kids out of the car and 10 minutes later they were covered in food and dirt from head to toe. Every single one of them dropped half of their noodles covered in pasta sauce (made lovingly by Mark at home) onto their lap, then rolled in the extra dark campground dirt and splashed in a nearby stream and mud puddles for a full effect. Luckily for us, a clean change of clothes was ready for each unrecognizable child. So when we showed up for the Little Valley Days celebration later that evening, nobody could tell that our kids had a food/dust/dirt bath just a few hours earlier (and taking a real bath at grandma's house helped too).

poor Ivy started running fever that night, so I wrapped her and she fell asleep before I was done tying the knot...

July 27, 2011


Sometimes I think that if a person could actually die out of sheer frustration, I'd need to be a Time Lord with at least a few dozen lives to still be alive after 7 years of parenting our spirited children (no mellow ones in our batch, at least not long-term). Last night, as I was encouraging them to get ready for bed (Mark was at a meeting), only to be screamed at in my face every time a bed-time related word came out of my mouth, I was trying really hard to remember what did I see so wonderful about motherhood and parenting in general that would make me enjoy it on most days and even want to have my children around me all day (homeschooling).

Thank goodness for photos, because looking at them I can see those moments that make it worth it. Parenting is not easy, and does not make you (or at least me) feel warm and fuzzy all the time. But those sweet simple moments, when they say 'I love you' out of the blue, draw their first *real* portrait, run up to you bursting with excitement to show you a new 'invention', or simply read quietly in the afternoon... those moments are the ones that outweigh all the frustration, doubts and overwhelmption (just made it up, don't Google it) I encounter daily as a parent. So I'll cling to those moments as much as I can, and keep taking photos of my children when they are sweet, and happy, and play nicely with each other. (they are in the backyard right now, spraying each other with the hose. Elijah says they are looking for rainbows...)

our floor is covered with Legos and Tinker Toys every single day. all that foot pain caused by stepping on them is always paid off by seeing how many creative ideas those guys can come up with while playing.

a daily occurrence - Ivy sitting on top of the kitchen table, very pleased with herself. this girl is a climber. we let her watch Ueli Steck's Eiger speed record too many times.

shoes on wrong feet never stop them.

Anya's hair never quits. "it's alive!"

always spirited. always full of love.

July 26, 2011


We've been really loving it, this backyard of ours. We already have many fond memories created outside, birthday parties, gardening, hula hooping... Little ones often spend good part of their day out in the backyard, either watering plants, themselves or one another. Oftentimes Maya will grab a book, put a chair right in the middle of the grass and spend a good hour or two reading non-stop, like a diver who won't even poke her head out of the water for a breath of air. In those hours, reading IS her air...

I already mentioned how I was thrilled to discover a couple of currant bushes this spring. We weren't sure if they were going to be black or red ones. I was secretly hoping for black, but knew I'd still be delighted with either kind. They turned out to be beautiful shiny bright red currants. And the bushes are full of them.

So far we've eaten them plain, turned them into jam (kids loved our fluffy buttermilk pancakes with it), put them into lemonade and on ice cream.

Now we are waiting for the grapes. Oh yes, we also found a small patch of grape vines draped over our fence. This backyard is full of surprises, and we couldn't be happier with it (unless we could re-landscape it and add some chickens to it :)


After living in our neighbourhood for 7 years, we finally did it - woke up on a July Saturday morning and took our whole family (I guess we just waited until we had 4 kids to bring along, more fun that way, you know) to the hike in honour of the Pioneer Day. We *almost* didn't make it. The hike was supposed to start at 7 a.m., and no matter how determined Mark and I were to get up no later than 6:30, it was 7:04 a.m. on my watch when Mark woke me up. We pulled kids out of bed (they were excited, for the most part), loaded them in the car, armed them with yogurt and spoons, and arrived to the starting point of the hike almost exactly an hour late. We figured if we went pretty fast we would get to the finish (First Encampment Park) not too far behind the early risers group. We ran as much as we could, Ivy on Mark's back, Elijah and Anya in the stroller, and Maya on her own two feet. And when we couldn't run, we walked fast. Maya was a trooper, running/walking most of the 5 mile hike (at about 12 mins/mile pace) with a scraped knee, only taking a short ride in the stroller when she was too tired, during which time Elijah took a turn walking. He did fine, but seemed to have misplaced his walking feet, so back in the stroller he went.

Half an hour later and half way through the hike, we finally called one of our friends who was hiking with the group (full of people who woke up early and left on time) to see where they were. Turns out, they were just a block or two away. We finally caught up with everyone, and joined the 200-ish crowd of people walking to the First Encampment Park. Free breakfast awaiting the hikers was a nice touch (and a nicer one would be scrambled eggs for those who don't eat pancakes). And as for me, I just enjoyed seeing so many people in one place, remembering and celebrating the historical event, or simply enjoying food in the company of friends and neighbours.

Speaking of food, we rewarded ourselves later, with personalized, home-baked (yes, in July), gluten-free pizza and freshly made red currant lemonade (those red currants deserve a post of their own).

July 13, 2011

Something to give

This is exactly what we got for $26 at Farmer's Market on Saturday, minus the spinach bunch, which Maya bought with her own $2. She had $3 burning a whole in her pocket, so she get herself some spinach and gave her last dollar to a little boy playing violin at the market. Remember the piano playing at the market? We got a CD with those 2 guys playing the music. Six tracks, beautifully played on a coolest piano I've ever seen, how could we resist.

On our way home we were waiting at the traffic light to cross the street. Mark started talking to a man with a sign that said something like 'anything helps'. Having just spent every dollar and coin at the Farmer's market, all we could offer was some carrots and a bag of peas (they could be eaten right away), and both were gladly accepted. Mark kept chatting, I was watching kids making sure they wouldn't take off at a busy intersection (they have a history of doing just that). The green light came on and then off, but we were in no rush, enjoying this opportunity to talk to the homeless man (Mark probably asked for his name, but I wouldn't remember anyway, I'm really bad with names).

I wondered how many people went past him that morning, without noticing or trying not to notice. And what would it feel like to stand there and see people looking away in the opposite direction time and time again. I know we've done that in the past too. Not because we had anything against homeless people, but because we simply didn't put much thought and effort into noticing them, acknowledging their presence with either smile and a quick 'hello' or a brief conversation. Somehow, in this past year it started happening, we keep coming across articles, thought-provoking video clips, and just getting all these messages from unexpected places and experiences, telling us that it is not enough to simply *not* be mean or judgmental towards homeless people, that we can do more, we can do better, even if it's something as simple as showing kindness through words or smile.

I never got around to posting about one of my outings with Anya back in May. It was her turn to have one-on-one 'date' with me, so she picked going to the park and feeding the ducks as our activity. I was happily taking photos of Anya throwing corn at the ducks, when we got approached by an older gentleman. You could tell from his weathered skin, infected eye, and worn out clothes, that he's been living on the streets for quite some time. He smiled with a wide toothless smile, and offered Anya some crackers (sealed in a package and unexpired). We started talking but didn't get too far because Anya wanted to go around the pond.

We spent some time walking around, feeding the ducks and taking photos, until we completed the circle and came back to the point where we started, with our new friend sitting on the bench next to all his belongings, sharing his cereal with ducks and pigeons. So we started talking again. I found out a little about his life, where he was from, and also that he used to enjoy old-school photography back in the days. It was fun to discover that we had something in common and he did his best to remember and write down the names of his favorite cameras (spelling Mamiya and Hasselblad was not easy for him), which he probably didn't talk about to anyone in years...

When the time to say our good-byes came, I got brave and asked if I could take a photo of him, to which he graciously agreed and even asked if I was going to put it 'on the internet' (he didn't mind). Then he asked me if he could take a photo of Anya and I (yes, f course!), and I could tell by the expression on his face how excited he was to hold a camera in his old shaky hands again.

It was a memorable outing for both Anya and I (and for this kind old man too, I hope). I pray that as she and all our children keep growing, the message of being kind to people will stay imprinted in their hearts and memories.

yes, he blew us a kiss at the end :)

And lastly, hope you can find a couple of minutes to watch this short clip...

P.S. Speaking of kindness, Nicole just made me cry with her post today. Got another few minutes to spare? Go here and read it, and maybe you will be inspired to 'commit' a random act of kindness too :)