When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
In my day-to-day life, I am really more of a private person by nature. I may not show it outwardly, but I am often nervous in large groups of people, and it takes me a while to feel comfortable enough with someone to share my true thoughts and feelings. The safe walls of the spaces I know well and the familiar faces of the people I am closest to are usually the only ones who see what I'm experiencing inside. Over the past two years, my notebooks and my computer have also become a comfortable place to share who I really am, and through having the courage to publish my stories, I have grown both as a writer and as a person. It's scary sometimes to write from your heart on a page that the whole world can read, but doing so has made me realize that the world is often a much smaller and much friendlier place than it sometimes seems. Though we may be strangers, so many of us are connected to one another through our common human emotions and experiences.
I can't tell you how much it has meant to me to read or to hear your kind comments about how my blog speaks to you in some way. Whether you've tried one of my recipes and enjoyed it, or could relate to one of my frustrating or funny adventures as a parent, or were moved or inspired by my reflections on life, love, grief, or beauty, it has made me so happy to be able to reach you, and to know that there are so many others out there who find meaning and significance in the same things I do. I am grateful for each and every one of you who comes to share this space and these stories.
You may notice today that my web address has changed; yesterday I switched over to my own domain (www.pocketfuls.ca) to make this space I love more personal and to make it easier for others to find me. (Thanks to fellow blogger Summer over at Running Chatter for the technical how-to tips!) I have also recently registered for my first blogger conference, to be held in Toronto in the fall, which I'm very excited about! I'll continue sharing the people, moments, and ideas that are important to me for as long as writing them down continues to bring me joy, and I hope that more of you will share your personal voices in the comments section from now on -- I would love to know more about who you are and what really matters to you.
I still have lots of pockets left to fill -- I hope you do, too! Please do come again soon.
Sunday, May 27, 2012
Thankfully, one thing that seems simple during this hectic time is being able to prepare colourful, healthy, delicious meals for our family in a short amount of time. Warm weather calls for lighter, fresher fare, and all we need is a few pieces of flavourfully seasoned meat or fish to throw on the grill, plus the ingredients to whip up a couple of nutritious salads, and dinner is served!
We recently enjoyed this quick but very tasty meal of grilled tilapia, black bean salad, and spinach salad with mango and sweet red pepper. The recipe for the seasoning mixture is based on one from Canadian Living's The Barbecue Collection cookbook, and the cooking instructions come from Matt, who has some pretty mad skills with the grill!
4 fresh tilapia fillets
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp black pepper
Brush grill with canola oil, then preheat grill to medium heat.
Mix together paprika, sea salt, cumin, and pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle seasoning mixture over both sides of each tilapia fillet, then brush fillets with oil.
Place fish on grill. Cook for 5 minutes on one side, then carefully flip fish fillets once and cook for another 7 minutes on the second side.
Squeeze fresh lime juice over fillets before serving.
The tilapia fillets paired with two summery salads make a beautiful dinner. For the green salad, I simply tossed some baby spinach with some diced fresh mango and sweet red peppers, then added a simple vinaigrette made from freshly squeezed orange juice, white wine vinegar, olive oil, and a bit of dijon mustard, sea salt and pepper. You can find the recipe for the black bean salad here.
Keeping supper simple when the weather is so lovely leaves more time to enjoy some less busy moments outdoors! I hope you and your family are having a chance to enjoy the same this time of year.
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
In the week and a half that has passed since then, Will has taken a very active role in helping me care for the little sunflower seeds. He often waters them before I have a chance to get to them in the morning, and he checks them regularly to see how they've grown. He moves the little flowerpot around to different locations to make sure it is getting the best sun and to protect its delicate little sprouts from a certain cat who sometimes likes to eat plants. He has chosen a perfect spot in our garden for me to plant the sprouts when they're ready, and asks me every day if I think it's time yet to let them out in the big wide world. Will knows that all of his love and care for these little green plants are going to turn them into something beautiful; he tells me how lovely the flowers will be when they finally show their sunshiney faces and how happy they will make us all feel.
I really love those little sunflower sprouts in their precious pot and everything they represent to me. Whenever I am having a moment where I'm being hard on myself, thinking there are many ways in which I could be a better mom, the two eager green shoots remind me that I'm growing something really special, too. I think of Will so tenderly caring for those little seeds and it makes me smile and ease up on myself, knowing as a gardener that a beautiful boy, like a beautiful flower, is almost always the product of knowing love.
Sunday, May 20, 2012
The swingset beckoned to the boys tonight after dinner. It was an absolutely beautiful evening, filled with the gentler rays of the sun, a light breeze in the trees, and the lovely sounds of birds chirping their last melodies of the day. Noah and Will each chose their favourite swing, and in no time at all, they were flying through the air, laughing and calling greetings to each other as they passed back and forth, flinging their shoes off their feet towards the sky, revelling in the feeling of air rushing freely past their smiling faces and bare toes.
Friday, May 18, 2012
When I came across this recipe for dairy-free chocolate pudding created by Angela Liddon of Oh She Glows, I knew right away that I could make the boys' fudgesicle wishes come true. The pudding is made from avocado (yes, avocado!), a fruit that is high in fibre, omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, and vitamins and that makes a delightfully smooth and rich pudding base when it is pureed. I made a few changes to Angela's recipe, poured the pudding into stainless steel popsicle molds, and a few hours later we had some oh-so-good (and better for you) frosty fudge pops!
Frosty fudge pops
3 medium-sized avocados, pitted and skin removed
1 cup almond milk
2/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 tbsp cashew butter (you could also use peanut butter or almond butter)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp cocoa powder
Place all ingredients in a food processor. Process until mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally to make sure all ingredients are well mixed in.
Spoon pudding into popsicle molds and add a popsicle stick to each one. Place molds in freezer for several hours, or until fudge pops are frozen solid.
I am usually not a mom who plays "sneaky chef" with her kids; despite the fact that Noah and Will are both quite picky eaters, I continue to put a wide variety of healthy foods in front of them in plain sight daily in the hopes that eventually, they will decide to eat something new. But I have to admit that I did not tell them what the secret ingredient is in these fudge pops. They are so opposed to avocados in their green form that I knew they would refuse to try these healthier pops if they knew. After trying the pudding, though, both boys gave it an enthusiastic "thumbs up" (and I thought it was the best chocolate pudding I've ever tasted!). My secret is safe until they read this blog post....
I hope you all have a wonderful long weekend!
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
I have written before about the mountains of stuff Noah has lost, either temporarily or permanently, over the past few years, and you would think that by this point I would be losing my mind with frustration. But while Noah was really upset and worried when he realized he had forgotten his jeans and favourite t-shirt on an outside step in the school yard, I was thinking of all of the other incredible things he's done with his beautiful mind lately, and I found it easy to forgive him for not focusing on the little details.
A few weeks ago, Noah was one of several students chosen from the grade 5 classes at his school to write the Gauss Math Contest. (I guess all of that math he's been teaching Maggie has been useful to him, too!) When he came home after writing the contest, he told me that it seemed to go pretty well, and then the subject didn't come up again for awhile. Last Friday, Noah came out of school at the end of the day with a big grin on his face and very modestly said, "Mom, I came first in the math contest." I congratulated him excitedly, and told him how wonderful I thought his accomplishment was, really impressed that he had placed first out of all of the bright grade 5 students in his school.
It wasn't until dinnertime, when we were sharing with Matt the details of our day, that Noah clarified he had come first out of all of the bright grade 5 students in the entire school board! Now, I don't want to seem like a mom who brags endlessly about her brainy boys, but I was filled with such a sense of awe at this discovery that I can't help but share it. I just take one look at Noah, with his intelligence, his determination, his commitment, and his kind, kind heart, and I'm moved to tears both by who he is and what he is capable of becoming.
It is not simply Noah's math skills that have had this effect on me; it's the fact that lately, everything he puts himself into results in something wonderful that makes my heart swell with pride and love. He has shown such dedication to his swimming and running in recent months -- we cheered him on wildly as he tirelessly completed a difficult 200 length, two hour swim one recent Saturday morning, and raced to a second place finish in the 1500m at this week's school track meet. He's demonstrated a great loyalty to his friends and a desire to support them during difficult times, as is evident in the way he just enthusiastically signed up for a hockey skills development camp fundraiser to help his close friend's dad, when he's never played organized hockey a day in his life. He has shown a capacity to feel and write beautifully from his heart, with this sweet poem he wrote for me for Mother's Day:
How could I not fall more and more in love with this wonderful boy as each breathtaking new leaf on the tree of his life unfolds before me?
I don't know what other things Noah will lose in the coming months and years; I'm pretty sure I won't be able to keep track of them all. But Noah makes up for it a million times over in the joy he lets me find every day in knowing him and being his mom.
Monday, May 14, 2012
The strength and togetherness of the Gehl family in the face of such stress is inspiring, to say the least. Rick, who has always been a warm, kind, and hilariously funny man, still often shows up in the school yard to meet his children at the end of the day, and the smile on his face does not reveal even a hint of the war he's waging inside his body. He is facing his illness with optimism, telling jokes and speaking candidly about what he's going through, and showing the world just how far a positive attitude will take you. As is evident in their daily lives and in the heartfelt messages they've written for Rick on the website the family has set up to share their story, Carole and Jess and Christian are with Rick every step of the way; they are lifting each other up with their love when the weight of what they're facing falls heavily on any of them.
Rick, Carole, Jess and Christian are surrounded by a wonderfully supportive network of extended family and friends who are helping them in various ways during this time. A one day hockey camp for kids aged 6 to 12 has been organized as a fundraiser, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to assist Rick with the financial burdens of his battle against cancer. If you know children in the K-W area who would be interested in a fun day of hockey skill development on the ice, games in the gym, and lifeguard supervised swimming, please consider signing them up for this event. (You can find more information about both the camp and Rick's story here.) If you live outside of K-W or do not know any young hockey fans, then please lend your support for Rick and his family in the form of positive thoughts or prayers. Both Rick and Carole have said how difficult it is for them to accept others' help, even though they are so very grateful for all of the kindness being shown to them. Knowing how much they have given to others just by being themselves makes me certain that there is no one more deserving of all the support we can give.
Our hearts and thoughts are with you and your family every day, Rick. Keep up the good fight with hope and courage, knowing that there are many, many people in your corner.
Friday, May 11, 2012
One morning earlier this week (when I was obviously within earshot), Will was asking Noah if he was making me anything for Mother's Day. Noah said that he was, but that he wouldn't tell Will about it because I could hear him and it would ruin the surprise. I got the sense that Will was fishing around for ideas, because he hadn't yet quite figured out what his "something GREAT" was going to be. I told the boys that in my eyes, a "gift" could be anything sweet or thoughtful or kind that they did, and that while I very much appreciated special handmade gifts they might wrap up and give me, I was just as fond of nice gestures like hugs, or hearing heartfelt words, or sharing happy times with my boys.
After school that same afternoon, Will could barely contain his excitement about a school assembly that was taking place the next morning. The assembly was going to recognize all of the children (including Will) who had raised money for KidsAbility (a local organization that helps children with special needs) by running in the 3k MudPuppy Chase last Sunday, and the top two fundraisers were going to get to THROW A PIE in their TEACHERS' FACES!! The thought of this was absolutely glorious to Will, and he kept saying over and over to me, "Mom, you HAVE to come to this assembly!"
Normally, as a stay-at-home parent, I'm easily able to go to these kinds of school functions on short notice. But this particular assembly was taking place on a school pizza day, and it was scheduled to go almost until lunchtime. Because Will can't eat the pizza the school orders due to his food sensitivities, on pizza days I usually bake him a pizza he can eat and deliver it, still warm, to his classroom so he won't feel left out. He really looks forward to that special lunch treat. There was no way that particular morning for me to be both present at the assembly and make Will his pizza for lunch, too. I presented this dilemma to Will, and told him that while I would love to come to the assembly, it would mean that he would have to have something other than pizza for lunch. I left the decision completely in his hands and told him I would do whatever he preferred. He looked me straight in the eye, and without a moment's hesitation said, "Oh Mom, I want you to come to the assembly."
My son chose me being present at an event that was important to him over one of his absolute favourite foods. I think he's already given me something GREAT, ALL BY HIMSELF.
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Sunday, May 6, 2012
One morning last week I was out checking things off my to-do list, and I decided to stop in at the library to bring home some new books for the boys. As I turned into the parking lot, I saw a cute little three-or-so year old boy, wearing a bright red t-shirt, blue shorts, and cheerful yellow rainboots, standing on the side of the parking lot with his dad. I stopped to let them cross in front of me, and the little boy, who was holding his dad's hand, looked right at me and smiled... and my heart made some strange little thud and I was filled with a sudden ache and sadness. I remembered all the times I came to this library with my own boys when they were so cute and little, how their warm, small hands felt held snugly in mine when we crossed the same road. It suddenly felt lonely to be heading to the children's section of the library on my own, even though moments before I had been very content flying solo. I had a moment of wondering how we got "here" so quickly, and where the boys' early childhoods had gone, even though when I was living them, those days sometimes seemed like they would never end.
Time is a funny thing. It moves ever onward, but our minds and our memories make that movement seem anything but linear. Our lives roll more like the waves of an ocean, ebbing and flowing, moving forwards and then backwards as our focus constantly shifts from present to future to past. Sometimes we swell and rush ahead, driving ourselves headlong into what life holds next for us; sometimes we hover briefly on the crest of a perfect moment, enjoying the indescribable beauty of "now", holding our breath and wishing nothing would ever change. There are days when it feels like the ocean is too still, and we long desperately for a wind to bring about a shift of some kind. Sometimes, a moment will suddenly catch us off-guard, and pull us back years, stirring up memories like millions of grains of sand on the shore before heaving us forward once again, leaving us gasping for air. What an incredible experience it is to be human, to live all of this at once, to know the emotional richness of a life layered with past memories, present experiences, and future hopes and dreams.
My moment of sadness at the library last week passed rather quickly. When I met the boys at school at the end of the day, I was reminded of how much I love their 8 and 10 year old company, and of how much happiness watching them discover the world and themselves in their own ways brings to my everyday life right now. I wouldn't have traded this weekend for any other time we've known as I stood proudly and watched Noah swim 5 kilometres in 2 hours with great focus and determination, and saw Will run his first 3 kilometre race in 16 minutes with a huge smile on his face. Life today is incredibly and incomparably sweet. I know, though, that sometime again, I will see some cute little boy in yellow rainboots, and wish just for a second that I could go back. In its own way, that inevitable human longing has a certain sweetness, too.
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
I just recently discovered The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook after hearing my ND rave about it, and I know now why she loves it so much. (Thanks for the recommendation, Anita!) The book celebrates eating in a way that is both healing for the body and pleasing to the tastebuds, and it is loaded with delicious whole foods recipes that are gluten, dairy, and egg-free, as well as many pages of useful information about the health benefits of a whole foods diet, tips for eating organic, how to stock a pantry, food sensitivities, and much more. I love that the authors encourage their readers to make small changes, one step at a time, to improve their overall health -- I, too, believe that philosophy leads to success. You can learn more about this cookbook and find more excellent recipes on Ali and Tom's The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen blog.
Homemade Cinnamon Spiced Granola
3 cups rolled oats (I use Bob's Red Mill pure oats, which are certified wheat-free)
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup coarsely chopped almonds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 300 F. Place the rolled oats, walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, coconut, spices, and salt in a large bowl. Stir until well mixed.
Add the maple syrup, melted coconut oil, and vanilla to the oat mixture. Stir with a large wooden spoon until all ingredients are well combined.
Spread granola mixture onto a large baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 40 minutes, turning mixture with a spatula every 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool completely. (If you wish, you can stir in dried fruit such as raisins, cranberries, apples and/or cherries at this point. I prefer fresh fruit to dried, so I left the dried fruit out.) Store in a tightly sealed glass jar. Makes approximately 5 cups.
This granola was easy and fun to make (Will really enjoyed helping!), and once it's prepared, it's perfect for a quick, healthy breakfast in a bowl with some fresh fruit and organic milk or almond milk added to it. Mmmm!
If you prefer something a little more fun and fancy in the morning, you can do what I did and use this granola to make a breakfast parfait. Because I have a sensitivity to dairy, I created my parfait using cashew cream instead of plain yogourt. (*See instructions below for how to make your own cashew cream.) For fruit, I used PC Organics frozen Power Fruit Blend, which contains dark sweet cherries, blueberries, and blackberries (but any fresh fruit when it's in season will be delicious, too!) Simply layer the fruit, then a dollop of cashew cream, then some homemade granola in a glass, and repeat until the glass is full. I haven't eaten anything like this since I found out I could no longer consume dairy, and let me tell you, this parfait was gloriously good!
*You can make cashew cream very easily by blending 1/2 cup of raw cashews with 1/4 cup of cold water in a high speed blender. I soaked my cashews in cold water in the fridge overnight to make them softer and easier to blend. Strain and rinse cashews before placing in your blender, and then add fresh water. I used half of the cashew cream in this parfait, and saved the other half in the fridge for another day.)
Choosing nourishing whole foods for the entire family for breakfast is a great way to get off to a good start in the morning. With a little bit of advance planning and prep work, it's easy to send everyone out the door feeling energetic and ready to face the day with a smile.