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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My mom, the Hallowe'en costume genius

A few evenings ago I went to take care of the last little details for the boys' store-bought Hallowe'en costumes. Noah's Annoying Orange suit needed some better velcro sewn onto it, and Will's football jersey was waiting for me to iron on numbers of his choosing.  After I almost burned the jersey with the iron, realized that I had put the number 8 on upside-down, and decided that Noah's costume would work just fine with a safety pin rather than new velcro, I suddenly realized how much I appreciated all of my mom's work to dress my brothers and me in creative costumes every Hallowe'en when we were kids.  (Why is it that children never really appreciate their mothers until they are much, much older?)

The process of getting together Hallowe'en costumes rarely involved a trip to a department store when I was young.  My mom was a Hallowe'en costume genius, and when October rolled around, she would think, and sew, and look for objects we already had around the house, and come up with costumes that were unique (and sometimes crazy-fun!)  We were ghosts with neckties and tiny hats, clowns in brightly patterned suits my mom sewed herself, and favourite action figures and doll characters modelled after toys we played with.


Some years things got a little wild, like the year my brothers dressed as a gangster and some weird kind of alien, and my mom smeared corn syrup on their faces to stick on coffee grounds for a beard, and Cheerios and glitter for... well, I don't know what for, but it was interesting (and also very gross)!!


My mom often came up with a great costume for herself as well, and joined in the Hallowe'en fun.


Have I mentioned before what a good-natured man my dad is?  Yes, that is him in the back, after my mom dressed him in a red nightshirt and striped cap and put a Kermit the Frog face on him. 

My favourite costume idea from my mom, though, was the one she came up with when I was a teenager and decided kind of last minute one year that I needed a costume for a party or something.  My mom went to take a look through my old dance costumes and emerged with a funfur trimmed, leopard print unitard and the brilliant suggestion that I could go as a cavewoman.  I was not keen on any idea that involved me wearing a skin-tight unitard out in public, but my protests did not stop my mom.  She walked through the house looking for a solution, and lo and behold, when she walked into the basement laundry room, there was an old, shaggy, goldy-brown mat on the floor in front of the sink.  My mother triumphantly picked up that mat, wrapped it around my unitard-clad body, worked some magic with frayed rope over my shoulder and around my waist, and there in that instant, a more modest cavewoman was born.  To complete the look, my mom saved some bones from dinner later that week and tied them into my hair.  I challenge you to show me a better cavewoman get-up from any Hallowe'en costume store!

If you're ever unimpressed by the store-bought Hallowe'en costume options out there for your family, channel my mom's creativity and come up with something great on your own!  You may need to look no further than your kitchen cupboards or your laundry room floor.

Happy Hallowe'en everyone!  (And thanks, Mom, for making our Hallowe'ens so much fun!)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hallowe'en snack attack (two fun and healthy recipes for kids)

Every October, from the time the boys were very small, our family has always chosen a beautiful fall weekend day to make a trip to a local pumpkin patch. It's so much fun to be outdoors, surrounded by gorgeous colours, breathing in the crisp autumn air under a blue sky while taking our time choosing the perfect pumpkins to carve into jack-o-lanterns for Hallowe'en. This year, though, we were busy most October weekends, and we left the picking of pumpkins for this past weekend when we finally had some free afternoons. Apparently, the weather had other plans. When it came to Sunday afternoon, and the rain hadn't let up at all, and Hallowe'en was only a few days away, we all looked at each other, came to a unanimous decision to bail on the pumpkin patch (which was sure to be a swampy mess), and instead took a two minute family drive to the neighbourhood grocery store. The four of us ran through the cold drizzle to the parking lot pumpkin display, quickly threw any two pumpkins that looked passable into a cart, paid for them, and ran back to the car, where we then laughed hysterically about our most pathetic pumpkin acquisition ever. Sometimes the most unphoto-worthy moments make fun family memories, too!

The rainy weather was good for something, though:  we did have some fun in the kitchen making up a few healthy Hallowe'en themed snacks to enjoy this week.  If you're looking for a creative way to fuel up your ghouls and boys with nutritious foods before Hallowe'en, these recipes might just do the trick!

Green Monster Smoothies (dairy and gluten-free)

I am a huge fan of Angela Liddon's (Oh She Glows) Green Monster Smoothies.  I blend one up in the morning several times a week for myself and love it as a quick, healthy breakfast or snack.  Yesterday I thought I'd try to entice the boys to drink one, too, by having them each draw a monster face on a clear glass mug with a black dry-erase marker, and then serving them a smoothie in it.  Noah and Will still wouldn't drink the green smoothie (sigh), but they did have fun drawing faces on mugs, and the dry erase marker wiped off easily afterwards.  If your children are not revolted by the sight of green things that have been pulverized in a blender, then you may want to try making them either Angela's original version, or my own favourite variation of the Green Monster Smoothie below -- they really are delicious!

1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tbsp chia seeds

1 tbsp cashew butter
2 handfuls of organic baby spinach
half a mango, peeled and diced
1 small frozen ripe banana

Place all ingredients in the order given in a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour smoothie into a glass (with a monster face drawn on it!) and enjoy.

Determined to come up with a healthy Hallowe'en snack that my boys would eat, I decided to experiment with raw cashews and pumpkin puree to make a tasty dip for apple slices and carrot sticks.  I was really pleased with what I ended up with -- the dip was flavourful, nutritious, and a hit with the whole family.

Pumpkin Cashew Dip (dairy and gluten-free)

1/2 cup raw cashews (plus enough water to just cover them)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 tbsp unsweetened almond milk
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Place the cashews in a Magic Bullet or blender with enough water to just cover them.  Blend the cashews and water until smooth and creamy.  Scoop the cashew cream into a mixing bowl.
Add the pumpkin puree, almond milk, maple syrup, and cinnamon to the bowl.  Mix all ingredients until they are well combined.  Spoon the dip into a mini pumpkin that has been hollowed out, and serve it with apple slices and/or carrot and celery sticks.  Yum! 

I hope for all of the kids' sake that the rain will hold off long enough Wednesday for trick-or-treating.  Somehow I don't think a quick dash to the grocery store would quite cut it in that case.  Have a safe and happy Hallowe'en!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ten things you've probably never said to your children

Have you ever listened to yourself speaking to your children and realized suddenly that what you're saying is completely absurd?

Today I'm participating in a Writer's Workshop hosted by Mama Kat over at Mama's Losin' It.  She has invited other bloggers to write and share a post based on one of the interesting prompts she provided.  When I saw "Write a list of ten things you have said to your kids that other moms might not say" as a subject option, I knew I had to join in!  Have you met Noah and Will?  Bizarre phrases come out of my mouth on a daily basis around our house.

Here are ten things I've said to the boys that you'll likely not hear other moms saying:

1.  I would really like to know how you got pine needles in your underwear.

2.  Sorry, but I don't think the guinea pig wants to go for a ride in the ferris wheel you built her out of K'Nex.

3.  Are you sure you want to wear this Speedo for gym class today? 

4.  No, you may not have the parts from the broken water cooler/ old microwave / lawn tractor to make yourself a jet pack.

5.  Why is your housecoat hanging from your blinds?

6.  I hope that trap you built on the swing set wasn't intended for me.

7.  I'm trusting that if I leave you home alone for a little while, I will not find a zip line running from our roof to the top of the giant willow tree when I come back.

8.  Go get the bag of cat treats so you can show me again how you've taught the cat to do math!

9.  Hmmm, that's odd -- suddenly I'm noticing random green berries on my red berry table centrepiece.  Wait.... are those shriveled up PEAS from last night's dinner?!

10.  Who's been making brains in the bathroom again?

Looking for some more entertaining stories to read?  Head on over to Mama's Losin' It to see what other writers were inspired to share. (And please tell us the ridiculous things you've said to your children in the comments section below!)  Happy Thursday.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Letting go

 When you were little, I was always so sweetly moved by your attachment to your "guys", the collection of special stuffed critters that shared your world.  You fed them Cheerios in measuring cups at your little toy kitchen counter, gently dressed them in doll clothes that were mine when I was a young girl, had marvelous birthday parties for them, and told them the most wonderful, creative stories. You loved those guys with your whole heart, and when I saw you with them tucked carefully under your little arm (or tied around your waist with a piece of string so you could keep them close to you while your hands were busy), you made me feel so deeply that you were my guy, a boy whom I loved with my whole heart and would never, ever let go.

Somewhere along the way, you stopped carrying your guys around under your arm all the time, as other interests and activities piqued your growing curiosity and led you down different fascinating paths.  Those guys always had their special place in your room, though, in a basket right beside your bed, with each of them having turns to be the centre of attention when you had some time to give them.  Slowly over the years, that time grew smaller and smaller as your days filled with older boy pursuits. Then last week, on a day one of your friends was coming over after school, I was putting laundry away in your room and I suddenly found your basket of guys shoved way back in the corner of your closet, and covered up with a backpack. While I understood why they were there, and had known for some time that this day was coming, the sight of your beloved guys hidden away in the dark made me feel sad, as if a little hole had just been punched in my heart.

Little boys cannot go on forever carrying stuffed animals under their arms, it's true; time moves on and little boys become big boys and then young men who need to find their own place in the world. Moms know this, and yet, it is sometimes still so hard for them to let go of their children bit by bit, in the same way their children let go of their squishy, well-loved childhood companions. Moms know that the big, real world is not as safe a place as the imaginary ones their children created in the shelter of a loving home and family, and that people are not always as kind or as accepting as the stuffed guys whose soft, open arms were always ready for hugs and who loved unconditionally. Moms are conflicted between wanting to protect their growing children from situations and people who will make them doubt themselves and the things they most believe in, and knowing that it is through these very kinds of experiences that their children will build confidence and stronger convictions as they grow into adulthood.

Your years of caring for, entertaining, and loving your collection of guys has shown me so much about who you are.  You are smart, and creative, and sensitive, and kind; you're sure of yourself and proud of who you've become so far.  I have to trust that these wonderful qualities about you will lead you down a happy path as you walk a little more on your own with each passing year.  I hope you will remember to listen to your own heart, to surround yourself with people who will let you be the beautiful person you are, and to communicate to others that you accept and appreciate them for who they are, too.

On the day that you hid your guys away in the closet, you reconsidered later that evening, and the basket once again now sits beside your bed.  I'm not so naive as to think it will always stay there; one day, I know, you will outgrow those little guys for good.  I hope you know that even though you may think you've "outgrown" your mom in many ways, too (and I'm trying really hard to give you some space), I will always still be here whenever you change your mind.  My arms are forever open, ready always to give you hugs and unconditional love.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A healthier Hallowe'en (allergy-friendly and better-for-you treats)

Our house is abuzz with Hallowe'en excitement these days.  The boys each chose their costumes a few weeks ago (The Annoying Orange for Noah and a Green Bay Packers football player for Will) and this week the two of them are starting to plan their trick-or-treating strategy in earnest.  I remember being a kid and how exciting Hallowe'en night was as we all pretended to be something other than ourselves for awhile and hoped we'd get lots of our favourite treats as we ran from door to door in our neighbourhood.  I love watching the boys experience that same thrill every year.

Hallowe'en looks different in our house now, though, than it did several years ago.  When you learn that your child has multiple food sensitivities, Hallowe'en becomes a bit of a nightmare at first for reasons other than the ghosts and goblins.  The first year we knew Will couldn't eat dairy, gluten, eggs, and peanuts, I realized as the time for trick-or-treating approached that the vast majority of treats he collected would be off-limits for him to consume afterwards.  I felt terrible for him (because how do you explain that to a five year old in a way that he will accept?), so to try and make his Hallowe'en special, I decided to put together a little surprise bag for him (containing a new book, a few of Will's favourite collectibles like hockey cards and Lego or Playmobil minifigures, and a couple of treats that he could eat), so that he would have something fun to trade his candy bag for when he came back home from trick-or-treating.  I worried that Will, who is completely consumed with "fairness", might not think this was a very good deal, but thankfully I was wrong.  He loved his special surprise bag, and didn't even bat an eyelash when he handed over all of his chocolate bars and caramels and other Hallowe'en loot.

Having to deal with food sensitivities and Hallowe'en has caused our whole family to re-evaluate how we celebrate this fun night.  Noah decided a couple of years ago that he, too, would trade his bag of candy for a surprise bag.  I think he has realized that while the thought of all that candy is appealing at first, he really just doesn't need to eat a giant bag full of sugar.   On Hallowe'en night now, both boys dump their loot on the kitchen table when they get home, oooh and ahhh over it all, choose a few of their favourite (and in Will's case, safe) treats to keep, and then give the rest of it to Matt and I in exchange for a few non-candy surprises.  We donate all of the hard candy to the boys' school for the after Hallowe'en candy drive (the candy is sent to poor countries to offer to starving children as a means of encouraging their appetites, so that they will want to eat something more nourishing afterwards), and the other treats we send into Matt's office to share with co-workers.  (I have heard recently that some hospitals may also accept Hallowe'en candy donations for children in their pediatric ward, so I plan to look into that option as well.)

While I am all for kids having treats in moderation for special occasions, I've become aware through our family's food experiences that some treats are better choices than others, and now I choose even the candy I hand out to other trick-or-treaters more carefully.   We have found a few brands of candy that are free of the most common allergens and do not contain artificial flavours or dyes (which many children are sensitive to), so that is what we hand out to everyone who comes to our door. I also purchase dark chocolate bars for the boys at Hallowe'en, because they are a healthier treat choice than many of the other kinds of chocolate bars they get in their trick-or-treat bags (ones that contain hydrogenated oils, milk fats, corn syrup, and artificial flavours).  These are some of our favourite better-for-you spooky sweets:

YummyEarth lollipops (Free of gluten, dairy, nuts, soy, corn syrup, and artificial colours and flavours, these lollipops come in a variety of fun and tasty flavours.  They are often available in Canada at Winners and Homesense stores.)

YummyEarth gummy bears (Like the lollipops, these gummy little guys are also free of gluten, dairy, nuts, soy, corn syrup, and artificial colours and flavours.  I often find bags of the snack packs at Winners and Homesense, too.)

Florida's Natural nuggets  (These chewy fruit candies have fruit purees and fruit juices as their first ingredients, and they are also free of gluten, dairy, nuts, preservatives, and artificial flavours and colours.  I bought a box of Hallowe'en sized packages at Costco in Canada.  *Please note that the ingredients list on the ones I purchased is different from the one in the link posted here, so you will want to check the label on the package before buying if allergies are a concern.)

Camino dark chocolate pieces and bars  (*Note:  Camino chocolate bars have "may contain traces of" warnings on the labels for things like wheat and dairy, and some of their flavours include nuts.  Will is able to eat the little dark chocolate squares and the almond butter chocolate bar without issue, but read labels carefully if allergies are a concern.)

Endangered Species dark chocolate squares  (Specially packaged for Hallowe'en, these squares are certified gluten-free, vegan, and non-GMO.  However, the label does indicate a "may contain" warning for nuts and milk.) 

Eating less candy on Hallowe'en night and in the days that follow it has not at all dampened Noah and Will's enthusiasm for the holiday.  For them, the fun of visiting neighbours after dark in creative costumes and enjoying a few special treats is all they really need. I don't think of Hallowe'en as a nightmare anymore; I'm glad that the changes we had to make have helped to teach our whole family that we can have fun even without excessive sugar.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fashion forward

This weekend I am heading to Toronto to attend Blissdom Canada 2012, an exciting conference that gathers women in social media together to connect with, learn from, and be inspired by one another.  I am very much looking forward to participating in informative sessions, listening to influential speakers, and meeting hundreds of other women in our country who contribute their voices to the web.  Because this is the first time I've attended a conference like Blissdom, I'm also feeling somewhat nervous, and have been spending a lot of time this week getting organized and attending to little details to make sure that things will go as smoothly as possible. 

At our family's dinner table the other night, I was running some outfit ideas by Matt as I planned what I was going to pack clothes-wise.  I don't have any female opinions in the house to consult in these matters (unless you count Maggie the cat, who is not much help to me because her only opinions about clothes revolve around whether they're comfortable to lie on or not), but Matt is a very good listener and always does his best to offer sincere and thoughtful comments.  When Will heard me talking about clothes, his ears perked up and he immediately and enthusiastically offered himself up as my personal fashion consultant.  (He considers himself an expert in "fashion ladies", as he calls them, because a) he has seen innumberable Reitman's commercials over the past couple of years while watching The Weather Network in the morning and b) he regularly studies the cover of my "Chant-a-layne" magazine when it arrives in the mail every month.)

I listened to Will with fascination as he excitedly started describing a potential outfit that would make me be "really fashionable" at the conference.  I was instructed to wear a top "something like" what I was already wearing (a cami with a light tie-up sweater over it), with a necklace (this was very important, he thought), and the absolute skinniest pair of jeans I have.  When I asked Will what I should wear on my feet with this outfit he was planning for me, he thought for a moment and then answered confidently, "Skateboard shoes."  But the best advice came next, when Will suddenly jumped up from the table and proceeded to explain (and demonstrate with zeal!) how a "fashion lady" walks.  He told me I needed to put my hands on my butt cheeks, "like this":

and then he showed me, in slow-motion, how to use my hands to propel each leg and shoulder forward in a grotesquely exaggerated side-to-side swaying motion, with my head held high and a haughty look on my face.  When I turned my eyes away for a minute to wipe away tears of laughter, Will admonished me and instructed me very seriously to "watch more carefully" while he demonstrated what to do if I wanted to be SUPER fashionable.  So I stared intently while he showed me exactly how to walk with my legs criss-crossing wildly in front of one another with each step (and with my hands still on my butt, of course.) 


I never imagined a simple question about outfits would result in a full-fledged pre-conference workshop, but I'm so glad to be in the know now!  (And by the way, if any other Blissdom attendees would like to learn Will's fashion secrets before the weekend, he's offering an intensive crash course this evening at a special Blissdom rate.  Message me for details.)

If you happen to be at Blissdom this weekend, I'll be the one in the really skinny jeans and skateboard shoes with my hands on my butt, walking with a leg-crossing motion that is likely to dislocate one of my 40-year-old hips.  Be sure to stop and say hello!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Butternut squash and red lentil soup (dairy-free)

Chilly fall weather that results in red noses and frosty fingertips calls for soup for lunch, plain and simple.  There is nothing nicer after an invigorating walk among the beautiful colours and crisp, cool air than coming home to a warm home and a steaming bowl of something fragrant and delicious to eat.  Today's soup recipe is one I make often in the fall and winter seasons because I enjoy it so much.  It is loaded with nutritious orange vegetables and nicely flavoured with ginger and cinnamon, and the addition of some red lentils gives the soup a healthy boost of protein.

Butternut Squash and Red Lentil Soup

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, cored, peeled, and chopped
1/2 cup dry red lentils
1 L vegetable stock (I use Imagine brand low-sodium organic vegetable broth, which is gluten-free)
1 cup water
sea salt, to taste

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, ginger, and cinnamon and saute for a few minutes, until the onion is soft.
Add the squash, carrots, apple, lentils, vegetable stock and water to the pot and turn the heat up to high. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for approximately 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
Remove the pot from the heat. Using a hand-held immersion blender, puree the soup in the pot until it is smooth. (If you don't have an immersion blender, you could transfer the soup to a blender in batches and puree it that way.)
Season the soup with sea salt to your liking, and serve it hot.  Leftover portions freeze really well in glass Mason jars!

This soup is quite simple to make, but the results are really impressive.  A bowl full of this smooth, golden liquid is a wonderful way to both fill up your belly and warm up your body (and those of the ones you love)!

Monday, October 15, 2012

La belle feuille

The gusty autumn winds and chilly, frost-covered mornings of the past several days have proven to be too much for the aging leaves that were still delicately clinging to their branches in our neighbourhood.  Where last week I was looking out my kitchen window at a tree that glowed orange and golden like fire against the backdrop of a crisply brilliant blue sky, on Saturday morning I watched as the leaves from that same tree made their fluttering descent to the ground in a beautiful parade of luminescence, revelling in a last moment of glory before returning to the earth that gave birth to them. Our morning walks to school now are on sidewalks covered with scattered leaves that rustle and crunch as we step through them; our breath makes frosty clouds in the air and our noses are filled with the earthy scent of autumn.  There is sometimes a sense of sadness in these changes, it's true -- the howling winds seem harsh in certain moments, and the tree branches look lonely now as they reach their empty arms towards the sky.  Being in the company of a thoughtful boy who finds something beautiful in all of this, though, always helps to keep things in perspective.

One recent morning I was walking briskly with my eyes straight ahead and my hands jammed into my pockets, as if trying to somehow outrun the chilliness of the air around me.  Will was trailing several feet behind me as he often does, and his eyes swept the area around him in search of something that might catch his interest.  He suddenly called to me with excitement, and when I turned around he was beaming and holding a perfect maple leaf almost the size of his face.  The leaf was completely unflawed; its surfaces hadn't succumbed to the influences of wind and rain like the many curled brown leaves around it had, and it radiated gorgeous hues of red tinged with yellow. How Will noticed that one brilliant leaf among the hundreds of other fallen ones that were piled all over the grass and sidewalk, I don't know, but his discovery made me remember once again that there are always moments of beauty and inspiration around us if we keep our hearts open to finding them.

Will has forever been a keen observer and a boy who marvels at the extraordinary things he sees within the ordinary. His senses are extremely fine-tuned, and the many feelings he gets from his experiences can fill him to overflowing. There are times when this has made things difficult at home, and it's hard for me not to become frustrated when he repeatedly complains about his feet feeling too squished in socks, or his banana being either too firm or too mushy, or about how he can't sleep if the cat is looking at him.  But when he sees elaborate pictures in his piece of toast, or compliments me on a pretty new scarf, or finds a beautiful leaf resting quietly on the ground and shows it to me with joy in his eyes, I'm so very glad for his sensitivity. He can light up my world and put a smile on my face even on the grayest, coldest, rainiest day of the fall season. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Thank you

It's over!

After a very crazy and exhilarating last two days of voting, I'm thrilled to say that Pocketfuls finished in the #6 spot out of 104 blogs in the Top 25 Canadian Moms Contest! Your enthusiasm helped launch this blog to a finish waaaaayyyy beyond what I had hoped for when I first entered the contest. In the words of my 11 year old son Noah, "That was epic." :)

As a top 25 finisher, I will have my blog featured on the Circle of Moms site, which has a readership of six million moms. From a writer's perspective, the opportunity to get my work out to so many new readers is really exciting! I hope that you'll continue to visit here, and to find something in my words that will be helpful to you, or will make you laugh, or will touch your heart somehow.

I know I've said it many times throughout this contest, but honestly, "thank you" doesn't really seem sufficient for the support so many of you have shown. You helped make this such a fun and happy experience for me, and I'm quite moved by the kindness and encouragement you've given. I very heartily and sincerely appreciate it all.

Thank you again, everyone!  Have a wonderful weekend.   xo ~ Lisa

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Short-term memory

At Noah and Will's school, one of the requirements of students once they reach the junior grades is to bring a change of clothes for gym days.  I like to encourage the boys to be responsible for more of their own stuff as they get older, so when Noah reached grade four and started needing gym clothes two to three times a week, I made it his job to take the used gym clothes out of his bag when he came home, put them in the laundry basket, and replace them with a fresh set of gym clothes on the days when he needed them.  While Noah is very good at remembering to take the used clothes out of his backpack, he still sometimes needs reminding on the morning of gym days about the putting new clothes in bit.  I'm okay with that, though -- it's a learning curve, right?

Yesterday morning, I was very pleasantly surprised when Noah remembered, completely of his own accord, that he should put gym clothes in his backpack, and it wasn't even gym day yet.  Turns out he was confused about what day of the week it was because of the holiday Monday, but still, I praised him for being organized ahead of time and encouraged him to put the clothes in his bag, anyway, so that he wouldn't have to think about it again the next morning.  I sent Noah off to school feeling really good about the fact that my sometimes scatterbrained (though very intelligent) son seemed to be getting better at thinking about the little day-to-day details as he got older.

When Noah arrived home from school yesterday afternoon, I checked his school agenda, signed it, and was putting it back in his bag when I noticed the crumpled up wad of still-clean gym clothes sitting in the bottom of his backpack.  Because crumpled up wads of clothes drive my neat-freak self crazy, I pulled the gym clothes out of Noah's bag to smooth them and fold them nicely, and that's when I made an interesting discovery.  Noah had packed a t-shirt in his bag; that was fine.  But to go with it, he had absent-mindedly grabbed one of the Speedos he wears for swim practice from his drawer and thrown that in his backpack instead of his athletic shorts.

Now, the athletic shorts that Noah wears for school gym class are comfortably loose-fitting:

The Speedo he wears for swim practice is anything but:

When I held that Speedo up for Noah to see what he had packed (with an amused look on my face, I might add), the look on his face was a fascinating mixture of hysteria, horror, and immense relief.  I'm sure a million humiliating visions were running through his head as he pictured what would have happened had he actually had gym class that day.  Thanks to my neurosis, he got a second chance and was able to exchange the Speedo for the right athletic shorts, thus saving him the embarrassment of being the story that everyone remembers at the 25 year elementary school reunion.  I think he's now reconsidering his views on just how much 11-year-old boys still need their mothers.

Without saying a word about it, Noah didn't leave early to walk to school on his own this morning; he instead cheerfully chose to accompany Will and I.  I guess compared to being seen in your Speedo in front of your whole grade 6 class, being seen with your mom isn't that embarrassing after all.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Oatmeal apple cinnamon mini-muffins (gluten, dairy, egg, and nut-free)

Matt and the boys and I enjoyed a really lovely Thanksgiving dinner here at our home yesterday with family and friends.  All of us feasted on turkey and cranberries, sweet potato casserole, an assortment of roasted veggies, salad, and homemade pumpkin and apple treats for dessert, and the four of us were very glad to have lots of leftovers for our dinner this evening.  You would think I would take advantage of a day of not having to cook after three days of food preparation for Thanksgiving dinner, but this afternoon, I was back in my kitchen happily baking yet again; this time, it was muffins for school snacks for the boys for the coming week. 

I have been trying for the past few years to either find or invent a gluten, dairy, egg, and nut-free recipe that results in a muffin with both great taste and good texture.  Many of the muffins I have baked regularly for Will and I in the past are delicious when they're warm, but once they get packed in a school lunch box and are served cool or at room temperature, they become quite dry and crumbly and not so nice to eat.  I am really happy to say that I've finally come up with a muffin that Will gives a two thumbs up to and actually enjoys eating for a school snack.  Hooray for that! These oatmeal apple cinnamon muffins are full of nutritious ingredients, and their mini size makes them perfect for tucking into little lunch box containers.

Oatmeal Apple Cinnamon Mini-Muffins

1 1/2 cups certified pure rolled oats
1/3 cup ground certified pure rolled oats (I use a Magic Bullet to grind them)
1/3 cup ground quinoa flakes
1/3 cup brown rice flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tbsp ground chia seeds mixed with 3 tbsp warm water (let this stand for a few minutes to form a gel)
2 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 apple, peeled, cored, and grated
1 small ripe banana, mashed

Preheat the oven to 375 F.  In a large bowl, combine the oats, ground oats, ground quinoa flakes, brown rice flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and sea salt. 
In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the apple juice, maple syrup, chia "gel", coconut oil, and vanilla.  Stir in the grated apple and the mashed banana.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until combined.  Spoon the batter into mini muffin cups, filling each cup right to the top. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the tops of the muffins are golden brown.
Let the muffins cool and then serve them.  Makes 18 to 20 mini-muffins.

I hope this recipe will be a big hit with the food-sensitive members of your family, too!

We are heading into the last few days of voting for the Circle of Moms Top 25 Canadian Moms blogging contest.  I'm very excited to say that Pocketfuls is currently still sitting in the #12 spot!  Thanks so much to all of you who keep coming back to vote.  Please click here to submit your vote once every 24 hours until Thursday at 7pm, and spread the word if you can!  With your enthusiasm, a spot in the top 10 might even be within reach! 

Friday, October 5, 2012


As a person who has always been very interested in the written word, I love that I am raising two boys who are also enthusiastic bookworms.  These days, Matt and I often find the the house quiet for a couple of hours at a time on evenings or weekends, and when we finally go and investigate to make sure that the boys haven't done something like figure out time travel and transport themselves to a whole other year, we are always happy to find Noah and Will each sprawled out on his own bed, with his nose buried in the pages of something interesting.  The boys read everything:  novels, non-fiction books filled with intriguing facts, comics, magazines, even the local newspaper.  (The paper has been late coming to our house three mornings in a row this week, and the boys have jumped up from the breakfast table several times each day and paced anxiously by the front door, not knowing what to do with themselves while they ate their toast!)  The fact that Noah and Will read so much allows us to have all kinds of fascinating and intelligent conversations as a family, which I also love.  There are times, though, when I wish they would keep some of the information they read to themselves.

This week Will received one of his magazines in the mail after school, and as soon as he saw it, he dropped his backpack at the front door and cracked open the cover.  The theme of this particular issue was "Creepy Crawlers", and inside was a quiz about bugs that Will was insistant I take.  Now I really did not want to take this quiz; there are many details about insects of which I would rather remain blissfully unaware.  But because I like to encourage Will's enthusiasm for science and learning, I feigned eagerness and agreed to give it a go.

I did surprisingly well on the first several questions.  They were pleasantly non-frightening and even interesting ones about ladybugs' spots and the ways in which ants communicate with each other, and as Will read each question aloud to me, I began to relax and become more fully engaged.  By the time we got to the questions about whether Daddy-long-legs were spiders or not and how aquatic bugs breathe underwater, I was actually quite enjoying myself, and was very pleased about getting all of the answers right.  And then Will came to question number ten and asked me whether it was true or false that cockroaches can live without their heads for a week.

I did not see this coming at all (it was foolish of me to have let down my guard, I know!), and I was suddenly and utterly revolted as I pictured headless cockroaches skittering all over the place.  What kind of person thinks it's a good idea to include these kinds of questions in a children's magazine, so that young boys can inadvertantly torment their mothers by repeating such horrifying facts?  (Oh, and by the way, the answer to the question is true.)  I was so frazzled by this piece of information that when Will moved on and asked me a question about butterflies, I got it wrong, but he wouldn't let me off the hook until I had finished the entire quiz.  By the time we got to the question about whether centipedes were plant eaters or not, I was in a complete panic (because what if they're not plant eaters?  What if they're carnivorous beasts that wait for you to fall asleep and then... (shudder).  I have seen centipedes in my bedroom before, people!!).

I somehow managed to finish the quiz with a score of 14 out of 15, and when it was over Will looked impressed and said to me admiringly, "You're good."  Oh, I'm good alright.  Good and paranoid now about bugs with no heads that somehow manage to stay alive for a week.  This morning I saw this little creepy thing trying to find a way to weasel himself inside my house through the doorbell button. 

Despite my strong showing on the insect quiz, I have no idea what kind of bug he is.  I hope to goodness that one of the boys' books will tell me he's a plant eater.


The Top 25 Canadian Moms blogging contest has turned into a fun and wild ride!  With the help of many, Pocketfuls has moved into the #12 spot today!!  I am completely in awe and so very thankful for all of the support this blog has received.  Voting continues until October 11, so please keep your votes coming in here.  :)  Happy Thanksgiving weekend!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Believing in miracles

As we journey through the beautiful and complex experiences of human life, we all take our turns at encountering difficult challenges, some of which shake us to our very core.  Whether it's a major health issue, a heartbreaking loss, a drastic and unexpected change, or an earth-shattering revelation, when we find ourselves facing such life-altering moments, it can feel like they might just swallow us whole. Sometimes in these situations, our overwhelmed hearts give into despair, and we curl into a ball and retreat from the world for awhile, lost and afraid. Sometimes, though, the human heart musters up remarkable courage and resilience, and finds deep within it an unending hope that wills things to somehow be different. Today I want to share a truly inspiring story of a beautiful woman and her family, who walked straight into one of life's most fearsome realizations with bravery and love, and emerged on the other side of a miracle.

This the story of Erica (Holmes) Harris, as told by Kara Hoffman in an article at SooToday.com:

Erica Harris is one of those gals you just don’t forget ...
Full of life, smart as a whip, gorgeous inside and out.
She’s married to the perfect guy, Harley, and has two of the cutest boys, ages 5 and 2.
She is amazingly passionate about health and wellness and previously served as a bustling chiropractor.
She is a dedicated Mama, living life on the North Shore to its fullest.

That is, until this spring when a routine blood test raised immediate panic.

Within days, she learned she had AML - acute myelogenous leukemia - a very serious, aggressive form of blood cancer.

Within an instant, Erica’s life had changed course, completely.

She was diagnosed on June 7 and was admitted to Vancouver General Hospital hours later.

As she left for the hospital, she explained to her older son that we all have these little fighter guys in our bodies that help keep us healthy by fighting bugs from colds but Mama's fighter guys just weren't working well right now.
As she walked out the door, her little guy shouted "go fighters go!" - and this became the mojo behind Team Harris.

Erica immediately started chemotherapy to kill all the "bad’"cells her bone marrow was producing.

Unfortunately, this first round of "chemo" didn’t do its job.
Erica had to undergo an even more aggressive round of chemotherapy, called “salvage chemo.”
Along the way, she endured many life threatening infections, had kidney failure, awoke unable to breathe as her lungs were swimming in fluid, had unexpected surgery, and required many blood transfusions.

She was told at the start of the salvage chemo that she would require a bone marrow transplant following remission as her leukemia was so aggressive.

At this time, Harley embarked on an amazing campaign to raise awareness for One Match in hopes of finding a stem cell/bone marrow donor match as Erica's only sibling was not a match.
Family and friends were desperately encouraging people to register with One Match as they knew that at some point Erica would need this transplant to survive.

Great news came on July 30 that a perfect bone marrow match (10/10!) had been found for her somewhere in the world.

This great enthusiasm, however, was short-lived.
The very next day, Erica and Harley learned the salvage chemo was not successful as Erica's marrow was still riddled with leukemic cells.
To be a candidate for transplant, she first had to be in remission.
She was offered no further treatment or testing aside from supportive care in the outpatient unit.
Her prognosis was estimated at a couple of months.

The Harris duo returned home to spend the next few weeks together with their boys as a family.

Never giving up hope, Erica and Harley vowed to stay strong and fight.
Erica was blessed with so many friends and family who spent tireless hours researching and contacting others on her behalf.
With this insight, they embarked on their path.
Erica started an intense regimen of supplements, high doses of IV vitamin C, she changed her diet, followed a juicing plan loaded with nutrients and found such comfort in the power of prayer, meditation and love.
Harley stayed by her side every step of the way since the minute she was diagnosed ... fighting for the best care, talking with specialists from all over the world, ensuring her nutrition/meds/supplements were perfectly adhered to, and holding her hand through all the ups and downs and for every pain staking poke.

Little did they know, deep down in that “never quit” bone marrow, there was a true miracle happening.

Erica’s body started to respond to every little bit of love, hope and faith it had received.

On September 7, 2012, Erica, Harley and her brother Matthew sat with mouths agape in the day care unit at VGH as they learned Erica was in full remission.

Full remission.

Erica is absolutely humbled by everyones' efforts on her path and no words can describe how she feels with this amazing gift of life and hope she was blessed with from above.

All this means that Erica went from having a diagnosis of “months, at best, to live” to “be ready for a bone marrow transplant in October of this year”.

Erica is ready for this.

Her husband, family and friends are ready for this.
As Erica prepares for yet another lengthy hospital stay, her whole ‘circle of love’ will be cheering her on, willing her body to its highest level of strength and supporting her entire family.
All is set for her transplant to start on October 19 at VGH.

Reading the incredible update to Erica's story this week sent chills down my spine and flooded my eyes with tears.  It is a testament to the power of the human body to work at healing itself given the right physical nourishment, and a testament to the power of the human spirit to flourish when surrounded by love and hope.  In this season of Thanksgiving, I am so very happy for Erica and her family, who I'm sure must have a profound appreciation for what a precious gift time spent together is.  I'm grateful, too, for the reminder that we should walk through life with strength and peace, and with our hearts wide open, even if that leaves us vulnerable.  Anything is possible.

Friends of Erica in her childhood hometown of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario have set up a trust fund to help her and her family as she continues on her journey to wellness.  If you are interested in making a donation to the fund, you can find more details here

Monday, October 1, 2012

Mini pumpkin pies (gluten, dairy, and egg-free)

Last Thursday the weather was so perfectly beautiful outside that I decided to make an impromptu stop at the farmers' market on my way home from yoga class.  I was drawn to the bins full of lovely orange pie pumpkins and couldn't leave without some (even though my arms were already full of other veggies and I ended up making a spectacle of myself trying to juggle multiple orange orbs back to my car through the crowds!).  When I got home, I decided to make my own pumpkin puree for fall baking, so I roasted all of the pumpkins and ran them through the food processor using this method from The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen. 

With four jars of homemade pumpkin puree on hand, I was excited to get working on my goal of creating a pumpkin dessert for Thanksgiving that does not contain eggs, dairy, or gluten.  When I found this recipe at Oh She Glows for a pumpkin pudding thickened with chia seeds rather than eggs, I knew I had found my starting point.  I created my own version of the pudding, poured it on top of a nut crust baked in mini mason jars, and topped the whole thing with whipped coconut cream, chopped pecans, and a sprinkling of cinnamon.  The end result was scrumptious (and so cute!), and I'm really looking forward to sharing more of this dessert with everyone around our Thanksgiving table this coming weekend.

Mini Pumpkin Pies in Mason Jars

For the crust:

3/4 cup ground pecans (I used a Magic Bullet to grind them)
1/2 cup blanched almond flour
a pinch of sea salt
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the pumpkin pudding:

1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 tbsp natural cashew butter
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tbsp ground chia seeds
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp allspice

For the whipped coconut cream:

1 can full-fat coconut milk, chilled in the refrigerator overnight
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract for the crust.  Add the ground pecans, almond flour, and sea salt and stir until all ingredients are well combined.  Divide this nut mixture between eight 125ml mason jars, and press the mixture into the bottom of each jar.  Place the jars on a baking sheet and bake the crusts for approximately 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

To make the pumpkin pudding, whisk all of the ingredients (pumpkin puree, almond milk, cashew butter, maple syrup, chia seeds, vanilla extract, and spices) together in a large bowl until the mixture is smooth.  Spoon the pudding into the eight mason jars, on top of the cooled nut crust, and place the jars in the refrigerator for at least an hour to chill and set.

When you are ready to serve the mini pumpkin pies, whip the coconut cream for the topping.  Take the can of coconut milk out of the refrigerator and remove the lid. Gently scoop out the solid coconut cream and place it in a bowl. Pour any remaining liquid coconut water into a jar for another use. Whip the coconut cream with a handheld mixer for 1 minute, until it is light and fluffy. Whip in the maple syrup and vanilla.

Remove the mini pumpkin pies from the fridge.  Top each one with a dollop of the whipped coconut cream, and a sprinkling of chopped pecans and cinnamon.   Voila -- you have a delicious pumpkin dessert that is sure to put a smile on the faces around your Thanksgiving table!


Do you enjoy what you read here at Pocketfuls?  Please click here to vote for me in the Circle of Moms Top 25 Canadian Moms blogging contest.  Even if you have already voted, you may continue to vote once a day from now until October 11.  I am currently sitting somewhere near #29, so a spot in the top 25 is within reach, but I will need your help -- there are several other blogs who are very close to mine in the number of votes!  Thanks very much again for your support.  xo