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.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Banana split freezer pops (gluten-free, vegan)

The boys were at home all day today because it was a P.A. Day at school.  In the midst of several very busy weeks, it was really nice to have a free afternoon to hang out with them by the pool and to hear them laughing and having fun together.   The weather was hot and felt very summery, and as is usual for this time of year, I was inspired to think of new ideas for frozen treats that I could make for everyone to enjoy cooling off with.

We sometimes like to make banana splits for dessert after dinner on summer days, using coconut milk ice cream with pineapple, strawberries, cherries, a drizzle of dark chocolate, and some chopped walnuts for toppings.  I figured why not do all of the prep work in advance and make banana split freezer pops that could be easily enjoyed when the weather called for them.  These pops are full of fresh fruit and have no added sugar (other than what is in the dark chocolate) -- they're a naturally sweet and delicious summer treat!

Banana Split Freezer Pops

2 ripe bananas
1 cup fresh pineapple chunks
1 cup coconut milk (I used Thai Kitchen brand)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh or frozen strawberries
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh or frozen sweet cherries
1/3 cup chopped dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)
a handful of walnuts, finely chopped

Place the two bananas, the pineapple chunks, and the coconut milk in a food processor and process on high speed, stopping once to scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary, until a smooth mixture forms.  Gently stir in the finely chopped strawberries and cherries.

Pour or spoon the mixture into popsicle molds (or into eight 5 oz. Dixie cups, as I did).  Place a popsicle stick in the centre of each mold, and set the molds in the freezer for several hours, or until the pops are frozen solid.

Once the pops are frozen, melt the dark choocolate in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring often.  Working quickly, remove the banana split pops from their molds, and drizzle dark chocolate over the top of each one with a spoon.  Sprinkle finely chopped walnuts over top of the chocolate immediately after drizzling it on each pop, before the chocolate hardens.  Return the finished pops to the freezer for a few minutes to allow chocolate to set completely.   Serve and enjoy!

Are you looking for some other cool (and healthy) treats to enjoy now that hot summery days have arrived?  You may also like these frosty fudge pops, or these frosty fruit pops in several different flavours.  Yum!

This post is linked to Gluten-Free Wednesdays.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


We walk along the sidewalk together on the way to school and the morning sun draws cheerful shadows of you and I on the grass alongside and just ahead of us.  Suddenly you are laughing and moving in irregular starts and stops behind me, and when I look back to see what you're up to, your beautiful face is all twinkling eyes and mischievous grin.  You point to our shadows and tell me to watch, and then you creep forward at a measured pace with your ball cap covered head tilted just the right way.  Suddenly your silhouette becomes the jaws of a giant creature that swallows my shadowy head whole.  I laugh with you, because being caught up in your many wonderful moments of carefree imagination fills me with an indescribable lightness and joy.


We walk along the sidewalk together on the way home from school, and I can almost see the dark cloud of worry swirling above your head.  You are silent for a few moments, and then, when you are sure we are alone, you look at me with misty eyes and quivering lips and open up your heart:  you made a mistake on a question you wrote an answer to at school. This one, tiny mistake in the midst of so many things you've done right and suddenly forgotten about has become an enormous weight you now carry on your small shoulders.  You are certain that we are going to be upset with you, that your report card is now going to somehow be a disappointment,  that the school is going to think you're no longer gifted.  I want to hug you and cry with you because I understand exactly how an honest, insignificant mistake can quickly grow into something monstrous that wants to swallow you whole.

Perfectionism is a beast sometimes; it can sneak up even on the unsuspecting young. Once when I was a child, I came home from school with a picture where my colourful crayon marks had slipped out of the lines. I showed it to my mom and wailed inconsolably, "You're not going to like this!".  This moment was only one in a long line of life situations where I've been relentless and unforgiving with myself whenever I've made a mistake. So many times I have set unrealistic standards for myself at school, in work, in motherhood, as a human being, and have felt like an utter disappointment to everyone when I've felt that I've failed to live up to them. 

This is not the kind of worry I wish for you in life, my sweet boy.  I want you to see yourself for the amazing person you are, to believe that you are every bit as smart and funny and thoughtful and kindhearted as I know you to be.  I want you to feel free to delve deeply into that wonderfully creative mind of yours to explore and share what you find there, without being afraid that others will think you're somehow wrong.  I want you to accept that trying your best at what you do is always something to be proud of, even if you don't succeed right away.   I want you to learn from experience that sometimes colouring outside of the lines and making mistakes is exactly what allows you to grow and to eventually see the world in a new and exciting way.  I want you to know that you are your own worst critic, and that if you can love yourself with all of your imperfections, you will realize just how those who know and care deeply for you really feel about you, too.

Life will be full of challenges that will inevitably lead to you making mistakes; that is a certainty.  But if you come to see your mistakes as necessary, even welcome, stepping stones on the path to deeper experience, understanding, and feeling, they will suddenly seem much less huge and fearsome.  I hope you'll come to me whenever you need a reminder of this.  I believe you and I can learn to tame the beast together.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins (gluten-free, vegan)

This morning I made my first trip up to the farmers' market since last fall.  I knew there wouldn't be a whole lot of new produce to buy yet, but I've had rhubarb on the brain since someone mentioned it a few days ago, and I knew that at the market I would find rosy, fresh stems that would taste as good as the ones I used to pick and eat out of my family's backyard when I was a child.   My trip to the market didn't disappoint, and on the way home I could feel my face puckering up in anticipation of the delightfully sour taste while I decided what I would make first with my large rhubarb bunch.

Because I also had some strawberries in the fridge at home, I chose to bake some muffins this afternoon using them, the rhubarb, and almond flour.  These muffins are super scrumptious, seriously!  They are moist and flavourful with a delicious crunchy topping, naturally sweet, and good for you, too.  :)

Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

2 cups blanched almond flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp arrowroot powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped fresh rhubarb
1/2 cup chopped fresh strawberries

For the topping:

1/4 cup certified pure rolled oats
1/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 tbsp coconut sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp melted coconut oil

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Add the almond flour, sea salt, baking soda, arrowroot powder, and cinnamon to a large mixing bowl and stir to combine.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the melted coconut oil, applesauce, maple syrup, and vanilla.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until a smooth batter forms.  Fold in the rhubarb and strawberries.

Line 10 cups in a muffin tin with paper liners.  Spoon the batter into the paper cups.

In a small bowl, stir together the rolled oats, pecans or walnuts, coconut sugar and ground cinnamon.  Drizzle the melted coconut over top of this mixture and stir until well-combined.  Sprinkle a spoonful of the topping over each unbaked muffin.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until the muffin tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre of a muffin comes out clean.  Cool and serve.

These muffins make a wonderful breakfast or snack food and may even convince your non-rhubarb eaters to give the vegetable a try.  I hope you enjoy them!

This post is linked to Gluten-Free Wednesdays.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Minor injuries, swimming pools, and new vegetable gardens: Long weekend highlights

Around our house, one of the most reliable indicators that summer weather has arrived is the sorry state of Will's legs.  Hot, sunny days lead to a rugged landscape of bumps, bruises, scrapes, and scratches all over Will's lower limbs, acquired from the many hours he spends running, jumping, throwing himself across the lawn, diving through the air for balls, rolling around, and generally having a great time.

Based on the appearance of Will's legs last night, I'd say it was a wonderful first long weekend of the season!

After weeks of hearing Will lament in agony about having to wait for outdoor swimming season to start, we opened our pool last Wednesday.  Will checked the water thermometer every couple of hours whenever he was home and kept us all updated as the mercury crept upwards at a snail's pace.  Finally, on Sunday, the water temperature reached a "balmy" 65 degrees, and our impatient and determined adventurer announced that he was not going to wait any longer.  Is anyone really surprised that he was the first one in the pool this season?


I cracked up when a gasping Will emerged from the chilly water after that first jump in and announced, "Whoo!  That was brisk!".  

By yesterday, the hot temperatures outside raised the water temperature to a tolerable 70 degrees, and Noah joined his brother for some long awaited fun and games in the pool.  Matt and I sat in the welcoming shade of a green tree near the water to watch them, and I felt a wave of relaxation wash over me as I heard the boys laughing and splashing and remembered how good summer vacation always feels. 

But it's not quite summer vacation yet, and Matt and I spent a large part of the weekend working hard to make our yard a little haven we can all enjoy in the warm months.  Our biggest project was the completion of three new raised vegetable gardens, and I'm so excited about them I wanted to share them here.

Matt built the eight-by-five foot frames out of four-by-fours stacked three high, with about three feet of spacing in between each bed.  Building the gardens up like this allowed us not to have to dig out all of the grass in their bases; I read somewhere once that all you have to do is lay newspaper over the grass and then pile the soil on top.  This trick worked well the last time we built a garden and it is so much easier!  (In case you're wondering, the small posts sticking up at the corners are to hold a chicken wire fence once I get the garden planted -- we have lots and lots of local rabbits who would otherwise love to help themselves to our food!)

We filled the gardens with a mixture of black earth, rich compost material, and peat moss to provide a healthy growing medium for the seeds I'll be planting soon.  While browsing on Pinterest, I found many pictures of raised bed gardens that were surrounded by pea gravel and I really liked the look and functionality of that idea, so we finished our gardens off that way, too.  (I'm not sure how much Matt liked the idea when he had to lug and shovel bins full of rocks all over the place, but he really likes the end result, too!)

My favourite finishing touch to the project is the lavender that we planted among the stones in between the beds.  They add visual appeal and a lovely scent to the vegetable garden area, while still allowing us easy access to tend to the gardens themselves.  It felt great to see the garden area finished yesterday afternoon -- I can't wait to go pick out more kinds of seeds and plants than I've ever had room to grow before, and to enjoy the fruits (and vegetables!) of our labour later on in the summer.  I welcome any suggestions for veggies you've had success growing and loved eating, too!

Due to this weekend's work, Matt and I had legs that almost matched Will's in the number of bruises and scratches they bore.  But after a few hours of relaxation made possible by the extra day off we had yesterday, neither of us seemed to mind. 

Will eventually relaxed this weekend, too, in a tiny old rocking chair that used to be his (and before that, mine when I was a small child).  He found it in our basement storage room and decided on his own to lug it upstairs and keep it in his room because "it's just perfect" for him.  So sweet to see that my high-energy nine year old boy still hasn't outgrown his fondness for the calm and gentle motion of rocking.  I love this kid.

I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful weekend, too!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Worth keeping in your pockets: May 2013

I often discover things that I enjoy or find really useful and want to share them with others, but not all of these things really need an entire blog post devoted to them.  I've decided to start up a new feature here on Pocketfuls where I can highlight a collection of random stuff that people may be interested in.  (I promise you that you'll find more in this section than the rocks and sticks I used to always find in Will's pockets!)  So without further ado, here is a spring edition of "Worth keeping in your pockets".

Pea shoots:  I first tasted these delicious and nutrient rich microgreens last spring when we found some in our weekly veggie box.  The young leaves and tendrils of pea plants are crisp and sweet and offer a welcome first taste of the fresh produce to come later in the season.  I was so happy to find these again at a local food shop recently;  we've been enjoying them whenever we can, tossed in salads and rolled with other veggies in wraps.  Try them -- you'll love them! 

Rocky Mountain Soap Company: Always on the lookout for new natural and safe body care products to try, I discovered this Canadian company's products online and have been in love with their body lotions and butters ever since. The moisturizing lotions go on smoothly and absorb well into the skin, and the body butters are rich and perfect for really dry spots. They smell delicious (my favourites so far are apricot, cherry, and lemon-lime), and I feel good using these products knowing that they don't contain any harmful ingredients.

frank deresti and the lake effect:  It was wonderful to have my brother in town earlier this week; he and his friends/bandmates stopped in Waterloo to perform one evening as part of their most recent tour.  My friends and I all really enjoyed listening to some favourite tunes from the this time album presented live, as well as some beautifully written and performed new songs, which will be part of an album the group plans to record this summer.  If you haven't heard frank deresti and the lake effect yet, you can listen here.  If you live the in the Ottawa or Sarnia areas, you can still catch this talented group this weekend on the last few shows of their tour.

Lilacs: I love the lilacs that are in bloom this time of year. When I step out onto our deck and catch their wonderful floral scent wafting by on the breeze for the first time each spring, I am instantly transported back to my childhood. There was a pretty lilac bush in the back corner of our yard when I was growing up, and I still remember burying my young face in the dainty blooms to inhale their sweetness, and walking to school clutching bouquets of them to bring to my teachers over the years. Lilacs are one of the simple pleasures of the season that make me forget whatever else might be happening for a moment and just feel so grateful to be. If you don't have a lilac bush of your own, I encourage you to walk around your neighbourhood to find one and breathe near it -- I'm pretty sure it will make you feel happy, too!

Green Beaver Spray Sunscreen:  A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about mineral sunscreens as a safe alternative to chemical sun protection products.  Since then, it seems that sunscreens made from natural ingredients that offer broad spectrum protection from the sun's harmful rays have become more widely available, so there are now several good options to choose from.  We still like the Badger brand, especially for swimming because it's water resistant, but for everyday use, we often use Green Beaver's spray sunscreen now.  It's non-whitening, non-greasy, fragrance-free, free of nanoparticles, organic, and Canadian made, plus it is light and very easy to apply compared to the thicker zinc sunscreens that come in tubes.  You can find Green Beaver sunscreen products at health food stores or at well.ca .

Walking:  Since the arrival of nicer weather, I've had a standing date for a weekly walk with friends.  We meet at the start of a lovely trail near our homes just after we drop the kids off at school, and we spend an hour or so moving at a brisk pace, soaking up the sunlight and the birds' sweet morning songs while we talk about what's important or interesting to us.  It's such an easy and enjoyable way to get some exercise, and afterwards I feel energized for the rest of the day.  Walking is good for the heart in both senses, and this time of year the warm sunshine and pretty landscapes make it very appealing to get moving.  If you're feeling that you'd like to be a little more active, maybe the longer, cheerful days of spring can inspire you to head out walking, too!

Homemade Granola Bars:  I was determined this week to find a recipe for a homemade granola bar that was healthy, not too sweet, and free of ingredients that anyone in our family is sensitive to or is not allowed to bring to school due to allergy concerns.  This recipe from Goop.com was a perfect starting point.  I made several modifications to it, a bit skeptical at first that I would be able to stuff so many nutritious ingredients into a granola bar and have the boys still be willing to eat it, but they loved the end result!  (So did frank deresti and the lake effect -- they ate the rest of the bars the morning after their show here in Waterloo.  :)  )  I will make these often, experimenting with different add-ins once school is out and we can use nuts again.  They were very easy to make and are a great portable healthy snack!

1 1/3 cups certified pure oats, divided
a pinch of sea salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1 cup of any combination of add-ins (I use about 1/2 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut, about 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, and about 2 tbsp each of hemp hearts and cocoa nibs)
2 tbsp whole chia seeds
2 tbsp ground chia seeds
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp pure maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Line an 8" square pan with parchment paper, letting a bit of excess paper hang over the sides.

Grind 1/3 cup of the oats in a food processor until powdery.  Add them to a large mixing bowl with the remaining oats, the salt, cinnamon, and ginger, the add-ins, and the whole and ground chia seeds. Stir to combine.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the melted coconut oil and maple syrup.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well.

Spoon the granola mixture into the prepared pan, and press firmly down on it with the back of a spoon to smooth it out and create a flat top.  Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let the granola cool completely.

Once cool, lift up the edges of the parchment paper lining to easily remove the granola from the pan. Place it on a cutting board and slice it into squares or bars using a large, sharp knife. Store the granola bars in an airtight container.

That's all I've got in my pockets for now... come by and see what other interesting things I'll collect and share in the coming months!  Have a wonderful long weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Hamster in a toy car: A mom's love

I called my mom on Sunday to wish her a very happy Mother's Day, and somewhere in the conversation a funny memory from my childhood popped up.

"Do you remember that time when I woke up crying in the night because I had growing pains or something in my leg?  You tried to distract me and cheer me up by putting our pet hamster in the boys' Boss Hogg toy car and driving it all over my bedroom floor.  That was hilarious!"

"I was CRAZY," my mom laughed.

"You were awesome," I told her.  "We had a lot of fun."

"I'm so glad you remember things like that."

Saturday for me was one of those days as a mom where nothing seemed to go right. I had many things to do, none of which were very fun, and no one seeemed to be cooperating.  While I was vaccuuming the house, I called the boys to come and put away all of the random stuff that was on their bedroom floors, and Noah took that to mean that he should throw his swim bag haphazardly on his bed.  A while later I discovered that the both the body wash and conditioner bottles in the side pocket of his bag were leaking profusely (they had holes in the bottom from being repeatedly banged around, and somehow he hadn't noticed this), which necessitated me having to wash both the goopy swim bag and Noah's duvet cover, when I had just done his bedding the day before.  As the swim bag came out of the washer, I found it was covered in millions of tiny bits of white sticky paper, because Noah had forgotten to remove all of his swim ribbons with time stickers on the back of them from his bag before putting it in the wash, and all the stickers had disintegrated.  After dealing with that disaster, I spent a bunch of time baking cupcakes, making icing, and preparing a homemade pizza for Will to take to a birthday party (something I do every time he goes to one because of his food sensitivities), and even though the short notice invitation to this party had caused Matt and I to change our plans for a dinner out that we had previously made, Will had no interest in returning the kindnesses shown to him and complained with much drama when we asked him to help out with some meal preparations. I felt (as I'm sure every mom does from time to time) that I spent my whole day doing things for the boys that they didn't even appreciate, and then on top of it, I felt guilty for nagging and getting upset with them, because that's not how I wanted us all to spend our Saturday together.
And yet, on Sunday morning, I was greeted by two wonderful boys bearing heartfelt Happy Mother's Day greetings, one grinning from ear to ear and proudly offering me a beautiful rainbow painting and a lovely letter written carefully on handmade paper, one seriously presenting me with a wonderfully written poem full of wit and sentiment and creative little drawings, and a packet of mint tea.  The frustrations I had felt with the boys and the feelings of not being a very nice mom from the day before simply vanished in that emotional moment as I read in their own words what my two boys really thought of me. 

We moms are hard on ourselves sometimes.  We dwell on our mistakes, forgetting that making them allows us to teach our children the valuable lesson that no one can be perfect and we all have things we can work on, and we don't give ourselves enough credit for the many things that we do right that allow our children to be happy and healthy.  My family reminded me on Sunday, though, that when a mom loves her children and does her best to show them she does, that love is what forever colours her children's lives.  Our kids do notice and appreciate and remember the times that mom helped them solve a problem or stand up for themselves, spent time having fun with them, made them something special to eat, made them laugh by driving a hamster around their room in a toy car.  It is these kinds of memories that give our children feelings of security and self-worth that they'll carry with them forever.  I'm so glad for the Mother's Day reminder that in the big picture, it is not the times we do things we wish we hadn't, but the many moments we do things that are warm or funny or helpful out of love for our children that always seem to make a lasting impression.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Weekend mornings

I captured this quiet moment with my camera last Saturday morning.  When I peeked in on Will in the living room while I was waiting for the pancakes to finish cooking for breakfast, I was touched by the peacefulness of the scene:  a boy sprawled on the floor with his favourite comics of the week, propped up comfortably with throw cushions from the couch and surrounded on all sides by warm morning sunbeams peeking in from the windows.  He finds joy in this little Saturday morning ritual, and when I see Will relaxing and reading so contentedly, so do I.
Now just in case you're starting to get the impression that our weekend mornings are full of peace and quiet and people laying around and relaxing for hours on end, let me show you what else apparently happens regularly around here with throw cushions on weekend mornings.  I discovered these little video clips on Will's camera this week and arrived at a whole new understanding of what the boys mean when they say they are "practicing long jump" in the basement:
Yes, these two do all of their own stunts.
The comics hold a certain appeal for Will, indeed, but in his mind, it's even better when you can make them actually come to life with your cape-clad brother, a pile of pillows, and a mad scientist wig.  


Monday, May 6, 2013

Lemon blueberry tea cakes (gluten-free, vegan)

This is the season every year where my mind tries to trick my body into thinking I am still twenty-something years old.  I wake up on a beautiful weekend morning in spring suddenly determined to make our large yard look like something out of the pages of a gardening magazine, and I spend the entire day weeding, pruning, edging, digging, planting, and schlepping inumerable giant bags of dirt and mulch all over the place.  Of course, the next morning when I wake up, my body informs my mind that it is most definitely not still twenty-something years old, and I suddenly remember once again why I shouldn't try to do so much in one day.  I'm not sure I'll ever learn....

This past Saturday was one of those crazy yard work kind of days, so yesterday morning I decided to take a short break from the gardening frenzy and putter a little in my kitchen instead.  I seem to always crave lemon flavoured things this time of year, so I whipped up some lemon blueberry tea cakes using almond flour, and iced them with a light coconut frosting.  These sweet little gluten-free and vegan cakes are perfect for enjoying on the patio with a nice cup of tea on a spring evening, and would make a lovely treat for Mom on Mother's Day.

Lemon Blueberry Tea Cakes

For the cakes:

2 cups blanched almond flour
1 tbsp arrowroot powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
the zest of one lemon
3 tbsp unsweetened almond milk
2 tbsp honey
1/4 cup frozen blueberries

For the icing:

3 tbsp raw coconut butter
3 tsp coconut oil
3 tsp raw honey

plus a bit of unsweetened shredded coconut and additional lemon zest for sprinkling on top of cakes

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, arrowroot powder, sea salt, baking soda, and lemon zest. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the almond milk and honey.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until well combined.  Carefully fold in the frozen blueberries.

Turn the dough out onto a piece of parchment paper and gently press it with the palms of your hands to flatten it to about a 3/4 inch thickness.  Using a small biscuit cutter or a round cookie cutter, cut the dough into circles.  Place each circle on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Bake the cakes for approximately 20 minutes, or until they are lightly golden.  Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool.

Once the cakes have cooled, beat the coconut butter, coconut oil, and honey together with an electric mixture until you have a smooth icing.  Spread a little icing on the top of each cake, and sprinkle a bit of shredded coconut and lemon zest on top.  Serve and enjoy!

My break from the yard work didn't last long yesterday; I ignored my aching arms and legs and was right back at it in the afternoon.  But I sure did enjoy the nice view from my deck as I sat and savoured one of these yummy tea cakes after a good day's work.  :)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Criminal activity

A few weeks ago I took the boys out shopping, one at a time, so that each of them could choose a new pair of athletic shoes for spring.  This is one of the only kinds of shopping that the boys actually enjoy, and so each of our outings was pleasant and productive.  Noah and Will each took a turn to carefully look over the wall of brightly coloured shoes, considering the style and useful features and weight of each pair that caught their eyes, and they each tried on their top picks and ran about the store aisles as a test before making their final selections.  Both times, we left the store with a boy happily clutching a shoe box, excited to show his dad his choice when we arrived back home.

At the time when we bought the new shoes, the weather was still dismal here, and the ground everywhere was a soggy, muddy mess.  Noah and Will asked me day after day if they could wear their new shoes yet, but being the sensible mom that I am, I told them they should keep wearing their well-worn old ones until the worst of the mud had dried up.  (You'll understand my thinking if you recall what the boys' school field looks like after it's been subjected to weeks of wet precipitation.)  They protested, and kept at me with their pleas, but I did not give in.  I carefully monitored the status of our own lawn and kept promising that someday soon, they could get their new shoes out of the boxes.  The boys started to doubt that the day would ever come.

Finally, this past weekend, the sun came out in full force and warm temperatures suddenly turned our yard into a suitable playground.  The boys looked at their shoe boxes in the closet, and then at me with a cautiously hopeful look in their eyes, and I gleefully announced that FINALLY, they could wear their new shoes.  There was much celebrating, and the boys spent all day Saturday happily trying out their footwear in various athletic pursuits.   Both of them were very happy to relegate their old shoes to the extra shoe shelf in the garage (as a backup pair, just in case).

Noah wore his new shoes for exactly three days (he had sensibly donned the old ones again on the days it rained earlier this week), and then last night while he was in the pool at swim practice, those new shoes were stolen, just like that, from the boys' change room.  Matt and Noah and Will and a collection of helpful coaches and friends scoured the whole pool area to try and find them, but they all turned up nothing.  And so it was that a tearful and barefoot boy burst through the front door to greet me at home last night.

I am alternating between feeling sad and being furious that someone could steal a kid's pair of shoes.  And this is not the only reminder I've had recently that people can behave in awful ways.  Not too long ago, friends of ours had their house broken into in broad daylight while they were all out.  The children returned home after school to find their front door bashed in and their house ransacked, and many of the family's valuable and sentimental items had been stolen.  I also just received a summons this week to attend court in June for the purpose of jury selection, and I can't stop worrying about actually being chosen for jury duty. I'm terrified of having to hear unforgettable chilling details about the cruel things people sometimes do to one another.  It makes me not be able to sleep at night.

I consider myself very fortunate to know so many wonderful, kind, helpful people in my life;  this helps to colour my view of the world in bright and happy hues most of the time.  But it's hard not to feel down sometimes when I realize how many people are broken, in many ways and for many reasons, and I don't have the first clue how to fix them.