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, November 29, 2013
For the next while, Will studied that catalogue very carefully, with the same quiet intensity he demonstrates while poring over the various Wish Books and toy flyers that come in the mailbox this time of year while he's trying to decide what he wants to ask Santa for. He didn't say much at all about what he had read before disappearing upstairs to put some school things away. But when he came back downstairs a few moments later, his face was lit up with a warm smile, and he looked at me with his deep, knowing brown eyes and said, "Mom, I think I know what I want to do with my saved money." (He was referring to the allowance he has been carefully squirrelling away for months to buy something really awesome when he finds it.) "I want to buy one of those gifts to give to a child who needs it."
His words and the selfless sentiment behind them made me quite emotional. I listened with a warmed heart while he continued to talk excitedly about his idea, explaining that he had so many great things and was probably going to get many more great things for Christmas, so he didn't think he really needed his money to buy anything else for himself. He said it would make him happy to make other children happy by giving them something they really needed. And then he asked me to look at the catalogue with him again to help him choose which gift to give. The thoughtful conversations that came out of the time we spent reading the catalogue together were deeply meaningful ones for me to share with him.
I think it's difficult for any of us who have never had to go without the necessities of life to truly understand hardship and suffering, but it has always been important to me that my boys' eyes and hearts be open to the many people in our community, in our country, in our world who are less fortunate than we are. From the time they've been very small, I've talked to Noah and Will in age-appropriate ways about the differences between "wanting" and "needing" things, and I've involved them in thoughtful acts of giving to others, especially at Christmastime when the focus for children is so often on receiving. The suffering of others around the world has been front of mind for the boys and I in recent weeks, through the research they've done for their FLL project, through the stories Noah and I heard at We Day, and through the various charitable gift catalogues that have arrived in the mail. The stories of hardship are hard to hear, but it's an empowering feeling for children to see that they can help create change through their acts of love and kindness.
Will has always had a mature interest in social justice, and a deep sensitivity to the feelings of others, so I am not at all surprised by his lovely decision. Still, I'm so proud of my kind-hearted boy for choosing to use his money for this particular "something really awesome". His generosity and the wonderful feeling he's experiencing from it reflect everything I want the boys to understand about the true spirit of Christmas. Somehow I think this is only the beginning of many wonderful things Will will do for the world.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Before this fall, I hadn't thought of baked apples in a really long time; they were one of the (many!) tasty things my dear childhood friend Laurie and I used to create together in her family's kitchen when we were kids looking for something to do. When Matt and the boys and I went apple picking with my aunt Christina and her family this past September, though, my uncle James reminded me of this simply delicious treat when he mentioned that someone in his family used to make them, too. It took me a couple of months after apple picking to get around to coming up with my own version of baked apples, but today seemed like a good day to get to it. Noah and Will were glad I did -- they really enjoyed warming up with this special snack this afternoon.
Festive Baked Apples
4 good-sized apples, washed
1/4 cup certified pure gluten-free oats
1/4 cup blanched almond flour
2 tbsp chopped pecans
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp melted coconut oil
2 tsp pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp pomegranate arils
Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a mixing bowl, combine the oats, almond flour, pecans, and cinnamon. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the melted coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until the mixture is crumbly and well-combined. Gently fold in the pomegranate arils.
Using a small sharp knife, cut down into the top of each apple, all around the stem, and remove as much of the core as you can, leaving the bottom of the apple intact. Once the apples are cored, place them in a small baking dish. Spoon the oat and almond flour mixture into the centre of each apple, pressing it down to stuff in as much of the filling as possible.
Pour a shallow layer of pure apple juice into the bottom of the baking pan around the stuffed apples, and place the pan in the preheated oven. Bake the apples for 35 to 45 minutes, or until they are tender and the filling is golden brown. Cool slightly and serve warm.
Noah really liked the addition of the ruby red pomegranate arils to these baked apples. (Apples and pomegranates are two of his favourite fruits!) Baking apples with a mixture of oats, nuts, and cinnamon easily turns them into something special that can brighten up a gray, wintery day.
Friday, November 22, 2013
This past week has been especially bonkers. In addition to the usual busy-ness, and some getting-ready-for-Christmas stuff, there has been some fantastic (volunteering at a Gifted Outreach conference that Will participated in on Monday, and attending an amazing We Day with Noah on Wednesday), some fun-but-tiring (helping the boys and their team all week to get everything ready for tomorrow's full-day Lego League competition), and some downright ugly (acquiring a gigantic and painful bruise on my leg while climbing over a stadium seat one afternoon -- long story -- and noticing last night that there was a puddle of water on our furnace room floor, which resulted in a new hot water tank having to be installed today. And Mom, you will be proud of me when I tell you that I did not, as is my habit in any situation involving plumbing, yell in a panic, "SOMETHING must be DONE!!" when I discovered that puddle. Shocking, I know!)
I'm hopeful life will slow down just a little next week. We have now at least reclaimed our living room (the gigantic Lego table was returned to its usual home tonight), so there's that. I plan to return to our regularly scheduled programming around here soon!
In the meantime, I'll leave you with a fun little game for a Friday night. It's called "Can You Find the Cat?".
Sunday, November 17, 2013
Monday, November 11, 2013
We spent several days revisiting our favourite Disney rides from trips past and trying out new ones for the first time. There were moments spent in an exhilarating simulation of flight over breathtaking landscapes, and ones spent laughing and cheering as we attempted to outscore each other in fast-paced games of target skill. We took in clever 3D movie experiences and lively musical theatre productions, nighttime parades and dazzling fireworks. There was thrill-seeking on rollercoasters (well, there was for some of us, anyway -- I do not do rollercoasters and was quite happy to observe others' fun in those moments!) and hilarity in spontaneous dance parties with Disney characters. We even braved a haunted mansion together and loved it!
One day of our vacation, we drove to Cape Canaveral to explore the Kennedy Space Center, a trip we had all very much been looking forward to. The place was full of fascinating stories and indescribably impressive space travel equipment that enthralled us all. I don't think any of us will soon forget the feeling of awe we experienced when we stood next to the space shuttle Atlantis or the Saturn V rocket, all of us practically swallowed up by their enormity. Any reservation I felt about having our kids miss a week of school for our trip vanished as I watched them soak up the wealth of inspiring information the Space Center offered them.
Walt Disney World takes great pride in creating "magic" in its parks, and certainly it is an amazing place full of wonderful experiences to take in. The true magic of the trip for me, though, came alive in the many moments of connection we shared together as a family. There was so much happiness in the simple acts of playing a rousing beach ball game in the pool, in sharing packed lunches together while sitting on a theme park bench in the sunshine, in catching a glimpse of some beautiful dolphins in the water on our drive back from Cape Canaveral, in talking about our favourite parts of each day, and even in the funny little habit we fell into of always guessing which security person (our "buddies") was going to be working the next time we drove into the gated community where we were staying. It was a much appreciated opportunity for us to enjoy each other's company without the pressures of all of our usual responsibilities and obligations, and I'm so glad we took advantage of it.
It was a little sad to leave Florida this past Saturday morning; the sun was shining warmly and we still felt the pull of all of the fun the place had to offer, encouraging us to stay a little while longer. There is a certain magic in coming home after a week away, too, though, and I felt a warm welcome as I walked through our front door and suddenly noticed all of the familiar comforts that a week's absence made me appreciate so much more.
This morning everyone returned to work and to school, and the weather outside is cold and gray, but I think our fond memories of a fantastic, sunny week away together will keep our spirits up for quite some time.