When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

At the Apple Orchard: A Short Family History in Photos

Every fall I am so thankful for this little family excursion, with its peaceful drive down country roads lined by trees brave enough to show their beautiful true colours, its crisp blue skies and cool, fresh air, its perfectly crunchy red fruit enjoyed within the embrace of a welcoming orchard row.  I feel the laughter in my own heart echoed in the boys' happy voices and I'm reminded once again of everything that is truly important in life.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


A couple of weeks ago, Will came home from school enthusiastically waving an application form in his hand.  "I'm going to be a Trailblazer," he proclaimed with confidence as he set the form down on the kitchen table for me to read.

A Trailblazer, I've since learned, is a kind of safety patrol, one whose job it is to walk along a designated route each morning, meet up with younger students along the way and lead them safely to the school yard.  It's a walking school bus of sorts that aims to encourage more children to be active rather than getting a ride from a grownup.  This is the first year that Will has been old enough to take on this responsibility, and he was very excited about the chance to participate.

He filled out his form carefully, taking time to think about why he wanted to do this job and what sorts of leadership skills he had already demonstrated in the past, and then he offered up the completed page for me to sign.  He seemed so proud of the idea that he could make a positive contribution to his community and to the environment by taking on this role.

It did not surprise me at all that Will wanted to be a Trailblazer; he has always had a deep concern for others and a strong desire to be helpful.  Remember, this is the boy who organized an entire snow hill sledding safety protocol in his school yard last winter because he saw a need for one.  And I didn't think it hurt, either, that the job of Trailblazer would include a very official looking orange and yellow safety vest, which would give Will the authority he often craves to make sure people are doing as they should.

Will's application for the role of Trailblazer was accepted by his school, and he attended a training session one morning last week, where he learned more details about his responsibilities and some basic first aid skills. Yesterday afternoon when he arrived home, there was a newly assigned orange and yellow safety vest glowing among the books and snack containers inside his backpack, ready for his first day on the job.

I smiled warmly at our front door as I watched Will walk confidently down the street this morning, the adult-sized orange and yellow vest draping enormously over his proud little shoulders.  I had no doubt that he would fill that vest out beautifully.  The title of Trailblazer seems just right for him.

Monday, September 22, 2014


"I feel worried about something," Will said to me one recent afternoon, his voice wavering over the words.  I sat down with him, eager to listen so he'd know we could have one of our open-hearted talks, the kind we've often had when the weight of his worries feels too much for him to carry alone. There has been much anxiety in the past while, related to new starts, a unfamiliar heavy homework load, and a flood of "what ifs" that can sometimes bog down his mind when it isn't otherwise occupied.

"I feel such a big pressure to get high marks in my class this year," he confessed.  This was a feeling I understood well, and I think he recognized this before he revealed his tender secret to me. Our personalities are remarkably similar in many ways.

Will is in a split class this year where he is in the younger of the two grades, and the classmates who are the same age as him are a wonderful, bright group of kids.  This is excellent for Will, both because he has easy, regular exposure to higher grade level material to challenge him, and because he is with like-minded peers who energize him with their ideas and push him to further develop his own. But it also means he feels a threat of sorts to his self-worth, which is complexly tied up in measurable successes:  top scores, the right answers, and the academic and social recognition that comes with these.  He puts pressure on himself where no external pressure exists, and he worries that if he can't always be among the best, that everyone else will somehow lose respect for him, that he will somehow disappoint.

I said what I truly believed were all the right things after Will expressed his feelings to me:  that it was so much more important to his dad and me that he try his best and continue to learn new things and to grow than that he always get high marks in class.  I explained that even when someone scores higher or is more successful than he is in some measurable way in life, that fact does not make his own unique achievements and contributions to the world less valuable. I was glad when I saw Will visibly relax with my words, and I hoped they would stay with him whenever he might need them in the future.

The irony of this entire situation, though, is that I have been really hard on myself lately. I feel frazzled by the busyness of our lives so far this fall and by my inability to handle it more gracefully. I look at moms who are exponentially busier than I am and appear to have everything together and I wonder what the heck is wrong with me.  I read the beautifully honest writings of women who are so much more talented and accomplished than I am and I become intensely critical of every word I type, sometimes deleting everything because no idea I have, no phrase I turn seems worthy of putting out there.  In my head I'm also yelling at myself that I'm a hypocrite because I can tell my son exactly why he should send those kinds of self-defeating thoughts out of his head, but I can't seem to put my words into practice in my own life.  (If Will heard me say this, I'm certain he would tell me to stop being so hard on myself.)

But this is one of the powerful lessons we can learn through motherhood, isn't it?  We begin to see our own struggles more clearly when they're reflected in the lives of our children, and we can learn to extend the same gentle understanding to our vulnerable selves as we do to our children in their fragile moments.  We can realize that even if we don't get it all right sometimes, like our children, we are no less deserving of love.

Maybe it's the shrinking daylight hours that are making me feel small and overly critical these days; I don't know. But this morning, as I sit with a comforting warm mug of tea in front of my keyboard, I'm determined to take a page from the book of accumulated life wisdom I quote whenever Will and I have one of our heartfelt talks. If I want him to believe what I tell him, I certainly should believe it myself. There is no shame in not being the best at anything; what matters is that you have the courage to try.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Apple Cinnamon Doughnuts with Maple Glaze (gluten-free, vegan)

Fresh picked apples are now in season, a fact that makes the apple lovers in this house very happy. We all relish the simple fall pleasure of biting into crisp, sweet-tart fruit at some point every day, and the boys especially look forward to the special treats that apples get baked into this time of year. Because I had a fruit drawer bursting with new crop Ginger Golds and Cortlands this afternoon, I was inspired to try making some cinnamon and maple flavoured doughnuts with juicy pieces of apple nestled in them as a surprise after-school snack.  Judging by how quickly these doughnuts disappeared, I'd say the boys declare this recipe a winner!

Apple Cinnamon Doughnuts with Maple Glaze

For the doughnuts:

2 cups blanched almond flour
1 tbsp arrowroot flour
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp apple juice
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
half of a small apple, cored, peeled, and chopped into quarter-inch pieces

For the glaze:

2 tbsp coconut butter
2 tsp coconut oil
2 tsp pure maple syrup

plus 2 tbsp chopped, toasted pecans for sprinkling on top of the doughnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, arrowroot flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and sea salt. Whisk together the water, apple juice, maple syrup, and vanilla in a smaller bowl, and then add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.  Stir well until a uniform dough forms.  Fold in the pieces of chopped apple.

Divide the dough into six equal parts.  Take one portion and roll it under the palm of your hand to form a log shape that is about seven inches long.  Carefully lift the log and place it into the well of a doughnut pan, joining the two ends together to form a circle.  (The log will probably break a little, but don't worry -- just smooth out the place where the ends meet and any cracks or breaks with your fingers until you have a nice looking doughnut shape in the pan.)  Repeat this process with the remaining portions of dough.

Place the filled doughnut pan in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and let the doughnuts cool for about 15 minutes before turning the pan over and gently releasing the doughnuts onto a wire cooling rack.  Let the doughnuts cool completely before glazing them.

To make the glaze, beat the coconut butter, coconut oil, and maple syrup in a bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until it is smooth.  Place the mixture into a piping bag with a small round tip, and pipe the glaze onto the tops of the doughnuts, zig zagging back and forth across each one. Sprinkle the toasted pecan pieces on top of the glaze and serve the delicious doughnuts to the family members who will be hovering over you waiting for one the whole time you're working.  :)

These doughnuts are not overly sweet, but still bursting with flavour thanks to the apples and a generous helping of cinnamon.  They're a perfect treat for fall afternoons!

This post is linked to Gluten-Free Wednesdays.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Fabulous Fall Finds: Etsy

Autumn is definitely in the air this week; there's a cool breeze now that has all of us donning an extra layer of clothing before we head outdoors, and we even had the gas fireplace turned on at home this past weekend to help warm up our chilly house.  I love this time of year because of the coziness that fall brings, with its chunky knit sweaters and scarves, apple and cinnamon spiced baked goods, and rich, deep colour palette.

I've discovered many beautiful autumn-inspired creations while browsing Etsy lately, so today I'm sharing some of my favourite handcrafted finds for the home, for work, for little ones, and for treating yourself or a special someone this season.  (Click on the caption above each item for more details.)

If you're interested in seeing what other pretty items I've been drawn to on Etsy, you can take a peek at my favourites page here any time.  

Here's to the season of crisp afternoons, steaming mugs of tea, pumpkin patch adventures, and an inspiring display of some of Mother Nature's most beautiful handiwork.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Last week I felt as though I were protesting the start of a new school year with all my might (kind of like an upset toddler screaming and kicking and flailing about, except that it was all going on inside my head instead of in the middle of a grocery store aisle).  Noah had been placed in a 7/8 split class that was a very poor fit for him academically and socially; this caused us a great deal of stress and worry in the first two days of school and resulted in a usually non-confrontational me calling the principal and compelling him to reconsider.  Will was feeling anxious about the large volume of homework he already has this year, something he's not used to at all, and I was feeling super flustered over my new morning routine of driving Noah back and forth between two schools, given that half of our city streets are currently torn up for construction and getting to the high school right now involves navigating a labyrinth of traffic cones, orange-vested workers bearing stop signs, long line-ups of cars, and a dead raccoon lying in the middle of the single available lane for good measure. (Poor little raccoon.)  I must have filled out a tree's worth of forms for the boys for school, and I pretty much needed a computer program to keep track of the intricate details of our new carpool schedule for swimming and dance practices this year.  Everything felt difficult and crazy, and I was longing desperately to go back to the just-passed days of summer holidays where things were so much calmer and simpler.

This past weekend, Noah had the rare and fascinating experience of watching a real live baby turtle hatch from an egg.  He had been playing basketball in the school yard with some friends, and one boy mentioned that there were turtle eggs nearing maturity by a creek near his home.  The boys rode their bikes there and were lucky enough to witness the emergence of a tiny turtle from its cracked shell. Noah took a picture of the brand new little creature with his phone and excitedly brought the photo home to show Matt and Will and me.  We all marveled at the wonder of the beginning of life, a phenomenon that happens countless times over each and every day in the world, yet somehow never seems to lose its magic.

This week I've gained a better perspective on September and all of its strangeness; the month is a hopeful beginning of its own.  There are signs everywhere that it is time to move on:  the leaves are already changing colour on some of the trees that line our street, and the cool evening breeze whispers autumn as it rushes by.  Though it may seem safer and more comfortable to stay within the peaceful haven of summer's shell, the ever-spinning world outside it beckons us, promising new discoveries and new joys if we can persevere through the challenges of the unfamiliar.  This week I'm embracing what is happening now instead of looking longingly behind us.  I'm finding ways to make the new reality feel good for us, and I'm excited about the growing that a bustling year will allow each of us to do.  Even though these chances for a fresh start happen over and over again as August turns to September each year, I want to remember always to see the magic in them.

Friday, September 5, 2014

A time for everything

Will has grown up in many ways since I first started this blog and named it Pocketfuls in honour of his pocket-stuffing habit.  However, there is one thing Matt and I continue to find in Will's shorts or jeans on a very regular basis:  his dirty socks from earlier in the day, wadded up into little balls and pushed into the bottom corners of his front pockets once he gets tired of wearing them.  Despite the fact that we have told him a million times over that his socks don't get clean when they go through the washing machine that way, for Will, pockets are the most practical (and the least labour-intensive) way of dealing with dirty socks.  And so we all continue to argue and be exasperated over the pocket/sock situation, with each of us determined to prove our position on it is the right one.

One night earlier this week, I took Will to the dance studio where he takes hip hop (and this year, also jazz) classes so that he could be fitted for his new shoes.  (Can I just say that I never expected either of my boys to express an interest in the activity I loved so much growing up, and that seeing Will's still small feet in a sleek black pair of jazz shoes made my heart do a little dance of its own?)  It was a warm evening, and Will was wearing bare feet in flip flops when we entered the studio's waiting area, a fact which the studio staff member noticed as she gathered up some shoe samples for Will to try on.  She then produced one of those shoe store style nylon sockettes and attempted to pass it to my son.

"I hate to do this to you, Will," she said apologetically, "but I like to keep the shoes fresh and clean.  Have you ever worn pantyhose before?"

Will took an alarmed glance at that wimpy little sockette, and then his face lit up like a Christmas tree bulb as a sudden realization hit him.

"No! I have SOCKS!", he declared triumphantly, grinning from ear to ear as he reached into his front shorts pockets with both hands and produced a sad looking, scrunched up cotton wad from each of them, which he then proceeded to put on his feet so he could try on the shoes.

The Bible and a Pete Seeger song tell us there is a time for everything.  Leave it to Will to prove that there is even a time for having already-worn socks stuffed into your shorts pockets.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

I remember his first day of kindergarten like it was yesterday.  He was wearing a blue-and-white striped shirt, his sweet little wire-framed glasses, a backpack that looked almost as big as he was, and a shy but confident smile as I walked with him to the bus stop just a few doors down from our house.  His small legs had to take big strides to navigate the steps of the yellow bus that stopped and opened its doors to greet him.  I watched anxiously from the sidewalk as he carefully chose a seat and arranged himself in it, and then the bus doors closed and he was pulling away from me, off to a new and exciting place where I could not be there to protect him and his gentle heart.  Despite the fact that the biggest new challenges would be his to face, I was the one fighting back tears that afternoon.

That same little boy turned thirteen just a few weeks ago.  He shared his birthday with the wedding festivities of his uncle and aunt, and I loved that he loved being surrounded by family to celebrate his milestone day. We played a practical joke on him with his gift, apologetically presenting him first with an old, beat up used phone and telling him the smart new one he had been wishing for for months (his first cell phone ever) was out of stock.  After flashing us a brief, crestfallen look, he realized we had spoofed him and he heartily laughed over it like the good-natured kid he is.  He found joy in having doting young cousins following him around for a few days, and he carried one of them on his shoulders when she grew tired of walking on a hike through trails and fields.

Yesterday I walked with that boy and his brother to the school where he is now beginning his Grade 8 year. As I waited with other parents for the first-day welcome assembly in the gym, I felt a funny wobble in my heart with the sudden realization that he would now be one of the young teens huddled in groups socializing by the school walls that I had walked by every year since his early days of school.  I noticed he and his friends all seemed to have grown by leaps and bounds over the short summer months, as if they were determined to lay claim to their new "big fish" status.  Those sweet little faces I remember from just a few years ago seem to have all but disappeared.

And yet...

This morning I drove Noah to the high school for math class for the first time.  He wore a uniform shirt that is big on him to allow for all of the growing he's sure to do in the coming months, and a backpack that looked like it might topple him over, loaded to the hilt as it was with all of the things he needs for two separate school experiences.  He seemed so small to me as I watched him walk into the crowd of older teens milling about the school's front doors.  It's such a giant step he's taken with this mature decision to accelerate, but if he was feeling any doubts or nervousness today, he didn't show it.  He was calm and confident and his face was lit up with a genuine smile as we drove towards the building and this next stage of his life.  It was me who had to wear sunglasses to hide the tears welling up in my eyes as I told him how incredibly proud I am of him.