(Random) Questions for You

Okay friends, I need your help, insights, and other relevant forms of participation.

Nicole led me to Eufy (and my Kobo), and Sarah got me started on Christmas spreadsheets…so we’ll see what great things await after today’s post!


  • Drugstore mascara recommendations. I need them. I’ve been using one of L’Oréal’s offerings for years and it’s fine, but on the pricier side of drugstore options…and I don’t love it.
  • Ideas for recipes to use up strawberry jam. We ended up with THREE bottles of strawberry jam (don’t ask), the kids prefer raspberry, and I rarely use jam. Thoughts?
  • How do you manage the comments you leave on other blogs? I have readers that come back and leave follow-up comments to their original comments days later and I wonder…are people using a comment management system (like Disqus)? Or do you just revisit websites/blogs manually and see what has transpired in the comment section?
  • Professional hair straightening/perms. I think I am decidedly low maintenance when it comes to physical aesthetics. I spend an average of 2 minutes a day on makeup (when I bother to wear it). I spend almost no time selecting outfits. And I spend 20-30 minutes total (including blow drying) on my hair each week. But the last entry is my least favourite personal task. I have wavy, frizzy hair. I can blow dry and straighten it (fine, but a nuisance) or I can let it air dry and then add in some curls (also fine, also a nuisance). But in recent months I’ve discovered someone I know gets their hair professionally straightened (the treatment lasts for months) and another who gets a perm. I didn’t know either of them had this done and assumed they had naturally straight/curly hair. The idea of being able to “wash and wear” is very appealing. Does anyone have feedback on getting hair professionally straightened or permed?

Thanks for your help and feel free to pose your own burning questions in the comments!

Header photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

What Great Feature Might I Be Missing?

I’ve written before about our unwavering love for the bottom-loading water cooler we have in our dining room. After years of John wanting a water cooler (I always resisted because I thought they were a) ugly, b) physically demanding, and c) an inefficient use of space – but, let’s be honest, it was mostly because I thought they were an aesthetic eyesore) I surprised him with one (a sleek bottom-loading Whirlpool version, to counter my concerns) for Christmas 2019.

Best. Gift. Ever.

We source most of our drinking water from a local spring (we use tap water, too, but it is heavily chlorinated so, for drinking purposes, we really appreciate having the option of ice-cold spring water); aside from the one-time investment to buy the cooler and refillable water jugs – and some minor electric consumption to run the cooling functions and pump motor – this appliance is a daily, inexpensive source of practical joy.

We’ve never used the water heating capabilities – though we have friends that rave about using the warming function to quickly steep an individual cup of tea. We’ve used it solely as a water cooler. No fancy bells and whistles.

And it has been great.

Then, one day in mid-December, out of the blue, I walked into the dining room at night and THERE WERE LIGHTS ILLUMINATING THE DISPENSER AREA. John had gotten fed up with trying to fill his water bottle in the dark and flipped a switch on the back of the water cooler and – Voila! – there were lights.

Wait. Our water cooler has lights?!

Can I just say how wonderful it is to use the water cooler in the early morning hours or after dusk and not have to turn on an overhead light? Also, at any time of day, these lights make it so much easier to tell when a cup/thermos/water bottle is full. Spilling incidents have dropped precipitously.

And the sad thing is, this capability is prominently named in the product description: “Whirlpool Black & SS Water Cooler Bottom Load Self Clean with LED Lights.”

Now, will you please excuse me while I go fill up my water bottle under the soft glow of warm-white LED lights…

Your turn. Have you ever used a product for years before discovering a “hidden” capability or setting that revolutionized some aspect of your life? Do you read user manuals when you buy a new item to get a well-rounded view of what a product is capable of? Do you think there is an item in your life for which you’re not taking full advantage of features?


Here are a few of my favourite Apple-product features:

  • If you double-click an AirPod, it will skip songs (a single click pauses/unpauses; a press and hold switches between transparency and noise-canceling). This feature is amazing when I’m exercising and don’t want to handle my phone to switch up the music.
  • Triple clicking on the home button of an iPhone turns things grayscale (a commonly mentioned “hack” for making phone time less visually appealing; bright colours are more addictive than gray).
  • A huge thanks to Kaelyn for alerting me to the fact you can track screen-time use on an iPhone widget. I am really appreciating having this stat on my landing page!

Header photo by Laura Mitulla on Unsplash

Would You Rather…Christmas Edition Part 2

Well, the first round of my Would You Rather game was a lot of fun so I thought: why not bring it back for a second round of questions and (your) answers?

Also, fear not. I have lived and learned and multiple answers will now be accepted! Forcing you to choose between white and coloured lights was clearly a step too far; never again.

*Update: For some reason, WordPress shut down the voting capabilities on this post mid-day. I can’t figure out how to fix the problem, so I guess all your compliments about my technological wizardry were premature! If you’re reading this post now, you’ll have to vote in your head or cast your ballot via the comments section below. Sorry, that’s not as fun, I know…*

Would you rather only be able to eat:

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Many of you might be tempted to put that multiple-answer voting capability to the test right out of the gate.

While I love a range of food at Christmas, if I was forced to choose, it would definitely be sweets. Don’t get me wrong – I would miss turkey. But give up my Twizzlers? Give up Cinnamon Coffee Cake? GIVE UP UNBAKED CHERRY CHEESECAKE? Perish the thought.

Consider me Captain of the Sweet Team.

This next question comes from Suzanne:

Would you rather celebrate Christmas:

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I’m an introvert at heart, so my preference – especially if I am hosting – will always and forever be just immediate family (which includes grandparents).

If someone else is hosting, a larger group is tolerable, but still not ideal. I find the chaos overwhelming and it’s hard to carve out downtime.

Also from Suzanne:

Would you rather:

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I definitely prefer when everyone opens gifts one at a time. We tend to take turns for the first while and then Levi gets a bit antsy of waiting. I try to distract him by having him select and deliver gifts from under the tree. This works for a bit but at some point the kids just start doing their own thing.

Many gifts take me several minutes or more to wrap and label (not to mention the hours and hours of thinking/shopping/buying/hiding) so I want to extend the opening experience for as long as possible to feel like I got more return on my investment. Unwrapping can all be “over” in an incredibly short span of time if we don’t find ways to savour and prolong the fun.

I also get a lot of joy out of seeing what other people receive; it usually feels like more fun than opening my own gifts!

From San:

Would you rather:

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Definitely Secret Santa. I suppose if I walked away with my coveted item in a White Elephant exchange I’d be happy. But I find the whole experience of swapping out gifts quite frustrating. That said, some gag gifts at White Elephant exchanges can make it all seem worthwhile. I remember one year friends of ours attended a White Elephant party. The husband bought a cheap frame at the DollarStore and replaced the placeholder image with a giant picture…of himself. It became the funny gag gift of the evening that was getting traded around like mad; at the end of the night he shocked everyone when he revealed – to the reluctant winner – that he had hidden a gift card inside the frame. Genius!

From NGS:

Would you rather:

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No question – home! We had a few very bad experiences with treacherous winter travel around Christmas. Plus, I prefer being in my own space, waking up in my own bed and not lugging all the gifts and gear. I do think if we didn’t have kids at home I’d be relatively neutral about going elsewhere as long as we didn’t have to drive through snow. When Abby and Levi were younger – and we lived in a teeny apartment that was not at all conducive to hosting company – we often did travel at some point over the holidays. But home is definitely where my heart is. Having my parents living down the street this winter is the best of both worlds. No overnight company and we all have our own space – but we’re able to effortlessly spend time together.

Would you rather

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I know I made up this question, but it is tough. I think I’d have to go with not knowing. I’m a sucker for surprises and I think it would bum me out to know everything under the tree. Also, many times over the years I’ve received something that I wasn’t expecting and while it might not have been something I would have selected – it ended up being a perfect example of It’s the thought that counts. For example, one year a child picked out a second-hand muffin tin (from the school bazaar). It was warped and looked a bit worse for wear – but I have used it so many times over the years with an enormous grin on my face because of the story and sentiment behind the gift.

Would you rather:

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Definitely late! I would hate to be finished with presents and such before Christmas. Several times when the kids were little we visited my parents before Christmas (so we could be back home for Christmas Day). I much preferred the years where we visited them after Christmas (we would arrive at their house on Christmas Day, but we pretended it was “Christmas Eve” for the sake of all our favourite Christmas Eve traditions – most of which involved food).

Would you rather:

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We have friends that always wrapped all the gifts for their kids on Christmas Eve. They’d set up a huge assembly line of items and wrapping materials in their bedroom and stay up into the wee hours of the night getting it done. (These are also the friends who labeled gifts with Bible verses that gave clues as to the contents; like: The rough shall be made smooth for a set of razors).

I prefer wrapping gifts in small batches, spread throughout December. After an hour of wrapping, I don’t find it fun anymore! I leave things quasi-set up for weeks in our laundry room, so it’s not much of a hassle to start/stop. And this way it feels more enjoyable, instead of an arduous chore.

Plus, I like to be in bed asleep by 10 pm on Christmas Eve, so staying up late to wrap holds little to no appeal! Aren’t I just a party animal…

Would you rather:

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#3, obviously.

But, in the spirit of the question, I think I’d rather be sick in the leadup to Christmas, as inconvenient as that would be for the preparations. Being well on Christmas would suddenly feel like the best Christmas gift of all.

Would you rather:

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I love, love, love tradition. But I do enjoy trying new things (within reason) and appreciate some of the changes we’ve made over the years to modify existing traditions.

But who am I trying to kid? I’m obviously Team Tradition.

If you could wave a magic wand and create your ideal Christmas setting/environment, would you rather:

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This is a lot like the previous question where I’m torn between my love of tradition and home, while recognizing how impactful it is to make new memories. If someone did lend me their magic wand – and after I used it to fold and put away all the laundry currently hanging out on my bed with a single flick of my wrist – I’d love to celebrate a Christmas with my closest family and friends in a cottage a bit like Kate Winslet’s from The Holiday. In this perfect scenario, we’d have a full-time chef preparing food for us (favourite recipes, just the way we make them, but even better!) and the weather would be crisp and clear – just perfect for long walks in the countryside. Crackling fires, cozy blankets, and warm drinks would abound. Perfectly content children would entertain themselves with friends for a few hours while all the adults chatted or retreated to cozy bedroom nooks with a good book. #Dreams


Your turn. Are you all about tradition – location, food, gifts? Or do you like to spread your wings and fly (maybe letting an airplane do the heavy lifting on the whole flight thing)? Are you Team Sweet or Savoury?

Header photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

Ask Me (Almost) Anything: Vol. 2 – Grab Bag

I’m baaaaccckkkk…with another round of Ask Me (Almost) Anything! Yesterday I tackled questions related to kids and travel. Today I’m sorting through an interesting smorgasbord of queries – several of which left me puzzling over how to respond.

Without further ado:

From Katie: Always curious about underbuying and minimalism and how it helps or hinders you!

I’ve talked about minimalism/underbuying a few times on the blog, but realize that most of those “discussions” happened before people (aside from me, myself, and I) were actually coming to this space, so I’ll include some links below. To recap, here is something I wrote about minimalism in one of those posts:

Minimalism doesn’t look to get rid of everything. It looks to prioritize those possessions or activities that are most valued and then removes the rest. Keep the flowers but pull the weeds.

I love getting rid of stuff that no longer serves a purpose – items that fill space mentally and physically. At the life level, this can mean prioritizing activities and behaviours that I value. And to do the latter, it’s so much easier when I have fewer material possessions distracting me.

Per that definition, minimalism is a net-positive in my life. I wasn’t always like this and had a stereotypically cluttered room as a teenager/university student. But ditching excess stuff felt like a necessity about 8 years ago when we were living in a small space with two young kids and running two small businesses, all while bootstrapping it with side hustles. It was very intense and, at some point, the only way I could cope was to minimize the chaos of my environment. This was hard to do in a tiny space, so I think – visually at least – I became a “minimalist” to others when we moved into our current home and it was more obvious that I eschewed accumulating stuff. For me minimalism is about: wanting what I have, having a place for everything, and appreciating each item for either its function (e.g. a hammer isn’t pretty, but I need one) or its aesthetic (e.g. I don’t need lots of plants in my home, but I love how they look).

My house can, at any given moment, look messy. This is fundamentally different from clutter. Messes mean things are not put away. Clutter means there are too many things/they don’t have a designated place. For example, here are two pictures from a Wednesday night several weeks ago. I was solo parenting and we got home from one event and had 30 minutes to unpack groceries, unload school backpacks, make/eat supper, and get out the door again. This is a mess, but it is not clutter. Every single item you see is out of place or being used – but it does have a place.

Sarah – behold my ancient dishwasher. I’d clone it and send it your way if I could!

From Suzanne: What is your most irrational fear?

I really don’t like insects. This is dripping in irony because my graduate degree was in entomology and I handled honeybees daily for months. I was very open about this and won a national graduate award from the Entomological Society of Canada, in part – I think – because my application essay detailed how much I did not like insects.

Also from Suzanne: What is your favorite thing about yourself – or your biggest strength?

Hmmm. This is tough. I underestimate my abilities, so even in answering this question, I feel less than sure of my response!

Probably my favourite thing about myself is my ability to remember small details when in conversation with others (for example, I’ll remember the names of a loose acquaintance’s grandchildren or someone’s favourite colour or how someone I barely know takes their coffee) – this attention to detail helps me in practical ways in day-to-day-life.

My biggest strength could be the very fact that I habitually underestimate myself. I studied hard in university because I never thought I could coast through. Even after years of good academic performance, I still prepared for every test as if I could very easily fail.

Unless I’m disagreeing with a family member (when I get very stubborn), I’m happy to consider the fact that other people are probably right and this leaves me open to learning new things. I just finished reading Adam Grant’s book Think Again where he writes: A mark of lifelong learners is recognizing that they can learn something from everyone they meet.

If I had to use one word to describe myself it would be mediocre – there is no area of my life where I consider myself proficient or an expert; while there can be a danger to this line of thinking, harnessed properly, I think it can be a major strength. I don’t assume I have everything worked out or have discovered the “right” way of doing things (except with loading toilet paper where there is a “right” way and a “wrong” way). I really am always on the lookout to learn new things, especially if that advice comes from non-family members; sorry fam, I know I can be very pig-headed.

The Phone Interview Blues – Life @ U of T

Also from Suzanne: What are your desert island foods?

Sushi. Oatmeal (with all my favourite fixings). Peanut butter on toast with banana. Unbaked cherry cheesecake. Twizzlers.

From Stephany: What are your favorite and least-favorite things about where you live?

Favourites:

  • The laid-back culture of Atlantic Canada. People are friendly and unpretentious. Neighbours help neighbours. For the most part, people couldn’t care less what you do for a living or what type of car you drive. I live in a town where the local librarians automatically cue up my account – and put my holds stack on the counter – the instant we make eye contact. Just today a new librarian was working and couldn’t access my account; a regular librarian leaned over and said: Oh, that’s because you’re spelling her name wrong. It’s with an ‘s’. Yes, all the librarians know how to spell my name properly. That alone should tell you all you need to know about where I live…
  • The natural beauty of Nova Scotia blows me away (it recently topped the list of 30 places to travel in 2023 in Lonely Planet’s guide). We’re within driving distance of gorgeous coastline, beautiful beaches, and impressive lighthouses.
  • We enjoy the best of both worlds. Despite living in a “rural” area, we’re less than an hour from an international airport, a world-class children’s hospital, lots of great restaurants and so much more. And though I love walking my kids to a community school and do 90% of my grocery shopping at small in-town stores, I’m 10 minutes from a Home Depot and Walmart. The small-town feel, but close to big-city amenities.

Least-favourite thing: Winter. It’s cold and icy and bleak. I hate winter.

Also from Stephany: When putting on socks and shoes, do you do sock, shoe, sock, shoe or sock, sock, shoe, shoe?

Um. Sock, sock, shoe, shoe. Does anyone NOT do this? If so, I didn’t know that was even legal…

Also from Stephany: What are some of the books that everyone else raves about that you didn’t like at all?

I was not a fan of The Midnight Library. Or The Year of Magical Thinking. Or Lord of the Flies (I assume some other people will agree with me on this one?! But I know a few adults who loved reading this book in high school. How? Why?). Or The Giver (read it in Grade 9; hated it; maybe I should try again?). Or Reasons to Stay Alive. Or Girl, Wash Your Face. Or The Dinner List. Or Wintering. Or Where The Red Fern Grows (this book is one big long trauma – why is it a beloved classic?).

From Ally: This is a question I was asked years ago and it lead to some great conversations. As a personal blogger do you think of yourself as a Creator or a Coach? Are you expressing yourself or are you encouraging others? And how do you handle your comments because of it?

Wowzers. What a question. I’ve only been blogging a little over a year, so am very much a “newby”. For the first few months, I was publishing things for an audience of 1 (literally). Me. That hasn’t changed on one level; I try to post only about things that interest me or help me think of personal experiences in a new light. To that end, I think of myself as an encourager – but for myself first and foremost. That said, I do hope the things I write – in an attempt to express myself/process the world -help/motivate/encourage others toward positive growth.

I would never call myself a Coach (that seems to imply I have some level of expertise/proficiency, and you now know I categorize myself as mediocre)…so let’s go with Creator?

I aim to treat each comment/response as if a personal friend were asking me a question – in the flesh – over a cup of tea. Because that is what this community has become – an extension of my friend group, albeit via distance.

From NGS: When you think of your life in thirty years, what do you picture?

Doing life with John. He has so many incredible skills in cross-cultural settings and has a heart for helping others. And I think/hope I could also be useful? So in 30 years, I envision us retired, working in a volunteer capacity in a developing country. Hopefully with lots of visits from our kids (and grandkids?!) with some leisure travel on the side.

Also from NGS: What are some holiday traditions you’re looking forward to in the next month or two?

I’m so glad you asked. I love Christmas. I love traditions.

  • Watching White Christmas with my best friend. An absolute highlight for me each year. We basically have the whole script memorized and it is pure fun to watch this movie and quote lines together. There’s singing! There’s dancing! And the evening usually involves some delicious sweet or salty treat (or both) and fluffy blankets and twinkle lights.
  • Opening new ornaments on Christmas Eve. We each get a new ornament on Christmas Eve; when the kids leave home, they’ll have 18, 19, 20, (45?!) ornaments to take with them.
  • All the food. I love the food at Christmas.
  • The kids opening Advent calendars every morning before breakfast.

From San: If you had three wishes, what would you wish for?

  • For my kids to be healthy, happy, well-adjusted, and strong in their faith.
  • To be guaranteed to grow old together with John.
  • Unlimited free air travel for life for the whole family (as in: we could go anywhere, at any time, for free).

Also from San: What’s one thing you’d like to accomplish this next year?

I want to plan out my summer for 2023. I went into Summer 2022 trying to be laid back, but it really backfired. It was unusual circumstances – a crazy combo of renovations, company, the kids off for extra time because of our road trip, a stressful neighbourhood dynamic – but I end up really struggling with my mental health and want to be more intentional about doing things that help me feel grounded. In short, I need to keep planning exactly like I do during the rest of the year.

From Sarah: What Bible version do you like best?

I have a NASB study Bible, but my go-to Bible (I asked for a new one last Christmas and it’s aesthetically beautiful) is now ESV.

Also, even though I stopped on day 311 last year, I have to give a plug for the One Year Bibles (they come in a variety of translations), which are organized into daily readings designed for reading through the whole Bible in a calendar year. In that Bible, I have the NLT!

From Tobia: What is your favorite fruit?

Raspberries. Then strawberries? Though a really good: apple, banana, peach, or slice of watermelon (with salt) are hard to beat. While I eat fruit most days, I’m not actually a huge fan.

Also from Tobia: What is the oldest piece of clothing you own?

What an interesting question! Definitely my black and white flowered skirt. During my first summer of university, I worked at a research facility in Montreal and lived with my brother (who worked in the same complex). We went to a local mall one day, and I bought this skirt. I’ve worn it every single year since; it’s almost 20 years old!

I could not think of how to find pictures of me wearing this skirt and then remembered the debacle that is Mother’s Day. You’ve all seen pictures of my kids smiling, right? For the record, two of these years – involving different kids – the wailing was because the sun was “too bright”. Note to self: henceforth we should only take Mother’s Day pictures in sunglasses. Or using cardboard cutouts of the kids – smiling.

2015
2016 (not wearing the skirt, and we’re still jinxed)
2019

And, for the record, we don’t have a single picture of the kids crying on Father’s Day. What am I supposed to make of that?


Your turn. What are your desert island foods? Favourite fruit? What’s something you hope to accomplish in 2023? (Or feel free to answer any other question above!).

Header photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Ask Me (Almost) Anything: Vol. 1 – Kids + Travel

First of all, thank you to everyone for submitting such thoughtful, hilarious, entertaining, ______(insert other descriptive words) questions. I have a feeling this will be a long post, so let’s jump right in:

KIDS

From Lisa: How long were you married before you had kids?

Less than two years. I was surprised to get a positive test result a few weeks before our first anniversary but it definitely made sense – I was EXHAUSTED all the time. This means I was 7 months pregnant when I defended my Master’s thesis – and my due date was 2 days after the end of a research contract – so there was not much buffer between graduate school and motherhood!

From Katie: Curious how you decided to have 2 children and what your favorite parts of having a girl and boy are?

Honestly, two kids felt like all my body and mind could handle. Before actually having children, I was convinced I would have four. This was my family structure growing up (2 sisters + 1 brother). But then I ended up with an unexpected C-section, an especially challenging second pregnancy (which also required a C-section), and was unable to nurse. Both kids had colic and reflux, and motherhood took a huge toll on me mentally and physically. Also, because I have a “thin uterine lining” and a whole lot of scar tissue, a VBAC would be out of the question; plus, because of said scar tissue, the risks associated with additional C-sections weren’t inconsequential either.

Favourite parts of having my girl: watching her grow up and become more of a friend. I love thrifting with her and sharing an interest in things like Harry Potter trivia and listening to music when we’re driving somewhere solo. (And I have to admit I 100% loved all the pretty dresses when she was little. It might sound cliché, but dressing a toddler girl was so. much. fun.)

Favorite parts of having my boy? That he’s sensitive to those around him and tends to have excellent emotional IQ. I love how dirty he gets playing outside – he’s very enthusiastic about whatever he’s doing and that shows in worn knees on all his pants and scuffed sneakers. He’s an “all in” sort of kid. I love his voice – it’s truly the sweetest – and our hushed conversations at bedtime. I also appreciate what a deep thinker he is; he can go from climbing trees to discussing huge existential topics in the span of just a few minutes.

From Suzanne: Did you always know you wanted kids? Was it always two?

Yes, I knew I wanted children and always envisioned a family of 4. This didn’t happen; see above!

Also from Suzanne: How did you choose your kids’ names?

John entered my life loving the name Abigail. I didn’t have any strong attachment to specific names (though as a teenager I thought Mackenzie for a girl was the cat’s meow). If Abby had been a boy, she would have been Elijah – Eli for short. We briefly discussed: Charlotte, Catalina, and Violet. But, really, it was Abigail all along.

Here John and I butt heads – he thinks he suggested Levi, and I’m pretty sure it was me. Either way, I firmly believe it’s the best boy name EVER. One thing I know for certain: I read a book by Ann Voskamp (One Thousand Gifts) when I was newly pregnant with Levi. She wrote about one of her sons named Levi being involved in a farming accident; when I read that story I immediately 1) loved the name Levi and 2) “knew” something was about to happen in my life. A few days later we had our routine 20-week ultrasound and the next few months were an intense blur of appointments. We didn’t find out the gender, but I felt in the core of my being it was going to be a boy. Fun fact: because Eli had been our “boy” name for Abby, for the first few weeks after Levi was born, I kept calling him Eli.

As for middle names, those are more personal. Abby’s middle name – Isabella – is a play on her grandmother’s name. It is also a nod to her Portuguese heritage. Levi’s middle name – Indiana – comes from John’s love of the Indiana Jones movies. People assume it is related to Indiana the American state; nope – it’s because of action movies. (To put this in more context, John and I walked down the aisle at our wedding to the Imperial March -Darth Vader’s theme song. At our rehearsal, my Mom heard it for the first time and said: This is a joke, right? That’s not actually the song you’re walking out to? It was not a joke, but I did put an asterisk by the song title in our program that read: By special request of the groom.)

From Sarah: How do you strengthen your kids’ faith while they are in public school (presumably)?

Yes, both children attend public school and faith is a big part of our lives! I’m no expert – and every situation is unique – but here are a few thoughts from my experience:

We encourage our kids to ask questions. The Bible mentions talking about spiritual things when you wake up and when you go to bed and we end up doing this most days, often in the form of open discussions. We answer questions as we’re able, but also admit we don’t have it all figured out! A few years ago I read the following (paraphrased): Wrestling with God is a full-contact sport; as in, if you’re asking questions and working through things, you’re in contact with Him. I’d rather them feel secure in asking questions – even if they’re hard/unanswerable – over becoming apathetic! (To quote C.S. Lewis: Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.)

We support our kids when they engage with others. One child in particular is very open about their faith. They emerged from a day camp recently and literally the first words out of their mouth were: “Do you know So-and-So doesn’t believe in God? But we sat together at lunch, and he said it would be okay if I talked to him about God. So I did. And he shared his lunch with me.” I was gobsmacked. How did this come up in casual conversation? And how are you so confident at (insert young age) that you broached this topic over Cheetos and apple slices? About this same interaction, the child said: “He doesn’t believe in God, but he knows about Him. And everyone has to make their own choice about believing, don’t they?

We openly discuss where beliefs diverge. Specific religious beliefs of any kind are not championed in our local public school, but perhaps because we’ve been so open with our kids, they realize and are curious about those around them. For example, we discussed Ramadan one year when a friend reached the age where they were fasting during the day. We’ve talked about the difference between atheists and agnostics. We never try to pretend that everyone believes the same things. This comes up in conversations about language, too. Both kids have mentioned people using the Lord’s name in vain at school and we discuss how/why others might use these terms so differently from us. We can be sensitive to it (and not participate in it/prefer no one used this language), while realizing there are inherent differences in other people’s spiritual beliefs.

We raise our kids in light of certain truths we adhere to, but they are going to have to make their own choices. I love a point I heard once that God doesn’t have any grandchildren – as in, we each make independent decisions. My deepest desire is for my kids to have a personal relationship with Jesus because I believe in sin and His redemptive sacrifice. I think their response to this question is of infinite importance. But our kids are independent individuals and I recognize they will have to make their own faith choices. We are trying to equip them to think critically, we are offering them regular exposure to faith-centric activities and discussions, and we live out our own faith journey in front of them – the rest is between them and God.

Also from Sarah: How do you limit screen time for your kids?

Um. We kinda don’t? They have no set time limits. There is no way they “earn” screen time. There is no quota for the week. We try to naturally limit things – between extracurriculars and school, there are a lot of hours they can’t be on screens. For the most part, this approach works. Many days they watch nothing, but there have certainly been plenty of Saturdays where they watch 6+ hours. Nothing catastrophic has happened yet.

From NGS: What are your top five picture books?

You’re kidding, right? FIVE picture books. You want me to stop at FIVE? This is clearly an impossible question (I’ve got a whole post about picture books and favourite ones here). I’m going “cheat” and do this in two categories.

My top five favourite sentimental books:

Top five picture books from the last few years?:

And since you asked (wait, you didn’t ask?) here are five books my kids might list:

I feel like I’m reading an Oscar acceptance speech and the music is playing and I still have a dozen people I want to mention…

TRAVEL

From Lisa: What is the best trip you and John have taken?

Paris, 2019. Full stop. We talk about this trip constantly. It was the experience of a lifetime. Perfect weather. Amazing food. Sitting on the lawn at Trocadéro with a bottle of wine watching the sun go down and the Eiffel Tower light up is one of the best experiences of my entire life. It was my first time visiting Paris and it was everything I had hoped for and more.

Also from Lisa: What is the best trip you’ve taken with kids?

We haven’t done many “big” trips with kids (aside from 3 weeks in Denmark when Abby was a toddler). Thus both by process of elimination – and because it truly was an incredible experience – I’d have to say our trek to South Carolina last May. The weather was great; plus, my sister and her family are pure fun. Seriously. There was so much laughter on that trip. Bless.

Denmark, 2012
En route to South Carolina, 2022

From San: If you could move anywhere (for a while), where would you want to live?

Somewhere warm. Not hot, just temperate. In an ideal world, I’d leave Canada from December 26th to May 1st.

If it was for year-round living, somewhere in Scandinavia.

From Tobia: What is the furthest you traveled from home?

Sydney, Australia – literally the other side of the world. While it wasn’t as memorable as Paris, it was another great trip. And it changed the trajectory of our lives as an impromptu meeting while there launched John on a new career path.

With Abby’s “Chickie” in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Fun fact: I wasn’t on an airplane until my last year of university. My parents didn’t have much money when I was growing up, and aside from a few road trips down to South Carolina, I basically never left a 4-5 hour radius of my childhood home until I was almost 20.


Okay – that wraps up the first round of questions. I’ll be back tomorrow with Vol. 2 which is a more eclectic mix (favourite fruit! minimalism! how I’d use three wishes! irrational fears! desert island foods!).

Also, if you have more Ask Me (Almost) Anything questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below, or via my nifty Google form.

Your turn. What’s the best trip you’ve ever taken? The furthest you’ve traveled from home? If you have children, how did you settle on names – and was it a consensus or compromise?

Every Day Is Better If It Includes…

Several times over the years a friend has told me: Every day is better if it includes a banana. We both happen to like bananas (for me, especially when topped with a liberal smear of peanut butter), but I certainly don’t eat a banana every day.

But, when I do, I almost always think of her words. I’m not entirely convinced every day is better if I eat a banana – I’ve had some pretty crummy days and I’m sure a good portion of them included eating a banana at some point – but it doesn’t hurt. Bananas are delicious. So, how would you finish the sentence: Every day is better if it includes…

Thoughts?

Header photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

Weird, True, and/or Random

First, a sincere thank you to everyone for their supportive comments on yesterday’s post. This community of readers is a testament to how we’re truly stronger together!

And now let’s turn our attention to decidedly lighter fare. Every once in a while it’s fun to do a brain dump of random/irrelevant things I’ve noticed/thought about. Here goes:

  • I rarely cut myself shaving. When I was a teenager, I was constantly nicking my ankles or knees. Now, I might cut myself…once a year? I use cheap disposable razors (think 12 for $2 from the DollarStore). I dry them off after each use, and each one lasts for months! I also don’t use any shaving gels or creams – just whatever soap happens to be in rotation. I am decidedly low-maintenance in this regard, but I’m still not sure how I went from regularly nicking myself (using much more expensive razors and special shaving gels) to almost never nicking myself?
  • A few weeks ago I was mopping the floor in our dining room; I had closed the French door that connects to the kitchen and happened to catch my reflection – and I jumped. For a split second, I was absolutely convinced someone had come into the house and was standing in my kitchen. I felt silly – and it took a while for the adrenaline to wear off – but it did make me laugh.
  • Two days later I opened the door to our car and a gust of wind made a leaf on the floor mat dance around and I screeched. I thought it was a brown mouse. I’m clearly feeling extra skittish?!
  • There is a familiar route in town that I instinctively take to get to various locations. It is currently full of potholes (MASSIVE craters that are literally impossible to miss because the entire street has been ripped up). For weeks I kept forgetting about this…until after I’d committed to that route. It started to feel a bit pathetic how many times I’d get to within 20 seconds of that section and be incredulous that I had committed the same mistake – again.
Abby was going through a box of old pictures and found one of these modified birth announcements…
  • I’ve posted about my name before (and how some people strangely call me Liz without any invitation to do so + how some people, who have known me for an extended period, continue to spell my name incorrectly), but here’s another fun tidbit. My mother had written out all my birth announcements as Elizabeth – you know, back before there was Facebook or Instagram – when my father happened to glance at one and casually mention: Oh, I spelled her name with an “s” on the birth certificate application. Somehow they had gotten their wires crossed; turns out, in older versions of the Bible, Elisabeth is spelled with an “s” and so that’s the spelling my father had defaulted to. My Mom scratched out the “z” and changed it to an “s” and the rest is history.
  • I HATE baths and I dislike them more and more each year. I get overheated. I feel icky sitting in stagnant bathing water. It is entirely feasible that some years I will go 365 days without taking a single bath. More generally, we are a shower family. When the kids were really little we bathed them, but when Abby was a toddler we visited my brother in Denmark for 3 weeks and he only had an upright shower. So she had to adjust to a shower at a young age and we just never turned back; Levi was taking showers as soon as he could sit up independently!
  • Until recently I didn’t know what level a sophomore vs. a junior was; in Canada, we tend to only label someone as a freshman. After that we’ll say: they’re in their second year of university, third of university, final/last year of university. And in high schools, we mostly specify grade – I will almost never hear someone say their child is in their senior year, they’ll say they’re in Grade 12. I wonder if it’s an American thing? Or if I’m just living under a rock. Either way, every time I heard sophomore or junior I had NO idea what this meant. Now I do, thanks to this post by Kelsey at Rising*Shining (I also followed her lead and created my own “The Years are Short” spreadsheet).
  • I can’t do any cool body tricks. I can’t cross my eyes. I can’t roll my tongue. I’m not double-jointed. I can’t wiggle my ears, or my nose. I can’t whistle with fingers in my mouth. The only slightly cool thing I have mastered is a very specific pen flip that I spent WEEKS perfecting in high school that I can still do – thankfully, given how many hours of academic learning I ignored to perfect said skill. I also tried to learn how to gleek as a teenager and it bothers me to this day that I never learned how (though, also, gleeking is gross, so maybe I should be relieved). A classmate of mine could gleek SO well and we would sit in the back row of music class and she would just…sit there and gleek. Her name was Tiffany and I remember nothing else about her aside from her gleeking proficiency.
  • The kids have been into Pokémon card trading lately and it made me think of Pogs for the first time in…decades. Does anyone else remember Pogs? My parents would never have financed a fad like that, so a friend gifted me a slammer, a little stack of Pogs, and even a genuine Pog carrying case. It was hot pink with a yellow cap. My Mom uses it to store crochet hooks now.

Your turn. Do you cut yourself shaving? Do you like baths? Are you easily frightened – I’m not, but apparently leaves and my own reflection are pretty terrifying? Did you ever collect Pogs? Most importantly – can you gleek, cross your eyes, or roll your tongue?

Header photo by Laura Mitulla on Unsplash

Does Your Smile Have A Price Tag?

A few months ago I had to take a child to the dentist. The visit went smoothly, though there was a gentle suggestion that parents might need to take over flossing duties. Ahem. Duly noted…and subsequently ignored.

We were talking about an orthodontist consult we’d had and the costs associated with these procedures; the dentist mentioned several studies recently that have found people with straight, white teeth are more likely to end up in a higher wage-earning bracket as an adult. He said something along the lines of: It’s too bad society works this way…but it does.

During this same visit we talked about the wonderful provincial healthcare plan that covers most of the cost of dental work for children until they turn 15! (This is not standard across all provinces, strangely enough.) The dentist mentioned how, even though it’s free, many parents who don’t have the financial wherewithal to pay for their own dental work – out of a position of shame and/or concern about expensive procedures being recommended that wouldn’t be covered – don’t bring in their eligible children. It hadn’t crossed my mind that this free resource would be disproportionately accessed by people with more financial independence.

From having the flexibility to cart your children to appointments in the middle of the day, to being able to cover the bill to correct issues, in so many ways, the cascade effect of privilege can impact what the world sees when we smile.

I had never really thought about well-aligned, white teeth as being yet another form of socioeconomic privilege but, of course, they are. And that realization took me by (sad) surprise.


Your turn. How do you feel about the dentist? Did you have braces as a child – I, along with several other family members, have a slight gap in my front teeth and, through no virtue of my own, evaded orthodontic treatments. That’s fortunate because there is no way my parents would have been able to afford braces. Once, when my siblings were younger, a dental bill for our family totaled more than my father’s net salary for a MONTH.

Header photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash