Saturday, January 17, 2009


Actually, I hadn't thought about making any resolutions until today, and I don't think of them so much as New Year's Resolutions but more as life-long resolutions. You wanna hear them? They're pretty simple ideas, more difficult to live out consistently...

1) Be thankful (and not judgmental or jealous)
2) Show affection more often to loved ones
3) Be a bit more open to people I come across in daily life, and be more intentional to treat them with kindness
4) Cultivate creativity in little ways each day

These are inspired by recent encounters with several friends who demonstrate these qualities so beautifully. I'll share a few stories...

In Dallas, I'm often prone to notice people's lifestyles (it seems that they often want you to notice here!) and how extravagantly they live. It's difficult for me to refrain from responding with an attitude of superiority (well, I would never spend that much!) or from feeling a slight tinge of jealously (wish I could afford to put my child in that music program...) Either way, I end up feeling yucky on the inside and like my focus is not in the right place.

Recently, while strolling with a new friend, we passed some luxury stores and commented on the fact that people actually shop there. I went on to make a judgmental comment about someone in my neighborhood who shops there. This friend didn't respond in kind with another self-righteous anecdote like mine...she simply said, "The most important thing is to be thankful for what we have, however much or little, and to remember that everything is a gift. That's what I want my kids to learn and to live by." I wholeheartedly agreed with her, and reflected on that for a few days. That is an approach that seems so simple and yet it is SO NEEDED in Dallas and the rest of North America. I appreciated that she was able to refrain from jumping in on the luxury-shopper bashing and instead, turn the focus around to the fact that whatever any of us have is a gift for which to be thankful. The antidote to jealous and self-righteous responses is remembering that for which we have to be thankful in our own lives. Now, on to putting it into practice...

Another long-time friend who lives in Tennessee reminded me of the importance of telling people what we appreciate about them. I noticed during a gathering of friends over the holidays, that she very naturally and cheerfully gave some lovely compliments to the others present throughout the evening, including one to me. She made everyone feel welcome and appreciated. I realized that when I notice something beautiful about another person, I often think it to myself without thinking to share it readily. This applies to physical affection as well...even if I care deeply about someone, I don't demonstrate that with a hug as often as I'd like to. I'm not sure why...there are exceptions to that, though, like Jon and Liam. :-)

A former neighbor and good friend in Montreal recently came to visit in Dallas, and while we were out and about during her stay, I noticed how open she is to people. I tend to make polite conversation at the grocery check-out, but my friend goes beyond that. She really looks at people, grasping little details about their lives, and engages in more meaningful conversation quite easily and naturally. As I watched her, I realized I often don't really see the person...I exchange pleasantries, but I'm focused on my own little life. I remarked the way several people lit up after my friend talked with them...feeling as though they had really been noticed and appreciated, even though the conversations were often simple. I need to really see and hear others...

My mom and my brother-in-law are very creative people without even trying to be. It just comes with who they are. I think that for them, it's like breathing, eating, bathing, sleeping. Wherever they are, whatever they're doing, it's gonna be creative in some way, shape, or form. I like that a lot. I inherited a bit of it from my mom but I have to be more intentional about cultivating it, or I just get into a lack-luster rut where I'm bored with life. I need creative projects in my life in order to appreciate beauty around me and restore a sense of wonder to the rest of my life. After spending Christmas with my family, I was inspired to follow through with some little creative projects to jump-start me back into creative living. One such activity will be post card exchanges.

I LOVE POST CARDS! I collect them wherever I go. When I was at L'Abri in Switzerland, two artists visited and shared their works with us. Among their incredible display, they included some post cards they had exchanged back and forth, each time added an artistic element or modification to the image on the front. They had some very powerful images come out of it as well as some silly, whimsical ones. I held onto that idea for a while and just recently decided to try it. I'm starting this week...maybe I'll include some pictures of the results on the blog.

If you read all the way to the end, thanks for caring about my thoughts! I would love to hear yours too. Feel free to share your comments. And maybe something I wrote will be of use to you in some way. Shalom, friends!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Week in the Life of Liam

I love watching Liam discover all kinds of new things every day. It is so delightful to see his eyes light up at the simplest of activities and objects which had become so mundane and ordinary to me. He helps me rediscover wonder in all the little things I often take for granted. We had a good week together.
Here are some highlights:

Learning to splash in the toilet (followed promptly with a bath!)

Eating a whole banana in one meal, accompanied by squeals of joy

Accompanying Mommy to a Stroller Buddies exercise class and getting his first kiss from a girl his age*

A romp through hay and among the pumpkins at the Dallas Arboretum with a photographer friend

Opening and shutting all kinds of things like kitchen cabinets and drawers

Taking his first trip to the zoo (he was more interested in dirt and rocks than the animals)

Trying to figure out the endlessly fascinating invention that is an electric fan

Staring longingly at outlets on the wall that Mommy tells him not to touch

Learning to eat apple slices by watching his next-door-neighbor Aiden (2 1/2 year-old)

Figuring out how to play his toy piano and dancing to the music he makes

Unwinding the toilet paper rolls over and over again

Becoming ever cuter and eliciting great delight and affection from Mommy and Daddy

* The little girl from exercise class is 18 months old. She liked Liam and walked over to him, patted him on the head, and then bent down to hug him and give him a kiss on the cheek, which he eagerly received. He responded by grinning and pulling her face towards his to give her a big, wet kiss on the lips. She managed to wedge her hand in between their mouths just in the nick of time! What a tease!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Lessons in Patience (or Sleep Don't Come Easy)

It is our own "accidental parenting" mistake (so called by the "Baby Whisperer" Tracy Hogg) that caused it but now we are paying the price, me (Katie) in particular. We travelled with Liam to Halifax and Prince Edward Island recently, which was a wonderful vacation but it got Liam off a regular schedule. The odds were stacked against his being able to sleep well with two full days of travelling, three different sleeping locations, numerous new faces, a two hour time difference, and severe teething pain. So, we resorted to long walks with the stroller and more nursing than normal to help him sleep. And it only takes two or three days to develop a bad habit...much longer to break it.

Upon our return, Liam fully expected his long walks to continue as well as breastmilk on demand. And it just wasn't gonna happen here in the Dallas heat with a mother eager to continue the process of weaning him. It was time to get used to falling asleep on his own in his crib again. A heck of a lot easier said than done, let me tell you. It's now been three weeks and it has been a looong battle of wills at every nap, every bedtime. There is much weeping and nashing of teeth, and Liam gets pretty upset too.

Thankfully, I got some good advice from my sister-in-law Stephanie and found the book The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems (By Helping You to Ask the Right Questions) by Tracy Hogg. To break a bad habit related to sleep, it takes major committment on the part of the parents. We're talking at least a week of really intense persistance in helping your child to learn to fall asleep on his own all over again. So, I am on day 2 right now, and it's really hard but it works. Liam's making progress, and I can feel my character growing in leaps and bounds.

A typical day includes wake up at 7 am followed by breakfast and play. Along comes 9 o'clock and it's time to feed Liam. He falls asleep while nursing but can never stay asleep when I move him to his crib. There are about 5 minutes of crying and then back to playtime. By the time it's 10:15, he's exhausted. I go through the getting-ready-for-sleepy-time ritual of a couple of stories, songs, and lights out. I lay him in his crib, and that's when the battle begins. He immediately pulls himself up on the rail and cries. I put him back down again and pat him and tell him it's sleepy time and that I will stay with him to help him fall asleep. We repeat this about 30 times. Then, the crying intensifies. "Maaaa maaaa!" he pleads, testing my determination to the very core. His face covered with snot and tears, he looks at me with desperation, shaking with sobs. I can't do this, I think to myself. Look at him, he needs me. But I remind myself that this is for his benefit and mine.

Basically this is no different than every day the past three weeks except that this time I am determined to stay with him and I now refuse not to cave in and take him for a stroll. According to Tracy Hogg, if I were to leave the room and let him cry it out, it would only increase his fear and make him feel abandoned. When I'm there, the tears are from frustration at having to fall asleep in a new way. If I were to leave, the tears flow out of fear of abandonment just when he needs me most.

So I stay...and I bend over the crib rail, gently stroking him, whispering "Shhhh, shhh, you will be ok. You can fall asleep, and I will be here to help you. You will feel much better when you have had a nap." The crying and getting up and getting put back down continue. All this goes on for about an hour and 15 minutes. He finally falls asleep at last!! The first day, his naps lasted 45 minutes. Today, the morning nap lasted an hour and 15 minutes. We're making progress.

Doing this with Liam three times a day (morning nap, afternoon nap, and bedtime) is taking up pretty much all my time. But I'm not as worn down as I was before I got the resolve from the Baby Whisperer plan. I am winning battles and making headway with him. Each time I help him fall asleep on his own, I feel energized, like I really accomplished something important.

All this is teaching me a lot. I never knew I had such patience in me... I think it's coming from God actually. I've been praying for it a lot more lately! And I'm learning about sticking it out with someone who is suffering (albeit, in his own baby way) and who thinks they can't make it. I'm watching perseverance pay off and there are all kinds of applications for my spiritual life there. It makes me realize the payoff of discipline and helps me fight the urge to eat another cookie and resist the temptation to get off the treadmill a couple of minutes too soon. Mostly, it reminds me of how patient God is with me and how his perseverance will eventually win out over my stubbornity in all kinds of areas. Thank the Lord for sticking it out.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Flea Market Shopping

Eager to find some good bargains on interesting pieces of furniture for our new place, Jon and I took off with Liam to Traders Village, the largest weekend flea market in Texas. ( We heard that everything is bigger in Texas, and it's true, for this experience anyway. It spreads over 120 acres (with, it seemed, as much space again for parking!).

We decided to go in the late morning in order to best accomodate Liam's schedule (evening would have been cooler but he goes to bed fairly early these days). We arrived at 11:30 and stayed until 2:00, which turned out to be the hottest period of the day at around 97 degrees!

One interesting food find was a frozen pickle juice popsicle! Maybe some of you have heard of this new phenomenon in the media but since we just recently arrived from Canada, it was our first encounter. Check it out: As a lifelong pickle-lover, I had to try one and convinced Jon to join me. I have always loved eating pickles and drinking the juice from pickle jars, a habit for which I was often teased by roommates over the years. But I was not prepared for this... it wasn't bad but it certainly wasn't refreshing on a day like today in the middle of 120 acres of asphalt.

Another interesting discovery was the Spam Mobile, with the slogan "Jammin' con Spam." ("Jammin' with Spam") It was a little kiosk on wheels playing music and handing out free samples of spam burgers. Of course, this got Jon and I started on quoting sections of Monty Python's spam skit ("Haven't you got anything without spam in it?!"), and we couldn't pass up the opportunity for a sampling. Jon enjoyed it but I found it a bit odd-tasting. Go figure.

This was my first time to a flea market and even though I expected to see lots of stuff I wouldn't buy, I was still amazed at the acres of junk! The classic flea market items that you see at almost every other booth seemed to include tacky t-shirts of all kinds (raunchy, death-metal, hideous, religious kitch, and just plain rude), knock-off sunglasses, knock-off sports shoes, and cheap plastic toys of the dollar store variety. There were also acres of booths covered with cheap bras and panties, jewelry, and yard ornaments. I was surprised to come across quite a few pet shops as well, all of them air conditioned. They were selling parrots and iguanas as well as the classic pets.

Jon and I were looking for some interesting furniture pieces, and we did find some, just not ones we would ever own. Our favorites were a bed with a large Texas star carved on the headboard and footboard, a blue suede couch with the Dallas cowboys logo right in the middle, and another couch covered in gold fringe. It just so turns out that the Texas lone star is a favorite motif for household decor around here.

Liam did well despite the heat. His favorite thing was the metal table we ate lunch on in the shade. He loved the texture and hitting it with various objects like my metal bracelet and his sippie cup. He also giggled quite a bit over the paper that was used to wrap our burritos. Why spend money on expensive toys when the kid gets a kick out of a table and paper?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

New to the Lone Star State

Funny how we had never been to Texas in our lives before this year, and here we are living in the Big D, as Dallas is known, wondering what adventures lie ahead.

We had heard about the incredibly hot summers from several people, but as a southerner from Tennessee, I thought it would be a breeze as long as we had some sweet iced tea and the A/C. Little did I know... Most days, it reaches the upper 90's farenheit and sometimes goes above 100. The humidity is unbelievable (I thought Texas was supposed to be dry!) and people don't really go out much in July, except at dusk, but that's when you become prey to the ravenous mosquitoes. We had often left our windows open in Montreal throughout the summer months, but in Dallas, you basically have to batten down the hatches and thank God for the invention of air conditioning. A brief walk from the house to the car and you're covered in sweat. Needless to say, our ice cream expenditure has dramatically increased since our arrival.

One thing we have enjoyed about being here is the friendliness of the people. In Montreal, making eye contact with a fellow pedestrian on the street leads to a stare-down, causing both people to wonder, "What does that strange person want from me?" Here, people usually smile and say, "How're ya doin'?" or "Good mornin'." Customer service has been outstanding (except for the electricity service providers and water services- we had a bad experience our first week leading to a day without water and a day and half without power). In general, it makes the big adjustments much more bearable for us.

Liam, our 8-month old, has been amazing through all the changes. What a great baby we have! He travelled well from Montreal to Chattanooga, Tennessee by plane and then from Chattanooga to Dallas by car, which took two full days of driving. He didn't seem to mind all the chaotic boxes and piles of stuff around him as we packed up in Montreal and then unpacked it all in Dallas. He loves to spend his time on his tummy, reaching for objects, and pivoting around. He loves animal sounds, balls, and anything he can use to make noise. He often babbles on to his stuffed animals and has a fantastic laugh. Earlier this week, I was shopping at Target with him, and he got a little ticklish. His hilarious laugh was contagious and as I pushed the cart past several aisles giggling myself, I spotted at least three or four other shoppers who couldn't contain themselves in response. What a delight he is!