Since Judah was born some 18.5 months ago, heck, since Judah was conceived 10 months before that, our life has been a series of firsts.

First pregnancy test, first meeting with  midwives, first time wearing elastic- waist pants, first four- day- labour, first delivery of large 8 pound child from tiny woman, first night wondering what the heck we'd done, first smile, first realization that you'd do anything for this tiny creature, first effortless breastfeeding latch (hallelujah!), first roll from front to back, first crawl, first taste of fruit, first word, first birthday, first steps, first tantrum...so many firsts, some wonderful, some not so much, but all of them momentous.

This week we've had two new firsts emerge...

Thursday night when we were in our hotel in Ottawa, I spotted Luke giving Judah's neck a very thorough once over. Then I watched as he tried to scratch something off of the spot where he had been staring. Judah looked perturbed. I was intrigued. I came over to see what was happening.

Luke said "There's something stuck to Judah's neck."
I said "It's his first freckle!!!"

And so it was, we laughed, we wept, we celebrated- ok, I made that last part up, but we were pretty excited. Our little baby with all his perfect baby skin was suddenly transformed into a toddler with an attitude and skin markings to match.

And, because we are first-time parents, we later took a picture of it. Although, I'm sure even you will admit it's pretty darn cute. ..if you look really closely... 

Our other first this week came in the form of Judah's first haircut. Most of Judah's little baby friends have had multiple haircuts by now. In fact, I'm pretty sure the majority of his buddies would look like ewoks had their parents waited this long to give a trim. Judah, however, is always honing his "soon to be a super senior citizen" skills (eating at buffets in track pants, slipping in the bathtub, shouting at teenagers etc.) complete with only growing hair right behind the ears so it just sits on the collar of his shirts. Even then, his hair is so blonde, you can only see it in the right light. This weekend however, someone asked him if he was the drummer for Lynard Skynard and I knew it was time.

The before...

I was slightly terrified here. The last trim I performed was on my sister 15 years ago. She ended up having a bob at the level of her eyeballs.

The after.

Next first to tackle...potty training!
(Heaven help us).



Hi everyone, 
I've been delinquent with the blog posts this week. Not because I'm lazy (even though that's partly true), but because we've been back in Ottawa!

More stories to come when we're home again, but for now some pictures of Judah's Ottawa adventures to date! 

"After about midnight my dad starts to fall asleep at the wheel. That's typically when I take over."

"All these high falutin' politicians and no one in this city knows how to properly swab a deck!"  

"Take me to a Beaver Tail stand!"

"A wagon full of food!? What is this place and why don't I live here?"

"And now, for my second piece, I'd like to play a Chopin- A,B,C,D medley."

"This is what satisfied pizza eating looks like... oh and space cadet pizza eating as well."

"The view from my hotel balcony. It would have been even better if mom had let me stand out there without my pants on."

"It was a challenge to monopolize a king size, but I rose to it."

"I'm telling you people, it's a lot colder in Ottawa than in Southern Ontario. You need big boots. And yes, I recommend them 11 sizes too big so you get the air circulation around the toes."

"Yes, hello. I need to speak to Stephen Harper. I'm hoping to get some chips for breakfast legislation passed.... sure, I'll hold."


The Red Behemoth

On Friday, Judah and I went to a local indoor playground for a crawl around the tunnels and slides. This playground is the kind of place where people who have nice houses host their kids’ birthday parties  a.) Because they can afford to have a bunch of adolescent employees shout at their child and their child’s friends, rather than do it themselves, and b.) Because they probably have nice carpets and nice carpets and awesome birthday parties don’t mix.
Normally it’s about 5 dollars a pop for a child of Judah’s age to get in the door, even more if the kid is older and can actually do more than lick the balls in the ball pit, Luke and I are both Dutch, however, so the first time we took Judah was the 10th anniversary extravaganza- because admission was free. We walked in the door and said, “Enjoy this Judah, because you probably won’t be back until some kid invites you to his party here in the fifth grade.”  How wrong we were. That fateful day we filled out a requisite door prize ballot, and lo and behold received an email the next day informing us we had won a year’s pass. Total score!!!
Now, to get a proper visual of the kind of indoor playground we’re talking about requires some imagination. There are approximately 4 levels of tunnels, nets, cubes, slides and ramps. The highest level is about 20 feet up. I’m fairly confident the person who designed the facility bought a bunch of random playground equipment and let their five-year-old son put it together. Some of the areas are really dark, the slides are really steep with pretty big drops at the bottoms, and there are quite a few places in the "cube section" where you can fall through holes- in a nutshell, it's amazing! Best of all, if you go on a weekday when most children are toiling away learning about photosynthesis, you can pretty much have the place to yourself! Most of the parents who do bring their kids, bring a laptop or a book and sit in the table and chair area away from the playground. Judah, being about half a decade too young to handle most of the equipment, requires parental assistance, so Luke and I end up going along.
On one of our early forays into the tunnels we heard whisperings of the giant red slide. The red behemoth that was difficult to find, but once found, guaranteed screams from even the toughest middle-schooler. After witnessing a birthday party picture being stalled by the absence of “Tyler!!!!!!!!” who was lost in the playground looking for said Behemoth - he never did emerge, likely a victim to the Siren call of the rolling conveyorbelt (picture your child as a milk crate), we knew we had to find it.
Luke, Judah and I entered the tunnels with new resolve...and kept up the resolve for five minutes...then ten....then fifteen... After almost twenty minutes we were still somewhere in the labyrinth of plastic with no sign of the mythic slide. Desperate times called for desperate measures; we found a seven year old with a wild glint in his eye – the telltale mark of a red behemoth rider. We pleaded with him to lead us to the spot. He obliged, swinging his way from level to level like a spider monkey on birthday cake. Winded but exhilarated, we found ourselves in a dark, dead- end tunnel with only one exit- the red behemoth! Luke took Judah down first. They screamed for longer and higher than necessary (I hoped), as I psychologically prepared myself to follow.
I dislike heights and I dislike activities that have a distinct possibility of killing me, so the sheer drop ahead of me seemed like a rather bad idea. However, my 17 month old son had just hurtled himself down with a smile, so how could I turn back? I closed my eyes, braced my hands against the walls of the tunnel in an attempt to slow down the certain death to come, and pushed off. I was like a bullet - no joke. My stomach dropped in a way it hadn’t since our plane home from Amsterdam decided it had bronchitis and tried to cough us all out into the Atlantic. It was terrifying.
At the bottom, I was exhilarated. I kissed the ground. I kissed Judah. I kissed Luke. I kissed my elbow from which I had scraped off several layers of skin. Then we looked at each other and realized there was only one thing we could do ...go back and try it again!
Now, each time I take Judah to conquer the playground, I'm cognizant of how amazing it is we have the opportunity to experience a bit of childhood again. I only hope we are nurturing his sense of adventure and natural curiosity as much as he’s nurturing ours.  
Happy playing everyone!
If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older. 
Tom Stoppard


The Romance Project

I'm a bit of a romantic. Ok, more than a bit. I spent a good part of my adolescence co-writing epic romance novels which my besty Heidi, when I was 7 my favourite song was "Longer" by Dan Fogelberg (Youtube it, I dare you)... and I was fairly certain that my first encounter with my soul mate would involve a burning building and original poetry (I'll let your imagination run with this as it will). That's why it's all the more amusing that I ended up with Luke as my partner in crime.

Luke is perhaps the least romantic man alive...I might be exaggerating a little, but then again maybe not...
Just so you don't get the wrong impression, please know that he is wonderfully kind, funny, giving and loving. All of these things, however, can, and do in Luke's case, exist without being romantic. To his credit, he never pretended to be a romantic. Our first date was in a leaky canoe covered with fresh fiberglass patches- the remnants of which ended up on my jeans. He handed me a Midas oil-change receipt to wipe it off. I should have know right then.

Almost 9 years later, here we are: Luke undertaking a second, super-demanding degree, I'm working full time, an 18 month old, mind-boggling,  little human running around our knees. Any romance that was kicking around, has officially been kicked out.

Around the end of October, when the sum total of our romantic interactions were taking the other person's turn to change a poopy diaper and discussing when the next garbage day was as we fell asleep, I dreamed up the Romance Project. For one month, we were going to be super romantic to each other- whether we liked it or not!

Now, as previously mentioned, Luke is incredibly wonderful and generally adopts all my harebrained schemes with a smile. This one was no exception, possibly because he wanted to do whatever he could to get back to studying calculus, but never mind that. In any case, we both sat down with pen and paper and made a list of 30 gestures we would find romantic if done by our partner for us. We each had a glass jar- one labelled "Romance me Luke!" the other "Romance me Jennie" into which we placed our respective gestures.

Each day for the month of November I would pull a gesture from Luke's jar and do my best to complete it in the next 24 hours, while Luke did the same for me. Some were small and some amusing:  
"Luke, kiss me goodbye when you leave for school." 
"Jennie, encourage me to have a nap,"

Others required more time or artistic effort: 
"Luke, write me a haiku" (see blog subtitle for the results) 
"Jennie, make some coffee and debrief my day with me". 

For awhile, it seemed rather unnatural to force ourselves to be romantic, but after a few days that changed, it was easy, it was fun...it was awesome!!! . Gestures that had been requested once, were rolled over into reruns of the best kind, the conversations flowed, the affection was more abundant. We hushed the busyness of our days and became students of one another again. 

Our little project did big things for our relationship. So much so, we've decided to try it again this month. 

So far, I've enjoyed a novel, thoughtfully chosen for me at the library, a newly cleaned out car,  and the gift of a most amazing cookbook that I'd been pining for for months. I've given a gourmet, packed lunch, a Judah bedtime duty, a studying snack and a flash-card study session. 

Best of all though, we've given each other our time, some space in our busy heads and the recognition that this relationship is work- but, work we both love. 

A life lived in love will never be dull.
 Leo Buscaglia


Love-Hate Wednesday – the organization edition

I ran across this article this week (not literally- I’m a terrible runner) and I love it!!!

This family from Northern California lives without throwing anything out- like nothing. It’s a packaging free zone! Not to mention the fact that they each live with about 15 items of clothing!  I’m inspired.

So inspired, I’m going to deal with one of my major hates this week... my bedroom closet K
I’m a tidy person...kind of. Our house is generally very clean to the outside observer.  What they don’t know, however, is my tidiness is pretty much limited to things you can see when someone gives you a quick house tour. Anything behind doors, in cupboards, tucked into drawers, tossed into the basement...you get my drift... is pretty much fair game for the mess fairies.
 As a result, my kitchen pantry looks like my pottery and dry goods are having a frat party, my front closet is like a winter wear store pillaged by Vikings, and my bedroom closet...well...it’s the worst of all. .. I want to say it only appears to have been nested in by small animals, but if I’m honest, my cat actually does go in there to nest and Judah uses it as his make-believe bear den.  Yes, people, it’s true, my name is Jennie and I’m a closet mess-hider.
This is my bedroom...

Looks tidy right?

And this is my closet...
Step one towards closet rehabilitation – admit you have a problem-  check!
Step two- organize it- yikes...

Another thing I’m loving this week....
These super-cute mini file boxes from FreeStyleGifts on Etsy, complete with repurposed record covers for dividers. I think this could be just the ticket for all the loose recipes I currently have shoved into a cookbook. A gift to myself? Methinks so!

And my final hate for the week...the weather. I’m sorry, but it’s hard to get spring-cleaning-like inspiration when everything outside is grey and brown- and not a particularly pretty shade of either.
Here’s the view out my window... blech!

As a result of all this dark, awfulness that is winter, I spend much of my time staring off into space, imagining myself in warm destinations.
This year, I can up my daydreams one level by living vicariously through my parents. They are, for the first time in 30 years of marriage, taking a tropical vacation, just the two of them. I LOVE this!
My mom gives up most of every week to look after Judah for us, creating the equivalent of a toddler utopia in her home every day (last week she suspended all her pot lids on a rope between her fridge and stove and let him go at it with a mallet- awesome, right?), and my dad is just a nice guy who could use a vacation.

So all in all, the fact that they get to go here makes me very happy!

Happy winter dreaming everyone!



We had a wonderful weekend! My dear friend Cat drove all the way from Ottawa to spend the weekend with our little family. It was a like revisiting a little piece of our Ottawa life, completely lovely! 

Catherine headed home Sunday morning and we decided a fun family activity for the afternoon would be to attempt sushi for the first time. So Sunday afternoon, the three of us headed over to the new Asian grocer in town (a really good one!) and picked up all our supplies. Thus armed with bamboo rolling mat, seaweed and salmon, we embarked on our adventure. 

Here's a little taste of the fun that ensued...
Judah vigorously stirring the soaked rice to ensure thorough drainage
He stirred so vigorously a lot ended up on the floor.
But that's ok, because sweeping/getting a close up of the floor cracks, is great fun!

Quality assurance testing...

We brought in the big guns (read daddy) to de-scale the salmon.

Then we cooked the rice and got rolling... we were in such a "sushi zone" at this point, I forgot to take pictures...oops.

Our first ever homemade sushi!! It didn't look too pretty, but it tasted great!

Judah used the opportunity to show off his mad chopstick skills.

Not too shabby guys!

Here's how we did it...


3 cups short-grain white rice 
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar 
1/4 cup sugar 
1 teaspoon salt 

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine vinegar, sugar and salt. Stir gently to dissolve salt and sugar. Cool to room temperature. 

Before cooking the rice, rinse several times in running water until the water runs clear. Drain in a colander for about 1 hour. Cook on the stovetop or in an electric rice cooker according to package directions. While the rice is still warm, transfer to a large non-reactive bowl. Gradually drizzle the vinegar mixture over the rice, fanning the rice as you go. Use a rice paddle to mix gently without mashing the grains. Keep the rice covered with a damp cloth at room temperature until ready to make sushi. Do not refrigerate. 


1/2 cup sushi-grade raw salmon (or tuna), cubed 
2 tablespoons mayonnaise 
2 dashes red pepper sauce 
Nori seaweed 
Prepared sushi rice 
1 bunch radish sprouts 

In a small bowl, mix together salmon with 
mayonnaise and red pepper sauce. 

Cut nori sheet in half (we found 3/4 was the perfect size) and place it on bamboo mat, shiny side down. 

Dampen fingers in water. Spread a thin layer of sushi rice over the seaweed. Leave a 2.5-cm margin (this can actually be a bit smaller) at the ends uncovered to seal the roll. Lay 2 tablespoons spicy salmon mixture across rice. 

To roll; slowly fold the end of the mat closest to you over the filling and tuck it in. Use medium pressure to create a compact tube. Remove the mat from around the roll, press in the loose ends and place it on a cutting board, seam side down. Using a wet, sharp knife, slice the roll in half then into 6 equal pieces. 

Garnish with radish sprouts. Serve with wasabi, soy sauce and pickled ginger

We didn't use radish sprouts, instead we made some vegetarian rolls with avocado and red onion.

It was so much fun! I see a lot more sushi making in our future :)


Love- Hate Wednesday!

We shall call this Love-Hate Wednesday the wet boot edition, for they are the first inductees to the hate category!!!

I just got in from the great polar outdoors that is London, Ontario, took off my wet boots and immediately soaked my socks in a puddle left my dearly beloved's wet boots. Luke's boots seem to have a problem staying on the floor-mat, not that it matters much because the floor mat is so soaked it likes to diffuse its contents onto the hardwood- hence the sock soakers. I'd like a way to fix this problem, short of having a really ugly rubber mat in my tiny front hall, but have yet to get a brainwave. So, I'll probably have wet feet until June. There are worse things...I think...

Now, on to our other nominees!

 I love that Judah is finally into a toy that doesn't have a motor. Lately he's been on this hyper-masculine car/truck/tractor kick. 
We were starting to think he wasn't actually our kid. 
Then today he chose his Malawian doll and wanted it wrapped in a blanket (repeatedly) for him to snuggle.
There's our good little hippy boy!!

I don't hate this, because I can't really hate anything Judah does. So I'll say I dislike that Judah's on a nose picking kick. A kick he employs best in the worst moments.  For example, when a nice old lady in the library comments on what a cute child he is, Judah promptly shows her his nasal content. 
It ruins the moment.  

I love my big, red, cast iron cooking pot. Everything that comes out of it is magic!

I hate the giant mess that results from approximately 40 seconds of Judah destruction. His new favourite activity is emptying all his toys from their storage onto the floor...and then stamping on them...
As you can see, Luke also finds this exasperating. Or his head is just incredibly heavy. 

 I love side-of-the-road furniture finds. Both these pieces were sidewalk pick-ups in the past few months. The dresser (my most recent acquisition) holds all of Jude's downstairs toys and books so I can pretend adults live here after he's gone to bed. The chair could use a professional re-upholstery job, but until we win the lottery/Luke graduates we're making due with some wool suiting fabric I found at a consignment store and some air nails - because, you know, staples are for wimps....

And that, ladies and gentlemen, are this week's love-hates! 



People who say they sleep like a baby usually don't have one.  ~Leo J. Burke

I should be going to sleep right now. Usually I hit the sack- that is Serta mattress- around 9:30 or 10:00. It's what's required of a gal who starts work at 7 and goes to bed with the knowledge that at any moment I may be joined by an 18 month old with sharp toenails and recurring dreams about being a FIFA star. Alas, I drank a cup of coffee at 7 pm. This may seem like an obstacle that could be easily overcome, but for a person who gave up caffeine for nine months of pregnancy and umpteen months of breastfeeding thereafter, the bean goes straight to my brain. 

So I am up, awake, fantasizing about sleep. It's funny how as a child, going to bed was a seriously devastating sentence which my parents seemed to inflict on us every night. I would stall mercilessly, get very quiet around bedtime on the off chance that they might forget about me, brush my teeth for a length of time that would make even the most meticulous dentist blush, and read, read, read until the bulb in the bedside lamp got hot enough to light something on fire (and it once did). Instead of stalling, I should have been writing my parents odes of gratitude, heaping them with praise for allowing me to stock up on the sleep that I would so badly need 20 years down the road. Alas, foresight is not 20/20. 

Judah is not a bad a sleeper. He can sleep anywhere- a trait he's inherited from his father. He can and does in fact sleep very well at night with no long period of wakefulness... when he's in our bed... 

We have an excellent sleep routine with Jude. Shortly after dinner he has a bath followed by pajama time/ cat tackling-snuggle session on our bed. Then we move into his room, put on his Chopin, collect a huge stack of books and cuddle up in his rocking chair to read at least a page or two from each one. After awhile, I (or Luke as the case may be) ask Judah to say night night to his books. He waves, I turn off the light, he snuggles against my chest and is a sleep in a matter of minutes. I plop him in his crib and the mission is accomplished. 

That is for 3 or 4 hours. 

You see, Judah has sonar hearing. It's as acute as a bat's. While he will happily sleep through the vacuum, wash machine, running tub, barking dogs, our pillow talks, and small earthquakes, he is acutely tuned to wake up at the sound of my bedside lamp being flicked off. The light goes off, the Judah goes on. And, after snuggling quite comfortably in your own bed for a few hours, the only thing which could possibly be better is snuggling even more comfortably between your parents, who are kindly warming the sheets as you rouse yourself to start screaming. And so, he joins us. We could probably "train" this behaviour out of him. We could refuse to get him, or continually lay him back down in his crib until he gave up, we could survive a few nights of screaming, but to be honest, on the nights when he does sleep through, we miss him. 

I figure I'll have lots of time to catch up on my sleep in my retirement. For now, I'll take the sleep deprivation and drink up every last snuggle. 

Now, for your evening viewing pleasure- a little glimpse at Judah's favourite places to sleep  :)

With his Daddy...

In any bed that is clearly not a crib...

The car...

The stroller...

On his various doting women...

And on occasion, in Africa...

Good night world!