Saturday, December 17, 2011

Things are coming along...

Soon and very soon you'll see some pictures of our lovely home! I am just putting some finishing touches on our master's really the only room that's almost completely finished. Here's an abbreviated list of what the last two months in our first house has entailed:

- tons and tons and tons of painting
- custom built ins throughout the house
- complete re-vamp of the laundry room
- new faucet, chandelliers, lawn lights, garage lights
- security system installed
- heat pump installed (this also required two house inspections)
- the rest I blacked out...

And, just because I think Evalie is so cute...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Why you haven't heard from me...

I am buried in boxes and piles of stuff everywhere. It's taken us an entire week just to get to THIS aware, this is NOT pretty!

I cannot WAIT to send you "after" pictures to accompany these...for now, commiserate with my misery in this scary, crazy, hectic, disorganized environment. Being in this house, in this state, causes not only my mind to be absolutely blurred and confused, but also my body to be exhausted and drained. I can't ever seem to find energy, and yet I am SO MOTIVATED to clean this up! I work and work every day and feel like I just get nowhere...ever experienced this?!

Believe it or not, this is our kitchen:

Living room:

Dining room:

My scrapbooking HEAVEN (this colour is SO WILD but I totally love love love it and am going to make it look good...soon...):

Basement family room:

Laundry room (such a difficult one to tackle that I am hiring my interior designer friend Stefanie Westerburg with LaMode Designs to fix this room!):

David's den/office/man cave:

Front sitting room:

Our master bedroom:

Guest bathroom:

Guest room (what am I THINKING with this colour!? Will it turn out when it's all finished? I hope so!)

Evalie's bedroom (stripes take a LOT of work...):

All of these photos to say: I'm a little bit busy right now.

Monday, September 26, 2011

moving chaos

As many of you know, we're in the process of moving BACK across Canada...from London Ontario to Abbotsford B.C. We've moved so many times...I am just excited to finally buy our first house, settle down, and not have to smell an apartment filled with cardboard boxes anymore (it really IS a unique smell, you know?!).

I am sitting here alone; the baby is asleep, the hubby's out playing basketball, and the puppy is too tired to realize that I haven't even bothered to feed her dinner yet. It's dark, because our lamps are all packed and this apartment has crappy lighting. There are piles of boxes everywhere, and our stuff is away away away. Sealed shut: away.

The internet has been my entertainment. Many would see it as a waste of time, but it's funny: I NEED TO FILL MY CREATIVE WELL RIGHT NOW. (For more on the "creative well" idea read The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron...she describes us as periodically needing filling...then we have fullness from which to overflow onto the canvas, page, blog, etc...) The internet is providing a need: I need to peruse picture after picture of beautiful art and photography. It helps me feel safe, warm, happy. I LOVE staring at other people's perfectly alphabetized pantries, spray-painted pink chandeliers, and decadently sparkled yellow cupcakes. Because, when I look up from my screen...I see chaos.

Last night we were having dinner with some dear friends (for possibly the last time...sad) and their 9 year old boy and I had a lovely conversation! He explained to me that he is definitely the most organized and "tidy" one in his family. He said he likes things "even" because when they aren't that way, he feels dizzy and his stomach hurts. WOW. THAT'S ME. I have always been this way; I need it "even"!

So, after all this internet browsing, I have decided to create some of my own order out of all this chaos. I am picking up my camera (despite the extremely low-light situation I have here) and I am going to MAKE ART out of our cardboard filled messy little bungalow.

Now, if I had only not packed the cord to upload the photos onto the computer!!! OOPS. They'll be here later, friends ;)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Photo Shoot Mini Album

Sometimes it seems that when I am MOST busy, it's then that I NEED to create something. Does that ever happen to you? It's the way I handle my stress, the way I escape, the way I cope. I don't bother with TV, so for all of you wondering, "How does she have the time?!" that's how ;) My baby is also spending a lot of time enjoying her jolly jumper...

My sister requested that I do a b&w photo shoot with her and Evalie, and I thought I would create a little keepsake of our fav photos for her (I am making myself one for my stash too...eventually...) I emailed my sister and asked what accent colour she'd like used in the book (after all, b&w's look GREAT with a colour next to them)...but after a number of days with no reply I realized that my question was probably similar to that of, "What colour should we paint the living room?" in stress levels for her. So, I opted to stick with the request she originally made: black and white all around!

Thank you to my lovely sister for letting me photograph you and Evalie together - these are photos I will treasure forever!!!

The cover is the texture.

Found this perfect ribbon with little cameras in my stash - love it!!

Kept the embellishments simple. This scrolly paper is actually from a halloween line by KI Memories; I know my sister will like it because it's irridescent.

Put all the vertical photos together in the second half of the book.

What's a mini album by Erika without transparencies??

Added little bits of the Tim Holtz vintage transparency film strips.

Used these white clips by Making Memories; my sister actually bought these for me and they're from a wedding line, but the words work perfectly for this too!

The END :) Thanks for looking!!!!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Can I...DARE I?

DARE I call myself... ARTIST?

When I was in the 5th grade, my teacher made up little pretend newspapers announcing what we would be when we grew up. Mine said that my art was proudly hanging in a gallery in Hawaii and that I enjoyed drawing and painting for a living.

But that never really happened...

I've been painting, drawing, playing with paper, making STUFF for years now. But, I never called myself an artist because, well, I just think of my art as PLAY. It's not work, it's "just for fun." I would devalue it; you know, trying to not make it a big deal. I remember one time a few years back when I was talking with a "friend" about my art. She told me that she was going to commission a painter to make a canvas for her; I said I thought that was super cool, and that I like to paint too. She said, "Oh, no she's a REAL painter. I think you just paint with your fingers, don't you? She like, REALLY paints." That stung. It stuck with me.

I am ready to shed that and let it go. I am also a REAL PAINTER!!!!! So, take that!

Yet, when I am at a party and someone asks the big question: WHAT DO YOU DO? I always say that I am a children's mental health therapist. And...I am.

Recently I have been thinking a lot about my career - what I want it to look like, where I want to work, when I want to go back to work...etc. I really don't want to do mental health work full time exclusively; my soul can't handle the stress. But, "there's no money in art," is the thing that lingers in my mind.

I think it's time for me to admit that THAT'S NOT TRUE!

I have sold a number of original paintings. I have sold dozens of handpainted journals. And, recently I sold my most expensive painting yet!!! I am THRILLED at this breakthrough in my life. YOU might not be might say, "I always have thought of you as an artist." But, for me to truly admit this, own this, identify with this - THIS IS HUGE FOR ME.

"The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brene Brown is the book that I have recently been devouring. Check out her TED talk here: (thank you Tara-Lynn for sharing this with me!) Her chapter on Cultivating Meaningful Work was enlightening for me; she discussed the concept of "slash careers." These are things like "surgeon/playwright," "accountant/cartoonist," etc.

So, I am officially a therapist/life artist. That's my new title!!! (aside from mother, of course!)
I'm owning it :)

Here are some paintings that I gave away as I was inspired to make them for specific people...

This was hanging in my first office, and then I left it for the Delta Mental Health team as an appreciation/goodbye gift. It still hangs in the office there for all to enjoy.

This pink one is for my mother and hangs in her bedroom. She loves to garden and she REALLY loves pink!

This "home" painting went to my brother in law and sister in law when they purchased their first home in Ft. MacMurray.

This one is a series of three that hangs in my sister and her hubbys romantic bedroom.

AND, this is the one that I recently sold. It will be going to a lovely lady named Linda who will be moving into our apartment when we leave it. She said that she's been viewing the apartments on our street for months trying to decide if she wants to sell her beloved house and downsize. When she saw our apartment, she fell in love with the positive energy and asked me if I would be willing to sell my painting. I told her that it would be quite expensive, but I got more than I ever dreamt I would for my art! I am thrilled that she'll love this piece of work as much as we have, and that our home will have someone wonderful living in it! Her and two friends also kept asking me if I was an interior decorator. They all said that I should be, and that they're suprized that's not my career. Hm...I see another SLASH coming on!!!! :)
(photo below c/o LTC photography, London Ontario)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Book Reviews...Let the Reading BEGIN!

I like to read. I can't say this was always the case. That's part of why I chose to be a math major in university: Math is straightforward. Reading, words, papers...well, they're not.

But, ever since I graduated, I have felt differently. Books are a source of education, information, knowledge, wisdom, guidance. These were once things I got from professors; now they're things I get from the written word.

I also have to say, I like REAL TANGIBLE BOOKS. I don't have a Kindle. I don't retain very much information when I am surfing the web. But, I LOVE the feel of a real book in my hands - the smell, the weight, the escape of a really great bit of lit. I like to highlight, underline, and fold the pages. I like to make my real books REALLY MINE.

Oh, and just so you know, I don't read very much fiction.

But before you go writing off my book reviews because they're not entertaining novels, give me a chance! I read books to get ideas, change my perspectives, and improve my life. Even though the books I read aren't mysteries, action thrillers, or romances, they're VERY inspiring, funny, and useful.

My plan is to also post a couple other book reviews about different topics - art, spirituality, and brain/psychology stuff! We'll see how it goes...Let me know what you think! And, feel free to post your favourite books on any given subject :)

I thought I would begin by sharing my top 10 books (in no particular order) about pregnancy and early infancy...seems how that's sort of what's on my mind right now. And, yes, I have read WAY more than just 10 books. But, I'll brief you on my opinion of the books, and then let YOU choose which you pick up (or give as gifts to your friends/family who are entering motherhood)...

1) The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems
Here's what I took from this book: EASY street. E=eat, A=activity, S=sleep, Y=you time. Do these things in this order and you won't set your baby up to need to eat before she sleeps. Simple. But, she didn't solve all my problems.

2) Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child
Everyone RAVES about this book! It's one of the most highly rec'd books on baby's sleep, and so many new moms sing it's praises. But, to be honest, I am not sure why. I found it very unorganized, boring, repetitive, and difficult to follow (and I read it BEFORE I was an exhausted new mom!) It has lots of science and medical info about how sleep works, which is good. But, seriously, there is no "step by step" help in this one. It's confusing, long, and I think the biggest help with sleep is that it will induce some shut eye itself!

3) Expecting 411
A fabulous reference for pregnancy. Definitely my go-to book on any questions that I had! Loved how the Q&A format makes reading the sections you actually NEED to research quick and easy. Written by doctors, which of course I am partial to ;)

4) The Happiest Baby On the Block
Another quick overview: the main part of this book is the "5-S's." Swaddle, Shhhh, Swing, Side/Stomach, and Suck. Do these 5 things in this order, with appropriate intensity, and you'll help your crying newborn calm down like a pro.
There, now you don't need to read the book.
Just it ;)

5) The Mother of All Pregnancy Books
A Canadian favourite! Funny, quick, witty, and informative. However, you then don't really need to bother with her next book, The Mother of All Baby Books, as the first half is a repeat from this book. I read both, and found the second one a waste of time. I highly rec'd this book as a great resource for pregnancy first-time moms.

6) Your Pregnancy Week By Week
Great resource, but boring and not super-well written. The Your Baby's First Year Week By Week is the same flavour: informative, but not entertaining. One of my peeves about the way that these authors write: they'll often say "from 2 to 3 weeks until 4 to 6 weeks..." Why don't you just say, "from 2 to 6 weeks"!?!?! Too much for a pregnant or new-mom brain to follow...

7) The Mother Dance
Harriet Lerner is a feminist from the 80's, and she is a well-known author with her series of "dance of..." books (ie Dance of Anger, Dance of Intimacy, etc.) I've read a few of her books, and I just LOVE to soak up her perspectives! This book was an enticing read that discussed the struggles that all mothers deal with...and how we can work through them in our society to live fulfilled motherhood lives.

8) Yummy Mummy Manifesto
Found this one on the discount table for about $5 at Chapters...hilarious, entertaining, fun, quick, easy read. Love the encouragement that this book brings to be yourself, find your own style, and love your body through all the different stages of pregnancy and early motherhood. Definitely lifted my mood to read this one!

9) The Baby Sleep Guide
This was a good overview of various sleep training suggestions. It offered a brief summary and the pros and cons of different strategies. It was well-organized, informative, and easy to read. It's a great little handbook to have around, and I appreciate how straightforward it is.

10) Lull-A-Baby Sleep Plan
This is the latest book I have read on baby's sleep (to add to the above list, I have also read the SleepEasy Solution). I really appreciate this pro-active, preventative, reasonable, balanced approach to sleep training. The only thing I can say about this one is READ IT DURING PREGNANCY OR AT THE VERY BEGINNING OF BABY'S LIFE. It's a preventative strategy that works best if you start from the very beginning; trying to play catch up later on requires a little more creativity and patience. So far, this is the best method I have found for helping Evalie sleep.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sharing Her Last Year

I have seen a lot of people die. Well, not like David has. I mean, he has actually been there and SEEN people die. I have seen the before-ness and the aftermath of death. I have been to way too many relatives funerals - so many I really can't count. I even remember burying my own father.

But, there is one woman who recently died in our life that has left quite an imprint. You know, we weren't too close to Betty Anne Gallagher before we moved out here to London, Ontario. But, she lived here - just five minutes away - so we got to know her pretty well.

Just before we arrived in London in the Summer of 2010, Betty was declared cancer free and had miraculously defeated the disease! We would enjoy our year with her. Until, recently, she took a sharp turn for the worse, and passed away this last Saturday night.

You would think that my mother-in-law's cousin wouldn't have had such an impact on me. But, she did. She was there at every major event of our lives this last year - from moving into our little apartment, discovering our pregnancy and baby's gender, all the holidays, giving birth to our first child, campouts at the cottage, and birthdays. She was generous - always giving way more than we needed both in physical gifts and in lovingkindness!

What was truly remarkable about Betty was her calm peace. She knew she was going to die. She knew her time was limited. Yet she wasn't frantic. She wasn't worried. She wasn't scared. She just calmly knew where she was going and got her affairs in order to make it as easy for the surviving as possible. A blessing until her last day. And, a blessing evermore.

I will miss you Betty - we love you! See you in Heaven...

Betty gave Evalie Rose a stocking full of toys...even while she was still in my tummy :)

Betty loved her granddaughter Rachyl :)

Betty and Evalie Rose at her baby shower.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Family really IS the most important thing

As many of you know, I am enjoying over three weeks of having my only sibling visit Ontario to spend time with Evalie (oh, and me too). I've been looking forward to this month of "August with Auntie" all summer! And, it's turning out to be even better than I anticipated.

Krystal is busy learning the ropes of what this whole Auntie thing is like. She's noted quickly that my life is VERY different than it used to be. She keeps waiting, she says, for a moment when we're "just chillin'" when there's nothing on the agenda, when we can just hang out. Yeah. Those moments don't happen very often anymore.

Another thing that's different is that we're tired all the time (she just yawned and said, "Man! I am tired all the time!" And to think: she's not even the one who's up every two hours all night long...).

But what she DOES do is get up in the morning with Evalie. The first morning Evalie came into Auntie's room, I made her breakfast in bed and Krystal exclaimed, "Wow! She's smiling so much!" And, I said, "Yeah, she's really happy in the mornings." Then, Krystal stopped and looked at me and said calmly, "You mean she's really happy to SEE ME." "Oh, yeah, yeah, that's right! She's so happy to see you." lol ;)

In the mornings Auntie Krystal helps Evalie with her learning and growing. She was the first one to see her roll over from her back onto her tummy; and Krystal is very proud that Evalie has mastered moving her arm out into the front and pushing herself up in this position.

On the downside, Evalie got some shots the other day, and she was super moody for the days following. We suspect that's why she would SCREAM whenever Auntie Krystal was left alone with times she would just INSIST on being with Mama and even when Auntie tried to put on E's socks she screamed like someone was torturing her. Krystal tried not to take it personally. She still tries not to take it personally.

All these moments that I get to witness make me remember the many years that Krystal and I have talked about the "one day" that we'll have kids. We used to wonder what it would be like...and what the kids would think of their Aunties. Will she like me? Will she remember me even if I don't see her all the time? Will she appreciate her American heritage? It all starts with building relationships one very tired precious day at a time.

Thank you Auntie Krystal for visiting!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

1-2-3-4 I declare...

My baby is FOUR months today! Here are some of the many things she can do this month that she wasn't able to to last:

- laugh and giggle (this is my favourite!)
- pick up a toy and put it in her mouth
- roll from her tummy to her back
- smile at people from across the room
- clearly understand and respond to her name
- pet Jolie (this is adorable btw!)
- tolerate the car seat without screaming her head off (see last post - YAY this is over!!!!)

See how she's grown...a picture of her on the 26th of each month since April (going backwards):

I have to say, I think she gets cuter and cuter with time :)

Monday, June 20, 2011


Before I begin my rant about what exactly I am "done" with, let me begin by offering some of my favourite aspects of being a mommy to my baby girl. For, if I do not speak of the positive aspects of parenting, I fear I will sound like one of those super unhappy mommas that only complains about how terrible it is to have a child...someone who begs the question, "Well, what did you THINK it was going to be like?" If I don't offer up a balanced view before my coming complaints, my skewed negativity may actually MAKE me more of a pessimistic mommy, and I just don't want that.

So, some WONDERFUL things about my little baby girl:
1) Since Evalie was only about 4 weeks old, we have been enjoying between 5-8 hours of solid sleep per night. This is a gift worth more than any parent could ask for! Every once in a while, she breaks this pattern, but more often than not, I wake looking at the clock then smiling.
2) Evalie is super happy at home. She smiles, she explores, she plays, she brightens my life.
3) I haven't had to deal with any breastfeeding difficulties (besides just the usual learning of the dance). She eats like a champ, and I am continually thankful for God's provision for milk and a good latch.

After seeing the above tremendously wonderful boasts about my baby may wonder, "Whatever does Erika have to complain about?" Well...let me tell you.

I am DONE with driving Evalie around. SHE HATES HER CARSEAT. She hates the car. She hates being buckled in the car seat. And, before you go offering all sorts of unsolicited advice, please realize that this is NOT for lack of trying EVERYTHING we can think of to remedy the situation. Unlike many parents who talk about driving around their babies for hours to try to get them to stay asleep, we have the opposite problem.

And I am DONE.

I just can't do it anymore. I think I have given it a good shot...12 weeks is a pretty good amount of time to try to deal with it. But, anytime I want to go anywhere, I have to listen to crying crying crying. And, not just the usual, "I am tired, I am hungry, I am sad" crying. Nope. This is the, "Mom!!! You know what is wrong! Get me outta here! Why won't you help me?! You KNOW how to fix this why won't you FIX IT NOW!?!?" It's the red in the race, eyes wide open, sweat dripping down her head kind of crying. And, then I join right in.

Yes, I cry.

I cry right along side my baby girl. Because I know that I COULD make it better. I could easily take her out of that car seat (which I do right in our parking lot before I even take her into the apartment building) and hold her and shhhh her and make it all better. But, I choose to keep her safe, to keep her locked in that terrible monstrous contraption that is ensuring her life continues in case of an accident. Yes, I know she is unhappy, but she is also SAFE.

It breaks my heart. And, I just can't do it anymore. Aside from the rare errand where we MUST drive, I am now walking everywhere with her (case and point: dentist appointment today...what a wonderful dry warm overcast day for a walk). No more road trips. No more long days running about town to a whole bunch of different events. No more missing feeds and naps and all those things that make me and my girl happy. I need a break.

And I am taking one.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

83 days...

This was the first night she wore her first sleeper...As you can see, she is SWIMMING in this newborn sized piece of clothing.

This is tonight, 83 days later. It will be the last night she wears this sleeper, because it's officially too small for her. Her arms barely fit...her feet are pushing against the bottom so hard that the top goes off her shoulders in a scandalous way!

In 83 days, our baby has doubled in size. She has learned to soothe herself to sleep (on rare occassions), how to splash in the bath water, and how to push herself up with her legs. She's discovered her hands, her tongue, her feet, and the feel of Jolie's fur. She makes eye contact, smiles, and plays copycat games. She pays attention to hockey games, talking, singing, and books. In 83 days, or baby has gone from super tiny to just tiny, from sleeping 20 hours per day to only 14 hours per day, from looking like her neck would break to having excellent head control, from still learning the breastfeeding dance to being able to anticipate and communicate about nursing.

In 83 days, I have learned her pain cry, sleepy cry, hungry cry, bored cry, dirty/wet cry, and overstimulated cry. I have learned how to bathe her by myself, how to change a diaper almost anywhere, and how to manage all of her complex transportation details. I have discovered her favourite games, her favourite times of day, her favourite sounds. I know how she likes to be held, when to give her a soother, and when the only thing that will make her quiet is ME.

In 83 days, we have discovered each other. I am still learning her, and she is still learning me...but we've come a long way. In 83 days, I have become a MAMA and she is my BABY.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Thoughts on Thirty

Many people dread turning 30. It seems to be this big "over the hill" life change for the worse in our society. We fear aging. We hate fat and wrinkles. We dye our hair to hide the grey.

But not my mom.

She taught me to embrace aging. She left me a legacy filled with hope and joy with each passing decade. I still remember her turning 30 and later explaining to me that it was MUCH better than the 20's!


During my 20's I was filled with self-doubt. Constantly criticizing all the things I had said and done...and especially hating my body. No matter how many people told me I was beautiful, I never believed it. I always wanted to be more like the models in the magazines. But, not anymore! I thought I knew everything and wasn't afraid to say so...oops. I compensated for my low self-esteem with an opinionated air of pride. Another oops.

In my 30's (starting on May 24, 2011!) I am beginning the season of REAL self-confidence. I no longer care quite as much about what people say and think. I can stand up for myself with healthy assertiveness. I don't value what I used to. Instead, non-material things are what is really important in my life: health, love, friends, laughter, my relationship with God. These attitudes are what make me glad to enter my 30's.

In addition to all that, although my body isn't as thin and flawless as it used to be, I feel more and more beautiful every year. I have gained countless pounds since my 20th birthday, but I have gained MORE wisdom, faith, joy, love, and peace through the many experiences God has given me.

For those of you who have already enjoyed your 30's, my mother has also explained that the 40's are even better! She says that's when your sexuality as a woman really flourishes (can I say that on my blog?!) and that the 4th decade is so great the 30's melt away. On top of that, the 50's are the best yet...with a complete freedom to enjoy silver hair, beautiful wisdom-wrinkles, and the respect that only comes with age. Oh, to age with such grace and dignity!

Thank you Mom for leaving me such a wonderful perspective. Unlike the saying today that "The 30's are the new 20's," I am embracing what I really am in only 24 hours: 30 and lovin' it!!!!

Thank you to all my friends, family, and sweet husband and daughter for also making this the best birthday ever. Indeed, it is the first one where when asked, "What do you want for your birthday?" I could honestly truthfully answer, "I already have everything I could ever want."

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