Category Archives: childhood

The hardest thing

I’ve determined what the hardest thing about being a parent of young children is.

Diapers? No. Wiping noses? No. Wiping bums? No. Wiping sticky residue from faces and floors? No. Settling skirmishes? No. Settling the same skirmishes over and over and over again? No. Instilling manners? No. Molding hearts? Teaching and showing the love of Jesus every day, all day? No.

Wait for it.

The hardest thing about being a parent is watching children “craft” by gluing layer upon layer upon layer of paper scraps, tissue paper, cloth scraps, yarn and gems WHILE RESISTING URGES to straighten everything out AND sweep everything into the trash.

Hardest. Parenting. Non-move. Ever.


A lovey that isn’t so lovely


A fuzzy photo of someone else’s Patty the Penguin, because LO’s is currently napping.

Kids become attached to the darnedest things: a ragged blanket, an over-tired teddy bear, a torn sweatshirt, a stuffed Patty the Penguin giveaway from La Senza Girl? 

I was hope-hope-hopeful that LO would skip over the phase where she’d want/need to be in constant contact with a “lovey” (I think parents call them “loveys” because somehow that makes germ-infested items more palatable in our minds).

So much for hoping. About five months after she first saw the years-old stuffed animal used to entertain her during a baby-sitting session with her cousin, LO realized the “awesomeness” that is Mr. Penguin, and she looooooves him.

Pets him. Snuggles him. Bites him. Holds him out for people to kiss. She loves him so much that Momma and Daddy have determined that he* is a VERY sleepy lovey that must stay in her bedroom and catch up on sleep while she goes about her day.

So far she hasn’t complained. But, really, what choice does she have? I think she looks forward to her nap/bedtimes knowing she’ll get to hang with her very best pal.

Her very mangy, very best pal.

Praise the Lord for the handwash cycle on our washing machine!

*Oops. Penguin is a girl? Should’ve read “his” butt tag before we started calling him Mr. Penguin.

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Sadness in Berenstain Bear land

I read today (with much sadness) that Jan Berenstain, co-creator of The Berenstain Bears, died late last week at the age of 88.

Oh, the memories I have of reading through the books she created alongside her husband Stan.

The Berenstain Bears and the Bad Habit. The Berenstain Bears and the Big Road Race. The Berenstain Bears Go to School. The Berenstain Bears and the Truth. Forget Their Manners. Learn about Strangers. Get the Gimmies. No Girls Allowed. And the Messy Room. And on and on and on. We had one bazillion copies of the books lying around our house. My brothers and I spent hours reading and re-reading them. What fun adventures those bears went on!

While my LO isn’t old enough to read, yet, she’s old enough to listen, and I look forward to sharing The Berenstain Bears collection with her.

Thanks for the memories, Jan!

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Flash cards

You know how important it is to educate small children these days. I stumbled across these adorable flashcards from Wee Gallery.

Too cute and will probably look fabulous in frames (infants can’t really hold flashcards straight out of the womb, you know).

Not quite the flashcards of yesteryear, are they?

Perhaps Baby’s first words will be “ring-tailed lemur.”


PS. Uncle Justin, the baby really will know colour. One day.

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Here lies Jill

Who doesn't love leaving an impression on wet concrete? Or wooden floor boards? Or window panes?

Once upon a time, I liked to inscribe my name on things. Big things. Small things. Mostly non-living, wooden things. Window panes. Bed frames. Cabinet drawers. Gliders. If there was a pen or marker in my hand, my name was never far away. I wrote about my early scribbling adventures here.

During my last trip home, I was shown yet another place where I left my mark: the concrete foundation under the air-conditioning unit that was recently removed. This work of art was different. This time, I left a self-portrait. See photo.

I’m going to step out on a limb and guess that I had recently had a perm. Or, perhaps, my super-fine, blonde hairs were yet again stuck to my scalp, and I was attempting to give myself some volume. Hard to say. But, the name definitely gives it away. And, the big head.

My blessed parents. Still uncovering my marks all these years later.

The dollhouse

Once upon a time, a long time ago, my paternal grandfather made me a dollhouse.

It wasn’t just a dollhouse. It was a DOLLHOUSE. Duling-style. Big, big and BIG! It had three floors and two stairs and 11 rooms and a front porch and cedar shingles and cedar shutters and wood trim around the windows. The backside of the roof on the upper level was hinged and opened to reveal a 3-room attic.

It was dollhouse heaven. Or, what I would have imagined dollhouse heaven to be, had I been a dollhouse-kind-of girl. Instead, the dollhouse sat in my bedroom, and I looked at it from time to time.

I know, Grandpa. I’m sorry.

At some point—I can’t say when—I was inspired to paint it. My paint choices were narrowed down to leftover colours used elsewhere on the farm—peach (my twin bed), brown (Justin’s twin bed) and green (Really, what on our farm hasn’t been touched up with John Deere green?). I selected peach with brown trim work. Very early ’90s of me.

Mom helped me, and I’m sure she ended up doing most of the painting. The outside was lovely. Lovely and peach. Very peach. While the paint was still drying, we began picking out items for the inside—carpet, linoleum, wallpaper, more paint (the outside AND inside could NOT be the same colour), etc. We spruced up two or three of the rooms and added some stepping stones to the front porch before I lost interest, after which Mom gave up entirely.

And, so, the dollhouse languished. Half-painted. Mostly empty. In the patio. And then, in the shed, covered with a sheet. Poor dollhouse.

I really am sorry, Grandpa.

Eventually, I passed it on to Joshua, who stored it in his garage. His wife dabbled in decorating it some more but their eventual two boys took no interest in it and, thus, she lost interest, too. Turns out their boys are more into barns and tractors.

You’d be proud of them, Grandpa.

A few weeks back, my sister-in-law let me know that she was ready to either give the dollhouse back to me or find another home for it.

What a dilemma. I know; I can hear all of my girl cousins yelling at me: “Dilemma?! What dilemma?!!”

Did I take the dollhouse back and store it for some day down the road when I’ll think about children of my own, or did I make some young woman’s dream come true and pass a dollhouse on to her?

Well, I decided to do both. Because one day, I might have a wee little girl who loves a good dollhouse. But, for the moment, I have a mother-in-law who can’t wait to get a hold of it.

So, this past weekend, my brother returned the dollhouse to the shed of yore, in preparation for its trip to the Great White North. He warned me that the house had had some “updates” done, including paint-testing and shutter-replacing, etc. Thank goodness they left all the spots untouched that indicated my growing weary of painting—my name printed everywhere. In paint.

One day, this here dollhouse will shine like a brand-new penny. One day.

You’d be proud, Grandpa.

She just needs some TLC.


And, maybe fewer signatures.

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Have you hugged your sister today?

See! Sisters are good for more than just tattletaling.

In conjunction with its Flourishing Families Project, Brigham Young University recently conducted a study about siblings. Its findings indicate that having a sister is a good thing. A very good thing indeed.

This morning, my brother Joshua e-mailed me a link to the MSNBC story “Having a sister might make you a better person,” and wrote “Good news! You complete me.” And, “You are single-handedly responsible for three people who do not suffer severe depression.”

Am I ever proud!

The study found that siblings who have a sister are less likely to experience negative feelings such as loneliness, guilt, fear, self-consciousness and unlovedness. While I’m fairly certain that last one isn’t a word, I know it’s a feeling. No matter the age difference, sisters are more likely than parents to provide their brothers with feel-good feelings.

Not to be slighted, the study recognizes the positive influence of brothers, noting that having a loving sibling of either gender promotes good deeds and charitable attitudes. I think that means I have my brothers to thank for my expressions of niceness to others.

Thanks, guys! I couldn’t have done life without you. However, I do kinda hold you responsible for not taking care of the 8th-grade bully I had to deal with when I was in 2nd grade, but, really, why dwell on the past?

So much for the big “protective factor” examined in the study.

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Patty’s coming home!

Hi! My name is Patty, and I have no neck muscles. Because, I'm a doll. And, dolls do not have neck muscles.

One time, I wrote “The Second Greatest Story Ever Told” and introduced you to Patty, a handmade, life-size doll I received from my mother when I was 5. Patty had a bit of a rough start, and, if you haven’t already, you can read about her and her birth here. Make sure you have tissues on-hand.

As of recent, my mom has been in a all-items-beyond-your-father’s-and-my-personal-effects-no-longer-have-a-place-in-our-space mood, and she’s been cleaning out boxes, closets and cupboards accordingly.

Not one thing has gone unnoticed. And, not one week goes by without me getting a text or phone call asking if want this or that or something else. No? OK, then. It’s off to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Mostly Goodwill.

So, this weekend is the weekend I get to pick up Patty and take her to her new loving home in Canada. Part of me hopes she likes it. The other part of me hopes she doesn’t scare the small children she’s bound to encounter.

Get excited, Patty! It’s almost moving day!

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Oh, the lies we tell

It's a wonder what people would look like if everyone had Pinocchio's nasal predispostion.

I was reading today and came across the article “Lies we should stop telling each other (and ourselves)” shared by The Frisky in honour of National Tell The Truth Day which apparently happened sometime last week. Possibly on July 7. Or July 2. Or maybe it’s coming up on August 17.

It’s hard to say; the Internet is giving me conflicting information, and Wikipedia is totally failing me.

Anyway, I’m not necessarily a fan of The Frisky or the views its writers share, but this particular article’s title reminded me of a Story A Day Challenge prompt (from way back in May) that had something to do with telling lies. The prompt, in sum, suggested I write a fictional story that involved telling a lie. Because, apparently, we all tell them.

So, this is what I wrote that day, but never shared.

I can remember all the bad things that I’ve ever done in grade school.

In kindergarten, I disobeyed the recess monitor and attempted to shimmy my way between an iron-link fence and a giant mud puddle. The puddle won. I slipped and fell in, ruining my pink shorts.

In first grade, Ms. Klingler selected two students on Mondays to share an event that had happened during the weekend. She would then write them on the chalkboard. When my turn came, I told her I’d gone to Alaska. When she didn’t believe me, I said, “Oops, I mean, my grandmother went to Alaska.” I didn’t get anything written on the board that day.

In second grade, I followed the leader and sprayed water from the sink faucet in the girls’ bathroom all over the floors. That landed me on the steps for recess. At which time, I got in trouble for throwing stones (that someone else threw) at windows. I definitely picked the wrong leader to follow that day.

In third grade, I blamed my poor penmanship on another student whom I was certain had erased random parts of my pencil-written assignment. Mrs. Howe didn’t believe me. I spent an entire recess writing “Jill Duling” over and over and over and over on a piece of paper.

In fourth grade, I “borrowed” a dollar from my parents to purchase a snazzy, neon-green slap bracelet. I was so convicted of borrowing the dollar that I confessed the same day. I think as soon as I got home.

In fifth grade, I told Kyle Blankemeyer to shut up. For several years weeks days after that, I was fairly certain that I was going to go to hell for doing so.

Sixth, seventh and eighth grades sort of fuzz together, so, I suspect I was fairly innocent during my middle school years. And, I’m sure my former classmates can attest to that being true.

My parents are pleased, I know.

Ha. Don’t ask me where I was going with that storyline.

And, for the record, I think that Frisky article is ridiculous. And, that’s the truth.

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The chore I hate the most

I can't say that I love dusting anymore today than I did all those years ago.

When I was home last, and cleaning out a closet, I found a stack of papers from high school. Apparently, I didn’t throw away many completed assignments. And, thankfully so, because you never know when you’ll want to look way back just to see how far you’ve come.

When I was in Grade 9, I wrote this persuasive essay:

Down with Dusting

Did you ever have a rule at home when you were young that you hated ever since you could hold a rag? Something that Mom said you had to do about four times a week? Something you never brought up in hopes that your mother would forget? Dusting should be forbidden in everyone’s home because it’s hazardous to people’s health, never seems to ever be entirely done, and is a terrible way to consume time.

Dusting is very hazardous to people’s health. Dust inhaled into the lungs can collect instead of filtering back into the atmosphere. It can bother delicate and sensitive tissues. This can cause uncontrollable sneezing and watery eyes.

Another good reason to abolish dusting is because it never seems to be all the way done. The dust rises into the air and settles again when I blink or turn my head. What is the reason for dusting if this is what really happens? Dusting also has to be done at least four times a week or else Mom goes ballistic. Other members of my family always ask me when I’m going to dust, even if I just did.

The last reason dusting should be ruled unlawful is because it is a terrible way to consume time. It’s a very boring process that takes a long time to complete. I have to shake out all the doilies and coverlets and then re-arrange all the miscellaneous items to look like they did before I started. As soon as I finish one room, there’s at least three more to be done.

In sum, dusting houses really isn’t necessary. It takes a long time to dust, but a short time for the dust to settle. Dusting should be ruled out of everyone’s household because it’s hazardous to people’s health, never seems to be all the way done, and is a terrible way to consume time.

Do you feel persuaded?

I’m going to step out on a limb and guess that our class was working on constructing strong thesis statements and organizing ideas into five-paragraph essays—ones with an introduction, body and conclusion. And, perhaps, we were toying with the expression “Tell people what you’re going to tell them. Tell them. Then tell them what you told them.”

I’m also going to guess that I absolutely hated dusting and wrote this just before or just after having completed my weekly chore. Forgive me, Lord (and Mom). I was a bitter duster. And, I probably bruised my reader with this vindictive essay. Awesome.

Poor Mom. I’m pretty sure, looking back, that she never really went ballistic. That was Dad. OK, I kid; I kid. But, ballistic. That’s a great word.

My teacher’s comments? “Jill, I totally agree! Your essay is very organized and you clearly express your ideas! You have few surface errors which is fantastic! Keep up the good work!”

Hooray for exclamation marks!

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