Saturday, 28 February 2009

At last...

I think we have success with the toilet training. I think Colin is the last of the boys his age to get there, but here we are at last. With absolutely no interest in interrupting his playtime at our house, my mother actually began things at her house. A new setting and a new toilet were just enough of a change to get Colin interested. From there I got him excited about his new "Tigger and Pooh" underwear. And from there it just came naturally. After two days of my incessant: "do you have to go pee?" and being met each time by an annoyed stare, Colin simply learned what it felt like to need to go to the bathroom. Two accidents (while I was distracted) and then that was it!

I have been dreading toilet training, but now that it's over, it really wasn't that bad at all.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Rites of Passage

Rites of passage, or celebrating a time when your child passes into adulthood, has been a part of the fabric of cultures of societies that span ages and places. And yet, what markers do we have in today's society of this important event? You become a woman or a man when you get your driver's license, when you reach drinking age, or the first time you have sex. I think essays and books and dissertations could be written on what a culture's rites of passage say about the morality and important issues of a people.

I heard a radio broadcast this morning on creating spiritual rites of passage in your Christian life. Somewhat similar to the Jewish Bar/Bat Mitzvah, this event focuses on letting your child know that you as parent are moving from spiritual teacher to coach, and that the child must now start taking responsibility for their own spiritual welfare. As this 'passing of the torch' takes place spiritually, I think the child will also start to feel responsible for the other areas in their life also (physical, educational, financial, etc.)

Our church has a few rites of passage in place: baptism at the age of eight, receiving the priesthood at age 12 and 16 (for boys), the young women's program at age 12 and the joining the Relief Society at age 18 (for girls). Any of these, or another age/time chosen by the parents, could be used to highlight the passage into adulthood. But I think it takes a special effort and focus for the parents to really make the best use of these rites of passage, to really prepare their child for what is coming.

The guests on the radio show talked about the rite they created for their children, which occurred around the age of 15. As parents they decided on six spiritual values they felt were important to cultivate (for example: prayer, service, friendshipping, etc.) They spoke about these areas with their child, and then asked him/her to choose one mentor for each area. They then asked that mentor to spend some time over the course of a week with the child, sharing their stories and speaking specifically about that area of faith. After the six weeks (one week for each value), an event was organized (a lunch, a dinner, a football game and barbecue) to which the mentors were invited. Each mentor spoke briefly about their experience with the child. Then the parents spoke a prayer or blessing over their child, preparing the child for his/her own spiritual journey. Lastly the child had a chance to express his or her feelings about the process.

What a beautiful idea. The most profound thought left on my heart was that if you never create an experience like this, where there is a vivid marker that your child is now moving into their own responsibility, then the child simply floats from year to year never really making a specific effort to 'grow up'. How evident this is today with children living at home well into adulthood, never really gaining their own independence and often failing to thrive in the world. My kids are so small now, but these years will zip by. Without my own thoughts and plans, I would be party to the complacent passage of time, never really acknowledging their need for independence from me. I'm grateful for training like this that will help me in my journey of motherhood.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Guard your heart

I am a private person, but am learning to share. I don't believe there is anything wrong about the tendency to guard your heart and emotions close. Not every friendship requires you to lay yourself out exposed. But in the past year or so I have had opportunities to learn what it is like to share openly about joys and sorrows, triumphs and trials. I have felt what it is to have someone pray for me and a specific need. I have experienced what it is to hear clarity in my words aloud that have been swimming in dense fog in my mind. I have been relieved of anxiousness and felt peace by simply sharing.

A good friend and I were speaking the other day, very openly on the subject of pregnancy. I lamented how hard it had been to have to tell people about a miscarriage, but that it is too hard for me to conceal a pregnancy until 3 months because of how ill I get. Her reply taught me a wonderful principle in friendship. She said that she shares the joy of pregnancy right away, because if she ever did experience the loss of miscarriage, she would want to share that also.

This caused me to think over the 'accepted waiting period.' What other joy in life do we conceal for so long? A success in the workplace, a treasured compliment, newfound friends and family - we eagerly spread our good news abroad as soon as it comes into our hot little hands. And yet we force ourselves to wait 3 months to share about pregnancy, in case something goes wrong.

Yes, waiting may eliminate the need for have to tell others about a miscarriage. But we cannot have joy without sorrow. And we cannot have deep friendships without sharing deep pieces of ourselves. I don't see vulnerability in opening up - I see the strength I can gain on the shoulders of friends. I don't see the pain in sharing heartache - but I do recognize the loneliness of solitude. So although guarding one's heart from negative and evil influences is always necessary, I am seeing the wisdom in my friend's idea of opening one's heart to greater friendships in this world. Heaven knows we all need friendship in our lives.

For the Love of Literature

I am taking great pleasure in relaxing each afternoon with C. S. Lewis. This letter style of book is revealing. Each page is like watching this man's life unfold before my very eyes. Year by year I am seeing him grow, seeing his views and opinions, likes and dislikes altered by years and experience. I am also getting a brilliant education on the great works of literature. Spending his teen years being privately tutored (he hated formal schools) and also having a natural love of literature means that his letters are filled with the latest work he is reading. It is evident that his entire education was based around simply reading. There is much to learn about a people, a moment in history, a language, a geography, by reading the works of literature it produced.

The growth is gradual and ofttimes, for pages on end, too minuscule to notice. But then I reflect on the overall change over the past year of his life and see that indeed he is being shaped and molded bit by bit. I can also glean as much from what isn't there, written in his letters, as what is. He felt much of the everyday things were necessary but pedantic, and not worth the attention on page. Much more revealing, Lewis thought, was how one is affected by the art around him - poetry, drawing, music. He had little use for politics, and even though he resided in England through the Great War, has written little about it to this point (the end of 1916). Lewis also writes about his own literary creations and failings, and includes critiques of his best friend's works also. The cavalier mention of names like "the Brontes" and honest (brutal) critiques of contemporary "masterpieces" shows thoughtful and shameless opinions.

While the daunting collected works of letters of C. S. Lewis (over 3000 pages all told) may not pique your interest, I certainly recommend reading someone's published letters. (I know there exists one for Jane Goodall, which began rather delightfully.) See if there isn't a book of letters of a favourite author or person of interest. It illuminates so many aspects of his or her works by watching that person formed before your eyes. It also provides a few good laughs as art imitates life.

(Listening to "The Screwtape Letters" this morning, the forward explains that the compiler, Lewis, "made no attempt to try to re-order the letters according to dates. Some of the letters seem obviously out of order, but the compiler himself sees no use in dating letters at all, preferring to order letters in a more organic fashion." I chuckled at that, because just the other day I read in one of C.S. Lewis' own letters the very same point of view on dating letters, conceding only to do so at the request of his friend.)

In the end, even if I wasn't finding a friend in this man who lived a century ago, I am simply excited to see such a complete and concise list of great literature pieces to delve into, with someone's personal thoughts on many of them also. I am provoked to find friends with who I can discuss the books and music I ramble through. I am inspired as an artist again, with imaginations in poetry and prose and music and art and creation bubbling up inside.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Guilt-Free: Breakfast

I love waffles. They are definitely my favourite breakfast food. And how easy is it to pop some frozen waffles into the toaster and voila!

And yet I know how terrible those things are for me. And honestly, they never taste as great as homemade waffles. But there are just so many ingredients and it takes so much more time and effort to make them from scratch.

So I came up with a compromise that actually works pretty well for us. We do make pancakes/waffles every week or two. We have a recipe that makes batter you can use for either pancakes or waffles, so it's just as easy to pour the batter in a pan or in the waffle maker (which you can buy for less than $20 these days). We make a double batch and freeze the leftovers.

Just like that - frozen waffles with the goodness of whole ingredients and without the padded junk from the store-bought variety. Love it!


1 1/2 cups flour
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder

1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
3 tbsp oil/melted butter

Mix dry and wet ingredients separately. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add wet mixture. Stir with wooden spoon until combined (may still have lumps).
Drop by 1/4 cup (or so) into a frying pan (med heat) for pancakes, or into a waffle iron for waffles.

This basic recipe allows for much free play - add chocolate chips, cinnamon, or any other favourite ingredient to change things up.

Monday, 23 February 2009

I have fallen in love with the lyrical verses of "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod." Because I haven't yet been able to expand my memorized repertoire of poetry, I often recite this gem at least twice a day while trying to coax Caleb into a dreamy slumber.

For those of you who have never heard the entire piece, or just to jog a distant memory in others, here are the words that carry me off into a land of imagination and inspiration:


Wynken, Blynken, and Nod
by Eugene Field

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe---
Sailed on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew.
"Where are you going, and what do you wish?"
The old moon asked the three.
"We have come to fish for the herring fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we!"
Said Wynken,
And Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe,
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew.
The little stars were the herring fish
That lived in that beautiful sea---
"Now cast your nets wherever you wish---
Never afeard are we";
So cried the stars to the fishermen three:
And Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam---
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
Bringing the fishermen home;
'T was all so pretty a sail it seemed
As if it could not be,
And some folks thought 't was a dream they 'd dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea---
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
And Nod.

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
Is a wee one's trundle-bed.
So shut your eyes while mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea,
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:
And Nod.

(Argh) Cleaning

I am a tidier. It drives me up the wall if there are toys and clothing and random items strewn across my floors. I like the pillows on the couch and the blankets folded. I like the bed made and the towels picked up. I can't stand a pile of dishes. I have to clean off the counter before starting to cook.

I am not a cleaner. I know there have been expanses of time that have lapsed without the vacuum making an appearance. I have lost the duster too many times to count. Thank goodness I use the bathroom so often so that I see the grime and get to that semi-regularly.

I married a cleaner (James) and so there is a bit of a silver lining. I tidy every day, but when James is going to clean, he really gets down to it. Roll up the sleeves, don the rubber gloves, bring out all our (natural) cleaning solutions and scrub till the place shines.

But I know I need to be better at this. Our company keeps James so busy he doesn't have the time to do his clean fests, and so it lies with me. Probably that's where it should lie, since I am the one at home. (But I often remind myself that a toddler and a preschooler are my primary responsibilities right now, so I don't get too hard on myself).

One of my goals was to establish a cleaning schedule. This is about the only way I could guarantee that each cleaning job that needed to be performed actually got done on a regular basis. Relying on my memory turns into: "Uh, I think I vacuumed last week...maybe..." My original plan was to spread it out through the week - a different chore each day so as not to feel overwhelmed. But last month, on a Monday morning after sending Colin off to preschool, I took stock of my surroundings and found an utter disaster zone from the weekend. So I rolled up my sleeves and went to work.

I tackled one room at a time, tidying and sweeping and dusting and vacuuming and scrubbing. I worked for the morning until Colin came home again - about 2 hours of solid work time (with a toddler in tow). And then it was done!

So my new schedule involves just this: Monday morning cleaning. I'm much more productive (and feel as though much more has been accomplished) when I go at things all at once. Who knows in the future how things may change, but I love feeling ready for the week like this.

(PLEASE no surprise visits on Sunday, however, because I cannot vouch for the home after a week of the hurricane that is my children!)

Sunday, 22 February 2009

The kindness of a stranger

Saturday I drove up with James up to a town half hour north of here. He had a meeting to attend and I figured I'd do the grocery shopping. On my way into the store I saw a posted sign: "free bag of potatoes with a purchase of $50 or more". Since potatoes were on my grocery list, score! And they were a bag of nice premium potatoes.

I shopped around, filling my cart. But because I was going to another store afterwards that had a $1 sale on, I only needed to get half of my items in this store. Heading to the cashier, I mentally counted up the cost of my items, and quickly realized that I would barely hit $40. Ah well. Potatoes are cheap and I could pick them up in the next grocery store.

In rang my items one by one...grand total: $45.50 Yes, I was less than $5 off. I laughed about how close I'd come, but being the type of person who hates to make a scene, didn't even consider running to get one or two more items to reach $50. I handed over my debit card and packed my bags into my cart.

I'd finished faster than anticipated, so I had a while to wait until James would be back. With no place to wait but outside int he cold or at the end of the checkout aisles, you can easily guess where I parked my winter-hating body. I maneuvered the best I could out of everyone's way and just stood.

10 minutes passed. Then a man came through the checkout. "Since you've spent $50, we are offering a free bag of potatoes. Would you like one?" the cashier offered. The man smiled in surprise and looked up at me - "I guess this is my lucky day!" he exclaimed. I laughed with him. "I only hit $46," I replied with mock sadness. The man pulled his wallet out to pay. "Do you have a brood at home to feed?" he asked looking at my cart. "Yep," was my answer. "Well, here you go." He lifted the bag of potatoes from his cart and placed it in mine.

I was surprised and so very grateful. I expressed my thanks as he left. I know we both walked away that morning filled with the joy of an impromptu kind moment.

Thank you.

Thursday, 19 February 2009


What is love and marriage without the laughs and insanity that goes along with it?

The other day James and I were sitting around chatting - you know, those crazy conversations which birth the weirdest topics and funniest comments? Yeah, it was one of those.

We get on the topic of vegetarians somehow, and then zoom off on a tangent of "-tarian" ideas: James loves the TV series Battlestar Galactica, so he is a "Battlestar-tarian" of late (meaning we don't seem to watch anything else!) One thing led to another, and the next comment out of my mouth was:

"Well, you love only me, so that means you're a "Terri-Ann-tarian".

We burst out laughing. A Terrianntarian. likely the oddest and coolest sounding "-tarian" anyone has come up with. I didn't even realize my name sounded the same as "-tarian" until I'd said it.

Okay, you're likely all either laughing hysterically right now at our inanity, or you have this dazed and confused look on your face while you take our number off of your speed dial and my name off your Facebook. You're either as crazy as we are, or crazy for not being as crazy as we are.

So endeth this inane post.

Snip snip buzz

Yesterday I tried my hand at home haircuts. I bought my own little kit, complete with razor, length adjustments, scissors, comb, etc. So while Caleb slept I set Colin up at the kitchen table with a snack and a movie and 'went to work'.

An hour + one crooked haircut later, I have decided this time-saving method is not worth it for me. Colin's rebellious thick curls resulted in many "ouches!" when the razor got caught and plucked out some hairs. The mass of hair on top made it nearly impossible for me to tell where I had cut and where I hadn't. The wiggly bum of a three-year old made me constantly fear gouging his smooth skin with the point of my scissors. The hour of pleading and coaxing and brow furrowing and lip biting and guessing made me toss the whole haircutting set into a bag and stowed it away deep in my linen closet.

The end result isn't too awful. It's short - which was the point. The top isn't quite so fly-away. And yes, the diagonal line at the front is entirely meant to be that way.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

The voice of the people

After five days of ruminating on last Thursday's public meeting about French Immersion, I finally decided the best course of action was to email my thoughts to the parent representatives who have been actively seeking an FI program in our town.

(Other options I considered: writing to the newspaper; attending an "information session" by the opposing delegates, to which I was invited; writing to the Board member and risk getting lost in the land of email; let the issue fester in me and keep me up at night.)

So this morning I zipped off an email of composed (but not too carefully) thoughts. I expressed my concerns and some things I hoped might be brought to the Board's attention. I spoke for a number of parents who had discussed their views with me, and which might not otherwise be made known. When I returned at lunch time, the phone rang. The parent delegate asked if she could forward the email to the Board committee. I readily agreed.

Within 10 minutes I had a call from the head of the committee. Most notably he wanted to clarify his views (which, I noted in the email, seemed already resigned against our position). But he expressed his thanks in taking the time to express some clearly thought out ideas. We laughed (with a little regret) over the tone of the last meeting, and the hot tempers that filled the room. I was surprised but delighted that he had taken the time to call me.

Within the hour, I had another call from another prominent member of the committee. He, too, expressed his thanks for the email (I had no idea it was circulating so much!). As in the previous phone call, my fears were much allayed. Both people spoke about finally acting in the best interest of the program, which would ultimately be in the best interest of the students. Both seemed very much onside with my previously expressed opinions that although this step may prove hard for some (parents, more likely than students), it is probably necessary to really get the FI program up and running.

Having never before been party to such political community events, I was pleasantly surprised and a little taken aback at the entire process. I'm not sure why my email (and comments from the meeting) elicited such response and phone calls, but I'm sure glad they did. Perhaps it is not altogether out of reach to participate in intelligent discussion regarding my town, and to have calm debate over the issues, leading to conclusions and actions that are positive and constructive. In the end, I don't think I have been totally discouraged from standing up and speaking on further topics of concern. But I have learned a valuable lesson about communication. Although those few parents last week were the most vocal, their obtrusive manner of speaking and obvious lack of decorum held little sway, in the end. They may have rattled those of us unused to such abuse, but to those appointed to wade through the murky waters, the much of the loudness fell on deaf ears. A quiet, well-thought out comment holds much more importance and influence.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

PS - I love you

Last night was Valentines Day. James and I had an interesting conversation over dinner about how much or little this holiday could/should mean. We both agreed a "Hallmark" holiday is a poor reason to shell out a lot of money on flowers that die and a host of red, pink and white toys. We also agreed that "we don't need a day to tell each other "I love you". James pointed out that a surprise gift or special dinner or date is much better than eating in a restaurant crowded with a hundred other couples all trying to have a "special" evening out. I also don't like the pressure around our children, to create cards for every person in their class and bake heart shaped cookies and eat another gallon of chocolate and candy. I don't even really think kids should celebrate Valentines - if it is to be celebrated at all, it should be between two people in love.

I mentioned, however, that the week before Valentines was kind of nice, because there is a buzz in the air kind of like the excitement of Christmas. Friends and loved ones talking about upcoming plans, special gifts, and time spent together. The anticipation of surprising your husband or wife with something thoughtful (and not always in the form a store-bought gift) is kind of nice.

That being said, our general consensus was not to make a big deal out of it. So we cooked a nice dinner for ourselves once the kids were in bed and ate our meal while it was hot and without jumping up and down every 30 seconds (a luxury we rarely are afforded!). Then we cuddled up to watch the film "PS - I love you." If you have seen this movie, I don't need to say anything more about it. If you haven't seen this movie - go rent it, buy a box of Kleenex and prepare to weep your eyes out, while enjoying a good chuckle and sharing many knowing looks between you and your loved one. I rarely cry during a movie - really and truly - maybe only a handful of times in my life. And within 10 minutes the tears poured, and continued almost non-stop through the entire film. It's a great romantic comedy.

Thus endeth another Valentines Day. I hope we both remember our vow that we "don't need a calender day to show each other our love" and that we really can carry this throughout the year.

And to James:

PS - I love you.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Sweet, sweet jam

Homemade Jam

1. Put strawberries in breadmaker.
2. Add sugar.
3. Add lemon juice.
4. Press "start".

Result: sweet, delectable, delicious homemade jam. Just like that.

Enough said.

Public Chaos

Although I'm a kitchen table politician, I've never been much involved in my own community organization via committees. So far, I haven't really had any need to. Last night I attended my first community meeting. I suppose it was everything I expected it to be, and I'm thoroughly disappointed. I also understand a little better now what our parliament is like.

A committee of parents has been working hard over the last year to bring French Immersion (FI) to our school board. Currently students are bussed over an hour away if parents want to enroll their children in this program. James and I are both students of FI, and we want to enroll the boys also. But something about sending my 3-year-old on a bus two hours a day just doesn't jive with me. School already takes him away for 6 hours - I have no desire to lengthen even more. Orangeville is a town whose makeup would definitely support our own program. The problem is that people are so resistant to change.

I hoped last night's public information meeting would be a forum for parents to express their praise and concern, a time for all sides to make their opinions known. What it turned into was a firing squad against the School board and a bullying fight against parents who support FI in Orangeville. As I left the meeting I was aware of my heart pounding in my chest, the trembling of my hands and the quickness in my breath. I enjoy a good debate and I think it's important to consider all sides of a topic before making a decision. The problem is that a small but overly vocal group last night used anger to make their opinions known, and the atmosphere was hurtful and spiteful. That kind of vindictive behaviour always affects me, making me uncomfortable to the point of a physical reaction.

Mostly I was disappointed that parents weren't willing to make a decision for the "greater good". I know how precious a child is - I've got two of my own! The opposition parents were making their decision solely based on their child's interest. Everyone was in agreement that having a program closer to home would be preferable, but parents were not willing to relocate their children out of the current school, claiming it would be so detrimental socially the kids would never recover from moving schools. What the parents did not seem to see is that overcrowding at their current school means that within 3 years the kids will have to be moved anyway. But as their children will have moved on by then, the future does not affect them directly. The summation of their argument was "do it to someone else's kid, not mine."

We have not completely lost. They may try to start the FI program with Kindergarten only, and grow the program each year with new enrollment. The problem here is that research shows you really need a larger core group of children (at least 3 grades) in order to have a thriving program. If anyone is really serious about investing in FI for our town, a serious effort needs to include at least Kindergarten to grade 3. Anything less is not a strong enough program. Kindergarten parents understand this, and will not likely enroll their kids in a program that is only Kindergarten. Which leaves the issue exactly where it's been for the past 10 years - enrollment so low that the program is canceled. The end result then is that the whole town loses out on a valuable learning opportunity.

I know it seems here that I'm only arguing my side of the issue and of course every side firmly believe they are right. Mostly I'm surprised that parents don't want to move the program here to have it closer. If Colin were to start at the current school an hour away, and then a program were to be started here down the road, I would move him in a heartbeat. Yes, it can be hard to move schools, but the benefits of having him close outweigh the difficulty he might temporarily experience. A close school means I can volunteer in the classroom regularly, be involved in the school actively, pick him up if gets ill, drop off something he forgets, have him nearby in case of an emergency, have a neighbour pick him up if necessary. But the crowning argument for me is less time away from home. James and I are his primary teachers, and his home is his primary place of learning.

I know I can't withdraw from public meetings altogether - there are issues that are too important to leave to "others". But it will be a while before the bitter taste in my mouth dissipates. Ultimately I know that I am the captain of my family's fate, that I can assure I and not the school or the town or the government have control over the quality of upbringing my children have. It would just be nice if we could all get along in our town - when the meetings are over we all have to live next door to each other.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Fear and courage

"Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the strength to act wisely when we are most afraid." (Mary Fisher, AIDS activist)

"Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee." (Deuteronomy 31:6)
A combination of books I am reading has led me to consider fear and courage. So much of what we do (or don't do ) is a result of fear. And often the greatest fear is what might others think?

A story revolving around World War One showed me the essence of the above quotes. Men went into battle deathly afraid of the circumstances, without an iota of reassurance that things might work out just fine. It was war. People died. People were wounded. People were captured. People were left alone. People lost loved ones. There was no mincing the effects of that era. And yet the men took courage and fought for freedom. And, perhaps even more courageous, their mothers and loved ones let them go. Yes, as a mother now, I understand the strength it took for mothers to watch their sons enlist to fight a war thousands of miles away. Not one of our Canadian forefathers was forced to fight; every man could have refused, every mother pleaded with him not to go. It seems to me that wartimes define courage.

And now I am reading about facing our own battles and enemies: our fears. Those things that prevent us from being the very best we can be. I feel almost ashamed at my own fears: what others might think, failure, embarrassment, missing a crucial element in raising my children. What are these in the face of standing on the front lines staring death in the eyes? What are these in the face of sending my children to stare death in the eyes? I know I have my own set of weaknesses, challenges and trials, and they are not to be minimized, for they have been designed for me that I may overcome them and be strengthened. And yet I have swallowed a good dose of perspective this past week.

I read an interesting comparison between fear and war: we need to fight our enemy that is fear just as a general fights his enemy in the battlefield. Avoidance or being ill-prepared is no way to assure victory. These steps seem so practical and achievable and sensible that I would be remiss not to jot them down here. Who knows but that I will return to this entry time and time again to remind myself just how to conquer my own great enemy of fear:

1) Name the enemy - what am I afraid of?
2) Describe the enemy - why am I afraid?
3) Risk assessment - what is the worst possible thing that could happen? What are the odds that actually might happen?
4) Develop your tactical plan - what will I do if those worse things do happen?
5) Identify your troops and resources - who or what will help me?
6) Finalize your battle plan - where do I start?
7) Add your primary advisor - the Saviour (see bible verse above)

These kinds of exercises always seem to require so much time and effort, when really I could simply go on as I have been. I can just avoid that fear, because I've been getting along just fine this far. Haven't I? I can just leave out those things that might lead to failure, embarrassment, etc.
Of all sad words of tongue and pen
The saddest are these: "It might have been!"
(John Greenleaf Whittier)

An avoidance of things that might lead to heartache
Inevitably also means an avoidance of that which might lead to joy.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009


After lunch today, I gave Colin the choice of sitting on the toilet to try and go to the bathroom and then playing for a bit, or going straight to bed for nap. He unequivocally chose bed. What am I to do???

Monday, 9 February 2009

Thoughts on learning

"I am learning to cook. Susan is teaching me. I tried to learn long ago - but no, let me be honest - Susan tried to teach me, which is a very different thing. I never seemed to succeed with anything and I got discouraged." ("Rilla of Ingleside", from the Anne of Green Gables Novels)
Is this the crux of the problem with public schools today? I have no doubt there are many noble teachers out there who love children and love teaching and have an earnest desire to inspire their students. I would be one such, if I ever took up teaching formal education. But the problem is that no longer are students imbued with passion to learn. A few lucky children are born with this yearning and seem to stumble through their school years uninhibited. But too often a wave of boredom captures the young minds which stifles any chance of really learning.

It is noble to want to teach someone something, but without that person's desire to learn, nothing can truly be accomplished.

I felt this keenly as a child, and still do. My "inquiring mind" wanted to know. I was never satisfied in school with the traditional methods of teaching me the "what". I wanted to know the "why" and the "how". In fact, early on I found it nearly impossible to learn by simple regurgitation. It was hard to memorize the organs of the body, but if I learned how they worked apart and together, I found it made sense. I didn't have to rely on late night memorization spurts. I simply absorbed how it all went together, and could answer any test answer thrown at me, and even hypothesize further on the issue.

But I often felt this desire to learn quashed. There wasn't the time to cater to one child's "inquiring mind". The set curriculum with its government guidelines and expectations didn't allow such creative meandering. By university I had duly conformed and had modified my mode of learning. No longer was I able to digest information by understanding; instead I resorted to visually colour-coded notes and yes, late-night cram sessions. Finally the education system could stick a gold star by my name.

I don't want my children to be taught. I want them to learn. I want them to want to learn. I have used math and science and art and music and writing and gym and history and geography and languages in innumerable practical applications. And these concepts were impressed much more deeply on my mind than when I was taught them sitting at my desk: third row, fifth chair.

My interest is piqued in discovering the roots of public education. When did schools as we know them come to be? What was the reason for mass education? We are currently seeing the failings of "mass" things: mass marketing, mass media, mass agriculture... Many people are offended by the "mass" life we lead; the same many are content to just let it be because 'that's the way it is'. Does it have to be? Should it be? Can't we at least question and learn and discover and ponder and debate and converse on the subject? I have a feeling that "mass education" will soon fall into the list of things we wish hadn't been streamlined in such a way. I think it can be agreed upon that no good comes from these mass production lines of any product, least of all our children.

Has it come to that? Is my child simply a product?

As I teacher I would hope to be nothing more than a guide, steering the learning of my students and inspiring such questioning and learning and discovering and pondering and debating and conversing. But I have a feeling that if I walked into a grade 10 class today I would be met with silence and blank stares if I tried to encourage such a classroom environment.

Also notably missing from the public system (although not from many private and religious schools) are classes on values and ethics. Society no longer deems these subjects noteworthy, perhaps hiding behind the facade that they are "taught in the home". Oh, if only my town, province, country, world, were filled with such homes.

Mine can be such a home. I am more convinced now than ever that it must be. I don't think I can rely on my public education system to inspire my children to be the kind of thinkers they need to be. A hedonistic society needs only its people to go to work and spend their money. But true genius, true change, true difference, is only attained by those who escape society's system.

I'm glad I'm no longer in school, for this "paper" would likely be met with dubious eyes and wary tones.

Colinisms and Calebites

Caleb is embracing some early "big boy" habits, to my great delight. He is loving the idea of using utensils. The entire first half of his meal is involved in getting food onto his spoon or fork and then preventing the aforementioned food from falling off before it reaches his mouth. And he is actually quite successful in this endeavor. Halfway through the meal he tires of the practice and resorts to shoveling food in by the fistful.


Colin and his memory continue to amaze us. He can now recite the first 30-45 minutes of "The Polar Express", line for line, complete with actions, facial expressions, and scenes that don't even involve people (like the ticket flying through the air, caught up in a pack of wolves, being eaten by a bird, getting stuck to the train, and then flying in through the window). He can play any character in any scene, and luckily James can manage to get through with only a little coaching from Colin. Most darling of all is the duet he sings with James filling in the second part. When he grasped hands with his Daddy at the end of the song I was choked up with tears and laughter. Such genuine emotion he emotes even in imaginative play.


Caleb is excited to sit on the little potty in our kitchen. He reads, plays and even eats the occasional snack perched on the porcelain (plastic) throne. Colin still has no interest. However, my mother-in-law brought the cutest little gift in hopes of spurring on Colin's toilet training. It's called the "Peter Potty" and is actually a little flushing urinal! We talk a lot about it, but we're still not at the point of getting there before we need to.


We are still using both the bottle and the soother with Caleb. I know it's as much for me as it is for him. His wild temper and roller-coaster emotions are easily soothed for sleep with a warm bottle of milk followed by the soother. My brain (and many experts) warn me against this practice, but I'm beginning to realize that odds are my child will not take a bottle and a soother to school, neither will he wear a diaper, and yes, one day he will sleep and not want a nighttime cuddle. No child ever born or ever to-be-born is exactly like mine, and so I am the best and only expert on my children.


Colin's colourful vocabulary:

- "incorrect"
- "disgusting"
- "I am going to count to ten and then you will go to your room. This is not a choice." (to me)
- "I'm not very happy with you right now."
- "Don't cry, my dear. Life is hard."
- "wonderful" (in reference to nearly everything!)
- "Ow! I "darned" myself!" (when he hurts himself)

And one conversation from today, an exercise in redundancy:

Colin: What's that?
Mom: What?
Colin: Caleb's water in his green cup?
Mom: It's Caleb's water in his green cup.

Friday, 6 February 2009


In fully embracing my desire to learn the flute...I have joined our community band. I figured this was a great (free) way to push myself to really learn and practice this new instrument. I've now attended four practices. I'd like to say that I played in four practices, but at least half the time I just sat there.

I've barely been playing the flute two months. I've never had lessons. I do play the piano and the clarinet, I have sung and lead choirs, and I have played in instrumental bands before. But man, are these pieces challenging! I thought I had a good handle on things when I signed up. I learned all the fingering, how to play two full octaves of notes, and was able to go through a sight read many of our church hymns.

What seemed to have slipped my mind was the type of music flutes generally play in band pieces: lots of notes played very fast! There are runs of sixteenth notes that I just laugh to myself at. But my rhythm is good and I just keep counting along to come back in where I can.

I nearly didn't go back after the first rehearsal. I was overwhelmed by the 15 pieces we were starting with. Much of it was jazz in style, which has never been my favourite to play. I sat more than I played. I came home feeling lost and dejected. I wasn't giving up on the flute, but I wasn't sure this band was the place to be.

I returned the second week, if nothing else but to return my music. I decided to give it one more go, and see what a week of (infrequent) practice might have done. Apparently, quite a bit! I didn't feel quite so lost, and considered maybe hanging in there. But it was a lady whom I sat beside that gave me the confidence booster I needed. She is probably in her sixties, and has only had one year of flute lessons. Like me, however, she wanted to learn and thought she'd give the band a go. Talking with her I realized that I was not the only one floundering in this setting, but more important, that this didn't have to prevent me from trying. We buoyed each other up and now I've decided to at least get myself through to our spring concerts.

I'm still nervous playing solo in front of people - in fact, barely a noise can be coaxed from my flute. But as one among many in the band, my inner confidence takes over and I'm actually starting to make some music!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

The children's story

Caleb is helping me rediscover a different form of bedtime stories. He has never been interested in sitting with me and reading children's stories, as they are popular today (think Goodnight Moon, Robert Munsch, Little Critter, etc.) no matter the colour, size or involvement, he just couldn't care less. So instead of stories I started singing extra songs. Caleb loves music, but more often than not singing got him riled up, not calmed down for sleep.

Then, out of the blue last week, with the lights turned off and Caleb snuggled into my arms, I started reciting poetic narratives. I started with "Wynken, Blynken and Nod", then moved onto "Marsupial Sue." It worked like a charm. Caleb listened quietly to the rhythmic tones and was lulled into a peaceful state.

At this point I realized my memory bank is noticeably empty of many other ballads of the like. I recalled a few songs, like "A poor, wayfaring man of grief" that work lovely in spoken word. But all of a sudden I felt a yearning to dig into some old story books and add a few more tales to my repertoire.

It also got me thinking about the evolution of children's stories. The children's book as we know it now - generally a few lines a page, and often very didactic (visibly teaching some sort of lesson, this being its main goal). Pure imagination, or stories simply for stories' sake seem to have gone by the wayside. But more than that, children's stories of centuries gone by were generally only designated such because of their subject matter. Children would devour poetic rhymes of great length, and be lost in tales that filled page upon page in books. It seems even our literature has adapted to our culture of instant gratification and limited attention span.

I hope to reintroduce my children to the world of poetry through story. I can't wait for the day when (coming sooner than you might expect) when I can read from chapter books at bedtime, baiting my children's anticipation of tomorrow night's installment. There is an entire world to rediscover and I am excited to be on this adventure with my children.

A monopoly on the years of childhood

I am a stay-at-home mom. James and I have so structured our finances that I am able to bless my children by being at home with them during these precious, formative years. But beyond this, I want to be a stay-at-home my for as long as my kids are living at home. I don't believe that just the first 5 years are the most important. Each year older brings a new set of dreams, heartaches, troubles, trials, goals, aspirations. I want to walk beside each one of my children during the brief time I have to help them discover who they truly are, coaxing the beauty hidden within.

I have been struck deeply by a new thought this week. I have read much on the topic of homeschooling. I have read the positives, the drawbacks, the misconceptions, the encouragement. There are many standard attacks and defenses regarding this subject. But I was struck by a completely new angle this week that has refocused my view.

If I am a stay-at-home mom, then why let my children's formative years be monopolized by a government institution?

I have always wanted to be a teacher. The only thing that officially stands between me and teaching any grade in the school system is one year of teacher's college. And any teacher's college graduate will tell you that they learned next to nothing in the way of practical application during that year of schooling. I have taught drama and music and French. I excelled in all subjects during my own education. I have a love of learning and of teaching. I am more than qualified to be a teacher.

And if I am at home during the school hours, why shouldn't I then act as teacher to my own children? I can be the master of curriculum. I can teach more than the three 'R's. I can let them experience life.

There is no doubt I could fill the empty hours of the days that my children spend in school. There are many dreams and projects and charities that I could take up. But I see now, perhaps, that there is a a time and a season for everything. I need not rush these personal projects.

I am more skeptical than ever of a government that wishes to take children out of their homes, away from their families, for the majority of the weekday hours. Waiting in the wings, not too far now, will be full-time school for children starting as young as 3 years. Who is having the most influence on my child, then? I find myself wishing I could enroll my kids in classes only for mornings at least until the age of 10, if not beyond. What is 9am-3pm education (plus activities, plus homework) more than full-time babysitting so that parents may enter the workforce and prop up the national economy? I am sure this is not the best model for society.

I'm not sure a monopoly of anything is a good idea, but I like it least when I have to relinquish all of my control.

Snatches of the Mayan Riviera

The sun awakened my imagination, caressing the seed open from the formant form lying in the cold earth. Bursts of poetry came forth; lines filled with metaphors, similes, alliteration, and a vocabulary born out of a library of books in memory and the span of three languages. Each thought was pulled from my mind, and just as quickly snatched away with the ebb of the waves licking my feet. I cried in my soul that these poetic verses might never see ink on a page, and then I was comforted that perhaps they were never meant to leave this moment. And so many thoughts so formed were laid in a coffin of sand and buried in the ocean of the Mayan Riviera.