Monday, 30 August 2010

Early education

"Big Bang for Full Day Learning Buck"

Mon Aug 30 2010
Ontario could be missing out on a significant economic payoff by offering a scaled-down version of full-day learning"

I didn't even click into this Toronto Star newspaper article. The tag line says it all. Full day kindergarten for children as young as three years old is nothing more than an economic scheme. Yes, mothers may go back to work early, but can we really say that society has improved since mothers left the home for the workforce? The only reason it is being put in is for an economic stimulus. The most money in the fastest way seems to be the mantra today, with little thought to long-term effects and overall impact on society.

It makes me mad, especially since the majority of media articles cite (and laud) the academic reasons for 6 hours of school for children so young. THERE IS A REASON WHY GRADE 1 IS THE FIRST GRADE! It is because at 6 years old, children are ready for formal learning. Then they added kindergarten for school before first grade. The direct translation is "children's garden." Perhaps if kindergarten was simply that - a place for children to play with friends and explore new things, a voluntary drop-in sort of place, it would be an ideal setting. But instead kindergarten teachers have curriculum and the children have "expectations" in order to be ready for grade 1. Now they have added a second kindergarten year, because apparently in order to get ready for the first year old school you need TWO preparatory years. Does anyone else see the insanity in this?

Children learn the most in the first six years, which is why, I believe, school used to start at age six. The first and most impressionable years were spent in the home with the mother. It wasn't a free-for-all, but a place of emotional, physical and spiritual learning. A time when children's character was shaped and good behaviour instilled. There was (and is) plenty of learning needing to be done in those early years, and the most effective teacher is the mother.

Thank goodness kindergarten isn't mandatory, for the most part. (Although you must take a minimum 1 year of kindergarten in French to gain entrance into the French Immersion program) But that's not a fact the schools boards advertise very much. Not too surprising, since they come under the jurisdiction of the government, and the government is the one wanting all the mothers back in work as soon as possible. I'm getting a little tired of our captilalistic society. I wonder what it will take for us to realize that having the most money does not equate with either success or happiness, and certainly not with a healthy society and community.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Not Too Far From Here

I have had a few discussions lately with girlfriends about raising our kids and the issues they will face as they grow. Our Mother Hearts ache with the thought of the pain and heartache ahead, the challenges and victories, the trials and triumphs. I know every mother prays fervently that their son or daughter will make it through the bumpy road to adulthood relatively unscathed and emerge on the other side beautifully confident in who they are.

I have been pondering lately, trying to pinpoint what I might do as a parent to keep them in their walk with Christ, to help them develop their own testimony of the truths I know so well. I have heard many ideas. Daily talks with God, daily immersion in His word, being surrounded by positive influences, limited exposure to negative media, interaction with good friends...there are so many things I can do by example and help my children to develop as their own habits. But I think I have come to my own conclusion, a little different than the standard answers some will give. I think a serving heart is what makes the difference. If they can see me reaching out to others, serving my fellow men and women, quietly going about trying to do a little good in this world - that is what makes the difference. The other things are important habits to develop, but they can so easily become items to check off on a list of things to do. But all of those things will naturally evolve in you if you have a real love of your brothers and sisters (figuratively speaking) in this world. I want my children to see the world around them with open eyes have a natural ability to see where they can help and serve to make it a little better for someone else.

In this spirit, I have adopted one of my favourite songs as a personal call to action. Here are the beautiful lyrics of Hilary Weeks' "Not Too Far From Here." I have a happiness within me that is attainable by all, and I feel that need to reach out and share it. I pray that the seed of service I plant today within me will grow and bloom to humble greatness.


Somebody's down to their last dime
Somebody's running out of time
Not too far from here
Somebody's got nowhere else to go
Somebody needs a little hope
Not too far from here
And I may not know their name
But I'm praying just the same
That You'll use me Lord to wipe away a tear
Cause somebody's crying
Not too far from here

Somebody's troubled and confused
Somebody's got nothing left to lose
Not too far from here
Somebody's forgotten how to trust
Somebody's dying for love
Not too far from here
It may be a stranger's face
But I'm praying for Your grace
To move in me and take away the fear
Cause somebody's hurting
Not too far from here

Help me Lord not to turn away from pain
Help me not to rest while those around me weep
Give me Your strength and compassion
When somebody finds the road of life too steep

Somebody's troubled and confused
Somebody's got nothing left to lose
Not too far from here
Somebody's forgotten how to trust
And somebody's dying for love
Not too far from here
Now I'm letting down my guard
And I'm opening my heart
Help me speak Your love to every needlful ear
Someone is waiting not too far from here
Someone is waiting not too far from here

Friday, 27 August 2010

Schooling switch

A chance encounter with an acquaintance last week left us in a spiral as we suddenly considered a schooling switch for Colin (and, consequently, the other two boys later on). Two years ago Orangeville opened its first Francophone school. Officially, this school is for children who have a parent whose first language is French. However, they do consider applicants whose parents have a good grasp of the language, if the child shows an aptitude for French. We had passed on the idea when we enrolled Colin in school last year, worried that James and my French wouldn't be able to hold up enough to give Colin any help he might need as he went through the years.

I always find it important to remember the end goal when making decisions that have long-term effects. Our goal for French immersion was 1) to give Colin a solid second language base, which could provide additional employment opportunities, and make it easier to learn other languages and 2) to challenge him in school, given his quick learning. Keeping those goals in mind, we considered anew the Francophone school.

There was no doubt that children at the Francophone school were learning French much faster. I have a friend whose daughter could carry on a basic conversation after 3 months in school, never having spoken French before. After one year, Colin can count, say the alphabet, and use any number of singular words, but there was no learning sentences, to speak or to understand. Thinking forward to either the gifted program (grade 4) or high school (there is no local Francophone high school), Colin might eventually leave the French program, and so this opportunity will give him a much more solid foundation to hold onto the language if he moves to English education.

The class size at the new school was also an attractive feature: there will be 10 kids in Colin's class. There is no question that a 10:1 ratio is better than a 26:1 ratio. Also appealing (to me) is the fact that from grade one to grade six, the classes are all split grades. I think the opportunity of learning from older children and mentoring younger children is invaluable in the classroom setting. It often allows children more of a chance to learn at their own pace, be it faster or slower than other kids in the class.

The new school is in town, only seven minutes away by car, but Colin would be bussed. This is attractive right now, because of nap times. Caleb is the little personality that sets the mood in our home. If he is grumpy, it can spread throughout the family. And waking him mid-nap to pick Colin up from school was a constant problem for us last year. A school bus, with the stop likely right outside our home, will allow Caleb and Benjamin to get the sleep they need. Once naps are a thing of the past, I may opt to drive and pick up the boys myself, giving us a little more before and after school time together.

Having considered and weighed the positives and negatives of each decision (it was hard to decide to leave a school with all of Colin's friends, and children of my own friends, and move to a program that has full day, every day schooling for both JK and SK) we opted to start to the process. This morning James and I had our own interview with the principal, to test our level of French. Although our vocabulary is lacking, we can both follow 95% of any conversation and can also manage to express our views, albeit in a much simpler and less eloquent way than in English. I constantly assure myself that in the beginning I only need to be able to converse and understand a kindergarten level of French, and then learn it year by year with Colin. Colin also had a private interview, which, I think, was less successful. The principal was speaking to Colin in French, asking him questions and giving him instructions. It was in this that the lack of learning that happened last year was most evident. Because French Immersion involves the teacher giving instructions in French first, followed by the English translation, many children simply learn to wait for the English. It is a much slower learning process, and unnecessary, given that the Francophone children are starting at the same spot and learning more, and more quickly.

We have another interview with the Superintendent on Tuesday, which is more about our enthusiasm for the language and the program than our skills. Providing that goes well, Colin should be able to start this school year at the new school.

Gratefully Colin is easily adaptable. He has no problem starting a new school, no issues with learning a new routine. He would have been in a new class this year with all new people at last year's school anyway, so it's not a big issue. I'm still thankful that it won't disrupt him too much. It's also reassuring that, should this experiment fail, we can switch him back to our local French Immersion school next year. One of the things I've learned in my homeschooling research is that it is important to consider each child separately, and to reconsider things every year. There are many factors that can effect a child's education, and I always want to be conscious of what will provide the best learning environment for each of my kids.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Don't you love a great book?

I've come to the end of "Better Off," and once again I have the yearning to read it again sometime in the future. This is the second read for me. (It's a good thing the library has this book, or I'd be spending the money and storing yet another book.) I just love when you come to the end of a great book. There's that feeling of satisfaction you get from actually having read the entire thing. Plus there's the homey sense of having gotten to know the characters (in fiction) or the author (in non-fiction). I sort of feel like I have a new friend.

And what's even better than finishing one great book? Finishing two in a row. So often a book is either not as good as you hoped, or it starts off great and gradually tapers out. But to have read two great reads in a row is wonderful. Now the pressure is on to pick my next book...

Back to "Better Off." It is such an inspiring read. I really do feel like I'm on a gradual journey, step by step eschewing the "comforts" of modern technology. Like the author, Eric Brende, I do believe there is a place for some of the things we have. My fridge and stove, for example. Love them. Plus my dryer, in the winter time. But I absolutely LOVE my push lawn mower. I actually try to make time to cut the grass to beat James and his electric tear-up-the-grass-into-an-ugly-1/2"-tall-carpet machine. After reading the book again, I'm also intrigued by a hand clothes washer. I saw a video on the type Brende uses in his current house. Imagine a tub with a large stick handle growing up from it. You take hold of the stick and move it back and forth like a lever. It takes about 200 strokes to complete the small load. Even if you were at the slow pace of 2 strokes a second, that's about a minute and a half. Why bother, if you have the ability to simply toss the clothes into a washer and walk away? Consider this quote from the book:

"Primitive technologies are often better suited to the task than more advanced ones. In a world of organic beings and relationships, machines can act as a wrench. It often makes no sense to save labor and time when "labor" provides needed exercise and "time" is spent with family or neighbours."

I just love that thought. Think about that washing machine. If you earn $20 an hour, you had to spend about 50 working hours to buy it. Then you have the worry of it breaking down and needing repairs - repairs you probably don't know how to do yourself, so you have to pay a repairman to do it. Then, because you want to tone your muscles, keep fit, or lose weight, you pay a monthly fee to the gym, where you go and use machines to meet your physical goals. Broken down like that, doesn't it seem silly to buy the washing machine in the first place?

A perfect example in our home is the bathroom. We only have one, and it is on the upper floor. People are surprised we don't have one downstairs. The way I look at it: having a downstairs bathroom would mean one more bathroom to clean, plus I get the added exercise of going up and down the stairs whenever I need to use it, or the boys need help, or we're brushing teeth or washing out a diaper or washing hands...we use the bathroom a lot in a home with three young children.

The other big example from the book is the car. Did you know the just by getting into the car your stress level rises? Even if you are a good driver and you don't feel stressed. The responsibility of driving a massive machine that could potentially harm or kill another human being, even if you are careful and not at fault, is a great thing for our minds to bear. Then, once again, you must consider the outright hours put in to pay for the car, and the hours you must work each week to pay for insurance, gas, registration and upkeep. Never mind the cost of a mechanic and repairs for inevitable breakdowns. Let's do some quick math.

Again, we'll assume a wage of $20/hour.

Cost of car: $12,000 or 600 hours (15 weeks of 8 hour days)
Insurance: $100/month, or 1 hour a week
Gas: $40/week, or 2 hours a week
Additional Costs: $1000 a year, or 50 hours a year
Repairs: anywhere from $300 - $2000 per repair, or 15 hours to 100 hours.

That is a lot of hours to put in, and a lot of added stress. I'm not saying a horse and buggy are a much better option, but certainly a stroll with your family or a group bike ride might save you stress, add valuable time with loved ones, and bonus: meet the gym need once again.

Seriously - gym memberships are a puzzle to me. I had a gym membership for a year, but I only went to lift weights because I enjoyed the actual use of the machine. I was not born with a quick metabolism, or a body that kept a fantastic shape no matter what I ate and how little I exercised (I do know people like this!) But just a few weeks ago I pulled out the last of my pre-pregnancy clothes and discovered, to my delight, that not only did they fit, but I wasn't sucking in and squeezing in like I thought I would - they slipped on into a perfect, comfortable fit! Here is my exercise routine:

1. climb and descend one flight of stairs 30 times a day (okay, I haven't really counted that one!)
2. push a double stroller with two toddlers (100 pounds) while holding a 20 pound weight (Benjamin in the carrier) and walk for 30 - 60 minutes.
3. Mow the backyard with the push lawn mower (takes about 30 minutes).
4. Maintain the garden and trees, which involves squats, arm lifts, digging motion, and more.
5. Around the house chores, which works your arms, legs, and heart. In fact, you probably work all the different muscles in your body when you think of all the different chores around the house. Some day I'll actually sit down and write out a daily exercise routine based on housework.

Why on earth would you spend the added time and money on a gym membership? That's not making life easier. You have to work more at your job to pay for it, and find an extra 6 hours a week to actually go there! Waste of time and money. And you completely miss out on the interaction with friends or family you get in doing chores, going on a bike ride or for a walk, or engaging in another leisure sport (I took up kayaking this year).

Wow, sorry. That got a little preachy, didn't it? I'm certainly not up on a soapbox here, because I haven't quite yet completely adapted the mentality of which Brende write in his book. But as I once again read through "Better Off," I really understood what his point was. I'm not about to move to an Amish community, but I hope to start slowly assessing the role technology and machines play in my life, and see if I can't simplify things a little, save some time and money by getting rid of those "time-saving devices" that actually don't do what they claim.

(Now, the pressure is on for me to choose my next book...three great books in a row is a total high!)

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Winning at the Telemarketer game

At least once a month, I have a phone conversation that goes like this:

"Hello ma'am. As a loyal Bell phone customer, we would like to offer you a deal on your other technological needs. Tell me, who do you have your TV services with?"
"We don't have TV."
"You mean you don't have TV with Bell."
"No, we don't have TV."
"Don't you watch TV?"
"No, we don't. We don't have TV."
(This is sort of a white lie. We have a TV set, but we don't have television programming. We only watch movies on the TV, but that's often too much information for a telemarketer to understand.)
"Oh. You don't have TV."

(Here there is usually a pause, while I imagine the person on the other end of the line flipping through their script for the answer to "we don't have TV." Silent chuckle on my end.)

"I notice ma'am that you don't have your cell phone with Bell. We would like to offer instead a deal on your cell phone."
"I don't use a cell phone."
"You don't use a cell phone?"
"No. I have one for emergencies only, and I use it less than once a year."
"Oh. You don't use a cell phone."

(Flip flip flip.)

"I notice you don't have your internet with us. Bell offers the best service-"
"Our home business uses an email in connection with our current provider, so we can't switch."

(Flip flip flip flip flip.)

"Well, Bell just wants to thank you ma'am for your loyalty to our company. Have a good day."

That's right. I never have to be rude or hang up on a media telemarketer. They eventually realize that there is absolutely nothing they can offer me, and, without fail, are always the ones to end the call. The call lasts less than two minutes, and I actually take a strange sort of pleasure in it. Odd, I know. But kind of fun.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Playing house

A month or so ago I had my friends' two girls over for a playdate with the boys. The oldest girl is a year older than Colin, and so she took charge of play for the day. They played house and school, two things my boys had never really experienced. It was fun to remember my own days with my sisters playing in just the same way.

Although they don't recreate these games every day, a couple of times I week I hear their voices floating into the kitchen as Colin is playing parent and serving Caleb dinner or instructing him on bedtime.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha! I thought about writing this post because I could hear the boys playing house in the play room and I wanted to record for posterity the gentle motherly manner in which they were playing. They had out the Fisher Price toy house and some little figures. Just as I finished writing the above, I heard Colin's voice:

"Now let's play a game of bad guys shooting each other."

Boys will be boys!


Dear Benjamin,

I promise I will feed you every day. Every meal, and in between, if you'd like. Sometimes it takes me a minute to prepare your food, because you really don't like it fridge-cold. Your high-pitch screech that could break glass does not make the food come any faster. (Okay, maybe it does prevent any dawdling or distraction on my part, but let's work together here. I get the food, you converse in something of a lower decibel.)

Friday, 20 August 2010

Food! Glorious Food!

Food! Glorious, glorious, glorious food! I have tomatoes from the garden! They are red and juicy and absolutely fabulous! This is the first time I have ever eaten a tomato right from the garden, and it is wonderful. The cucumbers are still growing like rabbits. I think I'm going to have to make some pickles or relish or something of the like. I'm growing more than one a day. And my farm tomatoes will become salsa later on today, because I want to eat fresh ones from my bushes.

I've been in a furious baking made these past two days. With a boat load of zucchinis piling up from the farm, I shredded up five cups of it for whole wheat honey zucchini bread. Caleb and I also made an applesauce loaf as part of our "Learn Your Letters, Learn to Serve" curriculum. Last night I had burritos on the menu, but had no wraps in the house. I considered loading all three boys into the car for a trip to the grocery store, but as the past two ventures have been disastrous, I thought it the perfect time to try my hand at homemade wraps. While they were delicious, and the dough was easy enough to make, the work it took to roll them all out - not something I'll do on a regular basis.

Lastly, this morning I found myself with four slightly stale specialty buns. They were part of a massive bag of "day-olds" that I picked up on Monday. They were all differently spiced: onion, garlic, caraway. They seemed perfect for homemade croutons, another new venture for me. It's as easy as chopping the buns, tossing them in a bit of melted butter and then baking them for 20 minutes.

Or, it should have been that easy. Everything was going perfectly. Benjamin woke up with 10 minutes left in the oven, so I took advantage of the time to get the boys dressed for a walk down to the park. The sun shone, the warm air held a slight breeze, our 20 minute walk was beautiful. The boys hopped up onto the play equipment when I suddenly had a horrifying revelation: I had left the croutons in the oven, with the oven on. It was already a good 20 minutes past the time they needed to come out.

In a panic I approached the only other adult at the park and begged for a cell phone. She only had a texting plan, and so I sent my very first text to James:

urgent i left the oven on call your mom and get her to turn it off reply to 519-***-****

That was the best I could do as I fumbled with the unfamiliar device. I waited 5 minutes for a reply to verify he had received it. No reply came. (Which I couldn't believe my bad luck, since he ALWAYS has that thing on and nearby!) So I loaded the boys in to the double stroller, strapped Benjamin into the baby carrier, and hauled off at a run. Of course, the way home is completely uphill.

I shut my eyes as I turned the corner onto our street, silently praying that there would be no fire truck in front of the house, or black smoke pouring from the windows. I dashed inside, pulled out the croutons and turned off the stove, just as my mother-in-law pulled up. (James had gotten a hold of her, but I had already left the park).

I expected a tray of blackened, smouldering rocks. Instead, I was pleasantly greeted by this:

Gorgeous! And so incredibly tasty! They are crunchy and yet melt in your mouth. I will never buy a box of pre-packaged teeth-breaker croutons again! It was so easy, and you can be sure I will never leave them in the oven again!

(Huge sigh of exhaustion and satisfaction).

I have another new meal planned this evening, since I have three heads of broccoli still to use. In fact, we are bursting with yummy fresh produce from the garden and farm, so I have a feeling we'll be eating like kings over the next while. Homemade strawberry rhubarb pie is also on the menu for next week, as well as a peach cobbler and plenty of tomato/cucumber salads.

All this has really spurred on my vision of the next house we'd like to buy. It seems silly to me to spend all that money on buying fresh local fruits and vegetables when I could grow them myself. With more land, I will be able to have a large garden without sacrificing any play area for the boys. Although I still don't have a passion for gardening, I enjoy reaping the benefits, and therefore will continue on in future years to grow more and more of our own food. Eventually I would also love to get into more and more canning and preserving, but one thing at time.


How I know apples are at the end of their storage life:

"Mommy, did you put banana taste on this apple?"

(Colin hates bananas.)


A while back, I encouraged Colin's independence in getting a snack. While I lay half dozing on the couch, I instructed him on getting out a box of crackers from the pantry in the kitchen.

From that one act of freedom has spawned a whole host of independent actions on his part. One day I found him eating crackers with a side of raisins. Apparently he had seen the raisins when getting the crackers and thought it made a more wholesome snack. Later on he decided he needed a container to put the snack in. After that he thought to get himself a plate from the upper cupboards, which involved pushing a kitchen chair to the counter and very carefully pulling down a ceramic plate. (He informed me he had been very careful. When I asked him what he would have done had he dropped the plate and it broke, he replied very seriously: I would have not moved and called you right away.)

All this led up to this conversation today:

Hearing a coughing from the playroom, I inquire:
"Colin, are you alright?"
I peek in and see him drinking water from a toy pump for a train set.
"Where did you get that water?"
"From the drinking water at the sink," Colin replied matter-of-factly.
"Honey, don't drink it. The water is okay but the toy is dirty."
"Oh. But it's my lemon water."
"Where did you get lemon?"
"From the fridge. I squirted some lemon juice into my water."

So cute! I love that he takes his independence both seriously and freely. It means that he oversees his own growth, at a good pace, within the realm of safety. A typical first-born child.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

The Book of Awesome

In a strange (but awesome!) alignment of fate, my sister picked me up this book for my birthday, a mere 3 days after I discovered it online, decided I couldn't spend the money on it, and realized that I would probably be 158th in line for it at the library. Awesome!

If you haven't heard of this book yet, here's the gist: a man started a blog about the little things in your day that make it awesome. Things like snow days, bakery air, warm underwear out of the dryer, or finding money in your pocket.

The most hilarious entry I've read yet is this:

"Seeing a cop car and realizing you are already going the speed limit.
Heart rate goes up.
Heart rate goes down.

But the most true to life entry I read was about old, dangerous playgrounds. You know the ones: metal slides that reach 50C in the hot sun and give the underside of your legs a second degree burn; metal merry-go-rounds to which you cling for dear life while whipping around at 80 mph; 10 foot high monkey bars and 12 foot high beams for balancing; made of all wood, waxed to provide a surface more slippery than ice. The playgrounds that are so dangerous they are being ripped out at record speed and replaced by brightly coloured, extremely safe and utterly boring plastic contraptions. The author insists that should you see one of the old, fun playgrounds, you MUST take time to play on it.

To my utter delight, the campground we were at these past few days had just this kind of playground. It had all sorts of levels that didn't match up right, and horizontal metal poles for hanging on. It honestly looked like a type of ship, which is what led to the boys and my game of pirates. We sailed, we dug for buried treasure in the sand, we lost shipmates overboard, we made each other walk the plank (slide down the blistering slide!), we fought off enemies with swords (sticks) and hoisted the sails and pulled up the anchor and found a golden compass that showed the direction to sail. I've never had so much fun at a playground. I climbed and swung and jumped as much as, or more, than the boys.

And, just to prove how dangerous it was, I have a nice elbow scrape that is scabbing over nicely and a throbbing headache from running face first, full force, into a metal pole. (I still don't know how I didn't see it, since I got myself right across the brow line.) But trade it for the barely inclined ramps, miles of safety poles, and slides that take over a minute to go way! It was AWESOME!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Spur of the moment camping

By Sunday afternoon I had received two invites to a nearby provincial park to play this week, one for Monday and one for Wednesday. By Sunday evening I had packed the car for a three-day, just kids and me camping trip.

Yes, I know I'm crazy. The decision meant setting up our eight man tent by myself with a baby, a toddler and a preschooler underfoot. It meant a trip to the grocery at the crack of dawn Monday morning. It meant hauling three kids to the comfort station when I had to use the bathroom. It meant driving through the campground to pick the perfect camping spot: one with a swingset and a slide literally on our site and right behind the bathroom.

It also meant playing pirates on their ship on an old-school wooden playground. It meant building a massive sand castle city. It meant cooking hot dogs over the fire and reading "Stewart Little" on the beach. It meant the four of us passing out in the tent on hot afternoons. It meant cuddling up around a fire as darkness fell and singing camp songs I learned as a kid.

There is nothing I loved more, before I had kids, then impromptu vacations. Now I have discovered I can still do it with kids.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

The theatre

It's been a while since I've been involved in a theatre production, so I was excited when a good friend of mine became the music director in a production of the play "Saviour of the World" for the Toronto Stake. Auditions and Rehearsals were this past January, which meant I couldn't really be too involved (being that I had only given birth in the end of December!). But she knew I was eager to be involved in some way, and so she asked if I would run the sound cues. I was able to jump into the show in July and only needed to attend 4 or 5 rehearsals before the two week show run began.

In the past, Lori always ran the sound cues and sound board on her own, while conducting the cast in their songs also. But this show was fairly intensive in its demands, including 21 personal cast mics, 6 stage mics, song and sound effects and voice over cues, plus a 12 piece orchestra. So Lori needed some help. She enlisted someone to run the levels on the sound board, and myself to run the two computers that held all the sound files.

It was a crazy two weeks of shows. Running the music off of my laptop was not too bad. Lori and I had to coordinate the start of each song, as the orchestra was playing along with a pre-recorded score. The challenge in this is that there is zero latitude in tempo - you can't slow down the song if someone misses a cue or messes up - the show must go on! Running all the sound effects off of Lori's computer was were the trouble occurred. First of all, I use a Mac and she has a PC, which meant getting used to new programs, interfaces, and most difficult - the mouse.

The precision this job called for had little room for error. The voice-overs were lines in conversation, which meant they had to be delivered in relation to the actors. Then there were times when I had music and voice over and sound effects all being played at the same time. I had two notably tough shows. These were ultimately most frustrating because I was dealing with computer issues, not my own inability to time the sound cues. I hadn't realized that Lori's computer was set up with a "double-tap" clicking option on her laptop mouse (my computer doesn't have this function). So there were two shows during which the voice-overs came at the wrong time. The double-tap option apparently has lots of issues, including "clicking" on its own when you don't want it (which is what happened!) Even knowing that it wasn't anything I did, I still drove home after those shows stewing. I like to do a good job on things and I was boiling about the situation.

Once I finally realized what was going on (when a voice-over jumped on while I wasn't sitting at the computer!) and hooked up an external mouse, everything was a-okay. The rest of the shows went smoothly with no mistakes.

Ahhh. I think I just needed to get that all out of my system.

Being involved in this show was amazing. The director and music director and several of the actors are all professionally trained in their craft, which meant an amateur church production had a high level quality to it. Beyond that, the message of the show was inspiring to the thousands of people able to take in the show. Being back in the theatre was neat; being involved in sharing the message of God's love took the experience beyond. There is something about music...about all the arts...that reaches into our spirits and touches our hearts deeper than ordinary conversation. It's a level of communication that leaves a much more lasting impression, which is why I have such a love for art.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Music Time

Yesterday I had a morning that put a smile on my face. A couple of weeks ago the boys and I trotted out to the Grand Valley Early Years Centre for a play. I love this site because they have a huge rec room just for running and kicking balls and riding bikes and cars, as well as the usual play room. Plus it's rarely crowded - there's never been more than about 12 kids there at any one time. This is a perfect number, because it means there is usually at least one kid that Colin can lead in play, and chances are slim that Caleb's emotions will be set off by something.

So out we went, and were having a grand old time. As circle time approached, (a time for a small snack, a story read by an adult, and a few fun songs) I mentioned to the ladies that run the centre that I am learning the guitar and hope to run some free music classes in the fall. They jumped on the idea quickly and suggested I bring it sometime and lead a few songs during circle time. It's something I do at home all the time with the boys, and I agreed that the other kids might enjoy seeing and hearing the guitar, and having a few new songs introduced. I hesitated to schedule a day in advance; we don't generally plan much ahead of time. I did promise that the next time I came in I would bring the guitar, though, and if they were okay with the spontaneous nature of that, I would love to sing a few songs.

Yesterday, with the day promising a humidex temperature into the high thirties, I suggested the Early Years Centre as a cool-down place for the morning. Off we went, guitar in tow.

I will admit I was a little nervous about it, but not about singing with the kids. My nerves are directly related to other adults being around. In order to steel myself, I pulled the guitar out while we were the only ones there, getting myself warmed up and ready. By circle time there were the usual 12 kids or so. Before starting to play I walked around and let each kid strum the strings to see what it was like. I sat on the floor in the circle, and everything just eased into a relaxed and fun atmosphere.

I had a lot of fun, more than I even imagined I would. And the kids were rapt as I played the three songs I had planned, plus a fourth encore, and still they asked for more! I love children's music, and so enjoyed the experience. It was a good moment for me, a confidence booster and a motivator in anticipation of the fall program I hope to start.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Population Me

In my own little world it hardly ever rains
I’ve never gone hungry or always felt safe
I got some money in my pocket, shoes on my feet
In m own little world
Population me

I try to stay awake through the Sunday morning church
I throw a twenty in the plate but I never give ’til it hurts
and I turn off the news when I don’t like what I see
it’s easy to do when it’s
population me

What if there’s a bigger picture
what if I’m missing out
What if there’s a greater purpose
I could be living right now
outside my own little world


These is the first part of a song by Matthew West that culminated a long thought process for me. I love how thoughts can stew inside for a long time, ruminating, mulling over, coming to the forefront and fading into the background. I rarely write when an idea first comes into my mind, because it generally takes a while to take its true shape. Eventually it gradually forms into something definite, or sometimes there is a trigger that erupts it like Old Faithful.

This song was definitely a trigger.

How easy it is for me to be inward looking, to be involved in myself and my own little family.

This all began a couple weeks back with a speaker on the radio program "Focus on the Family." The host and guest reluctantly agreed that, at times, there can be too much focus on the family. This statement was made with much hesitancy and proviso, but the nugget at the centre bore some truth. Even in our families, our mission here on earth is to glorify God and develop the charity which is His central characteristic. That is impossible, or at least extremely difficult, to do when our attitude is one of "population me."

So I am going back to school.

I have a preschool homeschool curriculum that is called "Learn Your Letters, Learn to Serve." I picked it up because of the second part - the learn to serve. I truly believe that an attitude of service toward others is the primary factor in shaping a grateful and selfless person. I want to raise my boys that way, and I want to become more like that myself.

It won't be anything world-changing; not on a grand scale, at least. But I'm hoping it will be moment-changing or day-changing for people I come in contact with, and life-changing for me and my family.

I am beginning in a simple way. I'm not quite ready to begin the preschool program, so instead I am beginning by listening. I want to open my ears and my heart, to really listen to those I am around, to hear their needs and then find ways I can meet them. And I'm hoping that the population in "my own little world" will gradually start to grow.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Born in the wrong century

I used to joke that I thought I had been born in the wrong century. This fast-paced, technological culture in which I live just seems beyond me. (Yes, I get the irony that I have a film degree, and pursued a field which lives and breathes technology.) Not that I haven't made my way in it; I understand computers and media and such a little better than the average person. I don't need to hit the speed dial for a repairman when something breaks down; I can often figure it out on my own. And yes, I know where all those wires go in the back of the television and media system. I just don't necessarily like where technology is taking us as a society. Mostly I yearn to cut out the middle man when it comes to earning a living. Why work for money to buy what you need, when you could just work for what you need? I don't fear hard work, and although a hundred years ago the work was physically taxing, it certainly wasn't as emotionally and mentally draining as navigating the current workplace is.

Alright, I know that I don't work outside the home now. And if I ever did go to work, it would likely be as a teacher, a profession that has been around for hundreds of years.

But I am getting off topic. I have heard more and more often lately that friends of mine share this same sentiment. This sent the wheels in my head turning: is there an underlying cultural reason that so many people are shifting their minds backwards a hundred years? Back to the basics, home gardens, moving away from the cities, naturopathy and homeopathy, the organic movement: all these ideologies seem to suggest a cultural shift.

I wonder if there is not some impending natural (or man-made) disaster? I have the sense that humanity is subconsciously preparing itself for the breakdown of society. Or perhaps we are being shaped by God in preparation for what is ahead. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what might be looming, other than to say that our current bumbling, breakneck pace cannot be sustained.

For those who have been awakened to the sense the self-sufficiency is going to be important, perhaps the recovery from the shock will be quick. I chuckle at the image in my mind of thousands of people standing dumbfounded with dead Blackberries in their hands, unable to do anything now that they're technological lifeline has been severed. But as I read about the reconstruction post American civil war, and the hundreds of families from high society who found themselves unable to mentally deal with their new reality, I am sure that history will repeat itself again. We must have our hands and hearts near the earth, and not be so far removed from the basics of living that we find ourselves wandering aimlessly with a far-off glaze over our eyes, with nothing in our future but failure and starvation.

What a week!

This is James' and my busy week of the year. Sunday was our anniversary (7 years!), today is James' birthday and this Sunday is my birthday. I kind of like that all of our celebrating happens in one week. It makes it easier to celebrate once in a big way, rather than smaller celebrations throughout the year. When the kids are older we plan to vacation for our megaweek. Right now things are less high maintenance. In fact, on Sunday I was sick so James took the kids out of the house so I could sleep, today James is off to work and I have to leave for a dress rehearsal before he gets home, and this Sunday, well, Sundays are always busy days for us. And since tomorrow night is opening night for the musical I'm working on, and we have shows this weekend and next, even these couple of weeks and weekends are write-offs.

But I was able to dart out to the store yesterday with the boys so they could pick out a gift for Dad. I am of the ilk that if they can think of something they want to buy him, then we'll get that. I don't choose something for them to give. I really do believe it's the thought that counts rather than the gift. I try to give a little guidance to them. Here's the conversation I had with Colin:

Mommy: What do you think Dad would like for his birthday?
Colin: Hmmm. I don't know.
Mommy: Well, it helps to think about what he likes to do.
Colin: He likes to go and work in the basement. (James' business office is in our basement). I know! I should buy him a rug for the floor, since there is no carpet there anymore and it is cold on your feet in the basement.
(We had to rip up the carpet after the hot water heater tank leaked).

So off to the store we went to pick out a small rug. Colin wanted to buy a carpet that went wall-to-wall, but that was a little out of our budget. So he chose a soft blue bathmat. Actually, it's perfect. The rubber bottom will resist the dampness of an old basement, and the top part is softer than any other rug we looked at. And it's blue, which is Colin's favourite colour.

I tried to coax Caleb into an idea also, but he didn't come up with anything. I thought he might think about foods, especially breakfast, since he and James have breakfast together every morning together, but no such luck. When I was young my mom asked me what I wanted to get my Dad and I firmly stated "a can of peaches." I think, in that case, it was something I really liked, and so wanted to share with my dad. That is the first step of gift-giving. First you learn that giving a gift means giving something special, and as a kid the things you like yourself are what mean the most. A little later you start to think about the person themselves, their likes and interests. I really try to help the boys understand that giving gifts is not about the item, but about showing that you have given thought about the person, who they are, and what they are interested in. There is nothing like getting that perfect gift, and not because it was showy or expensive, but because you know you nailed it perfectly.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010


Thank you, next door neighbour, who decided to rev the loudest motorcycle ever built 45 minutes into afternoon nap. It was NOT in my plans today to carry a tired cranky baby and soothe a tired cranky toddler all afternoon. It made me miss my nap and not be able to get anything done, which made me tired and cranky.

Here's to a better day tomorrow.