Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Staying in

I have pushed it long enough. Benjamin needs his morning naps.

He has been having more and more trouble sleeping at night, a direct result (I believe) of inconsistent napping schedules. With Colin and Caleb I was very stringent; nothing interfered with naptime and bedtime. I recall, without fondness, of the first year of Caleb's life in which I had to be at home from 9-11 in the morning, 1-3 in the afternoon, and in by 7:30 at night. The only way I managed a social life was to constantly have people over to my house (an invitation they graciously accepted!) I relied this long on Benjamin's good nature to keep going out to playdates and outings, but it seems to be catching up. Morning naps are non-existent and afternoon naps run barely an hour. The rest of the day he is irritable and red-eyed, exhausted yet unable to fall asleep with the busyness and distractions around him.

And so I will likely have to put a moratorium on morning activities once more. Luckily there are only three more months until his first birthday, when morning naps usually disappear anyway. I may push my luck one morning a week, since I just got the go-ahead for a preschool music class. Hopefully he'll be okay for that.

I try to look at the upside. Caleb and I will be sure to get our preschool program in, and maybe I can get this house into a bit more order. Okay, that might be pushing my luck, but I'm learning to accept that I'm housekeeping is not my strength. And that's not a bad thing. We can't all be carbon copies of each other, perfect in every area. How boring would that be!

Monday, 27 September 2010

Competitive games

When asked in a group setting to divulge one thing about me that most people wouldn't know, I generally reveal this: I am extremely competitive. The first reaction of others is usually "well, that's not really a surprise." But they are often confusing "driven" with "competitive." Yes, I am driven. People know that I make goals and work hard to accomplish them. I worked my tail off to get good grades in school. If I set my mind to something I get it done.

But that isn't what I'm talking about. I'm talking about being so competitive that I was tossed from church basketball tournaments (or pulled from the court by an attentive coach before it got to that point!) I'm talking about crying at a Field hockey game because my team lost in the finals again - the year after I graduated from the school. I'm talking about the rush I get when playing a board game and my strict adherence (and forcing others to adhere) to all the rules.

It got to the point that now I don't like to engage in anything competitive. Because I truly do love to play sports and board games; these are two of my favourite pastimes. I just hated the way I felt when we were playing to win.

I'm usually okay with games that rely heavily on strategy or intellect and less on chance. A game like "Snakes and Ladders" sends me into a spiral, since it is purely luck of the dice. Trivial Pursuit, on the other hand, although it includes dice, relies on your own general knowledge, and so this is a game I play often. I only play Scrabble if we don't keep score, instead simply trying to spell the most unusual words and make the most unique plays. I can't stand those mocking red "triple word score" boxes that let someone score 30 points on the word "zoo." I also have a really hard time playing sports with people who don't have a basic skill level of the game. Oh - I don't want to keep score while on the volleyball court, but I do want to set up some plays and get a really good rally going.

It's terrible, I know. But it's part of my inner fabric. I don't think I will ever rid myself of these character weakness, but I think I have triumphed over the negative side of it by not allowing myself to get into situations that will bring out that side of it. I had a good laugh the other day as I listened to author and speaker Sheri Dew share a story from her childhood, about a baseball game in which she, as self-appointed captain, began to ream her team out as they made errors that were costing them the game. Sheri Dew is a fantastic leader, a driven businesswoman, and an inspiration to listen to. She has clearly mastered this competitive over-drive, and had "weak things be made strong" within her, through her spiritual journey.

What was interesting, as a mother, the other day was to see this characteristic manifest itself in Colin. Colin likes a race, if he knows he can win. If he doesn't win, he will dissolve in tears and "put up a sign" that says "no racing" any longer. Last night we were hyping the boys up for Family Home Evening and a game of Bingo. Colin unexpectedly and quite stubbornly put his foot down and said he was not playing Bingo. We were surprised, since the boys always catch our excitement about something new. It turned out he had played Bingo at school at some point, and very clearly remembered that someone wins and others don't. There was no way he was going to play if there was a chance he might not win. (Perhaps he also realized, on a subconscious level, that Bingo is one of those games of chance, where nothing you do influences whether you win or lose!) He finally agreed to play when James said we would call out squares until everyone got a Bingo. This came on the heels of a game this past weekend of "Snakes and Ladders," which Colin would only play if he and James played the same player, so that there was only one man on the board.

I love tucking away pieces of insight like this, as they help me to raise, shape, and direct my children as they grow.

(Postscript: please don't think I don't want to play sports or board games with you anymore, my friends! On the contrary - I love a good game, and hopefully I've managed to convince you that the scary side of my competitive nature lies dormant within me.)

Friday, 24 September 2010

The dream

I have just been absolutely inspired these past few days. Really, just bubbling over with excitement, and I just have to share.

I think I've figured out what I want to dedicate the next portion of my life to. Of course, it won't start for at least another four or five years, but it might take that long to shape and plan, so I'm not discouraged.

A few days back I wrote this post about an art centre, a dream I have for kids to freely explore the arts in an open environment. At that time is was a vague sense of an opportunity. But in the past few days the hazy sketch has become a hardened outline.

It begins with a house. Since we moved to Orangeville, I have been in love with a house just a block over from where we live. It's a fantastic old century home with a yard the size of three town properties. No houses were squeezed onto either side of it, so the yard is large and full of bushes and mature trees. There was only one problem - at some point someone built such a large extension on the back it is the size of TWO large houses. Way too big for what I want for my family. I like the idea of a smaller than normal house so that we are constantly bustling and interacting with each other. A big house means separation, isolation and a whole lot more to clean.

And so at least a couple times a week I would walk or drive by this home, feeling a strong connection to it and yet knowing I would never buy such a large property for myself.

Then for some reason, something twigged in my brain. Amid my thoughts on homeschooling and the art centre and the advantages to living in town over the country and wanting to have large, treed land on which to roam, finally a focused centre emerged. This house would be perfect to house my family in one half, and create my studio in the other!

Not studio, conservatory. That's what I would call it: The Conservatory. A place for kids, youth, and teens to explore the liberal arts and sciences on their own terms, according to their own interests, by themselves or under the guidance of someone experienced or with a group of peers. I see a small library with bookshelves that soar to the ceiling, big comfy chairs and lamps throwing pockets of light across the floor. I see a music room with a piano and my collection of varied instruments and shelves of sheet music and a keyboard and laptop on which to compose. I see a room with couches in which a lively political or literary debate is raging, or conversely a small reading of a Shakespeare play. I perhaps even see a kitchen in which the sciences are applied in real life and from which a delicious aroma seeps throughout the house. I see a large open room with old wooden floors polished up and reflecting a group of dancers learning to imitate the graceful motions of their leader in front, or a lively musical being staged.

It would be a place where someone with experience could come and teach a class on their particular area of expertise, without having to pay and arm and a leg for a space to run the class, and the youth enrolled in the class wouldn't have to break open their piggy banks to indulge their creativity. Local artists, literature lovers, scientists and naturalists drop in to have a cozy chat about their loves and lives and share some new discoveries with wide-eyed onlookers.

Do you see it? I feel like this place already exists and I'm just going to help bring it to the rest of the world. Kind of like that old adage of an artist who doesn't carve a statue from marble; he simply chips away the unnecessary pieces to reveal what was already there. Next week I'm going to visit with a real estate agent and let them know that when that house comes up for sale, I'm going to buy it. I have no idea when that will be, but I will trust in God that when (and if) it is time for me to pursue this course, He will make it happen.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Still photos of life

I don't often include photos here. I never seem to have the photos loaded, titled and organized when I'm ready to write about what's fresh in my mind, or I don't have the time to upload them to the blog while I'm grabbing a few moments to write.

But today, with the boys napping and myself feeling quite refreshed, I will give you a few still shots of life lately.

Here is a photo of my brand new magnet wall in the kitchen:

It's a lovely shade of sage green which compliments the yellow walls beautifully. (Cameras never capture the right colour, do they.) 6 quick coats of magnetic paint and one top coat of the green and I have a fantastic place to hang the kids art work and our homeschool work. You can see we are working on the letter "C" this week. In the top corner you can also see our "B" craft still hanging, because it's just too cute to take down so quickly. This paint is brilliant, and easily solved the problem of where and how to hang your kids' work. This keeps the fridge clear and keeps tape/tacks off the wall. Eventually I want to put a trim around the green paint, so that it looks more like a large picture frame, but since we currently use the wall to write on (I hang chart paper up so the boys can colour and write easily in a large space) the trim would get in the way.

These are the beautiful little pink flowers the bloom outside our front door.

Each flower is only about an inch in diameter. Every time Caleb passes these flowers, he picks one to give to me. He gives it in such a caring manner, each one is "just for me." He is so thoughtful about it, really using this as an expression of his love for me.

The other day as our weekly exploration activity for the letter C, I bought the boys magnifying glasses at the dollar store and we went on a walk to examine "creepy crawlies." The boys first of all thought it special that they were able to use an adult tool, not just a toy. I wanted to buy magnifying glasses that specifically were not toys, so that they could feel as though this was a real grownup activity to do.

They had a great time on our walk, keeping an eye out for things to examine. The purpose of the activity was to really help them open their eyes and see the world around them, not just walk through it. I loved this idea, because I am the type to notice the varying shades of green in a line of trees or the different quality of the sun on a cold winter morning, or the busy activity of a colony of ants. I want to pass on this love of the world around me, and specifically of nature, to my boys.

This is a spatula.

Okay, you knew that already. But this is no ordinary spatula. You probably can't tell, but the end of it (the flipping part) is quite thin and extremely wide. I bought it the other day for James, who is our pancake maker in the home. We've been trying to give the boys heartier breakfasts than just bowls of cereal, because they always seem to be hungry an hour after cereal, and Colin needs to last a good while at school before he gets snack time. So now the boys have pancakes at least twice a week.

But I err in that sentence. James makes "mancakes" twice a week. He started making these giant pancakes like you would get at a diner for breakfast, and he jokingly called them "mancakes" one day, and the term has stuck. Let me tell you how funny it is to hear your children jump up and and down begging for mancakes. And so now we have a spatula that makes the flipping of said mancakes, well, a piece of cake.

And this is Caleb dressed up as Mr. Incredible. (The mask broke and so he found these sunglasses were the perfect substitute.)

Yes, that is his scooter, and yes, we did go for a walk/scoot around the neighbourhood while he was dressed that way. And then we went to the library, dressed like that. A few days later we hit Wal-Mart with him dressed as a puppy dog. I like to pick up Hallowe'en costumes the day after Hallowe'en, when you get them for $5. They are great for dress-up. Usually it's only around the home, but when he asked to come with me in costume, I figured, why not? Everyone thought it was adorable, Caleb had a blast, and it was actually much easier to tell the puppy to keep close to the shopping cart than it is a two-year old!

This is Colin with his lego camera.

This kid is seriously brilliant with lego. No pre-fab kits or anything of that ilk. Just a big bucket of generic lego pieces and he can go to town with it! This is just the latest of his creations. He generally builds from the world around him. The other day he built a hands-free head set that goes over his ear (like his Daddy's). He also recently built the world from the film "Wall-E" including tall buildings of boxed garbage, Wall-E's home with shelves of trinkets, Wall-E himself and also Eva. Colin is very aware of the idea of scale, and he often asks how tall things are (we tell him in feet) and then he uses the ratio of 1 lego block per foot. He came up with that system all on his own about 6 months back, when he was building the world from the film "Monster's Inc." He wanted to get the height different of Mike and Sully and the doors just right. Yesterday he was building Auntie Jennifer's apartment, including the beds and the TV where they had breakfast in bed (a year ago now, but recently being relived through the scrapbook story she made for him.) He then proceeded to make a large suitcase out of lego and filled it with lego clothes and such items. I'm taking photos of much of what he makes and I want to put them all into a little packet album for his memory box.

Well, that's a sampling of what we've been up to here. Stay tune for an entry on a dream that is forming in my mind, a passion that is growing into a more solid idea that I hope will become a reality not too far down the road. But for now I have pushed my luck with time - both boys woke up early from nap and are needing Mommy once more...I knew I was pushing my luck when I wanted to include photos!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Kids and their quirks

Colin has a salami and cheese sandwich every day at school. Every day. I made it for him for the first day of Junior Kindergarten last year, and I now that's all he wants. He doesn't ask for it on the weekends, or days when he's not at school. But he won't have anything else. I even offered him leftover pizza last week, and, after a lengthy consideration, he only very reluctantly agreed because he thought there was no salami left. You should have seen his face light up when I told him I could make him a salami sandwich instead, if he'd rather.


Last week at the Early Years Centre, during circle time, Caleb sighed while sitting next to me and asked if we could go home for nap. The eyes of the mother to my left bugged out. "Did he really just say that?" "Yes," I answered sheepishly, for I know it is an anomaly. Then, two minutes later as they were passing around juice for snack, Caleb asked if he could have water instead. That same mother turned once more. "Nap and no juice? Is he for real?" I gave another sheepish laugh. That's Caleb. He'll take water every time, and there is absolutely no interfering with naptime. Mothers must think I have it so easy. I usually don't tell them that he screamed and cried for the first year of his life and nearly drove us up the wall. Those days seem like a hazy memory, in light of the flashy grin he gives out now.


Benjamin likes his soother upside-down. If I pop it in (the right way) he usually leaves it. If he puts it in, he likes it upside-down. Just another one of those quirks, I guess. And even at nine months, at the size of a 15-month old, he nurses with his leg up in the air. Not so easy anymore, since his legs are so long. It's a good thing babies' feet are so darn cute! I actually like looking at his little foot and tiny toes. And yes, you'll probably find me kissing them, also. Strange or not, I guess that is one of my quirks!

Monday, 20 September 2010

A special and unexpected gift

Last month while James and I and the boys were at a dinner party with a group of friends, James suddenly made the comment "Oh! I forgot! I picked something up for you today." He dashed out to the car and came back with

a violin.

A violin. Yes, that's right! I have been wanting a violin for years, but they are a very expensive instrument and one that you don't often see people wanting to get rid of for little money. So I had sort of resigned myself to the fact that this would be a passion I would have to put on hold for a long time. And then in walked James with a violin!

It was the strangest way to receive such a longed-for and cherished gift. There I stood surrounded by a dozen other people, some who are good friends, some who are husbands of good friends, and some who were actually strangers. Caught so completely off-guard, I felt all my emotions choke up in my throat, and all I could manage was a mumbled "thank you" in absolute awe of the moment.

Then James told me the story behind the violin, which made the instrument and the gift that much more special to me. James was doing an estimate for an elderly lady looking to move, and in an off-handed manner offered him the violin. It had been in the family for over a century, but no one wanted it anymore. Thankfully James memory tweaked and he recalled me mentioning on more than one occasion my desire to learn to play the violin. As he accepted the free offering, the lady made one condition: she wanted to make sure the violin's story went with it. The instrument belonged to an ancestor, a man who was a pastor over seven different congregations back at the turn of the 20th century. He would ride horseback between the parishes, the violin tucked away in its case (which came with it) and tied onto his back. At each church he would preach a message of God, play some hymns on the violin, then ride on to the next church.

I can still feel the flush that came over me as I gently caressed the beautiful wood and deep stain. The noise around me faded to faint echoes, so lost was I in this unexpected present. I have always firmly averred a preference for instruments made decades in the past. My favourite pianos to play are not the bright and strong ones of today but the soft, muted tones of pianos played by great great grandmothers when in their youth. That is what adds to this gift: that this violin comes with a story and was crafted over a hundred years ago. The strings are completely missing, and the horsehair bow is frayed from the years, repairs that will cost dearly and certainly can't be completed soon. But one day I will be able to have it restored and it will sing melodious hymns once more.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Cousins, and sisterly-love

I've never been a huge Facebook user, other than to communicate/organize outings with friends. I rarely update my status, but I do enjoy sifting through the status updates of my friends. Some of them are always witty (Jenn L.), some make me laugh out loud (Heather M.), some inspire me to do more (Lori L.) and some keep me grounded (Heather R.)

But lately I have really enjoyed the sisterly-love evident in the banter between my two younger cousins who live out in British Columbia. The oldest, Erika, has just gone off to college, leaving her only sister, Adria, still at home. Because of the age gap and long distance between us, I never had the chance to really get to know these girls, although their parents (my aunt and uncle) have long been my inspiration as I raise my own family. Erika and Adria's quips drip with the kind of sarcasm that reveals just how close they are. I'm sure it wasn't all rosy as they grew up and shared a bathroom together, but I've no doubt that their constant updates with each other show just how big of a place they held in each others' hearts. And through all this I'm afforded the opportunity to get to know the underside of them a little better. And have a good laugh every day as well.

Friday, 17 September 2010

What did you do in school today?

"I dunno."
"I can't remember."
"I'm not sure."

What on earth did you do for the six hours you were gone???

That's the question on my mind every day. Colin is finishing up week two at school, and I have very little idea of what exactly goes on there! He was never one to divulge about school, but at least last year I picked him up every day and the teacher always had one or two comments about the goings-on of the day. It was fun to here the anecdotes, cute stories, funny lines, and amazing activities in which Colin participated. This year I feel so distant from it all.

Every day I varied my question, trying in vain to prompt some response. "Tell me one thing you did today?" "What activity centre did you start at?" (Always and only Lego, is his response!) "What game did you play in gym?" And I got nothing.

Then, finally, I landed on the right question! "What did you do when you got off the bus this morning?"

And out tumbled 10 minutes worth of a detailed, minute-by-minute account of Colin's school day! I guess the "choose a random moment" was just too abstract for him. Too much going on, not enough of it different or unique to stand out. Victory!

I've also decided that I'm going to try and pick him up from school once a week (hopefully Fridays). That way I can pop into the classroom and just hear from the teacher how the week went. I'm hoping to somehow volunteer in the classroom once a week also, which will also be nice. Today is the first day I'm planning on this, so I'll see how it goes!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

A little this, a little that

When it seems like day after day goes by and nothing seems any different, it's good to take stock of what exactly I'm accomplishing. So here's a little of the practical day-to-day stuff I've been working on.

1. 12 beautiful jars of salsa, made from tomatoes I grew in my very own garden! I hope I canned them properly, but I won't know until I open one up in a couple of months and see if there is mold growing.

2. Devouring one book after another. I found myself the other day on my bed with no less than 8 new books (library) and leafing through a couple pages of one, then another, then another, then back to the first, and so forth. I'm not sure where I'm actually finding the time in the day, or perhaps it is just that my speed of reading has increased. Whatever the reason, I'm just ripping through books. Hopefully I don't sound like a library when people talk with me.

3. Working on my website. It's been a fun, exciting and sometimes frustrating experience. Kind of like the days before "autosave" in Microsoft Word, I've run into a few times when the web builder freezes and I've lost hours of work. Luckily I haven't felt angry over it. I just pick up and start over. This project has been a great outlet for creativity. The site started with wanting to write down the fantastic Family Home Evening series we did with our boys, but I couldn't stop there. I've since created 2 more series, and I've still got others swirling around up in my mind.

4. Getting into my new calling at church. Well, new here in Orangeville, but one I've filled many times before. I'm in charge of music: selecting Sunday hymns, organizing musical numbers, and leading a choir. Leading the choir is the one I'm really excited for. I love leafing through music listening to it in my mind and then hearing it come to life. Because finding a rehearsal time has been difficult, I'm trying a new format, new to both the choir members and myself. Here's hoping it pans out well!

5. I was also asked last week to reprise my role as director of a Nativity Pageant for the city of Brampton again this year. It was a whirlwind of a project last year, being the first year to resurrect the play since we stopped doing it 15 years ago. Hopefully this year will be a little more organized.

6. Orangeville Community Band started up again this fall. I had a hard time deciding to attend band or switch back to volleyball, but in the end it was the friendships I developed with my fellow flutists that brought me back. I'm also hoping to have a little more devoted practice time on the flute this year, trying to improve my skill.

7. With Colin in school every day, I'm trying to come up with three days of activities for Caleb and I, sort of a loosey-goosey pre-school program. I have decided that following one pre-designed program just isn't for me or for the boys. Instead, I have one program and two books from which I plan to pull ideas from and combine into my own curriculum. The basis of the program will be letters, where each week or two we learn a new letter. But I only plan on focusing on the letter on one day. Day two will be a craft and day three will be an activity from the book "365 ways to a smarter preschooler" (activities teaching skills like imagining, exploring, reflecting, observing, expressing, moving, etc). My plan is that every Sunday night I will pull open my books and create a loose idea of what three things I will do on those three days. I'm hoping that this direction will help me do something constructive with Caleb in the mornings so that come June I don't feel like I've spent all my mornings folding laundry or having 5 days of random play.

8. And somewhere in all this I have two major projects to tackle: the basement and the garage. Both could be deemed disaster zones. The tough part here is that it requires me to have a couple of hours in a row sans children to devote to clearing it out and organizing it again. The good thing is that there isn't a lot of junk just sitting around; most of that has been taken care of. It's just that, for some reason, after 6 months of use my nice, neat basement and garage seem to toss their contents everywhere and make a huge mess.

Well, that's me. I feel much better now, seeing all these things written down. It may feel that my life is one crazy moment to the next, but there is some order in all the chaos!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

What makes me crazy

I have a little secret that I don't often reveal to people, because when I do they think I'm crazy.

I really, really, badly want jury duty.

Yes, I know, I know. I'm crazy. I also know that I couldn't do it right now, with a nursing baby. I have two friends currently serving on a jury. My dad was actually picked for a serious case and was sequestered while they deliberated the verdict. But I've never even gotten a letter calling me down to sit for hours just to be rejected. I wonder if I would even be a good candidate, being a young mother with a teaching background (apparently they hate teachers on juries!)

I have this yearning to do my civic duty, to be a concerned citizen and play my part as a peer in society. I want to sit and listen to the details of the case and rationally consider all sides and offer my verdict in a thoughtful manner. I know most cases aren't even that serious, and most people say they are incredibly boring. I'm just curious to see how it all works.

It always makes me laugh in the recent adaptation of "The Grinch" when the title character causes mischief in the mail room by mixing up the mail, then doling out chain letters, blackmail and jury duty! Inside, I'm reaching up my hands to grab one of those letters.

Ah well. I guess we all have strange things about us - it's what makes the patchwork quilt of community so colourful.

Monday, 13 September 2010


(Gregory Millman, "Homeschooling," about a family vacation to Disney World:)

"[The children] learned what they never would have believed, that there are people who pay steeply to go where everything that happens will happen on schedule, where no experience will have rough surfaces or sharp edges, where nothing will be too hot or too cold even for a moment, where even the exotic food won't taste too different from what you're used to, where you can't get lost even if you want to because someone is looking out for you, where there won't be any detours or surprises, and where there will never be the slightest risk. There may be fireworks and parades, but they'll happen right on time and exactly where everyone knows they'll happen. Everything will be in perfect order, even the simulacrum of adventure in Frontierland, a land of no stray bullets, no stray dogs, no horseflies, no horse manure, no sweat, no dirt, no splinters, no frowns, and no hard words or hard feelings, where everyone smiles all the time and even the outlaws are polite and helpful if you ask them a question. It was all so strange."


I would consider myself moderately traveled. I haven't been able to do much as an adult, but my dad's career in the airline industry meant that even on the one-income budget we were able to see different places around the world.

My favourite trip, by far, was my second trip to Paris. I specify the second trip, because my first was a three-day whirlwind when I was 17, during which a friend and I saw nearly every tourist stop in the city. You can't go to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower, L'arc de Triomphe, etc. They are each magnificent in their own sphere, and an important part of the history of that great French capital.

My second trip I took on my own. It was a last minute plan during spring break in university. Flying stand-by necessitates spontaneity. It took two days to even get a spot on the plane. I landed at the airport, took the train to the city and then consulted a scrap of paper on which I had scribbled the name and phone numbers of some hostels. With luck the first had a room, but it wasn't near where I was. So I descended into the zoo that is the Paris Metro. It was surely designed by people who simply said "I want to go from ____ to ____" and then built a subway line in that direction. No circles or straight lines or elegant curves. Just a mess that is actually the fastest and most direct transit system I've ever traveled on.

It happened to also be spring break in Japan. I was the only English/French speaking guest in the hostel. I had thought to find a friend to travel a day or two with, but alas, I found myself alone. I spent the next 5 days meandering through the city streets and wandering through art galleries. I had taken both an Art History course (taught by a highly-decorated professor who specialized in French art) and a Modern Art History course (in which I was currently enrolled). I sped by the Mona Lisa, remarking that, indeed, it was quite small, and that the line of people waiting to see one tiny portrait was insanely long and a complete waste of time. Instead I stood for a full ten minutes in front of "Liberty leading the people" as I contemplated both the book and the musical "Les Miserables," pondering on the history captured in this giant mural and the plight of those who fought. I also had a good chuckle as I stood in front of an Yves Klein Blue painting, amazed that my professor had been correct in saying that you've truly never seen this unique shade of blue (patented IKB). The painting was 10 feet tall, 3 feet wide, and stood at the end of a hallway that joined two major gallery rooms. I could hear people pass behind me, heard them stop and watch me staring so intently, whisper to each other "is that something important?" and flip through a booklet to see if it was "worth seeing."

I also walked through parks and down the river Seine, watched artists painting and selling their creations, flipped through books written in a French I couldn't understand, ate street food (baguettes and cheese, usually) and ducked into cute little cafes to rest my feet.

Later on in the week I did meet up with two friends from university back home who were also planning on a few days in Paris (they started in London). We split the cost of a car rental and made the drive out through Normandy to the beaches famous for the blood that flowed their rather than the waters. The late hour of our arrival meant I was outnumbered to see the American cemetery and beach over the Canadian ones. I stood in awe of the uniform white crosses and for the first time understood the number of lives lost in that battle. My insistence of seeing the Canadian cemetery and beach (I went in alone while they waited in the car) meant that I was able to see the starkest contrast of Canadians to Americans I've ever seen. The Canadian cemetery held the usual round headstones, each one personally engraved with a message, marked as a beloved son, or father, or brother, loved by a mother, wife, father, child left behind. The coolness and conformity of the American cemetery against the intimate, sporadic gathering of Canadian graves. The American beach boasted a large centre that displayed the history of the battle. The Canadian beach had a lone Canadian flag, and that slightly tattered. (I left the site a little incensed, and filled with passion to spur our government to do a little better. I never had the chance to lead my crusade, for later that year I came across a handful of veterans in a Wal-Mart raising money for the newly planned centre on the Juno Beach.) The most powerful moment of all was when I stood on the beach. In an unspoken mutual agreement, my two friends and I had drifted apart so that we each might spend a moment alone in such a somber location. As I stood and gazed out on the grey waters, a large, old plane flew in overhead, quite low above us, its motors growling loudly. For a moment it seemed as if I had been transported back 55 years to that fateful day when planes such as this would have roared overhead of the soldiers desperately trying to claim victory on this cold and outstretched beach.

I have many memories of that trip (including the hotel elevator so small that my two friends and I stood with our backs pressed against the rear as the doors nearly closed on our noses, and the bed that we slept on horizontally so that we could sleep three to a double bed). You can see how the above passage from the book I'm reading speaks to me, leaving a chuckle in the air and a grin on my face. While I do see some advantage to advance planning and set tours, I will always maintain that to see the world one must see it twice, for it isn't until you get all the "must-sees" out of the way that one can truly see a place for what it is.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Looking into the future

Grey, cold, rainy fall days always seem to hold a mirror into the future for me. There's just something about this atmosphere that makes me think down the road.

I've been wondering lately, more than usual, what that road holds for me. What adventures might I embark on? Will I indulge the traveler within me, or will I feel the need for consistency and peace? While I was in the hospital a couple of weeks back, James and I had some time alone together (the nurse actually called it a "date!" and we took the time to read our Patriarchal blessings. These blessings were given to each of us 8 years apart, in different cities and by different people. For the first time we read them aloud to each other, back to back. And it was startling how many unique yet similar things were mentioned! Of course these are private and I won't go into detail here. But there are definitely some future events down our path together that I would not have written into my current "life plan." Right now I have the yen to by some property in the country, a small home that my boys can grow up in now and then come home to when they are grown. A place where my grandchildren will come and sleep in rooms their dads slept in as kids. A place to plant a large garden and grow some apple trees. A place where I will probably eventually homeschool, teach and learn with the boys, have adventures and joys and heartaches. I want to stay home even if they are all attending public school, tending to my home and being there when they come in the door. This little picture is exactly what my heart yearns for right now.

But a little seed in the back of my mind has unwittingly been planted (not by me!) and is slowly uncurling in deep, thick dark soil. I don't think my life has prepared me for what I write above. I have a love of travel, a heart for serving, a outreach to those in need. My father worked for the airlines, and I was practically raised on an airplane. I have an ear for languages, having been educated in French Immersion, and then I married a man also bilingual in French. I have been devouring books on how to homeschool, even though there seems no current need to do it. In our last church ward we were thrust into leadership positions even as young as we were. I just have this feeling that my training and experience will not let me just settle into a cottage in the country.

All these are exciting. All these things are adventures I could embark on with my children. All these are still conducive to me spending my time as mom with my kids every day. What is a little more unsettling is a small part of my blessing that talks about a career. I found it a little startling that in a church that is so family oriented, that encourages moms to stay home to raise their children (an idea I embrace and yearn for), my blessing noted that I would be a leader and exemplar in a chosen profession. I often try to skip by this part, since it was never in my plans to go into a profession or career. I want to stay home while my kids are still here, using my "free" time to volunteer in the community in various capacities. I want to be a "stay-at-home-mom" and then a "stay-at-home-grandma." But once again, something tells me there is something else down the road.

I pray I will have the courage to walk down the road God has in store for me. I pray that instead of clinging stubbornly to my idea of the future, I will embrace the learning and training moments in this school of life so that I will be prepared for the amazing journey planned just for me. I know it will be infinitely more satisfying in the end.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Where has my attention span gone?

Here's an interesting study...I seem to be losing my attention span for movies. I never really had it in the first place when it came to television; I rarely sat down and just watched a TV show. I always had a load of laundry to fold, or something to sort or a book to read or puzzle to solve or dishes to do. But for goodness sake - I spent five years in film school! How on earth can I be losing my attention (and interest) in film?

Perhaps it is just that nothing really good is being made much anymore. Or, more to the point, nothing good is being made that I'm comfortable watching (something without a lot of violence, explicit sex, or vulgar language). I know a lot of the "Oscar" pics lately tend to be heavily loaded with these generally unnecessary aspects. But this wasn't meant to be a rant about the demoralization of Hollywood and society. I simply wanted to note that I don't seem have much desire to sit for two hours at a time and indulge in movies.

On my own, I tend to watch a film in three or four (or more!) chunks. And I now tend to do something else simultaneously. Now and then James and I will sit down for a film together, and he is much less tolerant of me turning on all the lights and adding distraction by occupying myself with other tasks.

Interestingly enough, my attention span for books has increased exponentially. If I actually had two hours of free time, I think I could spend the entire length reading a good book. I read a study recently that said that people who spend a lot of time immersed in media are shortening their attention span to perform other tasks, and generally don't enjoy reading because it demands the reader to fill in their own images. Perhaps if one (such as I) is engaging my own imagination so often in reading, my brain feels useless when sitting in front of the television, and therefore has no patience to be handed everything on a silver platter?

I also have one other terribly annoying habit, that is likely linked to my increased reading. I am a talker. I am that person that leans over in the movie theatre (it's been 9 months since I went to the movie theatre!) and whispers loudly to the person next to me. I am also that person that pauses a movie at home every 5 minutes with something deep and thought-provoking to add to the film. Or perhaps I have a topic of debate that pops into my mind, and it usually just comes out as I think of it. I find it really hard to passively watch something.

I seem to be powering through books like crazy, which is fun. Next to check out...our provincial online audiobook library. I was always terrible at retaining things I only heard orally, but since most radio drives me crazy (ah! I must be getting old!) I'm pondering turning to audiobooks as a new method to cram even more books into my brain. Poor brain. You are so good to me.

Now off to bed to read before going to sleep.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Just Caleb and Mom

The wonderful by-product of Colin in school every day has been some wonderful moments with Caleb. I've managed to get Benjamin to sleep for some morning naps, leaving a good hour and a half for Caleb and I to spend time together.

I have a loose idea of some "homeschooling" time, although it is hardly structured nor scheduled. I have a curriculum that teaches letters, their sounds, and includes small service projects. I hope to get to the library once a week with him, to nurse a love and awe of the amount of books out there. We have hundreds of books in our own home library (mostly due to my mother, a retired teacher!), so we have no need to venture out for variety. But Caleb does not have the same innate love of books that Colin does, and so I hope the adventure out might foster something more within him. I also plan on going for a walk every day with him, after Benjamin wakes up and before lunch. The days so easily slip away from me, caught up in dishes and tidying and cleaning and playing. While I agree that free play is important, I want to use this opportunity of one-on-one time to teach Caleb some important early childhood lessons.

I want to teach him to love books and reading. I want him to see how much can be learned from books. I want him to hear wonderful stories and beautiful language. I want to inspire his imagination with illustrations.

I want to teach him to serve others. I want him to think outside of his own little world. I want him to see me reaching out to others, building our little community.

I want to teach him to wonder at the world. I want him to open his eyes and see the magnificence around us. I want him to ask a thousand questions, and I hope my answers will only inspire a thousand more. I want to him gaze around him and see how things work.

I want to teach him a love of music. I want that love to grow from the inside and permeate his life.

There is so much to teach, and I am grateful for this time I have to spend with him.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

First day of school

It's hard to let today go by without recording some thoughts. It is another first day of school.

Colin started at his new school. The new school also meant taking a bus. I was not enthralled about the added hour he would be away from home, but the extra hour of naptime for Caleb will do wonders for the atmosphere in our home.

There were a few small bus incidents (like the 2 minutes I thought Colin's bus had arrived at school in the morning, but he wasn't there, and me wondering what to do when the afternoon bus was more than 20 minutes late!), but Colin was overjoyed at being able to ride the bus. All last year he asked if we could move far away from school so he could take the bus. I still have to work out the logistics of the bus stop, because jaywalking one of the town's busiest streets with a baby and pre-schooler in arms in the winter might make my top ten dangerous things to do.

I withstood the urge to follow the bus to school, but accepted James' suggestion to drive to the school (7 minutes away) and meet Colin when he got off. He bounded down the steps surrounded by 4 others boys his age. He gave me a strange look, said hello, and started off down the sidewalk toward the school. "Are these your new friends?" I called after him. He mumbled yes and waved me off.

As for what happened during school hours, that still remains a mystery. I'm hoping a dinner out tonight might jog his memory a little, but I'm not holding my breath. He never did open up much last year. He did mention that there is lego in the classroom, which is a big hit for him.

By far my favourite part of school is the time between getting home and dinner. This is the precious time of the day set aside for a movie, and yet Colin has no interest in watching one. He likes to just dig into his toys, build something out of lego, spend some alone time, play a bit with Caleb. There is no fighting or teasing or yelling. These two by-products of school almost make the 7 hours away worth it!

On that score, I'm not sure how I feel about Colin having school 5 days a week. That's a lot for a 4 year old. I'm pretty sure I won't send Caleb 5 days next year when he starts JK, while he's still only 3 years old. I know I might keep Colin home here and there for a fun outing, or just to spend some time with Caleb and I. But I also can foresee the benefit for Caleb, who never had much time just him and I. Benjamin is well entrenched in morning naps, which will give me a good two hours uninterrupted time together to play and learn.

I've had lots of education ideas swirling around in my mind, but I'll save those for another post. Today I'm just reveling in the back to school moment.

Monday, 6 September 2010

One more step

One more step off the grid for me...I scored a bike trailer for the kids today. $25 on the day after a garage sale. We drove by it yesterday (Sunday) and my heart leapt and I pointed to pull over, and then James gently reminded me that it was Sunday and we make a habit not to purchase things on Sunday. We made the decision long ago, being that we keep the Sabbath day separate from the other days of the week, not engaging in the same sort of activities, not doing any work (career or house work), not going to the stores (which supports other people needing to work on Sunday). Since garage sale-ing isn't really a Sunday activity, James was right in driving on by.

And look at that - I was rewarded for the decision. It was still there today when we drove by again, and the asking price was about 1/3 of what I've seen them go for second-hand online. In fact, I could probably use it for two years and still get $25 for it when I sell it!

At any rate, I'm just excited to have it on hand. It's a newer model with lots of upgrades since they first came out. It's much roomier and more comfy for the kids, has a bug and rain screen, and a handle to convert it into a double stroller. Fantastic! James and I were just talking the other night about easy ways to get more exercise, and biking on errands was at the top of the list, especially since we live so close to the downtown area.

So there it is. One more step off the grid for me!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Small endeavors

Because I don't already have enough on my plate, I decided to take up a little pet project. We've struggled over the last 3 1/2 years or so with what to do for Family Home Evening lessons. Once a week, on Monday nights, Family Home Evening is supposed to be an opportunity to teach gospel principles in our home, talk with our family about, well, things that affect our family, and participate in activities together.

But finding lesson ideas for toddlers is really difficult. Finding ideas for 3 small boys is next to impossible. People forget that the attention span of a 2 year old is about 5 minutes, if you're lucky. Two years back they came out with the new Sunday manual for nursery, which could double as lessons for Family Home Evening, but I found it still wasn't right for us.

This past month, however, we finally found our answer. This year at church the kids have learned a song called "Follow the Prophet," where each verse teaches about a different Old Testament prophet. The song is upbeat, fun, repetitive, and easy to learn even for the little ones. Then, one Sunday while playing the song for the umpteenth time, it suddenly occurred to me that the kids could learn more than the standard first 3 verses. There are 9 verses, and each one told a different story. So I set out to plan 9 Family Home Evening lessons based on each of the 9 verses. Each week we learned a new verse, read a story about that prophet and then did a short activity to help the boys remember the story. It met with such success I felt I had to share with other parents out there. Surely I am not the first mother of young children at a loss for what to teach on Monday nights.

So I started a website! I started with that first series, but I've already written and posted a second one as well, based on the song "Book of Mormon Stories" (based on the 8 verse song of different stories from the Book of Mormon). I have a couple more ideas already brewing, and I hope to just keep adding to it! I hope this will be a great resource for others as well, as they look to start an important tradition in their new, young families.

Here's the link:

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

An art centre

My favourite use of my taxes is the Ontario Early Years Centres. These are large rooms, or a grouping of rooms, set up in cities and towns and communities across the province; nearly anywhere you go you can find one. They are designed for children from birth to six years old. They have a large play area, with innumerable toys, easels for painting, and art and play-doh stations. Some of the centres have a separate "running room" - a large gym space with tricycles and balls and mats and climbing equipment. Many centres offer classes, from song time for toddlers to parenting workshops. Although the hours vary, they are generally open six days a week, and sometimes even an evening or two. And all of this is completely free.

We frequent the centres usually once a week, sometimes more often throughout the cold wintry days. We have one centre we can walk to, and two within a 15 minute drive. We visit them all on a regular basis; we know the employees by name and they know my kids by name. They often know what is going on in our life, and I know much about their families also.

Unfortunately, once your kids age out of this type of play area, there is not much left for them. Some cities offer Parks and Recreation courses at a reasonable fee, but in our town if you aren't up for swimming, hockey, lacrosse or soccer, you are out of luck. But even that small fee seems to be too much, since the middle class is fast disappearing and many families couldn't afford such a luxury as these activities.

It tugs at my heart strings for free activities. I have long wanted to offer free music classes, a dream that might become a reality this fall. I have wanted to start a book club at the library, since the only book club in town requires you to buy the book (more money). I can't wait to be able to get into our local school and lead a choir, or introduce the kids to different instruments, or start a debating team. The things about which I am passionate and of which I have some degree of talent, I have the desire to share freely. It just doesn't seem right to charge for something that moves me so deeply; instead I feel the obligation to share that love so that others may also discover it in themselves.

Pondering today, once again, on these emotions, led my thoughts down a path about how lovely it would be to open a building where school-aged children could come and explore their creativity on their own terms. With officials having decided that the arts are not a viable economic pursuit and therefore unnecessary in the school's curriculum, children have less and less exposure to things like visual art, music, dance, drama, film and photography. And yet I know how important these are to personal growth. They are ways to explore oneself, to find inner peace and strength, to build confidence, to inspire creativity. Certainly one might be able to perform menial tasks in the workplace without these skills; but there is no denying that to succeed beyond that requires a person to think beyond the rote memorization taught in schools and passed off as "education."

So today I record that "I have a dream." I have a dream of opening a free centre, like the Early Years Centres, where school-aged children could come and freely explore the arts. They would have access to instruments and sheet music, art books and supplies, a gym area to express themselves physically, and adult artists to teach and inspire. The logistics of it are a little beyond me right now; but certainly I could hope to convince government, schools and local businesses and towns of the benefits, right? There must be others out there who see the benefits of the arts, and mourn with me their disappearance from the lives of many children today. And if I could get them opened up all over the province...or even throughout the country! Yes, I do have a dream. And although in the busy days of young motherhood I may not be able to do more than dream right now, I hope that down the road I pull out these dreams again (and the others I have recorded) and get to work!