Thursday, May 25, 2017

Off we go...

I am so excited!  Little Man suddenly developed this intense desire to join Beavers last winter and so we made it happen.  There is something about having my kids involved in activities that they enjoy that makes me so happy.  I am a joiner - I love being a part of anything and I think since I somehow grew up feeling as if I didn't belong anywhere.  My kids getting to really belong to something makes me so happy!  With Pk, it's been skating and horseback riding (and I am now the club secretary for the skating club and we have gone to competitions and even to watch a few high level competitions) and with Little Man, it's now Beavers and softball.  I've helped to sell apples, I've planted trees, I spent a day at winter camp and he and I have worked together all year on projects for his "Personal Achievement badges".  It's been so much fun.  I know, it's not everyone's cup of tea but being involved in projects with my kids feels like building memories and connections that are more precious than I can say.

Tomorrow, we are off on a new adventure, even for me.  We will be doing a weekend Beaver camp IN A TENT.  I have not bee in in a tent for 25 years and then, it was only three or four times during one summer.  That's it.  Dh will NEVER EVER EVER EVER camp (the closest he would ever agree to come to camping would be to find a hotel room close to our site and arrive with tea and coffee each morning).  I, the one who is technically useless, will be putting up a tent, dealing with the equipment and being an outdoors-woman for 48 hours.  I am so excited and SO terrified!  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Misfit's Dilemma...

I am assuming that if you hang around here at all, you know that I am not your traditional Christian and you are at least somewhat o.k. with that.  Warning, though, this post might rattle some cages so feel free to stop reading now.

At a recent women's coffee evening at church, I was highly alarmed when I was told that they wanted us to watch a video on "post-abortive women."  Abortion and gay marriage are two issues in church that make me want to run for the hills.  Both are issues, to me, that cannot be reduced to black and white and to do so totally ignores the human beings involved and that, to me, immediately means that we are not taking a Jesus-following approach.  I sat at my table with mostly "evangelical" Christian women, getting more and more alarmed at what was coming and how I was going to cope.  My only possible compatriot in the squirming was a friend J.  She, however, grew up Catholic and, not to offend anyone, I find that I have a number of Catholic friends who have this amazing skill at just not hearing offensive stuff said at church (which is totally perplexing to me, who grew up in a denomination who had a statue of Margaret, a dissenter, who is known, for among other things, hurling her stool at a minster who offended her at a church meeting, in their seminary lobby).  But, back to the evening.

As the video rolled out, I stopped feeling quite as nervous.  It was clear that the focus was going to be on supporting post abortive women in the church, not from a standpoint of condemning them but to share with them that they are welcome and that healing is available.  After a diplomatic email conversation with our pastor, I can say that I now feel sufficiently comfortable that 1. they really do just want to support a group of women who most likely would be terrified to speak in church and 2. that the intention is to come alongside these women AS THEY WORK WITH TRAINED COUNSELLING PROFESSIONALS and not just to counsel ourselves.  That's critical for me.  My dad is a practicing pastoral psychotherapist which means that he is an ordained minister who also happens to be a fully trained member of the College of Psychotherapy for our province and not just someone with good intentions who hung out a sign.  Much of his practice involves supporting people who have very legitimate challenges (either related to mental health issues or life trauma) who were further traumatized by church people (ministers, mostly) who felt empowered to offer counselling despite having no idea what they were doing.

It's all worked out well and thankfully, I am a member of a church that is directed by someone who is thoughtful, responsible and has an understanding of his own limitations.  That isn't always the case.

I don't fit, I know that.  I don't have a definite belief about abortion or homosexuality.  I would say that I am definitely pro-life but what that means for me is most definitely not protesting with signs of dead fetal tissue that traumatizes people around me.  My being pro-life is being pro-birth but also pro-enough self esteem to not be bullied into sex you don't want, pro-education for women so that they have choices, pro-understanding that rape victims face their own challenges, pro-adoption and a system that supports different ways of creating families, pro-making parenting affordable and possible, pro-supporting the elderly and pro-making life liveable for everyone in our society.  Yes, there are questions and for me, they don't have easy answers.  Most of all, though, Jesus told me to love and that's what I am going to do.  Judgement is someone else's job and especially given the suicide rate among gay youth, do you really think that it's the Jesus response to tell them that they are broken and flawed when they are already struggling?  I personally think that the church needs to shut up on the condemnation and to spew compassion whenever possible.

Then, comes the dilemma.  When I get a message about an event to highlight this ministry, do I speak up and risk finding out that my church doesn't have room for me in my mis-fittedness or do I stay quiet and avoid trouble?  When I write it down, it seems easy but it isn't always.  The church is home and family to my kids and this is a small town.  If we leave the church under a cloud, we are going to encounter these people daily and regardless of whether I have a deep understanding that I am doing the right thing, it has ramifications for me on a daily basis.  I'm lucky, I have found a church whose sympathies are largely mine and whose leadership DOES have room for different beliefs but that isn't always the case.  It's a hard place to be sometimes, especially when my INFJ-ness makes it really hard to compromise on the issues of compassion.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

O.k., So I'm Weird...

Not like that is a surprise for anyone hanging around here.  But I am learning to wear it proudly.  Maybe someone else will share this eccentricity with me!



I love listening to podcasts and one of the ones I have been listening to lately is Sorta Awesome with Megan Tietz and guests.  One of the episodes I listened to featured Becky Rapinchuk of the blog Clean Mama.  I have to tell you here that I grew up in a home that was always in chaos.  There was lots of love and affection but keeping things neat and tidy was NOT one of the strengths of my parents.  I used to think it had to do with just not caring but since having Pk tested and realizing that she has a learning disability in executive function (organizing, managing day-to-day stuff), I have decided that my mom suffers from that, too.  But I digress.  I grew up a bit ashamed of having people over into the chaos and really not sure how to deal with that side of homemaking.  It's become a bit of a passion of mine since it feels to me like an important part of making our home a place of welcome and comfort.

During the podcast, the subject of her book came up and, given my abebooks addiction (I LOVE ordering second hand books almost more than anything!), I had to buy it.  I am not a fan of commercial cleaners and in earlier days, when I had only one child and not so many lessons and sports to run people to I was pretty crunchy about things.  This seemed right up my alley.

People, I LOVE this book!  My house smells so nice when I have cleaned using her recipes and there hasn't been anything especially hard to find - the most challenging so far was liquid castille soap but I found a lovely lavender one at my local grocery store in my small town, hooray!  I have to wait until the kids are in bed and then, I do 30 - 45 minutes of cleaning while I listen to a podcast or a book and I go to sleep with the house tidy and potentially going to stay that way, at least for 8 hours or so until the kids get up again.  It's silly how much pleasure I am getting from this but in my out-of-control life, having a little corner of my house that feels controlled is pretty awesome.

I'd love to hear about books that are making a difference for you, too!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Yarn Along

Ack!  I just looked at Ginny's blog to link up and the Yarn Along is no more.  I can completely understand why she has made that decision but it makes me sad, too.  I'll have to find some other blogs to read and start trying to make some new connections around the blog-sphere!




I haven't been around much lately for the Yarn Along but I really wanted to get back in the habit.  Life has been crazy and things like knitting and reading haven't been getting the priority they should in terms of finding a little bit of time for myself at the end of the day.  Thank you to Ginny who hosts the Yarn Along over at her beautiful blog and thanks to everyone who shares.  My to-read list gets longer and longer and I have so many patterns waiting to be made!

On my needles, I have made several more of the ponytail hats.  If you don't already know, Pk's skating coach asked me back in March if I could make some kind of ponytail hat in a "worksock" pattern.  I found one on Ravelry and after a few modifications (I don't know why, following the pattern the first one ended up being the right size for an infant), I came up with a hat that I love.  I got a LOT of requests for them and when I worked on them at school (I am one of the leaders of our school knitting club and when our knitters don't need help, I do some of my own), the girls would rave about my "Roots Hats."  We had talked about trying to get some gear for the synchro skating team Pk is on so I thought I would make a set of hats for them for next fall.  I think there will be 12 skaters so I am aiming for 14 hats, just to be on the safe side.  I've got five done so far.



 

I've been trying to do a fair bit of reading lately and as always, I have more than one on the go at the moment.  As my non-fiction read, I am reading Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed by Philip Hallie.  I read this book years ago and LOVED it.  It is the true story of a small village in France of 3000 people that saved over 5000 Jews during WW2.  They were French Hugenots and pacifists and they showed such incredible courage, all because they believed in the sanctity of human life.  I had ordered this book a few months ago because I loved it so much the first time I read it.  I had been holding off reading it again because I was a bit afraid that it wouldn't be as wonderful to me the second time round.  The first evening, I read the introduction and the first two chapters and had several weepy moments in the best way.  It gives me such faith in the power of goodness to win.  The other book, The Shadow of the Wind, on a very different note, is a book that I discovered from the Modern Mrs. Darcy booklist of books in translation that are worth reading.  It's hard to do the book justice but, as a brief plot synopsis, it is the story of a teenage boy whose father takes him to this place that is a kind of a repository of lost books and allows him to choose one book.  He does, loves it and develops a fascination with the author that leads to somewhat gothic adventures in Barcelona after the Spanish Civil War.  It's good but honestly, I am finding it a bit too long.  I'm also having a problem that I am listening to The Historian on Audible and there are enough similarities in type of book that I keep getting the two confused.




I can't wait to see what other people are reading and knitting these days!


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Struggle

I mentioned in my last post that we have had some challenges.  Actually, in some ways, I think that it would be more accurate to say that we have had ongoing frustrations over the last several years.  I know that some people are going to read this and immediately decide that I am a bad parent and that I need to just "get over it."  For me, at least, this has been easier said than done.

I'm a teacher.  I work for a school board with a fairly prestigious reputation that touts itself as being on the cutting edge and doing things right (in contract with several other local boards which are so inferior to us is the implied message).  I'm an idealist and while I have times of feeling frustrated and overwhelmed, I've always listened to the workshop speakers or the staff meeting presenters and agreed (and, at times, felt a bit guilty that I wasn't doing everything perfectly).  I've always put a high value on making parents happy, treating families with respect and not judging their parenting.  I've always tried to do right by my students who weren't excelling and I've tried to stay current in terms of our understanding of how to support students with learning challenges.

I had been a teacher for 10 years when I had Pk,  I assumed that school for her would be the same as school for me.  I thought it would be easy, she would excel without a whole lot of effort and that she would be one of those bright, well-behaved and engaged girls who make life easier for teachers.  Early on, though, I noticed some things that surprised me.  Her vocabulary was incredible and at times, she showed real strengths but at other times, I was ready to lose my mind.  She had so much trouble following how to play games and in her piano group classes, she never answered questions and never seemed to really know what was going on.  The other kids seemed smarter than she was and I was worried but everyone (well, my mother and my husband) kept telling me that I was crazy and that I was pushing too hard.  I didn't want to have the smartest kid but I was seeing some signs that concerned me and everyone was dismissing it as my being an ambitious mother.

Then, she started J.K.  I have taught kindergarten, grade 1, 2 and 3 for years and years and I have seen lots of kids.  Initially, her teacher told us how bright she was - she started J.K. (pre-K in the U.S.) knowing all of her letters and their sounds, some words, she wrote her name and she could count collections with ease.  She learned to read lots of words but she just didn't seem to care about anything academic.  She had a vivid imagination and told wonderful stories but at times, she could be really vague and we had a three year fight about not keeping her water bottle inside her backpack and soaking everything.  I had this gut feeling that she wasn't who I had expected her to be and everyone around me kept telling me either that she was wonderful or that I just wasn't seeing how talented she was.

S.k. continued in the same vein and then, she began grade 1.  She read really well but her writing left a LOT to be desired and for math, she seemed to be almost incapable of learning simple rote math facts.  I still remember the time when she dragged me down the hall to see the self-portrait and personal description she had done.  The art was good but the writing?  I was shocked to see it on the wall next to the work of the other students.  She had done so little  I was a bit surprised that her teacher hadn't required more and I actually spoke to the teacher, asking whether I thought there were problems.  No, she thought that Pk was bright but "social" and that all would be well.

Grade 2, things got much worse very quickly.  It would take me days to tell you the ins and outs of it but let's say that it included marks plummeting, a teacher who didn't know the curriculum, Pk being tormented by two boys to the degree that she broke down crying at school one day at 11:30 a.m. and when I picked her up at daycare at 4, she was still crying and nobody had thought to call me, tremendous anxiety when a new boy moved in who was emotionally very unstable and was dragged daily from the class, screaming and attacking adults.  It was a horrible, horrible, horrible year and with all of the anxiety that developed, we didn't have a clue what was academic and what was due to her high level of stress.

I would say that grade 3 was the absolute worst.  It became clear from day 1 that her teacher didn't like her, viewed her as spoiled and indulged and really, just couldn't be bothered.  We were told that the teacher "had bigger fish to fry", that our expectations were unreasonable and, after 10 weeks of not talking to the teacher, when we tried to contact her to check in on how things were going, that she was "too busy" to talk to us.  I can't describe it.  I'm a teacher myself and I've been at this for 20 years.  Over and over and over again, the teacher was treating us like we were crazy for asking how to help our daughter and refusing to speak to us at all.  In the meantime, the marks continued to fall and yet, the teacher kept telling the principal that there were "no academic concerns."   It was like an alternate universe.

Finally, we gave up on the school system and went to our doctor.  That was the first step in things getting better.  She referred us to a top pediatrician who in turn sent us to a FANTASTIC psychometrist (an expert in educational assessments and the interpretation of results).  Guess what?  Pk is EXTREMELY bright but also has a learning disability (well, actually, three areas of very significant weakness).  By this point, she had moved schools (that happens in grade 4 in our community) and the new school was as wonderful as the old school was frustrating.  I have to be honest, hearing that your child has real deficits is a hard thing to face.  I had a friend whose son was diagnosed with ADHD and learning disabilities and I remember her telling me about the grief.  Having experienced it myself, I think that was a very good way to describe it.  You still love your child, in fact, in some ways, it helps you to appreciate him or her even more.  On the other hand, though, you begin to understand that life may not be easy for them.  I have overheard one of Pk's friends talking about how Pk just "isn't good at writing and can't do that stuff" which is 1. untrue, she just needs more time and 2. really, really hurt her feelings.  I know that we will be dealing with terrific teachers like the one this year, who loves her, admires her strengths like her sense of humour, her optimism and her kindness and yet is willing to work with her through the challenges but there will also be the teachers who either think Pk is stupid or lacks potential or who insist on viewing her executive function issues as being laziness.  I know that the transition to high school may be challenging and that while according to the psychologist, Pk should be able to pursue any university studies she wishes based on her intelligence, she may well have to work a lot harder than other people.  And, from a purely selfish standpoint, I have to learn to live with 1. that she will never measure up to the standard of the "perfect child" in the competitive world of "mommy-wars" (not that I buy into it but knowing that you will always be inferior in some people's eyes is still frustrating) and 2. that I will probably have to fight for her and that I will often face the dilemma of having to face the choice of being the nice, easy-to-deal with parent or being the mama bear who keeps the system honest for my kid but who knows that teachers are cringing when they see me coming.

So, that's been my tough battle this year.  A friend with a son with a diagnosis told me last fall, when I was in the worst of feeling discouraged that we were almost at the top of the hill - that fighting the system initially and finally getting the diagnosis was the uphill part of the battle and that you spent a bit of time on the level at the top when things aren't so bad but you aren't seeing success yet and then, finally, you realize that the coast down to the easier part of the journey has arrived.  I think that we have finally crested the hill and are starting the descent.  I'm grateful because the trip has left me very tired.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Happiness Update



I'm sorry that I haven't been around (although I don't think many read here anyway but it's still fun).  I always find winter tough and this year seemed to be especially so.  My mom was diagnosed with Parkinsons, which threw all up of for a loop, my parents-in-law sold their house and are moving in with my sister-in-law, which feels like the end of an important era for us (we had quite an attachment to their town), Pk was diagnosed with a learning disability, which, while actually good news (it proved that she is VERY bright but also legitimately struggling with some things that aren't due to poor parenting, which was the message the school gave us), led to some really struggles and, as always, our schedule kept me drained and overwhelmed.  I didn't use to like spring very much but, as the raising of my spirits can attest, I loathe winter and the longer daylight and warmer temperatures really do change my outlook on life.  I'll probably write longer about some of our challenges in another post but this one is going to be happy.

I am finding myself brimming with contentment these days and it often leads to my walking around with a stupid smile on my face (when the world isn't driving me crazy).  I thought I'd write a post about some of the things that are making me feel so happy these days.

1.  Being outside.  Having my dogs (more about that in a minute) means that I need to walk and most of the time, daily, more than once.  I often don't feel like going but once I do, I get such a sense of well-being and clear-headedness from being outside.  I walk at lunch at work, which is a lifesaver and I have taken to either listening to books on Audible or listening to some of my favourite podcasts.  The kids are getting old enough that they now often like to walk with me (and don't whine about being exhausted the entire time).  On Friday, we walked to a field literally five minutes from home and discovered a little waterfall in the creek in the forest.  I had to drag the kids away.  I know, we have started to overly idealize the "freedom childhood" but I really do think that being outside makes kids happier.



2.  Our pets.  We have two dogs, both brittany spaniels, Lucie and Harris and a cat, Sadie.  I can't tell you how much I love these guys.  I know the world is divided into pet people and no pet people and I most definitely fall into the first category.  They can be royal pains in the tush and cause all kinds of trouble and aren't especially well-mannered (having kids seems to have destroyed our ability to train a dog) but the joy they show when I come in the door, having a little body asleep on the floor beside me when I am working or having that presence in whichever room I am in changes my outlook on the day entirely.










3.  Our small town.  I know, small town life isn't for everyone and our proximity to the city means that we get to avoid some of the worst aspects of small down life but we love living here.  I love that we run into people we know everywhere we go, that there isn't pressure to be out doing something all of the time and that there is quiet around us.  I feel a sense of belonging here that I never felt growing up in a big city and I think my kids are really benefitting from that, at least at this stage.  This was Little Man walking to school with a big friend who he worships who he has known since he was born.  The kindness of the big and rough older boy to the little boy trying to keep up just about brought me to tears.



4.  My knitting.  Just before March Break, one of Pk's skating coaches approached me to ask me if she could pay me to knit a ponytail hat in worksocks colours for her.  I wasn't sure but after some research,  I found a pattern and got to work.  These are fun to knit and I have had so many requests for hats!  At the moment, I am making a set of 12 for Pk's synchro skating team for the fall.  They are easy, require little attention and look great.  That makes me happy!



5.  The thrift store.  I love second hand shopping, especially in stores that are clean and well laid out.  There is a wonderful thrift store in the town in which I work that is owned by a particular church group for whom I have tremendous respect and who do wonderful and responsible work globally.  My favourite treat is to go and browse and to buy some fun treasures.  Their books are especially cheap (3 for $5) and generally in wonderful condition.  I love this little treat that involves so little guilt!



6.  Getting out into my garden.  I have these very big dreams of a gorgeous garden and while they are rarely realized, I think that I am slowly and surely having some decent results.  I can't get over how an hour in the garden can change my entire outlook.  I have peas planted in my veggie bed already, I have started chives and dill from dried seed heads I found when weeding and tidying, I have morning glories and sunflowers started inside and many of my perennials have come back.  It's silly but it feels like a miracle to me each and every year.



7.  Podcasts.  I love podcasts and I have found some terrific ones of late.  I have always been a big fan of several shows from CBC (I especially like The Current) but I have stumbled across several that I really have begun to enjoy this year.  I ADORE What Should I Read Next with Anne Bogel (Tuesday is the day the new episode is released and it's silly how excited I become), I have really enjoyed some of the world on The Liturgists and Ask Science Mike, which Mike McHargue and Michael Gungor, Sorta Awesome with Megan Tietz and friends, Serial with Sarah Koenig and a few others that I can't remember at the moment.  I almost never watch t.v. and listening to podcasts is entertaining to me but also lets me do the things I need to do like gardening, knitting and cleaning (which I seem to do so much of these days).

8.  Reading.  I have been on a huge book binge of late.  Anne Bogel has made my life complicated by sharing so many wonderful books and since I discovered abebooks.com, I have become addicted to ordering used books online.  It's so much fun to have books arrive and to find little treasures that someone else has left behind.  I am bleary-eyed too much of the time these days because I can't go to bed without a good session of reading!

So, that's a few of the things making me happy right now.  I hope that spring is infecting you with an appreciation of all that you have.  I'd love to hear what is making you happy at the moment.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Yarn Along


Ginny over at Small Things hosts a wonderful link up called the Yarn Along.  Each week, we share a photo of what we are knitting and what we are reading.  How can you ever go wrong with books and knitting?  Thank you, Ginny, for hosting and for giving us the chance to see some great projects and books!

Life has been even busier than usual in the last week or so and sadly, I haven't had much time for either pastime.  I can't entirely do without, though, so some things have gotten done.  In terms of reading, I finished reading The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning and overall, I enjoyed it.  It wasn't a "faith changing" book for me the way that other report that is has been but there were parts that really spoke to me.  I'd like to go back and read it again in a few years since it is the kind of book that does seem to have something new to say with repeated readings.  I have also been slowly moving through The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton.  I like it but not love it.  I really enjoyed The House at Riverden by Morton and this book made the list from Anne Bogel at Modern Mrs. Darcy so I intend to keep going - she has never steered me wrong yet!  Finally, I'm reading Craving Connection: 30 Challenges for Real-Life Engagement from the (in)courage community over at Dayspring.  They have been posting a weekend challenge that links to the book on their blog and I liked what I had read enough that I decided to buy it.  My plan is to read one challenge a week and see how that might work for me.


In terms  of my knitting, that's been REALLY slow.  Pk wanted a hat like her brother's and red is her favourite colour.  They both have really liked the "Pink Pussy Hat" pattern from Kat Coyle and it's SO easy, it works for me, too.  I got a red one done and another pink one.  I think I have four or five more pinks to do before I get one for each of the friends who have requested one.  Finally, the "Able Cable" blanket slowly proceeds.  My friend's baby is due March 25, so it's time to get that off the needles!

I can't wait to see what everyone has been up to!