Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Yarn Along

Wow!  Two Yarn Along posts in the last two weeks.  I can't remember when I last managed that.  The Yarn Along is the wonderful weekly blog get-to-gether in which Ginny at Small Things invites us all to share photos of what we are knitting and what we are reading.  I can't think of much that relaxes me more than stitching and reading and I love, so much, to see what everyone else is doing.

In terms of knitting, I am having a hard time containing myself to a project long enough to finish.  I set aside the fingerless gloves this past week and am continuing the cabled wrap for the DECE with whom I share a classroom.  On Friday, I was playing a bit on Pinterest and suddenly, I was overcome with the need to do some special knitting for my kids for Christmas.  I can't remember how the idea began but before I knew it, I had decided that LB needed a blanket for Foxy and Pk either needed hats for her Maplelea Dolls (similar to American Girl) or a blanket for Rabbity.  My kids are both huge stuffy kids and it's quite touching to see LB who is now a six year old boy and pretending to be ten years old much of the time, devoting such love and care to Foxy.  Foxy has a den made by LB, he participates in endless games and he is cuddled just about to death.  He gets tucked in each and every night but there has been some upset as to which blanket actually belongs to him.  I was volunteering at the local skating competition on Saturday for 8 hours and my time involved a lot of sitting around.  It was exciting to see the blanket working up so quickly!

In terms of books, I don't know that I have anything in the way of paper books that I wasn't reading last week.  I am meandering though several books at the moment and I keep moving back and forth, which means that I am not reading anything quickly.  I am LOVING Listening for Madeleine (interviews with people who knew Madeleine L'Engle in various ways throughout her life about their impressions of her - I am so relieved, I adore her writing and I am thrilled to learn that she is exactly the gracious, faithful and brilliant woman that I believed her to be).  I am enjoying Miss Read's Emily Davis (exactly the kind of cozy for this time of year) and I am also revisiting Ann Voskamp's The Greatest Gift as my Advent reflection book.

I really can't move away from books without a note about audiobooks. I somehow ended up with an Audible account that I was paying into monthly (don't ask) and I decided to give audiobooks a try.  I walk a LOT and I love to have sometime that I can listen to.  I am in love!  I have enjoyed several books and right now, I am totally hooked by My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante.  I love the podcast What Should I Read Next (each new episode arrives in my podcast app on Tuesday morning and I can't wait for my Tuesday walk to listen!)  She kept discussing these set of four books and I decided to give them a try.  I don't know whether I would enjoy them as much if there wasn't a wonderful reader who is able to give an extra depth to the text and it would be hard to explain the plot in a way that would grab one the way that they have grabbed me.  I have 3 hours left and I suspect that I will have to buy the second book as soon as I finish the first!

Do you listen to audiobooks?  Do you have any suggestions for me?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Advent Week 2 Tuesday

Today was one of those days.  You know the ones.  The ones where you wake up in the morning with all of these great intentions and then, as the day goes on, you feel yourself slipping further and further behind.  Tuesdays are always my craziest days (with Thursday being a close second).  Pk has to be in a neighbouring town for her skating practice at 4:30.  Given that I work in a town 20 minutes from home, I don't get all my class dismissed until 3:25 or 3:30 and then I have to drive home, get the dogs, grab Pk from daycare and run to the arena and get her ready by 4:30, it's always tight.  It doesn't end there.  While she skates, I drive to the forest and run the dogs and then aim to be back at the arena for 5:50, at which point we rush home to eat dinner and have Lb at Beavers for 6:45.  I try to either do a slow cooker meal of make something that Dh can just throw in the oven but it tends to mean that on Tuesday, I do nothing but run.  I would have loved to do something special today but I don't know where I would fit it in.  Add in the fact that I drove in to work wondering whether I had blown out the candle after my prayers and had to drive home at recess (I had a prep period right after recess so I had time for the 40 minutes of driving), it was a less that restful day.

On days like today, it's so important that I find ways to embrace the little moments and to bring peace in somehow.  I was rather proud of myself today.  Driving in, I decided that instead of the radio or a podcast, I would listen to some Christmas music.  Currently, I have two things that I am listening to.  The most often has been Chris Tomlin's Christmas album Adore.  There are several tracks I love (or adore, groan) but some that aren't really my thing.  I am also listening to that one because I sing with the worship team at church and we do a lot of contemporary stuff.  I'll be honest, I am finding that as I am getting older, I like the worship songs less and less and long for the hymns that I grew up with.  I have actually pondering trying to find a more liturgical church in the area that has an evening service that I go could to once in a while, just to scratch that itch.  Anyway, this morning was not a Chris Tomlin morning and before I knew it, I had my favourite Christmas album of all time on and I was singing my heart out.

I love celtic music and I have been a Chieftains fan for years.  Their Christmas album, The Bells of Dublin, is my favourite.  The last three tracks, a medley that starts with Once in Royal David's City, moves into Ding, Dong Merrily on High and then ends with O Come, All Ye Faithful with a cathedral choir and the bells of the cathedral as the finale reduces me to a weeping mess of joy each and every time.  I love descants, I love clear voices, I love harmony and I love anything that sounds British.  You can't do better than this.  Dh always teases me that it's not Advent yet until I have listened a few times and bawled.  I am trying to find more time for music and less time for "busy" these days and it is making a difference.

Do you have a favourite Christmas album?  What puts you in the Christmas spirit?

Monday, December 5, 2016

Advent Week 2 Monday

Today was one of those days... To understand "one of those days", you need to have taught kindergarten and in an area that gets snow.  It was wet snow - the snow that looks so pretty but that means soggy snowpants, complaints about wet socks, cold and clammy boots and mittens that are so wet that they are dripping.  Add in children who cannot get themselves ready and parents (not all!) who don't read the notes that come home that say to send extra dry pants and socks...  There were moments that were funny (like when the tiny Chinese boy in my class came wandering out of the bathroom with no pants on because his were wet) and moments that made me want to run screaming from the room ("I can't find my shoes," "These aren't my mittens,"  "Help me, Mrs. G.N.," said by a chorus of whining children).  It was one of those days when all I wanted with all of my being was a pot of tea, a comfy chair, a good book and SILENCE.  A person can dream...

At least the scenery was lovely.  There's nothing cozier than a warmly snowy day (except for a warmly snowy day in which one does not have to go out).  I'm trying to count my blessings.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Advent Week 2 Sunday

This may sound funny but we honoured Advent Sunday 2 by not going to church.  I have a strong tendency to drive the family to do EVERYTHING and I am trying to learn that sometimes, we need to honour life with some quiet and some rest.  Yesterday was busy for all of us with LB in the parade and Pk in a skating competition and me volunteering at that for 8 hours.  We were all exhausted and we knew that the next couple of weeks are INSANE so it was time to take a break.  Instead of going to church, we lingered in bed, read Christmas stories and cuddled together in Mommy and Daddy's bed, made the walls for our gingerbread house (my friend gave me the most awesome gingerbread pan that lets you bake your own walls to make a gingerbread house and this has become a loved tradition).

While I was out yesterday, Dh took LB with him to see a friend and get his tires changed.  LB was playing with our friend's daughter and I gather the daddies weren't supervising very carefully because they discovered LB and his 6 year old friend playing darts (Dh said they both just about had a heart attack).  LB talked all day about the darts and asked if we could play at home.  I'm a bit of a "Why not?" mom and we had a very rousing game of darts (and our wall has several holes in it now - we have to work on our aim).  It was one of those little things but involving so much laughter that will become one of my fondest memories of connecting with each other this holiday.

We have an annual Christmas crafts tradition with friends of ours and we didn't want to miss it this year.  After a lovely afternoon nap, we went over there, the kids crafted, the adults chatted and we had a nice chili dinner.  It was very laid back and in the end, the moms had the most fun crafting (where has colouring been all my life?  Who knew I loved it so much???)

Finally, it was over to the church for adult choir practice.  One of the things that I love most about our church is that our kids LOVE it there.  Whenever we are going there for anything, we are demanded to take them with us and tonight was no exception.  Dh had been chatting with a friend at church and they needed a stable and a manger built and he agreed to help his friend and to set up the platform for our church play/concert in two weeks while we sang.  The kids ran around downstairs having a grand time with a few of their friends (and demanded that we stay longer).

Again, as I said with the parade yesterday, for reasons that I don't really understand, I grew up feeling like I didn't belong and these times of community and belonging mean a great deal to me.  I would like us, as the church, to be a place where we can figure out how to help everyone who wants to to have that feeling of welcome, of knowing that you are loved and accepted and that you are part of a family of God.  Every church has its issues, ours included, but at least for us, at this point in time, it's been a precious gift.  We are involved in so many ways (I am on the Compassion Committee and we are doing some really exciting things in terms of reaching out to our community and the world as we help to sponsor refugees to come to Canada and are supporting a minister in a small town in Honduras who is feeding 70 children at his church every week because they don't have enough to eat, I sing with our worship team twice a month, I teach Sunday school, Dh does the visuals for the service and is running the drama for our play, Pk goes to "Tween Scene", sings in the choir and is an actress in our play and Lb goes to Awana, sings in the choir and generally just loves his church friends).  The church year has become important to us (e.g., spring means Easter prep with some kind of concert, fall is the prep for the drama/music at Christmas, July is a week of VBS and we billet some of the sportscamp staff, etc).  I especially love having somewhere that really has something to offer each member of our family and a place that we can be involved together.

I'm going to bed tonight with a feeling of contentment that I spent the day exactly as I would like to sustain me through the week.

Advent Week 1 Saturday

While I know that small town living doesn't agree with everyone, for me, our life here is just about perfect.  I grew up in the city and I always felt a sense of disconnection.  The pace of city life moves so quickly and while there are people who find a sense of community in their neighbourhoods (my parents being two), that never worked for me.  The tightness of a small town that disagrees with some, agrees totally with me.  On days like the day of our town Santa Claus parade, I feel that very keenly.

I am a total sucker for hokiness and our town parade has that in spades.  There are no fancy floats - most floats are either groups of kids from one club or another, a church group sitting in the back of someone's pick up truck, a few animals, a few local politicians and of course, the Shriners always come with their train car.  For the little boys, the firetrucks are always there and we have some companies in town that have some pretty cool vehicles (like Pk's friend's dad who has an environmental assessment drilling company who draw the Cub Scouts in his machine that looks an awful lot like a tank.  The local pipe band with about 20 very old and decrepid looking pipers also comes along.  I love every second and most years, I end up in tears.  There's just something so beautiful about simple people getting together, doing their best and having fun.  LB was with the Beavers who rode on the back of a farm trailer covered in tree branches (and I thought that LB was trying to kill someone with a branch but he has assured me that he was "being a Christmas tree.")  We saw lots of friends, we got to wave and say hi to people in just about every float or group and mostly, it was just a lot of small town fun.  At the end of the parade, there was a table with hot chocolate for all of the participants and there were hot dogs and Santa at the community centre.  It was awful and lovely and reminded me of exactly why I chose to live here and that I have been planted in just the right place for me!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Advent Week 1 Friday

Back in December of 1991, I met this guy in some of my classes when we were doing the music degree.  He seemed nice and we chatted and laughed.  Friends tried to set us up but I was clueless and he was shy.  Finally, on Dec. 2nd, he asked me to go to a lovely little German cafe called Cafe Mozart and we had coffee and cake and a lovely chat.  We don't exactly consider that our first date because at the time, I had no idea it was a date - I just thought we were going to get coffee and chat.  Then, on December 16th, he took me to Swiss Chalet (a Canadian institution - the place you go with your grandma or after church for Christian chicken but also a place that, while we may joke about it, most Canadians will visit several times a year and have a comfort food meal).  That was the day that we consider as the day that we started "going out."

Every year, on December 2nd(ish), we go out for a Swiss Chalet meal in honour of that outing.  At least one of us usually gets the "Festive Special" and we chat and remember.  It's amazing when I think of our lives back then and all of the things that I never imagined for myself.  This year, we didn't have a sitter so the kids came with us.  It's an Advent institution for us and a way to honour the wonderful time we have spent together.  It was especially nice that it happened on a Friday evening so we could not rush quite so much and try to savour the small moments.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Advent Week 1 Thursday

When I was a child, it was always very confusing (and felt very unfair at the time) that while Advent started on a Sunday at church, the calendars we had only began on December 1st.  We decorated our house for Christmas, except for the tree which went up just before Christmas Eve on the 22nd or 23rd and we started to sing the Advent hymns like O Come, O Come Emmanuel (my favourite), Hail to the Lord's Annointed and on Jordan's Bank and my mom always gave us a small gift.  Then, there would be this gap because the Advent calendar didn't start until the first and the gap seemed so unfair.

We were never lucky enough to have chocolate calendars - my mom always went to the Anglican Book Centre and bought us one with a nativity scene on it but we were always very excited to open the door each evening. We usually put the calendar on the mantel or hung it up in front of the fireplace and it had a place of prominence until Christmas arrived.  It was a small tradition but one that was critical for us.

Today was the day that we began opening doors this year and everyone was rather excited.  Dh got each of the kids a Lego Advent calendar, living his childhood through the kids and I have a David's Tea one that was a gift from my mom.  We set a rule, though, that family devotions have to happen before any doors get opened and nobody seems to mind.  This year, we are using "Unwrapping the Gift" by Ann Voskamp, based on her Jesse Tree materials that she has had linked on her blog for several years.

Often, devotions are a time when my expectations of a meaningful and uniting family time dissolve into my helpless rage and the lack of cooperation from my family - the kids arguing or obsessing over the door they will open, Dh trying (not so hard) to pretend to be interested and me having unfair expectations of it all.  Thankfully, tonight wasn't that way, it was quite lovely.  First, we opened our book gift (that's another post), then we had a discussion about Jesse' stump.  I was pretty shocked when LB immediately piped up that Jesse was "the boy's father who gave him the beautiful coat and his brother's wanted it so they threw him in a ditch and told their dad that he got murdered."  Definitely a point to AWANA at our church because, while I do read the Bible with the kids, I don't expect that level of memory!  Anyway, we discussed the stump and how God can use things that seem dead and then, after reading Ann Voskamp's little meditation, we worked through a few of the questions.  I found it really interesting that when the kids were asked who needed God's love right now, they both instantly were able to name a child in their sphere who was struggling and we talked about how to help that child and how they could support that child to be less lonely.   We finished by praying for those kids. 

One of the areas of focus in the book is that Advent is a time for us to look for God's love in the small, in the insignificant, in the lonely and in the lesser.  That is one thing I would like our family to reflect on this season.  How can we help God's Kingdom come on Earth through our little daily actions.