Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Multitude Monday 81 - 91

holy experience

I asked Pk to help me this week. Here are some things that she came up with:
81. princesses and crowns and feeling special
82. grandmas and grandpas
83. my friends, K and M (her "big girl" cousins)
84. Uncle S and Aunt M (good friends who are like family)
85. blanket two (the blanket that has been Pk's "lovie" since she was tiny)
86. all my blankets
87. kisses and hugs
88. ice cream
89. red macaroni
90. dancing class
91. my baby brother, I, who is my friend

These might seem a bit simplistic (I hope that asking a three year old doesn't seem like I am not taking this seriously) but truly, there is a lot of wisdom here - I noticed that a lot of her greatest pleasures are the people around us and I would have to agree with her, it's the people who make each day special. Throw in a comfy blanket and some ice cream and that makes for a pretty special day.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

LIfe Verse

We had Baby Bean baptised today. That's what we do in our denomination. I know that infant baptism can be controversial but it's what we do and a symbol of our faith that is very, very meaningful to us.

A few years ago, someone told us about a tradition of giving a child a "life verse", a kind of a blessing to a Christian child. The "life verse" can reflect our hopes/aspirations for our children, a kind of life motto for our child to strive for and, ideally, something that shapes who he or she is to become (something like a name that has special significance).

I feel badly. When Pk was baptised, I had long chosen her life verse - we named her something connected to the book of Philippians so we went with Philippians 4: 4 - 8 (more of a life passage but this was so good, I couldn't just stop with one verse).

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

I haven't chosen a life verse for Baby Bean, I just haven't had the time to really ponder and read. I would like something either from John or from James, I think, since his name is connected to both books. So far, the only one I was considering is James 3:17 :

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

It doesn't feel quite right to me. One passage I stumbled across this week that means a lot to me is Isaiah 58: 6 - 8:

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: 
to loose the chains of injustice 
 and untie the cords of the yoke, 
to set the oppressed free 
 and break every yoke? 
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry 
 and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— 
when you see the naked, to clothe them, 
 and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, 
 and your healing will quickly appear; 
then your righteousness[a] will go before you, 
 and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

I'd love advice or input. If you can think of a passage that might be good for my son, I'd love to hear it. I haven't found the right passage yet and I suspect it is right in front of my face and I am just not seeing it.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Library Gems

This week, I want to mention three books we got from the library that we are enjoying. Otherwise, our haul wasn't terribly exciting, at least not to me (I am not the fan of the easy readers that Pk seems to be enjoying right now). These three are worth a mention for sure.

I know I have mentioned Bunny Cakes in my blog before. We are big Max and Ruby fans in this house. When I say that, I do not mean the t.v. show (which is harmless enough but rather tedious, I think) or the books that are obviously lifted from the show. We like the original books that came before t.v. (I hope, as I say this, that I have my facts right and that Bunny Cakes DID come before the show). I don't get hung up on the fact that Max and Ruby's parents aren't around the way some people do (I think it's called "willful suspension of disbelief" - it's a key to reading anything that features talking animals, I do believe). Anyone who has had a big sister or a little brother can relate to the stories about Max and Ruby and Pk is so gleefully grossed out by Max's earthworm birthday cake and never ceases to tell me that she thinks it has bugs in it. Yum!

Babar is a book that I have very mixed feelings about. I loved Babar as a child (I think I was especially taken with the elephant children in their cute outfits, Pom, Flora and Alexander, if I remember correctly). I loved the old lady and the clear French references (which, as an adult, I appreciate all the more). There is a cultural richness to this series of books that I savour. On the other hand, as a child, I was traumatized by the killing of Babar's mother and I could see from Pk's face as we read that she was, at minimum, very concerned. It didn't ruin the book for her, though, as she told me at the end that it was "her favourite" (not as significant as it might be, she lives in superlatives right now).
This is a light book, based on a song, that Pk loves. The illustrations are fun but, be warned, might just inspire creating a mural on oneself that takes hours to remove. It's fun and Pk could hear it every night.

Happy reading!

Multitude Monday 72 - 80

holy experience

It's November and the weather is looking rather... November-ish. I am not a November fan. I find it dark, dreary and grotty. It's probably my least favourite month of the year (closely followed by January but at least in January, I can comfort myself in the knowledge that days are getting longer). This week, I am trying to reflect on the nice things in November.

72. a hot cup of tea in a china cup (don't know why but for me, tea always tastes hotter in china)
73. the first sight of Christmas lights that keep the dark evenings from being so dreary
74. comfort foods like slow cooker meals, mac and cheese
75. weekend mornings when it is light when we get out of bed
76. candles that bring back a warm glow
77. the fact that I am on mat leave so I can be out during the day and actually see what light we have
78. the excitement that I always feel with the sound of Christmas carols in the air
79. the Santa Claus parades (I always cry at parades, I don't know why but the hokier, the better)
80. "The Bells of Dublin", a Chieftains CD with a medley of "Ding Dong Merrily on High, Once in Royal David's City and O Come, All Ye Faithful" that I sob through and enjoy every moment

Enjoy finding the pleasures in November, before we know it, Christmas will be upon us!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Music To My Ears

Growing up in Canada, there was one thing that I was really lucky about - Canadians really know how to make music for kids, especially music that has a bit of a "folk-y" bent to it. I grew up Raffi (I even saw him in concert once, when I was little and I was in heaven), Sharon Lois and Bram and even the Travellers. These people really know how to make music that is fun for kids and musically appropriate (I have a degree in elementary music education and one pet peeve of mine is children's music that is largely un-singable for kids - it's more common than you think).

I really haven't kept up on the newer music releases and who is "up and coming" in the children' music world. Luckily, though, I am actively involved in the programmes at our local library and recently, I have been introduced to some FANTASTIC music for children, all available through Merriweather Records, based in Aurora, Ontario.

There are two artists in particular to whom we have become addicted - Kathy Reid-Naiman and Debbie Carroll. The music teacher in me loves their music as people so musically appropriate for Pk's age and Pk adores the music. There isn't an hour that goes by around here these days when Pk isn't singing, dancing around like an elephant or doing some kind of hand or finger rhyme with her brother. She is asking to listen to these songs all the time.

My very favourite, and one that actually has been known to bring tears to my eyes, is one performed by Debbie Carroll called "Love is Like Glue" ("Love is like glue, it sticks us together...") Baby Bean was about 3 1/2 months old and the three of us went to a Saturday singing thing at the library. When we did the song, at each chorus, they had the kids in partners and the children held their hands with their palms against those of their partners' and during the verses, they put different body parts so that they were touching those of a partner. Pk decided that she wanted to do it with her little brother. It made me cry, this first real evidence of the bond that I hope will become ever stronger between them. We now listen to this song over and over and it's become almost a kind of theme song for the family.

If you get a chance, I can't suggest these highly enough for the younger crowd. The only thing I will warn you - be prepared to walk around singing little bits of charming little songs, to waking up singing every day. Not such a bad problem to have :-).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Library Gems

I probably need to apologize. Most blogs have a focus and mine is all over the place. You will see teaching ideas, recipes, rants and meanderings. I keep thinking that I should focus down a bit but really, this is who I am and I love being all over the place. I hope that the few of you who do stop in from time to time will continue to tolerate my wanderings. I have fun when ideas pop into my head and it's fun to have a place to share the chaos in my brain.

Every week, Pk and I go to the library (and Baby Bean comes along and hangs out in the sling). Pk does her Storytime programme without me (how can she be big enough for that now???) and then I let her pick a few books. I always do some searching while she is in the programme since she tends to like to go to the same things every week - Franklin, Spot, the Thomas the Tank Engine easy readers, Clifford and Rosemary Wells. I don't mind old favourites but I tend to like some variety too (and, if possible, to avoid the Dora books that she loves to bring home - ugh). I love our weekly library jaunt and find myself excited to come home and read together. We read before each nap and before bedtime so our collection of books usually gets read through several times before the next week.

I thought that I would start a weekly series featuring a few of our current favourites. I love good suggestions (thanks for the Ladybug Girl suggestion, Kittenpie!) and I hope that I remind you of a few good reads here, too.

As a teacher, I am not a great lover of Frankin. I teach grade 2 and they are just a bit below my students in terms of the depth we need to achieve with a text. I tended to avoid Franklin but I have to say, since Pk has discovered Paulette Bourgeois' loveable turtle, I have developed a much greater appreciation for these books. Franklin faces the kind of problems that Pk does, the illustrations are often lovely (Franklin's Thanksgiving is one of my favourite books in the fall, just for the gorgeous colours) and there is often a title that really addresses an issue that we are facing at home. Franklin and Harriet is the story of Franklin coping with the ups and downs of a needy little sister and Pk loves it. We read it over and over and it's one that, for me at least, stands up to repeated readings.

I LOVE Barbara Reid and The Party lives up to what I love about her books. The Party is the story of a birthday party for Gran. The text flows in a wonderful pattern and rhythm and again, a birthday party/family gathering is something that all children can relate to on some level. If you have not met Barbara Reid's books before, all of the illustrations are done in incredibly intricate plasticene montages and the depth of detail is awe-inspiring. The page that shows the table of food groaning under the weight of all the traditional dishes (sausage rolls, bean salad, deviled eggs, etc) is like going home. I would suggest any of her books (on my other blog, I have shared my love of the Zoe books for little ones) and this one is no exception. I will be sad to return this one.
John Burningham is an English writer with some wonderfully quirky titles (e.g., I LOVE "Would You Rather" and use it as an intro to surveys in my grade 2 class every year and my students roll on the floor laughing). Hushabye is a bit of a strange little book. I expected it to scan like poetry but it doesn't. It is somewhat poetic in style but the traditional rhyming patterns of similar books are lacking. The repeat of Hushabye throughout the story does give it a quiet, settling to bed kind of tone. The illustrations are interesting, a mix of drawing, collage and paint for texture and Pk is fascinating by the illustrations. This is a great going to bed book and a little less cloyingly charming than some other lullaby texts.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Multitude Monday 53 -

holy experience

We have all been sick with a couple of viral infections and I have been spending a lot of time nursing my little ones while feeling pretty awful myself. It's funny - illness has brought us some of the best and some of the worst moments in motherhood. It's a great time to slow down and be there for my children and to keep the world at the door. Today, it's been Baby Bean and I who haven't been feeling great and he and I have spent a good chunk of the day in bed. It's been lovely. He turns 5 months on Wednesday and I realise that the time is quickly passing when I will have a baby in the house. Today, I am reflecting on the joys of a baby.

53. the warmth of a little body sleeping beside mine
54. the depth of blue in my babies' eyes
55. the first few smiles, when it feels like God has bestowed a great gift
56. being able to offer comfort when a little one is not feeling well
57. the full feeling of my arms holding a child
58. the cozy smell of a little one fresh from the bath
59. the love that is emerging between my two children and
60. the glee from both of them when during their messy attempts to play pat-a-cake
61. a little body sitting in my lap for a story
62. the feeling of closeness from wearing my little ones in a sling
63. the rolls of fat on their legs
64. the sense of freedom and joy in a little one kicking around without a diaper
65. the sound of a little snore from the car seat during long drives
66. that, at least for a little while, the rest of the world can see as clearly as I can, that these children are a precious gift
67. robeez shoes
68. Carter's soft two-piece outfits
69. the Arm's Reach co-sleeper, which has allowed me to sleep so closely to my little one without worry
70. the feeling of completeness that motherhood has brought me
71. most of all, the felling of wonder when meeting my baby for the first time

What a wonderful gift motherhood has been, stomach flu, coughs and all.

By the way, I don't seem to be getting blog posts from Ann's blog right now but I have seen other people referring to things Ann has said. Anyone know why I might be missing things?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cool Deal

Here's a very shallow post for you. Last week, when I arrived to pick Pk up from daycare, her sitter sheepishly told me that Pk's splashpants had obviously had an accident and would probably need to be replaced. She was right - they were ripped right through across the bum. Needless to say, getting Pk to tell us exactly what had happened was an exercise in frustration but we think that she probably was putting them on and put two legs in one hole and pushed too hard. I nixed Dh's suggestion of duct tape across the bum to fix them and the hunt for splashpants was on.

This is NOT the time of year to find them and we quickly discovered that snowpants are easy to find, splashpants are this side of impossible. Thankfully, I discovered that not only did L.L.Bean online have them available but that shipping is free until December 20th with no minimum order, even for orders to Canada. Given that the exchange rate is so good right now, it ended up being a great deal. Hooray!!!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Who are We?

Our church is doing a photo directory. For those of you who aren't "church types", each family/individual goes and gets a photo taken and the photos are compiled into a book so that we can put names to faces. The company comes in, does photos "for free" (I say that in quotations because you don't pay for the directory or the free 8 by 10 but you then are "offered" many great deals that will only cost you the same as your house or your car for a collage on cheap paper or a set of 9 wallet-sized pics).

We were given a handout as to what we should do to prepare for our photos. They suggest clothing ideas and that you should think about what would really represent your family. One family at church came in their motocycle gear and several brought their dogs.

My first thought - how can we represent "chaos" in a family pic???

And, I might say, I stayed strong and we didn't buy a package or a montage, I just got suckered into two sheets of 3 by 5's for $89...

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I normally don't think about race too much. Honestly, it's not something I really notice. I grew up in east end Toronto and most of the kids I went to school with were either Chinese or South Asian (primarily Indian). In all honesty, we did self-segregate a fair bit but I think that says more about culture than it does about race. It's easier to connect personally with someone who speaks the same language, eats the same foods and has the same cultural expectations. I certainly never felt that people whose skin was a different colour than mine had different social status to mine (mind you, I'm a redhead and when I was a kid, we faced A LOT of teasing and nasty comments about the orange hair and freckles, so maybe I think I could identify, just the tiniest bit).

This week, three news stories have led me to ponder racism a bit. For those of you who don't live in Canada or who don't pay attention to the news, the three stories are:

1. the legion branch in Campbellford, ON who awarded a prize at a costume party to a pair who were dressed as a person in blackface with a noose tied about his neck being led around by someone dressed as a KKK member - http://www.thestar.com/news/article/886633--campbellford-legion-re-opens

2. a cross burning trial in Nova Scotia - http://www.cbc.ca/canada/nova-scotia/story/2010/11/08/ns-rehberg-not-guilty.html

3. the Macleans University rankings discussion of some universities as being "too Asian" - http://oncampus.macleans.ca/education/2010/11/10/too-asian/

They are very different stories but it makes me see that this whole race issue just won't go away.

I heard about the legion incident when I was driving and I almost drove off the road. How anyone could think that was acceptable boggles the mind. I have been reading "The Help" by Katherine Stockett (a great book, totally worth reading) and so the fear that the KKK invoked is fresh in my mind. My parents marched in demonstrations connected with Martin Luther King Jr. back in the late 60's so I have heard a bit about how scary that kind of racism is (and they only participated in the northern U.S., where it was much less terrifying). I had a good friend try and tell me this week and these two were just reacting to the "political correctness that has gone overboard" - I think the top of my head almost blew off. My argument to my friend was this incident is just proof of why we need political correctness, since people are obviously so incapable of sound judgement and seeing where we should draw the line.

I guess that one thing that these first two stories made clear to me is that my perception that extreme racism is gone is misinformed. As a white woman living in a largely white area, it's easy to think everything is fine. Once in a while, we do have a situation in the school that shocks us (last year, it was a situation with a grade 7 student who made repeated comments about a dark skinned boy needing to go home and eat fried chicken and watermelon - not a typical thing to come out of the mouth of a 12 year old and, I suspect, a reflection of what is being said at home). On the other hand, we do our cute assemblies, read our books with characters from other cultures and try to reflect the realities of our students in our discussions of food and culture and think we have done our jobs. These stories make it very evident that our work in not done in confronting racism in all of its forms and that it does lie just beneath the surface.

The Macleans story is much more complex and goes to what I think is at the base of most incidents in Canada (our history is very different that in the southern U.S. and while we are not perfect, we don't have the same legacy of slavery and segregation to overcome). I don't think that those situations are about race at all but about culture. My first teaching job was in a school with a highly diverse student population. We had a "multicultural potluck" every year that almost always turned into a major incident. It wasn't race that was at the base of it, though, it was culture. There was a particular contingent of families who really antagonized everyone else - they were pushy, ate too much, didn't contribute and their table manners were offensive to the rest of us. There were others with their skin colour who did not alienate others at all. It was a cultural thing - these people came from a country with different expectations of what behaviour is acceptable in a public dining situation. I don't think that they were deliberately rude, they were just lacking the social understanding of what people would expect in that context in Canada. I think that goes to most incidents of "racism" in Canada - it's often cultural bias rather than racism (e.g., like the area in which my husband teaches, in which our car has been hit three times when stationary his school parking lot - it isn't that the particular race can't drive, it's that the cultural expectations of how one behaves on the road is different, although people often make comments about the race as drivers).

In terms of the Macleans situation, I think it is most certainly a cultural thing. I will be honest, one of the options I had for high school was a school that was mostly "Asian". I chose not to go to that school even though it was the closest to my house with an academic focus. It wasn't that I didn't want to be with Asians, it was that I wasn't especially interested in science and math, the programmes that were strongest in that school (and which tend to appeal to Asians from a cultural standpoint - I think that humanities tend to be more of a Western European thing and again, culturally, the values are different). In all honesty, I probably wouldn't want to attend a university that was primarily Asian, not because I didn't like Asians but because 1. I am not interested in science or math 2. I don't like an environment that is so competitive and 3. I do believe in a well-rounded educational experience and for me, that means a community with extra-curricular activities that go beyond study groups (and, for the record, I don't meaning the alcoholism rampant in university culture). Does that make me racist? I don't think so.

I think that we still have a lot to talk about and much work to do to cross the cultural divides. All of the tension with Muslim Canadians and the quickness with which we non-Muslims judge all Muslims as being terrorists clearly demonstrates that we have a long way to go to really call ourselves a tolerant society. I hadn't really thought about it but then, I heard an interesting discussion on CBC about the lunatic pastor in Florida who wanted to burn the Quran. The subject of the discussion was whether the media had essentially created that story - the man was a fringe lunatic and really of no significance at all until the media ran with the story. I agreed with the interviewee who was criticizing the amount of coverage the pastor received and then, the other discussion panel member raised an interesting point - how was this any different than the coverage that some of the extremist Muslim clerics from deepest Pakistan receive?

I don't have the answers but the news this week has just proven to me that we need to be aware of our own biases and to move out into the world with sensitivity and openness to others. There are so many wonderful people and experiences that we might miss if we don't.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Multitude Monday 41 -

holy experience

There have been so many wonderful things to appreciate over the last couple of weeks:

41. the company of my daughter, making a long drive so much more fun
42. the pride in my children that I could never have imagined
43. a few stolen moments of lounging in bed with my husband
44. the smell of a slow cooked meal when we come in the door
45. the way that the things we need have a habit of dropping into our laps (e.g., like a free piano when we have been wanting one for Pk's music lessons for a long time)
46. the satisfaction of a job well-done and order having been restored (who knew that cleaning out the fridge could be such a fulfilling task)
47. the satisfaction of buying something wondering second-hand
48. the good feeling that comes with donating something to someone who can use it
49. cheese (Baby Bean seems to be less reactive to my eating dairy!)
50. the way that my children have breathed new life into my extended family
51. nursing my son and having him looking up into my eyes and laughing, over and over again
52. a visit with a good friend and a glimpse into her world (and admiration for the amazing mother that she is)

Life is so good!

The Americans Have It Right...

We Canadians do have a tendency to be just a tad patronizing about our friends to the south. Secretly, I think we are a bit envious of their confidence, their bravado, their intense nationalism. Canadians outwardly view it as being kind of tacky but secretly, we are just as arrogant about our country, we just think that we are better than all that and don't show it publicly. We are often confused by American politics and, sorry to any U.S. friends who disagree, but the right to bear arms and the fear of government run health care is completely incomprehensible to the vast majority of Canadians. I grew up with hippie-socialist parents and there are aspects of the uber-capitalist American system that are perplexing to me.

On the other hand, one way in which I think our friends to the south truly have it right is the date of Thanksgiving. Here in Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated the second Monday of October. It's a gorgeous time of year, all golds and rusts and warm autumn sunlight and richly blue skies. The air smells of leaves with a hint of bonfire and our tables and grocery stores and farmers markets groan from the abundance of the harvest. It's wonderful. We try to stretch it until Halloween and then... nothing. The horrible Halloween-to-Advent stretch of nothing.

I woke up this morning in a horrible mood. I hate November. I hate the clocks falling back. I hate the trees with no leaves, the drizzly almost-but-not-quite snow, the grey skies that seem to last for days, the driving-in-the-dark to almost everything. The only promise is of Christmas and while nobody loves Christmas more than me, I know that if we allow ourselves to get dragged into it during the month of November, it will be tired and faded by December 25th. If we had Thanksgiving to look forward to, the bleakness would be broken up and there would be something to look forward to that is less than a month away.

I have been pondering how to make November more interesting. There's Remembrance Day but while it is a significant and poignant event, it isn't exactly uplifting and a bright spot in the month. There's the starting to get ready for Christmas but it's still a bit early for the cooking (unless you are soaking fruitcake and given how I feel about fruitcake, that won't be happening here). There is no long weekend, no decorations, no special food, no excuse to get together with friends or family. If we had a family birthday this month (like some of my special friends, Kittenpie!), it might give us something to lighten the mood but all of our birthdays happen around the summer (a few just before, one just after).

If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them. Right now, I just want to hibernate until first Advent. I really want to make the most of my time off and I don't want to just wish this month away but I find the darkness really discouraging. I'd love to hear how everyone else makes the month more fun.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Art with a Bang

Tuesday is one of the days that Pk doesn't go to daycare and as soon as Baby Bean goes down for his nap, we get to work on having fun and learning together. I asked Pk last night what she wanted to do and she quickly responded that she wanted to paint (that's almost always her answer - paint or glue glitter). I was having a look at Reader this morning and saw a great idea on Teach Preschool for "Hammer Painting." Given that we have a hammer in her learning bins (we used it for an activity in "Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready"), we had to give it a try. Pk had a blast.

The idea is easy and straightforward - I drew the outline of a house (o.k., I went a bit further than an outline and did the windows and the doors, as well). Pk picked a few colours of paint (purple, green and pink, which gave me the chance to talk about how we can make pink by mixing colours). Pk dipped the hammer in the paint and then banged down on the house. She had a blast. I am a bit worried about the shape of the table underneath - let's hope that the table pad and the two tablecloths protected it from dings).

I also just wanted to share something that we were given that I think is pretty cool and it's from the dollar store!!! For Pk's birthday, I asked people to get her arts and crafts supplies since we are so into creating if they didn't have another gift in mind. The dollar store was raided and we got all kinds of neat things. One of the best was this paint set. It includes 3 canvases, four colours of paint, a brush and a palette for mixing colours. I tried to buy a class set for my students ( in grade 2, we cover secondary colours and I'd love the little palettes and canvases for colour mixing) but they were sold out. I worry a bit about the paint (I tend to assume that dollar store stuff is full of lead and other scary ingredients) but in this case, I am willing to overlook my fear. The little canvases she has done look really nice and I think a set of three would look very "modern art-ish" in a series on the wall.

Tomorrow, we plan to try "turkey baster painting" - I'm guessing that I may be washing the walls afterwards!