Monday, 29 April 2013


Our family's ball seasons have been postponed for several weeks as the snow stubbornly refuses to melt away.  I have been indoors practicing since March, and the children's seasons are slowly getting underway, whether it be simply picking up uniforms or having a full-fledged practice.

I have played ball for years, and will continue to play for years...until this weathered body of mind tells me quite loudly it's had enough.  My children though, are essentially entering their first seasons.  And with that, I feel a bit of trepidation.  Let me explain.

Most of my apprehension lies in how my son's first year of baseball will play out.  It seems that our city doesn't have a "just for fun" baseball league that he could join, and he was quite adamant that he wanted to play baseball and not softball.  Because of the heightened competitiveness of the league, I have this preconceived notion that most of the other kids have played for years.  Nicholas, on the other hand, had not really shown the faintest interest in the sport and we have not pushed him one way or the other.  As such, he hasn't been exposed to the trials and tribulations of pop flies, dirty bounces, or curve balls, let alone the rules of the game.  I wonder if he will want to scramble up the learning curve or feel frustrated by any perceived or real difference in skill between him and his teammates. 

Then, as we were sitting at the table tonight, the discussion turned to baseball and his most recent practice.  He told us about some problems he had while batting, and some of the corrections his coaches advised him to try.  This led to some debate about quick fixes versus correcting the true source of the problem.  We had planned to head out this evening to throw a ball around, practice some fielding and swing the bat, so Nicholas agreed to let me see his swing and provide any tips and pointers I saw fit too.

This is where I truly enter the realm of anxiety.  It stems from my own childhood, when my father coached me.  He would give advice to help me become a better player, from a place of love and caring.  But as a twelve-year-old kid, I felt like I was being picked on.  I would often seethe on the car rides home, as we re-hashed the tiny little details of my play.  All the while, my brain was screaming, "why don't you pick on the girl out in right field who didn't catch a single ball that came her way?!?" 

So now I feel as though I teeter on the cusp of ruining the sport for both my older children, before they have even played a game.  I feel hesitant to give any advice, because it could be received similar to how I received it so many years ago.  Yet I know I have good advice to give, having had to work through my own batting challenges, reinventing my swing none too long ago, and spending time in each of the positions on the field.

As I quietly reflect, I know that silence isn't the answer.  Neither is pushing advice that isn't wanted.  Perhaps the solution is quite gentle, and can build our relationship.  It could be just going to a ball game, sitting quietly while munching on sunflower seeds, and simply observing.  It could be occasional rhetorical musing, wondering aloud why a player stands in a certain spot, or swings at a certain pitch.  It will most certainly be asking for permission to give advice, then proceeding when permission has been granted freely.  It could be lightening the mood by watching major league bloopers (like the ball that bounced off Jose Canseco's head, which we've watched a few times), mixed with highlights of good mechanics and sensational plays. 

It could be letting Nicholas' own interests take the lead - he can decide what aspect of the game he wants to work on the most, and how he would like us to support him.

Sunday, 28 April 2013


Jaelyn turned seven this weekend.  For me, seven is right up there with all the other momentous ages one can attain.  For me, seven is when they are no longer babes, as evidenced by their graduation from the 0 - 6x section of the department store.  Seven is when style starts to be a wee bit more important, their minds start picking up more abstract ideas, and they are firmly growing roots into their own person.

In my little seven-year-old, I see sweet innocence and kindness, as well as a healthy dose of fearlessness and competitive spirit.  I see a girl growing strong in her beliefs and convictions, and a little one decidedly content to dance to her own drummer.  I see a girl with a playful glint in her eye, a quick wide smile, and compassion in her loving heart.  I've been blessed to have an intimate seat in watching her grow this past year.  She is exploring, experimenting and grabbing knowledge with gusto and enthusiasm.  She is a joy.

And how did my growing girl celebrate her birthday?  She spent time with family and with friends, playing games and enjoying her favorite foods.  She requested a fairy tale party with her friends, so we played a bit of dress-up, made crowns and read her favorite fairy tale (The Tinderbox, in The Oxford Treasury of Fairy Tales).  Not to miss out on the lovely sun shining down on us this day, we moved outside to enjoy a scavenger hunt for items found in fairy tales - everything from the Queen of Hearts to one of the three little pigs.  The children then chose which craft they would like to do - we offered making paint stick swords or making a bubble mixture and pipecleaner bubble wands (we used the National Wildlife Federation recipe found here - it worked fabulous).  Top it off with some cake, juice, and play time, and we had a very happy seven-year-old.

Friday, 26 April 2013

A week in pictures

Just one pic today.  Enjoy...
Taking after her great-grandfather...sleeping while clutching a book.
...and have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013


As some of you may recall, today was the day we were taking our dog to the vet to determine the reason why his back legs don't seem to be working anymore.  Last night was a rough night for my little ones, as they kissed and petted their dog to say goodnight, fearing it would be for the last time.  We've all been having one-on-one chats for the last few days, considering all the diagnoses the vet could offer.  Usually, though, our conversations would inevitably go back to the topic of life and death, and the ethics, love, and compassion that go into such a powerful decision as whether to euthanize or not. 

In my mind, the attitudes of the grown-ups towards death is so, so terribly important.  Our mindset when we approach the topic, the factors we consider in such a decision, and where our focus lies must be transparent for our children.  Why?  Because we are modelling for them attitudes about life and death.  We are teaching them how we would like to be treated as we age, by showing them how we treat others who are aging.  I would like to model for them an attitude that considers the person (or animal's) best interest over my own.  I would like to emphasize comfort, caring and compassion over neglect.  I would like to value wisdom over physical feats and accomplishments.  I would like to acknowledge that death goes hand-in-hand with life, and while we may grieve for the loss in our lives, it would be unnatural to live forever.  Natural things all expire at one point or another.

When my children were upset, I asked them to breathe deeply to allow the energy to move more freely through their body.  I told them it was okay to cry freely, rather than fighting the tears back.  I reminded them we didn't know what the next day would bring, and that Boomer would benefit most if we sent him comforting thoughts and healing thoughts.  As they settled into bed, they were able to quiet themselves and fall into a deep sleep.

As it turns out, the vet guesses that Boomer has partly torn ACL's on both his legs.  He is too old for surgery, so he is to get as much rest as possible in order for it to heal.  He is now taking some additional pain medication, we're decreasing the amount of food he gets to compensate for his lack of activity.  He will be re-evaluated in a few weeks to see whether he is healing, and we'll go from there.

The mood on the car ride home was quiet but positive.  We'll continue to care for Boomer the best we can, and we'll continue to send him comforting and healing thoughts.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The home stretch

Ahhh....the last day to prepare before our science fair tomorrow.  While bits and pieces are scattered and strewn around the house, I think the children completed everything they said they wanted to complete.  Here are a few samples of what we worked on fast and furious this past week:



Monday, 22 April 2013

On the quest for science in the real world

Today's post is a post of frustration.  Rephrased in a more positive light, this post is about extreme homeschooling:  the lengths a parent will go to in the quest to secure materials for a science project.

Over the last several days I've come to wonder whether our society really wants kids to learn much about science.  At least in a deep way.  I wonder if it is the fear that knowledge of science can lead to terrible catastrophes (such as people wanting to blow up planes or make bombs).  Or it could be that the governments in the Western world don't want much scientific research or even a general appreciation of science happening because then people might press harder for tougher environmental regulations.  Maybe it's just that it's too messy or costly.  At any rate, here's how I've arrived at this belief.

My son received a microscope for Christmas.  What a great gift!  He hadn't touched it yet, though, until he started growing brine shrimp for his science fair project.  He started making slides and wanted to make some of them permanent.  Lucky for us, the microscope set came with instructions with how to make permanent slides.  "All you need is your specimen and a few drops of gum media or Canada balsam solution."

We soon found out that we would run out of slides.  And so I spent a whole morning searching our city for blank slides and covers.  That's right - a whole morning for just slides!  It appears that toy stores are more than willing to sell microscopes, but none of the accessories needed for a child to discover on their own.  The school supply stores and the science centre didn't have any slides either.  They suggested the local university and technical college.  Other homeschoolers in the area suggested contacting our school board liaison. 

The liaison was able to find a few slides and covers in the school board stores (though he mentioned the slides were scarce items there as well).  And the University had slides too.  But I've struck out everywhere for the gum media.  I was told that the University can't sell any chemicals "because of the way the world has become".  I looked at my three kids, who were not quite understanding what he meant and then back at the man behind the counter with a flabbergasted, "you mean you can do more with this stuff than mount slides?" look.  I get that there are some people who have bad intentions, but I believe they are in the very small minority.  And I wonder how many would bring their kids along to gather the ingredients for weapons of mass destruction.  Certainly some judgment could be afforded.

I've looked at some online stores that were mentioned by those I encountered while searching, and I discovered that shipping of these items is restricted as well, because of their flammable nature.

So, we've resorted to the old-school way of preparing slides (meaning the way I vaguely recall doing it when I was in school).  We're simply using transparent glue to adhere the slide covers to the slides.  It's messy and doesn't finish as nicely, and I fear that the glue will smear over top of our very tiny specimens, but the covers should be sealed and dried by the time tomorrow afternoon rolls around.

I've also done more searching for alternative ways to make permanent slides using less restricted materials.  Very Tiny Things has several easy alternatives that use readily accessible materials (that are also flammable, but available for purchase from any department or drug store).  I found a site for making one's own gum media, although it appears that some of the ingredients are also difficult to find, and that the preparation involves a large investment of time.

And so the quest to learn about things big and small continues in this little house on the prairie.  I guess no one ever said it would be easy.

Sunday, 21 April 2013


I find myself at the kitchen table, looking out the window to the pitch-black world outside, save the orange glow from the streetlights.  My family calendar sits to the right of me, like my compass for the week ahead.  I see that the week will be a menagerie of open spaces and bustling activity.  Several days of quiet, relaxed time after a full weekend, followed by a Wednesday that I am deeply concerned about.

For, to my left, is a poor dog whining.  What exactly he is whining for, I'm not sure.  It could be pain, it could be fear, it could be a desire for attention.  I squat next to him and rub his muzzle, scratch behind his ears, and pet his side.  I help him get up, get a drink of water, and head out for one last pit stop before leading him to his bed, which we've now moved to the living room.

You see, in the past week, he has struggled to get around.  He's needed physical help getting up, as well as climbing the stairs, and is, quite honestly, showing his age.  We're taking him to the vet on Wednesday.

My children can't help but notice the physical changes in our dog and they know, at least intellectually, that he likely won't be with us for much longer.  They get very sad at the prospect of life without our Boomer.  As I wrap them up in my arms, trying to soothe them, I do what I can to get their minds off of the future and instead focussed on the present.  "Enjoy the time you have with him today," is the mantra often repeated, but it's of little consolation.  It's not that I'm trying to avoid the conversation about death and the grief that is inherent in it, or that I don't want to validate their feelings.  Indeed, their sadness is my sadness as well.  I just feel that our dog's last days should be comfortable and that we, his family, need to offer him compassion and our service so that his needs are met.

In the quiet times like the one I sit in now, my mind wanders.  I remember this big dog on the first day he spent with us (at a ball diamond).  I remember the details of the day we needed to put his brother down.  Respectfully, I find commonalities between Boomer's aging and the aging of my grandmother in her last year in this world. 

And it is then...when my mind goes racing away to the land of "what if's"...that I must slow myself down and offer myself the same advice.  "Enjoy the present.  Enjoy the time you have today.  Enjoy the moment.  Enjoy those who share your days"  With that, I can breathe a little easier.  I can focus a little better.  I find hopeful energy where there was sadness.  I awake to the realization there is really very little about this day, or the next, that I can control.  I can simply observe, learn, and face the coming day with a grace that can only come from the wisdom of experience.

"Enjoy the moment".  This will be the mantra I wake up to tomorrow.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Polar bears

As the sun rose today, I awoke to the realization that this was the first night in over a week that I hadn't tossed and turned for the better part of the night.  Then, as I took my first tentative bites of breakfast, I found that my stomach wasn't twisting and turning.  I didn't feel winded walking up the stairs.  Could it be that I've finally kicked this bug that has been plaguing me for the last week?  I hope so! 

And the things we could do today now that I have the energy to send my attention out to others!  It turned out that Jaelyn had most of her formal lesson work done before the school bus had even driven past our house this morning, so we proceeded to do some more research on polar bears for next week's science fair.  We found several websites that had pretty incredible video footage, facts from the mouths of scientists who actually study the bears, and easy-to-understand write-ups about the bears.  The sites we were most impressed with were Polar Bears International and National Geographic for Kids.

Now that we've done a deep dive, Jaelyn and I will be talking about what information she would like to share at the science fair and how she would like to share it.  I've been brainstorming a bit myself, in case we need some inspiration.  Life-size drawings, paw casts made out of clay or modelling clay, and acting out the bear's gait as it crosses ice are all ideas that have crossed my mind so far.  I do intend for Jaelyn to come up with her own ideas and that she will lead carrying them out.  My act of brainstorming is simply to open my own mind to the possibilities that are out there, beyond the pen-and-paper medium that I'm most comfortable with and accustomed to.

I'm looking forward to seeing how this will play out over the days ahead!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Lab coats at the ready

We're getting a science-y vibe around here, and I must say that I welcome this little vibe.  Not that it hasn't come with a little effort.  Let me explain what has gotten us to today.

Our homeschool co-op is organizing a science fair for next week.  While I've been pondering the possibilities for what my children could present for about 4 months now, it turned out that I could have simply asked them.  Which I fully intended to do, and which I did last week.  I was a little wary that they would pick a topic that was either incredibly complex, ridiculously messy, or excessively expensive, but it didn't turn out that way at all. 

With Jaelyn, I needed to explain what a science fair was first.  Simply put, I told her it was a chance to pick a science topic she wanted to learn more about and share her learnings with the rest of the group.  Almost immediately, she told me she wanted to do a project about polar bears.  Her dance class is also studying polar bears, as they will be doing some sort of dance with a polar bear link for her year-end recital.  She is already armed with a lengthy list of facts, which she shared with me.  We've also done some reading about polar bears to learn more facts.  We've discussed other ideas, like drawing a life-sized polar bear.  I hope to spend some more time with her over the weekend diving into the world of polar bears.

Nicholas had been mulling over projects in Kids Concoctions and Contraptions.  As I spent a few minutes introducing the idea of the science fair to him, he announced that he wanted to grow "sea monsters".  Tilting my head to one side, feeling like I was facing those fears I'd had at the outset, I asked him to tell me more about the sea monsters.  He immediately grabbed the book and showed me the project - it is growing brine shrimp.  He also proceeded to do his own searches for where to find a fishbowl (used) and brine shrimp eggs (the pet store).  Lastly, we gathered all those materials and were ready to begin.

I must say that I'm impressed with his patience.  Despite the relative simplicity of the project, he has needed to plan by considering the amount of time needed for the project to be successful.  He chose to find the fishbowl first so he would know how much water needed to be "aired out" to get rid of any chlorine gas.  Then he timed the purchase of the eggs to coincide with when the water would be ready (which, in hindsight, we didn't need to do).  He spent time yesterday evening mixing up the water solution and adding the eggs.

And today, we pulled out a neat little tool for watching what happens to these miniscule eggs.  We learned how to use his microscope and how to make a slide.  I plan to encourage his interest by checking out his pets with his microscope every day, so he can be aware of the changes.

Me...I'm learning too.  I'm learning that perhaps all of us would be best served if I went with what I know and what I am comfortable with for this first year.  Biology topics, like the ones the children have chosen, are much more up my alley than the physics projects we've tried, and I've had difficulty executing or troubleshooting.  Not that we won't ever do physics stuff - of course we will if that's where their interest takes them.  However, I may just send them to our resident physics expert (their dad) for some good quality time.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Club Day. The Birds of Prey Version.

Welcome, Birds of Prey Club, to our first meeting of this "spring" session.  This spring, we plan to learn about navigation and orientation, seeing as this is something that birds tend to be experts in.  I plan to gradually build up the sessions to be more complex or include more gadgets.  I'm also hoping the mountains of snow will disappear and that flooding won't be too extreme so we can do some geocaching without needing to dig through two feet of snow or wearing hip waders to find the treasure we're seeking.

Today, though, we're starting out with the most primitive of navigation techniques, as we'll do our best to replicate what our feathered friends do.  No tools.  Just nature.

To link this navigation unit with our beloved Birds of Prey, I did a bit of research to see what humans know about bird navigation.  It turns out that humans have not quite unravelled the mystery of how some birds can travel thousands of miles and arrive at their desired destination.  I shared the information from this website with the Club to give them an appreciation for how difficult it is to answer the simple question "how do birds navigate?"  Fortunately, part of the answer tied directly into our activity.

We moved our discussion outside and I provided each of them with a blank compass and a pencil.  I asked the children to tell me what they knew about how people would navigate before the days of compasses and GPS, and guided the conversation to talk of using the sun and the stars, as most birds do.  We observed where the sun was in the sky to determine which direction the club members were facing (which was a challenge given that the day was rather overcast).  We talked about which directions the sun rises and sets from, as well as where the sun is in the sky in relation to us in the northern hemisphere. 

Then we played a short little game where I gave them instructions to move in various directions and they were to complete the movements and determine what shape they had made as they moved from their starting to their finishing positions (the idea for this game came from here).  We started with a basic square (3 steps west, 3 steps north, 3 steps east and 3 steps south) and triangle (using the directions of west, northeast and southeast), then moved on to writing letters.  I mixed up the letters P-R-E-Y, then asked them to see if they could make up a word with the letters they walked out.

The children were able to cooperatively decide how to spend free time on their own, and the end of the session was very quiet as the clubbers went deep inside their imagination to draw dragons and birds. 

I'm looking forward to building a primitive navigation tool at the next meeting!

Monday, 15 April 2013


It seems that my tank is running on empty.  After a weekend that was physically exhausting, my body is crying out for a rest.  An upset, achy stomach, combined with chills, tiredness from erratic sleep during the night, and all-round lethargy had me curled up in a ball this afternoon.  I did manage to work through the formal lesson work we do here fairly well, but each passing moment drained more and more of my energy.  I realized I would need some help getting through the rest of the day while I was preparing for tomorrow's lessons and it seemed to take all of my effort just to sit at the table typing or standing at the photocopier. 

Today, I send a shout out to those who stepped up to help me as I retreated to the couch.  My father, who was willing to take the older children skating this afternoon and then out for a snack, with only a few hours notice.  My husband, who wasn't feeling too well himself, who made lunches and suppers, kept everyone happy and got them ready for bed.  To my children, who seemed to empathize and understand why Mama could only read so much and needed a blanket around her arms while playing cards.  Thank you to all of you.  I appreciate your help and support.  Love you!

My mind now wanders to tomorrow and how we will make it through the day if I continue to feel this way.  I feel guilty asking Chris to stay home another day, particularly since he was away from work last week and today.  I wonder how his workplace views his absences when it is to take care of family, as my previous workplace was less than enthusiastic when a co-worker would call in sick when his spouse was ill.  I could ask my family to help too.  Or I could allow the children much more time on the computer (though I feel this eventually leads to children who feel "out of sync" for the rest of the day).  Perhaps the computer combined with equal doses of outside would do the trick.  Anyway, we'll see what tomorrow brings.  For now, I'll retire for the evening with a nice warm bath, some sleepy-time tea, and wishes for a better day tomorrow.

Friday, 12 April 2013

A week in pictures

I love maple trees!
Good times with friends
Building snow forts
"I'm the king of the castle"
Penguin diving

Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Club Day. The Nature Version.

It seems there is a battle raging between Old Man Winter and Lady Love Spring.  Just a little while ago I was ready to dance in the streets that Spring had finally arrived!  Little did I know that Winter was not yet ready to release his grasp on us.  The melting has stopped (those wishing for a slow melt have definitely received their wish so far), the wind had a bit of a bite in it, and it began to snow this afternoon.

As the Nature Club filed into our house this afternoon, I pondered out loud, "What do we need to do to make it spring here?"  One fellow, who was dropping off his sister, glumly replied that the Sun Salutations he was doing hadn't helped yet.  Maybe if more people were doing them, the balance would tip in the favour of Spring.  The rest, as if by reading my mind, replied that we should start planting things. 

And so planting we did, as we shoveled earth into our grow pots and planted the tiny seeds of some Roma tomatoes and sweet peppers, both ingredients for the pizza garden we planned a couple of meetings ago.  Spring, I'm hoping you'll win the battle and take claim to what is rightly yours, seeing as it is April after all.  If not, how will the Club grow their pizza garden?  Is it too early to start preparing this eager little troupe that the garden may fail before it's even in the ground, and to console them by reminding them the most rewarding learning experiences come when things don't work out exactly as planned?  Hmmm...sounds a little defeatist, and perhaps on the overdramatic side.  I think I'll hold off on that for a bit.

But the glum weather led me to change our plans a little bit.  I have scads of old seeds that I don't think will germinate well.  We were going to use them to make pictures with, by drawing a simple picture, covering it with glue and sprinkling seeds on top.  Instead, we opted to make popcorn.  Popcorn's a seed, right, so it was an easy substitution.  We read The Popcorn Book, then hovered over the stove to watch the popcorn seeds explode inside the pot.  By the time our late snack was finished, the snow had stopped and everyone tumbled outside to play in the fort Jaelyn, Astrin and I had made this morning.

At any rate, now the onions have some company.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Returning home

Ah, here we are husband and I freshly returned from our trip to our nation's capital.  What a wonderful six days we had together, along with fabulous friends, as we took some time away from our normal everyday lives to celebrate the marriage of a friend, and rejuvenate our own spirits too.

Some of those friends we have not seen for many years.  Others, we happen to see once or twice a year.  As a group of adults who could focus our time and attention fully on one another, it truly felt as though friendships simply picked up where they had left off from the last time we had been in touch.  I had the wonderfully satisfying experience of being "one of the boys" again, which is when I am most comfortable and come out of my shell the easiest.  We laughed about the silliness and immaturity and adventures of the past, pondered the unknown of the future, and lived it up in the present. 

I also clearly noticed just how much energy I focus on others once there were no others to care for or their schedules to manage.  I noticed how much slower our pace was because my husband and I had the freedom to move to our own schedules rather than the tummy of a growing ten-year-old.  We could slow down and notice the details as we walked through museums, art galleries, and historical places of significance.  We could read and learn and just sit and observe.  We could freely debate issues and simply talk about what was going on in our lives. 

Now that we are home, I can also appreciate the little things that I sometimes took for granted, particularly on trying days.  I notice how Astrin crosses her legs as she balances a book on her lap and reads aloud to herself.  I notice how industrious and persistent Nicholas and Jaelyn are, as they dig forts and beg for the bikes to make their way out of the garage, despite the fact the mountains of snow that remain on the streets and sidewalks.  I notice a softer side of Nicholas that I don't see often.  I realize how deeply connected Jaelyn is to her family, and how sad she is when those connections are threatened.  I listen happily to their carefree laughter. 

The break was good.  It reminds me that connections with friends are important, and those friendships can feed the soul.  It helped to fill my bucket so I have the strength and energy to re-enter our everyday home life with renewed enthusiasm and vigor.  It reminded me to live as much in the moment with these little ones as I did with the friends we caught up with.  For as wonderful a time as we had alone, I missed these little ones of ours.  I missed Astrin's smiles when she wakes up in the morning, and Nicholas' plotting and scheming, and Jaelyn's carefree nature. 

Yes, it's good to be home.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Little bits of light

This blog here is generally a pretty quiet place.  There is a small handful of people that I've told about it and a few who will drop in often - my sister-in-law and my husband are the two that come to mind.  So imagine my surprise when I logged in and saw a dramatic spike in activity.  And even more surprise when I shuffled into our homeschool co-op this afternoon and another mama (the same mama I mentioned here) mentioned she had found this little space, through a link her friend posted on Facebook.  And then my horror at discovering typos in yesterday's post (which are now fixed) and my vow to take the time to proofread, proofread, proofread.  Some lessons are best learned the hard way.

That same mama shared that what she had found inspired her, and while I am so honoured to have made a positive impact, I wonder how well this blog is representative of our days or if I was worthy of the praise.  Yes, we have days that are awesome...days that fill me with energy rather than draining it.  Those days are easy to write about.  I have a sneaky suspicion that those posts tend to be longer than the others, with pictures and the like.  Those are the days that I look back on and say, "We did that?  Really?  Brilliant!"

We have other days, though, where my nerves and patience are shot, my bucket is on the empty side, and my creative energy is dissipated by supper time.  Yet, on days like those, I feel compelled to write something positive.  I need to.  I feel that if I don't, I will have missed the opportunity to dwell on those little bits of light.  Those little glimmers of light I need to tend to and be mindful of so that the light will grow and the next day will be better.  Reflecting on even the most miniscule bright spots puts me in a better position to respond to my children and the challenges that arise from family life from a place of love.  It works even better after a good night's sleep.

Do I think about those less-than-ideal parenting moments?  Does my mind wander off into the depths of continual improvement?  Yes, it happens often.  But if I spend all my time focussing on what isn't working, I will go insane or drop to the floor in a sobbing heap.  Or both.  And that happens too.  I think it happened today, in fact.  Which makes me wonder how a family's vibe can go from feeling fabulous to barely mediocre in less than 24 hours.  An important question, and one that I will think about some more.  But not one that I will write up long lists for improvement.  My response is a simple acknowledgement that too much stuff falling on the shoulders of one person does not a merry household make.  Adjust.  Rebalance.  Reach for homeostasis.

And remember the positive.  So without further ado, here is a little list of what was glorious today:

  ~ Playing outside in the melting snow with friends.
  ~ Having family nearby to give my husband and I some couple-only time.
  ~ A really great workout this morning.
  ~ More drawings of dragons.
  ~ Jaelyn working hard on more-complex grade 2 math.
  ~ Nicholas packing his sleepover bag by himself and helping us work through a chaotic afternoon.
  ~ Astrin's first solo run-in with a puddle.  The puddle won.  Though it wasn't funny at the time, I can laugh about it now.

Yes, my heart feels a little lighter now.

I'll be away from this space until next week.  Have a lovely rest of your week!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Get ready!

The dreaming of yesterday spilled into the planning and doing of today.  Lessons were taught by Nicholas, the latest professed member of our small faculty.  It was a treat to be in the room next door, folding laundry while overhearing their conversations.  Here's one I managed to write down, while trying not to laugh out loud:

  ~ Nicholas:  Do you want to learn your name?
  ~ Astrin:  Yah!
  ~ Nicholas:  This letter is an A.  What letter is this?
  ~ Astrin:  A!
  ~ Nicholas:  Do you want to draw an A?
  ~ Astrin:  No!!!

With all the giggling and enthusiasm I heard, I knew my children had given one another the gift of respect and the sense that each of them were valued by the others. 

They worked together and played all morning, making sure there was time for two recesses!  What a great school!

The real treat for me was to listen for clues as to how I might teach, which Nicholas modelled.  I loved his enthusiasm - I could hear his bright smile from next door, and he showed patience and understanding that Astrin's best effort for drawing shapes wouldn't be the same as his.  I appreciated all the effort he put into the lessons he created for Astrin.  He carried out his plans just as he had wanted to.  I also noticed that he had a tendency to rapid-fire questions, without giving Astrin an opportunity to answer.  I wonder if I do the same thing, and have just never noticed it before.  Hmmm...something to pay attention to in the days and weeks ahead.

Later in the afternoon, we made our way to the craft store for all the dragon supplies that were requested.  Paints, markers, poster board and mat board were carefully looked at and selected.  I found it difficult to watch my tongue and let the children lead, particularly when they changed their minds to go with mat board instead of free cardboard.  While I didn't tell them what to get, I did ask questions to get a better sense of the mental picture my children had created.  "What is the poster board for?  What will you do now that we know they don't have the colour you want?"  I also went through each item that wound up in the cart and asked what it's purpose was. 

And then the work of making the dragons began around the kitchen table, as I started making supper.  Drafts of what the dragons would look like turned into dragon battle scenes for my son.  My daughter opted to draw a multi-fruit tree before turning to A Practical Guide to Dragons for inspiration and guidance.

Monday, 1 April 2013

The day grand plans were made

Oh, the scheming and dreaming I was privy to this afternoon and evening!  There was lots of chatter about some amazing projects just in their infancy that started as we headed out for groceries and continued on while we did dishes together.  From what I heard, my house will be overrun with dragons in the near future...copper, gold, silver and bronze ones, to be exact.  They are inspired by the book, A Practical Guide to Dragons, which accompanies the Dragon Codices books my son has been devouring as of late.

Despite being on the road and with full hands most of the time, I tried my best to listen to these grand plans and ask questions.  Before we left the car to get the groceries, I learned about their plans and wrote down the important info they shared (which I am copying here so those grand ideas aren't forgotten or tossed in the recycling pile).

Nicholas wants to make a silver dragon and a copper dragon costume.  He needs some materials to complete his project...large pieces of cardboard, silver and copper construction paper, markers, and brown yarn.  Jaelyn will be making a bronze dragon and a gold dragon.  She needs similar materials, but with gold and bronze construction paper (and lots of it) instead of silver and copper.  She also needs scissors and yarn of any colour.  They informed me that the copper and gold dragons will have similar shapes, where their wings are attached to their tail.  However, the gold dragon is longer and narrower and the copper dragon is shorter and wider.  The silver dragon is the largest, and the bronze one is the smallest.

Fast forward to tonight at dishes.  More grand plans were laid, as Nicholas proclaimed that since most of his schoolwork for the week is done, he will be the teacher for Astrin and Jaelyn.  Playing school while at "school" - how great!  Nicholas reminds me of me!  He put together a plan for teaching Astrin shapes and colours, which includes using our shape sorter and drawing.  They are also going to learn numbers.  If Astrin is willing, Nicholas will also start teaching her how to spell her name, starting with the letter "A" and teaching her what the letter is and what it sounds like.  It was pretty easy to go along with most of what he shared, as Astrin knows quite a few colours already and can count to 10 (though I don't think she knows what 10 really is).  I hesitated when he eagerly shared teaching her letters.  What to say so that he would still feel encouraged and eager, but ready to accept if Astrin wasn't quite there?  As gently as I could, I told him that this would be her first foray into letters, and that she may need lots of practice before she understands.

Nicholas will also be teaching Jaelyn too.  He will be preparing a book for her to read, some copywork for her to do, and some sort of math.  Then they started dreaming about science...I heard plans for learning about feathers and flight, the Arctic, and animals in general.  There was talk of paper airplanes and drawing and recess, and I'm sure there was more I missed.  I must say that their excitement is contagious. 

Today, I made an effort to apply some of my learnings from Project-Based Homeschooling...actively paying attention, asking questions, taking notes, making sure that one-on-one time with each of them was sacred, working hard to keep my opinions and advice to myself so they could do the best kind of experiential learning possible. 

As I sit here tonight, I wonder about what in our environment changed so that the latch could be lifted and the floodgates of imagination could burst open.  Not that our house if void of imagination - I do recognize it's presence daily.  What was different was my place amongst all the scheming.  I was no longer a passive participant, barely noticing the words and ideas making up the constant chatter that surrounds me.  I was actively listening.

We had met up with another homeschooling family this morning, outside of the co-op setting.  While the older children played, I had a chance to chat for an extended period of time with another lovely mama.  This is so rare!  Although I do prefer to be alone and quiet spaces, I noticed upon arriving home that I had a different energy - a more uplifting energy.  And just energy in general.  I had more patience when dealing with the lunchtime squabbles and disciplining the child having difficulty listening and cooperating.  I had more patience to listen to Astrin read The Gruffalo to me (which was so sweet), although she was dreadfully late in laying down for a nap.  I was able to keep my promise of play time and reading time and one-on-one time with the older children.  I had a full cup of comradeship that I didn't need to search for on Facebook.  And it opened up my eyes to some wonderful possibilities that were right here all along. 

We are going to have to do today more often.