Thursday, January 29, 2015

in which we venture out

Last weekend we met up with a few families from church to walk a snowy trail in a large conservation park in Quebec. Shane pulled the girls on a sled, with Laura getting off on occasion to join the other kids as they adventured off the beaten trail, down snowy slopes and back up again. Kate kept her spot on the sled secure by basically never getting off, except for one short stretch of the legs. It was a nice time to be together and help manage all of the little ones and cheer on the exploits of the older ones. And when we got back home and had eaten lunch, Shane went down to the ice with Seth and Laura to get some river skating done. This was Laura' first time on skates so Shane gave her lots of support.

By the next day, the sun was back out and Laura was making her way up and down the shoveled rink.

And then Shane reenacted his jump from the previous day getting some serious air under him as he landed firmly on the other side.

And here he is being what Seth calls the "zamboni man".

 And here's proof that even I can still skate after all these years and staying inside with the babies. Well, actually this is only proof that I can stand upright without falling over. You'll have to take my word for it that I actually skated around without falling down. Laura wanted to know why my skates looked different than everyone else's. I told her they were figuring skating skates. She spent the rest of the time calling them "figure-eight" skates. It was good to get out there and take some strides, even though I'm very rusty and can't even do a cross-over, somehow they still gave me Canadian citizenship last year; good thing the test didn't include skating!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Pillow Hill

just something pretty for the long days of  January
I was preparing to add a new poem by Robert Louis Stevenson to our roster of memory work. I had seen the title In the Land of Counterpane many times as I thumb through books on poetry, but had not stopped to really read the poem before. As I began the first two lines to myself, I had the distinct feeling I had heard these lines before.

When I was sick and lay abed,
I had two pillows at my head

I stopped and read them again, racking my brain for why their words rang so commonly in my mind. I recited it again and again, trying to remember.
Then suddenly the cadence broke through. I knew where I had heard these lines and some of what follows.
Father Bear.
Reciting it to a sick Little Bear as he lay in his small wooden bed.
I repeated the lines again, this time with Father Bear's distinct bassy voice ringing in my ear.
But what episode?
I knew it in a flash.
Pillow Hill
Of course, because that is what Stevenson called his sick bed in the poem.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill

I was thrilled with my discovery.
My motherhood has been saturated with Little Bear. Although I cannot recall exactly, Little Bear was most likely one of the first dvds ever purchased for Seth in what has became our now burgeoning dvd library. The accompanying music was enjoyable, even after the hundredth time played. The characters are consistent and delightful, the plots engaging without overly moralizing.
And now to know that the creators of the program oft-times took their writing muse from classic poetry is just the icing on the cake.

So when the time came for Seth to read the poem that I had copied onto the white card, I told him, and Laura who was listening in as usual during our Morning Time, to see if they recognized where they had heard these words before. I think I slipped and gave them a hint and said from something on tv, but the unbidden hint didn't help Seth anyway. It was Laura who after hearing the first few lines read exclaimed, "Little Bear!"
But neither of them could remember the episode name, so I showed them where it was in the poem and we had a good little talk about it.

How wonderful it was to have a connection to the poem. It was as if Father Bear had ushered us up to Robert Louis Stevenson and quietly introduced us to him with a friendly how-do-you-do, I have a dear old friend I'd like you to meet.

Connections are so satisfying,  Connections seem to say, I've been here before, let me remember the road I took.  

Karen Glass is emphatic in her book, Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition, "All knowledge is connected."  And lest we doubt her, she continues that "none of us understands the interconnectedness of knowledge until we develop those relationships for ourselves." (p.39)  
And when we do make these connections, we cannot help but feel the delight.

And all my toys beside me lay, 
To keep me happy all the day.

church life for children

I have already mentioned that we have recently begun attending a new church in the city. Aside from enjoying the overall tenor of the Sunday worship time, it is the sermons followed by joining together regularly at the Lord's table for communion that have been a balm to our souls.

And while I am refreshed and invigorated in my spirit with each passing Lord's Day, I feel a bit of foreboding as Shane and I worship with our three children. And that unsettledness stems from concerns about the attentiveness of our children during the sermon, with especial concern for Seth, our oldest.

The church that we were part of since we have lived in this city and where our children were baptized and have spent most of their childhood, has two services every Sunday, morning and evening worship, with sermon lengths consistently passing the 45 minute mark in both services.

I only bring this up to say this, I fear that my children have learned that habit of inattentiveness or to put it more colloquially, the habit of "zoning out". And now, that we are in a new church situation with a new pastor, shorter, yet meatier sermons, my oldest especially appears to be in the habit of zoning out even though the sermons are only around the 30 minute mark and perhaps even less.

Shane and I have been worried about this problem for a long time now, but did not see a way out until this past fall when we left to join this new church plant.

So now I am confronted with the need for new habit training in this area. My options are a combination of the following solutions.
1) pray for maturity for our children in this area
2) remind our children throughout the week the importance of listening and following along during the preaching of God's Word.
3) ask for some narration later on Sunday from each child appropriate for their age and ability
4) ask my oldest to try to write some notes from the sermon (which he sees others around him doing myself included although I have the two younger girls to help my husband with.)
5) be intentional about providing an opportunity for our children, esp. the oldest to interact with our pastor frequently to foster a relationship of friendship and camaraderie
6) continue to listen to and discuss sermons at home when attending service is not possible.

I have reminded myself that because Seth participates by eating the Lord's Supper with us every Lord's Day, he should be motivated to listen carefully to the sermons because he knows what they lead up to, the celebration of communion.

For further reading I recommend the following links:

What Did Charlotte Mason Mean by 'Short Lessons'?

 "One of the things Miss Mason connected to short lessons was the training of the attention. Her thought was that it was better to hold a child’s attention for a short period of time than to give a long lesson and allow the child to build the habit of mentally wandering off in the middle of it. Children trained in these methods build up a habit of attention that can easily handle a 30 or 45 minute lesson when they are older." ~ Brandy, from Afterthoughts

Habit Training, various links can be found on this page about specific areas of habit training

As always, I'm open to suggestions in this area of child-rearing. I'm certainly not the only one who has been concerned about their children's attentiveness during corporate worship.

virtue, the goal of education

"The idea of approaching education-- even that part of education that we consider 'school' -- as a process of developing character and virtue rather than developing the intellect requires a paradigm shift for most of today's educators. We might understand character-training as a task that belongs to parents, or churches, but we tend to separate that kind of teaching from the teaching of school subjects such as math or grammar. The classical educators did not make such a distinction. All areas of education were brought into service for this single goal--to teach children to think and act rightly." p. 19

"We should work to reclaim for ourselves a share in the classical tradition, not because we want to replicate the past, but because our present is in great need of virtuous men and women who understand the relationships that exist in our world and the value of the human soul." p. 116

"The fundamental purpose of ancient education was to create wise and virtuous men. As Christians, we need look no further than Christ himself for our image, and the Bible charges us to model ourselves and our behavior after him, and seek to be more Christ-like." p.125

"The Bible also teaches that wisdom should be shown through action. 'Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.' (James 3:13) It is actually a Biblical principle that  'right thinking' should result also in 'right acting'." p. 127

All quotes taken from  Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition by Karen Glass.

If you were to peer in at what my pencil scribblings have added to the margins while reading this book, you would find various renderings of this idea: By what standard is virtue judged? In different words, how do you decide what is virtuous behavior?
They are rhetorical questions to myself, but I'm making the point in pencil as I read that while we can agree with our neighbors, friends or family that we want our children to grow into upright men and women, we may not agree on what it means to be upright. If I look at people I know in real life, their idea of what is virtuous behavior for their children is very different than mine, especially as their children become young adults.
As followers of Christ, it is His words which inform us as to what the standard is. It is the living, active word of God which tell us who God is and what righteousness and virtue are.
No other standard will do.  Therefore, "the accuracy and amount of knowledge of God matters", to quote from our pastor's recent Sunday sermon.
There is so much more that can be mentioned here, but understanding the reason why we educate our children (and ourselves) is paramount and it is something I had would have liked to have been taught much earlier in life, like say while I was in teacher's college, just to name one instance. But I'm here now and the view is incredible.

Friday, January 16, 2015


I simply cannot capture the soft and oh-so-pretty colors that are in the sky both morning and evening. My camera takes away the creamy, mourning dove shades, the icy pink sherbert hues and just dulls everything into flat colors, like the fizz has gone out. But if you could see it, you would want to paint it, even if your finished canvas missed what your mind saw, you would still be able to enjoy mixing the wet paint, soothed by the quiet pastels. I don't know if I will ever be able to paint, but looking at what others can do gives me hope that perhaps it wouldn't hurt to try.

We took in a performance of this in our local performing arts center, enjoying the music and the acting. I have several fond memories of being shepherded with classmates into a symphony hall to see several orchestral productions and I wanted those memories for my kids as well. The richness of the elaborate hall, the lights and instruments working to create an atmosphere and the actors using every part of themselves to tell the story, all of it coming together, helping to create images and stir the imagination of the soul.  I could have stayed all day. My children became more practical when they learned that we would be eating lunch out, but even those memories aren't too shabby.

The skater gliding around the tin rink was an idea snagged from here. I did not draw my own skater, I simply found her in a winter doodle book and shrank her to fit her rink. A fancy backdrop would have been nice, but stickered snowflakes is what she twirls and dips to. I have more tins left and a few different projects still to try out which I have stashed under my Pinterest Play board.

Laura arranged a tea party and asked us all to come and join her. By the time I took a break from slurping "tea" and crunching carrots and apple slices to go get the camera, the food was gone and the stuffed creatures moved in to eat up the crumbs and crowned frogs.

And then there is Kate. Kate is a people person. Kate loves clothes and accessories. Kate likes to help clean up and put things away. Combine those and you get a stylish little helper who latches onto every household task with zeal and dedication.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

January garden thoughts

My garden celery is almost used up. If you had told me back in early November when I was reluctantly harvesting it stalk by stalk, that I would still be able to use it in January, I would have laughed and told you it would be too far gone by January to use in my cooking. 
It seems too much to ask my garden produce to last through my winter cooking. Summer abundance during winter hibernation. 
It is true that the celery that remains is only suited for cooking, not eating raw. It is too hollow inside to give you a true satisfying crunch. But it is perfectly suitable to flavor my rice dishes, soups, and homemade bone broths. There is something about using the less pretty parts of vegetables to produce something which is both nourishing and needed, that is very fulfilling. It makes me appreciate that growing small amounts of food may be all I can do right now, but using the food wisely is also something I can do all the time.

Speaking of hibernation, I'm trying something new this year, which is hibernating herbs in my coolest and darkest room which is our laundry room in our basement. I simply brought the plants inside, trimmed them way back and carried them downstairs to overwinter. I took the clippings and dried them, giving me fresh dried thyme, oregano, and sage to use this winter.
I am barely watering the plants, just a few sprinkles every couple of weeks and trimming back the almost albino leggy shoots that keep coming,
If the plants survive, I will declare success to my experiment. If they die, I will slink off to my nursery come summer and replace them as I have every other year.
Only my parsley remains in my garden as an apparent perennial, sleeping under the mounds of snow that are piled onto my garden plot with every fresh snow fall.
I also dried all of the celery leaves over the course of a few weeks back in late fall, trays and trays full laid out to dry and gave away several jars to friends and my mom. I use them for flavoring along with the celery, often in a bouquet garni.  Garden gifts are treasures that dirt diggers love to give and receive. Several friends have given me seed packets, gathered with their own dirt digging hands. Lovely treasures. Symbols of friendships and common loves.
And working with garden greens in January is its own gift, a promise of what awaits in spring. New life and new plans.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

resting up

This is my second day of feeling not-so-great. But I feel better than yesterday when after giving the girls each their bath and shower, I couldn't face taking one myself. Lifting them and drying their hair felt like I was lifting heavy weights. So I just changed into fresh pajamas and told myself I would have a bath after supper when Shane would be home to manage the household. Today the symptoms are just a slight sore throat and a thick head, my headache from earlier this morning clearing off thankfully. I have been drinking multiple cups of my peppermint tea and honey, but I did add in a cup of regular Lipton this morning to give my head some caffeine. I'm just puttering around letting the kids play and writing up Seth's assignments for the day including figuring out the fingering on his latest music piece.

 In addition to a new dishwasher, we finally upgraded our living room media storage to something nicer than the too colorful dresser that we had been using for years. This is from the Hemnes line at Ikea and I had been eyeing it up for a while. I really like the Hemnes line which is why we bought the queen bedframe, also in white, sometime last year for our room, meaning our bed no longer rolls on its wheels. It stays where we put it. So modern of us. Anyways back to the media dresser. The space between the two door ways does not allow for the more typical media storage furniture, so this suits the space well. And if we don't need it in the next house for our television, we can finally use it for a real dresser. You know, for clothes and unmentionables.
Our old-school dvd collection is housed in the first two drawers and the girls' dolly stuff resides with pull-ups and diapers in the more accessible and deeper bottom drawer. The drawers slide so easily and are lined with elegant paper straight from the Ikea factory.

The girls have a new, very small kitchen to use for whatever kind of play they want. I added some fresh linens because every kitchen needs pretty hand and dish cloths to work with. The red cloths are made with love from our thoughtful friend Kathleen and hang just nicely on the handle, ready to wipe any small hands or major spill. The other striped hanging linen come from where else, but Ikea. I used three of them last year to make a runner for a table at my parents' fiftieth anniversary party.  I bought three more last week so the girls and I could share them.
Splashes of red apparently are recommended by interior design decorators. I like them because they complete the Scandinavian look that my sister-in-law is sure that I'm striving for. I always laugh and say, it's just because most of our stuff has come from Ikea, I'm not really that clever to design my own Scandinavian look, I have to import it from a catalog or showroom.

The Christmas decorations were put away early this year, but the wintery ones stay. Not because I needed to be reminded that it's winter, but because it helps me remember that winter is beautiful too. It also helps that my seed catalog just arrived in the mail this week.

And this one is because Laura seeing me with the camera, asked for me to take picture of  Little Red Riding Hood hanging out in her kitchen.  I assume she was there to cook something for her granny. Little does she know that her granny has already been taken by the wolf. He is nicely dressed with suspenders, but in the end, his felt teeth were too scary for Laura, so he was left with the granny in his arms in the wire bin at Ikea and a cute tame mouse with a scarf was brought home instead. Possible nightmare-producing material avoided and a delightful cape-wearing girl was welcomed on Christmas day instead. All is well.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Welcoming the New Year (cottage style)

Our good friends from church invited us to come stay with them at their family's cottage to send out the old year and welcome in the new one. We had visited them at the cottage, which is about an hour away, back in August and loved being there with them. This time the wood fire, the outdoor snowy fun and the home cooked feasting made it a wonderful winter get-away.
We are so thankful for friends who are good companions to our children and to Shane and I. It is a gift to share fellowship with the sweet families God has brought into our lives.  Thank you, Kathleen and Jason for sharing your cottage time with us. And thanks for helping take some of the photos!