Friday, December 31, 2010

Cafe Press Dot Ca

As my family knows, I like to give gifts. I think I can safely say that giving gifts is one of my love languages. I especially love Christmas when I can not only buy gifts for under the tree, but also co-ordinate stocking stuffers to go with them. This year was no exception. For example, in his stocking, among other things, JK received a "Trucktown" book, a die cast snowplow, and a digger ornament to hang on the tree.

As a family we also like to have an ornament on the tree that suggests a family trait, a favourite hobby or activity, or reflects something that happened during the past year. Many years in the future we will look at all the ornaments on the tree and wonder why the tree is leaning over remember our family's adventures and activities.  This year I found great ornaments at cafepress.ca.  My spouse and the Sprouts each found an ornament in their stocking Christmas morning.  I enjoyed watching their expressions as they opened the envelope and saw what was inside.  Each ornament was proudly hung on the tree alongside the other family ornaments.  Check out the Cafe Press website if you are stuck for a gift!









Thankfulness

My Heart Is Filled
Keith Getty & Stuart Townend

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who bore my pain
Who plumbed the depths of my disgrace
And gave me life again
Who crushed my curse of sinfulness
And clothed me in His light
And wrote His law of righteousness
With power upon my heart

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who walks beside
Who floods my weaknesses and strengths
And causes fear to fly
Whose every promise is enough
For every step I take
Sustaining me with arms of love
And crowning me with grace

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who reigns above;
Whose wisdom is my perfect peace;
Whose every thought is love.
For every day I have on earth
Is given by then King.
So I will give my life, my all,
To love and follow Him.

Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2003 Thankyou Music/MCPS

Family Time

I haven't posted much during the holidays, partly because I wanted to take a break from blogging (hence the video interludes), and partly due to the fact that I wanted to spend a lot of time with the Sprouts and my spouse. I believe that these Christmas/New Year's holidays can be put in the ten best list. Amongst other things, the family:
  • enjoyed a relaxed but joyful Christmas Day
  • played lots inside and out
  • snuggled up on the couch enjoying movies on new technology (you know the Walmart radio commercial where the guy talks about how Boxing Week sales were made for guys and electronics, akin to a bacon wrapped steak? Well, this year that "guy" was me - holy electronics, Batman!)
  • read lots (Fi read the first four Harry Potter books!)
  • built things out of LEGO
  • cooked and ate delish food
  • sang lots, especially kids' music
  • slept lots
A part of me wishes that the holidays would continue on, but I know that time marches on.  In less than a week I will be back in the classrom, refreshed, re-energized and ready to take on six more months of teaching.  What a blessing it has been to have had these two weeks of quality time with my family!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Silly Saturday

Lesson plans for the beginning of the new year are finished. Yay! So, I'm feeling silly today, which means there will be lots of laughter from JK, groans from my spouse, and lots of eye rolling and "Oh, Papa" from FK.



Thursday, December 16, 2010

Slay Ride

Today was Christmas concert day at our school. The day was an abbreviated school day starting at 11:30 AM, with concert at 1 PM, then feast at 2 PM. Because of the schedule, the day ends up being a "reward for good behaviour day", or in other words, a class Christmas party. For the boys in my class, it means bringing XBox systems and numerous controllers, hooking up two TV sets via SystemLink, and then shooting, fighting, maiming and killing bad guys and aliens on distant planets. Four boys gathered around one TV set, four boys the other, the rest all huddled around shouting out instructions and other gamer advice. Strangely enough, the video games ended up tearing down the social hierarchy among the boys. All of them were on the same level, all were equals, laughing, encouraging and working together as a group. I saw video games in a different and positive light today. I realized I need to be less judgemental of what video games "seem" to be doing to kids, and instead focus on how I can use technology in the classroom to engage my students.

The Wexford Carol

When musicians like Alison Krauss and Yo-Yo Ma get together, you know that something amazing is going to happen.  I like the beginning of the video when they joke around about getting the recording right the first time. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Stargirl

Today, as my class quietly worked on Christmas themed activities, I finished reading aloud the novel Stargirl, written by Jerry Spinelli.  I wanted to finish the novel before the holidays in order to start a new read aloud book (The Maestro, by Tim Wynne-Jones) in January that would compliment a novel study of Holes by Louis Sachar that we recently started.  I finished reading the last line of Stargirl and put down the book on my desk.  After a few quiet moments, most of my students lifted their heads to look at me and demanded, "Finish the book!".  I replied, "I did!".

Though I had thought the students had not enjoyed listening to the novel, I was wrong.  While their demeanor suggested an "I don't care" attitude, they actually absorbed the story and wanted to know what happened to the main characters of Leo and Susan (Stargirl).  The story is written in first person from Leo's perspective.  While in grade 10, Leo and Stargirl develop an interesting relationship, become "boyfriend and girlfriend", then sort of "break up" (it's more than that, as the novel is about how one person can change a whole community, but you can read the novel for yourself!).  The ending of the story, set 15 years later, hints at a re-connection of sorts, but that is all.  My students wanted a tidy ending for the story, but it was not to be.  This made them think for a bit, then we had a short discussion about what might have happened next to the main characters.  I'm glad the ending of the novel was not necessarily a "happy" one.  I found the ending to The Maestro to be open-ended, too.  I this hope will lead to a bigger discussion in a couple months time about story endings and how even our own lives do not necessarily have all the loose ends tied up.

I did mention that there is a kind of sequel (side-quel?) to Stargirl, written from the perspective of Stargirl, and some of my students asked me to find a copy to add to our classroom library.  Which, as a teacher, makes me smile inside and think, "Gotcha!".

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Tunes

The Christmas season is one of my favourite times of the year.  Not for gift giving (or receiving), not for decorating, not for cooking, not even for photography, but for the music.  I love listening to Christmas music.  All types and genres of Christmas music, too: classical, jazz, instrumental, choral, country, rock and so on.  This love of all kinds of Christmas music has passed on to the Sprouts.  On Friday FK not only sang along but asked a myriad of questions about the Christmas songs we listened to in the car on the way home from town: who wrote the songs, who sang or performed them and why versions were different.  Today, JK sang a number of songs at the top of his lungs, to the amusement of his parents and the annoyance of his big sister ("It's not Frosty Santa, it's Must Be Santa!"). 

One of the family's favourite performers is the Barenaked Ladies (yes, I said it).  The songs we listen to with the Sprouts are the "kid-friendly" ones, like "La-La-Lemon", "If I Had a Million Dollars", or "Pollywog in a Bog", from their album "Snacktime" (of which "7 8 9" is a personal favourite of JK).  The Barenaked Ladies also have a Christmas album, which has an eclectic mix of Christmas music.  One of my personal favourites is "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings", partly due to the energy of the performance and partly due to the clean transitions of the arrangement.  I put this song on a Christmas compilation CD for the car (which also includes performances by Emmy Lou Harris, Chanticleer, The Canadian Brass, Raffi, Shawn Colvin, Quartette and Paul Brandt).  Below is a version of that song, performed during a concert with the Boston Pops Orchestra (which I have fond memories of watching on PBS with my folks during the holidays as a child). 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

News Travels Fast

A parent of one of my students came by today during school hours to drop off a form for his son. As he handed it to me, he asked, "How is your little boy?" It took me a moment to realize that he was asking about JK (like I have other sons!). I was surprised by the question as I wondered how did he know about JK? (though I shouldn't have wondered, as news travels fast in a small community, especially about "visiting" teachers).  I answered, "He's doing well. We are watching him closely." The parent went on to say, "If there is anything your family needs, let us know."

I almost cried at that point.

(But I didn't - you know how students can be if a teacher cries.  Especially a male teacher.).

I thanked him twice for his offer of help.

There are times when this community frustrates and confounds me greatly, but it certainly knows how to show concern, care and support when needed.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Advent

On the first day of December the family begins its celebration of Advent (though liturgically, Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas). Just before the Sprouts' bedtime, after teeth are brushed and jammies are put on, the whole family curls up on the couch in front of the tastefully decorated Christmas tree. We open up the Advent calendar, which contains twenty-four numbered little booklets that tell the story of the circumstances leading up to Christ's birth. Each night, we take turns reading the booklets, and the Sprouts take a turn hanging the booklet on the tree. We then sing a song of preparation (a short Taize refrain), although, if I recall, we forgot to do that tonight in the haste of getting very tired Sprouts off to bed! Which is a great reminder for me: despite all the hurrying, scurrying and worrying before the Christmas program and feast day at school, I need to slow down and take in deep breaths. I remember planning a couple of evening "Catch Your Breath" worship services during the Advent season while in TO. I appreciated taking the time in the busy-ness of the season to be quiet, so that I could hear the voice of God saying "Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). May I continue to quiet myself to hear His voice during this Advent season, so that I can enjoy celebrating Christ's birth, and have the calm assurance for the future in that the long-expected Christ will come again.

A simple cinquain:

Season
Blue, hopeful
Expecting, longing, yearning
Anxiously awaiting Christ's arrival
Advent

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Family Quote of the Day

"I can't hear what you're saying with all the noise happening in my brain."
- LK to EK after a very, very long day.

(Christmas holidays are only 17 days away! YAAY!)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mushy Monday

Today was one of those days when many little things went wrong no matter how hard you tried to make them right. Days like today make my head hurt. My brains feel like mush. I have lots of work and lesson planning yet to do, but can't seem to find the energy to do it. So, to make myself feel better, it's time for the Muppets! Take it away, Beaker!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Kindle Girls

My spouse and I recently received an early Christmas gift - a Kindle.  You can read more about my spouse's love for the Kindle ereader here.  I'm not surprised at how quickly my spouse took to her Kindle (actually, it was for both of us, but it is already literally named on the ereader as "Emily's Kindle").  She loves books of all kinds, and this love of reading has been passed to our children, the oldest sprout especially.  FK loves, loves, loves to read!  I think she loves reading more than my spouse, which says a lot.  FK was promised a turn at trying out the Kindle, and after reminding her parents numerous times a free version of "Alice in Wonderland" was downloaded for her reading pleasure.  She curled up downstairs for awhile in a chair, reader in hand, clicking pages faster than I typed this sentence.  Because her little brother was bothersome, she left the chair, climbed the stairs and went to her room for "privacy", all the while reading (just so we are clear, she would have done this with an open book as well).  An hour later she finished the book and wondered if another could be downloaded soon.  So, we have another Kindle user in the house.  I wonder how many seven year olds have a Kindle on their Christmas list?  So the boys in the family don't feel left out, I also wonder if I can ask Santa for a 32" Sony Bravia EX500 flat screen that I can "share" with the other sprout?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Snowy Afternoon

The first major snow storm of the season started very early this morning and continues even as I blog.  The wind gusts blow the snow every which way and at times reduce visibility out the window.  School was let out at noon because ice was forming on the roads, with the concern that the bus wouldn't be able to deliver students home at the usual dismissal time.  So we came home early, full of excitement, as the "waiting" for winter weather is now over.  Shovels were dug out of the shed (catch the pun?), as were the sleds.  The tent trailer was moved from the driveway to behind the house (and that's all we will blog about that frustrating experience, although my spouse sees it in a much more humourous light.  Lesson learned.).  After the "work" was done, the family enjoyed some outdoor time playing in the snow with shovels and sleds.  I, being anxious lately about not taking pictures, quickly grabbed my camera and started shooting.  I felt rusty, but used the time outside to practice.  I'm sure that I will have more opportunities this snowy weekend for photography.  I do love watching the Sprouts try to pull each other on the sled, and their giggles, laughter and antics make up for a lackluster day at work.












Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I Am Thankful For...

... a high school teacher who went out of his way, unasked and to no benefit of his own, to create a fish "fossil" for a pre-reading activity for a novel study.

... an elementary school teacher who went out of her way, and to no benefit of her own, to buy sunflower seeds for the same pre-reading activity.

It is people like the above who inspire me to strive to be a better teacher.

Art

The video below is for all my family, friends and colleagues who are artists in some way: musicians, painters, writers, storytellers, teachers, singers, photographers, videographers, sculptors, graphic designers, interior decorators, animaters, authors, fashion designers, pastors, scrapbookers (did I miss any?), ...

Continue to inspire.  Continue to be inspired.  Your voice matters.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Zip (-a-Dee-Doo-Dah)

So my spouse and I finally broke down and subscribed to Zip.ca.  We made the conscious choice a few years ago to cancel our cable television service, and since moving to NW Ontario we decided to not get a satellite TV service.  We did this mostly for savings, but also to stop our keisters from growing too large, and our brains too small.  We do like to watch TV and movies on occasion (especially after a long teaching day), so we have in the past used the local library's DVDs for our viewing pleasure.  However, we have picked over the selection available, and so needed to find another alternative to buying seasons of TV episodes and movies (except for those DVDs that will be watched over and over again, like The Incredibles or Planet Earth).  Because we know that friends of ours enjoy Zip, and because of the cost benefit (versus buying DVDs), we decided to try it out and signed up for a free trial on the weekend.  My spouse and I sat side by side at the kitchen table perusing the selection Zip has, and have already picked out an extensive Wishlist.  I just received an email telling us that our first DVD is on its way.  Woohoo! 

The most amusing part about the whole signing up process was that we had to provide a street number for our home, or we would not be able continue on with the order.  We don't have street numbers where we live (its just general delivery)!  So we had to be creative and make up a street name and provide a house number.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Christmas is Early This Year

Setting: just after 4 PM as the family is exiting the school.  Picture lots of snowflakes falling.  Picture a little sprout running around, trying to catch snowflakes on his tongue, all the while shouting: "It's Christmas, it's Christmas!"
This is the same little sprout who for the past three weeks has been asking to put up the Christmas tree.

Delish


This past weekend we were in Winnipeg as part of FK's birthday celebration.  We spent some time Saturday morning at the Forks Market, where we discovered a wonderful bakery called the Tall Grass Prairie Bread Company.  I highly recommend this bakery as it has very delicious food, especially the Gouda cheese croissants.  We arrived just as one of the bakers was preparing the croissants for baking.  Very fascinating to watch!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Family Quote of the Week

Setting: walking out of the school at 4:30 PM to go home, the sun setting on the horizon

JK says: "Papa, it's dark.  It's time to go to bed now."

Daylight Savings

My favourite time of day to run is early morning (6 AM or earlier).  Yet for the past three weeks I have had to run after school because it has been too dark to run.  There are no streetlights, and the moon and stars don't give enough light to even see my shuffling feet.  But this morning was a blessing thanks to daylight savings time.  I laced up my Sauconies, put on my Nike cap and gloves, and stepped outside.  Though it was dark, the hint of a glow from a rising sun helped point my way down our driveway, up the lane, down the big hill and out into the "wild".  I love running.  It's my alone time, my exercise time, my thinking time, my praying time, my de-stressing time, my admiring the beauty of early morning time, my "get pumped up for the day" time.  Early morning runs help me find focus for the day.  Often I come back into the house looking for paper and pencil to write down thoughts and ideas that have jostled loose during my run.  When I miss a morning run, it impacts my whole day.  In just two weeks I will once again have to run in the early evening (the sun is already setting at 4:30 PM!).  So, for now, I will enjoy thoroughly running at 6 AM, feet pounding the pavement (or gravel), watching the sun peek its head over the horizon.

Friday, November 5, 2010

How Will You Remember?

Today begins Veterans Week, which leads up and into Remembrance Day.  I'm not sure why, but I get very emotional about Remembrance Day.  I haven't served in the armed forces, I don't have any close friends or family serving, and I haven't experienced the horror and tragedy of war.  I think my emotions come from a mixture of patriotism and a sense of pride in my family's history.  I love this country, its grandeur and majesty, its people, its history, its influence on the world stage (yes, I believe that Canada still moves and shakes politically, just ever so subtly), its openness and its freedoms.   I had a grandfather on my mother's side who served valiantly with the Canadian Army in Italy during WWII.  My grandparents on my father's side experienced and overcame the trials and tribulations of German occupation in Holland in the same war.  I hope that I, my spouse and my children will never experience what my grandparents experienced.  I am very grateful for their contribution to providing peace in this broken world.  I will wear my poppy proudly this week and beyond, will probably have tears in my eyes at the school assembly, will spend time with the Sprouts explaining what Remembrance Day is all about, and will pray that Peace will come soon and reign forever.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Seven Year Old Sprout

It's hard to believe that our oldest sprout is already seven. I can still remember vividly Fiona's birth, the emotional roller coaster of having a child put in an isolette, tears streaming down my face. I remember the day she finally came home from the hospital, and how terribly slow I drove home to keep her safe. I remember her first steps, words and gestures like it was yesterday. I remember taking her on subway rides, going with her at least twice a week to the library, exploring the nearby neighbourhoods, reading all the time, playing at the park, singing, talking, drawing, building train tracks, and, well, the list continues.

And time marches (sprints) on...

Today it still amazes me that my spouse and I are the parents to this young girl. How blessed we are to have the privilege of raising such a bright, intelligent, curious person. A person who can read the instructions to a new game in the time it takes me to make a cup of tea, teach me the game, and beat me, too! A person who reads novels in one sitting and reminds me of the Dr. Seuss quote:

"The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn, the more places you'll go."

A person who asks deeper questions than I, writes from the heart and who cares for her immediate and extended family (and close friends) deeply.  A person who loves God, sings His praises, and challenges me to do the same. I hope that as she continues to grow and mature into a young woman that she will enjoy and experience life with the same seven year old spirit she has today.

Happy Birthday, FK!

Pic of FK at two:






 
 
 
 
 
 
Pic of FK at almost seven:
 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Picture Day

Was today a turning point for my grade sevens and eights?  I don't know yet if it was, but for the first time this year my classroom felt like a place of learning.  My grade seven and eight students were motivated, and this was due in part to the excitement generated by my grade eight students as they donned purple gowns for picture day.  For the first time in the school's history (as far as I know), my students will take part in graduation day next June.  In the past, only the senior kindergarten class and high school students celebrated graduation.  I don't know why the grade eight class was left out, but thanks to an idea planted by a high school teacher last year, and a discussion with administration, grade eights at our school will now celebrate a life and education milestone with the school and surrounding community (and I get to be a part of this!).  My grade eights experienced today but a brief glimpse of that future day next June by putting on those graduation gowns (and my grade sevens a glimpse two years down the road).  This day will be added to the list of encouragement that I use to motivate my students to do their best work so that they can succeed in the classroom and in life (along with the motivation that my students won't have me for a third straight year!).

Monday, October 25, 2010

God Moment

Sunday's worship service was a challenge for me (the music was great, though).  During last week's service the pastor encouraged congregants to observe "God moments" during the week, which would then be shared with the rest of the congregation the following Sunday.  As I listened to others' testimonies, I reflected on my past week and tried to think of a God moment, a moment when I felt strongly God's presence working in my life. Well, I could not.  It has been a difficult two months or so (especially with my job), and my faith has felt tested and tried (hence, the blog post "Prayer for the Week").  This coming week was one that was to be the hardest so far, and I was up all night struggling with how I was going to accomplish all that was required of me. 

Well, God made himself quite present today (not that he isn't always present, but I think you understand what I am saying).  A work-related heavy burden was taken away (re: postponed, but gives me more time to complete my tasks), and a prayer answered.

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."

Ephesians 3:14-21

Teamwork

I did some searching online yesterday for videos relating to "cooperation" and "teamwork", which are themes for our School Spotlight this week.  I wanted to kick off each morning this week with a fun video before a time of discussion and journalling.  I discovered some great Sesame Street videos on cooperation, one of which was enjoyed by my class this morning (aren't grade sevens and eights surprising sometimes?).  You have to love Sesame Street - have you seen the True Mud/True Blood spoof yet ("That's not true mud...that's a potato!")? 

At this point in the post, some of you may be wondering if I have lost my sanity.  It's quite possible...

In my webiverse travels, I also came across a non-Sesame Street, yet still humourous, video on teamwork.  Can you name that tune (and bonus points for the composer)?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Prayer for the Week

Please Be My Strength

I've tried to stand my ground
I've tried to understand
but I can't seem to find my way
like water on the sand
or grasping at the wind
I keep on falling short

please be my strength
please be my strength
I don't have anymore
I don't have anymore

I'm looking for a place
that I can plant my faith
one thing I know for sure
I cannot create it
I cannot sustain it
It’s Your love that’s keeping (captured) me

Please be my strength...

at my final breath
I hope that I can say
I've fought the good fight of faith
I pray your glory shines
through this doubting heart of mine
that all would know You

You are my strength
You and You alone
You and You alone
Keep bringing me back home

From the album "Beautiful Things", Gungor

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Canoe Ride

The lake was quite still yesterday, and the sun warm, so after school we gathered up the Sprouts and went for a family canoe ride.  For the Sprouts, it was a time to hang out with Mama and Papa.  For the adults, it was a time to get some fresh air, distance ourselves from the trials and tribulations of the school week, and put things into perspective.  For all of us, it was a time to enjoy the Creator's handiwork.  We paddled around the edge of the lake, exploring beaver, fish and duck habitats.  We glided through brown reeds and canoed past trees holding on to their last few leaves, noting that the season of autumn has been longer than usual  (last year there was snow on the ground), but feeling the chill in the air of Old Man Winter approaching.   Soon we will not be canoeing on the lake, but skating and ice fishing instead.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Little People

I forgot all about the video below but recently re-discovered it while looking for something else for inspiration. I was a stay-at-home dad at the time and this is one of many projects FK and I worked on.  This video was made way back in February 2008 when I was just getting started with DSLR photography (and we were living in TO, which seems a lifetime ago).  As you can see, the exposure changes frame to frame, the focus is a little off and if you look closely, you can see the string that moves the swing.  It was still fun to make, mostly because it was quality time spent with a Sprout.  FK was surprised to watch it the other day (she had forgotten about it, too), and JK now wants to watch it all the time, saying "Again, again!".

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sous-Chef

Setting: Kitchen
Cue background music: "Curious George" Soundtrack (or as JK likes to say: "George Curious")

I heard a voice from the table ask "Can I watch?" as I was putting a knob of butter in the pan.  I said "Sure!", and JK pulled up the stool to stand beside me.  He first wanted to watch the butter melt in the pan, but was soon side-tracked when I started to chop the carrots, cauliflower and broccoli that were to be steamed.  "Oh no, Papa, the butter is all melted and I missed it!"  JK was a little upset, so distraction is in order.  "Here, put these dirty utensils in the sink."  "Ok, Papa." 

Splash!

"All done, Papa".  "Good, now please put these veggies in the steamer."  In go the carrots, which are steamed first (five minutes later the cauliflower, then five more minutes add the broccoli.  Toss with butter, salt and pepper).  "Looks good, Papa!"  Leftover rice goes in the buttered pan, give a stir, then add the garlic and fresh ground pepper (plus some lemon juice, then later a little more butter).  "I like your lemon rice, Papa.  Can I wash these (the tongs)?"  "No, I need those to take out the pork tenderloin (with an olive oil, garlic, pepper, salt and thyme rub, seared in a hot pan, then cooked for 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven.  Let stand for 10 minutes.)."

In walks EK from her afternoon run.  "Mama!  I'm helping Papa cook supper!"  Big grin on my three year old's face as he says it.  Big grin on my face as I hear it.  I love being a Papa.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Big Backyard

Yesterday the family went for a hike and tromped around in the bush as a little Sprout desperately needed some outdoor time and lots of exercise.  We discovered fresh moose tracks (but, alas, no moose), jumped up and down on bouncy moss, climbed rocks, ducked under and clambered over fallen trees, and strayed off the beaten path a bit (but just a bit, ever wary of bears and the like).  I am constantly amazed by how the Sprouts interact with creation.  Our oldest Sprout sees the world with eyes of science, talking about this plant or that habitat, while the littlest Sprout sees the world as his personal jungle gym. 

The picture shows the family taking a moment to look over the forest below us before we turned around to find our way back (we kept the lake in sight so we couldn't get lost).  Soon all of this will be snow covered, and it will be time to dig out the snowshoes.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Helm's Deep

For escapist fare from the trials and tribulations at school this week (some of which you can read here), I've been watching a disc a night of the extended editions of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  By disc a night, I don't mean 4 hours worth - each extended movie is divided into two discs.  Right now I am at the second half of The Two Towers, the battle at Helm's Deep (yes, I have watched these movies a number of times, including the commentaries.  And yes, I am a geek).  If you haven't seen the movies (or read the books), you won't get this reference, but today I felt like Aragorn on the morning of the fifth day looking to the east for Gandalf the Grey.  This week my classroom has been a battlefield, and while I'm not calling my students orcs, their behaviour could have suggested otherwise.  I'm not sure why all the school administration thought it wise to be away at the same time (and I'm sure they will hear about it from staff at our next meeting Tuesday!), but WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?! 

Deep breath. 

No ranting, no ranting, no ranting...

Anyway, after a truly exhausting week, my help came from the east in the form of an announcement that school was to be dismissed today at 12:30PM.  This was welcome news, because I wasn't sure I would be able to literally remain standing by the end of the day.

I just hope that next week doesn't mirror the battle scenes from The Return of the King.  This area of Ontario isn't known for hobbits carrying rings....

Friday, October 1, 2010

Lyrics of the Week: "BusyBusyBusy"

Picture this:  all of us sitting at the kitchen table watching Muppet shorts on YouTube, laughing at the various antics of puppets singing "Bohemian Rhapsody" and the Swedish chef cooking popcorn.  Laughter is definitely the best medicine, especially when administered in heaping spoonfuls by the Muppets.

It all started with a comment by my spouse: "We should play this song for (name not disclosed, but you know who you are as it starts with an "O" and ends with an "a").  The Sprouts were listening to and reading along with Sandra Boynton's "Philadelphia Chickens" this afternoon.  One of the songs is called "BusyBusyBusy", and has these lines in the song:

...we have to hurry to the left,
and then we hurry right
and we're talking every minute
as we hurry day and night
and we have to have our lunches
though we don't have time to chew...


A search for a song video led to another, then another, then another...and finally all of us after dinner huddled together in front of a laptop screen and giggling, with the littlest Sprout saying "Again! Again!"

For our dear teacher friend, we hope you enjoy this poor quality video version of the whole song "BusyBusyBusy":

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Terry Fox

On Thursday our school participates in the nationwide Terry Fox Run for schools.  It has been difficult to help my students understand what Terry Fox went through as he ran a marathon each day (!) from St. John's to Thunder Bay, or why he did what he did.  How can I encourage my students to at least imagine the pain Terry Fox felt each time he stepped out onto the road to begin his 4 AM runs?  What was it like for Terry to run in the rain, sun, heat, cold, with traffic forcing you off the road?  What inner strength did this person have in order to accomplish his dream of raising $1 from every Canadian to give to cancer research?

I don't know if I can.  Even as a runner I can't imagine running a marathon each day, and not for myself, but for others!  All I can tell my students are these words from Terry himself, and live and model them each day, so that they too might be encouraged to possess some inner strength to live their own dreams, and maybe not for themselves, but for others:

"If I died, I would die happy because I was doing what I wanted to do. How many people could say that?"

"How many people do something they really believe in? I just wish people would realize that anything's possible if you try. Dreams are made if people try."

Read some of Terry Fox's journal entries here.

Though five years out of date, watch this inspiring video:

Crackle and Pop

A square peg doesn't go into a round hole.  This is common knowledge, but sometimes one forgets (well I do, anway).  This is especially true when I write.  After publishing my "Snap" post, I was going to show the world how witty I was by writing a post called "Crackle" and another post called "Pop" (drum and cymbal sounds here: ba-dum-bum-tish).

But, alas, my dreams of being put on a pedestal of cleverness were dashed when I (re)discovered that writing continues to be an organic process.  You can't force situations to happen to fit your writing.  It's usually the other way around.  Writing is mostly based on personal experience.  I have yet since the "Snap" post to experience something dealing with crackle (I thought about autumn and crackling leaves under my feet, but no crackling leaves yet, just wet and soggy ones).  And pop, well, I could write about how much liquid sugar my students drink each day, or write about one of the Sprout's grandparents, but if the "Crackle" post isn't written, then the "Pop" post wouldn't make sense.

So, while craving Rice Krispy squares, I write a non-sensical post about writings that might have been.  For more eloquent prose, you are probably better off reading my spouse's blog instead.

Now, where is that cookbook...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Snap

The oldest Sprout was in a great mood this afternoon. "Papa, guess what I can do!" she said excitedly as we sat down at the dinner table for supper (one of my favourite times of the day, and not just for the food). I thought she was going to share a story from her time at school today. FK loves being in grade three and will share even the minutest of details about her day.  An aside: this is a shout out to her teacher: "You are doing a great job! Thanks!"

"Watch this!"

A lick of a finger, quickly dried on pants, then...

SNAP!

"I can snap my fingers!" A wide, toothy grin follows.

FK had been trying unsuccessfully for a while now to snap her fingers. My spouse and I encouraged her to practice, for at some point FK would achieve success. She is tenacious, and though easily frustrated (like her Papa), doesn't give up.

I love that my Sprouts can take joy in accomplishments, big or small.  It is a reminder for me to do the same.

Now onto whistling, riding a bike without training wheels, ...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Responsibility

This past week I was wallowing in self-misery. I was selfish and whiny. I complained a lot about the new schedule and that I had students in all the time at recess and after school for behavioural detentions and incomplete homework. I ranted to my spouse about how I and my students hate the daily "Spotlight", a time when we as a school learn about and discuss positive values (such as responsibility), achieve learning goals and how to be "Champions". As one student put it, the announcements "sound like a commercial".

Then, while I was reading through a student's journal entry about his favourite time of day, I read this:

"...but some of my family has to wait to eat because in my house we only have two chairs."

The next day, students were to write about something that was valuable to them. The idea of the exercise was to think about and write about something that has little worth in terms of money but a lot of value in terms of memories and so on. Even so, I still read a number of entries about Ipods and Xboxes, but had a few students write about photos, quality time, and then this:

"My kookum (grandmother) is valuable to me...because my Mom and Dad keep leaving us...". I don't want to tell you about the rest of what she wrote. It made me cry.

A third student wrote that if she is caught drinking one more time, she will be put in jail. Yet another student was terrified to go home because a care-giver was called about a behavourial issue.

The realization? Responsibility. It's one thing to "talk" about it during Spotlight, it's another to do it. So, enough complaining. Enough selfishness. If we want them to be responsible, students need adults in their life to model responsibility. Though I'm an "outsider", I am one of the few adults in my students' lives for a few hours each day that they can count on. I need to model responsibility. I need to be dependable, accountable for my own actions, do my work everyday in a positive manner, be trustworthy, and keep my head. Most of all, though, I need to continue to provide a safe place for my students to be, where they feel valued and respected.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Song Lyrics: "Put On a Happy Face"












Gray skies are gonna clear up,
Put on a happy face;
Brush off the clouds and cheer up,
Put on a happy face.
Take off the gloomy mask of tragedy,
It's not your style;
You'll look so good that you'll be glad
Ya' decide to smile!
Pick out a pleasant outlook,
Stick out that noble chin;
Wipe off that "full of doubt" look,
Slap on a happy grin!
And spread sunshine all over the place,
Just put on a happy face!
Put on a happy face
Put on a happy face
And if you're feeling cross and bitterish
Don't sit and whine
Think of banana split and licorice
And you'll feel fine
I knew a girl so glooming
She'd never laugh or sing
She wouldn't listen to me
Now she's a mean old thing
So spread sunshine all over the place
Just put on a happy face
So, put on a happy face


Lyrics by Lee Adams from the musical "Bye Bye Birdie". 

Monday, September 13, 2010

I Need To Pee

I'm not going to begin writing a rant about our school's new daily schedule (and on top of that how every non-teaching time like recess is taken up by detentions and incomplete homework), mostly because I don't have the energy and I still have marking to do.  There is one thing, though, that irks me and I need to get it off my chest.

I. Need. To. Pee. 

There.  I said it.  There is no time to pee, or eat, or get prepared for the next lesson, or...

Sigh.

If only I had the sense of humour that Stuart McLean does:

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Shot I Got vs. The Shot I Wanted

Often when I and the family are out and about I come across a scene which would make for an interesting capture, especially with one or more of the Sprouts included.  Today was no exception.  As we were meandering around the waterfront of Kenora, we walked by a construction sign.  Perfect!  JK loves machines and anything to do with construction, so I thought a pic of him by the sign would be a fun capture.  However, JK had other ideas, and no cajoling could convince him of posing for a pic.  Sigh.  But while he was not interested in the big, bright orange sign, he did keep glancing behind me, watching trucks driving through the round-about. As he leaned back into the construction fence, I was able to capture this photo:



The above was a much better portrait, than this (which he finally posed for):


Sometimes in photography you just have to adapt to the moment at hand - you may end up with a better pic than the one for which you planned.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Capturing the Spirit

My previous post reminded me of a picture I captured this summer of JK.  It is my favourite (so far) of my son, as it captures not only a fun moment while camping this past summer, but his spirit of joy, laughter and play. 

A larger pic can be found here.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Picture This

Three images today that stood out, all starring the littlest Sprout:
  1. I went outside this morning to pick up strewn about garbage left by a very large, hungry bear (yet again!).  As I was putting it back in the bin, I heard a voice behind me asking "What are you doing, Papa?"  I turned to find my son wearing nothing but his underwear and two different coloured pair of Crocs on his feet. 
  2. This afternoon, whilst getting a drink of water in the kitchen, I looked out the window to see my son outside stepping off the "Peeing Rock", having finished draining his bladder and trying to pull up his pants. 
  3. Tonight, playing dress-up with his sister, JK comes downstairs wearing just a pair of gold sequin shorts, untidily tucked into his blue underwear.  "Look at me!", he cries.  Back upstairs he goes, then again downstairs wearing just blue underwear and a pair of butterfly wings.
Sorely needed laughter today...more to follow.

Monday, August 30, 2010

In the "Pro" Column

Supper tonight was a delight.  Not because the homemade spaghetti sauce was so delicious (made by yours truly), but because all four of us shared stories of our first day of school.  FK, in her matter of fact way (yet with excitement in her voice), talked about about journalling, art, class rewards, her amazing teacher, her fellow classmates, and, well, you get the idea.  JK, earlier in the day, shyly (yet proudly) showed me his "new" preschool room at the daycare and his artwork hanging on the wall. My spouse and I had great first days, EK deservedly so.  She has a small class this year, and from what I gather, are absolute angels (not really, I think, but after last year's class, PHEW!).  I was fortunate enough to reap the rewards of teaching most of my students last year, so despite some new faces, the routines and procedures that were ingrained last year remained in place, making the first day a joy.  My spouse even remarked that my students had smiles on their faces today. 

Today ended up being organic (thanks to Murphy's Law).  Fearless Leader was unexpectedly away (and now will be for some time due to health issues), there was no morning assembly, and the new lunch lady was alone cooking in the kitchen, with no one serving lunch.  However, though I, the eternal pessimist, used to freak out about such things, today I went with the flow, solved my own problems, changed my schedule to fit the students' needs, had back-up material to fill extra class time, and "volunteered" my class to help serve lunch (which could be a blog post all on it's own - image a class of seventeen grade sevens and eights plating up spaghetti - oh boy!).  Talk about personal and professional growth...

My spouse continues to hint strongly that I need to get my Education degree.  I haven't decided yet, but a day like today goes in the "Pro" column.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Photography Resources

During our family vacation I was asked a few times about how to take better pictures and what resources do I use or recommend. Before you read the starting list below, know two things. First, don't assume the resources will make you a better photographer. You need to get out and shoot lots, everyday if you can, applying the things you learn. Practice, practice, practice! Second, always have your camera with you. Your models (aka family and friends) get used to you having a camera, and in turn, become less self-conscious of having their picture taken. Also, you may miss "the shot". This morning I missed a great shot on my way to work because I was more concerned about my coffee. Sigh.

Books and Magazines:
  1. Go to your local library, sign out and read books and magazines on photography.
  2. Scott Kelby's The Digital Photography Volumes 1-3.
  3. Bryan Peterson's Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera and any other book by Bryan Peterson
  4. Chris Orwig's Visual Poetry.
  5. Practical Photography Magazine. This magazine is from the UK and expensive, but well worth it. It is chock full of information for both beginners and pros. I read mine from cover to cover and often try out ideas and suggestions from the various authors and contributors.
Internet:
  1. Look up videos on photography on YouTube or other video sites. There are great tidbits of info out there, such as found here.
  2. Find photographer websites and blogs where you can read about their photoshoots and how they took their pictures. Look at their pictures for inspiration.
  3. Check out DTown TV (another Scott Kelby resource). Each webisode covers a wide variety of topics for various skill levels.
  4. Subscribe to an email resource. I get an email every week from Digital Photography School that gives me information about cameras, ideas on how to take different types of pictures, how to use various processing programs, and so on. Update: see an example here.

On last tip: find people with whom to shoot. During my vacation I had the pleasure of shooting with a fellow photographer friend one early morning. It's great to spend time with other photographers, share ideas and get new perspectives.

What resources do you recommend? Post them in the comments. Thanks!

Applesauce

Because we shopped in larger urban centres this summer during our 5 week vacation, I forgot how expensive food is where we live. Almost $4 for a jar of applesauce! Sigh. As part of our living more simply this year, and leaving a smaller environmental footprint, it was an impetus to once again make our own applesauce. I use a recipe from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. Besides the largest pot you can get your hands on, you need:

5 pounds apples, preferably a mixture of varieties, washed
Sugar (if necessary)

  1. Cut the apples in half or, if they're very large, in quarters. Don't both to peel or core them. Dump them into a pot with about 1/2 inch of water on the bottom. Cover the pot and turn the heat to medium.
  2. When the water begins to boil, uncover the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally and lowering the heat if the mixture threatens to burn on the bottom, until the apples break down and become mushy, at least 30 minutes (I find it takes longer than this). Let sit until cool enough to handle. Taste the mixture and add sugar if necessary; usually it is not.
  3. Pass the mixture through a food mill, discarding the solids that stay behind. Freeze or refrigerate.

As chef Jamie Oliver says, "Easy, peasy"!

Video: Photography Connects Us to the World

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Triptych




This triptych is from a series of pics I took of the Sprouts in South Baymouth. Click on the picture for a larger version.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mus musculus

So we have a Mus musculus problem (or maybe Peromyscus maniculatus): either house mice or deer mice. We came home a day early (due to rain in Thunder Bay) to find out that we have unwanted guests in our house. What would have been a short unpacking from the trip (due to some clever foresight), ended up being a long afternoon of cleaning and sterilizing the kitchen and other parts of the house. We had intended for tomorrow to be a down day, but it looks like we have to get in the car yet again to go to town to shop for some traps or other such things that will remove our guests. Thank goodness all of our food was packed away in Rubbermaid containers or the problem would have been worse. Ideas on getting rid of mice would be greatly appreciated!

Family Quote of the Week

EK: "You know you are close to home when there are real deer on the front lawns, not fake lawn ornaments."

Friday, July 23, 2010

Already Time To Move On...

This is the second time we have come "south" to visit family and friends. We learned last time that 7 weeks is too long to be away from home, and this time we have learned that 4 weeks is too short. I guess we will have to keep coming back to see what is the "right" length of a trip. Our Sarnia visit was not long enough as time was eaten away by trying to prep the trailer (now labelled the COW by my spouse, meaning Cabin On Wheels). I didn't get the kind of pics I wanted. However, we still had quality time with Opa and Oma (especially the sprouts), both at their house and on day trips.

Some great things about Sarnia and area:

  1. Canatara Park and the waterfront: a great place to run long, hang out at the beach and play with the Sprouts.
  2. On The Front Restaurant: EK and I love this restaurant as it has delish food, excellent service, a great view and an open kitchen so you can see your dinner being prepared. Yum!
  3. Parks: lots of parks for little people to play.
  4. Museums: places to explore, especially for inquisitive 6 year olds, like the Lambton Heritage Museum.
  5. Grandparents: it's where Opa and Oma live!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Machines!

Most of the trip today was enjoyable, with a stop along the way at another falls, lunch at the birthplace of Winnie (said bear inspiring the Winnie-the-Pooh story), and some beach time at Old Woman Bay on Lake Superior. One of the few unenjoyable moments of the trip was when we stopped for construction (one of the two Canadian seasons). However, for JK this meant he was able to see some of his favourite things. Each time orange pylons appeared, or he noticed a person waving a slow/stop sign, JK from the back seat yelled "Machines!" at the top of his lungs.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

On the Road

We are now safely in Thunder Bay (aka "the evil vortex that is Thunder Bay", according to my father-in-law). The kids are in their jammies watching Treehouse TV (a novelty for them), EK is out for a run and I'm, well, enjoying free Wi-Fi. Though the day got off to a slow start (which needed a boost from Tim's: a coffee for me, a French vanilla cap for EK), we have finished the first leg of our journey to southern Ontario to visit family and friends. Because we have driven the route a few times now, we try to find a new place for taking a break from driving, to stretch our legs and eat some food. We stopped today at Raleigh Falls, which the little people loved. We ate a picnic right beside the falls and hiked down a trail a bit. JK threw in many branches to watch them float down the river (his new favourite thing). The stop was a nice break from the tedious drive to Thunder Bay (not one of my favourite drives). I am looking forward to tomorrow, and though we have an early start, I love driving through and enjoying the landscape of Lake Superior country.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Living Prayer

Every time an Alison Krauss song plays we crank up the volume (the Sprouts love singing along with "Down by the River to Pray"). Here's one of our favourites:

Bug

Yesterday, as JK and I were on a walk, I was reminded of a camping trip two years ago in which he wore the same shirt (which is now almost too small). How time flies!

Then:

Now:


Our little man has grown so much in the past two years. He is as curious and physically active as he was two years ago (even more so, at times). He loves to ask questions and give a running commentary on almost anything (unlike two years ago when he hardly spoke at all). Yesterday's walk was all about ashphalt: how it is made, why there are cracks in it and how far it can be thrown.

My dad used to call JK's sister a "praatjesmaker", roughly translated: one who talks a lot or is a gabbler. Little does he know that JK is a praatjesmaker times 2! He'll find out in a few days...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

TV Quote

Yes, I like quotes! This one comes from a TV show The Mentalist that my spouse and I are watching on DVD (as I've mentioned before, we have no cable or satellite). This scene was a LOL moment for both of us:

Patrick: All you need is a basic understanding of the evolutionary psychology of women, rigorously and fearlessly applied. You gotta know what buttons to press.

Teresa: Like we're toasters.

Grace: Like men don't have buttons, too.

Patrick: Men are like toasters. Women... a little more like, uh, accordions. (Theresa and Grace walk away) (To Rigsby) I thought that was a compliment.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Workflow

When it comes to change, I do best when I adjust gradually.  I need time to think things through and then act (not the other way around).  Since I first delved into digital photography, my workflow (the way I “develop” my pictures) has slowly evolved into something that is a little more efficient.  When I first started (with a Panasonic Lumix FZ5), I would copy photos over with the USB cable from the camera, not thinking about organization, file names and so on.  This created a mess quite quickly (which still hasn’t been totally cleaned up).  I then used a Roxio photo program to organize and edit photos, and though not ideal, was cheaper than alternatives. 

Over time, I did lots of research on photo editing programs and finally purchased Photoshop Elements (4?).  This was a huge leap in efficient workflow as I could organize captured photos and edit them in the same program.  At the time, I was shooting JPEG, so I didn’t need anything more complicated than Elements.

Then I invested in a DSLR (Nikon D80).  I shot JPEG for some time before making the leap to RAW format, which, for some reason, scared the pants off me.  It took a lot of practice and experimenting to be comfortable working with RAW files.  At the same time I jumped to shooting RAW, I bought Lightroom 2 (LR2).  Now, you may think that I learned to use LR2 to its fullest potential.  Nope!  I would download my RAW photos into an updated version of Elements first, because I was quite comfortable with the Elements organizer and its ease of use (or so I thought).  Then, I would sort through the photos, deleting the less than desirable.  When photos were tagged and organized, I would click on a photo, open the edit menu and use the “edit in Lightroom” function.  I would wait patiently for LR to open, import the photo into LR, and then begin editing the photo and finally exporting it as a JPEG.  On top of that, to upload photos to Flickr, I would also have a Flickr uploader open, bring the photos into the uploader, and then upload them.  Crazy, right?  And the time wasted, wow.

Well, along comes Lightroom 3 (I upgraded recently) and this year’s summer vacation.  I shoot lots (and I mean, lots) of photos during vacations, and even though I have numerous memory cards, I still fill them all up.  Last summer, I used my dad’s computer to download pictures for part of our vacation so I could re-use memory cards.  This summer, I am using my laptop and LR3.  I finally made the leap to using just one program for organizing and editing photos.  I have been learning how to import photos in LR directly, skipping Elements altogether.  So now I use one program for organizing and editing, without the time wasted on using several different programs for my workflow.  And to top it all off, you can send photos directly to Flickr from LR3.  How cool is that?!  Less time at the computer, more time taking pictures!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Family Quote of the Week

FK: "Papa, how do mustaches grow? Do they grow out of your nose?"

(No, I do not have a mustache. This is one of many questions from our very curious Sprout.)

Canada Day

It's Canada Day, up Canada Way, on the first day of July.
And we're shouting "Hooray!", up Canada Way, when the maple leaf flies high.
Where the silver jets from East to West are streaming through our skies.
We'll be shouting "Hooray!", up Canada Way, when the great parade goes by.


Chorus:
Oh Canada, standing tall together,
We'll raise our hands and hail our flag
The maple leaf forever.


"It's Canada Day, Up Canada Way" by Stompin' Tom Connors
____________________________________________

Last week we spent part of July 1 in Keewatin to celebrate our great nation's birthday. We enjoyed a lively parade, listened to live music, ate tasty treats (including free watermelon!), rode ponies, and did lots of people watching. We felt a little melancholy at first when the day started because past Canada Day celebrations were spent in Sarnia with my folks, but as the day went on our spirits lifted as we became immersed in the festivities.

And, to top off the day, the family tradition started by my folks continued with a trip to Dairy Queen for a post-celebration ice cream treat.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Kite

The following two pics are from the previous week (I am catching up with my photos). After FK decided she was finished flying a kite that she and my spouse made a few years back, JK wanted a turn. I had the wrong lens on for these pics (I was trying to take a pic of an eagle), so use your imagination a bit to put the two pics together:

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Family Quote of the Week

FK: "Papa, I'm making myself some toast! Do I put the peanut butter on first, or the jam?"

Sunday, June 27, 2010

New Favourite Thing

The great thing about a laptop is that it is portable. I love having it on the dining room table so that I can do a Google search for recipes of ingredients I have on hand in the kitchen. Today, I entered curry and cauliflower and came up with a recipe for Cauliflower And Sweet Potato Curry Soup. Luckily, I had a sweet potato on hand, too! The kitchen is filled with the smell of cooked onions, garlic, curry and cinnamon. The soup was delish, and received a thumbs up by 3 out of 4 family members (JK, the fourth member, wasn't interested in the soup, but only because there was cheese on the table).

You Are a Runner When...

a downpour of rain does not stop you from completing a 60 minute run.

Lego Puns

As some of you may know, I am an AFOL. A what? AFOL means Adult Fan of LEGO. Unlike most AFOL's I don't have a huge LEGO collection, but I like building with blocks now as much as I did when I was a kid (it's even better when you have Sprouts who like LEGO, too). I have a quirky sense of humour - I love puns and silly jokes (though after a silly pun my oldest Sprout always says, "Oh, Papa" with a sigh). Combine that with my love of photography, and I can appreciate the sense of humour in the following photograph by Chris McVeigh entitled Facebook:

Facebook

This made me giggle as I sipped my requisite morning coffee.

More of Chris McVeigh's amazing and funny (punny?) work can be found on Flickr here and now on Facebook here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Family Quote of the Week

FK: "I like the sound of the word cake as it's stuck to my mouth."

Three

JK celebrates his third birthday today. Congrats, little man!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Minor Changes

Excuse the changes to the blog as I try to come up with a new template. I've been trying to embed video, and the old blog was too narrow to post video. The new templates are wider (and adjustable), so thank you for your patience as I fiddle with the settings.

Of Books, Seeds and Lesson Plans

Now that things are winding down school-wise, I have spent some time catching up on reading. This means, of course, I can read more than I usually do. My students were often amused by the fact that we don't have a satellite TV connection, so aside from the occasional movie or TV show on DVD, I don't watch much TV. Thus, more time to read!

Anyway, I have caught up on reading the latest mystery/thriller books I enjoy, such as those by Lee Child (did Reacher survive or not?), John Sandford, Andrew Gross, Dana Stabenow (a newly discovered author that my spouse also likes - we fight over who gets to read her latest novel first), C.J. Box, and so on. Needing a change of pace (and genre), I went looking in the teen and juvenile section of the library (research for my classroom) and discovered a series of books by P.W. Catanese. They are called The Books of Umber and I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books of the series (the last comes out in January 2011). I highly recommend them to young and old alike.

What does the above have to do with seeds? Well, there is a small connection between the first book of the series and what is written below, but I can't tell you what it is - you will have to read the book to find out!

So, the seeds. After reading the book the other day, I was reminded of a Globe and Mail article I read a while ago entitled ‘Doomsday’ Seed Bank Growing Strongly . And today, while browsing National Geographic videos, I came across this:



Naturally, this plants a seed (excuse the pun - I couldn't help myself!) for a lesson plan in the next school year. My students loved to talk about all things apocalyptic (the movie 2012 was constantly discussed in class), so hopefully this idea works! I'll have to let the idea germinate over the summer (hah!).

If you are curious, here is a Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svalbard_Global_Seed_Vault.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Rich Man

I look in the mirror, don't see much
Fashion sense a little out of touch
The house is run down as the bills pile up
But I'm a rich man

Breakfast table, morning rush
Sometimes it seems we barely have enough
But if it's true that all you need is love
Then I'm a rich man

When she smiles or they call me Daddy
All the worries of the world just seem to fade away
I'm alive and I know what matters
If this is all I ever have
Well, that's ok
'Cause I'm a rich man

So every morning, and brand new day
With each and every single breath I take
I'm blessed and I'm thankful, yeah I've got it made
Oh, I'm so glad life turned out this way

I've loved, I've been loved, show me someone else
With as much as me

Yeah, I'm a rich, rich man
Yeah, I'm a rich man
Ohh, I'm a rich man
I've got it made
What matters, what matters
I know what matters
Ohh, I'm alive

Paul Brandt, from the album "This Time Around"

Overheard...

From JK's room (at 6 AM): "Are we getting the trailer today? It's at Opa's."

In three weeks, little man!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Proud Papa

I am constantly amazed by my kids. The sprouts continue to grow physically, mentally and emotionally every day, often taking me by surprise by their observations of the people and world around them. Today, I am very proud of our six-year-old girl who has grown this past school year in so many ways. She is a year or more younger than her peers, a grade beyond where she would normally be and, in some aspects, an outsider to this community where we live. Yet, she has learned to hold her own, make friends, influence those around her, maintain a natural curiousity and do very well academically (as her report card attests). Today, she won three achievement awards at the closing ceremony and feast. Normally, I don't brag about my kids (well, maybe a little bit), but today, excuse me for a bit while I put on my proud papa face!