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  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!


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


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


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:

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