Thursday, December 29, 2011

"J" is for Josiah

A milk chocolate "J", that is.

Auntie Hedder

Jo has a twinkle in his eye, a particular tone in his voice and special smile reserved only for his very favourite people.  Up until now those favourite people have been his Pop and his Opa.  Now a third person has been added to his "list": Auntie Heather.

Auntie Heather (which often comes out as "Hedder" in Jo's excitement), is the "cool" aunt, the "rough and tumble" aunt, the "stay outdoors long past I'm freezing" aunt, the "best bedtime stories" aunt, the "energizer" aunt, the "zest for life" aunt, and, well, you get the picture.  Auntie Heather and Jo have loads in common.  They are kindred spirits. 

Every morning during Auntie Heather's visit Jo would call her up and ask, "Can you come over to play?"  The answer was always a "Yes".  Jo could barely contain his excitement until she arrived at the door.  It didn't matter what the answer to "What shall we do today?" was.  Jo didn't care as long as he was with his favourite aunt (sorry, other aunts).

Wednesday was a difficult day for Jo.  In the wee hours of the morning Auntie Heather boarded a train to go home.  Jo asked once again for permission to call Auntie Heather to come over, but this time, didn't get the answer he was hoping for.  

Come back for a visit again soon, Auntie Hedder!  We have a little mopey boy today who misses his favourite aunt.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


It's early morning, I'm drinking my first coffee of the day, listening to Christmas music from my favourite Toronto radio station (even though I now love living where we do I still miss some parts of TO).  Mostly, I'm listening for the pitter patter of feet of Sprouts coming down the stairs to see the tree all alit surrounded by presents. 

Oh, there's Jo upstairs shouting, "It's Christmas!".  Gotta go...

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Level 12

"Have you reached twelve yet?" is a recurring question when visiting Pop and Nana.  My father-in-law, my spouse and I have been WELDing off and on over the past few weeks (more here), hoping to defeat the broken tile mess that is level twelve. 

Well, Pop, I finally did it.  After "extracting" five hundred and thirty five words I reached and beat level twelve last night.  A little happy dance accompanied the cascade finale, I'm not ashamed to say.

Finally, a word game victory.  My spouse always trounces me at Scrabble, so allow me to gloat a little, at least until the Scrabble board comes out, which will probably be tonight. 

Update:  3 new levels, apocalypse swap and shake to undo (and more in an app update just today).  Oh boy, here we go again!

Monday, December 19, 2011


Skating on Sunday in a snowstorm.

2011 12 18 Fiona 013

Monday Morning Hallelujah

It seems like a typical weekend morning. Boy Sprout is at the table playing with the latest Lego set. Girl Sprout is dancing around the kitchen to Vivaldi's Winter from The Four Seasons. My spouse is sleeping in. I am downloading a backlog of photos.

Why do these trivial things matter?

It's not a weekend morning, it's a Monday morning. We are on holidays!

Cue Hallelujah Chorus...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hallelujah Chorus

I wish I had thought of this for our school Christmas concert.  I'm all about multi-media (my class is presenting a Fortunately/Unfortunately Christmas story that they wrote and illustrated for the program), but this presentation by a fifth grade Inuit class in Alaska takes the cake.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


The addiction is all my father-in-law's fault.  I shouldn't have listened to his offhand remark, something like, "You love word games, you should try this new app.  It's great!"  Waited for it to go on sale, purchased and installed the app, and now the Sprouts are saying with a grin, "Papa's addicted to his iPad again."  Although in Jo's case it's, "Papa's allergic to his iPad."

In my defense, I have to say that this time of year brings exhaustion.  Teaching is a tough gig, teaching grade sevens and eights (though I love teaching this age of kids) even more so.   It's been four months of pushing the students hard, helping them to develop skills and attitudes to be ready for high school.  Each working day stretches out just a little bit longer (for both my students and I).  It's dark when the family goes to work/school and when we come home. It's now time for a break (five sleeps to go!).
Anyway, point being that all I want to do when I get home from work right now is find a quiet corner and turn off my brain for awhile.

The mindless activity to which I am addicted is an app called W.E.L.D.E.R.  Odd acronym aside, this word game is just what I need to make the adjustment from a noisy, busy classroom to a noisy, busy home (at least until the Sprouts go to sleep).  My spouse now has the app, too, so you can find both of somewhere in the house swapping tiles, trying to get to the elusive level twelve (darn you, broken tiles!).  The Sprouts try to get in on the action, peering over shoulders, with Fi saying things like, "You should do a jump swap with the T, a reverse swap there and then do this and that swap..." (when did my eight year old daughter get smarter than I?).  Jo just says "Swap the J for an R or swap..." (which makes words like RIKTGI or DFBUMSD).

I suppose playing W.E.L.D.E.R is better than playing Angry Birds.  At least I am exercising my brain just a little (and my thumbs).  And, I'm down to one game a day.  I think I'm getting the addiction under control.  Wait, what's that?  Settlers of Catan is now an iPad app?  Hmmm.....

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Finally Finished

The painting project that started in the early summer was finally wrapped up yesterday (in time for Christmas holidays, so pun intended. Ha!).  Though the rest of the interior of the house was painted by the end of the summer, Fi's room was still unfinished.  Painting her room was in part side-tracked by the bathtub insert project, in part because we needed to start prepping for school, and in part because Fi's choice of a wall colour didn't go over so well with her Papa (bubblegum pink!).  So, we put off painting the room until a) Fi picked a more reasonable colour and b) we had some time to paint.  However, it's now December, the holidays are fast approaching and my spouse's sisters are coming up to visit for Christmas.  And when sisters visit, it's time for a major clean-up, let me tell you.

Originally the plan was to take two weekends to paint Fi's room.  The first weekend to prep the room, the second to paint.  But, I thought, what the heck?  Let's get it done now. 

It was like riding a bike.  All the practice from the summer painting came back just like that.  Early morning, move out furniture, take off switch and plug plates, scrape the walls and spackle holes (and there were plenty - I don't know what the previous tenants were like, but sheesh, why all the holes in the walls?).  Mid-afternoon, scrape again, sand the walls, vaccuum the mess, wash the walls, put down green painter's tape on the carpet.  "Papa! Time for supper!"  Eat supper.  After supper, open the can of paint ("Enchantment Blue"), stir well, pour some paint in a small bucket, pick up a paint brush and start edging the whole room, top to bottom.  Finish that, get a roller brush, pour paint into the pan, and roll away.  By 9 PM, all done, including cleanup.  Phew!

Today we moved furniture back in (sans bedframe, which Pop is repairing and Nana is painting white).  Now the whole interior is painted, Christmas tree, decorations and lights are up, and our home feels cosy and inviting (gezillig!).  And my spouse feels reasonable satisfied with how things are, except for the living room rug, the front outside lamp, the kitchen curtains, the lightless garland outdoors, the ...


Dutch Treat And speaking of gezellig (not the best segue, but there you go), I have had this week an intense craving for hagelslag.  Dark chocolate hagelslag on a toasted, buttered English muffin.  Yes, that's right, candy on toast for breakfast (or lunch, or as a midnight snack, for that matter).  My mouth waters just thinking about it.  Yum!  I usually crave hagelslag this time of year, probably because of that other great Dutch treat given out at Christmas: chocolate letters.

What do you crave?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Made Me Smile

While browsing online for Christmas gift ideas I came across the following (not necessarily related to Christmas):

1.  Areaware's Cubebot, sold at Indigo Books:

2. "The Five Best Toys of All Time" by Wired's Geek Dad.

3.  This stop-motion video (more info here):

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Beaver Traps

My students and I had the unique opportunity two days this week to observe a local trapper at work.  Both days we climbed aboard the school bus and drove out to a nearby river.  We clambered down the snowy river banks, and, separated by a distance of a few feet to prevent students from breaking through the ice, walked (slid!) across the ice to a large beaver lodge. 

On Tuesday, the trapper chipped holes in the ice to place a number of different types of traps and snares into the water to catch beavers.  The traps were strategically positioned close to and away from the lodge, along routes that beaver use to travel to and from the lodge under the ice. 

Today, the trapper chipped holes in the ice again, taking careful note of air bubbles frozen in the ice that indicated that an animal was caught in a trap.  During the time we were there, the trapper pulled up a mink, a muskrat and a medium-sized beaver.  The trapper was very patient with the class, answering questions and involving them in the process.  Even though it was -15C outside, the majority of my students were engrossed in learning about traditional ways, especially from a respected member of the community.  And it gives me more opportunities in the classroom for making curriculum connections.  Win, win, all around.

I took pictures today (though not well as it's hard to manage a class and take pics!), but can't show most of them because students' faces are in the photos.  However, here is a sample that gives just a hint of what we experienced and witnessed:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Book Quote

Morris tried to keep the books in some order, but they always mixed themselves up. The tragedies needed to be cheered up and would visit with the comedies. The Encyclopedias, weary of facts would relax with the comic books and fictions. All in all, it was an agreeable jumble.

~The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, By Moonbot Studios

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Big Brother

"Congratulations!", Josiah's JK teacher greeted me warmly.  "Um, thank you?", I replied, wondering for what I was being congratulated. 

"Josiah told the class that he is going to be a big brother." 

My puzzlement slowly changed to amusement.  "Oh, really, he said that, did he?  I'm not sure how that is possible.", I replied with a grin. 

Apparently, another classmate was sharing the news that her baby sister was arriving soon.  Well, Josiah, not to be outdone, announced to the whole class that he was going to be a big brother.  We both had a chuckle at the misunderstanding and went on with our day.

And just to be very clear, no, Josiah is not going to be a big brother.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Video: Toronto Tempo

A good friend of mine sent me a link to this wonderful time lapse photography video below by Ryan Emond (shot with a Nikon D700). There are days when we miss the big city!

I especially love the opening and closing sequences as they remind me of our own TO experiences of riding the subway. I miss being able to take pics like the one below.

2008 05 19 Toronto Island188

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Encouraged by SMARTboard success this week in the classroom, I finally took my school iPad out of its box, charged it, turned it on and fell in love with the thing. In fact, this post is being hesitantly typed on the iPad. Hesitantly, as in, "How the heck do people type like this all the time!?". I need to undo some of my muscle memory, I suppose, to avoid making so many errors (which have been painstakingly corrected for your reading pleasure). Tomorrow teachers will be heading to Ktown for some PD, which includes some welcome iPad and SMARTboard training. I am looking forward to it very much. My Luddite post aside, I enjoy the benefits of technology, especially when it enhances my personal and professional life. While an iPad will not be on my Christmas list just yet (new camera first), it's definitely on my "want" list.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Ok, so I'm not a Luddite after all.  Phew!  The expensive piece of nonfunctioning electronic art (aka the SMARTboard) that was hanging off to the side in my classroom was moved this week to a more central location, hooked up properly and is now fully operational.  It's kind of like a giant iPad.  Kind of.  I had a quick tutorial by the tech guy and experimented with the board after school.   The next day:
  • students took their own attendance by writing a checkmark by their name
  • math drill scores were taken up and averaged and the math lesson utilized the board
  • reading connections were written on screen and made online at a touch of, well, the screen
  • a graphic organizer was filled in on the SMARTboard and the resulting paragraph written beside it on the chalkboard (great use of space!)
  • online multiplication and other math games were played during a rainy indoor recess
Only two days in we have barely begun utilizing the SMARTboard to its fullest potential.  Yet the neat thing is that the SMARTboard in my classroom is already generating out of the box thinking.  Just hours into the first day of using it, a student suggested/asked, "Wouldn't it be cool if when we do our attendance on the board we just email it to the office?"  Yep, it would be.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Book Quote

"Like the need for air, the greatest psychological need of a human being is to be understood and valued."

~The 3rd Alternative:Solving Life's Most Difficult Problems, Stephen R. Covey

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monthly Photo Challenge: Decay

2011 10 09 Decay 017

Yes, I know, my photo challenge pictures have been lacklustre of late (or non-existent). This Thanksgiving weekend I carved out some time (sorry for the pun) to take pictures. The theme of this month's challenge, suggested by SR, was "Decay".  My early entries to the challenge can be found here, slideshow here.  I wanted to get ahead for once (I still have to finish up last month's challenge: "Nourish").

Wordle: Gratitude

Over morning coffee I generated a wordle listing some things for which I'm grateful.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Randomography: The 'Peg

Among other things, our family is nourished by exploration and discovery, rest, relaxation, laughter and play. A recent trip to the 'Peg provided a much needed respite from a hectic school schedule and refreshed the family's spirit and well-being. The full set of randomography can be found here.

For a slideshow of the pictures, click here.

Places we visited:
The Forks
Manitoba Children's Museum
Fort Whyte Alive

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Boat Named Mary Lou

The trait that is the focus right now in writing workshop is ideas.  One of the mini-lessons for developing ideas uses "building blocks" (when, place, name, colour/size) to help students craft detailed sentences that help paint a picture in the reader's mind.  I wrote a simple sentence paragraph on the board which included the sentence, "The boat rocked."  With the students' help new sentences were created that added layers of detail:

The boat rocked.
Last night, the boat rocked.  (when)
Last night on Lake Superior, the boat rocked. (place)
Last night on Lake Superior, the big yellow boat rocked. (size/colour)
Last night on Lake Superior, the big yellow boat named Mary Lou rocked. (name)

I then said, "Hmmm, I seem to recall another boat named Mary Lou.  I wonder where I have heard that before?" I knew the answer, but often, just like a lawyer in a courtroom, teachers know the answer to a question asked.  To my surprise, two of my grade eight students who I taught last year (in a 7/8 split, which I also teach this year) called out, "It's the name of the boat from the book Holes (a novel study last year)."  Hah!  It's small moments like the above that bring joy to a teacher and make teaching worthwhile.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Imagine That

Last week I warmly greeted a colleague before the beginning of the school day.  He responded with, "I am trying to imagine you overweight."  Huh?  Then, realization set in.  Pop (my father-in-law) has been wearing a black Danier leather jacket to school to ward off the cool mornings we have been experiencing lately.  The jacket used to be mine, but it was passed on to Pop before the our family moved north.  Several staff members had complimented Pop on his jacket and he mentioned that it used to be worn by his son-in-law (yours truly).  Worn in my pre-running, overweight (250+ pounds) days.  The colleagues were surprised, and thus the comment above.  I guess I look slimmer than I imagine.  I often still feel like the 250 pound person on the inside, though the comment from the colleague helped me feel this a little less that morning.  It also gave me a much needed impetus to keep running, especially now that the dark and cool mornings make it more difficult to rise early to pull on the running shoes and head out the door.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Afternoon Hike

Yesterday afternoon we trekked out into the bush for some quality time with the Sprouts and Nana and Pop.

Our explorations took us to the beaver dam, the location of which we still have to pinpoint on a map. The dam is quite high, taller than the Sprouts, the resulting lake (with beaver lodge in the distance) just below my eye (and camera) level.

We explored the immediate area a little more, discovering all sorts of interesting things, including deer antlers.

Pop and Jo hammed it up a little.

By the expression on this Sprout's face, this adventure was a success.

2011 09 17 Afternoon Hike 031

Sunday, September 11, 2011

You Have to Know When to Stop

Balance is the new mantra for my spouse and I this school year. It's too easy to spend literally hours working away on a particular mini-lesson, searching for the best resource online for social studies, or discussing until the wee hours of the night the merits of differentiated instruction. 


We have resolved to start letting go of the nitty-gritty details that can so consume our teaching lives.  Instead the time gained from "knowing when to stop" will be spent pursuing hobbies that bring joy, or curling up in book nooks to read, or biking, or hiking, or canoeing, or visiting family, or drawing, or listening to music, or telling jokes, or cooking, or building Lego cities (and tearing them down), or playing soccer, or baking, or stargazing, or watching Star Wars on Blu-ray, or playing the guitar, or singing, or sleeping, or blogging...

Go Ahead, Make My Day

Go Ahead, Make My Day