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: