Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Why I Love Ball

Not many in my circle of friends have their kids in organized sports (and most that do are on my T-Ball team so it is very non-competitive). I have had my kids in fastball for 12 years now. We have had our ups and downs with coaches and team mates and fairness and they whole competition thing and all the other stuff that goes along with a sport like this that is not so positive. Yet we persist. Kaetlyn absolutely loves playing ball. It was my prediction when she threw a carrot across the room while in her high chair. She doesn't buy into hard core competition. She enjoys winning of course if it is because she and her team played well but she doesn't care if she loses, either. Whatever happens, she is usually laughing and happy when she leaves the diamond. And I watch every game I can. For several reasons. Of course I love watching my daughter and I am always amazed by her physical capabilities - her strength and skill. But I also relish the chance to stop what I am doing and just sit outside. No phone to ring, no task to do. Just sit and watch my daughter, chat with people who I have seen on ball diamonds for the last 12 years and be outside.

Sitting in view of this beautiful green hill with cows grazing on the Commonage, watching my amazing daughter do this:
(who despite breaking her ankle last year hasn't hesitated to slide this year... I'm more nervous about it than she is...)

And my younger daughter who has been at these diamonds since she was a toddler and had to wear a bike helmet to protect her from stray foul balls, plays in the cat tails at the edge of the fields with her cousins, trying to catch frogs.

I suppose it is the reason I don't mind so much when she signs up each year and why I am coaching Rhiannon.


I hope pictures really do say 1000 words! Here is our Monday. A warm morning had us painting on the picnic table.

And the chicks got a new house built out of the box they arrived in that took several hours of designing. These chicks are becoming so tame. Here is Mary with her favourite - creatively named 'spot-stripe'. She holds her for hours everyday. Here is that wee chick watching "Fly Away Home" with her. Somehow seems appropriate. Now if she could just get it to stop pooping on the beautiful dress....


In pictures because who has time to write when they are looking after 7 children?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

On the Edge of Insanity, Perhaps

Maybe, just a bit... I have a household right now of 7 children - the size that my brother has all the time. I adore my nieces and nephews. They are such sweet children - so quick to love and trust. Spending time with them is not something I get to do often so I take advantage of any opportunity. And I must say, I wonder how my sister-in-law does it. I don't see how she could possibly get anything else done besides merely surviving! And she has a baby younger than the 3 year old. I loved being a big sister to my 11 siblings (well, okay, lets be honest... most of the time, I did... or at least in retrospect I did...) and I love being an aunt, too. On top of this full household, Rhiannon has had music festival this week. We had violin in Salmon Arm on Monday which meant an entire day from 8:30am to 8:00pm away from home with her in SA. She did very well - coming in first in every category she entered (although in one category - the duet - there was no one else entered but her and her friend, Mika nailed it nonetheless). She was very pleased with her performances and the adjudicator was exceptional in his feedback to the performers. Then Tuesday we were all day in Kelowna for piano. There is no way of telling when you sign up that they would be back to back. Last year they were 2 weeks apart. She was tired in Kelowna, the adjudication was mediocre and she didn't play her best but she still played well and was told that she has a good sound and a good command of the keyboard. So poor Madelaine had to start her holidays babysitting her 3 younger siblings. I paid her well, though so she is very pleased to have some money to spend.

Since then, we have been spending time together. Here is a sleeping angel who is all go-go-go as soon as he is awake. He loves our cats and dog and spends most of his day trying to pick them all up. He still hasn't managed to lift Jodi's 45 lbs up off the floor though...

The highlight so far has probably been the arrival of our spring chicks from Rochester Hatchery via my good friend who collected them for us while we were in Vancouver and loved them for us until the music festivals were over.

Despite the fact that it smells like a chicken coop in my downstairs bathroom, it is where everyone wants to be. Especially Mary, whose arms are just a little too short and has such a hard time reaching chicks. She just picks up one after another and pets them softly in her hands. So gentle.

Gabriel would climb right in there with them but he has such a hard time understanding a light touch... he's just not a light touch kinda guy. To him, loving is a full contact sport... so he only gets to help Auntie hold them. But he just can't help kissing them!

Here's my dinner crew last night as we 'played' restaurant... I think there is a little bit more eating of the grated cheese than there was sprinkling of it...

Oh, and the dog? You noticed that dog isn't Jodi? I did say the edge of insanity, didn't I? That is Aleous. He is visiting for a month while a family friend is in Croatia. He is a favourite of the kids and somehow, he just fits right in...

So... 2 music festivals back-to-back, 4 visiting nieces and nephews under the age of 11, a visiting beagle and 27 new chicks, a 16 year old daughter stuffing a semester course into 2 months with a full and heavy course load at regular school while she also plays ball twice a week and freaks out, a 14 year old son starting fulltime work (construction) which involves me getting up at 5:45am to wake him up and having to drive him to a pick up spot by 6:30 right on the heels of an action packed week in Vancouver... that's about the edge of insanity, don't you think? Oh yes, and I am blogging and it is 12:27am...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fieldtrip in Reflection

Day One:

It was Erin's day off from work to spend with us. We started with 2 hours at the Science Centre.

And then walked through Chinatown and went for lunch.

And after making an obligatory appearance at Erin's work to be introduced and buy some jeans, we had supper at a vegetarian hot spot, The Foundation.

And because we walked to almost all of those places at Erin's breakneck speed, after that, we crashed and were asleep before 9pm. But my heart was filled up. It was so fun to be in Erin's space and to have her with us for the day on our adventure. I was in heaven to have my kids around me, laughing, having fun in the sunshine in beautiful Vancouver.

Day Two:

Still rather exhausted from the first frenetic day, and after hitting the speciality BMX store to buy long planned bike parts, (and it was right beside MEC, so I finally bought myself a cushy seat for my bike) we took the bus to the Museum of Anthropology.

Cedar boxes... somehow it was heartbreaking to see these beautiful and useful boxes here... in a museum and I think of them being taken or bought from the people who made them or used them or who had died of the plagues the white people brought...

Rhiannon was excited to see this carving of the Waasco that we just finished reading about. This is a contemporary carving by Haida artist, Bill Reid. The Waasco is a supernatural monster that has the body of a wolf and the fins of a killer whale and is so huge that it carries a killer whale in his tale, with his front paws and in his mouth.

And here, an eerie mask from the Treasures of the Tsiampsian exhibit which was amazing but not very big. I am so glad we got a chance to see it!

An incredible carving of Bill Reid's illustrating the Haida creation myth (man hatching from a clam shell goaded by Raven, the trickster

Then we took the bus to the Vancouver Art Gallery to meet Laura. Unfortunately the Emily Carr exhibit was closed to change it but the Pictorial one was very interesting and the Tree one was fun, too. Then it was out for dinner for her birthday as we wandered all over downtown looking for the right kind of place. We found it - an all you can eat Japanese place. Very good food! I was stuffed until dinner the next night!

Day Three:

After 2 very busy days, we headed over to my brother, Jordan's house to hang with my nieces, talk homeschooling with their mom and chill. Rhiannon and I managed to squeeze in one more visit to Science World before going.

Here's Sweet Baby Jane in the hat I made her. I got to read her lots of stories and accept lots of toys from her generous hands.

Day Four:

The highlight was the Peter Pan Ballet dress rehearsal that we had tickets to. We took the bus and skytrain downtown.
Here are two gorgeous girls dressed up for the ballet on the skytrain. Although Maria was soooo disappointed when she found out that she was going to have to watch the ballet instead of be IN it! She had her heart set on being Tinkerbell.

Then it was over to grandma and grandpa's house for spaghetti and time to hang with other cousins. Can't you tell these two handsome, tall guys are cousins?!

Day Five:
A slower paced day to hang at the park and spend some time with my brother and to make Maria her hat. Drew got to hang with Grandpa and work on setting up his shop which Andrew said was his favourite part of his trip.

And here is us saying good bye. It was so fun getting to spend time with Jordan and his family and getting a chance to bond with my nieces. And Tracy is the Queen of breakfast! We were really spoiled. We headed for the bus for our trip home. At the bus depot, we met my brother Doug and added four of his (7) kids to our entourage who are here to visit for the next 2 weeks while their parents find a new house and pack up and move. So on to our next adventure - two weeks with Madelaine (10), Caleb (9), Mary (5) and Gabriel (3).

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Saturday, April 12, 2008


We are off tomorrow morning on the 10:05 bus to Vancouver. The impetus behind this trip is two things - great longing for my first born child and the great love I have of the northwest coast.

No really, I know that Vancouver is not the northwest coast unless you are American. It is the Treasures of the Tsiampsian exhibit at the Museum of Anthropology that I want to see. Who are the Tsiampsian, you ask? They are the people of the Skeena, Nass and Kalum River's. The Nisga'a are part of the Tsiampsian. Terrace, where I spent my teenage years (after Cranbrook) is on the Skeena - in fact it is on top of a Tsiampsian settlement that existed for thousands of years before white men came. The landscape and untamed, unsettled wildness of Terrace captured my heart and a part of me has longed to return every since. I am really looking forward to seeing this exhibit being made available to the public for the last time. The land up there is truly mystical and the art of the native people really captures it.

Emily Carr was similarly moved by the land and the people up there which is why I love her work so much. So we are going to see her exhibit being shown at the Vancouver Public Art Gallery. And of course, we will hit China Town, Science World and Rhiannon and I have tickets to see Peter Pan the ballet with my sister-in-law and niece. And I also get to see my brother! And my sister!

I'll be back next Saturday with lots of pictures to show you.

Friday, April 11, 2008


When I was young, my family moved a lot. And I mean a lot. They moved between cities and around the city. I went to 3 different schools in grade one. After that, I generally spent about a year at a school before we moved. When I was 9, we moved to Cranbrook from Prince George and we lived there for 3 years, even in the same house (425 - 21st Ave South). Around the block was a girl my age. I met her right away and we became fast friends. I moved away when I was 12 and I have actually never been back to Cranbrook since.

A couple of days ago on facebook, someone contacted me asking me if I was the Andrea who lived in Cranbrook so long ago. It was her. Allison.

Connecting with her has been like stripping layers of dull paint off of myself to the original vibrant hues. We had an intense friendship. We were so similar in our interests. Even at the age of 10 and 11, we used to play with little plastic animals and dinosaurs, creating elaborate kingdoms. We had invisible pet lions - hers was Elsa and mine was Aslan. We created cities and invented all the families that lived in the cities - drawing them and naming them and writing about them. We spent hours looking through her telescope and my dad's hunting binoculars at the moon and stars. We rode bikes together and gave them names and pretended they were horses (mine was Mary). We laid out in the adjoining fields, setting up traps around gopher holes to try to catch gophers. (we never even saw a gopher but that didn't stop us from trying to catch them - there were gopher holes, after all, so there had to be gophers somewhere!). We walked on St Mary's creek in the winter until each of us fell through the ice. We watched Planet of the Apes and the Six Million Dollar Man together (at her house, we didn't have a TV). We had plans to live together when we left home with many dogs, cats and fish while we went to University.

I found myself in my friendship with her. I had a friend who reflected me to myself for the first time - really reflected me - my whole self. And that is who I have been ever since - that self I discovered with her. And she has always been with me. I live here with my dog and 3 cats (and a husband who is allergic to cats, how did I pull that off?) and 8 chickens. When I look at the moon and stars with my children, I remember her. She was so significant in my life, it is such a treat to find her!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Proactive Parenting

So, I loved those 2 'grounded' days so much that I decided to do it on a regular basis. Not called 'grounding' any more, of course, although, I suppose that is what it does - ground us all. Every first week end of the month is a 'family week end'. No phone, no computer, no sleep overs, no friends. Just us doing things together. I sent out an e-mail reminding everyone and then I made a loooooooong list of possible 'projects' and possible 'activities'. I woke them up at 10:30 and we started breakfast at 11. It was their choice of breakfast so it started with hashbrowns and sausages. Breakfast was a 2 hour affair. We made it together, ate it together and cleaned up together. And during, we discussed what we would like to do together. We decided to paint Kaetlyn's room and make a chicken tractor and to go out for dinner to a Chinese buffet (14 year old bottomless-pit-boy strongly advocated). We made a list of needed supplies and went out to Mills Paint and Home Hardware and picked up primer, paint, 2x2's (why are they called 2x2's when they are really 1.5x1.5?) and screws and came home to get to work. I had a blast. I would love to do that EVERY week end...

You can see here, Kaetlyn's pumpkin room disappearing and my chicken tractor beginning to take form...

So there are those who would say that forcing my kids to do this was bad form. Definitely not 'unschooling'. And I have to admit that I have mostly not found parenting to be a black and white philosophical thing. And in my efforts to meet the needs of my children, it has not always been obvious what to do. I judge whether or not I am headed in the right direction on whether or not they are happy. I dragged them into this week end kicking and screaming (well, not literally but at least they were pretty grouchy Saturday morning...). They had no choice about whether or not to participate. But it seems to me that I saw smiles on their faces; that there was some joking, camaraderie and a sense of accomplishment. Enough that I think I did the right thing and I am looking forward to the first week end in May...

Saturday, April 05, 2008


Find my blog very hard to read right now? That is because I am completely dependent on my very talented, much younger sister for my blog style. She is in the middle of updating my skin. Never fear, it will be readable and looking very cool shortly!