Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dance a Little

Last Wednesday night, I lay in bed with the sense of jumping of the high diving board.  There was no going back, now and I was about to be immersed.  The next day was the dress rehearsal for my fall performance.  What had begun with a line of chairs at one end of the studio when I first began, had become a performance on a stage in front of too many people to fit inside our dance hall.  The Vernon Rec Centre Auditorium was rented.  I'd sold tickets. And I was expecting about 150 people.  Wow.

My Advanced Creative Ballet class dancing in the sunshine.
 In a culture that is increasingly pushing children to aspire to be accomplished athletes/dancers/gymnasts/musicians while they are still of an age to be experimenting and discovering what they like to do - when it is supposed to be recreation, I offer something different.  Too many people want their child to be the next sensation.  I offer dance classes that buck the trend.  Once a week for an hour, they come to an old hall with an excellent hard wood sprung floor - made for dancing.  We spend half an hour on technique and half an hour dancing as they please.  And gratefully, over the years, people who appreciate my approach have found me.
Grand Jete's - every class' favourite exercise
 In the almost 8 years I have been offering this style of creative ballet lessons, I have been blessed and in awe of the young dancers that unfold before me - the natural grace, the creative ideas, the willingness.  I love ballet and it brings me such great pleasure to share that love for an afternoon a week.  
Our performances are like none other that I have ever seen with large segments of improvisation.  We work on it for 6 weeks.  They choose their character and their music and they each create their own dance.  My oldest girls have gotten into doing more structured choreography but they still love the free dance, too.  The performances they come up with are so much better than anything I could have told them to do - any sequence of steps they could have memorized; far better than simple steps awkwardly executed.  There is no awkwardness in their performances.  There is grace and beauty and amazing dancing.  I was showing a video of one of the dances to a girl I am working with.  She watched spellbound and says with a matter-of-fact tone to me, "she's not going to screw up, is she?"

Now my dance classes involve 2 of my daughters.  My youngest in my advanced class and my oldest daughter teaching jazz and tap.  As a mother, I couldn't be more proud.  This was Eryn's third performance with me.  

And this dance performance was a special one.  Our first on a real stage.  They were excited and nervous and it was awesome.
Eryn and I doing introductions
Eryn's Intermediate Jazz class - Rhiannon on the far left.

A passionate young ballet dancer

All the dancers on stage

A young ballet caterpillar getting her rose

At my very first dance performance in the spring of 2005 with a gang of 4 year olds, I started this tradition. As I say, real dancers get roses and so I always hand out a rose to each of my students while saying something about them.  Its how we end our evening.  I was so proud of them all!

Monday, November 26, 2012

In the Service of Rabbits

I spent the day Saturday and Sunday in the service of rabbits.  Yes, when you have this many rabbits (currently 59 lagomorph residents at Dandelion Meadows - many of those are transitory).  And really, when you choose to have animals in your life for whatever reason, whether it is pets for companionship, dogs to guard you or farm animals for their products (eggs, meat, fibre, skins and milk) you are choosing to serve them.  Of course, they serve you, too but sometimes I would be hard pressed to say who serves who more!  Sometimes I feel the sacredness of our arrangements.  Yesterday as Dean and Rhiannon were gone to Penticton and Kelowna with the Youth Symphony Orchestra performances, it was very quiet as I worked by myself cleaning and doing small repairs and moving cages.  I did so with great love for my rabbits and contemplated my service to them.

I had to come to terms to with the fact that my father is no longer really able to help me, despite what he says and my son has moved to a different city.  My husband is not 'handy' so that leaves me.  Last spring there was great talk of all that was going to get built for rabbits.  Consequently I tripled my meat rabbit breeding herd.  However, the promised hutches never materialized and temporary cages were used for far too long.  In the end, I just had to do what had to be done.  My two largest hutches, built for growing out meat rabbits were in dire need of repairs and I had been unable to use them for several months.  I fixed one by myself which took me more than 6 hours just to replace the wire bottom.  The other one Dean helped and it was done in much shorter order.  Although either way it did mean some time lying on my back in what might or might not have been rabbit pee....

In the summer I acquired about 20 wire cages along with feeders and water bottles.  However they need a frame or shed to be mounted on and also to provide shelter from the elements.  These frames have yet to be built...  Yesterday I had a brainwave of how to set up some of them on top of saw horses and an old piece of plywood.  I used trays along the back to protect them from the North wind and another piece of plywood on top and some paper feedbags to fill in the gaps and protect from the weather.  So my 8 unsold young Satin Angora bucks moved into their new high rise.  They had been living in sibling groups for far too long and their wool is matted and gross.  I will clean them up and attempt to sell them one last time before they meet their fate... er meat their fate.... whichever.  I cleaned out the cages they had been inhabiting and re-installed the rabbits who they were intended for.

In the winter, we move the rabbits closer to the house to make the trip with frozen water bottles a little shorter.  They are almost all moved.  One more set of cages to go.  It is a great feeling of satisfaction to have served my rabbits so well!

Here is 2 sides of 'Rabbit Square' or 'Winter Quarters'.  See the rabbit high rise there?
Here is the other side you can't see
If you had an angora for a cagemate, wouldn't you snuggle up to her?

Thursday, November 01, 2012


For many years I have comfortably occupied the position of teacher.  I am a teacher as a mom; I was a teacher at NOEES for 5 years; I have taught many workshops at the Inner World School and I have settled into being a dance teacher. 

It has been awhile since I have experienced the genuine vulnerability of learning from someone else.  Sure I have learned lots through reading and discussion and its one thing to learn a new knit stitch its another to put yourself in a completely foreign environment.

At the IPE, I watched the stock dog trials as I like to do, having a love of Border Collies since my childhood dog, Buck.  Afterward, I went to talk to the handlers as the audience was invited to do and met Lee Lumb.  Lee trains and competes with stock dogs and she teaches people how to work stock with their dogs.  Through a series of e-mails I came to be on her farm with Hugo and Jasmine a few weeks ago.  It was determined that Jasmine was the one worth working with so almost every week since then as found her and I on our way to Lavington. 

My initial understanding was that stock dog training was kind of like obedience training just more complicated.  She would learn some complicated set of instructions and I would learn how to administer them....  Wow, was I wrong.  Basically, Jasmine through the innate senses of her breed already knows exactly what to do.  Its me that has to do all the learning - learning how she responds to the pressure of my body.  Learning how this pressure makes her do different things.  In the 3 lessons we've had, I've learned how to get Jasmine to go out and around the sheep and change directions.  When Lee goes in there, she can get Jasmine to do a whole lot more.

That feeling, the first time I tried to do it and failed spectacularly, was a very vulnerable experience.  Lee is very matter-of-fact and she has a good sense of humour but to realize just how completely clueless I was was something.  It was something compared to how badly I wanted to learn it.  I was reminded just how vulnerable you feel when you are learning something completely new.  And how as an adult, it has been a long time since I was really in that position.  I really, really want to learn this skill.  The idea of having a dog to help me move my sheep appeals to me, especially as my children wander off into the world and my helpers dwindle.  It reminded me of the courage and determination that it takes to learn in a situation like that.  It renews my respect for my students and reminds me of the great trust I hold.

And really, its a very refreshing thing to do.  When was the last time you put yourself in that position?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Changing of the Guard

Yes, things sure are changing around here - inside the house and out.  Renauld who has been my main ram for 4 years has gone to spread his seed at another farm.  He still belongs to me and I'll get him back when he's done in a year or two.  He is actually rather valuable as sheep go.  I accidentally made a fantastic purchase when I was just a newby to Icelandic sheep.  He has amazing wool and lots of it and he makes good meat lambs and he's friendly (if a little overbearing at times... you can ask Dean about that who has been the recipient of a few 'friendly'... er... nudges)  I have traded him (but not for keeps) with a fellow Icelandic Shepherd for this fellow.  Kaetlyn and her family in Iceland have named him Thor.  But you have to say it the Icelandic way which sounds more like Toor with a little breathiness for the 'h' after the T.  See Thor (say it right, now!) there with that little black spot on his knee and that blaze on his nose?  Remind you of anyone?  Yes, me too.  You're thinking Draga, right?  Of course you were because you follow all my sheep with great interest... right?  Anyway, I am hoping for a spotted ewe lamb next year with a black spot on her knee and a blaze like that.  Spotting is a recessive gene so this guy has 2 copies of it and I know Eirina carries one copy and I am hoping that her daughter, Lifa does, too.  All that would give me a good chance at spotted lambs next year.

In the meantime, I am missing my big black ram.  He had a powerful presence and the whole flock seems a little.... lost without him.  He was the man in charge and now they're left with a boy for now...

More changes coming....

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


This song has been going through my head.  There sure have been a lot of changes around here.  Its shocking sometimes when Dean and I talk and consider that in January at the beginning of this year we were all together in Mexico - Eryn and Tyler, Kaetlyn and Nadia and Andrew and Chelle, and Dean, Rhiannon and I.  We had a fantastic time and we really enjoyed being a family there together.  And then just 2 months later, Kaetlyn was home again.  Her and Nadia split up.  And now she is off in Iceland for a year.  Too far to come home for holidays, that's for sure!

And then, shockingly and very abruptly Eryn and Tyler split up just over a year since their wedding and less than a year since their fantastic honeymoon.  Eryn wrote about it here.  By the end of October, if other plans don't happen, she will be moved in here to save money to leave in the spring and then she will be off on her own adventures.

And then on September 16 Andrew moved to Kamloops.  He and Chelle have moved into a basement suite of her grandmother's.   His plans changed several times and then bam he was gone.  I walked by his empty bedroom several times, leaving the door closed like he was still here...  When I finally went in, there were tears in my eyes... my boy...  I looked around at what he left behind - a homeschooling chemistry book, the end of one of my USB sticks he denied using, his desk, his box of memories...  Its good and its time for him to be out on his own and moving on with life's next experiences for him but I miss him.  There is something about having a son.   He was my helper and handyman from the time he was big enough to heft my suitcase which was bigger than him.  His is the biggest hole right now.  The one I am not used to.

And there you have it.  In 6 short months we went from being a family that required a place setting of 12 with lots of family events that everyone was at to suddenly me and Dean and Rhiannon knocking about in this big old farmhouse with too much room.  We could take the leaf out of the table. (except where would I pile all that stuff then, like ripening tomatoes and junk?)

Big changes.  Suddenly I am completely without handymen (Tyler was very handy and built me rabbit cages, fixed rabbit cages and did many other handy things and yes Dean is still here and no, Dean is not handy but he is many other great things).  Suddenly I have a daughter abroad and my son lives in a different city.   Suddenly it is very quiet around here for big stretches of time.  Things are still shifting.  Suddenly I have time to myself.  We'll see where it all ends up.

Friday, September 14, 2012

September 14

Twelve years ago in the year of the dragon our little dragon came into the world, early in the morning.  My how things change
Kaetlyn and Rhiannon 2000
Fourth child and seven years younger than her nearest sibling, she has always been a force to be reckoned with!

Rhiannon and I taken with a very old webcam as we try to capture the difference in our eye colour - her blue, me green.
Benefits of homeschooling: practising violin in your pyjamas...

Dressed for a dance performance.  Beautiful girl.

Always a flair for her own fashion...
New Denver creek walking
Styling... she asked me to take this photo, she was so pleased with her 'look'.
Animal lover with baby Splash
Jumping at the beach with bff Megan

Playing the piano with Splash
Getting too cool....
My bud and travelling companion on the ferry summer 2012

With her Auntie Katherine at her cousin's wedding.  I do think they look alike!
I have been thinking lately about how fast childhood passes - that magical time in our children's lives.  Oh how I miss it!  Not my own, that is but that of my children - the innocence, the love, the creativity and the confidence.  All too soon they are teenagers, full of angst.  I look with longing at the photos of a younger Rhiannon - longing and fond remembrances.  Of course, I love the young woman she is growing into and I hope I can help her hang onto as much of that confidence as possible.  I just love having children in my life and she is the last of my own and it doesn't look like there will be grandchildren in my life anytime soon... 

Today Rhiannon is 12 and we are celebrating twelve years of Rhiannon.  Its going to be a party week!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Homeschooling Journey - Another New Start

Rhiannon has never been to public school so this marks our eighth year of homeschooling together.  It has been quite a journey.  I first homeschooled Eryn for grades 2 - 5 and I went through the whole evolution from doing lots of organized, schooly things at home to being really laid back and just living life but feeling guilty about it - like I was failing her somehow.  However, when she went to school in grade 6, she did just fine and I wished I had spent a lot less time worrying and feeling guilty.  I homeschooled Kaetlyn for kindergarten and grade 1.  I would have loved to homeschool her for longer but circumstances did not permit.  Andrew was my second wave of homeschooling.  I homeschooled him from grade 4 to the end.  By this time I had heard of 'unschooling'.  There are many interpretations of 'unschooling'.  You can google it and get various different takes on it.  Unschooling was good for us in that it took the pressure off and there was a level of trust that children could learn what they needed to learn when they are ready to.  It has faith in natural curiosity.  How each family interprets it is unique.  For us, it meant just living life and following our interests as we were able.

However, towards the end of Andrew's time as a homelearner, I began to see its short comings in preparing him for the life he wants.  And I saw that sometimes children need to be pushed and challenged and I believe that it is my job as a parent to do that.  I saw that sometimes some children can't find that inner motivation to do what they need to do.  One problem I have with most child development models - whether for homeschooling or language development - they assume that all children are the same, have the same needs and unfold in the same way.  They don't.  If I could go back, I would do it differently with Drew.  But alas, you can't go back.  Now its his job to figure it out.  I know he can do it.  And maybe that is just as well.

For the early grades, our life just ticked along with Rhiannon.  She was super motivated to learn to read - obsessive, even.  She could read anything by the end of her kindergarten year - and not because of anything I did - just because she was ready and very, very motivated.  She studied piano and violin and played with friends and it was all good.  Last year, things started to change.  She was bored a lot of the time but didn't seem as able to occupy herself.  Music practise became a daily struggle.  We had lots of goals for the learning year but we did not accomplish what we hoped.  At the end of the year I felt lost and uncertain and very worn out - tired of fighting.  And don't get me wrong:  I would be fine with Rhiannon quitting her piano and/or violin.  She didn't want to quit but she also didn't want to practise.  All in all, I don't really think it was about the practising.  I think her surly and resistant attitude about it reflected a deeper sense of dissatisfaction with her life in general.  She wasted a lot of time.  And I wasted a lot of time trying to get her do the most basic of things.  I was ready to give up the whole homeschooling thing - even though I really believe the school system would not serve her well and I especially eschew highschool.  But I just couldn't do another year like last year.

I pondered it all summer.  And for the summer we took a real and complete break.  I did not make her practise as I have done in the past and we had lots of company and did lots of fun things.  And I pondered what to do and how to do it.  Rhiannon was dead set against going into the public school system and I was reluctant to force her.  More than one friend encouraged me to do just that, though.  And I can understand why they would after all I had to say.  In the end, after lengthy discussions with Rhiannon (and Dean) I came up with a plan.  I had 2 major concerns.  One was that she was not learning and progressing as she was capable of (except in English - in which case she is way beyond her 'grade level').  The second was that it was taking way too much of my time for too little result.  In other words, I was wasting too much time.  We were both sick the first week of school.  (We are registered with SelfDesign as we have been since kindergarten - its a publicly funded Distance Learning program that operates out of Kitselano and Nelson).  So to start off the second week of school, I told her that she need to have breakfast and be finished her rabbit chores by 9am when school would be commencing.

Rhiannon working on her music theory
So now for 2 hours every morning, she studies.  She still has complete control over what she studies - except that she must do some math sometimes.  She has been working through the Khan Academy systematically which is an awesome site and I am so grateful for it! (thank you, Kyle!)  And she is learning how to write a report.  Her first one is about mini rex rabbits.  And we spend sometime working on cleaning and organizing her room - an important part of her learning this year.  Our theme for the year is 'discipline and organization'.  Its amazing to me that even in this short time what a difference this has made in our home.  She is happy.  She is agreeable.  I actually like spending time with her!  She's excited about what she is doing and learning - even the math.  She needed this push from me and she needed me to supply this structure.  She has some goals.  She would like to be ready to take the Creative Writing course at Okanagan College when she is 14.  She would like to be a writer.  And she would like to be working at Math at a grade 7 level.  Now these goals seem achievable.

Splash marvels at the clean window sills and windows from the top of the ladder
What do I do during these 2 hours?  I do housework that I don't mind being interrupted and I am available for anything she needs help with.  Getting some great housecleaning done....  Even Splash is amazed at my clean windows as she perches on the ladder I just vacated for a new view of the kitchen.  That's what we all have, I guess, a new view.

I am not saying that every kid is like this or that every kid would benefit from what we are doing.  But this is working for us.  I've never homeschooled in quite this way before.  It could be said that doing it this way is even counter to my 'go-with-the-flow' personality... but I think that maybe I need some more discipline and organization in my life, too.  Seems that way!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Summer Fun - A Photo Essay

Caleb purposely looking serious - our first summer visitor.  He was here for 3 weeks.  We loved it!

Caleb with the pups.  He's seriously a dog whisperer.  He totally gets how to train  and dominate a dog.  They love him.
Canada Day in Kelowna with Sarah and Kyle watching Redfish.  The obligatory maple leaf tattoo.  It was on for several days

Caleb jumping off the dock at Kal beach

Rhiannon jumping off the dock.  Those people seated there actually asked them to stop jumping there because they were splashing them.... hello?!  This is a dock.  On the lake.  In the summer.
supper at Jade Bay
Bozenka and I on my birthday.  Wonderful way to bring in my 48th year.

Ferry ride to sister fun (for me) and cousin fun (for her)

Sister bum shot from the condo.  I won't post the more deliberate one in which Sarah contorts herself in such a way as to make her entire torso disappear into a thin line balanced above her lower half.  Weird.  How do you do that? 
The top of Mount Washington.  Kindly Amy, Sarah and Katie waited for slow me.

Chairlift down.  Don't ask questions.

Group number 1 arriving at the meet up spot just after the bridge.

Hello!  No, that is not our mother - unless you mean that arm with the green golf shirt.

Supper at Kaloya - going for the after dinner hike around the penninsula
Part of the second wave of guests.  This is Mary and I having a special time.  Easy to please - just take her to Winners and let her try on ladies shoes...  and take pictures of her feet....

You have to admit, these are pretty cute.  Those don't look like no 9 year old feet, either.  Watch out Doug!

When you look at this picture, you must hear Mary saying in her crazy voice "I'm ONE TOUGH COOKIE!!"  Which is what the shirt says.

We did 2 sessions of dance camps.  Eryn and I did the younger one together and she mostly did the older one.  Fun.  For 2 weeks.  Gabe and Mary attended the younger one together along with Adriel and  Mary went to the older one, too.

Mary at the water park.

Wild man Gabe - the other half of our second wave of guests.
Doug, Delanie and some of the rest of their children came to pick up Mary and Gabe.  Here we are first night at Juniper Bay.  Mary and Noah.

Gabe doing the hula...
Mary jumping off the cliffs at Ellison the next day.  Brave girl!

Underwater shots with the camera I got for my birthday.

Josh, who even looks handsome and debonair underwater!

my handsome brother determining that there was no safe way for Noah to jump off the cliffs...

Delanie - back floater extraordinaire.
And then the dogs chewed up my cord for my camera so I can't charge it.  I need a credit card to order a new cord from Olympus so I have to make arrangements with some credit card owning friend.  I just didn't feel like going back to Rhiannon's old Kodak....

After Doug left, we had a couple of days to get ready for New Denver and then it was Abraham August.  We tent camped and then we luxury camped in a gorgeous cabin thanks to Ronni.  Meg came back with us for our third wave of summer guests and spent the rest of the month with us.  There were movies and the water slides and trail rides at O'Keefe and then the Family Reunion in spectacular Golden Ears Park.  And then Ronni was here, too and then there was Alexanders and lots of talking and some kitchen overhauling.

And then Kaetlyn left for Iceland and the IPE started....

It was a good summer.  It was a blur that whizzed by but I am pretty sure it was mostly good.