Saturday, 29 November 2008

Looking for X by Deborah Ellis

Hmmmm...this is a weird one. I would have never picked up the book if it hadn't been authored by Deborah Ellis. I wasn't tempted by the blurb on the back of the book, still, it was by Deborah Ellis and it had received a Governor General's award. I guess the GG likes dark, depressing books about people on welfare who end up having to give their autistic kids away. I can't say I totally recommend it. But hey, it was just a Friday night....might as well spend it reading some crazy book.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Bifocal by Deborah Ellis and Eric Walters

When I finished this book I could finally take a breath, and all I could say was, "Wow."

Books like this make me wish I was teaching Junior High English! This would be great to discuss with kids that age.

Some of my favorite parts of the book:

Thing I loved about this book is it gave a good look into what it must be like to be a muslim living in North America after 9/11.

p. 162 Then my father says, "Your grandparents left Afghanistan so that we would not be bothered by war, or chaos, or hatres, or suspicion, so we could live our lives without fear or torture or police brutality, or the kind of craziness that plages most of the people on this planet. Our parents worked hard, and we have worked hard, to give you and your sister a decent life, an ideal life. And both of you, each in your own way, have brought the world's craziness right into our house.

In the story there's an 'assault' of sorts that happens. It's an interesting peek into the thoughts that might go on in someone's mind when these kinds of things happen:

p. 230 Despite it all, I couldn't help but think what it would have been like for him to be in the house when the bombardment started. It would have bene pretty eerie to be sitting there int he dark while your house was assaulted. He wouldn't know who it was exactly, but he had to know it was students from his school. I wondered if his wife was with him or if he had kids or whatever. I didn't like him, but I could picture his face. I tried to block out that picture. I forced myself not to picture him, not to imagine his family.

This is the fourth book by Deborah Ellis that I've read. At the back of this book they have a great quote from her that sums up why I really love her books! Courage!!

p. 277 Courage interests me - when we have it, when we don't, and how we make the decision to be brave or cowardly. We have created a world where most children live in some fort of war, and I write about them to try to do honor ot their strength and courage. I have learned that there is no such thing as 'other people's children.' The world's children are a blessing to all of us. They are also our responsibility.

This makes me think about some of my own goals and about the choices I make. Do I have the courage to do what I ought? Books like this inspire me to do so!

A Morning of Cooking and Baking

I went to a class last week on cooking with milk and with soy's milk. It got me reading about the benefits of okara - the gook that's left after we make soy milk. Normally I was it down the garberator but after the class I decided maybe I'd revisit the uses of okara and see if I couldn't do something with it. I've started putting it on our bread. You can't taste it, and apparently it is a great source of protein. I may never go back to buying bread again. The bread I've been making lately is a huge hit around here! This time I also threw in some oats, sunflower seeds and flax seeds as well.

Whenever I make bread I try to make a different kind of buns. Last week I made the kind that you make in muffin tins with three little balls of dough. This week I thought I'd try subs! I'm excited to try these in the kids lunches. I think they'll really enjoy them. I might even see if I can find a pan like the ones they use at Subway and do this more often.

I was on a roll this morning so I decided to get busy on tonight's dinner. Here's the Shepherd's Pie Simplistic from the Company's Coming recipe book:

I also made some puffed wheat squares for after-school snacks today. I decided to cut up the whole pan and wrap them up individually and put them away. I'm trying to save myself from those narrow long strips I always cut off and nibble on all day long when I make these!
We're having carrots with our Shepherd's Pie tonight so while I was at it I decided to cut up carrots and celery for tomorrow's lunches too. I am trying to always make lunches the night before (well, maybe except for the sandwich if I'm putting sandwiches in that day). It makes our mornings so much better if lunches are made the night before!

Nothing like a morning in the kitchen. I keep contemplating taking on a teaching job again...and after days like this where I'm able to get things done ahead of time so that our evening is a little less chaotic it makes me really wonder if I want to give up this working from home life that I enjoy so much.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Ready For Change

What a wonderful day! Today Allen was ordained a High Priest and set apart as a High Counsellor. His parents came up so that his dad could ordain him. My mom and my sister and her family were all here because they had a craft day at Aunt Colleen's and so they were able to come too. It was wonderful to hear the blessings and promises in his ordination and in his setting apart. He started right in on his calling today with a 6 am meeting in Airdrie, and then ward conference for the other ward in our buildling. He attended their ward's PEC meeting and then just before RS was to start one of the Stake Presidency asked if he'd come attend RS and give a 10 minute talk. Some might balk at something like that, but he's just the man for the job! Later we had everyone over for dinner. Nathan and Becky and their kids were here, along with Allen's parents, my sister, Gaylene, and her family, and my mom. We had baked potatoes with lots of fixings and cabbage salad, and apple crisp for dessert. It was a long and tiring day, but a wonderful one too.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

A Dragon's Christmas

Peirce and I volunteered at their Cookie Cabaret (Jill had a swim meet so she couldn't come along). These are plays especially for 3-5year olds. They're about an hour long and the actors interact with the audience quite a bit. The kids get to sit on the floor right at the edge of the stage. It's quite a lot of fun (although Peirce did tell me he's too old now for some of the action songs they make the kids baby is growing up!)

This day Peirce and I got to work in the concession. They sell cookies, juice, coffee, and popcorn! Peirce LOVED it. He was in charge of scooping popcorn and having it ready for people to buy, and taking the money. He loves loves loves to sort money(perhaps his father's son in that regard?!). We also got to have lunch with the actors that day. They were a really fun group and were very friendly with Peirce. He felt like one of the crew! We're definitely planning to continue.
This play was about a dragon that is stealing all the Christmas food. The brave knights are unable to slay the dragon and tell tales of his big and dangerous it is. Since they're unsuccessful the king decides to send two little boys to get the dragon...and it turns out it's a baby dragon that's just plain hungry! It was really cute.

Jill and Peirce both really enjoy theatre and like to be in plays. I'd like to sign them up for some of their classes - but they're usually on a Saturday and I am not sure we can commit every Saturday for such an extended period of time. Far too many swim meets in our life right now! One of our next adventures will be to be in the pageant at Heritage Park. The kids and I are going to be in it and we're going to be shepherds!! Stay tuned for pictures. :0) We'd invite Allen to come be in it with us - but he might be busy with other things. He was just called to be on the High Council in our stake. And interestingly enough, one of his assignments is the pageant. Not sure what that all entails....but it's sure to be interesting!

Monday, 17 November 2008

Homework Happiness (?!?!!)

Today my comments on a blog I often read were featured as a stand-alone post. It's got me thinking about homework again.

I've never been a big fan of homework - which is kind of funny coming from a teacher. I was shocked into re-thinking homework philosophies back in 1998 when I was teaching at a Charter School. One of the parents in my school was a Deepak Chopra follower and would often talk to me about her beliefs and philosophies. I really grew to appreciate her calm and sensible approach to parenting. I had a number of parents who nagged me for more homework...and she was exactly the opposite. She felt like kids needed time to just be kids and thanked me for less homework. Over the years as I've grown into my role as a parent I've come to realize I agree with many of the ideas she shared with me. And the longer my kids are in school the more critical I seem to become about homework.

Recently Jill's been doing a novel study. Some of the work was done at school but most of it was done at home. I think I need to write a note to the teacher about how much I enjoyed that homework assignment.

One of the things we have both mourned the loss of from our half a year of homeschooling last year was the copious amounts of reading she was able to do. I would guesstimate that on average she read about 100 pages a day while we homeschooled. I really began to realize the value of reading, the learning that comes from reading, and the great experience it was to read together. My approach to Language Arts started to evolve into an approach based entirely on reading separately and together. It was a fantastic experience

Our discussions around homework when it comes home in the duo-tang revolve around nagging. However, that was never the case with the novel study.

We both read the book. At first she was slow to get into the story. I snuck it from her and read it the first week she had it and when she saw me engrossed in it she seemed to catch the spark. In the end I think she loved the book way more than I did as she spent a lot of time telling me why she thought it was great. She said she hasn't read a book that worthwhile since reading the Happy Potter series. :0)

Not only that, we had great discussions about the book and even discussions centered around the booklet she that was assigned. I could tell she was thinking about it often because things would come up when we were eating dinner or driving in the van or while watching Peirce swim or while walking the dog or just before bed (her favorite time to bring up something to talk about!) I even overheard discussions with classmates about the book. She also really loved working on the final project assignment. Truth be told, I think she re-did from scratch it about 3 times because she'd realize there was something missing or want to add a little more detail or challenging questions to her game. I've never seen her go over an assignment so carefully!

If her teacher decided to send a novel study home every month I'd be thrilled! I felt like it was really a rich experience. It would be interesting to see if we couldn't come up with a list of books that related to the curriculum month by month, and have those books assigned as homework. As a matter of fact, I'd even be happy to do some research to help come up with a list like that....just the kind of thing I love!

Friday, 14 November 2008

Crazy Hair Day

It's crazy hair day!

Jill's hair-brained idea....take a crochet hook and pull hair through straws. We stapled the ends to make them stay in. Make it 3 pony tails to make it a little crazier. We had planned to do the whole pony tail in straws - but it was taking a little longer than we thought it would so we threw a few braids in there too.

A little so-called temporary hair color (says it washes out in 8-10 shampoos...but that sure wasn't the case when Jill used the stuff....oh well....we'll cut it out probably before it washes it out) and some gel. The hair color (purple!) is in a lightening bolt shape on the side of the head...and a little spikey-ness on top.
Oh, and he's into painting rocks right now...that one is one of his favorites. :0)

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Al Capone Does My Shirts (Gennifer Choldenko)

This is a book that just got better and better as I read it. It was the book for our parent-child book club...and I really enjoyed it! If you want a good synopsis check out this link.

My favorite line: When you love someone, you have to try things even if they don't make sense to anyone else.

The story is about a family that goes to live on Alcatraz Island because the dad gets a job as a guard. Their life there is quite interesting! There is a boy named Moore and a girl named Natalie. Natalie has autism (although autism didn't have a name back then). During the whole book the family is working towards getting Natalie into a special school....and in the end the brother is a big help in that regard. I love Moose's sarcism throughout the book. He starts off with, "I want to be on Alcatraz like I want poison oak on my private parts."....and only gets better from there.

The author brings up an interesting thing I've never thought about with autism. She quotes Oliver Sacks "We almost always speak of autistic children, never autistic adults, as if such children never grew up, or were somehow mysteriously spirited off the planet." (page 225)

One of my favorite book club discussions was when we read "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime" because two of the women there that night have siblings that are autistic...and the discussion was fascinating. I never thought about what it would be like to be a sibling of an autistic child and both these books have given me a surprising and a beautiful glimpse into what that would be like.

I liked that this book was based on fact. The Author's note at the end of the book gives some really neat insight into what life was like on Alcatraz. I've known a lot of people that have gone to visit Alcatraz and I have never really been that interested....but this book has brought a whole new thinking in that regard!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

In Flanders Fields

Jill's class did an assembly on Friday. There were a number of poems and stories to teach the school about Remembrance Day. They did In Flanders Fields in French and in English. I loved it!

Sir Ken Robinson

I just love this guy! Every time I hear him speak the things he says ring so true in my mind!

He talks about education and has a wonderful refreshing approach to it all. You can read them here and here

I went to a class at BYU's Education Week, oh, about 58 years ago or so, that was on creativity and it was a really curious experience. I have never forgotten the things that were said there - but have always been perplexed by them. The things Sir Ken Robinson talks about build on the things I heard there!

He says:

* In education we spend most of our time trying to stifle or inhibit imagination....not purposely, but systematically
* We are engaged globally in an education revolution, whether we like it or not. Things that we think are certain to happen do not happen in a revolution. Things we think are given are found out to not be true.
* The children starting school now will retire in 2070 and no one has a clue what the world will look like in 2070. We can hardly prepare people for jobs they'll try to secure two years out! Our educations systems are dominated by linear assumptions about what will be relevant to the future - and we don't really know what will be relevant to the future. The one thing we do know is it will not be linear.
* Why do we continually educate children by their 'date of manufacture'?
*He says creativity should be as important in education as literacy and numeracy (and oh man, is he singing my song there!)
*Curriculum, assessment and pedagogy are the three pillars of education. The only way to reform education is through pedagogy though. You only improve schools by improving teaching.

I could listen to this stuff forever!! (I know....I'm weird)

Monday, 10 November 2008


The kids were off school today and we could have had a lesson some time during the day - but we didn't. I had planned to go out with a couple friends tonight so Allen took the kids to eat at the mall (their favorite dining experience) and then got some videos and came home and they all snuggled on the futon together to watch them. When I got back at 9:30 they faked that they were asleep...but the party was clearly still going.

Oh well, gotta have a little fun for FHE sometimes, right??? It still counts if one parent is missing right??? After all, we often do FHE without Allen!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008


At 1:30 am it'll be a year since our little Destiny was silently born. I've felt a little somber all week and have had trouble getting focused or accomplishing much.

I've decided that's okay. This has been a week for remembering, and wishing and crying and wondering.

I sure wish I had been able to get to know that little girl.

In time.......I do believe in time we will.

We love you Destiny.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Freecyle Finds!

Have I ever told you how much I love Freecycle!! I two or three or more things every week that we can get rid of on Freecycle. I'm blessed by cleaning out clutter from my house and other people are blessed that can use the items we don't need. Sometimes I even get stuff! This week I got a book for Jill that she had been asking me to buy! It's a French verb conjugation book. I also got a small dresser for our room that I will use as a bedside table. In time I hope to refinish it.
Lovin it!

Monday, 3 November 2008

FHE: The Law of the Harvest

Today was one of those FHEs when I wonder why we bother.

Allen wasn't home.
Jill and Peirce were obnoxious (they insisted I had read them those stories before and they already knew all this stuff)
...and I was tired and didn't feel like doing it anyway.

But we did it, and I suppose that's a good thing.

We talked about the Law of the Harvest. I read a story and told them I was going to ask at the end what the Law of the Harvest was. Then we each colored a picture with the scripture on it and as we colored we talked about different ways we see the Law of the Harvest in action.

I still think we're all suffering from sugar hangovers.

So Grown Up

Overheard at dinner today:

Jill: I feel so grown up
Peirce: Why?
Jill: Because as we speak I'm doing a load of laundry. And I just cut my muffin without destroying it...AND I know how to do a wheelie on my bike now.
Peirce: That doesn't mean you're grown up. If you were grown up you would be able to cook.
Jill: Ha! I can cook spaghetti and deviled eggs too!
Peirce: Well, you're still not grown up because you have to be 18 to be an adult.
Jill: Whatever. I'm very precocious you know!

A few minutes later Jill witnessed Peirce cutting his muffin and also not destroying it as he did it. She was aghast.

I said: He's precocious too Jill. He must have got that from you.

She was suitably pleased.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Primary Talks

Today Peirce and Jill were both asked to give talks in Primary. Jill wrote her talk all on her own. She wrote one version and then this morning decideds he needed to change it and re-wrote the whole thing. She did a terrific job!

We've discovered that cue cards work well for Peirce. We made cards and he drew pictures on them to remind him of what to say. He stood up there all on his own and did the whole thing!

I felt as though my chest might burst with pride.

In FHE we read a scripture that said that Jesus said we should do our service in secret

So we made cookies and we took them to our neighbors. We rang the doorbell and RAN!

I felt excited!

All the next week we tried to do secret service every day.

Everyone in my family was happy. It was nice.

I have a testimony that service makes you happy.

My Pet Lamb

Today I taught RS and the lesson was one of my favorite topics: Visiting Teaching! I wanted to talk about the doctrine of visiting teaching and started off with the scripture from the last chapter in John

John 21:

15 ¶ So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed
my sheep.
17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

My only experience with sheep was a lamb we had in Lethbridge. His name was Woolley. I remember he would be clipped to the clothes line. We’d play with him until we saw the bus coming around the corner and then we’d take off to the bus. Sometimes we pegged him in the ditch to keep the grass down. He was really cute. But he got really big. He had this big cement pad of a front deck and he’d get up on the deck and butt us off. He got really nasty and mean.

Eventually we ate him.

Poor Woolley. We showed him!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Harriett's Halloween Candy

Today we got to volunteer at Storybook Theatre. It was a lot of fun! We helped patrons find their seats and then we got to watch the play! After the play we had lunch with the actors. It was a really fun experience for us! To see how they organize props, find out what the green room was like, and to chat with the stage manager and lighting director and accompiast and the actors made it all very real and very fun for Jill and Peirce

This is a picture Peirce took of the set. It's one of the houses on the street where they went trick or treating:

This is Peirce with Harriett, the star of the show!

The story was about a girl named Harriet that loves Halloween. She especially loves candy, and there's no way she is going to share that with anyone! Young Theatre-goers will no doubt relate to Harriet's pursuit of all things sugar, while parents will appreciate that Harriet eventually learns friends trump even chocolate. The play was full of all sorts of fun music. We LOVED it!

Do Elephants Mourn?

Apparently they do. I just read in the news today that the baby elephant at the zoo here in Calgary has died. We had a great time at the zoo this summer watching and learning about this little guy.

The article said that, "The four adult elephants, including Malti's mother, Maharani, had the chance to gather around the elephant calf to say a final goodbye." I find it really interesting that the elephants would do that.

Perhaps mourning really is universal.