Tag Archives: family

Not Your Typical Travel Video

My daughter Hayley went to Europe earlier this month with her friend Meaghan and Meaghan’s mother. She had a blast, and most of her souvenirs were in the form of pictures and videos. She definitely put her camera to good use!

Here’s what she’s done with some of the clips she captured on her camera while on holiday. It’s an entry for a YouTube video contest:

She also included several of her friends here at home, plus all the family! Watch carefully, and you’ll see me, my sons Dylan and Sean, and my husband Ward in the video too.

I absolutely blew my shot (I was supposed to do the whole thing while smiling and quickly, too) but she included me anyway. :)

It occurs to me, if everyone did something like this with their holiday videos and pictures, no-one would wince anymore at being invited to “come watch the films we took while on holiday” …

A Magical (Reading and Writing) Turning Point

Today I’m marveling at how rapidly kids change. I swear, sometimes these changes take place overnight, and they can be quite amazing.

Back in March of this year, I set up a GoodReads account for my son Dylan. He was seven at the time (he recently turned eight), and since we’re homeschooling him and books play a very large role in his education, I decided to set up an account specifically to track his reading progress and have a record of the books he’s been reading. I love that I can take a look at the stats and see that, since that first week in March, we’ve read at least 136 books together, either me reading to him, or him reading to me.

In addition to chapter books, we read a ton of picture books, because the vocabulary in picture books can be quite advanced, and they are far more interesting than early readers and chapter books. Dylan likes to draw, and he’s always fascinated by how the artists created the pictures, too.

After we started using the site for a while, it occurred to me I could add another educational element to the whole process by having Dylan review one book a night. So now he “writes” the reviews by dictating them to me; I type in everything word for word (into my iPhone, since we usually do this at night, during our bedtime reading), exactly as he dictates (sometimes he’ll ask me to put in things like question marks and exclamation marks). Eventually, I’m hoping to eliminate the dictation-to-me part.

Up until a few weeks ago, it’s been a little like pulling teeth, or rather, reviews, out of him. I use two prompts to get him going: “This story/book is about …” and “My favorite part is …”

Here’s a sample of one of his earlier reviews:


Piggies in the Kitchen, by Michelle Meadows.

“This story is about pigs in the kitchen. They are making cakes because it’s their mama’s birthday. Mama doesn’t know because no-one told her. It was a surprise. My favorite part was on the back cover. A pig with a slingshot! And he has an egg on the slingshot.”

Fast forward to last month, and you’ll see the tone is pretty much the same:


Geronimo Stilton: The Secret of the Sphinx.

“This book is about Geronimo Stilton. He goes into ancient Egypt because the pirate cats strike again. The pirate cats want to change the Sphinx’s face into a cat. My favorite part was when they finally got home because Trap is so funny about eating cheese.”

And then something happened. Somewhere, something went “click”, and things changed. It was a big change.

We picked up Chalk, by Bill Thomson (a beautifully illustrated wordless picture book) from the library early last week. Here is Dylan’s review of the book:


“This story is about chalk, not just any ordinary chalk, magical chalk. Do you have any of that kind of chalk? Well, this magical chalk, when you draw a picture with that magical chalk, any picture you like, be careful, don’t draw a dinosaur or a dragon, because these pictures come to life. And don’t draw a shark either. Here is why you shouldn’t draw any dangerous creatures. Would you want a dinosaur to bite you? Do you want the dragon to breathe fire at you? And if you want this magical chalk, the only way to get it is DREAM about it. And when you wake up when you go downstairs, pretend that you’re in a new world and adventures.”

(Yes, he asked me to capitalize “dream”. For emphasis, he said.)

It really blew me away. I thought to myself, maybe this is a fluke. After all, a wordless picture book often invites children to put their own words to the pictures.

But I was wrong. It wasn’t a fluke. It turns out, reading and then writing his review of Chalk was a major turning point for Dylan.

Here is his most recent review:


Cool Crazy Crickets to the Rescue, by David Elliott.

“This book is about the Cool Crazy Crickets to the rescue. I’m not talking about the crickets the insects, it’s the Cool Crazy Crickets club. But seriously it’s actually kids running the club and I hope it doesn’t foil your excitement. There’s a one-eyed cat in the book. I don’t know why it only has one eye. The book doesn’t tell you. The clubhouse is made up of cardboard. You think it’s in their house? No way. They can go inside, opening doors, windows, you name it.

My favorite part is Teddy. They have to baby sit for Teddy to earn money. It’s my favorite part because it’s so funny. And there’s one more thing, folks. Guess who Teddy is? Is he a teddy bear? No. Is he a baby? Yes. You should hear him cry.”

I’m not sure how it all happened, but it’s really wonderful. And he actually decided to read more than the chapter a day we’d been doing with the Cool Crazy Crickets to the Rescue book, just so he could write the review!

I think Dylan’s found his “voice” … Yes, it’s an eight-year-old’s voice, but then again, he IS, after all, an eight year old!

Saturday Snapshot: N is for Nostalgia


They were just so adorable back then. And they’ve stayed adorable throughout the years.

This September, both my two older kids will be in university.

It feels a little strange; I often hear people say, “It feels like it was just yesterday” and it seems like such a cliché thing to say.

Yet … it’s true. It really was just yesterday that they were this small, having fun roasting marshmallows, giggling and laughing and screeching as they ran around outside.

And now one is finishing up his first year of university, while the other one is looking forward to starting university life in the fall.

I’m calling this post N is for Nostalgia, but nostalgia isn’t really the right word. I’m not yearning for that past; I’m appreciating that past, deeply.

It’s been a privilege parenting these kids of mine. And quite the learning journey for me.

And I have seen them grow into wonderful adults, and I’m appreciating that too: who they are today, and who they will be in the future.

In the meantime, my youngest is still only seven. I’m still on this parenting journey. And it is still such a privilege.

I’m participating in Saturday Snapshots, run by Alyce at At Home With Books. For more of this week’s Saturday Snapshots, click here.

C is for Catch-up: Daughter, Early Rising and Fun (and that takes care of D, E & F)

If you take a peek at the latest posts by those participating in the A to Z Challenge, you’ll see a lot of “F” posts today. As I mentioned, yes, I am woefully behind.

But Joe gave me some great advice yesterday – he suggested doing a series of small posts to get right back in the game. I liked the sound of that!

C is for Catch-up

And then I thought … well, I’m on C, right? So why not a Catch-up post?

Why not indeed? So here we go!

D is for Daughter

My daughter recently produced, directed and filmed this music video for friends of hers. It looks so professional!

E is for Early Rising

I’ve had a great deal of success setting out intentions in this blog. So I thought I’d try out a new intention. After those crazy months of heavy deadlines just a few months ago, my system really fell out of sync. I was going to bed at 3 and 4 in the morning, and getting up at 10 or 11.

I am a bit of a night owl, but I’ve discovered that when I get an earlier start to my day, not only do I feel more productive – I think I actually AM more productive. (Anyone else feel this way too?)

So I’m going to set an intention here to start getting back into the rhythm of early rising again. Well … earlier rising, I guess I should call it, since to me, that means 8:30 am or thereabouts!

F is for Fun

And finally, I’m back on track for today. And I’m going to cheat a little bit. I really enjoyed writing that little scene that I posted as my “B” post, and I’d like to try doing more of these as I play the A to Z Challenge this month. The only thing is, I now know that it’s easiest for me to pull out my writing prompts and let my subconscious work on things, and for that, I need time.

So I’m going to try just pulling out new prompt cards at the end of each day’s post, to prepare me for the following day.

And since I had such fun writing from the prompts yesterday, I think drawing my prompt cards right now should qualify as fun!

So here are the prompt cards and the one archetype card I’m going to be using in my next A to Z Challenge post (G is for …), which I will be posting on Monday (I’m taking a hiatus from A to Z posts on the weekends).

The prompts:

1. yelling for help

2. dirty

3. magazine

(Yes, this was the order in which I pulled the cards … )

From the archetype deck:

Implies the unknown: ignorance or desperation; evil

I’m getting the same “You’ve got to be kidding me!” reaction I felt when I drew the last set of prompt and archetype cards.

This will be interesting …

Thanksgiving Feast!

This year my sister Dawn hosted Thanksgiving dinner; yesterday, we went downtown to her place, armed with our own contributions to the feast (all courtesy of my husband Ward, since, as most of you know, I’m not the cook around here).

This year, with both my husband and my daughter going vegan, the Thanksgiving table was a little bit different. (No Tofurkey, though: one thing that happens when you get a vegan who really likes to cook is that you don’t see a lot of store-bought, processed vegan food on the table.)

Ward made pumpkin-sage soup, vegan dressing, and two versions of spiced-rum pumpkin pie (one vegan, one non-vegan). He’d prepared the regular spiced-rum pumpkin pie (plus a Scotch pumpkin pie) for last year’s Thanksgiving feast, and everyone had loved it, so he thought he’d make it again, plus experiment with a vegan version. He also roasted all the pumpkin seeds that were the side effect of preparing the pumpkin-sage soup.

My sister did her part by making most of the side dishes she prepared vegan, with the exception of the collard greens and the baby potatoes. She absolutely adores collard greens with bacon, so she made a vegan version, and a non-vegan version. The baby potatoes were also done in two versions – one with, and the other without, parmesan cheese. She also made an additional vegan gravy (mushroom), which was just spectacular on the two types of dressing.

The buffet table was set up with two sections. Here’s the meat section – we had ham, and roasted Mennonite chicken (Dawn took a poll and discovered what we all kind of knew anyway; we are all far more fond of chicken than we are turkey). One of the dressings (the non-vegan one) is at the front of the picture (all taken on my iPhone, by the way, so please forgive the quality). You can see the regular baby potatoes in the upper left corner.

Thanksgiving feast

The meat side of our feast

And here’s the vegan end of the buffet table (not that the rest of us non-vegans avoided this end – it just made it easier for Ward and Hayley to get their food without constantly having to ask, “is this vegan?”). Dawn made the most delicious mashed sweet potato and coconut (yes! coconut!) dish; Ward’s going to give it a try at home, because we all loved it so much. Ward’s vegan cranberry and chestnut dressing is on the right hand side of the picture; it was very delicious with the mushroom gravy.

Vegan feast

The vegan side of our feast

And, because I can’t resist (I’m getting hungry all over again), here are shots of some of the individual dishes (ie the shots that turned out okay enough to post):

Roasted pumpkin seeds

Yummy roasted pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin-sage soup

Pumpkin-Sage Soup

Chicken gravy

Chicken gravy on the stove top

Mushroom gravy

Mushroom gravy on the buffet table

Roasted Mennonite chicken

Roasted Mennonite chicken

(If you’re interested in the vegan recipes, I’m pretty sure Ward will be posting them on his blog in the near future, so you can keep checking there; he loves all your comments, by the way.)

It was such a great Thanksgiving dinner. My mom and my Uncle Joe also came, and my cousin Casey and his girlfriend Osana. And we had all the kids there; our three, Sean, Hayley and Dylan, and Dawn’s two, Julian and Cole. After dinner (I had two heaping plates and was so stuffed I could barely move), we watched the first two episodes of Outsourced, my sister’s latest television “find”, and ate pumpkin pie (with fresh whipped cream for most of us) with tea.

Absolutely lovely, and I was filled with such appreciation for this holiday; it’s nice to have a day set aside to officially give thanks for all that we have.

Happy Thanksgiving, Canada!

All Grown Up

Yesterday we moved my son into residence (dorms) at the university he’s attending. I handled it quite well, really – no crying, just a lot of sighing.

During the drive there, I kept thinking about walking him into his classroom on his first day of grade one.

It feels like such a short time ago. And now, here he is, on campus, focusing on getting a degree over the next four years.

It’s Frosh Week this week, so he’ll be pretty busy; he was a little worried about making friends, but when we talked last night, he was having fun and had already met quite a few people.

As for me, well, I am so glad we live in a cell phone age. NOT that I’ve been doing this, but it’s just comforting to know that I can text him during the day if I wanted to.

Well, okay, I haven’t been texting him mainly because my daughter has been stopping me each time I start tapping on those keys …

It sounds so trite, but where did the time go? I remember my darling little boy, nervous about the first day of school. And here he is now, a man, way taller than me, nervous, yes, about his first year of university, but excited, too, about starting this new phase of his life.

When it comes right down to it, that’s what I’m feeling too: nervous and excited for him.

And yes, a little bit sad. But it’s a good sad, if you know what I mean.

Living with Teens

It’s a weird sort of phenomenon. I co-exist comfortably, easily and happily with our two teenagers in this lovely household of ours. My husband also co-exists with our two teenagers in this lovely household, just not always as comfortably or as easily as I do (although he swears up and down that he is quite happy with them – and we all do believe him, except maybe when he’s muttering about towels and dishes under his breath).

So I got to pondering why there is this difference between my life with our two teenagers and his life with our two teenagers.

It didn’t take long before I figured it out. To put it simply:

“It doesn’t drive me nuts that …”

You see, it doesn’t drive me nuts that:

They go through clean towels like crazy. Personally, I see my kids’ point – I like to re-use towels but only a couple of times. And when it comes right down to it, towels are so simple to wash and put away.

Whenever I hear my husband muttering “Another new towel!”, I can never resist pointing out that at least they’ve placed the old towels in the laundry hamper, rather than leaving them on the floor, or draped over the bathtub, or spreading mildew among their dirty clothes scattered on their bedroom floor.

They hoard dishes and water bottles in their rooms and at their computers. If I see an excess of dishes and water bottles in the office, I just gather them up and take them to the kitchen – I pass by their desks on my way out of the room anyway.

And, as long as they’re not doing anything illegal or bringing in mice and/or bugs, I figure their rooms are their space to do with as they please. Sooner or later, they get tired of the mess and clean it up. Yes, that does happen.

My advice? “Just don’t look in their rooms, honey.” That’s why they have doors. And they very cooperatively keep those doors shut most of the time.

My closet is constantly raided. I am the same size as my daughter and most of her friends. Over the past few years, I’ve gotten over any sense of surprise when the door opens and one of my daughter’s friends comes into the room wearing one of my tops.

In fact, now that several of them have part-time jobs and seem to have upgraded their wardrobes, it’s been quite lovely, because I never know what might end up in my laundry somehow, and yes, I harbor no guilt about wearing anything I see that catches my fancy.

Not to mention, they all, very fortunately, have larger feet than I do. So my precious shoes are safe.

The occasional impromptu ramen party takes place in our kitchen. It happens. And when four to eight teenage girls descend on the kitchen to make themselves bowls of ramen, well, you’re going to find ramen noodle wrappers and used soup base packages all over the place, right?

It takes just minutes for me to toss the packaging into the garbage. I’m just happy that they’re having fun here, at our house, rather than somewhere else. It’s always nice when my kids are home.

They play video games or are on the Internet all night long. Well, it’s tough for me to get riled up about this one, isn’t it? Especially since I’m sitting there on my computer next to them the whole time, and if I have any spare time on my hands, I’m playing The Sims 3 …

On the odd occasion when I do find myself getting upset over something teenager-ish (like when I can’t find ANY of my jeans), I find it fairly easy to switch thoughts in mid-gear (plus, they usually leave my skirts alone). On such occasions I usually remember things like:

  • they (almost) always call to let me know where they are, and when they’ll be home.
  • they hate asking me for money or asking me to buy them anything. (I can’t quite figure this out because I’ve always spoiled them rotten, and you know what people say about spoiling your kids rotten).
  • I don’t embarrass them (much).
  • they often sit next to me on the couch and help me out with whatever iPhone game I’m playing (especially if I’m playing Bejewelled or Suduko).
  • if I’m lying on the sofa with a head cold or some such thing, one or the other of them will walk by, pat my head, and say, “Poor mom”.
  • they think I’m a techno-wiz when it comes to the computer and social networking (not so much when it comes to working the DVD controls).
  • we have so many lovely, grown-up conversations, and they talk to me about all the things I want them to be able to talk to me about: sex, friends, school, plans for the future, women’s rights, gay rights, human rights – the list is endless.
  • it gives them both such delight that they are taller than I am.
  • spending family nights together on the weekends watching Bones on DVD.
  • getting the occasional surprise hug from one of them – and almost always, it’s out of the blue.

Most of all, any aggravation I have fades when I look at them and remember that they’ll both be off leading their own lives within the next few years.

And I’ve promised myself I will only cry about it when they’re not looking.

Life at the Border, by Joy Wong

joywong I’ve been thinking today how much my sister Joy would have loved her birthday this year: 09/09/09.

She was a poet and an artist; she was young and beautiful, and once you met her, you never forgot her. She loved babies and children, and men were always falling in love with her.

She was my baby sister, yet she taught me so much. I learned to let go, to stop trying to control everything, to lessen my resistance. And when she left her life here, I learned that the essence of who we are is eternal.

In honour of her birthday, I’d like to share one of her poems.

Life at the Border

Hatred eats away at the soul
Leaving a dark and infinite hole
Enveloped by our fears
We seek solace in our pain
Attempts to heal are futile
So we rise and fall in vain
We find comfort in the blade
Though the past will never fade
Arms like battlefields, hidden in shame
No rhyme, no reason, still no one to blame
Questions go unanswered, as problems go unsolved
Cries in silence, hidden fears
Of never being loved.

– Joy Wong, March, 2003

[TSS] More Beach Reads, Movies and Writing (Not Really)

CIMG2225Not very original, I know, but I can’t believe how this week has just flown by. I seem to be caught up in a routine of eating, drinking, reading and relaxing, not necessarily in that order.

My husband is on his way back from the fish market right now, with fresh lobster and deep fried clams, and I finally managed to snatch my netbook out of the hands of my daughter, so the time feels perfect for blogging.

This Week’s Reads

The Blue CastleAfter finishing The Strain, by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, on my first full day here in Nova Scotia, I decided the atmosphere was perfect for some L.M. Montgomery – we aren’t that far away from P.E,I., and the sand beach near us has red sand in it, which reminded me of the Island. I have almost all of Montgomery’s works on my netbook in ebook format, so I decided to re-read The Blue Castle, one of my favorite Montgomery works. Unlike Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon, The Blue Castle is the story of an adult heroine, Valancy Stirling. It’s a wonderful Cinderella tale, and I’ve read and re-read it many times. I’d forgotten that it’s set in the Muskokas in Ontario, rather than P.E.I., so I will probably read Emily of New Moon sometime this week just to get my Island fix.

Hell HoleAfter The Blue Castle, I started Jim Butcher’s Storm Front, Book 1 of the Dresden Files series. I’m about halfway through – I love the concept of a wizard detective in current-day Boston, and it’s a fun book, but it wasn’t quite fitting my mood, so I also started listening to Hell Hole, by Chris Grabenstein, the fourth book in the John Ceepak and Danny Boyle series. I am quite addicted to this series now, and finished Hell Hole yesterday while we were at Crescent Beach in Lockeport, N.S.. Jeff Woodman, who narrates the series, is a superb narrator, and if you’re wanting to get started with audiobooks and like mysteries, I’d definitely recommend the audio version of this series. Just make sure you start with the first book in the series, Tilt-a-Whirl, not because each book doesn’t stand on its own, but mainly because characters from previous books do show up again (or not, as the case may be), which can give clues to the mysteries in the previous books.

Rounding up my reading for the week, I also started Wayne Dyer’s Excuses Begone!. It’s a great read so far; I like in particular its emphasis not on our feelings or desires, but on our identity.

Movies, Movies, Movies

It’s turning out to be movie night for the family every night here at the beach cottage – there’s just something really nice about gathering together after a great seafood dinner to watch movies (especially since it’s pretty bug-heavy outside at night).

So far, we’ve watched Music & Lyrics, The Dark Knight, Dirty Dancing, Miss Congeniality, Disturbia, He’s Just Not That Into You, and Gone in 60 Seconds. My older son did excuse himself to play the Sims 3 on the nights we watched Dirty Dancing and He’s Just Not That Into You, but otherwise our movie nights have been perfect family time (the little one was in bed, of course).

Writing (Or Not)

I think I must have been dreaming when I last blogged that I was thinking about writing 6,000 words a day! The only writing I’ve done so far has been in my journal; not only has it been tough to lay my hands on my netbook, but the ergonometric keyboard I brought along in order to, well, write, isn’t working very well – the “o” and the “b” keys don’t work at all.

And really, the days have been so lazy and idyllic, I just haven’t felt like doing much except (have I mentioned?) eating, drinking and reading.


I finally started remembering to bring my camera with me when we went on our our outings, which have been mainly to beaches so far, although next week we plan on heading out for day trips to Yarmouth and Mahone Bay. A visit to Peggy’s Cove is also planned, although the days are slipping by so fast, I’m not sure we’ll have time to do everything on our list.

The beaches here in Nova Scotia are just gorgeous – many of them are white sand beaches, and if it weren’t for the weather, you’d think you were in the Caribbean. I don’t actually like to swim, and I love cool, windy weather, so it’s been perfect for me. While they’ve been calling for clouds and rain every day we’ve been here, the weather has been beautiful and sunny  so far (just not particularly hot).

CIMG2165 Sandy Point Lighthouse Beach

CIMG2160 Red Sands at Sandy Point

CIMG2204 Dylan & Daddy at Crescent Beach, Lockeport

CIMG2206 Oops! Forgot My Sand Bucket!

CIMG2234 Beautiful White Sands

CIMG2302 Bit of Sand Beach at Our Beach Cottage

CIMG2322 View from the Side of the House