Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Til Next Year...

I'm starting the post-Christmas clean-up today. Somehow, what was festive a week ago, looks a bit tired to me now.

However, I'm always sad to put away the Christmas stories, but I do it. It makes them more special the next year.

So, today, I say good-bye to our beautifully illustrated The Nativity by Julie Vivas. The Angel Gabriel descends on wispy, watercolour wings to give the message to Mary...and he's wearing work boots. There's a page with the sequence of Mary's belly growing, much to her surprise. My favourite illustration is when Mary (being GREAT with child) is trying to steer the donkey down a steep hill with a big smile on her face. This book makes the story of Mary and Joseph so human. The baby Jesus looks like a real baby in both his posture and his expression. Kieran is also fascinated by his anatomical accuracy. Love it.



Then, there's bear. We love Karma Wilson's bear stories in our house. And I love the fact that she breaks the publishing house rules of having both rhyming text and anthropomorphic animals. Perhaps it's because she does this so well, there's not much room for less skillful approaches. I also appreciate Jane Chapman's illustrations of the animals. They look like real animals but have convincing emotional expression.

Poor Bear slept through the previous Christmas. This year, his friends make sure he stays awake. As they make their Christmas preparations, Bear keeps falling back into hibernation. Finally, he's the only one awake when a special visitor arrives. Kieran enjoys all the little gifts the animals make for each other. Go back to sleep until next year, Bear.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

When Stella was Very, Very Small

Our buddy, Lukey J, gave Kieran this book for Christmas. The watercolour illustrations evoke magical images from childhood, making the world seem endless and mysterious. Stella has her own way of looking at the world and her role in it. A snow fall hides everything in sight, while a windy day makes her sandbox into a stormy desert. Young Stella's world certainly is an exciting place.



Then, as Stella grows up, the world is no longer as daunting--she gains mastery over it. Her imagination doesn't disappear, it changes. Yet, when her little brother, Sam, comes along, she's able to share her wonder with him. It's a good story for cuddling and admiring the beautiful artwork.

Thanks, Lukey...

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Mole Sisters

I'm the boring aunt and mother who buys kids books for Christmas. My theory is that after the excitement of toys wears off, kids turn to their books. At least, I used to. After a tiring day, it was nice at bedtime for Kieran and I to read some of his new books.

Here's one of our favourites, published by Annick Press...



Kieran loves this story because he loves animals, especially cute, mischievous ones. I love this book because of the eternal optimism of these two little moles. Everything is an adventure and obstacles provide opportunity. There is a subtle celebration of nature whether the sisters befriend a piece of moss or go roaming through a field of wheat. There are four little illustrations per page and the text is poetic in its economy. Even though the protagonists are feminine, I think the story appeals to both boys and girls because of the sense of adventure. These girls are resilient and resourceful. Lovely...

Oh...and each story takes about two minutes to read so you can read FIVE WHOLE STORIES in ten minutes...not that time matters for a tired parent trying to negotiate bedtime...


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas

Nothing makes a cat happier than a cardboard box.

Photographic evidence : yes, there really were THREE wild turkeys in our backyard...
And thanks to everyone for the suggestion that this would make a nice Christmas dinner--we are big fans of eating locally.
Kieran's homemade wrapping paper...

"And Mole pops corn to string upon the tree..." from Bear Stays Up (For Christmas)
We made some popcorn and cranberry strings the other day. Kieran thought we should move them outside to feed the birds. Awwww...

Merry Christmas everyone!~

I'll be back in a few days...

Must make merry!



Saturday, December 19, 2009

Busy Bee Gluten Free

I've started a separate blog to provide information and recipes I've gleaned throughout my two year gluten-free adventure. I will post ingredient information and tips on how to be gluten-free with a busy schedule. For those of us who don't have time to grow and grind our own buckwheat, there is hope...

http://www.busybeeglutenfree.blogspot.com/

So...I won't write about gluten-free cooking/baking in this blog as much.

Make sure you also check The Brockville Voice link to the left for my Christmas column.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Today, I Love My Job


It's the last day of school before Christmas. Students tucked sweet little gifts and home-made cards onto my desk throughout the day. "The Mustache Something-or-Other Man Choir" rehearsed in the cafeteria (which is also my classroom) for much of the morning. The school buzzed with preparations for the annual talent show and my Grade Nine Drama class performed several creative and unusual dramatizations of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." The hi-light was the party we hosted in my Grade Ten Drama class. Everyone brought treats that we enjoyed by candle-light and one of my students played Christmas carols on his violin. Some days, I can't believe this is my job.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Home-made Christmas

Every year, I vow that I'm going to make as much as I can for Christmas: gifts, decorations, cards...
Every year, I get a few things done, but never as much as I imagine.
I so ENJOY making things--there's just no time.
Here's my best effort this year--and my friend's best efforts.
Shari collected these boughs and arranged them in my urn. Last year I made the dog's breakfast of the project. My designer friend couldn't bear it. This year, she rescued me from this decorating travesty. Now I have a lovely urn of which I can be proud. Thanks!

Shari also taught me how to make these little snowflakes from rolled paper (not rolling paper, although that might work too). Just cut the paper into strips (or use a shredder) and roll the paper around a skewer. Glue the end to form a little spiral. Then, glue them all together in any shape that looks snowflakey.

Kieran painted coloured paper with glitter. Then, I cut out shapes and made this card. I also used his finger paintings to make snowflake cards. Maybe if I start now, I'll have enough for next year.

To Lisa Smith

I am your Secret Santa!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, La La La La La La Laaaaaaaa


These photos are a few weeks old but I've been having camera trouble.





everyone needs a pair of super goggles

Daddy's helper

on the way home

the final moments of our precious twig star...it's now in tiny pieces





















Sunday, December 13, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Metaphor...

Thank you to Jackie Gardiner for taking this photo. Or should I say this visual metaphor of my relationship with my son. From day one, he's been full of surprises, many of them scary, most of them good.

Some days we're moving in different directions. We often have different goals. For instance, I want Kieran to use the potty, and he clearly can't because of his language barrier, being Spanish and all. I toil all morning making gluten-free, sugar-free chocolate chips cookies (for which the ingredients cost more than the sweater I'd love to buy) only so he can eat the first two out of the oven and shun the rest. So--as Jackie so eloquently said--Kieran enjoys the view while I slog away uphill.

Man, I love that kid. And he's lucky I do...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Snow Day!

During my first few years of teaching, I remember feeling annoyed about snow days. I had things to do. I had exciting lessons planned. Curriculum needed to be covered. There was nothing more important than what I was going to do in my classroom that day. A cancellation would disrupt everyone's learning.

Things have changed.

Now, I wait in joyous anticipation as the radio lists off the bus cancellations. Do I love my job any less? No. I just accept the gift of snow days more graciously. Actually, I've come to my senses.

I no longer worry about the curriculum. Maybe that's because I teach drama and no one but me knows (or cares!) what the curriculum covers. But even in an academic course, a day off for the students now and then can boost everyone's energy. Now, I see snow days as a chance to get all those little things done that keep piling up. I feel refreshed and organized when the kids come back.

Because teachers still go to school on snow days.

However, there's a different energy in the air. Since we're all in separate classrooms most of the day and then fly to extra-curriculars at lunch and after school, there's little time to chat. Staff rooms on snow day mornings are magical places. People linger and laugh with coffee. Love it.

And I like to imagine the kids at home: sleeping in, watching soaps, going sledding. It's all good.

C'mon Mother Nature--one more before Christmas!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Findley

I'm envious of my cat. No matter what the weather on these wintry mornings, he's in the same place when we leave the house. As Kieran and I bundle to face the elements, Findley looks up at us from his chair by the fire as if to say,


"You poor things, having to go out in that. Try not to make noise on your way out the door."


I used to find it especially frustrating when Findley would wake us at 6:00am with persistent purrs and kitty kneads only to be back asleep on his chair by seven, just as we left for work.



But life is not all tuna fish and cat nip for our kitty. Poor Findley's life has changed. He was my baby before Kieran came along. While I still adore him, he knows his status has changed. He has to sleep in the basement now. Sometimes, we run out of soft food. We forgot to unpack his Christmas stocking this year. I would say he's accepted these changes with grace and dignity. In those rare moments, when Kieran is occupied and I sit down to read a book, Findley is right there, willing to take whatever love he can scavenge.


Or, maybe he never really cared, which is more likely. As long as he's fed, has a place to sleep, a clean litter, and the odd scratch behind the ear, he'll stick around. And we're glad he's here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ahead of My Time?

Transcript (unofficial) of today's phone call:

Peter: Hello? Andrea Cameron?

Andrea: Oh great, a telemarketer. Yes...

Peter: Hi, this is Peter ______ from the annual ______ Literary Contest.

Andrea: Hi. Why is he calling? Am I shortlisted? Did I win? Oh, I must have won. Of course!

Peter: I'm calling regarding your submission.

Andrea: Oh... I'm shortlisted! I knew it! I'm a literary genius and now the world will know! I will become part of the canon of Canadian literature alongside Alice Munro, Timothy Findley, and Margaret Atwood. Yes, my name would look lovely in that list.

Peter: Well, actually, it's about your payment. Oh no, I think she thinks I'm calling to tell her some good news.

Andrea: Is something wrong? Oops. Maybe I'm not a genius.

Peter: Actually, your cheque was returned to us...This is so awkward.

Andrea: That's strange. Insufficient funds? Identity theft? A joke?

Peter: You dated it 2010. Loser.

Andrea: I see. Can I still send another? I am such a loser.


I was having such a good hair day. I should have known it would end like this.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cookies and Pots

Cookies

I feel like shouting this news from the rooftops! I just made a delicious gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free chocolate chip cookie. Kieran and I both ate one and stared at each other in disbelief. We are both accustomed to my creations turning out a little...dry...crumbly...chick pea-tasting...blah. Now, we rejoice.

What they heck was in them then? you ask. Bob's GF flour, coconut oil, vanilla, applesauce, ground flax seed, xanthan gum, salt, evaporated cane juice...nothing too strange or difficult to find. I found the recipe from--you guessed it--Baby Cakes. I'd love to include the recipe here but I didn't create it so then it might be an intellectual property sort of issue.

http://www.babycakesnyc.com/

Honestly, I'm not working for them or anything. It's just the best darn cookbook I've found for my boy's food issues.

Pots

Sue's Christmas Pottery Sale

Saturday, December 5th, 11am-5pm
293 Albert St., Kingston, ON
*some of Sue's early work
*pots from a personal collection
*new work
*sale items/end of line selections

***a portion of the profits go to the Stephen Lewis Foundation

Sue is a dear friend of mine and an amazing potter. She was my first pottery teacher. If you're in the area, going would be worthwhile.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Natural Family Column

I am delighted to be publishing a regular column in Natural Life Magazine called "Natural Family." My article about breast cancer will appear in the upcoming winter issue. The magazine is a Canadian bi-monthly publication covering issues such as the environment, natural parenting, and life learning.

Here's the link:

http://www.naturallifemagazine.com/

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Brockville Santa Claus Parade



Oh! The Brockville Santa Claus Parade!
There are some things that make a parade no matter where you are...

marching bands

the famous Shriners' mini-vehicles (how did that tradition start, anyway?)

the propeller blades were a little unnerving...

horses

antique cars


and, of course....

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Waiting for Winter

The splendor of fall ends.

Trees rest.

Fire waits.


Animals sleep.



Red subsides to brown.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sad Suction

Okay, enough's enough. We've had this vacuum for almost a decade and it has failed us from the start. It's never really worked properly. Mike has fixed it many times and we've taken it to the repair shop on several occasions. I think it just doesn't work anymore.

At the same time, I've been to landfill sites enough times to be able to picture it just lying in a pile of garbage. I think that's why I'm such a pack-rat. I don't keep it for me. I just can't picture this stuff outside in the dump. So much plastic...

How many times do we fix something that just won't work properly? Why can't appliances last longer...like they did in the previous generation? Now, things are designed to break and we go back to buy more, often from the same company.

I've never been particularly hard on this vaccuum. We don't even have carpet. Now, it sounds like a jet taking off--with rocks grinding in the engine. And the suction is sad. The other day it passed over the same piece of lint over and over without picking it up. Honestly...

So, do I pay to fix this AGAIN or do we chuck it? Maybe someone will take it for parts. Who knows? All I know is that a vacuum that isn't even used on carpet should last longer than ten years.

www.thestoryofstuff.com





Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ivy Lea

What a day to be outside! It's funny. When we got the invitation to go for a walk in Ivy Lea Provincial Park, I hestitated, looking around at my crazy house. For a moment, I thought of saying we had too much to do. But, I didn't. Thank goodness. So, the house is still crazy but we had a really great day. The house will be a mess forever, but days like today are to be savoured.

how satisfying to throw rocks in the river

"Hurry up, Mom!"

"Which one should I throw?"

my boy still loves the sand...still throws it at people way too much...

my happy boys

this is sooooo Shari...quiet resolve...caring and calm...

beauty...makes me think of Mrs. Harvey, my favourite teacher

Friday, November 20, 2009

How to be a perfect mom...or a good one, at least...

There was a sign in a store the other day--you know, the ones that look tole-painted but are made in China and say things like "Today is filled with the hopes of tomorrow." While they're all lovely sentiments, I find I don't really pay attention to what they say. Well, the other day I smiled when I saw this sign. Maybe this is a common cliche, but I liked it.

There is no one way to be a perfect mother, but there are a billion ways to be a good one.

Ah-ha. That's it.

In the early days of Kieran's life, when it felt like advice flowed as freely as the breastmilk he refused to drink, I remember thinking that I really sucked. I would certainly be rotten mother. As I fought against the instincts that told me to keep trying to nurse, to let my baby sleep beside me, to answer his cries, I remember one day stopping in my tracks and realizing something that has carried me through some pretty tough parenting moments.

There are many ways to raise a child.

What works for one person, doesn't work for another. What helps one child sleep sends another into a frenzy. One baby might nurse like they've discovered the nectar of the gods, while another (like mine) will scream and arch for two weeks until he makes up his mind about the whole situation.

I'm not against getting advice. Much of the advice from other moms has helped me greatly. But, as Jackie says, it's not all or nothing.

So...I've been thinking about what makes me a good mom. How often do we truly pat ourselves on the back?

This is what I cherish in my own mothering, because these things work for our family...

I stay with my child until he falls asleep.

I count his blessings with him every night--and I try REALLY hard not to react when he says he's thankful for shopping...

I read to my son.

I try not to "teach" him things--I do things with him and hope he'll glean the skills.

I bake with him.

We go for aimless walks around the neighbourhood.

I sing to him...poor little soul.

I feed him good food.

I make sure he gets his rest.

I hug him...a lot.

We do lots of art...and I try not to take over...sigh...

I repeat his feelings to him...and I don't insist that he be happy and agreeable all the time.

I laugh with him.

Of course, the list of things that make me feel guilty is much longer. But after making this list, I feel pretty darn good that I'm doing okay. Do it now. Make a little list of the ways you're a good parent. It's important to know what we're doing right. We need something to hold onto when we get clocked in the side of the head with an airborne Lightning McQueen or accidentally drive down the road with the car door open.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wig Gig

I attended my first "Wig Gig" last night. It was a get-together for all of Shari's close friends and family to raise funds for her to purchase a high-quality wig to use while she undergoes chemotherapy. Shari was glowing thanks to a combination of everyone's generosity, the silliness of the crazy wigs people were wearing, and the supportive feeling that having a tribe of strong women to laugh and cry with provides.

It reminds me that friends and family are such an important part of healing. Thanks to everyone who hosted, participated, and donated. What a great idea!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Gratitude and Optimism



Gratitude

A little boy counts his blessings...

Thank you for my family.

Thank you for my cat.

Thank you for my neighbourhood.

Thank you for sleeping.

Thank you for sideways walking on the balance beam.

Optimism:

My niece won the "Optimism Award" in her Senior Kindergarten class. My brother told me this story as an example of this quality.

Briana was drawing at the kitchen table. Her intention to make a Christmas tree was thwarted when she realized she'd drawn the triangle upside down.

"Oh well, Mommy. It can be an ice cream cone now."

Aw...the glass sure is half full...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ghost Chair

I heard Kieran chattering away in the living room this morning...
"Findley doesn't like the ghost chair."
Ghost chair?


Oh, the ghost chair.


To be three-going-on-four...














Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Where the Wild Cans Are...

This is my third blog making reference to Where the Wild Things Are. I love it. In honour of the upcoming St. Mary Canned Food Drive, Kieran and I designed these little monsters.



Okay, as with most mother-child art projects, I took over a bit. I let Kieran stick on the eyes. Then, I found myself adjusting and re-arranging to the point where my son was a spectator. Sigh. Must work on that...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Island Images

Now that my novel is finished and has been sent off into the agent/publishing world for consideration, I find myself missing the daily question of what my characters will do next. I still have lots of images that my friend, Tina, took for me this summer since we couldn't get to the island. They served as inspiration for me when I needed that sense of place and just couldn't picture it.

the church in Donaldston


a red island road

Monday, November 9, 2009

Early Riser...

Parenting a pre-schooler is like joining the army. I do more before 9:00 am than most people do in a day. I was awakened at 4:45 am on Sunday by a "little mouse" who claimed it was time to get up. Almost an hour of cajoling later, he finally pulled me out of bed. Pre-child, I would sleep until 10:00am on a Sunday morning. Wow. Those days are gone. For now.


So, before the sun even rose, we got to work trying out two recipes from my new Baby Cakes cookbook. Since becoming gluten-free and sugar-free, I've desperately missed banana bread and corn bread. And so the experimenting began.

The thing I like about these recipes is that the ingredients are whole foods. Some gf cookbooks I've tried have dubious ingredients. I also have mixed feelings about chick pea flour. I know it's healthy and it works well for texture, but sometimes, it feels like I'm eating a "banana flavoured dry crumbly felafel" instead of banana bread.

Sunday morning felt like real baking. The house was filled with that smell, that baking smell. When we came back from our walk, there were two lovely things cooling on the stove--just like old times.

My boy helped me mix. Everytime I'd put another item into the bowl, he'd stir softly and whisper, "ingredients."

And the results made me weep. Well, not quite, but almost.

The banana bread is moist and holds together beautifully. The corn bread...well, I think it's worthy to accompany my chili. That's something that has been missing from my life for the past three years. A good cornbread recipe to go with my chili. Yay!

Now, I think this Erin McKenna woman is a genius. I'm grateful that she spent the time to test all of these recipes for those of us who struggle in isolation, trying to find good things to replace our comfort foods.

So, if you're gluten-free and want to decrease the refined sugar in your diet...need I say more. It is vegan but I don't see any reason why you couldn't replace rice milk with dairy milk, if that's what you prefer. I followed the recipes closely because I wanted to see how they worked.

New Writing:

Make sure you check my two new links. You can read my columns in The Brockville Voice by clicking on the link to the left.

I also set up a link to my story "Getting Set," which was published in the Brockville Recorder and Times on Saturday.














Sunday, November 8, 2009

St. Lawrence Sunday

Anyone who lives in Brockville will be familiar with St. Lawrence Park. It's my favourite park in town. I can almost hear the picnickers in the 1920s, enjoying the shade of the trees and the cool of the river. We often head there for a few hours on a Sunday or even take a short visit after work. We've seen people painting, doing Tai Chi, swimming, kayaking, and driving model cars. Last year at this time, Kieran loved to run around in the gazebo.

"Kieran. Gazebo. Happy."

So we met up with our good friends, the Gardiners, and walked on over for some sunshine and a play. Then, across the field, we saw the good ol' Mulville Boys running towards us.

modes of transportation
view from the 1920s gazebo

three-year-old Zen meditation

"Mommy, come see!"
very serious truck business




Thursday, November 5, 2009

Happy Hookin'

Made you look. My girls and I have taken up hooking. It's cheap, easy, and we can do it at home. Yes, I'm talking about rug-hooking.

The summer before last, while on the island, I went with my mother and sister-in-laws to see a traditional rug-hooking studio. The pieces they made were so beautiful, I decided I'd like to learn. Along with two other friends, I signed up for a course at Picket Fence Fabrics in Brockville. Our first project is a "Welcome" sign. I thought it would be funny to pick a more random word like "Surprise." Everyone seemed to want to stick with "Welcome." So predictable...sigh...

We're hoping to move into using recycled fabrics to make rugs..."upcycling!"


Here's Jackie working away at my place (wearing the beautiful sweater she made). She's a bit of a hooking prodigy, having sped past Shari and me. I'm still only on the "O" and Shari's on the "M."

In this photo, Jackie's rug looks a little frightening, like she's writing "OMEN" in blood.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Stress

Stress. There's lots of it this fall.

Every now and then, I get really worked up.

Then, I take a deep breath.

I remember that fear makes us do silly things--at least, it makes me do silly things.

I take a few drops of Bach Rescue Remedy (a homeopathic medicine for stress). Our whole family uses it when Kieran has a seizure. It works. I've even heard a rumour that Jennifer Aniston uses it--hey, we all copied her hairstyle back in 1994-ish...

When homeopathy doesn't work...

There's always wine.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Welcome Back Friends

I unpacked more boxes this weekend. As I mentioned in my column two weeks ago, I love my books. I hadn't seen my cookbooks in months so it was lovely to be back in their company. We even have a new book on the shelf. Welcome Baby Cakes!



There's a story behind so many of these. Chantal gave me ExtraVeganZa--some of her dishes are in the photos because it's her friend's book. Klaudia gave me The Compassionate Cook, which contains my all-time favourite chilli recipe. Anyone who knows me has tried it. A Great Bowl of Soup was a birthday gift from Shari--I love the tomato-lentil soup. I found Cooking With the Dead in a used bookstore one summer when I was feeling particularly crunchy. Then, there's my Moosewood Cookbooks: samosas, butternut squash soup, zippy cheese sauce, Moosewood Brownies (oh...my old gluten guzzling days). The famous BUDDHA'S JEWELS can be found between these pages. That's another story.

Mike bought The Joy of Cooking when we first met because he wanted to cook for me.

I'm still waiting.