Friday, December 24, 2010
By Andrea Cameron
We stood outside the doors, speaking in hushed tones, our palms sweating. We checked and double-checked our camera batteries. Older children clomped around in snow-boots and a kind volunteer offered us snacks. I tried to peer between the curtains to catch a glimpse of the other side. When the doors opened, we surged into the room, straining our necks to spot our children.
And there they were, fourteen little kids all seated on the stage, hands folded in their laps. My son saw me and grinned, trying to control the urge to jump up and wave. At that moment, I--along with an army of other doting parents--had been initiated into a new world, the world of The Children's Christmas Concert.
It's not that I'm a stranger to this concept. As a teacher, I've organized Christmas performances. My favourite memory is of our school concert in Grise Fiord, Nunavut. Kindergarten to Grade Twelve were involved. We even had to build our own stage and make our own curtains. We line-danced, sang, played the drums, and performed skits. I was stressed beyond belief with the preparation but it was a magical evening I'll never forget. Consequently, I relate completely to the furrowed brow, the hoarse voice, and the joyful smiles of my fellow teachers at this time of year.
However, having never been a parent in the audience, I had no idea what happens on the other side. I was more nervous than if it had been me about to perform. The sound from our video taken that night is filled with the proud comments and knowing laughter from my husband and me.
When our son decided to deliver his own "Heavy Metal" performance during Feliz Navidad, I can hear our embarrassed snickers. We've seen this performance many times at home and knew our boy loved having a captive audience for his rock star moment. Yet when he twirled with his classmates in their ice skating scene, there's silence from us--we were both dabbing our eyes.
The show was just under thirty minutes, but there was enough drama and comedy to rival any production I've seen. There were sleigh bells and reindeer antlers. There was a tricycle sleigh and a sock horse. The girls curtseyed and the boys bowed. I marvelled at how every school the nation over has achieved such feat of organization this year...and every year.
There is something about a children's Christmas concert that makes me have faith in the world. Thank you to all the educators and helpers who make this happen every year. Thank you to our community's children for sharing your hard work with us. Merry Christmas to all!
My new book, Cameron's Corner: Collected Columns has just been released. Covering everything from potty learning to politics, it makes a great read for the holidays. Copies are available at Leeds County Books, Dreamweaver, The Woolly Lamb, and Wendy's Country Market.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
by Andrea Cameron
I can't get away with singing my muddled Christmas carols anymore. Inserting a "da, da, dum" in place of a line I can't remember doesn't cut it with a certain four year old.
For many years, I had a rule that there could be no Christmas decorations or carols until the beginning of Advent. I kept this rule to make Christmas special. I worry that if we celebrate Christmas for too long, it becomes ordinary. I never want to walk past my tree and not notice it because it's been up for so long. Besides, how depressing would it be for Christmas decorations to get dusty?
Two factors have made this rule hard to follow. I have a four year old who really knows what this whole Christmas deal is about. Compounding this issue is the arrival of Christmas paraphernalia in the stores before Halloween. How do I explain to my dazzled son that Christmas is still two months away when battery-operated Santas are dancing while we grocery shop?
I resisted the Christmas decorating until the last week of November. However, we started to sing Christmas songs shortly after Remembrance Day. Christmas carols are free and explore the true meaning of Christmas without materialism--at least they do when one actually knows the words.
We tracked down a Christmas carol book and over the past few weeks, I've made an effort to learn them. Their lullaby-quality and clean poetry make them a pleasure to sing--and put my son to sleep in minutes. But this is not before he issues his litany of critiques and demands. Sing the one about the Baby Jesus. Sing Silent Night. Sing the King song higher. I feel like a court jester trying to please a tyrannical king. I'm glad we started early. I have a lot of lyrics to learn.
My son rarely sings. I sing to him all the time, but I can hardly ever convince him to join in. However, a few nights ago, after a particularly firm request for Deck the Halls, his quiet voice joined me at Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la. I didn't acknowledge it, afraid to break the spell.
It's continued to happen each night. As I sing, he too learns the songs. Every now and then, he joins me. Singing is not a milestone that is typically emphasized on developmental check-lists. Having had a child who's milestones were all over the map, those lists are burned into my brain, along with the anxiety they induced. Needless to say, the singing is important.
As Kieran and I lie in the dark, singing our carols, I think of how Christmas is more than a celebration. It's also a clear way to mark the passage of time. We think of where we were the year before and where we are now. We think of people who have left us and those who have entered our lives. It can be the saddest time of year for some and the happiest time for others. We sing songs that are hundreds of years old in honour of a long ago birth and in doing so, connect to the generations before us.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Here's our gluten-free gingerbread house. We decorated with dried cranberries and green pumpkin seeds...and lots of icing.
One of many EPIC receipts from my our canned food drive. My class raised over 1300 and our school raised 50, 000!
Friday, December 17, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
Dorothy Bush: Third Place
Chris Wilson: Wendy Patrick Award
Micki Harper: First Place
Catherine Cavangh: Second Place
Andrea Cameron: Wendy Patrick Award
Bunty Loucks: Founder of Writers Ink
Don Glover: Honourable Mention
P.S. I love Cathy's boots.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
A dream come true...
My little books look so at home here among the pottery and rustic wooden box.
I hope they're not so at home that they stay around long!
Another reason why I love this place: REAL FOOD!
Monday, December 6, 2010
One of our card designs this year. Kieran wants to make cards for everyone he knows. He's already made ten. I'm impressed. Granted, he doesn't fuss as much as I do.
Excited Christmas tree dance
This is apparently a human body. The cylinders are lungs. The cube on top is a heart. The tall tower is a leg. The long, green rectangle is an anatomical snuffbox. Can you tell my boy is no stranger to physiotherapy?
Oh, and my book, Cameron's Corner, and my friend Cathy Cavanagh's book, Soul Side, will be available this weekend for purchase.
Look for us at the Brockville Famers' Market this Sunday and next and at Leeds County Books on December 18th from 11:00am to 1:00pm.
My book will also be available HERE for purchase starting this weekend.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Eat Local Challnege is a documentary series that follows Eastern Ontario families and individuals as they challenge themselves to 7 days of eating only foods grown and raised locally. Learn more about eating seasonally, supporting local farmers, and reducing your carbon footprint.
The television premiere of the documentary series Eat Local Challenge will be Thursday November 11th at 8:00 pm on TVCOGECO Kingston cable channel 13, Brockville cable channel 10, and Smith Falls cable channel 10. The program will also air on TVCOGECO Belleville plus TVCOGECO Video on Demand later in the month of November.
The Cameron-Shea family along with a number of our St. Mary students are in this documentary. It's an issue we're all passionate about and we can't wait to see it.
Oh, and don't forget to order your delicious, local food from Wendy's Mobile Market. It's one of our favourite ways to grocery shop.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
One Monday, he came to school with a black eye, wincing in pain as he moved.
"What happened?" I asked.
His friend answered for him. "He got beaten up because he's gay."
Shawn smiled at me and shrugged. "I'm used to it."
It was a powerful lesson. He was so well-liked, so charismatic, I had no idea that someone would want to shatter him because of his sexuality. I thought the world had changed.
I grew up in a small town. I didn't know anyone who was openly gay. In high school, meeting a gay person would have been as unusual as encountering a unicorn in science class.
So when a good friend came out to me in university, I didn't know what to do. I felt like everything would be different, like our friendship would change. But, it didn't. Life went on. I watched her live her life and concluded that the world must be a more accepting place than I thought.
Over the years, I've had many LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender) friends, students, neighbours, colleagues, and employers. I've listened to them describe the moment they came out to their parents. Some were supported unconditionally while others felt their parents may have been less devastated had they died. Some have been in decades-long relationships, others hope to meet "the one," and still others choose to be alone. Like everyone else, my gay friends lead diverse lives.
But they have one thing in common: their bravery. It takes bravery to stand up and say who one is in a world that is not always accepting. It takes bravery to reveal to one's parents something that may push them away forever. It takes bravery to walk down the street knowing there's hatred in the world.
That's why I'm so grateful to Dan Savage for starting the "It Gets Better" campaign. In response to a rash of suicides by bullied gay youth across the United States, he asked LGBT adults to tell kids that things get better. Thousands of videos are posted on his website of people describing life in high school, coming out to parents and community, and how they carried on. Ultimately, they let youth know that despite the challenges, life is good.
Isn't that our job as adults? To inspire children and youth to grow up and lead a rewarding life? By letting our gay youth know that we support them, we send that message to all youth. We make the world a better place. We're being watched. The bullies watch us. They learn from us. So, do the bullied. We can pretend that our hands are tied by policy and politics, but kids see through that. They need us to be brave, too.
LGBT youth are three times more likely to experience bullying in school and one-third of all LGBT youth have attempted suicide. This is the reality. We're failing these kids. Time and time again.
So much is at stake. The young heroes in our midst, the ones who are fighting just to be themselves, need us. They need to feel supported and celebrated. If we really care about kids, there's one simple thing we can do. Our words and actions must reflect compassion, understanding, and joy. Because while things definitely get better, we still have long way to go.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Some people roll their eyes at parents who are selective about their children's diets, but they're not the ones who live with the consequences. A gluten-sensitive child becomes unwell after the consumption of wheat. Children with neurological problems (and even neuro-typical children) can become agitated after a good sugar buzz. Whether a food allergy causes an anaphylactic reaction or a sensitivity causes stomach pain, the state of our food supply leaves many families struggling to keep their children well.
In past years, my son was young enough that I could scoop his candy when we got home. A year ago, he was assuaged by home-made pumpkin muffins. Now, even though his indulgence is rare, he's an avid chocoholic . When his teacher asked him what vegetable he'd bring to contribute to the class pot of soup, he insisted that he'd bring chocolate. How am I going to manage the candy issue this year?
There were no forbidden foods in my childhood home. My folks happily embraced the joys of Kraft Dinner, Sloppy Joes, and Cheese Whiz on Wonder Bread. As a result, I no longer trust foods that require capitalization. In high school, my best friend (whose mother made bread from scratch) and I would swap lunches. I would have traded my nitrate-saturated Hot Rod for her bran muffin any day and she happily obliged, eager to have a taste of processed meat product. I wonder...will Kieran be the kid who trades my labour-intensive, gluten-free banana bread for his buddy's Joe Louis? By forbidding certain foods, do we run the risk of making them more appealing?
I definitely think so. However, I don't really have a choice. I'd rather have a kid who sneaks a treat now and then (and experiences the unfortunate consequences) than to have him chronically unwell.
But it's not just food-sensitive kids who are affected. Celebrity paediatrician, Dr. Bob Sears, claims that the two weeks after Halloween are the busiest in his office. He attributes this to the excessive consumption of processed sugar, an immune suppressant. Maybe we all need to rethink the gratuitous use of candy at this otherwise enjoyable time of year.
As we discuss my son's latest costume idea--this week, he wants to be a pirate--I wonder if it's fair to let him trick-or-treat only to take most of his treats. Now that he's aware of candy, and longs for it, trick-or-treating seems cruel. Granted, there are many thoughtful neighbours who know our son and have different options: play dough, stickers, pencils, story books, toothbrushes.
Some people are opting out of the candy madness, holding parties at their homes instead. I've considered this, but I think trick-or-treating is about more than candy. It's the thrill of dressing up and going out in the crisp fall air. It's the excitement of going door-to-door and seeing the decorating efforts of our community. It's the buzz in the air as ghosts and goblins surge up and down the sidewalks.
I've found other solutions that I hope will work such as using candy as currency for non-food items. We will also cut down on the number of houses visited and make sure tummies are full by inviting friends over for pizza beforehand. And there are other ways for treats to dwindle before a young pirate can take inventory of his treasure...
So count us in for trick-or-treating. Bring on the candy--I've got a plan. That's what moms are for.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
We always seem to bring windy, chilly weather to Sauble whenever we visit. So...we made a non-beach day into a beach day by flying a kite.
Boy ~ Dad ~ Poppy
Tomato Sauce: This year I had two sauce-making companions. Good times.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
This year, knowing we were going away for several weeks, I tried to plant things that didn't need a lot of attention: squash, watermelon, late tomatoes, and peppers. When I ordered my seedlings, I specified that I wanted plants that could survive my Garden of Neglect. The combination of great summer weather and friends who took care of my plants while we were away, secured us a respectable bounty.
I worried that my plants wouldn't survive while we were away. However, when we pulled in the driveway, it took me a moment to realize that the huge plant covering my entire front garden was actually a tomato plant. I'd thrown it in there because I didn't have enough room in the back. Now my clematis cowered in the shadow of robust and lush yellow heritage tomato vine.
Rambling squash vines covered a corner of the backyard. A pepper plant was laden with little red chillis. Four huge potato plants and several onions spouted from the compost. There was even a watermelon that grew despite a less-than-ideal location.
Before we'd even unpacked the car, I was out surveying the garden. I picked what was ripe: a few peppers and two tomatoes.
"Mommy's a farmer," my son announced to his father and our cat.
I laughed. I know it's not that easy. Food production is serious business indeed. I'm just playing with gardening. It takes real risk and real knowledge to grow food.
However, even though the yields are small, backyard gardens are important.
Experimenting with food production on a small scale makes one appreciate what it actually takes to do it for a living. I believe it makes people more inclined to buy locally grown produce because they acquire a taste for fresher, more nutritious food. Eating a still-warm tomato that ripened on the vine makes the woody, pink globes offered in January a travesty.
Today's backyard gardens play a similar role to Victory Gardens. The intention then was to preserve resources for the war effort. Now, we can garden to save the planet and our own health. The food requires no fossil fuel to be delivered and it's healthier because you can't find any fresher. If seeds are selected wisely and practices are kept organic, the average person has more control over his or her consumption of GMOs and pesticides.
Growing food in the backyard connects us to the earth. I've written before about how we have to be involved in our outdoor environment to actually care about it. Using our suburban yards more mindfully to grow food rather than grass connects us to the rhythms of nature.
Whether we nurture a few herbs in a pot or plant enough tomatoes to can sauce, using our yards to grow food nurtures body, soul, and planet.
Friday, September 10, 2010
While the deadline has passed to register a team, donations are always welcome. Mail your donation to:
Thursday, September 2, 2010
So, thanks to the help of friends who checked in on my plants and to our landscaper for setting up a watering system that conveniently hit the veggie garden, we have the following after a summer of abandonment:
- one watermelon that increases in size daily (about the size of a soft ball)
- countless green tomatoes of all kinds--I've had three yellow ones that are soooo sweet
- several acorn squash
- a dozen chili peppers
- a few wee green peppers...please grow!
- one glorious red pepper
- some surprise potato plants that grew out of the compost
- three lipstick peppers
- lots of green basil--the red was shaded by a tomato plant
- a CRAZY BIG rhubarb plant that I transplanted from the middle of our yard where it randomly grew in the spring
I'm just playing with this veggie garden thing, but it sure makes me respect the risk that farmers take to grow our food. I just got my first Wendy's Mobile Market order after our summer away. So much good stuff: blueberries, leeks, tomatoes, spinach, chicken, watermelon, carmelized onion cheese...I weep.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
On the last day of our PEI summer holiday, my son gave me the gift of time and gratitude. The sun sparkled on the bay while gulls glided with the breeze. It was the kind of afternoon that seduces us into staying just a little longer. Instead of running around the yard, Kieran asked me if we could sit on the porch swing. I cast a reluctant glance at the cleaning and packing awaiting me in the cottage, but I agreed. We climbed up and snuggled in.
We rocked for over an hour. Certain he'd fallen asleep, I checked him several times but he just watched the sea. As my gaze followed his, I thought of our days spent on that shore-- playing in the sand, swimming with cousins, searching for starfish--and I realized the importance of place.
Prince Edward Island isn't my home--at least it's not my childhood home. I read the entire Anne of Green Gables series as a girl and I always vowed I'd one day live there. I didn't actually go until I was twenty-six after meeting my future husband, who happened to be an Islander. Since then, we've returned together every year, save one. Last summer, our son was too unwell to travel so we couldn't go. Sitting on that swing, I realized how much the island is under my skin and how it has been a place of healing for our family.
Missing a year made this homecoming more profound. Cousins were that much taller, the sparse raspberry canes along the shore now flourished, and the beaches had become even more alluring. There are things about the place that I would recognize were I suddenly dropped there blindfolded: the fresh energy of salt air, the applause of birch leaves in the breeze, the squawk of a blue heron at sunset.
Both my husband and I have travelled. Travel invites us to know ourselves and to understand others. We return changed and inspired. But it's just as important to be home every now and then. Home allows children to perceive the nuance of place--trees grow, shorelines erode, people change. Home reminds us of who we are and grounds us before we move on.
I thank PEI for all those things that bring us home. I thank PEI for the brilliant contrast between green grass, red sand, and blue water. I thank PEI for the primroses and moon snails. I thank PEI for the taste of mussels and blueberries-- just not together.
Most of all, I thank PEI for family and friends. Because, while the landscape pulls me back, makes me want to plant myself in that now familiar soil, the people both welcome us and bid us a farewell with the promise that we always have a safe place to land.
Maybe Kieran wanted one last chance to take it all in, this place that has become such a part of him. I needed that as much as he did.
Thanks again, dear island.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Six years ago, as we put the finishing touches on the cottage we'd built ourselves, my husband and I declared it a TV-free zone. That was before we entered parenthood and realized the true meaning of sleep-deprivation. That was back in the day when I'd spend an entire afternoon reading a novel in the hammock without a four year old mauling me. Pre-child, it was easy to live at the cottage without television. We could take a walk, visit friends, go out for dinner, or even (gasp) catch a movie.
Now, staying at the cottage every evening, there's nothing but silence...and time.
There's always a settling-in period during a TV detox--kind of like the horrible feeling on the second day of a fast. For the first few evenings, whenever I sit down to knit, or read, or write, my husband will sit in the chair across from me, a foul expression on his face, like somehow I'm responsible for his boredom. I politely suggest that he go find a novel to read. His response is similar to a raging tiger who has just been offered tofu for lunch. He just misses his TV.
It's not that I don't enjoy television. It would be unwise to call my house during an episode of Glee or Trueblood. I even catch the odd Survivor finale. While I try to regulate my own television viewing, I know it's crucial to limit my son's. It's not that television is inherently worthless--I know he's learned things from Diego (like that a Pygmy Marmoset eats tree sap?) but I simply think there are better ways for a preschooler to spent his time: painting, socializing, running, imagining, eating dirt...
Following the American Paediatric Society Recommendation that children under two have no screen time at all, our son passed his toddlerhood without being introduced to Dora the Explorer. Then, when he was three, we allowed him to watch an hour of television per day.
The television started to creep into our lives more than I wanted it to. If I had to get ready for work, it was easier to put him in front of the screen. When we were packing for our move, I think we almost wore out the Cars DVD. He was watching more than an hour most days, and although I think there's some wonderful shows for preschoolers, that didn't sit right with me.
So it was with a brave face that we set out for our summer holiday without a television. We packed lots of games, puzzles, toys and art supplies and borrowed our friend's DVD player for rainy days.
But we've made it.
The DVD player has not been used. Rainy days are spent visiting, doing crafts, and reading. Somehow the dishes are washed (usually) and the laundry is done (usually). Our son has occupied himself with imaginative play much of the time.
Now, as he goes from playing with play dough to building with blocks, to running on his "race track" outside, to wrestling with cousins, to collecting his toys for the beach, I wonder how we had time for television before.
And I hope we don't make much time for it again. Life is too good without it.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
The older cousins have learned the power of a magnifying glass to start little fires. I remember the joy that this skill provided when I was a child. Thank goodness they haven't discovered the sadistic pleasure of ant-burning yet.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
I always make fun of my husband for being cheap, but I secretly love (usually) how he can find uses for abandoned things. All of the doors in the cottage came from an old house on his parents' property. We spent days stripping and finishing them. I think it was worth it. The only problem is, we somehow managed to put one on upside down. The floor in this room is also made from old barn boards.
I'm sitting here looking at the beam fro Mike's Nanny's barn, thinking it's so cool to have that piece of history here in the cottage. My goodness, the floors look deceptively clean...
Saturday, August 7, 2010
I just drew my brother-in-law's name for Christmas. He's probably having nightmares about homemade sweater vests with matching neckties.
My husband is skeptical. I tend to get really enthusiastic about things (yoga, pottery, writing, kayaking...and now knitting). I still don't know how, but I convinced him to head up to Belfast Mini-Mills to go yarn shopping. We picked up Kieran's Grammy...and then our brother-in-law and all the cousins decided to come. In all, we had two women, two men, and five boys--maybe that's not the expected demographic for a knitting field trip but it worked out great. You see, with knitting comes farm animals.
Are ewe feeling sheepish?
Such a "Lama Queen"
so many colours
Speaking of knitting, I just finished this little project called "Fresh Picked Baby Hat." I used Sublime Soy Cotton DK that I bought at Picket Fences in Brockville. Again, it's a baby hat and a four year old is wearing it...my tension is a little loose.
1820 Garfield Road, RR#1
PEI, C0A 1A0
Friday, August 6, 2010
Thursday, August 5, 2010
The centre mosaic is obviously the sun and then, fish. I painted the wood ivory and then distressed it with a palm sander. The point is, I love this table. I'm proud of it. It was a lot of work but I took something that was a little rough and gave it a new meaning.
I must admit that I was actually admiring it this morning while I sat on the couch knitting and drinking coffee. My latest gossip magazine (guilty pleasure) was waiting to be read and my laptop had yet to be turned on. The happy sounds of Kieran's play narrative filled the room.
Somewhere in my happy daydream/admiration, I heard Kieran call me. I guess I wasn't prompt enough in my answer because, before I realized his intent, he marched over and dumped my coffee all over the table.
I managed to save my knitting and laptop. The magazine was ruined and the rug got stained. With the help of my little mischief-maker, the table was salvaged after a good scrub. My lovely, relaxing morning was turned upside down in an instant and I looked at my son wondering what exactly makes him tick to do such a thing. I remember thinking that it was going to be a bad day. And I wondered if my beautiful child was a sociopath. Well, not really. But I was darn mad.
Well, this is how the day ended. We all headed to the beach for a walk after supper and Kieran chased his father's shadow the whole way. It wasn't a bad day after all. And my table is just fine...even if the rug isn't.
You win some...you know the rest...
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Saturday, July 24, 2010
hauling the canoe up on shore after a paddle (okay, Mike does that part)