Thursday, August 26, 2010

For Prince Edward Island

This is the last time I'll lament our time on the Island...promise...

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


This column appeared in August 11 issue of The Observer.

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.

At first.

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

Cool Socks

I am pleased to announce the completion of a second pair of socks for my boy.

These are exceptionally cool.

Someone agrees.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Lasts

last story time

last sunset

last morning
(saying good-bye to the sea in various states of undress)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

About Fire

Because of Kieran's seizures, we get him to bed early ever night. Sleep is so important to any child with neurological issues. Even my Johns Hopkins guide to seizures and epilepsy in childhood states that rest and a good diet can't be underestimated in seizure prevention. As those who are close to us know, we're like Cinderella come 6:30pm. No late dinners for us. We always have to leave the ball. But the sad thing is that our boy doesn't get to experience things like sunsets and campfires.

Yesterday he napped from 3:30 to 4:30pm. Ugh! So we thought we'd keep him up for a fire--on the hottest day we've had so far. Anyway, he helped his dad start the fire and even roasted a wiener that he wouldn't eat.

He helped build the little log cabin and was fascinated that the fire would "eat" any of the things he threw in.

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

A Bit of History

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

The Beach

Is it possible to grow tired of the beach?


Belfast Mini-Mills

Knitting is a relatively new hobby for me. I used to do pottery but it takes me out of the house so much. Knitting is completely portable, it's social (eg. I can visit while I knit), and I can make gifts for people again, whether they like it or not.

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.

Belfast Mini-Mills sells yarn that they produce from start to finish: cleaning, spinning, dyeing. They also have a little tea house that we didn't know about until we arrived. Oh well, we went to the drive-in restaurant in Montague...chocolate milkshake...mmmmm...

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 tension is a little loose.

Belfast Mini-Mills

1820 Garfield Road, RR#1

PEI, C0A 1A0


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Winning Some

I never did seal the grout on this table, which means it's vulnerable to stains and such. I made the tiles when I was taking pottery at the college and they each represent a part of PEI. The tree is an image of the crooked tree that hung out over our bank--it's more of a memorial now since the tree was cut down...without my consultation. That's another story.

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 know the rest...