Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

The Christmas Concert:
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

Article from Living in Brockville

Singing in the Season
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

One Day Til Christmas Break!

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!

Solstice Celebration

Friday, December 17, 2010

Book Signing

Tomorrow is our big day.
Cathy and I hope you can all join us at
Leeds County Books,
73 King St W. Brockville.
Stop by tomorrow between 11:00am - 1:00pm.
Pick up a book, get it signed, or just say hey.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Concert

I've entered a new world--the world of the children's Christmas concert. Wow! I can't believe that these events go on every year, all over town, and I had no idea the hilarity so close to home. There was a tricycle sleigh, a sock horse, bells, dancing, twirling, curtsying, and bowing. My life is forever changed.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Writers Ink Short Story Contest

Here are the winners of the Writers Ink Short Story Contest sponsored by Leeds County Books and The Brockville Recorder and Times. From left to right:

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 Morning at Wendy's Country Market

My books arrived last night. I'm so pleased with them. The paper is right. The cover is exactly as I imagined. Even the binding feels like quality. Despite all of this, I still sat up until midnight a little panicked that I had spent a goodly sum of our hard-earned money to self-publish my columns. All of that changed this morning when Wendy's Country/Mobile Market called to order a bunch. We decided to take a family trip out to Lyndhurst.
Mike, Rick, and Kieran explored while I made book arrangements.

A sign (no pun) that winter has settled in to stay.

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

Preparations and Books

I love the Christmas season. I just don't like the first week or two of December when I have to address Christmas cards and organize packages for mailing--this year I added knitting projects to my list of things that need to be completed. Once I get those things off, I can enjoy the thought of them arriving to loved ones...on time...something I'm not always so good at.
We're busy preparing around here. The lights are up. The tree is decorated. I even made some gluten-free shortbread with maple sugar and they're good. Really good. Objectively good.

Christmas Wreath

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.