Today’s Top Ten

Golden leaves litter the grass; wind whips at pony tails; nerves wait for the gun; calf muscles tighten; hundreds of shoes pound the ground; parents whoop, holler and even jump over fences–in suit pants and dress shoes–to keep up with their children and cheer them on. Yep, it’s cross-country season. I’m always mystified why it’s such a big deal here (three different meets for young elementary students) but I’m not complaining. Running is more accessible than many other sports; you don’t need special equipment or hand-eye coordination, only a pair of legs that work and a bit of spirit. In honour of the season I’m handing out ribbons, in the shape of sentences, to the ideas racing around my brain. They aren’t necessarily my favourite things in the whole world, rather, the top ten things I feel like noting today.

Eleven-year-olds… This is the bi-lingual age; of picking up the accent of adulthood while still fluent with childhood, of friends with cell phones and tree forts, of babysitting jobs and bedtime hugs, of sarcasm and silly dances, of looking adults in the eye and tag with two-year-olds. I don’t find myself coaching Belén on how to “look at people” when they speak anymore, as much as I watch her talking with adults and children alike and act the proud-mama part in secret. Inside my head I’m shouting, “See her over there? That one who stands tall with the wide smile? She’s my child! That’s my girl!”

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One moment, during Belén’s birthday party, I’m having a serious and meaningful conversation with the girls, the next moment they’re all off playing tag.

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Salsa verde… Made from tomatillos, this green sauce for enchiladas fits my favourite cooking category: the one where you don’t need a recipe. Of course, there are plenty on-line to follow but as long as you have tomatillos, peppers, onion, garlic and salt, it will turn out fine. I don’t add any extra water, but let it all simmer slowly before liquefying with my immersion blender.

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I’ve never cooked with tomatillos before growing them this summer but will definitely plant them again next year.

Neighbours with garbage… Thank you Rebecca for sharing your wealth. The rotting broccoli, over-ripe tomatoes and wilted lettuce is much appreciated. When I see you coming up the walk with a full bucket I get excited just thinking about the nitrogen, carbon and microbes that will work together to make the most precious of gifts. Dirt. Now that’s neighbourliness.

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I have 2 compost bins; one for collecting and one for curing. (It takes about 2 months once I start turning/watering/tending it.) The one on the right is finished and I am shoveling it out here.

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Instead of pulling my bean plants I piled fresh compost right on top (and spread it out later). The nitrogen-rich plants should decompose in place and be ready to host tomatoes next spring.

Wild goose meat… “You’ll need your knives for this kids,” Stan announces as he brings the grilled meat to the table. “Just pretend it’s jerky and you’ll be okay.” It’s true, the leg meat is chewy and tough but the breasts are different. Juicy and barely pink on the inside, they resemble steak and taste just as good. “It’s the rib-eye of the sky,” he tells us. We all agree, chiming in with compliments for the hunter.

Watermelon packages… I tell her it won’t grow; she doesn’t listen. I tell her it’s too late, too shady; she plants it anyway. I tell her the vine is too spindly; she calls her grandma to tell her there’s a blossom. I tell her the fruit will never ripen; she takes every visitor back to the garden to see it. If watermelon could grow on faith and loyalty alone, this one would be a prize winner. When her cousins from Ontario come she gives them the tour and leaves the best ’til last. Her dear watermelon, no bigger than a tennis ball and mostly white with a greenish hue, elicits sufficient praise. Matteus even asks for a taste.

A week later we scramble to bring in the garden before the first frost and Susanna picks her precious fruit. She slices it up and gently places one half on a square of plastic wrap while informing her father she is sending it in the mail to her cousin. He shoots her idea down; she hums and keeps working. The next day I ask about the piece of rind wrapped up on the counter.

“It’s going in the mail,” she responds.

“No, it’s not,” I say. “You can’t send a drippy, moldy package of watermelon.”

Susanna looks at me, smiles sweetly, and continues on.

It’s still there, awaiting its final destiny: compost or Canada post. Who will win?

This book… If you share my reading taste you will love Tattoos on the Heart written by a Jesuit priest who lives in gang territory in L.A.

And this one: Good God, Lousy World, and Me. It’s another spiritual memoir written by a human rights activist who comes to understand God is present even in in the filthiest, darkest, and most violent of places.

Deception in the name of cleanliness… We have a house cleaner. She comes once a week. We don’t know her full name because of her company’s privacy policy, but we know we all have to tidy up the night before so she can deep clean without the clutter. Everyone is very impressed with her work. I don’t think we pay her enough.

Orca beans… Dry beans are the middle child of the garden; they get on quite well with almost no attention. I planted a tiny corner of my garden with these and basically forgot about them until today, when I harvested enough for a few meals and next year’s seed cache.

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Sunsets during supper

The rice is cooking, so are the beans
My kitchen window glows neon
No time to cook
Pull Vivi from her highchair, buckle up, squish in, head out of town
Find a prairie,
a gravel road,
a place to smell the harvest dust
The sky blossoms purple and orange and makes this field a ballroom
This stubble our dance floor

Seven Good Things

It’s Sunday afternoon and I decide to go for a walk. All by myself. While the rest of my family plays a board game. I know, crazy isn’t it–going off on my own instead of spending quality time with my husband and children? But it gets worse (or better, depending on your point of view). I head to 7-11 and attempt to purchase a few chocolate bars before realizing I’d scooped up Mexican pesos from our change box. Because I don’t have enough Canadian currency for all the bars, I buy only one. The one I like best. On my way home I nibble slowly, face towards the sun, crunching on peanuts and sucking on caramel. I walk back and forth on my own block just so I can finish it before reaching home to dispose of the evidence. While the wrapper floats to the bottom of our garbage bin I slip in the back door and try to keep from smiling suspiciously.

***

The woman ahead of me in line watches while I nose my full cart into the cashier’s lane. It doesn’t take long before she meets my eye and launches into conversation.

“Did you hear about the baby that almost drowned? It was a car crash and the mother died but they found the baby, still strapped into its seat.”

I told her I hadn’t heard the story until now. Then she added, “It was alive,” as an afterthought. “How old is your baby?”

“Seven months.”

“Mmm… babies. So many things to worry about. Terrible things. The accidents that could happen… And then, when they get bigger–”

I’m not sure I want to hear more but I say, “It must get even harder as they get older.” I sense she’s just trying to make conversation, even though she sounds like a church bell ringing the death toll, because people do that. We say weird things, even offensive things, just because we’re clumsy at connecting.

Then the man in front of her jumps in and the next moment we’re not talking about tragedy anymore, but curling. The cashier gives her opinion on the Brier and the conversation veers again while the gentleman tells us exactly what he thinks about “those Albertans.” By the time I have my bags packed I feel like I’ve been at a local coffee shop. In the parking lot I see the man who was ahead of me in line and he waves and nods. Friendly places are like this, I think, where goodbyes are needed after standing in line with strangers at the grocery store.

***

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***

The meeting is getting long and there are no windows in the room. I’m wondering if the sun will still be shining by the time we leave when a man gets up to speak. At first I lean forward to pay attention and then I realize he’s not like “us”. Not normal. I try to appear engaged but inwardly I lose interest. His gestures are getting bigger now and he’s repeating his spiel for the fourth time. I look around the room and see some smiling patronizingly; others are starting to fidget. How long will they let this guy keep going? Who has the nerve to interrupt him? His words tumble out fast, like a train building momentum–unable to stop itself even if it wanted to. Then someone else clears his throat and without pausing starts speaking over the first guy. Immediately I feel uncomfortable, dreading the public awkwardness sure to follow. But it doesn’t. The new speaker directs his words to the one he just interrupted and they come like a long, cold drink of water. What you are saying is important. I understand you. We appreciate hearing this. Thank you for sharing. Everyone relaxes. Then we are clapping. A bit of grace.

***

These books:

  1. The Story-If you think the Bible is just for little girls in pretty dresses to carry under their arm on their way to Sunday School, read this. It’s all about bloodbaths, cowardly men and woman, feuding tribes, supernatural powers, and the ancient culture that still informs the lives of millions of us today. As I’ve read I’ve laughed aloud, cringed, and most of all, wanted to know more. Was Ruth’s heart pounding when she sneaked in to wake Boaz on the threshing floor? What exactly was Saul thinking while he cowered in the supplies closet to hide from those who wanted to crown him as king?
  2. Animal Dialogues-Beautiful essays that will make you want to trek in the wilderness for days on end.
  3. Bread of Angels-More Christian stuff that’s well-written enough you might enjoy it even if you’re not Christian. I’m reading it slowly, hoping I don’t reach the end of the book.

***

Before the girls leave for school they get the birthday chair ready for their dad. Presents are wrapped, balloons inflated, and seats are lined up so the audience can watch Stan’s expression as he opens each gift. He does not disappoint. The mushroom farm elicits smiles and curiosity; the pair of chopsticks, a bear hug; the four Coffee Crisps, many lavish thank-yous. It was just what they hoped for.

***

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A pleasant moment during a photo session in which I managed to bring at least two of my children to tears.

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Be well,

Tricia

 

“What kind of people bug you?”

She asked me the question and I answered her without hesitating. It was one of many questions that made up the hour long interview,* and while I talked she scribbled notes, stopping only to fire the next question. I could’ve responded to her prompt by listing qualities such as disorganized, inconsistent, and frequently late, but she’d already heard about my weaknesses so I said the first thing that came to mind.

“People who are dogmatic.”

What I meant by “dogmatic” was not someone who is opinionated, passionate, or sincerely convinced by something. I was referring to the kind of people who are all of those things plus unwilling to consider, or understand, why anyone might not agree with them. I love visiting with people who think differently than I do and I think spirited debates are a wonderful way to enjoy another’s company. When it stops being fun–when it becomes an argument going nowhere–is when I can tell the other person has never thoughtfully challenged his or her suppositions. Because I’m convinced that almost every controversial issue has supporters on both sides who are smart and kind, and that if you listen long enough to an individual from either camp, you might find some small truth worth considering.

This doesn’t mean I only want to hang around with spineless people who can’t make up their minds about anything; I just like hanging out with people who try to figure out why everyone hasn’t come to the same conclusion they have.

Kind of like these two authors…

I read both of them this fall (I’m not quite finished All natural) and admire the curiosity and desire to understand, instead of a must-win-the-argument mentality, of both authors. Keller’s book, The Reason for God, is less even-handed than the other one–he doesn’t spend as much time exploring both sides, but he’s consistently respectful. His tone, in general, is Many thoughtful people think differently than I do and this is why, but here’s what makes sense to me. All natural is written by a skeptic who grew up diaper-less with hippy parents, but who still wonders if it pays to buy organic bananas. If you like either of these books, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t be interested in the other–they’re written in such different arenas–but maybe one of them will make your holiday reading list.

So, there’s the complete answer to her interview question. Now, what kind of people bother you most? It’s something interesting to consider, and can even be inspiring, if you’re on the lookout for people who display the opposite trait…

Oh, and the next time you see me getting riled up in a discussion, feel free to remind me of this post!

Tricia

*We’ve applied to volunteer with Big Brothers/Big Sisters… hence the thorough interview.

PS. For those of you more interested in the weather than philosophy: Our cold snap is over! The mercury has climbed to new heights… but not before we went ice-fishing on Sunday. We spent the day on the lake (wearing three pairs of pants under our ski-pants) defying the chill, and at one point defying geography, after the kids suggested playing hide and seek. Imagine a 35-mile-long lake covered in ice and snow. Now imagine 5 kids in colourful snowsuits trying to hide.

“Polar Bear”, a game where adults attack small children and send them sprawling to the snow, turned out to be a much better alternative. 🙂

Upcycled Wool Cowl (no knitting required) and some blogging philosophy

I feel like I’m in grade five again, pretending to make a fashion magazine–which is appropriate as the project I’m featuring today is entirely doable for any fifth-grader. Because I’m marginally better at sewing than I am knitting (I can knit and sew anything as long it’s rectangular) I thought I might try a no-knit cowl to partner with my new winter parka.

I’ve had the wool sweater for years and used it as a tea-cozy after it shrunk/felted in the washing machine. It worked nicely to keep my teapot warm, if a bit unsightly with the hoodie and arms occupying more table space than necessary, but after I got my purple coat I decided to re-incarnate the tea cozy as a winter scarf:

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The more felted the wool, the warmer the scarf. Although my sweater didn’t felt 100%, it did shrink substantially and I didn’t need to take it in at all.

I cut the arms and hood off, but left the base wide.

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another almost-rectangular project to show off my sewing finesse

I turned down the cut by the neck and seamed it. Then I sewed the armhole cuts together and made sure the cowl was narrow enough at the top to stay up when I need to keep my nose and cheeks covered.

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After Belén took that last photo she said, “You’re not going to put this on your blog, are you, Mom?… That scarf looks weird.”

I happen to love my recycled cowl and told Belén so (I’m used to her comments on my clothes; she’s been critiquing my fashion for years now) but I have to admit, it feels weird posting pictures of myself wearing it. I question why the world needs to see my scarf and why I’m spending time typing out those very questions… which leads me to the bigger question of blogging and why I do it.

Every time I publish a post, WordPress (my blogging engine) flashes a congratulatory message across the screen including a tally of all the entries I’ve written. Once I hit the publish button on this draft I will have reached 100 posts. That’s a lot of hours spent loading pictures, typing, deleting, rewriting, and proofreading. And for what? So family can catch up on our lives? Partly.

So I can practice writing? Yes, that’s one reason. I’m finding that learning to write is a lot like learning another language. The more Spanish or Guarani I spoke when in Bolivia, the more agile my mouth and tongue became at forming new sounds. Similarly, sitting down at the keyboard regularly keeps the pathway from my mind to my fingers a little easier to travel.

So I can share my work with an audience? Definitely. Blogging is an egocentric activity, but it’s also a forum to connect with others. I teach a writing workshop to a grade 2 class and everyday I ask at least one student to read a piece of writing in front of their peers. Once, when a little girl delivered a choppy monologue punctuated by breathy pauses picked up by the microphone, she exploded after her performance. Unable to contain herself, she danced the whole way back to her seat singing, “This is the best day ever!” And then, between twirls she shouted, “I wanted to write a story and read it to the whole class and I did it! I did it! I did it!” I tried to re-focus her energy and speak in a low tones to move the class forward and keep calm, but I totally understood her reaction. It is thrilling to produce something and have other people read, see, or hear it. Blogging might be egocentric but I think it’s even more self-absorbed to pretend that an audience is irrelevant.

And finally, blogging is just another creative attempt to capture some of the curiosities, confusion, and beauty strewn around me. When I consider an ordinary image I might translate to words, it’s like picking up a pebble from a river bed. There are so many and they all look the same under the water, but study one for a moment and it becomes interesting enough to roll around in my hand for awhile. Scripting a scene from our week makes me appreciate the details of it, while it’s still dripping wet in my palm.

And so I guess I’ll keep blogging after all, even if it took me 39 ridiculous tries to get a shot of myself wearing a scarf.

Stay warm and keep creating, however you do it,

Tricia

PS. If you’re interested in creative non-fiction, check out this book I just read. It would be useful for any writer (it’s filled with brilliant essays critiqued by the author) but it’s especially appropriate for mothers. I loved it.

The Hunt, and a List of Great Chapter Books

Sometimes strange things happen over which we have no control. And even if we think we’re in control, we’re not.I learned that this week while teaching three mischievous little boys.

I spend every afternoon providing intense reading intervention with small groups of 7 and 8 year-olds. During a half hour period we might use whiteboards, dramatize, play several games, make a phonics chart, and read two or three books. I always keep one eye on the clock, and the other on my lesson plan, to make sure the pace of activity facilitates maximum impact. In other words, I have no time for shenanigans.

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writing letters in quinoa

On Monday, we were reading a story with a mouse as a protagonist. We were almost at the last page when it all started:

“Look, there he is! There’s the mouse!” Cameron yelled in a fit of giggles.

Before I had time to squelch anything another boy joined in, pointing and bouncing in his chair. Then the third boy chimed, “I see it, I see it, I see it, I see it!”

Flustered and annoyed with their antics (we’d lost thirty precious seconds of content coverage), I demanded silence. “Stop it. Stop it right now. All of you sit DOWN. This is enough.”

But they couldn’t sit. They wouldn’t sit. They danced on their tippy toes, tittering, yelping, and completely ignoring me… and that’s when I saw the furry body and smooth tail slip behind my shelf.

In the same moment, the custodian came barreling into my room, holding towels in both hands. “Plug the doorways! There’s a mouse in here!” she shouted, throwing me a towel to batten down the hatches. But the little mouse squeezed under a door before I had time to stuff it with a towel and the screaming that ensued in the hallway indicated its escape route. It wasn’t just the custodian on the hunt now; the secretary, followed by the vice principal, came running from their offices, too. Even I abandoned my lesson plan and grabbed the garbage can Cameron held out to me.

I decided to go for it. Sprinting after the rodent and slamming the can onto the floor, I looked up only to see him zig-zagging a few steps ahead of me. The second time it worked and I just barely captured him–his little black eyes and quivering nose sticking out from under the rim–right in front of thirty students lined up at the library door. Their teacher screeched, “Shut the door!” while the vice-principal handed me a broom to finish the job.

Mrs. Reed took the mouse back outside and set it free was the line some teachers told their students, but my three boys knew better. They had seen me smash the broom-handle to the floor. When we gathered ourselves back in my room, they wanted to know more details, and mostly, why I had killed it.

“Mice and humans don’t get along very well indoors,” I explained, “Now, pick up a marker and write m-o-u-s-e. Which two vowels make the middle sound?”

When I told my daughter, on our drive home, what had happened she wasn’t impressed. “That could’ve been Despereaux!” she cried, swinging her feet and inadvertently kicking my seat.

…Which brings me back to the title of this post. (Were you wondering if I’d ever get there?) In case you weren’t sure, this is all about chapter books; the books we’ve read to our children and loved. Our daughters are currently seven and nine, but most 5-99 year-olds will enjoy these. They’re the kind of books that change the way you think, imagine, and make you mad at your mom for killing a mouse. (See The Tale of Despereaux). I’ve shared a few of these before, but I wanted to make a shortlist of our favourites in one place…

  • Little House on the Prairie series
  • Pippi Longstocking
  • Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter (Another one by Astrid Lindgren–an exciting story of independence, love, and the wilderness)
  • Mrs. Piggle Wiggle (also a series, and a hit with the 5-7 year old crowd)
  • Where the Mountain meets the Moon (A fantastical adventure that Belén especially loved)
  • A little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • The Boxcar Children
  • Ramona Quimby, Age 8
  • Grandma’s Attic Series (True stories of a woman who grew up in Michigan–all tales of the “olden days”)
  • The Belonging Place by Jean Little
  • City of Orphans
  • The Tale of Despereaux
  • Out of My Mind — Devastating/enlightening/hopeful at the same time. My book club (all of us 35+) appreciated it too.

Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell Gregory a story. Make some light. (From the Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo)

What I wrote at the beginning of this post is true. I had no control of my lesson once the mouse showed up. And it appears I have less control over my writing than I think; I can’t come up with a meaningful way to tie this piece together…What do mice, literacy, fate, our drive to control, and read-alouds have in common? Please leave your existential answers, along with any titles you’ve enjoyed with your family, or as a child, in the comments.

Happy for more book suggestions,
Tricia
*Although I have no affiliation with Amazon (use your local library!) I link to the site because it’s the most user-friendly for synopsis and reviews.

Top Ten Picture Books for Children

I’ve recently joined a committee to help select the best Canadian picture books published in 2013. It’s not as prestigious as it sounds–I’d never even heard of the award before I got involved–but it sure is exciting to flip through a new stack of books, straight from the publisher, and choose the one I’ll read next. It’s like going through a box of chocolates! The rest of my family is weighing in, too,(we’ve read most of the books together) and I’m recording our opinions so I’ll be able to narrow the list of books from 57 down to the top 10. To help me be more decisive, I ask myself after each reading, “Is this a book I’d be willing to advocate for to convince someone else of it’s merit?”

During this process I’ve thought about my own all-time-favourite children’s books list and decided to record my nominees for the Friesen Reed award, right here! Partway through jotting my list, I stopped to wonder why I was spending time on this. My children are now on to chapter books (I had to rescue some of these favourites from the garage sale they staged on our front lawn this summer) and it seems almost silly I’m still preoccupied by picture books. But then I remember I’ve always loved picture books, even before I had children, and that only the most skillful and elegant of story tellers can engage a six-year old audience.

Here are the books we’ve read and re-read in our household; books we’ve given as gifts; books I’m willing to advocate for. I’ve included some of the themes that resonate with me in italics:

Roxaboxen creativity, nostalgia, community

Bagels from Benny generosity

The Relatives Came family… expressive artwork

Harriet You’ll Drive Me Wild This one is so comforting for both parents and children on a rough day

The Man with the Violin noticing beauty, music, …the art fits the story perfectly

All the Places to Love sense of place.. My friend, Kjerstin, bought this for me when I was in university and I’ve relished reading it ever since

Little Lost Bat loss and recovery, adoption ,… full of interesting facts about Mexican free-tailed bats, tender but not sentimental

The Arrival immigration, resilience … this book is in a category of it’s own for the depth of story communicated through the graphics

The Sneetches consumerism, thinking for yourself

Paper Bag Princess Robert Munsch can get on my nerves, but every little girl needs to read this book

Most of these authors have written other books we’ve also enjoyed, and their names register like those of old classmates or distant relatives. Oh, it’s Kathy Stinson, I know her! And good ol’ Cynthia Rylant and Mem Fox–you can always rely on them! Perhaps there are a few titles here you don’t recognize… I hope so, for your sake; I know I love discovering new books.

Besides reading, we were busy in our yard and with friends this weekend. Once again, the potatoes (from my last post) came through for us. On Friday, we hosted an all-evening dinner affair served in multiple courses. It was a pretty classy event and I kept on reminding our guests, “We’re dining like the French tonight…”

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The chefs (Dion, Jason and Stan) fried potatoes for four hours straight, under the gleam of the trouble light, in our garage.

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Dion kept shuttling fries into the house and the kids kept eating.

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They kids started with veggies and dip at 5:30 and then ate fries, in courses, until about 9:30 (between rounds of hide-and-go seek in the park.)

Is this what you pictured when you read “classy”? Well, I meant classy in the way that 7 to 12-year-olds understand it; no plates–piles of fries were dumped right on the table covered with brown paper, and chairs optional–but useful for standing on to reach half-way across the table. The kids ran out the back door between servings and the woman folk returned to their spots at the grease-stained table, between batches, with red wine and conversation… That’s the kind of class I’m talkin’ about.

Wishing you enough to eat, with good books to read and share, this week,

Tricia

PS. It was SO hard to  narrow my booklist down to 10. Which of your favourites did I miss? Do tell!

PPS. Here’s the yapita for the grandparent/aunty audience

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Sometimes Belén and Susie are like little machines you just have to re-set every once in awhile. On Saturday I asked them to help me stomp down the leaves in the compost bin and then they stayed there for hours, long after their chore was finished, playing “apartment”.

***

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Susanna’s fiddle teacher suggested recording the songs the girls are working on and playing them back to see where they still need to improve. Here’s a shot of Susa providing moral support, and Belén’s classic I’ve-made-a-mistake-and-what-exactly-is-my-sister-doing? expression.

All the Things to Find Out About

This past week has been full of milestones; Belén turned nine, and we started reading Anne of Green Gables. Both events were expected, and anticipated, long in advance.

I’d been waiting to share Lucy Maud Montgomery with my own daughters–as my mom did with me– for years. Then Tuesday night came, and we realized we were out of read-alouds, so I took Anne off the shelf with as much pomp as I could muster. Tangled between my girls’ limbs and Phebe’s green afghan, we read about Marilla and Rachel Lynde, while I kept hoping they’d all hit it off in the first chapter. It seemed so much slower, longer and more detailed than I remembered it. When we finally finished, I asked them if they wanted to keep going. I was so influenced by the spirit of this fictitious red-head as a child, I felt I was auditioning part of myself, instead of simply reading another book.

Susanna wasn’t impressed, but Belén and I convinced her to give it one more night. Then the big guns showed up. Many of you know Stan is multi-talented, but his dramatic reading skills are one of his best kept secrets. By the time Mathew Cuthbert and Anne were driving home under the blossoms of “the white way of delight” he had both girls hooked. Maybe if this engineering thing doesn’t work out he can look into other opportunities with the CBC. (Do you remember watching the film the first time it aired on CBC in 1985? I loved it, but wondered how Megan Follows beat me to it!)

Weeks before we opened up Anne, we started planning Belén’s special day and decided to break from tradition. Usually we invite a handful of families, but this year’s invitations went out to classmates only. Besides the drop in mean age of attendees, we added on a sleepover. Yes folks, it was a daring move for a woman who champions age-diversity and a man who prefers brevity, over longevity, when it comes to parties.

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Susanna providing some dinner music before the evening games. (Doug, in the background, doesn’t know what’s coming…)

Stan decided to invite a colleague over the same day of Belén’s party. I guess my husband imagined six hyper girls would be a background detail, instead of a shrieking blur of glow-sticks and pony tails. Poor Doug. He came expecting to relax but was roped into sweaty games of Kick-the-Can and Capture the Flag. Maybe running through the dark with a flashlight, scaring pre-pubescent girls, is a good way to decompress after all.

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Some of the girls had never slept in a tent. Here’s Belén taking control of the situation. She may not know much about the latest boy-band but she can set up a tent like nobody’s business.

Long after I wished the girls goodnight and zipped the tent behind me, Belén came padding into our room, crying.

“What’s wrong?” I said, jerking my head up from the pillow and reaching for her to come closer. “Is everyone okay?”

More sniffling.

“They don’t want to go to sleep, Mom… And I do!”

I assured her she could stay indoors and soon after she collapsed under her covers. In the end, both our girls slept in their own beds, while the other invitees stayed in the tent.

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The next day we talked about what we had learned. We all decided that old people make parties more fun and that great celebrations don’t have to last all night.

Anne’s right….

“Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive–it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we knew all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there?”

Have a great weekend finding out things,

Tricia