Sunday, October 30, 2011

Treasured Things (and the memories that go with them)

Over the 39 years that Bob and I have been together we have collected a lot of "stuff".  As we approach retirment we look at all that "stuff" and know it's time to start paring down.  I spent a part of yesterday cleaning out the old rolltop desk that shows in the back of this picture.  The desk belonged to our beloved Papa.  When Papa passed away it took Nanny more than a year to come to the painful, but sensible decision to move out of the house she and Papa had spent 52 years in, creating their own memories and raising their five children.  I don't remember how decisions were made about what went where but I ended up with Papa's desk.  I can still see him sitting there after dinner doing whatever it was he did.  Once he retired, he kept a journal faithfully and I know some of the time at the desk was spent writing.  I do know that Papa paid the bills and that some of his time at the desk was about looking after this part of their life together. I do know that when I look at the desk even now, I see Papa sitting there.

After cleaning out the desk I popped an e-mail to our four kids (really?? there has to be a better word for adult "children") asking if anyone had interest and/or room.  I should know my kids better and I should have thought a bit more before sending that e-mail because now we have to decide how to decide about who gets the desk.  This also got me thinking about other things around our house and the memories attached to them.

On the bookcase in our family room sits an old hand-held school bell.  When I look at that bell I can honestly hear the sound of it ringing out over the hutterite colony my Gramma Dot taught at in the 60's.  My two brothers and I lived with our Gramma Dot and Grampa Albert on that hutterite colony for a few months and we attended the one-room schoolhouse with the children from the colony.  I can't remember whether it was Irricana or Beisker.  I do remember it looked much like the one in the picture below.
Life on the colony was interesting and that is a whole other story in itself.  What I remember about the bell was that Gramma Dot could control the whole class of students (not that Hutterite children took much controlling:) with the promise of ringing that bell in the morning, at the end of recess and again at the end of lunch.  My Gramma Dot was a bit of a nomad in her retired years.  She had a trailer by the beach in Comox and a home in Calgary but spent much of her time travelling from coast to coast in her yellow truck with the purple home-made box/camper on the back.  While she was away travelling one year the propane tank in the trailer blew up, sent the whole trailer through the air landing several feet away from the foundation.  Lucky she was away!  Before she got back to Comox to deal with the insurance etc. much of what was in her trailer was ransacked and taken.  Gramma Dot was more than a bit of a pack-rat and I remember wondering if the old bell had been one of the items taken but luckily it was not.  My grandkids love it when they get a chance to grab that old wooden handle and ring that bell as loud as they can.  When they do, I can hear the laughter and noise that comes with a playground of children returning to class.  I can see the boots and dresses of the Hutterite girls and the black pants and jackets of the boys as they run up the stairs, eager, yes eager, to learn.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

We Day - 2011

The energy, the passion, the determination, the NOISE, it was all amazing. The power of 18 000 young people gathered together under  one roof in a room with people whose life's ambition is to unite them against world poverty, child labour and local issues is indescribable.  The noise was deafening at times.  When asked; Who is ready to make a difference? Who is ready to be the change? Who is ready to start today?  18 000 strong screamed back, " WE ARE!"

I had the privilege today of attending my very first WE Day in Vancouver with several students from the school I teach at.  While some of the students had been before and had tried to explain the power of WE DAY to me it's just not something one can comprehend until you've actually experienced it in person.

The day was filled with celebrities, music, dance, culture and passion.  Kids screamed for bands I had never heard of (with the exception of Hedley) and cheered and clapped for celebrities they had never heard of (Mikhail Gorbachev).  Shaq had them screaming WEEEEEE DAAAAYYYYY.  Spencer West, author of Standing Tall:My Journey, amazed them with what he had overcome in life, as well as his future plans to hike to the top of Kilimanjaro.  FRESH showed them all how boys can bust a move while Waneek Horn-Miller invited them all to join her Team Canada in efforts to support Canada's First Nations peoples.

While all of the famous people and the hoopla provided a backdrop for the day it was the young people and their passion and determination that touched me.  As face after face splashed across the jumbotron I couldn't help but notice the smiles, the cheers, the friendships and the pure joy that was evident.  There are simply not enough adults in this world telling our young people how truly powerful they are.  Imagine spending a day where EVERYONE told you repeatedly - YOU ARE THE GENERATION WE HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR.  YOU ARE THE CHANGE.  YOU ARE POWERFUL.  WE NEED YOU.  I work in public education.  Our job should be to send that same message.  I spent today listening to 18 000 young people being told they can solve the world's problems.  Tomorrow they'll have to ask to use the washroom.

It was great listening to Craig and Marc Keilburger tell their own story.  It was great listening to them tell the kids there not to listen to the people who use words like; impossible, never, can't, won't,  you're too young.  It was wonderful for the students of four schools to hear the story of how their contributions had changed the life of one girl and to see pictures of the school they had built, the well they had dug, the medical center they had built and the donations that had allowed a women's group to start their own business.

The most powerful moment of the day for me was when Michel Chikwanine, a former child soldier, told his story with large placards while honouring his vow of silence.  While the noise was deafening at times throughout the day, when Michel told his silent story it was the silence of 18 000 that was deafening.

Free the Children is the result of one child's dream and determination.  We Day celebrates the accomplishments of Free the Children while inspiring and mobilizing the youth of the world.  The message of the day was BE THE CHANGE.  The only thing I am asking for anyone reading this blog is to go the the We Day Facebook page and "like" their page.  For every "like" $1.00 is donated (by corporate sponsors) to Free The Children.

Thanks everyone!!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Happy Birthday, Christine!

Happy Birthday, Christine!

36 years ago tonight, almost to the minute, my water broke in the main isle of the K-Mart in Victoria,  Bob was at university and I was a young mom-to-be waiting the birth of our second child.  Bob and I were very young when we started our family.  Whenever the kids complain about unfairness, too harsh of rules or a variety of other parenting issues we tell them they should thank their lucky stars they're even around to complain:)

We pretty much knew nothing about parenting, weren't into reading about it, didn't have the internet and had no family close enough to be of any help on a day to day basis.  We flew by the seat of our pants and while I'm sure there were many things we could have done better we just look at the four adults that we raised and feel proud of the many things we did right in spite of our ignorance.

When I had Jason I was pretty sure I was dying and begged for whatever medication they would give me.  Pretty much they told me suck it up and get on with my business.  Christine's birth, on the other hand, was as all births should be.  When my water broke I went to the hospital where they admitted me and put me into a nice comfy bed.  The only real pain I had was the nurse who kept waking me up to ask me if I needed anything for the pain, which I didn't.  Bob spent the night in the waiting room waiting to pounce should the other dad get up off the one comfy chair.  Dad's didn't really go into the delivery room in those days and I'm sure Bob was glad of that at the time.  When the time came for me to deliver there was no one in the room and I had to call for the nurse, several times, to tell her I thought my baby was coming.  She treated me like I knew nothing and had to do a couple of quick steps to catch Christine as she was born.  The doctor showed up a few minutes later, collected his paycheque and headed home for Thanksgiving dinner:)  Christine was a bit of a shocker and if you know Jason, you'll know why.  Where he was dark, she was light.  Where his eyes were as brown as brown could be, hers were a sparkly bright blue. She was the prettiest blue-eyed, blond-haired little girl you could imagine.  It didn't seem possible she could be ours.  She was a perfect angel.  I couldn't have felt better and really, I could have jogged home from the hospital that day.  The three days (YES, THREE) that they kept me in the hospital made me twitchy and I was ready to take my perfect little girl home. 

The first thing we learned about Christine was that she should have been born with a little sign that said, "I can do it myself!".  She was no snuggler and right from the start she taught us all about determination (aka being stubborn:)   I tell anyone who will listen now that while Christine's determination made parenting a little more challenging it has stood her in good stead in her life. She has travelled the world, attended four universities, learned a new language and knows how to take care of herself.   I see a lot of myself in Christine but the part I admire the most is that she is so determined to live life to the fullest.  I didn't learn to do that until much later in life.  Our little girl has grown into a dynamo of a woman.  She is an energetic, creative teacher, a supportive loving wife and a fun-loving, adoring mom.  She has a strong connection to her past and great plans for her future, but most importantly, she makes the most of every day and knows how to enjoy the moment. She makes sure the people in her life know how much she loves them and does countless little things to remind them on a regular basis.  What we want her to know today is how much we all love her as well!  Happy 36th Birthday Christine!  May your year ahead be filled with love, peace and adventure!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Our Amazing Elizabeth - Happy Thanksgiving!

Dear Elizabeth,
I will never forget the day you came into our world and changed it forever.  I'm trying hard to show you off to the camera in this picture but what I notice when I look at it is how happy I look just holding you up for the world to see.  You came into my world on a busy day.  I was a new principal and it was our school's big year end assembly.  There was so much to do and so many people coming to honour and celebrate their own children but the moment that phone rang everything else seemed just a little less important.  We got through the afternoon and me and Grampa hopped into the car for our drive to Vancouver, hoping you hadn't arrived before we got there.  We missed your grand entrance by just a bit but it didn't change how excited we were finally meet our first grandchild.

One of the things I remember most about you being a wee baby is how much all your aunties (and your dad) had to learn.  Auntie Carrie and Auntie Kelly were looking after you one day when you were still so little.  Daddy had forgot to pack diapers and by the time Grampa and I got there your two aunties had your little bum wrapped in a towel and they were a bit frantic about how to make you stop crying.  A quick trip to the store solved all the problems.  You've heard many other stories (like the one where Auntie Carrie held you while Auntie Kelly wiped up the puke after they fed you junk food and then put you in the car for a long ride to Agassiz).  Along the way we all figured things out (lucky for you!) and it seemed like there was always a big competition about who would get to look after you when mommy or daddy needed a bit of help. 

As you grew (by the way, MUCH too quickly) we learned more about you and who you are.  You always had the ability to entertain yourself and it wasn't long before we all were amazed by your incredible story-telling skills.  You could turn an ordinary couch into a boat in a storm.  A rope became a fishing rod that brought many beautiful things to us from the sea; mermaids, dolphins and that really famous starfish that your daddy ate!  A tree stump in Olympic Village became shelter from a desert storm even though it was pouring rain in our world.  One of my favourite days with you was the day at Kye Bay where you turned Grampa into your "matey" and I got to be the queen.  You dug for buried treasure, watched for pirate ships and had Grampa running to and fro at your every command!

Elizabeth, you are also an amazing artist.  This picture of the peacock was just one of the amazing pictures you took while you were on your vacation in California.  What I love most about your pictures is that I get to see the world through your eyes.  You always pic scenes with amazing colour and lots of movement and usually they involve nature!  The first statue that you helped me make was a great one and when I took it to the next show I was at it was the first one to sell.  You were a little sad that I sold it but you were very proud that other people loved it just as much as you did.  When we play together with arts and crafts you are always very careful to make sure that I don't "help" you too much as you have your own creative ideas about just the way you want your art to look.  I love it that you love art!

Lizzie, this picture of you at swimming lessons is one of my all-time favourites.  It's clear you were having such a great time but what doesn't show in this picture is how brave and determined you were while you were learning.  None of your aunts or your daddy were ever crazy about swimming so it's good to see you really learning to love being in the water!  This determination is something that you show iin everything you do!  Nothing holds you back when you are determined:)
It seems impossible to me that 7 years have passed since I first looked down on your beautiful little face.  You seem to be a little taller each time I see you and when you are with Kai you are such a kind and patient big cousin:)  Right now you are loving soccer and swimming and I don't know why but you seem to love scary things as well.  You are quite a trend setter with your fancy hats, scarves and beautiful clothes but you also love to get into your jeans and boots and go down to muck in the river with Grampa and Bailey.  You have been so gentle and loving with Bailey since he was hurt this summer and I know when he sees you coming that he gets all excited about getting his special Lizzie massages!

You were the most wonderful flower girl at Kelly's and Brady's wedding and you are the most wonderful granddaughter a gramma could ever imagine having.  Happy Thanksgiving, Elizabeth.  We are thankful every day for having you in our lives!
Love, Gramma

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thankful for my Grandson!

Dear Kai,
Tomorrow we will all be together (except for Uncle Derran:( to share our Thanksgiving dinner together.  The picture above is one of my favourites because the whole world can see how much you meant to your mom and dad even before you got here!  What you can't see in this picture is how excited we all were as we waited to meet you.  Before you were born your mom and dad didn't really want to share their possible baby names with us.  I understand that completely because really, you can't name a baby until you meet him and see who he is.  So. . . .for the last few months before you were born we all called you "Julio".  We don't know why we picked that name but we were all pretty sure it was going to stick no matter what your mom and dad named you.  To be perfectly honest with you I'm so glad they chose Kai because I wasn't really that fond of some of the other choices they had:)

Your mom had a long hard labour (I'm sure you're going to hear about this for years:).  Your dad and me and Grampa stayed with her through the night as you fought to make your way into the world.  After being at the hospital for the whole night I stepped out of the room to call your aunties and uncles to give them an update.  They had all gathered at Uncle Derran's and Auntie Carrie's and played cards through the night waiting to hear you had arrived.  While I had stayed at your mom's side for hours and hours you decided that the moment I stepped out of the room would be the moment you arrived!  I'll never forget when I stepped back into the room hearing your mom's voice say to me, "He's here!"  You can see from the picture above that we all look pretty terrific for having pulled an all-nighter.  What you can't see is that your aunties and uncles are all here in the room too waiting their turn to hold you in their arms and welcome you to the world.
This is your third Thanksgiving with us Kai and we can't begin to tell you how much you're loved.  It seems impossible that you weren't always here.  You are three now and I don't know another little boy that can bring such laughter to a room.  You are mischievous, energetic and one cool kid!  You make us all laugh and smile and you love being the center of attention!  When you're in a room you light it up with your laughter and your antics.  Always up to something, that's you!

I love this picture of you because it shows so much about who you are right now.  You're so curious about everything (especially my camera:).  Your shirt is covered in guitars and I have certainly see you rock it out with your own electric guitar.  I wish you were wearing your Batman cape in this picture because it seems to me that you have it on almost every time I see you.  Your new skateboard has been a real hit with you and we're all amazed at how good you are already! Imagine, our little Kai playing soccer, swimming, doing gymnastics, playing music, riding skateboards and making music.  Thank you Kai for who you are and what you bring to all our lives! 

Love, Gramma