Warning and welcome!

Warning! This is NOT your little sisters blog! If you're looking for the latest review of the Anthropologie catalogue, or a linky party or even an instagram photo you are in the wrong place. What I've got is the popcorn-for-dinner, teenage-daughter-as-a-different-species, homeschooling, hospicing kind of life and that's exactly what I intend to write about. So sit down on a sticky chair, pull up a cup of tea that you've rewarmed in the microwave 3 times and have a laugh at the Further Adventures of Cassie Canuck; homeschool edition.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Not "THE" but "A"

On the second week of home schooling the curriculum gave to me "calendar time."  Calendar time is not as easy as saying the days of the week.  Ohhhhhh noooooooooo!  Suggested activities for calendar time include counting the days we've been in school, skip counting by 10s (in kindy?  really?) Writing all kinds of sentences, singing songs, reviewing months, checking weather etc, etc.  If I did all the things listed on the 3 pages I'D be exhausted before we even began lessons never mind the kids.

So today we got the day of the week down then  T checked weather in both Ohio and Kamloops on my ipad.  Compare and contrast.  Eventually I'll make N a cute little weather wheel.  For now he just looked out the window.  We wrote some sentences that resulted in T having a major meltdown.  I told him that he could be a guest writer here to improve his writing skills. 

Eventually I'd like to add the cute little calendar things like telling them that according to the people who make up silly calendar stuff, yesterday was teddy bear day.  They'll love that Wednesday is chocolate milkshake day as well as being video game day. 

When they're older we'll do "on this day in history."  Obviously no research needed on what tomorrows entry would be in fact the new calendar calls it "Patriot Day."  .  But September 11 in our family has it's own personal history as well.  Something significant happened to our family not on THE September 11th but on A September 11th.

I wasn't here the day the world stopped turning (cue Alan Jackson song).  I mean that I wasn't here in the U.S. but nor was I home.  I was in stuck-in-the-middle-of-nowhere South Korea.  I had spotty Internet, a huge time difference, no foreigners around and lots of chaos because until that moment I didn't know that New York City HAD Twin Towers.  It was a week before I'd make it to the foreign church in a large city an hour away.  The first opportunity I had to talk about the events in English.  When I returned home to Canada 3 weeks later everybody was sick of talking about it.  I will always feel that I missed out on something.  There is something to be said about walking in to the hair salon,  seeing what's on the TV there, and being able to discuss.  There's something about standing in line at a grocery store and reading a headline.  Then having the lady behind you say "isn't that a shame?"  That proves to me that sometimes grief is a collective experience.  I guess that's why we have grief support groups.

On September 11th of the NEXT year I was back in Korea.  This time in the large city with the foreign church.  I went to dinner with friends and we reminisced.  Or more like "clung" to each other.  Foreigners spend a long time clinging to each other no matter what the circumstances.

Ahhhhhhh but on September 11 of the year after that my life changed dramatically.  On September 11, 2003 I got engaged.  To the first man I'd ever talked on the phone to.  To the first man I'd ever kissed.  To a man I'd never met in person before that day.  D and I had met on line only 6 weeks before.  Until then I'd never talked to a boy on the phone, never had a boyfriend.  Not for any religious reasons just because I hadn't found anyone I was interested in.   My mom used to joke that even though the best china  was left on the shelf, it occasionally got down to be dusted.  D flew from St. Louis to Vancouver and my parents and I were there to meet the plane.  He kissed me hello and hours later asked me to marry him.  6 weeks after that we were married.  A year after that we were awaiting the birth of baby T. 

I didn't get to publicly mourn THE September 11th, but I sure got to celebrate on A September 11th. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

We've plunged!

God will sometimes walk a pastor through  a sermon before they preach on it.  This years MOPS theme is "PLUNGE; love as if your life depended on it." from 1 Peter 4:8.  Since the last time I was here my family has plunged in to a lot of new things with many more just beginning.  It's kind of been a tidal wave of stuff, mostly good.  The best part is that no matter how deep the water I'm in, I hear the lifeguard walks on water. 

We have a new church that D is the youth pastor of.  .  This one is in a nice suburb close by. (The last one was rural and therefore stuck in the middle of nowhere.)  This one is on  our way to everywhere and that helps.  It is still the same denomination although more conservative than the last.  Great pastor.  Most importantly we ALL go to it.  Last time we didn't and that didn't work out.  The boys and I still go to the Baptist church on Wednesday nights and that IS still working.

We have a new pet or two.  Mr. Crab came home with us from Florida about a year ago.  Some people go to Florida and come home with nice souvenirs and a tan, we came home with crab(s).  Much to our surprise he's still alive.  We also got a dog.  A Treeing Walker Coon Hound named Rosie.  She looks like an overgrown beagle.  I'm pretty sure she's been good for the kids, except for when they argue about who's turn it is to clean up after her. 

We've travelled some.  D and I went to Branson MO in the spring.  Branson needs to be seen to be believed.  D took his youth group on a missions trip to Warrensburg NY for a week this summer.  Last weekend we finally got to Michigan to visit a couple of extraordinary families.  The big news of the summer was that I FINALLY got home.  D surprised me with a trip for and on my 40th birthday.  3 weeks in beautiful BC with NO kids.  It was heavenly! 

I've added a couple of volunteer positions to my schedule this year.  I'm the coordinator for a MOPS group at our church.  After 15 years of helping in one way or another this is my very last year.   Today I started volunteering with a new hospice.  This time I"ll be going in to nursing homes to visit clients.  This hospice is family friendly so I can bring the boys with me.

We've started  down a couple of new roads I didn't think we'd be on this time a year ago or even this time 3 months ago.  Last December D was diagnosed with Aspergers.  Yes, it's autism.  Yes it's rare in adults.  Doesn't mean that many adults don't have it, just means they're not diagnosed. 

Annnnnnnnnnd we're homeschooling.  That one's a shock to me.  I didn't think I'd ever do it.  I admired those who could but I didn't think it was for me.  In fact I KNEW it wasn't for me because I spent many an hour arguing with H over why I couldn't home school her.  And now here we are.  On line schooling kindergarten and second grade.  People keep asking me how long I plan on doing it for and I keep saying "for about the next 5 minutes and then we will go from there." 

So there you have.  The tidal wave of what we've plunged in to this last year.  Obviously lots of topics to write about so stay tuned! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

When more is more

I want to start with something a friend of mine said yesterday about how hard it is to find ways for teenagers to give and I whole heatedly agree.   We kind of ran into the problem of meaning full volunteer work with the youth group.  They like the idea of a service opportunity at a group home for special needs kids that the church supports.  Problem is that there aren't that many opportunities for them to interact with the residents there.  Lots to be done but but not that much with the people.  It seems that I've ran into the same problem with hospice and teen moms.  Maybe it's because of the specialized level of care that patients/residents need, or maybe it's because of all the rules that I'm sure are put into place for their or our protection but there isn't a lot for unskilled workers to do.  I understand that there are no small parts only small players and that pulling weeds and stuffing envelopes are important jobs but I think that people sign up with these organizations because they're looking for face time, personal contact with a specific group of people. 

But I digress as always.  My kids have a bad case of the "gimmes" or more accurately the "iwantthats."  Typical, normal I'm sure. To them Christmas isn't about what you give it's about what you get. I'd like to change that.  Wouldn't we all?   Like all parents I want my kids to understand the true meaning of Christmas and not just the Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus version either.  These are pastors kids, Sunday school scholars who at age 4 ask "how old is God?"  They've got the story down.  But as with most things in church, I don't think they understand the "so what" of it.  That baby in the manger wants us to love one another.  THAT'S what Christmas is about. Can I tell that to the 5 billion toy commercials they've seen before Halloween alone?  No.  Christmas to my kids is about "MORE".  And therein lies the conflict.   As I try to align my own actions with my values the words "less" and "simplify" become more and more important (says I as I clutch my ipad).  It's not only that we need less stuff because we really DO need less stuff, but we also need to desire less.  Be content with what we have and therefore more peaceful.  My kids are pretty much sure that what will bring them contentment and peace is a new gaming system.  Join me in the next few days as I work through that.  Or should I say join me in the next 10 years..........? 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Now we are playing.  The other night the boys and I went to McDonalds in our pjs then came home and had a picnic on the living room floor.  N spilled chocolate milk on the carpet and that reminded me of why we don't do this more often.  I realized that maybe play is as easy as doing ordinary things in extraordinary ways?  Like spirit week at school or camp.  Is everything more fun if you're doing it backwards?  Maybe the point is that play doesn't have to be some elaborate planned thing.  Maybe the joy is in the spontaneity and simpleness of it.  However I'll also point out that my elf plans are getting more and more elaborate, as of yesterday they included having them arrive on a herd of pink hippos.  But the real thing with the elves is that I want them to challenge my boys to be more kind.  I was inspired by a blog about a family that counted down the days until Christmas by doing random acts of kindness; cool stuff like leaving quarters taped to candy machines and candy canes taped to ATMs.  Kindness instead of the chocolate advent calendar thing or instead of all the very cute looking calendars on Pinterest.  And this brings up what I really want to talk about:  Good works/service opportunities and Christmas.  I want to teach my kids to give and to serve.  Maybe my kids are just the proxy for me.  Not maybe, I "know" they are.  It's my own restlessness, my own wanting to think outside the box, get outside my comfort zone and DO stuff for others.  We are church shopping again.  It seems to be an annual tradition here, some people go Black Friday shopping we go church shopping.  On our list of things we're looking for (yes, I know we're never going to find a perfect church, we're not expecting to and NO we're not leaving our current churches because they're not perfect) is a church that has regular, church based service opportunities.  Not para ministries that operate out of the church but actual ministries of the church.  And yes, I am very, very, very, well aware that I don't need a ministry of the church to do good works.  I know that, and I think I'm finally willing to act on it.  I have stuff lined up on Volunteer Match as we speak.  But I don't just want the easy stuff.  Operation Christmas Child; easy.  I should know we threw a whole party for it a year ago.  Getting my kids to donate their used toys to a charity is easy.  It's easy to give away stuff when you know that you're getting something better.  I think the last time around I told you the story of grandma asking her daughter to give up new toys; that's my harder.  No, we're not going to do that but it brings up the point of sacrificial giving.  What my husband calls the "doctrine of the lesser good."  Donating used toys is an example of doing stuff that makes US feel good but it's an easy out.  I want to challenge my kids and myself to do really good things.  Things that may be uncomfortable for them, may be messy but things that really..........I don't want to say make a difference or matter but........  So I'm praying that God directs us to what he wants us to do    Annnnnnnnd at the same time I want my kids to understand the importance of little things you don't have to do big things to make a difference in peoples lives.  I want to teach them to never underestimate the importance of a kind word.  I want them to see how good manners are a form of kindness, so is sharing.  Can small things be done sacrificially?  Stay tuned! 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Give me away

So like I said, there were these deaths and they shook me on a couple of levels.  I'm not sure what it was about these ones........  Quite obviously not my first dealings with death.  Not on a personal or professional level.  It's not my first time experiencing a bunch of deaths in a short time.   Nor is it the intimacy of the relationships, I've lost a parent and a child so there's nothing unique about that either.  Maybe it's that I'll turn the "F" word next year.  But something has made me consider my own mortality.  Hospice would say that's pretty normal given the circumstances.  The question isn't so much the grief, but how do we respond to it.  A life lesson actually.  It's not what happens to us that matters but what we do with it, how we respond to it.  And honestly, I haven't been so great at responding to the things that have happened to me.  But this new found awareness of my own immortality teaches me that things can change in a minute.  They often do.  But there is time to change things.  And tomorrow I'll talk about what changes I'd like to make and how those pesky elves fit in to the plan.  But for today I want to share a poem about giving love away.  It's from the Second Helping of Chicken Soup of the Soul.  Back in the day when there was only 2 books.  Random piece of trivia is that there are now over 105 different titles.  Anyways, someone gave me the book as my mom was dying.  I used the poem at her funeral.  It comforted me.  Later in a grief support group I would hear the same question "what do you do with the love?"  I forgot all about the poem until Dick died.  I wanted to quote it but the version on line isn't the same.  Do you know how hard it is to track down one specific book of those 105 Chicken Soup books when you're not even sure you're looking for the right one?  I found the right book on my shelf yesterday.  Funny, I thought I'd given most of them away. 


When I die, give what is left of me to children.
If you need to cry, cry for your brothers walking beside you.
Put your arms around anyone and give them what you need to give me.
I want to leave you with something, something that is better than words or sounds.
Look for me in the people I have known and loved.
And if you cannot live without me, then let me live on in your eyes, your mind and your acts of kindness.
You can love me most by letting hands touch hands and letting go of children that need to be free.
Love does not die, people do.
So when all that is left of me is love...
Give me away....

That ladies and gentlemen is the poem of the year.  If I designed sympathy cards that's what I would write.  Love does not die, people do.  So when all that is left of me is love, give me away.

Friday, November 4, 2011

In praise of play

Are you tired of me talking about elves yet?  The physical profile of the elf/elves?  I think there's going to be 3 are taking shape.  Sometime in the spring I bought 12 clear glass bottles for crafting use.  Small, classic bottle shape.  Thinking of using them because I like the idea of clear and therefore invisibility.  Also I can put tiny things in them.  The ninja bowling set I made last year used all sorts of cylinder food containers.  From oatmeal to lemonade packaging.  Covered in duck tape.  These ones I think I'm just going to do black felt hats.  Thinking each elf needs a personal Christmas symbol representing their own ninja power.  Gawn Gawn (T's babyhood word for candy) will bring sweetness.  Sometimes just sweets but other times challenge the boys to add sweetness to the lives of others.  Snippy, the scissors guy will cut things out.  Challenge the boys to cut out excess noise or arguing but also cut out the occasional rule.  Shiny and his star will encourage the boys to do something to shine brightly or bring shining moments, special events to the Christmas season.  Working on dossiers for them all.  Found Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle profiles on line that I can build from.  Also saw some great ideas filed under "spy parties."  What appealed to me about the whole elf on a shelf idea is that in some houses the don't just SIT on shelves, they PLAY.  They create all kinds of mischief.  I've seen elves fishing in a box of goldfish crackers, making snow angels from salt, riding in Barbie jeeps etc.  Well if you know me you know how quickly those ideas captured my imagination.  As I think of what my family needs this Christmas (which is very, very little.  In fact the lists of what we DON"T need are longer than what we do) I realized that we need more play!  We need to have more spontaneous fun!  I sit in MOPS classes and hear all about how kids need structure and routine.  Annnnnnnd I hear that.......  But I'm quite sure that what my family needs is more fun.  Maybe you can have fun and structure at the same time and I'm not talking about living in chaos for a whole month (well we always live in chaos but that's different)  but I do want more unstructured imagined magic.   Maybe it's just me realizing I need to let go of  control of stuff  and I'll talk about that tomorrow.  But for now we need fun.  Fortunately I grew up in a very fun house.  One of my dads many great qualities is that he knows how to play.  Growing us an an only child I don't think I was that lonely because I had a built in play mate.  My dad always engaged and encouraged my imagination.  The older I got the more he played.  Maybe it was a grief coping skill I don't know.  But I distinctly remember waking up in my mid 20s to find that every stuffed animal in the house had a poker party the night before.   You never knew where toys were going to pop up in our house and what they'd be doing next.  A stuffed bunny taped to a cutting board with the threat of dinner.  Notes, notes, notes.  Jokes on lunch bags.  Funny cartoons tucked into things.  Missing things showing up in odd places.   I remember photocopying teddy bear bums and titling it "a picture of our bear bums."  My  mom was in on that one (although I think one of her friends balked at it.)  I'm guessing it's my dads love of play that attracted my mom to him.  Honestly I don't think I've done enough of that type of stuff with my kids and I really regret it  It was a big part of my childhood and I had an incredible role model to show me how.   So onward with the elves! 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Presenting: NINJA ELF

So the story goes that you get this elf who flies back to the North Pole every night to report to Santa on your behavior that day.  A little bit of further research shows that in some houses the elf does more than just sit on a shelf and watch you.  I'll get to that part probably tomorrow.  But I got to thinking about elves.  Like I said some of my best friends have been elves.  Elves are traditionally red and green.  I like tradition.  I know how important it is.  But what I REALLY like is non traditional traditions.  In my moms family the traditional Christmas Eve dinner was hot dogs.  Seems that my mom and her sister were hairdressers and didn't close up shop until late on Christmas Eve.  Much too late for a traditional dinner; so the new tradition of hot dogs began.  It also seems to me that the year hot dogs weren't served chaos erupted.  But I'm also a big believer, delighter in fact of all things mixed up.  Twisted fairy tales?  I'm good with that.  In my opinion you can do anything you want to Shakespeare; from DiCaprio's version to gnomes; it's all good to me.  When I was a teenager I told my mom that someone should do a modern retelling of the nativity story.  Have Joseph and Mary arrive at a Motel 6 in a broken down Volkswagen bus.  My mom thought that it was blasphemous.  Last year when a  pastor tried to shorten advent by a week my husband almost revolted.  But other than that I'm good with switching around characters, settings and time lines.  So yes, elves are cute.  Elves go with Christmas.  But my boys REALLY like ninjas (or "injas" as N calls them.)  My friend Staci's daughters also love ninjas (and the fact that they do makes them the coolest girls on earth.)  So I found a picture of a Darth Vader fairy princess on line.  She had a pink tutu, pink chest shield, black Darth Vader helmet, pink tiara and pink light sabre.  And that REALLY got me to thinking..........  If Darth Vader can go pink, can elves go high tech?  Could there be special op ninja elves at the North Pole who are Santa's secret spies?  Sent TO  only the most special of kids to hand out secret missions?  Ooooooooooh you bet there could be!  Like I said, I'll tell you later exactly what the ninja elves are going to do.  For now though I'm working on a ninja elf profile.  Trying to figure out how to blend the two myths (or are they myths?)  Need to think a bit more.  Also think how to craft one.  Right now I've got my eye on a bottle of Country Time Lemonade that nobody is going to use anyways.  Do ninja elves wear red fuzzy sweaters?  Stay tuned.