Category Archives: Parenting

Two Steps Back

Our trip back to our old stomping grounds in Toronto was all at once exciting, fun, sad, exhausting, and surreal.

IMG_3115The surreal part came when we wandered into stores or through our old school and people just smiled and nodded to us as if we’d never left. Very Rip Van Winklish.

The excitement of leaving the city for a great adventure helped us to skim over the sadness of goodbyes last year, but that sadness hit my better half like a Mack truck on this trip. It all came to a head after dinner with her best Toronto friend, when she realized we wouldn’t see her again before we left town. L absolutely lost it, howling with despair and spitting out those fearsome words “Why did we even have to move?!” and “Why didn’t you ask me if we should move?!”

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After the tears subsided she rallied somewhat, because she is nothing if not a trooper, but ever since  that night she’s been a bit fragile, especially when it comes to her friends here. We just don’t have as many of them as we did in Toronto, I guess.

Plus when she gazes at the city lights she becomes rapturous. She does love the city.

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The Challenge Ahead

Perhaps the biggest parenting challenge of the year lies ahead… Hallowe’en Costume Construction. We’ve left it almost to the very last minute (considering we’re leaving tomorrow on a big trip, more on that later). After much deliberation, this is who she wants to be, Hex from Skylanders:

HexWe’ve come a long way from pink unicorns and ladybugs!

Wish me luck…

Enthusiasm Trumps Technique

The big Jump Rope for Heart event at the school unleashed a mad frenzy of activity in the schoolyard…

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I just stood back and took in the scene, which was both epic and hilarious. The amount of actual, real skipping going on amongst those kids was minimal, but the wild abandon more than made up for that. Con mucho gusto…DSC07860 DSC07867

It’s all about the form…DSC07873

I’ve never seen someone cover so much ground while skipping.DSC07875 DSC07877 - Version 2 DSC07887 DSC07888

Another lesson from my life coach about doing things your own way. And having fun.

More Library Love

As a follow up to my Library Love post… This week I went along on a Grade 1 class tour of the new facility…

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kids in the driver’s seat of our “rolls royce” library!

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Isn’t this a lovely sight? Kids with books! Hooray!

Step 92: Pick the School

This chore came up last spring while we were packing. Making this kind of decision can fill a parent’s heart with dread, particularly when it involves a child entering Grade One in a brand new school/town/province. What if I make the wrong choice? Will my child learn and thrive or become stunted and scarred for life?

Saltspring Island has three public elementary schools and a few private school options. I could have tormented myself over this decision, which would be the usual way I do things, but it was really a no-brainer. We went with the school with built-in friends –  the boss already had two excellent friends on the island, both of whom were starting Grade One at Saltspring Elementary, located pretty much in the centre of the island – which is good when you’re not sure where you’re going to end up living.

Done and done!

Our new school, Saltspring Elementary, is the largest school on the island. On the first day one mom informed me, only half-jokingly, that it is locally regarded as the island’s “inner city ghetto school”. This is what it looks like:

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the inner city ghetto school

And just for comparison, here is our old school in Toronto – in an upper middle class neighbourhood full of doctors and lawyers and other professionalish types:

the posh neighbourhood school

the semi-posh neighbourhood school

As a further comparison, Saltspring has about 170 students, K-5. The entire school body can go out to sing Christmas carols (in the rain):

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In Toronto, Runnymede Public School has about that number of kids… just in kindergarten. (In all, there are 1,100 students K-8.)

So when another island parent actually tut-tutted my school choice on the grounds that Saltspring Elementary was way too big… well it just made me laugh. People are funny, and parents are funnier than most.

One other big difference: at our old school parents were not allowed to enter the school yard until it was time for dismissal. If you entered the school you had to sign in at the office and get a Visitor’s badge. (Or risk being challenged in the hall by the vice principal – which happened to me our first week there.)

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In contrast, our new school’s fall newsletter invites parents to join the kids in the schoolyard to play!

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I liked our old school, it was a little crazy but it was a busy, BUSY, noisy place, with a million activities going on at any given time, and the teachers and committee-mad parents were terrific.

And I also like our small new easygoing school. Our island-style inner city ghetto school!

then

then

now

now

Library Love

I came across this last week and it made me nostalgic for the grand old Toronto Public Library system: Ten Reasons to Love the TPL. I worked for the TPL for a while – in the cataloguing department but also in a very busy branch for a few months – and got a bit of an inside look at a very complex organization. I was working there the ominous year that the boss’s title was quietly changed from “Head Librarian” to “CEO”, which sent a chill throughout the organization. The TPL is not without its inefficiencies, errors and information gaps, employee tribulations and politics, but the biggest strain on the system always came from the fact that it is so well-used by SO many people. And the biggest headache has always come from governments prowling about the periphery hunting for cost-cutting measures. It’s a never-ending struggle to keep services available, but the bookish folk of Hogtown are always ready to jump into the fray, armed with their petitions and placards, with Margaret Atwood sounding the charge…

The Runnymede Branch of the Toronto Public Lib...

Runnymede Branch of the TPL (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The reason the protests usually succeed is that the TPL works and is depended upon and loved by so many. The branches are numerous, from tiny friendly places to grander historic buildings. I lived in many different neighbourhoods and always found a library relatively close by. I could place holds for any title in the vast holdings and have it delivered to my own wee branch around the corner, a feature that I positively adored. And one of my favourite (geeky) ways to spend a day was to head to the Toronto Reference Library to do research, abetted by the truly lovely staff there. I miss it all so!

English: Toronto Reference Library

Toronto Reference Library (Wikipedia)

In my new home on the island, I am incredibly lucky to have a brand new library facility, so new it positively sparkles. And to my utter disbelief, it seems that this gorgeous building has aroused some amount of “I’m agin’ it!” from the anti-whatever-is-going crowd here. The building is too big, too showy. We don’t need anything that large. It doesn’t match the bank across the road. Can’t we just go back to the old library, cramped and decrepit, with the leaking roof?

Reading letters to the editor moaning about our unnecessary “rolls royce library” makes my blood pressure sky rocket, so I won’t go into this issue much further, save to say that the nay-sayers seem to have forgotten about the existence of children on the island. Even if there wasn’t a single adult who used the library, the mere fact that there are children here warrants the best and most excellent library we can possibly build.

Saltspring Library (photo credit John Cameraon)

Saltspring Library (photo credit John Cameron)

And when you build a large library, with awe-inspiring architecture and a spacious, serene interior, what message does that pass on to the following generations?

Reading is important.

Books and knowledge are valued in our community.

Take a look at these – 11 Beautiful Libraries From Around the World – and tell me you don’t get that message from these buildings!

I can tell you, you wouldn’t get an iota of opposition to a new library – any new library – from the embattled library patrons* of Toronto, be it Rolls Royce or Studebaker.

*I prefer the old term “patrons” to the new one that was brought in when the Head Librarian morphed into a CEO: “customers”

Channelling her Inner Teenager

the stance

the stance

And so it begins…

the expression

the expression

Step 91: Live in Colour (Be Bold!)

colour chip wallIn a faraway kingdom, long long long ago… okay, so it was just last May… we were painting our house white for resale, and it felt like we were bleaching the fun and joy right out of our lives. The only way I could cheer the Boss up about the “white white white white white!” was by talking about our future home and promising her she could choose the colours for her new room.

She immediately expressed a love of stripes. Yikes, I thought. A few days later she changed to polka dots. Double yikes, I thought.

Skip forward to last weekend, when I finally summoned up the courage to ask the fatal question: “So what colours do you want your room to be?”

We stood a long while in front of the paint chips at our local hardware store. I mean a loooong while. And we finally emerged with a blue, a yellow, and a green.

It occurred to me that it might be insane to let a six-year-old pick her own room colours, but then again, who am I to dictate colour choices? I am an indecisive idiot when it comes to paint hues. A wall of paint chips makes me break into a cold sweat. Having to choose between “washed-out-nearly-almost-pale-green” and “barely-perceptible-green-tinged-grey” makes me hyperventilate. The last time I painted a new house I had to have someone hold my hand and tell me what to do. (Thanks, Alice!)

In light of my chronic style handicap, why not let the Boss – she of the fabulous fashion and design sense – pick her own colours? Why not let her rule her own roost? Why the heck not?

It feels like a time to be bold, and live in full technicolor instead of soul-less white and obsequious beige.

So I ordered the paint and got to work…

okay, here we go

okay, here we go

nice...

nice…

not bad at all...

not bad at all…

Yowza!

Yowza!

It’s taken a couple of days to get used to, but I like it more every time I walk in there.

Another lesson in boldness from the Boss.

Resolution: More Adventures

Our first New Year’s Resolution was “More Dance Parties”, and yesterday the Boss added this resolution. So for our last, grey day of vacation we went out to have an adventure.

She had the exploring gear.

She had the exploring gear.

I carried the lunch.

I carried the lunch.

We started up the slope behind our house.

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We suspect that these rocks were once trolls who were caught when the sun came up and turned them to stone. Can you see the faces? (Trolls can have more than one head.)

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And I was going to spend the afternoon cleaning house! I’m adding my own resolution – follow the Boss’ lead on the daily agenda, especially on weekends and holidays. She always has the best ideas!

 

Snow – Housebound, With Projects

I’m so glad to be proven wrong – down below us the snow is nearly all gone, but up here on the mountain it lasted through the night and all of today as well. It’s plus 2, so it has continued to melt slowly all day. I can hear little streams trickling and running everywhere in the thick brush, invisible but noisy.

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I notice that the cedars have all shaken off their snow, with those big floppy branches of theirs.

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My darling little workshop/office…

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Too bad I couldn’t get out there to work today – the Boss was home from school recuperating from a bad cold. Even though she lost her voice for the past couple of days, that did not prevent her from constantly trying to tell me things. Once when I was outside fetching wood – how rustic! – I heard a knocking… I thought it was a woodpecker but it was just her in the doorway, imperiously rapping on the side of the house to get my attention!

Even though we didn’t go out to play in the white stuff today, we were quite industrious. Prompted by an app which rewards (virtual) badges for completing challenges, the Boss – who would tackle advanced calculus if there was a badge to be earned – took over the kitchen to complete “Learn How to Use a Knife” and “Make Stew” challenges. (Fantastic app: DIY.org. Suitable for age 5 to adult.)

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After this exercise – an excellent lesson for me in when-to-just-take-a-deep-breath-and-walk-away – she wanted to move on to the Stew challenge.  So I gave her a few more potatoes to cut up, and coached her as she chucked a whole lot of stuff into the slow cooker, et voila! She made supper!

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Any impulse to learn to cook MUST be encouraged in any way possible, I figure. And while these things totally depend on the focus, maturity, and klutz-level of the individual child, it seems to me that 6 is a fairly good age to allow a child to handle large knives.

One last Christmas baking project for the evening and the day was done:

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Best quote of the day from the Boss: “I didn’t know what you were going to say next, but I knew it wouldn’t be important.” (I’m so glad she’s gotten her voice back.)

And one last highlight of the day: I finally caught a glimpse of deer dashing through our yard – three of them bounding up the driveway and disappearing behind the workshop. Lots of other little tracks in the snow, crisscrossing the yard – we must become wildlife detectives next.

One fun challenge follows the next. Life is good.