Monday, January 31, 2011

Sunday's Munch and Mingle in Ottawa

January 31, 2011

Sacrament Meeting begins at 11:30 here in Ottawa.  After church the first ward Munch and Mingle took place in one of the small Primary rooms. Our vanload of people also carried a cutting board, some bread knives, butter, jam, honey, 10 loaves of bread and 2 large pans of buns, half of each white, the other half pink. Naomi had suggested green and pink bread. I complied. I thought the nursery children would love the colour. Really, I only half complied. I was too near the end of bread making to deliver both colours. My attempt to make pink bread was tipped in the direction of red bread – too many shakes of the food colouring bottle. One woman asked me what I had put in the bread to give it such a vibrant colour. I assured her. Not blended beets, just the flick of my wrist too many times with the vial of food colouring.

I live by the Jim Sherwood model of providing food at pot lucks. When people in a bishop’s meeting were discussing how much food to buy for a Ward Christmas Dinner he said, “I would rather have 3 turkeys left over, than have any of the guests go without food,” Consequently we brought plenty of bread, musing in the car on the drive to church as to how we were going to use it up, since we would be taking many loaves home. Double-decker sandwiches, egg-in-a-basket, French toast, and Monte Crisco sandwiches all sounded good to us. Two small loaves returned home with us. We continued to cut slices of home-made bread for people even after the dessert was gone, but the ward could not eat it all up.

Re the dessert table, I saw a little girl carefully cup one arm around a now empty cholate cake dish, tilt it high and with her other hand, scrape the left over crumbs still clinging to its base onto her dessert plate. So sweet to clean it up so that not even a crumb remained. Then she carefully drizzle caramel sauce over the collected crumbs and ate dessert. I had laughed earlier when Mary showed me that for the first course, the children were lined up at the dessert table and the adults were lined up at the entre table. Now she poked me to look at another child who was licking his dish and said to me, “You know you are at an intimate family function when a child is licking their plate and no one is correcting them.”

The front pew of the chapel is reserved for Mary. She said that there used to be a large family who sat on the row behind her, but they moved a few pews back. She doesn’t know if it is because her family is too noisy, or if it is because the other family’s children desire the good snacks her kids are eating since the 3 hour meeting operates through the lounch hour. Mary prefers to believe they moved for the latter reason but fears the former is closer to the truth.

We arrived at church early. Xavier was the reverence child of the day, the one who stands at the front of the chapel, arms folded. I looked around to see what kind of effect this was having on those who entered the chapel. I think that the reverence child is a way of keeping at least one child in the chapel quiet.

Sitting at the front of the church is the perfect opportunity to see the Sacrament being prepared. I wondered if one of the deacons bringing out the trays of bread and water was going to do a musical performance in church. He was wearing a black suit worthy of the most experienced concert violinist – a beautiful shine to the material. The curls of his longish hair brushed the bottom of the back of his suit coat collar. The shirt material he was wearing was embossed with a medieval design and had a fine raised thread running down the front of it. “An antique shirt, 5- years old, from his uncle”, he proudly told me, later. His pert black bow tie was accentuated by the mother-of-pearl buttons that ran down the front of his shirt.

“Is that kid going to perform today,” I whispered to Mary.

“No, he just likes to dress up,” she replied.

His colleague had a suit jacket with epaulets on the shoulders and fine metal zippered pockets slashing the chest horizontally.  He looked dressed up to me as well. The boy who passed the Sacrament to our row was close enough to me that I could see the black and white skull and cross bones on his iridescent lime-green tie.

“I liked the fact that decorative attire is widely accepted in the ward,” I said to Mary.

“Nothing is regular here,” she replied. “Look, we are blessing a baby next and it isn’t even Fast Sunday.”

A fine Sunday.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Songs My Father Taught Me

My dad had a few songs and poems he knew: the Sunday School Song; I'll Tell you ABout a Buglar Bold; I Went to see my Grandma, One Cold and Wintry Day, etc.

Singing those songs with the Brooks kids, I have had to refresh my memory on some of the verses  from the Baptist Sunday School Song, which I now call the Mormon Sunday School Song, so as not to confuse my grandchildren.  This may not be enough to stop them from getting confused though I am trying.

There are 125 stanzas. I have selected only a few to teach, for reasons that will be clear if you look at the blueness of some of the other stanzas in the link to the original song.  Sing away, but I ought not teach some of those lyrics to a five year old.

So here it is.  Arta's expergated and revised Ba[tost Sunday School song that her father sang to her.

The Baptist Sunday School

Young folks, old folks, everybody come
Join the Baptist Sunday School, and have a lot of fun
Please to leave your chewing gum and razors at the door
And you'll hear some Bible stories that you've never heard before


3. God made Satan, Satan made sin
God made a hot place to keep Satan in
Satan didn't like it so he said he wouldn't stay
He's been acting like the devil ever since that day

7. Adam was the first man that ever was invented
He lived all his life and never was contented
He was made of clay in the days gone by
And hung on a fence in the sun to dry

18. Adam was a gardener and Eve was his spouse
They got the sack for stealing fruit and took to keeping house
They lived a very quiet life and peaceful in the main
'Til Eve had a baby and they started raising Cain

21. Cain he raised potatoes and he peddled 'em in town
Abel called him hayseed every time he came around
Cain he laid a stick o' wood on brother Abel's head
And when he took the stick away, he found poor Able dead.

26. Methuselah got famous, for he refused to die
"When ya gonna croak?" they asked, he answered, "Bye and bye!"
And when they pressed him for the date, Methuzy whispered "Hush!"
Then laughing thru his whiskers, he hollered "What's the rush?"

33. Along came Noah walkin' in the dark
He stumbled over a hammer and buit himself an Ark
In came the animals two by two
The Hippokangaramus and the Hippokangaroo

46. Pharaoh had a daughter with a most bewitching smile
Who found the baby Moses in the rushes by the Nile
She took him to her father who said That's a likely tale,
It's just about as probable as Jonah and the whale
55a. Shadrak, Meshak, and Abednigo
Wouldn't obey the king, so they had to go
Put 'em in a furnace to burn 'em up like chaff
But their asbestos B.V.D.s gave the king a laugh

55b. Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego
Told the King of Babylon where he could go
He put them in the furnace, and gave the door a slam
But they wore asbestos BVD's and didn't give a....hoot
59. Joseph was a shepherd lad the Bible stories tell us
His golf coat was so stunning that it made his brothers jealous
So they sold him into Egypt for a small consideration
Where he made a million dollars on a big grain speculation
64. Joshua was a jazz cat - the greatest ever born
The wall of Jericho fell down when he blew on his horn
Pursuing all his enemies, he made the sun stand still
The sun it wouldn't listen, so he nailed it to a hill!

65. Here comes Ruth just looking all around
Just like the girls in my home town
Didn't wear any lipstick, or powder on her nose
But she got a fella, as everybody knows!

70. Sampson was a strong man of the John L. Sullivan school
Killed a thousand Phillistines with the jawbone of a mule
Along came Delilah who filled him up with gin
Slashed off his hair and the coppers run him in.

77. Esau was a cowboy of a wild and woolly make
His father left a farm to him, and half to brother Jake
Esau thought his title to the land was none too clear
So he sold it all to Jakey for a burger and a beer.

83. David was a shepherd boy, his mother's pride and joy
His dad gave him a sling shot; a harmless little toy
Along came Goliath a-lookin' for a fuss
David heaved a cobblestone and caved in his crust.

92. Daniel was a shepherd boy got sassy with the king
The king said he'd stand for no such a thing
Put him in a den with lions underneath
But Daniel was a dentist and he pulled the lions' teeth

100. King Solomon and King David lived merry, merry lives
With many, many lady friends and many, many wives
But when old age came upon them with many, many qualms
Solomon wrote the Proverbs and David wrote the Psalms

116. Salome was a dancer, she danced the hoochy-kooch.
She made a hit with Herod, 'cause she didn't wear too mooch.
Said Herod, "Salome, dear, you'll raise a scandal here."
Said Salome, "I don't give a [darn]," and kicked the chandelier.

121. Jesus had a problem, how to feed five thousand folk,
Would he have a runnin' buffet, or a purvey in a poke,
He turned to the disciples, says, "What do you think they'd wish,"
Andrew says "It's Friday Lord, ye'll have tae gie them fish"

Final Verse

125. Now, good folks, we've told you all the dope;
We're sure we've done you lots of good, at least, that's what we hope.
Methuselah wrote these very words when he was but a youth,
And we have it from the old boy that every word's the truth!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Jerusalem and the Wilderness

The Tree of Life and the Iron (silver) Rod 
Today when we played Lego we tried to reproduce the pastoral scene of the Book of Mormon story we have been reading in the mornings, all of us choosing a different segement to illustrate.

Mary scrambled in out and of Lego boxes to get enough pieces for our sets to be perfectly designed.

Xavier decided to begin with the Tree of Life from Lehi's dream.

He was able to find some owls to sit on the regular trees, some arachne for life on the green and I like Xavier's design for the tree of life (on the right) -- ultra modern.
Dancing by the Fire

I tried to hook Naomi into playing with us.

She had far more joy earlier in the morning, dancing with bells on her arms and ankles and singing "Nobody likes me ... think I'll go eat worms".

She caught onto the irony in the song which made me laugh.
Naomi did not want to do all of that  Lego work to have her own display, but she was willing to be a helper to anyone who wanted to repesent a scene.

I was  hoping she might enjoy creating a female perspective but that is a pretty hard sell in the Book of Mormon 

I thought there might be some room for creativity with Ishmael's daughters.

Tired dancers relaxing with beverages
Above, I have a couple of them doing the hoochie choochie around a fire.

I was also thrilled to find some cups so that another set of  dancers who were tired could rest on some chairs with a few beverages.

Mary is the one who created the carrot haired figure with a black lace top. 

I was planning on building lace and sequined skirts, but if the Lego company has already done the design, why should I try to improve on their very excellent work.

It is hard to know what to do with women who like to have brooms in their hands.

I thought these two could stand by the fire, at the very least swaying and taping their brooms in rhythm to the music.
Keeping time with their brooms

The white hair of one of them made me feel in solidarity with her, and I was going to make her the mother, sweeping in a yurt (yet to be designed).

But I take my cue from Naomi.  Right now it is about all I can do to take apart wigs, heads, bodies and legs to get exactly the right personalities for the twelve women who are coming into our story this way.

I say, better to have them out by the fire tapping their brooms than for me to have to make a yurt for them to sweep.

(to be continued ...)


Friday, January 28, 2011

Duncan's Project for School

Duncan had to do two homework assignments: one on an event in Canada, the other on an important Canadian. He said he would like to share his homework with his cousins, so, here it is.

By Duncan Leonard Johnson

The First World War started in the summer of 1914, and ended in November 1918. But before the 1940s, no one called it The First World War. They called it the Great War, because they thought there would never be another war so big. It was a terrible war, and more than 9 million people died altogether.

For Canada, one of the most important battles of that war was the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Vimy Ridge is in the north east of France, near to the town of Arras. On the internet, it says that the soldiers “fought as Canadians and those who returned brought back with them a pride of nationhood that they had not known before.” People say that the Battle of Vimy Ridge turned Canada from a colony into a nation.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge was the first successful operation against the Hindemith line during World War I. Vimy Ridge was a terrible place to fight. Bombs and bullets were everywhere, and the ground was wet and muddy. Soldiers dug under the ground to live in trenches and tunnels.

There were so many trenches, that the generals had to make maps to keep track of all the trenches.

People thought the enemy line at Vimy Ridge was unbreakable, and thousands of French and British soldiers were killed trying to get across the line. But the Canadian soldiers broke the line in one day in April of 1917. This was a turning point for the Allies in the war.

Today, there is a huge Memorial at Vimy Ridge in France, for the 66,000 Canadians who died in that war. France gave the land at Vimy Ridge to Canada to thank her for the sacrifices of those soldiers during the war. The memorial is on top of the ridge, and is 27 meters tall. It has a figure on top, named Peace.

If you go to Vimy Ridge today, you can walk inside the old trenches. Today they look like this.

Even though it has been more than 100 years since that war, there are still so many unexploded bombs left in the ground that you must stay on the paths, and are not allowed to walk on the grass. Since they can’t even use lawnmowers, they have sheep that wander around to eat the grass. Hopefully they sheep stay light enough that they don’t set off any unexploded bombs!

Pie for Breakfast

Mini Pies in Muffin Tins
Mary’s friend, Anne Marie, is going to do a photo shoot.

Mary offered to make some small rustic pies for the event.

My only job was to see that there was a new bag of flour at home.
Another of Mary’s friends has a small set of cutters – ones that are just the right size for cutting letters used to decorate cakes.

The evil dog had to be kept out of the kitchen. He had done his damage earlier.

When Naomi said to me, “Grandma, you spilled peanut soup on the dog’s mouth when you fed him”, that is the moment I knew that he had been up on the table and the contents of the soup container I was cooling had to be thrown out.

The making of the soup previous to that event had not gone smoothly, either.

The onions we chopped for the soup were so potent, everyone not in the kitchen, headed for the basement.

Light brown or golden for you?
When I blended the hard crystals of instant chicken bouillon in some boiling water the lid of the blender flew off so I got to mop half of the kitchen floor.

When I ground cracked pepper into the boiling pot of vegetables, the top screw of the green pepper grinder fell into the broth.

Lisa and I had to take the vegetables out and strain the broth to find the missing piece.

Then that dog who was beginning to endear himself to me, supped on the product of my labours.

Leftovers, anyone?
Making the pies was infinitely easier.

One of the charming results had a candle in it for breakfast and a birthday song was sung to Lisa.

Diving with a fork into a piece of pie for breakfast -- a great way to start the day and a new year.

On Making Soap

One of my first irrational fears came when I heard my Grandma Edna say, “Never touch a can of lye. When I was a little girl, a boy drank from a lye can he found in the farmyard and he could never talk again.”

I didn’t need TV horror movies. Stories like that put the fear of God into me.

The next time I heard about lye my mother was remarking that she was going over to Beatrice Henninger’s to make soap.

“How do you make soap?” I asked.

“Lye and fat. Mix them together and the reaction is soap. I have been saving fat from cooking for a while and the whiter it is, the better the soap. Beatrice is lucky. She has beautiful white fat from the farm. We are going to make the soap out in her back yard.”

I began to think of that little mute boy and worry that one of my younger siblings might eat the soap my mother was making out of lye.

Hand cut bars of soap came home the next week and were placed on a ledge by the wringer washer. Mother showed me how to use a paring knife to make soap shaving of soap to toss in the hot water. I could operate that thing by the washing machine by the time I was 10 years old, lifting the diapers out of the scalding water with a stick and running them through the rollers. There was a rhythm. First the water got washed the whites, then the same water, coloureds, then the darks.  I had to add a little hot water to top up the machine each time

I knew where the side touch release was should I get my hand caught in those rollers. Most of the time I used the release when the stick  to fish out the clothes got trapped in the rollers, or when the stick was raised with too many diapers and I was forcing them to all go through at the same time.

My hand still tingles when I think of getting it caught in the rollers, the blood gets pushed back toward my elbow until I could hit the release.

No brand of soap from the store made the clothes cleaner, my mother would say, when I would wish for store-bought soap.

Lucky for my fears, Wyora didn’t bring home any of the empty lye tins.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Soap and Salmon

So, I said that I was going to go buy soap. We're down to 3 or 4 bars. I know from my mother that you're supposed to buy 60 bars and let them all sit out in theair to harden. Then the soap bars last instead of going all soft while in use.

So... I asked what kind Miranda would like. We had bought some hand made soaps at shuswap during a farmers market.

She said let's buy that.

I said, do you think we'd get a bulk deal? We'll be buying a ton.

Miranda says "Lets make it then".
There is a soap making company in Calgary. I go down there and ask for 'plug and play' soap kit. The scent will be Lavender, and maybe mint as per Miranda's direction.

I finish purchasing what I want (an oatmeal scrub with cirtus smell for myself)... and as I am paying the two people say "are you Trell's brother"?

Turns out they are Trell's friends from years and years ago. One of the many Franks.

So here are pictures of my batch in process. I stole the muffin cups from Arta's house. The salmon and the muffin tins are my own.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dinner or Dancing

On Tuesday nights we arrive home late, at 7:30pm. Tuesday nights is our Calgary Boys Choir rehearsal, and since it is at Mount Royal (40 minutes away), we leave as soon as school gets out and then do homework for 30 minutes until choir starts. If we leave our neighbourhood later, we are always late for choir (traffic and accidents seem to multiply when you want to get across the city during that time of day). So Tuesday nights are often an empty-out-the-fridge meal, and a little bit chaotic, but last night takes the cake.

Gabe was having left over spaghetti and meatballs, I was having left over caesar salad, Zack was having oatmeal and yogurt, and Audra was having left over noodle soup. Art had eaten already. Gabe was telling us about choir, and he said they were learning a new song. And here are the next 30 seconds in an attempt at a play-by-play about how a family dinner can get away from you:

Gabe - "We are learning this new song... Splish splash I was taken a bath long about a saturday night"

Zack joins in - "A rub-a-dub relaxin' in the tub"

Art - goes over to the stereo and puts on the Splish Splash song

Gabe and Zack - they start the song again and sing along to the music

Audra - she is jigging her body, she can't hardly contain herself in her booster chair

Zack - gets up and starts dancing and singing

Gabe and Zack - keep singing with the music "thinkin' everything was alright"

Audra - slides down from her chair and starts dancing

Gabe - starts dancing too

" They was a-splishin' and a'splashin'... "

Marcia - can't swallow her mouthful of salad she is laughing, but also wondering if the kids will be hungry when she puts them to bed because now it is close to 8pm.

Sometimes it feels like we have more than 3 kids.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Rube Goldberg Experiment


Into my email came the chance to watch Rebecca and Thomas do the Rube Goldberg experiments that they have been working on for a number of days now.

Their mother said that these video clips were too large to send as attachments so she uploaded them to You can download them at the following links if you are interested. Rube Goldberg Thomas Rube Goldberg Rebecca

The videos are long and take 16 minutes to download. I have run the videos a number of times now. 

Tom's was the first experiement I saw, one in which a bell will ring when it is finally attached.

Rebecca's experiment described in detail for those of you who can't download that much material.

The class assignment, in this case, is to be done with mostly found or re-used objects.

Thus her model is comprised of an After Eight Mint Box, a halogen lamp carton, marbles, Thomas the Train track, chopsticks, sugar, a small bucket, levers, a wooden train. a hot wheels car, duct tape, levers, Uncle Leo's scrap wood and string.

The experiment must last 30 seconds, have someone video-tape it (in this instance), and have be timed.

Rebecca's demonstration begins with a detailed explanation of what you are going to see and ends with cheers from the rest of the family when it works. The last part of the dialogue goes like this:

Catherine: Hurray, it worked.
Eric:          How long did it last?
Thomas:    I didn't time it.

Rebecca giving a priceless 1/2 second look of disbelief as her jaw drops open at the fact that the important component of timing has not been measured.


Educational Ideas

I love using finger puppets with children at work. I love the knitted ones, but felt will do. Sometimes we make them out of paper so the children can take them home.

Arta and I were discussing how I could move along David's education of the arts since he is not quite ready to spend long hours in a museum or in the movie theatre to watch the opera.

One idea we considered was using finger puppets. We saw some options at museum gift shops but didn't make any purchases. I see on line that you can purchase a finger puppet of Salvador Dali. They also have one for sale of Diego Velazquez in the same outfit he is wearing in his painting called Las Meninas. They didn't have an image, but I was still tempted.

If I bought Valazquez, then I would have to also pick up the one of Pablo Picasso so Velazquez could let Picasso know how he felt about his copies. I know I had a fun time looking at them, so I could probably have the puppets laughing and talking about it.
On that particular website, they recommend these puppets for "production practice" of foreign languages. I will suggest it to Joaquim as he broadens his circulation of brochures for foreign language tutoring. At first blush, it doesn't seem his style, but I think it would be fun and take the stress off the speaker.

After reading Arta's post and Mary's reply about MacDonald and Cartier, I am now looking for puppets of them. With Greg currently at the Lake, perhaps I could get some support from him wtih getting our dialogue going between these Fathers of Confederation. I am feeling a little guilty about saying I still feel more American than Canadian at the bridge game last night. I am sure both puppets would have had a few words for me, if I had had them at the table.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sir John A MacDonald and Sir Wilfred Laurier

Sir John A. MacDonald
When I am in downtown Calgary and passing the Famous Five sculpture, I often go over and take a closer look, either at the faces or the costuming, or the woman sitting on the bench. 

Another couple of Canadians, also famous, are memorialized in sculpture at the Ottawa airport:  Sir John A. MacDonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier. The costuming is equally interesting. The striations in the trousers of Sir John A. reminded me of pin-stripes but they were too wobbley for that. Leo mentioned corduroy and I knew he had hit it on the nail.

"Don't you recognize the curly hair," said Mary, when I asked the names of the statues.

I don't think I noticed the curly hair of Sir John A. in the history books of the 1940's.

"They were collaborators," Mary went on to say.  "That is how Canada became a dominion, one working with English Canada and the other working with French Canada.
Sir Wilfrid Laurier


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My favorite (but not perfect) sled

When I was young, our backyard sloped onto a steep hill that ran between 16A Street and 17th St.  In the summer, the meadow at the bottom of the hill was a perfect place to pick wild flowers -- lady slippers and shooting stars. On some summer nights, I could see fire flies in the meadow.  If I would wait until dark, and creep out with a glass canning jar, I might catch one.

The slope of the hill was good for sledding in the winter. I don’t know how many iterations of sleds we had, with nine children living in that house.  The three-seater top-of-the-line wooden toboggan would hold three of us if the first person tucked their feet under the curved top, and the next two people wrapped their legs around the person in front of them so that their dragging legs didn’t slow down the sped of the sled.

The adult who was tucking in the feet of the sledders would also give the sled its initial rush of speed until gravity and the slick bottom of the sled took over.

I thought the toboggan was heavy. Pulling it back up the hill seemed like a monumental task. Probably the combined effect of pulling each foot out of the calf- deep snow and the effort of resisting the slide backward as I climbed the hill was the real problem and not the weight of the toboggan sliding on the top of the snow.

There were no brakes on the sled.  On miracle runs we would glide smoothly to a stop. But if the path down the hill was not carefully chosen by the driver, the bumps along the way would send one of the rider's legs that were now coming loose on the toboggan out into the snow. The sled would come to an instant stop. All would careen off  with a lurch sideways and then a face plant into the snow. Luckily no breaks occurred when we were using that run.

My all-time favourite sled is a piece of cardboard. On our way to elementary school there was a steeper hill and the downward flight on a large piece of heavy cardboard made it worthwhile to drag  the cardboard, blocks through the neighbourhood to get to the preferred destination. With care, a piece of cardboard like that might last two or three days. The final shredding of the bottom of this fast snow vehicle, leaving not even a small place to sit on anymore, brought great sadness.   A good piece of cardboard is not easy to find.

Later the world invented crazy carpets -- light weight, slick -- all of the qualities of a heavy weight cardboard.  I give today's crazy carpet a two thumbs up for those who have no access to heavy duty packing cardboard.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Search for the Perfect Sled

David has been invited to a birthday party of one of his classmates for this Saturday. When we asked her what she wanted, she said, "a sled".

Thinking I would cleverly show off my current knowledge of sledding equipment, I asked, "What kind? A saucer sled? A wooden sled? A pastic toboggan? A foam sled? Santa's sled?"

She smiled and replied, "Santa's sled". Oh dear, thought I. She has outsmarted me. So I asked her what features she wanted for her sled. The three of us came up with the following based on a lengthy discussion:

-single seater
-can lay on your stomach
-has brakes
-is big

We went straight to Canadian Tire and found the "Pelican Sizzler 36". It is described as having "maneuverability and precision for the single rider. Hand levers change directions and brake. There is even a built in tow-rope storage." We have missed on one feature. It does not appear to be comfortable to lay down on. We decided brakes were more important and cool for her than laying down. Hopefully she will agree. As for David, the only feature that does not make it the perfect sled for him is that it is for ages 6+.

What features do you like in a sled?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

David and his Grandmother

Does this absolutely sweet little face, look like one that would bite a blood relative's finger.

Especially when that relative is his grandmother?

His tooth was so loose, moving from side to side, up and down, even turning around. Yet he was taking care of it. Chewing only on the sides of his mouth. Listening to, but not actualizing any of the advice on how to get the tooth to come out.

I told him he could have one bite on my finger. Just one.

His glee was so great that he didn't even know his tooth had come out when he chomped down.

How lucky was that for him.  A painless extraction.

And how lucky for me ... that the tooth did come out.


Baby Boy Hicks

January 15, Laynie and Graham Hicks had a new baby join their family, a lovely ten pound three ounce package. Everyone is doing fine -- the baby, the parents, the grandparents. The great aunts and uncles are also happy.  Yay!  The first of this year's new beach babies has arrived.  His name sounds like Landen.  The spelling can be corrected later.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Need a moment's rest?

A resting place for Mediterranean travellers
This is a small kiosk. Closed for the evening, but opening the next morning, even in the Mediterranean winter. A beautiful place to stop and rest.

There are many people who walk the path alongside the sea, and some of them will stop for refreshments, as soon as the street lights go out and it is morning.

I saw the morning delivery of drinks and pastries delivered, but I didn't get back to sit there.  Instead I am filled with jetlag, that indescribable feeling of not being able to keep up with the rest of the world around me.

For example, last night I made it to the National Theatre Live broadcast of Fela.  Oh, I might have dozed, but only for a minute.

"Wasn't the scene stunning when the compound was surrounded by soliders, and Fela's mother was thrown from a second story window," said Rebecca to me this morning when we were talking on the telephone.

"That must have been when I was asleep," I said.

"No one could have slept through that," she said. "Lights were flashing, guns were going off, the music was forte, a huge crowd scene, headlines being flashed on screens on the wall, the climax of the first act."

Well, that is jetlag for you, I thought.  All of that passed me by.

I was commiserating with Wyona over my inability to keep my eyes open at the climax of the first act. 

She told me that this morning, she fell asleep in the three hour medical lecture she has been waiting to attend.  She took care of the problem at the break.  When others went to stretch their legs, she said she just laid her head down on the table.

"Did you actually sleep?" I asked.

""I don't think so," she replied, "although I will say that when the break was over, the instructor had to shake my shoulder and ask me if I wanted to wake up and participate in the group work we were startng."


No one needs a rest like two women who have just had a holiday.


Caga Tio

This is the look on David's face when he saw what his cousins had been excitedly shouting about.

A joyous household moment! The missing Caga Tio had been found in the basement.

David had never seen anything like this in his basement.

The mother of the David's cousins had read them a story the year before about a Caga Tio that had babies. David's cousins began to check on their Cago Tio, now stored in their basement, even going as far as planning to whom they would be giving the baby Caga Tios as presents.

That is when theirs disappeared. 

The Caga made his reappearance a few days after we got there, much to the glee of the girls.

I had seen Caga Tios at the Christmas market in Barcelona.

One this size might cost 50 Euros. 

A beautiful log with legs and a brightly painted face.  I began to plan ways to get one myself for out at the lake.  I, too, could use many good gifts created in this fashion next Christmas Eve.

The price I quoted would not include the accessories: socks, a hat and a blanket which were quickly added by all three kids.  I didn't think to ask, but the blanket must add a measure of privacy.

The point of having  this creature around is to feed it, so that it can supply good presents on Christmas Eve -- at a big party to be held with all of the cousins present.

Thus, there is food every night, placed at the feet of the Idol of the Cago Tio.  The parents give serious warnings to children about giving the Caga nutritional food.  So the chocolate treats and the lemon flavoured madelines make their way back to the kitchen and apples and whole wheat bread are placed on the plate instead.

Apparently, eating sweets and candy do not give the Caga Tio the ability to poop out good presents.

Now you are seeing David hard at work.

He has a vested interest in good nutrition -- for someone else, if it means getting good presents.


The Height of Montserrat

Montserrat had a height to it that I have not captured. 

You can see the train track that climbs steeply to the top of the mountain on the left hand side of the picture.  The funicular is that small black line that moves toward the top of the photo.

The train takes you on a steep climb to a cliff on which the resort sits.

The mountains rise straight out of the plains and are white and rounded, something I am not used to.

It is also possible to drive by car, but many people are on the train for the exceptional view that can be enjoyed. 

Mountain paths that might take one a week or two to explore.

A beautiful church holding sacred treasures.  A small chapel in the church, especially designed by Gaudi.

A black Madonna.

Now how cool is that.

She was discovered in a cave in the 9th century

When the monks tried to move her to a different spot, the statue became so heavy they took that as a sign that they were not to move her. 

They decided instead to build the monument to her in the place where she was found.

Stand in line for a long climb up some steep stairs and you will walk right past her and then get to rest in a small chapel, designed by Gaudi.

windows in the Gaudi-designed chapel
Some women have all of the luck! 

A cathedral of her very own. 

A chapel designed by Gaudi inside of that cathedral.

Who could ask for more?


At the Park with David

There was a small park at the corner of our block.

Bonnie dressed David in his Barcelona soccer outfit.

She told me that I was to stay at the park with him and take 1,000 pictures.

Bonnie didn’t tell David that I was on a mission for her.
When he saw the shutter going on my camera he began to duck.

This made picture taking significantly harder.

He would turn his face away, give me the cold shoulder, even pick up his toys and go to another side of the park to play.

He had the advantage on me, for I don’t have a telephoto lens and he seemed to have a sixth sense about when I would approach him and try to get a natural shot.

However, he had carried  his motorized truck to the park.

There had been some problem at our house with new Christmas toys. A small vehicle that one of the little girls received for a present would start moving around the room without anyone at the controls.

Her mom came to the conclusion that there was a faulty battery at work, one that would eratically make the car stop and go. It wasn’t until the neighbour next door came over to ask if they had received such a toy for Christmas that two and two were put together. Both families had received the toy, and it seems that through the wall, each was operating the other’s toy.

David's car was not aflicted in this way and he used his remoted control to drive his car up the sidewalk and over to the park.

Sand flies in the air
One of his best moments there was having the car in sand and seeing how deeply he could dig the car wheels into the sand.

I took this as good training for when he gets older and his own car wheels begin to spin in a snow bank.

Too close for comfort

I received a gift from the Jarvis family, a troll that they picked up when they were in Norway. 

The gift is too close for comfort ... to see mythogically what I might look like in the life of a Troll.

Take a look at the hair -- a perfect match.  The sweater looks like the grey and white one that I bought at Eddie Bauer.  That shock of hair down by the feet is attached to a (hidden) tail.  The four-toed foot looks like my feet when I bind two of the toes together each morning, for better walking. 

And if that Troll's hands don't have arthritis, I can predict it will be there soon by the bend of the fingers.

The blush on the cheeks comes to me naturally when I get over-excited.

The size of the ears is a metaphor, and one I can't help -- for if there is a sound, any sound, I am trying to take it in.

Now how cute is that Troll, even if it is too close for comfort.


My Patio View

I never dreamed that I would be able to step outside of my bedroom onto a patio and look south to see the sea.

The patio doors doubled as a place to hang out clothes.The glass patio doors heated the room I was in during the day.

By night they gave me a beautiful view of the sky because a lamp outside always gave light to the evening, long after the sun had gone down.

Some mornings I was lucky enough to be outside just at that moment between the night and the day.

Well, the time was more than a moment.

But not much more than five minutes in which the sky would go from dark to a blaze of colour.

The street lamps are still on. I was always looking for a name to the tree outside of the balcony, the one that was still hanging onto its clumps of seeds. The only tree Joaquim and I finally got correctly named was the Mediterranean Pine tree -- thus the name of the next town, Pineda.

I didn't know that the colour of the sky would change so quickly.

Almost as if between blinks, there would be a new tone to the pink in the sky

I can only imagine what it must have been like for Wyona and Greg to have watched this from a boat.

The colour of the sky against the apartment buildings to the south of me, was what made me want to catch the colour of the sky against the blue of the sea.

The morning is breaking with a beautiful pink that colours the blue of the sky.
I had to figure out what time of day to make it down to the water, so that I didn't miss this stunning time of day that passed so quickly in the morning.


The water hits the shoreline

This is what I saw the morning I went down to photograph the sunrise in Calella.

I didn't see a bit of pink.

The day light came as the waves hit the shore. But no sunrise. I had the fun of seeing if I could catch the waves as they made their final dash to the sand.

Three colours of blue.

The top line of deep royal blue surged forward and spilled over itself as it dashed itself on the water ahead of it.

A lovely line of spray jumped up vertically in front of it.

Then there was the third section, the foam that resulted, sweeping up onto the sand in front of me.

I never had to move out of its way, once I sat on the sand next to it.

An even rhythm lapped the shoreline that morning.
A few times a bird flew overhead.

I was not fast enough to get the gull in my viewfinder.

I was still waiting for the sunrise, keeping my camera trained on the water, long after daylight had arrived.


Snow, snow, snow

It's hard to say how much snow we have seen fall since our arrival back from Spain. Joaquim estimates he and David were shovelling piles of at least 20 cm high off of the porch. It's a good time for snow play, even after dark because the reflection of the moon off the white snow provide enough light for play.

David has a playdate planned for this afternoon which will include sledding, building a snow fort, building a snowman (or snowcat or snowgopogo ...), and a snowball fight. He tried throwing snow at his father with a shovel while his father was shoveling snow off the porch. As you can see from the photo, dumptrucks in our home are not just for shoveling dirt.

As we headed to school yesterday morning, I sent up a prayer for a safe trip to town.

David followed with his prayer. "Thank you Uncle Glen and Uncle Dave for plowing our drive and Pilling's road so we can get to my school.  Amen."

I could reply with a resounding amen myself.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Fela Anikulapo-Kuti
 Look at your local theatre listing guide for Thursday, January 13, 2011 and see if it is carrying Fela!, a show from London's National Theatre.  In Calgary you can catch it at Westhills, Crowfoot and Chinook. For you folks in Salmon Arm  you have to go to the Galaxy in Vernon.  Silver City Cineplex in Victoria, Rebecca. Go to these sites for reviews of the show. 

To read the New York Times Review, click here. On my second time reading this review, I figured out I had to click at the bottom of the page to get to the end of the review.

To see a Trailer with some live dancing, click on Trailer when you get to this site.

One liners are below.
‘Fantastic. A fitting tribute to a man who made heads spin the world over.’ Metro

‘A frenetic mix of concert, dance party and crash course in the career of the eponymous maverick.’ The Independent

Broadcast live on 13 January 2011 a provocative and wholly unique hybrid of dance, theatre and music, FELA! explores the world of Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.

Winner of three 2010 Tony Awards including Best Choreography (Bill T. Jones)

Using his pioneering music (a blend of jazz, funk and African rhythm and harmonies), FELA! reveals Kuti’s controversial life as an artist and political activist.

the best and the most challenging

We have started a new tradition in our family. We owe thanks to Barry McDonald, Canadian educator. He is giving workshops and writing books on "raising boys to become caring, courageous, and ethical men".

Our tradition is to have a conversation in the evening where we share our best moment of the day and our most challenging moment. We each take a turn. We learn a lot about each other. We get a chance to process challenging events. We also get a chance to celebrate and remember joyful moments.

My best moment was David's greeting when I came home from work. He and I has said our goodbyes, and I had asked him to play Star Wars Lego with me when I got home. He ran to me, jumped up, and said, "Remember what we are doing next" with a great smile on his face. A great way to end the work day and transition to home.

My most challenging moment was not getting to enjoy a full hour of reading over lunch. I am reading a book by the Canadian author Gail Anderson-Dargatz called, The Cure for Death by Lightening. I elected to do other things, only getting in a few pages. It was hard because I really wanted to learn more about Beth Weeks and her life in a rurual BC community. I also really wanted to help my friend who wanted information on Autism, a topic I think about every day.

David's most challenging moment mirrored mine in that he had two things he really wanted and he had to choose between them. We discussed how hard it can be when you have two great choices, but they are mutually exclusive. We didn't have any solutions, just acknowlegement that that is a hard and very real part of life.

For David, the hard choice was whether to play with a sunstone-shaped air freshener in his hands or to have his mother sit next to him. He explained, he really wanted to play with the sunstone and he loved the smell of it. He also really wanted to sit by his mom, but understood that the smell was too intense for her and so she couldn't sit so close to it. On this occasion, he chose company over the enticing object. I had made the same choice, so I could relate. I told him that usually I try to do both things I like but if I do then I really don't get either one in the end. His father said he chooses the person over the object. David said, he would rather take my solution, even if it was the solution that didn't work. I wonder how other people handle making the hard choice between two things that are both wonderful but cannot co-occur.

Signing off so I can go read some of the novel while also living in a beautiful rural BC community.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Home Sweet Home

We made it back to Annis Bay around 5pm today (Mon, Jan 10th). As we drove down Bernie Road, David's voice rung out from the back of the car with a victory song he associates with the Barca football (soccer) team. It was nice to see how happy he was to be home. Part of our discussion on the way home was how much we already were missing our Catalan relatives.

campions, campions,
ole ole ole,
campions, campions,
ole ole ole,
Barça Barça
[insert three claps of the hand]
Barça Barça
We are happy to be home, but clearly Catalonya is still on our minds. At the McDonald`s in Kelowna, David came to me and said, `I want to play with that girl. Does she speak English or Catalan?`

It was a wonderful trip. David and I spoke more Catalan than we ever have. Our relatives worked hard to understand us and used their English whenever they could to smooth the communication. We are all motivated to get practicing for our next trip so we can speak more and more with Joaquim's side of the family.

We last left Arta in London at Heathrow at a desk where she was speaking with a manager from British Airways. She had missed her flight. We all were convinced the flight left early. It looked like she would be taken care of, but we had to run to catch our own flight. I just called the Bates home and Greg reports that she called from a hotel in London to say she would be delayed by a day. My goodbye to her was "Try to take in the theatre tonight!"

Thanks to Glen, we were able to drive right up to the house, grateful that the piles of snow were to the right and left of our car and not in front of it. Joaquim has swept the snow off the car that was left behind here, and has made sure it will run for me in the morning. We have laundry in both machines, grateful for the heat that is moving through the vents.

The salmon for dinner is defrosting on the counter. The rice is in the rice cooker. Now, off to make the salad and put olive oil into the setrill that we found in our last few minutes in Barcelona at the airport. Arta has a matching one. I hope both she and her setrill made it home safe and sound. We all learned to love olive oil and baslamic vinegar as our dressing on our salad at Tieta Rosa's house. It will be strange to set the table tonight for 3 instead of 8.


Friday, January 7, 2011

More on Montserrat

The Path of the Walk of the Virgins is to the right of the Monastary 
In a previous visit to Montserrat, the seven year old in our group chose a cane as a souvenir from the tourist shop.

On this visit, she brought the cane back with her, and both her younger sister, and David wanted canes as well.

That purchase paid off. The canes became the toy of the day, running them along balustrades, using them to practise limping, and having them doube as weapons for imaginary wars. The mom in that family has torn a ligament in her knee and is using a cane while healing takes place. That made our group on the path even: 4 on the path with canes, and four without.

We walked on the Path of the Tiles of the Virgin Mary. To the right hand side of the path was a sweeping view of the valley below. I was 1300 metres high and looking down upon a river that looked as though it is just a thin piece of yard winding its way down the river valley. To the left of me were the high cliffs onto which the small tiles of the Virgin Mary have been nailed, each a little chapel of its own, the tile or tiles with a roof to help the rain to slip off to one side or the other. Joaquim had to correct me, for I had understood him to say that this was the Path of the Many Virgins. I asked him why the idea of many virgins is valorized in a country that oozes such a healthy sensuality. He corrected my misunderstanding. This is the path of only one virgin, the Virgin Mary, but the path marks her identity for she belongs to each town. And each of the towns there has a place of its own there, marked for her.

David skipped along the path and saw small nuts that had fallen from trees. They were the size and shape of filberts and he pocketed them until the left side of his coat was bulging. Bonnie stopped to talk to him about the nut shells, having three of them in her hand. She was rolling them back and forth by gently moving the tendons in her hands, and they reminded me of the Mexican Jumping Beans that we used to buy some Christmases long ago.

¨Oh no, they are live. Look at them move,¨ I called out in memory of those old days.

Then I saw David´s feet dancing, the nuts that had been in his pocket arcing through the air in waves as he tossed them out of his pockets. Just as fast, his seven year old cousin was picking them up and putting them in her pocket, since they had become a desired commodity as soon as he had started to collect them.

Some of the religious songs that would be sung on this path, Joaquim translated for me as we walked along. Then the seven-year old and her grandfather walked along the path behind us, singing one of the tunes together, He has been singing in the church choir for 30 years and his voice could have overpowered hers. Instead I could hear the rich tones of his vibrato blending with her the new strength of her 7 year old voice.

Some moments are precious. Hearing those tunes sung along that path was one of them.