17-ish steps to making great saint’s costumes

As we near all saint’s day, better known by many as the day after Halloween (all hallow’s eve), many busy moms can be found busy sewing saints costumes for their kids. And then there’s me…here’s what my day looked like, broken down in simple steps, in case you’re crazy and want to try it:

  1. Announce to your many munchkins that it is time to pick saints for dressing up.
  2. Listen to flurry of excitment and witness many dresses and scarves being pulled out and tried on.
  3. Pull out scrap material box and fasten on pretty headscarves with hair clips.
  4. Change a diaper and make lunch.
  5. Feed and bathe baby.
  6. Help older kids research saints online.
  7. Help make a harp out of cardboard, tin foil and pipe cleaners.
  8. Clean pee off floor and give toddler a bath.
  9. Try to coach eldest child through anxiety about her future costume’s potential defects due to my lack of sewing expertise. Fail.
  10. Call Grandma for moral support.
  11. Make a second lunch for child who missed it due to researching saints and is currently losing marbles.
  12. Suggest 20 other costume options. Have them rejected.
  13. Feed baby. Try to fashion sheet into nun’s habit. Fail.
  14. Clean baby poop off floor. Bathe baby again.
  15. Listen to eldest child come up with totally new costume idea (using her own, already made clothes) after you already cut a hole in a sheet. Rejoice as it means you don’t have to sew!
  16. Thank God and put in a frozen pizza. Safely stow away costumes in a big bag.
  17. Make silly jokes while you do the dishes and smile cause the madness is over…till next year!

Summer in Crazy Land


How I have missed blogging much this summer! I’m bursting with ideas but haven’t found enough quiet moments between camping, swimming, visiting friends, researching new homeschool programs for the fall and editing my new poetry book, unexpected blossoming: a journey of grief and hope. This has been a really good process, and quite time-consuming…going over each poem with a fine toothed comb and, on the advice of my big sister (beautiful poet and editor Dymphny Dronyk), making sure that each word, each line break, each bit of punctuation or lack thereof is intentional. The poems were written more as passionate cries from the heart, but it’s been good to read them slowly and try to make sure they express my feelings in the clearest way. 

I’m excited to say that that process is just about finalized and I’m going to place my first bulk order in a day or two. I have been telling lots of people about my book and already have about 125 pre-orders, which means that another 125 will also be ordered and donated to bereaved moms, hospitals, midwife or doctor’s offices, or any other place where families suffering from miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss could benefit from my poems. I’m also getting my Blurb bookshop set up for online orders, and hope that women around the world will be able to benefit from knowing they are not alone in their grief after losing a baby. 


On top of all this, my little Mr. Baby has combined late night teething and his newfound mobility to keep me on my toes night and day, and my trusted iPad mini conked out for a few weeks—leaving me a strange internet-less vacuum. Happily my sweet techie husband managed to restore it to life by cleaning up the excessive digital load it was storing…kind of like the Internet version of a home rescue. I had 1100 emails (combining inbox, sent, drafts, trash etc) and 1300 photos!! My iPad mini just couldn’t handle this kind of clutter—poor little beast! After loading the pics onto our Mac instead and deleting the insane amount of emails (gah, remind me to stop signing up for things online!), my iPad is purring away again, much to my relief. As my friend Julia put it when I told her it was out of commission: “What!? That’s your life!” 

Does make you wonder though…why this need to keep everything? To read everything? To document everything? To be present everywhere (omnipresent) and to know everything (omniscient)…doesn’t that sound like Someone else’s job? Reflecting on this makes me want to strive for more simplicity. To be fully present where I am, right now, and not feel the need to hang on to old things from the past. I’m just one tiny part of this vast creation, and all I need to do is play my little part with all my heart. The rest will be taken care of by Someone much wiser than me, who doesn’t get overwhelmed by trying to fit so much into one little head!


So I hope you’ll be hearing from me more often as we settle into school this fall…wrapping ourselves in cosy scarves and sweaters and sipping cinnamon dolce latté’s as we watch the scarlet leaves tumbling against steely grey skies…oh, dear, sorry…slipping off into fantasy land! I meant as I juggle 4 homeschoolers and the baby chews my face while my toddler climbs the furniture…

Anyway,  here are a few posts I hope to write soon: 

  1. How to support a bereaved spouse
  2. Baby Burpin’Blues (a bluegrass poem)
  3. Scene Players: making hours of fun games out of stickers and junk mail 
  4. Things you don’t need to bring when camping with kids
  5. Teamwork, happiness and household chores 
  6. Online educational programs I’m excited about this fall

Any votes for which one to write first? Let me know! A huge hug to you all from us here in Crazy Land, and best wishes for a beautiful year of learning ahead!

    Small, brilliant humans…

       
     

    Today I watched  Do schools kill creativity? It’s a great Ted talk by educator Sir Ken Robinson about the nature of education…or even more so about the nature of children. Robinson believes that all children are naturally creative and original, and that the exceptionally bright children wouldn’t be so exceptional if we didn’t spend so much time drilling the creativity our of all the others. Three ways we do this are:

    1. expecting them all to behave the same way in the class room, and almost always diagnosing difference as a condition to be medicated and ‘normalized’. 
    2. instilling a huge fear of making mistakes, which makes creative originality almost impossible, because one has to be willing to risk being wrong in order to do something new. 
    3. focussing so heavily on the academic areas of math and literacy to the exclusion of other areas like dance, drama, music, etc. 

    He told an anecdote of a little girl in the thirties who couldn’t sit still in class. She was always fidgeting. Her mother was called in to discuss her trouble at school. After speaking with her and her mother, the teacher, or perhaps it was the principle, asked the mother to step out of the room for a moment with him. Before leaving he switched on the radio. They looked at the little girl through the glass window in the wall. She immediately was on her feet and moving to the beat. 

    Your little girl isn’t learning impared. She’s a dancer. Please take her to a dance school.

    That was the best advice the mother ever had. Her daughter flourished at the Royal Academy of Ballet, and went on to make millions producing shows like “Cats” and “Phantom of the Opera.” 

    And yet we tell kids…don’t bother with music or dance…you can’t make a living at that. Instead we have said for so long, “Be smart and get a degree. Then you’ll be guaranteed a job.” Sir Robinson says we have created a kind of academic inflation, where degrees have become so common that they mean almost nothing, and now a PHD is required for jobs that used to only need a bachelor’s degree. He joked that much as he likes university professors, having previously been one himself, he doesn’t think we are all meant to be professors!

    I won’t give away the whole talk…about educating the whole person and not just the head…but you should really watch it because besides being interesting, it is also funny. Being British, Sir Robinson has that fantastic dry sense of humour, and I kept laughing so hard I woke up the baby sleeping on my lap! 

    The whole talk made me feel that we need to consciously redefine our view of educating children…that ideas like the blank slate to be filled with ideas, or the small uncultured creature to be civilized are so far off. Perhaps a better definition of kids would be small, brilliant humans, who are unafraid to share their brilliance with others, and with the world. Let’s encourage our kids to keep burning brightly with all their wild and crazy ideas and funny inventions so they that don’t fall into becoming typical adults: large dim humans who are so afraid of making a mistake or displeasing others that they won’t try anything different or new, cause better safe than sorry!

      

    A Quiet Remebrance Day

      

    This year we had a quiet day at home and missed the parade as our newest recruit is only 9 days old, and I wasn’t up to marching anywhere yet. Instead we read some articles about Remembrance Day, such a the D-day memories of a 90 year old veteran, who joined up at age 15. We also read the fictional journal entries of a young British WW1 soldier as he joined up and experienced his first months in the trenches, followed by losing his leg and his close friend, Private Harry, and travelling back home to share the news to Harry’s mother. 

    In both things we read, there was the contrast between the young idealistic hopes of a short, heroic experience of war, and the reality of a long, painful and ugly struggle.  The kids felt sad for these young soldiers, and my five year old declared quite a few times that she did not want to go to war, and that we would never let our new baby boy do so!

     

    We talked about the generosity of these men who were willing to give up their lives to protect others, and how grateful we should be to them. In the past we have visited the war monuments in the graveyard, and taken time to discuss the sadness of war and to pray for the soldiers and their families. I remember being very moved by the tombstone of a very young soldier who died serving in the bicycle brigade. Imagine…so vulnerable! 

     

    366 days ago I wrote a draft of a post entitled “We Lost the Littlest Soldier.” Remebrance Day last year was only 42 days after I lost Josephine in labour, so my pain was very raw, and I was still bumping into neighbourhood acquaintances who innocently asked me that horrible question, “Where’s the new baby?” Tears came easily at the Remebrance Day Ceremonies that year.  

     

    No matter how old our children are when we lose them, they are still our babies. My heart goes out to all parents who have lost their children to war. My you be strengthened by the memory of their courage, and by the sure hope of seeing them again, in the land beyond pain, beyond suffering, beyond anything but peace and the knowledge that we are all, no matter where we come from, precious children of God.  

     

    Sunning the Moon Belly

      

    after a morning of spelling 
    nursery rhymes
    and writing practice
    I take a moment’s break by myself
    to sit on our garden bench in the sun

    a tiny homeschool hiatus 
    to sit quietly enough to hear 
    the birds chirping and twittering
    over the background hum
    of city busses and summery lawnmowers
    on this warm October morning

    sun is supposed to be good
    for this third trimester liver thing 
    that has crept up on me again
    so I expose my round belly
    to glow like strange moon
    blue veins faintly showing
    in the bright sun

    a small alien planet 
    with the occasional surface ripple 
    as the life within stretches and grows
    just x-filish enough
    to make me grin

    Happy Archangels’ Feast Day 

    Here are the angels my kids had fun making today for the feast day of the three archangels, St Michael, St Gabriel and St Raphael. We talked about their biblical stories and their special jobs (protection from evil, healing and safe journeys, messages of salvation from God) and read the prayers asking for their intercession.

    Then we looked at art of the archangels online, and discovered what their special symbols are (sword and shield, fish and walking staff, lillies and scroll). The variety of styles of angelic art was quite impressive…from stained glass to pastel sketches, metal statues to Eastern Icons, and more. The one that made the girls laugh was the Japanese anime angel Gabriel. “It’s a Pokemon angel!” they declared gleefully.

    Finally, we made some angels of our own. St Gabriel was the most popular today!  
        

       

    Happy Feast Day, and may your own guardian angels watch over you all!

    Homeschooling Keeps Siblings Close

    One of the nice things about homeschool is that you can always be with your favourite “friends.” Everybody, no matter how big or small or imaginary, is included.

    One of my favourite things about having the 5 kids learning at home is how close they are…and how the kids of difference ages interact, include and care for each other. They are not artificially separated into age groups and a myriad of separate activities, so they don’t forget how to play together. Many homeschool activities can be done together, like reading and discussing stories, learning about things from animals to waterfalls, doing art, putting on plays, singing, dancing, doing nature walks and running outside.

    Playing hairdresser for drama class charades

    Nor do the kids get easily bored. They are quite happy to turn the living room into a giant block tower and Duplo city while I get the dishes done. Or to build endless forts with blankets and upturned furniture. Of course all this teamwork means there is also an organized team effort to drive me crazy, but happily I’ve already been crazy for a long time!  Comes with the territory! 😉