Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Walls

I don't believe you have to be better than everybody else. I believe you have to be better than you ever thought you could be. - Ken Venturi
An old stone wall behind our house

"It is like a splinter...it hurts when its in, it hurts when you pull it out; but, when it is out, you feel a lot better," my son said to me just as he was crawling into bed.  He had been upset at his grandfather throughout the day.  Whether or not the reason was legitimate, does not matter.  What concerned me was that he was unable to talk with his grandfather and share with him his thoughts. He felt stuck and trapped.   As I watched him go through his process during the day.  I thought of all the many  times I had felt cornered by life, feeling unable to address situations. For me, it took a long time to realize that there are no walls that can not be crossed...you just have to be creative (though, the creative bit can be the hardest part ).
So, in light of my son's frame of mind, I told him that we were going to talk to his grandfather.  My son was not impressed....and said, "No."   But he did finally come around...find his voice...and speak.  His grandfather listened and had comments back.  Honestly the conversation did not have a storybook ending, and even that is alright.  To me, I was so proud of my son.  It is hard to stand up for what you think is right. It is hard to have faith in your own voice and know that what you have to say is important.  For all of us...we need to realize that the power to change our lives and our situations....lies in our own hands...and that is the important lesson that he learned today.  So today I smiled... 

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Country Living (this is not the magazine, but real life)


When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. - James Brady

We country folk always try to be neighbourly.  So, when a neighbour asked if we could babysit her son, we were willing to help.  You see, schools were closed on Friday due to ice rain.  Our neighbour had to go to work and had no one to watch her son.  Her plan was to pick him up later.  By evening, the roads were even worse.  Consequently, she said she would come on Saturday.
Saturday brought lots more snow and a power outage.  So, her son got to stay one more day, but he did not mind.  The kids built snowmen, played flashlight tag in the dark and ate dinner by candlelight...
My nephew building a sledding snowman
When our neighbour came to pick up her son she carried a beautiful apple pie.  As she handed it to me, she remarked how lovely it was that we had no power, because the kids had to play outside and could not play computer games.  I just smiled....well...you see...
Our wood burning furnace
Now that we are country folk, we decided to live in the middle of nowhere properly.

Rule number 1:  buy a generator
Rule number 2: buy a wood burning furnace

...both we have accomplished.  Do you know what my husband used the generator for?  powering the PS3 (shhhh! Don't tell!).

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Things that go bump in the night

You are never alone. - Author Unknown

Because we now live in a big, old, (spooky) house, my children have had to make a few adjustments.  Like....not walking up to their bedrooms unless they are using a buddy system and having the radio playing at nighttime(so they do not hear the howling wind).
My sister in law has said she has heard foot steps in the middle of the night, when she was sure everyone was asleep (hmmm).

Our spooky house on a hill (please note the possible apparition in the attic window)
My father in law keeps saying that someone is leaving all the lights on (even when we have been out for the day)...and my kids swear that it was not them.  (hmmm)
But, I would like to know...can ghosts turn off stoves?  Because someone turned off the stove on me twice tonight while I was cooking dinner . (hmmm)
Big families....don't you just love them.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Silhouettes

How can there be too many children?  That is like saying there are too many flowers. - Mother Theresa

I decided to study the colonial times of North America ( not just America, Canada too...) with my children.  I feel as if moving to the country is a bit like stepping back in time.  Made of field stone collected from the property, the house is just shy of one hundred years old.  It feels as if it has a hundred stories to tell, so, studying the past seemed only natural. 
We have looked at cooking, houses, clothing, and today we studied a bit of art.  In colonial times, making silhouettes of family members was popular.  One by one, I traced the shadows of my children and nieces and nephew(My littlest niece is not included....she is only one year old and would not sit still). I pinned up their images on the wall in our dining room for everyone to see.  They enjoyed connecting to the past with this activity and were amazed how each silhouettes' owner could be easily identified.  
To me, looking at all their smiles brought two joys...
1.) Wow!  so many beautiful children
2.) Yes! so many beautiful children and I am surviving (that is a real blessing...come for dinner sometime and you will understand)  

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Grey Skies

We do not need magic to transform our world.  We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already.  We have the power to imagine better. - J. K. Rowlings


Leaf trapped in melting snow
The sky was covered in various layers of grey when we began our walk.  To me, it has been a new experience living in the countryside through winter.  Everyday brings new scenery.   Today, our snow covered driveway began to melt and created an  ice bed with a stream flowing on top. Trying to navigate our way down the road was quite a task.  My children were split as to whether or not the day was nice.  My eldest quietly walked his puppy.  My second was convinced that we must be crazy to go on a walk on such a gloomy day (and by the way,  his feet were wet and cold).  My daughter happily skipped along with her cousins and my littlest was trying to slide down the waterfall/ ice bed...falling here and there but getting up to try again ( his feet were wet too...but he didn't mind).  I thought the barren, wet, soggy landscape and the grey sky had a unique beauty I had not seen before. It is interesting how the same experience could be viewed in different ways...I wonder how much of life we misinterpret, too. 

Grey Skies (over a pasture behind our house)


Sunday, 22 January 2012

Wasted Time

Time you enjoyed wasting, was not wasted. - John Lennon


My children where rolling their eyes...and giving me the sad look as soon as their dad left the room.  He had said that we had to stay in town for a few more days as we waited for the car to be fixed.  They were not excited (I personally do not know why, having no school to do should be a reason to celebrate for any child...)But this wasted time ended up being just what we all needed...
I decided to take the time to meet with old friends...friends that we had not seen in the five months since we moved.  It was nice to finally have the time...and the opportunity.  So we both visited friends and invited friends over.  It was wonderful to see how everyone was doing...and to catch up on old times.
On the way back to the countryside, even my grumpiest child was smiling.  They all said a resounding thank you.  Their wasted time ended up being the best time ever!


You never know what a day can hold...if you choose to see it that way.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Finding that wishing star

Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you sit down quietly, may alight upon you. - Nathanial Hawthorne

My eldest son wrote this as a joke to my youngest son
My littlest son disappointedly told me hat he was unable to find a wishing star.  I brightened up, motioned him closer to the night-time view and said, "I can show you which one is the wishing star." He looked at me and seriously said, "No, you don't understand!  I have wished on every star and still, my wish has not come true."  I said, "Oh, I see..."  I continued to explain that the way that wishing stars work is that you have to make your wishes for others, first, and later for yourself.  He was happy with the new information and was determined to try again.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Windy days

I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions and not upon our circumstances. - Martha Washington

The nicest thing that I have realized, as of late, is the humor in life.  Humor is  wonderful.  One of my favourite things about my husband is his ability to laugh in difficult situations.  It is important to laugh at the world...and at ourselves. 
 Living in a big family is like this...  Getting out the door becomes a challenge...sitting down at meal time is a challenge...having guests over is a challenge...sweeping the front step can be a challenge...boiling a pot of water can be a challenge...daily life can be a challenge... (you do it like this, not like that).  It can be a bit like living in a wind tunnel. But you know, those same situations can make life that more interesting as well.  Just depending on how you take it. 
We all find different things to have importance and have value.  I do think we need to respect each others' opinions, but we can't get lost in them.  So, when opinions begin to fly, hang onto your hat, and smile, or laugh, and put your shoulder to the wind...and have faith that you will get to where you need to go.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Just Perfect

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it. - Confucius

"Dad, I think those birds have rabies, they aren't flying away!" my second son, Ethan, commented as he walked down the streets of the big city.  We don't come into the big city very oftern, but today we had to visit a craniofacial surgeon for my eldest son, Tristan.
He was born with a medium sized birthmark and mole on the side of his nose.  He is now thirteen, but since he was about a year and a half old, he has gone every two years to a specialist for observation, to make sure the mole did not become cancerous. 
To me, I always thought my son was so handsome.  But, the birthmark does get people staring when we go to any new place.  "What's that on your nose?" 
The cutest answer he ever gave was when he was about 4 years old.  Smiling, he turned to the questioner and answered,"I am part Native American.  This is the part of me that is (pointing to his nose)."
(I had recently told him of all the different nationalites of our ancestory.  He had come up with that deduction on his own).  So, he has always been alright with the extra stares, he saw his birthmark with pride.
So today, the surgeon said it is ready to come off...if Tristan so decides.  Tristan told him polietly, that he would think about it.  My husband and I are going to let him decide.  To us, he is just perfect...and has always been.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

A Surprise Ending

The stars are the jewels of the night, and perchance surpass anything which day has to show. - Henry David Thoreau


Living in the country is a change.  We have to learn to survive in a whole new environment.
The weather turned a bit warmer today and we had rain...so our driveway turned into an ice rink.
I realized this, as I tried to stop my car from sliding into the front gate.  It turned out alright though, fortunately, my car was good at off roading.  I was able to make it back on the driveway after not too much effort.  Not only the ice was a problem...our nice heating system started to act up...and my husband and my brother- in-law had to stand all day in the rain trying to get it started again....
Our puppy was wet  and muddy...  The children were stuck inside all day...  And the wind howled away outside our windows at about 80 km/h.  But, through all the weather, as night fell, the sky lit up with thousands of stars.  I felt like I was living in a snow globe...it was beautiful to see.  It sure makes living in the country, worth all its troubles.



Monday, 16 January 2012

This Journey

Life is a journey, not a destination. - Ralph Waldo Emerson


Though I did not ask, my daughter, smiling, suggested that I blog about my burned rice pudding today.  (And perhaps the dinner I burned the night before, too)  I usually do not burn food as I am cooking...but with a house full of people I sometimes get side tracked ( oh! wait! I forgot the cake in the oven).  I never do strive to have a perfect day.  I do strive to always try.  I never expect my kids to do things perfect either.  I do, however, expect them to learn along the way.  
 Life is about learning...not about perfection.  So, what did I learn...that my kids are so sweet, that even when I made a mistake...my son said, "Wow!  How did you get this rice pudding to taste like it has Maple in it?" (My husband lovingly pointed out...that's not maple flavour, son, that is carbon...Add more sugar....)

Remembering Life is a process...and looking ever forward to what a new day will bring.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Perspective

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. - Albert Camus

I do think the world is what you make of it...and how you see it.  So, how do you see your world?  Is it what you like?
The whole gang
Today we had cousins over.  Our whole family went down for a sunny day at the beach.  In fact, it was one of the best days my kids have had at the beach.  Alright, so it was -16 degrees Celsius (1 degree Fahrenheit) But it is all a matter of perspective. Even though it was cold,  they were so excited to see their beloved lake in a new form. They slid, ran, jumped, and bonked their heads a couple of times...but it did not matter.
A Canadian beach
 I think many times in our lives we miss out on good things ...
expecting things to be a certain way...
that we forget to see the beauty that is right in front of us.
Here's to our sunny day at the beach...

Friday, 13 January 2012

Snow Day

The color of springtime is in the flowers; the color of winter is in the imagination.- Terri Guillemets


Today we were snowed in...or maybe I should say iced in.  We could not move anywhere today...we just stayed inside and watched the world grow whiter and whiter.  There is something nice about a snow day.  There is no need to hurry...no plans that must be kept...

Winter in Canada is beautiful...


view from my bedroom window


Thursday, 12 January 2012

Tell Me Your Story

I know that experience comes to us for a purpose, and if we follow the guidance of the spirit within us, we will probably find that the purpose is a good one. - Ruby Bridges



I do really love biographies.  My favourite stories are about real people who have overcome real problems.  In others' stories, we can find a way to face our own situations and put our own problems into perspective.  I do not want to hear about the crimes of humanity...I want to hear about the people who fought against injustice and won.
Not long ago, I read for my children The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles.  It is an amazing story about the first african-american child to attend an all white school in the South (1960).  The story shows both the good and the bad in people...but more importantly it highlights the individuals who stood up for what was right.  I highly recommend the book.  But, I would like to tell you an amazing thing. When I read the story to my children, with tears streaming down my face, they could not understand how anyone could not like someone based on race.  I could only shake my head and thankfully say, "We have come a long way."

Today was beautiful to remember the many people who came before, to remember their stories, to learn their lessons, and know that the future is bright.


Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Growing Up

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. - Albert Einstein

So when the story ends...when the song finishes...what do you do?  When I thought that I had come to the best life can offer, it amazingly turns the page and shows me that there is more...
Today, I smiled at life and said, "Oh, I see..."
I thought the most memorable days of my life were the moments where I introduced my children to the world.  I still clearly remember holding their little hands out to touch their first rain drops, sing them their first songs, read them their first stories, and guide them on their first make believe adventures. But today, they began to show me new wonders. My children are growing up.  Hidden from view, I listened as my eldest son picked out the notes to a favourite song on the piano.   I watched as my second son created his first comic strip...  and I smiled.  I couldn't have ever imagined what it was like to stand on the other side.

This was my beautiful moment today.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Now, Let's Sing!

An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell better than cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup. - H. L. Mencken

I love to sing.  I think I always have.  My mother said I would sing all the time when I was young...and just when I was thinking I was about to get a compliment...she would start laughing and say, "It was the funniest thing...You could never remember the words to any song...You would just start making them up...You would sing for hours about any subject I threw out."  (I personally, think that is talent...not funny).
So, for a job (maybe to make people laugh at me) I decided to sing.  So sing I do.  Some days I feel like it...some days I do not.  So, today was one of those days....but I tried my best.  And just when I thought I had made it through to the end... a lady came up to me, glanced down, and quietly asked me if I could sing for her father.  He was not doing well, and he was just declared palliative this morning.
I could tell this man was so loved...and his family truly wanted him to know.  So, I sang as if it was the grandest day in my life.  So, I sang...

Beautiful point...was to see the love that this family had for their father...and to find that drive to reach beyond my own limits.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Stillness

Winter a lingering season, is a time to gather golden moments, embark on a sentimental journey, and enjoy every idle hour. - John Boswell.


For five months we have lived in the country.  It is a change for my whole family.  Our schedules have changed from rushing daily from program to program...to hardly leaving our house.  There are two reasons for this change.  One is...that we now live thirty minutes from the closest town, the other is my husband got very sick this past summer and was hospitalized.  Before my husband got sick, every moment of every day I spent in doing.  It is hard for me to be still by nature.  Even when talking on the phone, I pace, because I don't like being still.  I always have to be doing.  In fact, perhaps that is how I thought people found happiness....because of what they do.
So, life forced me to hit the pause button.  And this time I decided to stop, this time I needed to stop...
It is interesting. It is hard to explain my day.  It is a day I have not had in years.  I did not spend my day in pursuit of anything...I did not strive to fill my children's day.... or to fill my own.  But it was beautiful, from the first moment to the last.  Just simple. It was a pause....and in that pause...life could begin to fill me.
I am a musician by trade.  My teachers always said, that it is the "rests" in the music that make music,  music...otherwise it would just be noise.  You need the rests...enjoy the rests.

This was my beautiful moment today...having a chance to finally see the beauty in the stillness of life.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Ours

Good habits formed in youth make all the difference. - Aristotle

My Daughter and her little brother and little cousin performing their version of "Ours" by Taylor Swift.

video


This was the most memorable point of the day.  Finding this video clip on my computer.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

The Gift

The real voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.  - Marcel Proust

The mass of muddy paw prints on the kitchen door should have been a hint, but I only casually noticed it in my hurry.  Today is a holiday, did you know?  It is Orthodox Christmas...and as family tradition calls, we are on our way to my husband's grandmother's house to celebrate with all his cousins.
I open the door and step out of the entrance.  And to my surprise there is mud...lots of it.  Do you know what happens when four inches of snow melts overnight...and you live in the country with a dirt driveway.... with four children in their best clothing...and a big black newfoundland puppy running right towards you? (I will let you imagine what happens) But, the mud is not what I remember most from today....
My husband's grandmother is ninety years old.  The greatest gift and the only gift that she ever asks for is that we gather for holidays at her home.  When I first married my husband, the gatherings were small.  Now, with all the cousins married, with families,  the gatherings have taken on a new life.  Her small two bedroom house is alive with people of all ages and sizes....running, chatting, laughing, joking, crying, eating and just being together.  Every year without fail, his grandmother makes the most splendid chicken soup with dumplings....first in one pot, then two, now three pots...just to feed the whole crowd.  She woke up early just to prepare this special treat.  It is her children's favourite.  It is her grandchildren's favourite...and yes, it is even her great-grandchildren's favourite dish on the Christmas table.  No one can make it just like her.   But, it is not the soup that I remember most from today...
There was something more that I remember.  It is something that I have seen before.  I saw it in my own grandmother's eyes, as she sat at the side of a room and watched my cousins and I laughing together.  I saw it in my husband's grandmother's eyes tonight. As we chaotically huddled around her for a family photo, there was a look of absolute peace and happiness that filled her face.

That was most beautiful moment in the day.  I think growing old is one of life's greatest gifts....it is in age, that sometimes we can finally begin to see....


Friday, 6 January 2012

Beautiful Sight

A lake is the landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature.  It is Earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.  - Henry David Thoreau

Today we went on a walk down to the frozen lake...
and down the road...
and when returned, we were greeted by a beautiful winter sunset...
I never knew that the sunset reflected in the snow and ice...


These were my beautiful moments today.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Sweet Dreams

The world is full of cactus, but we don't have to sit on it. 
- Will Foley

My daughter is having a sleepover.  She is in that in between age...where she thinks she is a little too big for "child's play".  Consequently, while her friend is over, she has banned my littlest son from listening to his favourite audio story of The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie the Pooh in the evenings...in exchange for more grown up stories. Of course he protested...but, then later took it in stride.
This morning I woke up with him bounding in the room with a little stack of pictures. By nature, my son is not an avid drawer.  So I was surprised at his greeting.
I studied the pictures and I said, "Wow!  Are these pictures of Winnie the Pooh and his friends?"  He excitedly exclaimed they were.  Reaching under my pillow he pulled out another stack that he had placed the night before.  He went on to describe each picture...He had drawn twelve in total.

This is where we meet Edward Bear, learn he is Winnie-the-Pooh, and the story begins

This is Christopher Robin's House 

My son's addition to the story... a fire...(but don't worry, they all made it out alright, except for Pooh, who lost a bit of his fluff and had to be sown up again)

After examining all of his lovely pictures...I realized something unusual about all of them.  I quickly began checking the backs of every picture...and sure enough....he had torn the pages from his sister's sketchbook.  The other side of these pictures contained his sister's drawings.  Noticing that I made a discovery, he smiled, laughed and dashed from the room...soon after I heard his sister shout, "Kaiden!"

So my beautiful moment today was finding the hidden treasures under my pillow and  realizing we all have to cleverly find our way around cactus.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Making Bread

A house needs a grandma in it. -Louisa May Alcott

I really love the elderly.  I really truly do.  Somehow old people always make me smile.  My husband has a wonderful grandmother who has come to visit.  She tries desperately to relate to my little children, who run quickly by her, to avoid giving her kisses.  To which she usually will shout rude comments or she "swears to God" that she will not buy them anymore presents next time she comes to visit.
To top it off, my children and her do not speak the same language.  My husband's grandmother is Serbian.  So half of her yells they do not understand.  It is like two worlds desperately trying to meet each other.  This morning began in such a manner with my littlest complaining about his great-grandmother's constant need for morning kisses and a whole show just to get my son to give a kiss....which he quickly turned around and said, "Ha, Ha, I wiped it off."  And great-grandmother teasing him again.
Today I decided to try to make bread.  It is my second time this week...and a couple of days ago...the bread did not quite rise.  First, my little son came to help.  He carefully helped me measure the flour, and sugar and salt.  He was quite excited to be helping make bread.  Then my husband's grandmother came over to watch the process.  Honestly, her eyes were sparkling just the same as my son's as she watched me kneed the dough.  For my son, I am sure that it was "Wow!  a giant ball of playdough!"  But, to grandmother is was a giant ball of memories.  It was amazing to see them both locked into the same experience...and sharing the same joy...
Two worlds met at that point...and you won't believe it....this time, my bread did rise!

So this was my beautiful point....a simple experience...that brought two together.


Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Bumps In the Road

Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans. - John Lennon


My husband has been very proud of my acclimation to Canadian weather...so we decided to move to a more colder part of Ontario...because, you see, snow for just 6 months of the year was not enough.  So today, was the very first really cold day in our new home.  The thermostat read -18 degree Celsius ( for my American friends that is about 0 degree Fahrenheit).  My vehicle would not start due to the extreme cold...so at the last minute, in order to help me get to work on time, my husband unloaded our utility pick-up truck that was stacked high with wood.  Let me tell you, I was really feeling like I had given up my sun loving roots and embraced this new cold frontier.  Proudly I thought, "I don't need a hat.  I don't need gloves....look and even no thermal underwear.  I have arrived."  My husband (the experienced Canadian) looked at me as I walked toward the door and asked, "What are you doing?"  I smiled and said that I was fine and I didn't need a hat and gloves.  He took off his work gloves and handed them to me and said that  I would need them to open the front gate.  I took them politely and put them on the seat of the truck.  Again, still glowing to myself about my handling of the cold weather, I purposely did not put on the gloves when I got to our front gate.  I jumped out of the truck with a smile and reached for the gate...and...my hands stuck to the metal, just for a moment... I felt like I had frog hands ( OH!  I see, so, that's what the gloves were for).
A bit humbled by my experience, I then realized that the utility truck was near empty and I was 15-20 minutes to the nearest gas station...and even more late for work.  I began coasting down every hill I could hoping that my lack of hat would not end up biting me back even more.  I began to picture myself walking home down a very, long, hilly, cold, country road...and even more late for work.  Then in my near panic...I realized...at this point I could not change anything....just enjoy the ride...

So the beautiful moment I found today....is that sometimes the bumps in the road do make the ride more fun.  And life can hold surprising adventures when you least expect it.  I was quietly laughing at myself all day.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Beautiful Sounds

Things do not change- we do.  
                 Henry David Thoreau
       
      My friend sat down at an old piano today in our living room.  It is an old piano, with missing ivory...and a bit out of tune, the way old pianos usually are.  She began to play the song Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen.  
     I quietly walked into the room and listened.  I have known this particular friend for many years and I was not aware that she played the piano.  In my surprise I mentioned that I did not know she knew how to play.  She smiled and said, " I learned from YouTube." She loved the song so much that she went to a store and bought the sheet music.  Then she went on YouTube and learned how to read music.  She picked out the notes one by one.  Sadly, she told me, you know it took me 6 months to learn this song and she added I also learned Beethoven's Fur Elise, also taking about the same amount of time.  To me, I find it amazing...My friend is not a musician, but she said she had always wanted to be a piano player.   


So this is the beauty I found in today.  Things in life do not change.  It is us who decided whether or not we will conquer our Mountains.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

There is a miracle in every new beginning.  - Herman Hesse


I am happy at the beginning of this new year.  I am hopping to find beauty in life, that perhaps before I had overlooked...or just missed...because I was too busy...or too trapped in the thoughts of my mind.

So out of this cold beginning...and perhaps grey and barren winter world around us...soon will come a new beginning.

Happy New Year!