For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Moving On, and see what else has been going on.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Regulations met...

As home schoolers in our province, we have minimal requirements.  We register with the board of our choice, do a bit of paperwork and get 2 facilitator visits a year.  We can have more involvement with our board if we want it, but only if we ask for it.  They have a number of online courses, real life activities and so on, but we've yet to take part in any of them.

Tonight was our first facilitator visit for the 09/10 school year.  We won't see him again on an official capacity until May or June.  Normally, these visits are about an hour per child as we fill out a form and talk about the things we expect to cover, strengths and weaknesses we are seeing, etc.  At least that's how it's supposed to go.  For us, we break out the teapot and some snacks and have a grand old visit.  Somewhere in there, we take care of the paperwork. The girls show off some of the stuff they've been doing, but mostly we talk and talk and talk.  Our appointment was at 7.  It was somewhere between 10:30 and 11 when he left.

As you've probably guessed, we really like our facilitator, and he seems to like us, too. ;-)  Enough that he books us as his last appointment so that he doesn't have to leave at a set time and we can get a good visit in.  He has some of the most interesting stories, and we enjoy sharing some of ours.  Discussions ranged from school board funding, evolution, the existance of God, the Firefly tv series (like us for so many years, they don't get any channels, but have a tv for movie watching), different types of watercolour paper, Youngest's art style preference (graphic noir), encyclopedias, and plenty more I can't remember right now. 

I really appreciate having him as our facilitator.  I've heard a few horror stories from other hs'ing families that have had problems with their facilitators.  With our board, they're all home schooling parents themselves, but some boards have facilitators that don't actually know a whole lot about home schooling. 

So, as of tonight, we've met our regulatory requirements for the start of the year.  Now, it's back to our regularly scheduled programming... whatever that turns out to be. :-D

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Today, Eldest and I had a wonderful outing.  We headed to the museum, me with camera in tow, her with sketchbook.  We got there early enough to get the weekend half price admission (our yearly pass expired back in June - will need to get another, I think).  We hung out around the lower level displays until the cafe opened, then went for an early lunch.  We each had a "Brain Wilson" sandwich - turkey and avocado - which was delicious.  They came with spiced pita chips that I loved, she hated, so I traded half my sandwich for her pita chips.  I also had a lovely bowl of beef vegetable soup.  Good, though I had to admit, my own is better. ;-)

After lunch, we parted ways.  There's one section in particular, featuring Aboriginal culture, that has been my photographic nemesis.  The displays are unusually dark, and tripods or monopods are not allowed anywhere in the museum.  I've been trying to get good photos of the exquisite examples of embroidery and beadwork - and failing, most of the time. *L*

The display runs in a clear progression.  It starts with the earliest artifacts of Native habitation in our region, then works its way through time until the first European contact.  The displays continue in linear time, with a mix of artifacts that were Native, Metis, European traders and missionairies, etc., through to modern times.

I had worked my way though the the first contact period and was well on my way to modern times when I was passed by two women.  They were about my own age (early 40's).  I couldn't help but hear the following comments...

1st woman: "... but it says glass beads. Where did they get glass from?"
2nd woman: "Lightning stikes in sand?"
both women start laughing as they continue walking.

While I doubt they meant it that way (I could be wrong, of course), they sounded incredibly condescending!  How could they have gone through almost the entire display, read the signs enough to see that these beads were glass, but not catch on that these pieces were made at a time of trade with Europeans?  Even if they hadn't read any of the signs at all, the artifacts alone were enough to show the progression of time and eventual European influences.  Strange.

Eldest, meanwhile, has discovered that sketching in a museum means being turned into a display.  Especially for little children.  There were special programs today aimed at the younger set, so there were lots of wee ones toddling about.  Some quite happily plopped themselves beside her with a bright and cheery "hi!"  Parents and kids alike simply started talking about her.

"She's drawing!"

"Yes, look.  She's drawn a deer... and a mountain goat... and a fish..."

Child and adult happily keep on going.

Quite adorable.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Getting re-aquainted

The girls and I have been having fun getting re-aquainted with old friends - of the paper variety!  I've been slowly opening up all the boxes that we brought back with us.  Some, I could actually unpack into shelves.  Others will have to wait until we get more bookshelves.

The girls are in heaven.  Youngest is enjoying our Encyclopedia of Mythology, and Eldest is happy to have her animal reference books (we've found the bird and dinosaur ones, but her animal one has yet to be unearthed).  We've also found several textbooks on psychology and sociology she's got fond memories of.

I've got all my craft books again, as well as all my cookbooks.  Those were greatly missed.  My gardening and health reference books will come in handy, too.  Two encyclopedia sets have made their way upstairs for the girls, waiting in their boxes for more bookshelves up there, too.  Eldest will probably get good use out of my herb books, too.

Opening all those boxes and seeing what comes out makes it feel a bit like Christmas! :-D

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Belated Happy Canadian Thanksgiving

A belated Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians. 

The family and I were away for Thanksgiving this year.  Thanks to having a reliable vehicle and the generosity of family members, we were able to make a road trip back to our old stomping grounds, with three nights in a resort hotel, and take part in double family reunions!  We haven't seen most of our family members in over 4 years.  The handy thing is that my parents and my in-laws live in neighboring towns, which made getting together easier.  One of my SILs was able to come out from Toronto, and the other family members had no more than an hour or so to drive out.

Unlike us.  It's a 16 hour drive for us, and for the drive out, we decided to leave later and drive through the night.  With two drivers to take turns, this should have been relatively easy.  Unfortunately, we drove right into the teeth of a storm.  Through most of Saskatewan and part of Manitoba, we were driving on roads slick with ice and driving snow.  At one point, we found someplace safe to pull over for a while to wait things out.  That in itself was a bit of a challange.  We didn't dare just pull over onto the shoulder.  Firstly, because we weren't quite sure where the shoulder was.  Secondly, because oncoming traffic might not see us in the near white-out until it was too late. 

In the process, we discovered that there are a lot of insane truck drivers out there.  I have no clue how they can keep driving so fast in such poor visibility.  I also wonder if they have any idea how dangerous they are to other drivers.  Every time we saw the lights of a semi through the snow, we had to prepare ourselves for the initial buffeting of wind as it past us, followed by complete lack of visibility due to swirling snow kicked up behind the truck.  After a few second of blindness, we could only hope that the road hadn't started to curve on us, or that there wasn't another vehicle behind.  More than a few times, the snow would clear, only to reveal another truck barreling down the highway, kicking up even more snow.

As if these vehicles weren't challanging enough, some suicidal drivers would actually pass us.  What sane person passes another vehicle when you can't see where the lanes are, where the sides of the highway are, whether or not there's a curve ahead, or if there are any vehicles coming?

There was some pretty white knuckle driving going on!

When we finally got to Winnipeg, things had cleared up.  We met up with an old friend for breakfast before heading North and our hotel.  As we left the city, the rain started coming down.  In minutes, the rain turned to snow and we were driving in conditions not much better than they had been before, though no where near as dangerous as in the dark. 

We sure were glad to get to the hotel, that's for sure!  My in-laws had booked adjoining rooms for us, so the girls could have their own rooms.  As much as we wanted to, we didn't nap.  We knew that if we did, we wouldn't be able to get up again to visit Dh's parents!  So we all just spent some quality time with showers and toothbrushes before heading to the in-laws for supper.  My SIL was already there, so we got to spend some time catching up with her.  She and Eldest really hit it off.  After all this time, the kids have to get to know everyone all over again.

We didn't visit for very long, though.  At least not as long as our visits used to be.  We all needed to get some sleep in!  None of us - not even the girls - were able to get much sleep while driving through such ... interesting weather. 

The hotel wasn't the most comfortable we've been in.  With two double beds in each room, Dh and I ended up sleeping in seperate beds.  The mattresses were rather soft, with little support along the outer edges, so there was this constant feeling that we were about to roll out of the bed, solved only by sleeping in the middle of the bed.  Then there was the fact that the bed frames wobbled.  A lot.  Not that any of this stopped us from sleeping for 10 hours straight!!!  I would gladly have slept longer, but I had a date with an old friend from high school for breakfast.  That was another enjoyable reunion.  When I got back, we all headed back to my in-laws, where the rest of the family had a late breakfast and a brief visit before the girls and I headed out to visit my side of the family (Dh stayed behind to spend more time with his own family). 

They, of course, promptly fed us.  Because that's what my parents do.

It was so good to see my parents again.  Even my mother, who was on much better behaviour than usual.  That was a big concern of mine.  My dad seemed to be doing well.  He was walking around with just one cane, rather than 2 of them or his walker. Later on, Eldest and I wandered around the farm, looking at the "graveyard" of old cars and farm equipement, log buildings, sheds and the remains of my mother's gardens.  My youngest brother and his son made it out, too, and my nephew brought his Xbox.  He and Youngest were soon esconsed in my dad's bedroom (my old bedroom, as it's the warmest room in the house, and right next to the bathroom), playing Halo together.  My brother gave us a tour of the workshed he's been putting together in a building that used to be attached to the house we lived in before leaving the province.  Though it was used as a storage shed, it's the size of a small house.  He build a furnace for it, as well as installing the old wood cookstove we'd had but had never been able to install, due to the cost of having another chimney built for it.  He can do that stuff himself, so he just needs to aquire the materials.  This brother of mine is one of those people that seems to be able to build or make anything. 

Eventually, we headed back to the in-laws, where they fed us again.  Though their cultures are different, the act of feeding everybody is a custom both sides of our families share! *L*  This time, my BIL and his family made it out and we had the first of our reunions.  It was a lot of fun, though we were reminded of just how different our own family dynamics are from theirs.  We home school, they don't.  We parents our kids differently, and have completely different interests and priorities.  It can make for some interesting  conversations.  Some of the things the kids do that are "cool" are a bit confusing to us.  Like making this hand gesture while tilting the head to one side, opening the mouth and lolling the tongue off to one side.  My niece did that to Youngest.  When asked what was, the resonse was "you know!" and a repeat of the motion.

Hhhhmmm....  No.  No, we don't know.  Not at all.  And apparently, she didn't, either.  She just did it. *L*  Just a bit of culture shock, there!

For this evening, I brought along a whole bunch of crocheted gifts I'd made for the families.  Most of them, I didn't make for anyone specific.  I just pulled them out and let people pick for themselves.  Since my BIL and his family were late, my SIL and her parents got first dibs. ;-)  I made useful things, like hats, scarves, mitts, and slippers, as well as more decorative items, like jewelry and a stole.  I was glad to see they were well recieved by all. :-)

The next day was split up between the families again.  A morning visit with Dh's parents, then a family reunion with my family.  By the time we got there, they'd just sat down to eat (we weren't sure when we'd make it, and had expected to be doing brunch, though that changed at the last minute, so they weren't going to wait for us).  Somehow, we managed to fit 15 people around the tables!  Then, because one of my brothers had to leave for work, we hurried to get some family photos taken outside.  Shortly after that, Dh headed back to his own parents while the girls and I stayed and visited for longer.  I brought out some gifts I'd made specifically for my parents - a sweater for my mother and a blanket for my dad - as well as the rest of the gifts I'd made, while Youngest brought out some hunter orange toques she'd crocheted herself.  I have several hunters in my family, and all of them spend lots of time outdoors, so there's no such thing as too many warm hats! I was glad to see that the sweater I'd made fit my mother just right, and it was exactly the sort of style she liked (open neck and 3/4 length sleeves).  Even the colour, a deep, sparkly purple, suited her well.  I had some concerns, since the only size references I had were from my sister, who'd sewn clothes for my mother a number of years ago.  I had no idea if my mother had lost or gained weight in that time. 

Over all, things went quite well.  My mother did try to through out some weird stuff - a few rants about how the Canada has become such a terrible place, and it's because we took prayer and God out of the schools, and let all those Asians and Muslims into the country.  We're all kind of used to distracting her to other things when she gets like that.  She also insisted that I need to cook more soup, because if I did, I'd loose weight.  When I pointed out she has no idea what I eat or how much, she tried to guess that I eat lots of pizza and drink lots of pop.  Sorry, Mom.  I'm not fat because of what I eat, and eating soup isn't going to change anything.  Funny thing is that my mother is also fat, had just had her regular physical and is in perfect health, except for some osteoarthritis in her knees.  She's coming up on her 80's.  Even funnier is that she's giving my sister and her husband a hard time for being too skinny!  *L*

All in all, though, things went really well.  Everyone just sort of spread out into conversational groups.  The alcohol was flowing (my youngest brother and my mother getting decidedly tipsy), more food was brought out, and we all swapped stories for hours.  We didn't leave until Dh called because the cousins were asking about the girls, and would have enjoyed staying longer.

After Dh picked us up, we went back to his parents - just in time for their turkey dinner! *L*  They don't have quite as much room, but the girls and I happily waited to take second shift eating, having just eaten not that long ago.  Three meals in one evening!  And it was all amazingly delicious.

Still, we couldn't stay for too long.  We had to leave fairly early in the morning, swing by our old house to pick up boxes we had in storage, and manage a last visit in Winnipeg before heading home.  We finally got to meet our friend's son - we weren't sure his ex would allow an "extra" visit or not - and he is such a sweetie!  Totally adorable.

It was hard to cut all these visits short, yet at the same time, we couldn't wait to get home.  The drive back was MUCH more pleasant.  We considered getting a hotel partway through, but decided against it.  The drive was made extra interesting with all our boxes in back.  We were actually able to fit all our boxes of books, plus a couple of storage bins or stuff, and still be able to see out the back window.  Dh estimates we had 400 pounds of books alone back there.  The back end was so low, it tilted our headlights.  We kept getting drivers from the opposite direction - even semi's - flashing us because they thought we were driving with our brights!

We made it home by 3 am, which was really good time.  Our cats were so glad to see us!  We'd hired a friend's kids to cat sit for us (two or her kids run a pet sitting business), so they were care for while we were gone.  Even Youngest's cat, who is usually quite aloof, was all over us.  Even today, she's still really cuddly, though she seems to be slowly going back to her old stand-offish self. *L*

The van didn't get unloaded until this evening, though.  We just took in our suitcases on arrival.  With the girls' help (Dh's back injury meant he was banned from even touching any of those boxes), we got them all on.  Twenty three boxes and 2 large bins!  Granted, the boxes were rather small, but with all but 4 of them filled with books, they were all quite heavy.  The girls once again have their two encyclopedia sets, which Youngest has already taken upstairs, and I have my craft and cook books again. :-D  Going through the boxes was like being reunited with old friends!  We still don't have the bookshelves to properly unpack them all, but we can at least access them.

It feels good to have our library again.

We definately won't head out to visit family again next Thanksgiving.  If we manage the trip again, it will be in late spring or summer, not in the fall!  I'm glad we were able to do it, even though it was quite exhausting.  It was worth it.

And now... time for me to go to sleep in my own familiar bed that doesn't wobble all over the place when I get in. :-D