Category Archives: Weather, Seasons, & Celebrations

Rites of Passage, Including Kindergarten and Grade Six

Rites of passage are something that I consider important. Not big splashy ones; just marking milestones. And there have been a few of them lately, this last week of August and the first weekend of September.

Owlet had her intro to kindergarten the last week of August. On Tuesday we went in for an hour-long session in her class, listening to her teacher talk through the structure, the subjects, and the schedule. After that there was a barbecue in the schoolyard, which she partly like because of hot dogs and being able to play with her friends for daycare who had also advanced to kindergarten, and partly disliked because the music was too loud. The next day she went in with half the class for a morning of kindergarten. Despite being told over and over, she didn’t fully understand that I wasn’t coming in with her again for that session, and there were almost tears; she and her buddy from daycare held hands for support as they followed the teacher inside. Then she had a day off, and then Friday was her first official full day of school. Again tears threatened, but her teacher introduced her to another girl in the schoolyard while I slipped away. At the end of the day the teacher brought out the non-bus and non-daycare kids, but Owlet wasn’t among them, even though she had been when they left the classroom. It turned out that she had split off from the group to follow a new friend to the daycare programme; her teacher found her sitting with the daycare kids, happily munching a daycare granola bar.

Her daycare educator e-mailed to see how the first days had gone, and I was glad to be able to tell her that things were fine. Owlet finally gets to use her Star Wars lunchbox, and get a juice box in it — a treat that was withheld from her until she started kindergarten. She is excited about the great playground equipment (restricted to the younger grades), about learning computers (two in her classroom, an entire computer lab next door), having new markers and coloured pencils. She coloured a picture for her new teacher on Friday morning, hugged her leg before leaving on Friday afternoon, and has been practicing her teacher’s name and saying “bonjour” and “au revoir” (the latter with a truly adorable rolled ‘r’). The one thing I’m not thrilled about is the fact that she’s in the only kindergarten class in the basement; the three others are on the main floor with large windows. But her teacher has made it colourful, and the music room is right across the hall. She hasn’t said anything specific about being frustrated or sad about not understanding what her teacher says — she is very good at using gestures to illustrate what she is saying, and I’m certain it will only take a couple of weeks before Owlet starts nattering in French.

Sparky’s first day was a breeze. The schoolyard was packed with hundreds of kids and parents looking for their class lists, saying hello after the summer, and generally goofing around. Once he found his friends, there was no point to me staying, so Owlet and I walked to the park behind the schoolyard and hung out there until the classes started being called inside. The grade sixes were last, of course, and the teachers gathered all four grade six classes on the field to take mass photos before they went in. They’re the top of the heap this year, the last before high school. The night before the school held an info session for parents, and I got to meet his teachers and hear about their policies, their units of inquiry, and the planned field trips. There’s a lot of science and focus on renewable energy, which is going to be exciting for Sparky. Math will be focusing on stabilizing and reviewing the material they’ve already learned, much to my relief. He’ll have a new math resource teacher, as his past one (who, incidentally, has also been his math tutor this past summer) has her own class in another school this year. His homeroom teacher happens to be the same teacher who taught him French In kindergarten at his first school, which he finds amusing.

The day before school started, we went out to brunch, which is a nice new tradition, I think. Megan and Audrey came with us, as Audrey was starting kindergarten the same day Owlet did.

The other recent rite of passage was baby Ivy’s blessing. HRH and I were honoured to be asked to lead the ritual by Ivy’s parents, who are friends of ours. It was the first real ritual Owlet had observed; she had been very interested in the whole idea of a baby blessing leading up to the event. (What is a blessing? Why do we ask the gods to protect her? Will the gods sit or stand? If they’re not there, will the gods hear us even if we don’t shout?) The wish Sparky made for the baby was for a long life, and Owlet (even though she hid behind me and was too shy to say it) had prepared a wish that the baby always feel comfortable enough to be herself. (I said it for her. It was a really good wish, and I was very proud of her for coming up with it.)

Of all the formal rites of passage I am privileged to perform for my spiritual community, baby blessings are my favourite. I only wish we’d been in a better state to stay afterwards and enjoy food, drink, and company, but I was exhausted and rapidly going downhill (fibro has been particularly difficult lately), Sparky was fighting a cold, and Owlet was having that kind of weekend where she needed to get home to have a quiet supper and regular bedtime.

It’s been a busy week.

Traditional February Snowstorm in Montreal

Brush off car. Repeat. Repeat. Give up, because the snow is always going to have covered your back window again by the time you’ve worked your way around to the front anyway. I really miss having a rear window wiper.

That said, it’s absolutely beautiful out there this morning. It’s snowing heavily, but the snow itself is light and fluffy. Except those roads; they are not beautiful. The roads are ugly. And I didn’t see a singe plough or salt truck during my half-hour of local driving this morning, dropping the kids off at their respective places of education.

Freezing rain due by noon. Joy.

Santa 2015

The mall in which we usually visit Santa redesigned their holiday set and it’s uninspiring. We tried anyway on a school strike day, but the lineup and noise got to me before we’d been there five minutes, so we made the executive decision to try the Santa at Dix30.


Sparky shook Santa’s hand when he stepped up. Owlet was very serious; she did not want to sit on Santa’s lap, and because consent (I’m not going to convince any kid it’s okay to sit on a stranger’s lap these days), everyone agreed she could sit on the stool and hug a Christmas stuffie instead. I wish I’d been more with it; I would have suggested Sparky sit on the other stool and look serious as well, and then it would have been like an old-fashioned portrait where no one smiles. (Except Santa. That would have been even funnier.)

It was in a little cottage-type thing built right on one of the avenues at the Dix30 complex. That meant the line was outside, but there was an elf entertaining those who waited. (Although Owlet was highly suspicious of him as well. Sparky was moderately impressed; this guy was great at physical comedy and minor acrobatics.) The photo was digital only, but free. All in all it was a decent experience, and I think we’ve found our new Santa destination.

Owlet: 51 Months!

The big news this past month is that we are now reading chapter books together at bedtime!

Last Christmas I gave her a picture book based on a chapter or two of Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and she ignored it for months. At the beginning of October she finally pulled it out and asked to read it. We read it three nights in a row, and she was particularly interested in the churning. Why could Mary churn to help Ma, but not Laura? So we discussed the physical demands of churning and the physiological limitations of little people versus bigger people. “You know,” I said, “there’s a whole chapter book about Laura and Mary and their family. Would you like to try reading some of it?” Yes, please, she did, and so I read the first chapter of Little House in the Big Woods to her the next evening. She asked to hear another chapter at her next bedtime, and just like that, chapter books were a go! As I read I realized I had to be prepared for lots of questions. Big Woods goes right into pig butchering and setting traps in the woods and shooting at bears. Fortunately, Owlet is mostly interested in the house and the chores.

She desperately wanted to churn butter after we read that chapter, which expands on the picture book experience. Sure, we could toss cream in the stand mixer and make butter (as my eldest goddaughter and I once did by accident while whipping cream for a tea party), but it’s not exactly authentic. I could put cream in a Mason jar and get her to shake it, except it’s the churn she’s really interested in. (And the wee wooden mould that makes pats of butter with the strawberry shape on top; that was very interesting, too.) It turns out that my awesome friend Megan owns an antique crank churn, so she brought that and a litre of organic cream over one Saturday after our daughters had art class together, I baked scones, and we made the best butter ever to top them with.

(It is worth noting for posterity that Owlet turned the crank for maybe two minutes before running off to play. You’d never have lasted in pioneer days, child.)

The kids found me watching an episode of the BBC Edwardian Farm series and got very excited about that, too, asking to watch the first two episodes in a row a couple of weekends ago. Okay, children! Here, let us appreciate our running water and refrigerator! (My children will never say meat originates in the supermarket, thank you very much.) It is worth noting that they both start speaking with British accents after watching BBC programmes. I find this terribly amusing.

Owlet dressed as Belle for Halloween, much to her joy. (Much to mine, she didn’t want the yellow ballgown, thank goodness. Belle-as-reader with her basket was much more interesting to her. I agree, kid.) The spangly chiffon overlay was the best thing ever. I made it nice and long so she can wear it for dressup as she grows, too.

Even princesses brush their teeth.

They had a Halloween party at school, where the most exciting part was apparently bobbing for apples. “My glasses got wet, so I took them off and Miss June held them for me,” Owlet reported. The Halloween decorations didn’t scare her as much as they did last year, too.

The little girl who used to pick up handfuls of sticks on walks as a toddler, then collected rocks, is now on leaf patrol; she will crouch to pick up almost any leaf she passes. We’ve had a handful of frosts recently, and when we get out of the car at preschool she crouches down to explore it, looking at leaves that are half in a sunbeam and half in shadow with frost in some places but not others, and examining blades of grass or twigs that are frosted. “Can I bring it inside?” she wants to know, and is sad when I explain that no, if she brings it inside, the ice crystals will melt, and it will just be a wet leaf.

Her October art consisted of lots of apple- and fall-themed things and Halloween-themed projects:

She’s still capricious with food; one day I gave her pot roast and she had three helpings, declaring it the best thing ever; I made it an week later and she insisted she didn’t like it, which she has done the last three times I have made it now. She still doesn’t like noodles or pasta unless it’s homemade macaroni and cheese, although she now eats tortellini at school. She loves pork chops (most of the time), but is right off chicken. Her dinners are still mostly vegetarian: cheese, tomatoes, cucumber… although now she has expanded her repertoire to include rolled-up slices of ham.

She sings a lot, just ongoing story songs that incorporate bits of other songs or tunes, describing what she’s doing or making up a story as she goes. Right now her very favourite album is the Broadway cast recording of Beauty and the Beast. In the car she is enjoying They Might Be Giants, especially Here Come the 123s (at last!), although No! has had a few playthroughs and she has rewritten “Robot Parade” to be “Kitten Parade,” which makes her giggle. TV shows she is into at the moment are Charlie and Lola (Sparky is enjoying that, too, which is great; to offset the times when he is irritated with Owlet, I can point out the times when he is supportive and helpful by saying “That a very Charlie thing to do; thank you,” which gets a smile), and Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom.

We have started giving her an allowance, which means a chore chart. She makes her bed, sets the table, and tidies up her room and craft table if they need it; we also have things like “get ready to go” on there so we can remind her it’s a job if she dawdles. Being reminded that she doesn’t get “her moneys” if she doesn’t do her tasks is often a good motivator. And we try to give her as many coins to make up her dollar as possible, because slipping coins through the slot on her owl bank is a joy that she likes to make last as long as possible.

She’s wearing size 5 clothes, and shoes between size 9 and 10 depending on the brand and style. And I think we’re growing her bangs out, to be able to sweep them to the side more easily, as her glasses make bangs trickier than they were before. The next couple of months will be a challenge, but then they’ll be long enough to do something with. Christmas photos ought to be interesting…

Halloween 2015

I’m emerging from under a pile of work to polish and publish posts that have been sitting in draft form.

Halloween was fun!

Sparky designed his own costume his year (he’s a supernatural creature tracker and protector, complete with a homemade handbook and an “ivory flute so I can play music to soothe savage beasts”), and Owlet is Belle. I still can’t believe that I found the perfect dress to modify for her; it was a size 10 fancy sleeveless dress that I cut down and took in. It has a crinoline and a spangled chiffon overlay. She adores it, and to be honest, so do I.

The best part of the night? When a fire engine rolled up and firemen jumped out in full gear, carrying buckets of candy to pass out to trick or treaters! Although Owlet certainly enjoyed charging up stairs and banging on the doors with her mittened hand. “Mummy!” she exclaimed, running back each time, “I said bonjour! And merci!”

Speaking of basic common courtesy, I was really cross at a bunch of kids while we were doing the rounds. I teach my kids to wait at the bottom of the stairs or at the end of the path to the door so as not to crowd the kids currently receiving candy, and to go up the stairs on the right and descend on the left to make a clear path for others. There were droves of kids just shoving up and crowding the adults distributing candy with no thought for anyone else around them or order of arrival. It meant my kids had to stop being as respectful as I (and they) wanted them to be, because they were being run over. We eventually chose a different, quieter area to cover. I don’t think I’m expecting too much if I want kids to learn to be polite, consider others around them, and respect taking turns, even in an exciting situation like trick or treating.

Whatever; they enjoyed themselves immensely, loved their costumes, loved going to school in them, and that’s what counts.

Lest We Forget

I remember, today and always.

War’s not the answer most of the time; it’s often an excuse that veils another agenda. But that’s not going to stop me from honouring the men and women whose job it was/is, or who volunteer(ed), to go out and risk their lives in confrontations beyond what most of us can envision. It’s their commitment and courage I honour on Remembrance Day. I honour our peacekeepers, too, the people who go to other countries to help rebuild after times of turmoil. And support staff — doctors, drivers, cooks, all those people who are necessary and who rarely get recognition for being in danger as well. And those left at home, who carry the double burden of hope and dread for their loved ones.

There has to be a better way. But even when someone figures it out, I’ll keep on saying thank you to all those individuals who gave lives, limbs, time, and innocence to the wars. I honour and respect their personal decisions, even if I disagree with the governmental decisions that created the need for them.