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Show Me The Love… Not The Money

Son #2's door

For son #1

This morning I read the following facts:
Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest gift-giving holidays of the year. The National Retail Federations (NRF) 2012 Valentine’s Day Study revealed that the average person will spend US$126.03 this year. This is the highest level in the last 10 years. The survey also revealed that consumers will spend $4.1 billion on jewelry, $1.8 billion on flowers, $1.5 billion on candy, $1.4 billion on clothing and $1.1 billion on gift cards. Oh my?!!

Call me Scrooge but I don’t need to show my family my love through the purchase of stuff! Instead I have decided to do some personalized crafts.
Someone I follow on twitter shared a pin she found on pinterest. The image showed a bedroom door which had been decorated with hearts. Each heart had a characteristic that the mom or dad loved about the child. I loved this idea! What a great way for you to recognize the talents of your children. I loved it so much that I copied it.

This morning when they woke up I received a big hug from son #2 who said “Awesome job on the Valentines, mom!” That is all I wanted – hugs and smiles from my boys on Valentine’s Day.


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Little reminder of a good teacher” The Vinyl Cafe: Mr. Fisher (CBC Radio FM 99.1)


Mr. Fisher

When I was going to High School I had the good fortune to have Mr. Fisher for Grade11 History. The class was “People and Politics”. It was a history of the 20thCentury, the good and the bad. Mr. Fisher used to be a boxer, and he moved around his classroom like a boxer dances around his ring. I had heard stories about Mr. Fisher and his history class. I heard that during his description of Vimy Ridge he got up on his desk and rat-a-tat-tatted an imagined machine gun at the students in their desks. I heard that Mr. Fisher waved around a blue handkerchief. I was curious to say the least. During our first week, Mr. Fisher taught us the basics of how he wanted assignments handed in for his class. We were to underline the date, title and our name with a red pen, and we were to use a ruler. Our writing was to be legible, or assignments would be handed back. I saw a few people get papers handed back on the basis of poor pen manship. Mr. Fisher did not fool around. During our study of World War One, Mr. Fisher made the trenches imaginable for us. We were stunned, and horrified by what we learned. He explained the tragedies of a soldier’s suffering with tears streaming down his face, his big blue handkerchief always at the ready. We were learning, and learning well. There was a boy named Dennis who sat in front of me in Mr. Fisher’s neatly ordered rows. Dennis was a trouble maker. Dennis often had his assignments handed back to him. Dennis was often late for class. In Mr. Fisher’s world, lateness was not acceptable. One day, in the middle of term, Dennis came in late, and sat down after tossing his assignment onto Mr. Fisher’s desk. Mr. Fisher had reached his boiling point. He stood up, pushed back his chair, grabbed Dennis’ paper, ripped it in half and threw it into the garbage can. He rushed over to Dennis’ desk, pointed his finger in his face and began a two minute tirade, berating Dennis from everything to his tardiness, to his messy hair. The whole class was uncomfortable. The longer the tirade continued, the quieter the room got. And Dennis  never said a thing. He didn’t even look up at Mr. Fisher. Suddenly he stopped, patted Dennis on the shoulder, and said “Thank you Dennis.” Then Mr. Fisher turned his eyes on all of us. “I stood here for two minutes completely humiliating this boy in front of you all, and not one of you said anything. You all knew I was out of line, and had no right to be saying those things to Dennis, yet nobody tried to stop me. Why? Because I am a teacher, a figure of authority? Because you were afraid?” Not one of us could meet his gaze, so he continued, “Dennis was expecting this today, because I asked him to come in late, throw his homework on my desk and asked his permission to rant at him like a lunatic for a couple of minutes.” All of us looked up at Mr. Fisher and Dennis mouths agape. “Today,” he said, “we begin our study of the Holocaust, and the Second World War, and how it all got started.”

There are not many things that I remember about Grade eleven. I don’t remember how to do polynomial equations anymore, and I’m not sure how to conjugate the past participle of a female pronoun in French, but as long as I live, I will never forget that morning in Mr. Fisher’s class. Yes, he was eccentric, and yes, he did get up on his desk and reenact gun battles from the First World War. But he also celebrated with us when Nelson Mandela was let out of prison, and wept as he read the article detailing Mandela’s first hours of freedom.  He used his blue handkerchief to blow his nose, mop his brow, and always to wipe his tears. Mr. Fisher taught us to be accountable, to be empathetic, and not to be afraid to stand up when we knew something wasn’t right. In the four months that I had him as a teacher, I grew to love him like a father. I can only hope that more children have a Mr.Fisher in their lives.

That was from Irene Wood of Edmonton, Alberta courtesy of the Vinyl Cafe on CBC FM


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Why I want it to snow

Twenty two years ago – almost to the day- seems like yesterday. I remember what I saw and how I felt. I don’t want to forget.

Through the quickly accumulating snow, I had trekked home on the commuter train and buses from downtown Montreal following an exam at CEGEP. As was my custom after an exam, I curled up to watch some tv to decompress. While my mom made dinner, we turned on the Montreal English news. They were broadcasting live from the Ecole Polytechnique – a gunman had entered the school and shot students. It wasn’t clear at the time if the gunman was still inside the school alive. Details were starting to come out about what had happened. Students, predominantly female engineering majors, maybe a year or two older than myself, had been shot and killed. The footage on the television showed the snow falling softly in front of the camera while sirens, police and red emergency lights angrily punctuated the scene. Studying for my exam the following day was put aside as we sat in front of the television wanting to understand what had transpired.

Two decades later, I have not been able understand what would possess a young man, who took issue with women asserting their rights, to shoot and kill 14 young women who were following their dreams. So, instead of trying to get into his head, I am trying to raise two sons to respect others – everyone, no matter if they are girls or boys, ladies or gentlemen. Be polite, be tolerant, be kind. Everyone can share their opinions. You don’t have to agree with them or accept their beliefs as your own by acknowledging others as equals is very important. I tell my sons when they hurt me – physically or emotionally. They need to know how their actions affect others.

Snow is peaceful, soft and not meaning any harm. When it blankets the ground, everything looks pure and clean. On the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, I pray for a pure, clean and safe world for my family, friends and neighbours. A world that is accepting of everyone. I want it to snow on December 6th to remind me what happened 22 years ago and what I want the world to be.

In memory of the fourteen victims of the Montreal Massacre, their family, friends, those who witnessed the tradegy and the emergency response teams.  

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It’s Carnival Time


It is Friday before the long weekend and I am sitting in the parking lot at my sons’ camp “eavesdropping” on Mary Kay, owner and principal leader of Kids Inc., as she explains what the plan is for the day. I wish I could join in – it is carnival day- with giant inflatable slides and games, dunk tank with the counsellors. Plus I heard a rumour that there may be an ice cream truck visiting later and giving each camper an ice cream. Oooh! MK just announced that the table of campers who earn the most carnival tickets can go to the prize table at the end of the day!! Every week has a new theme at Kids Inc. Check it out for your children- kids Inc

So much fun! I wish I was 8 years old again! May your day be full of fun and games whatever you are doing!

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These Teachers Need Your Help

Outstanding Teachers Who Need Your Help

As I write this post, I am devestated and appalled. I am appealing to everyone for advice and any help you can offer.

The wonderful teachers at Building Blocks Nursery School , a privately owned school in Brampton that is celebrating its 25th anniversary this school year, were told on Wednesday May 4th that their lease will not be renewed at Heart Lake United Church for this September. Historically, the church has renewed the lease every year in February/ March timeframe. The school, which offers half day pre-school, junior and senior kindergarten programs to a maximum of 48 students per half day, has 90% enrollment for this coming fall.

The children in the area need this school and so do their parents. The teachers are so caring and loving not only to the children but to the parents as well. Everyday the teachers talk to parents at drop off and pick up. We know everything that is going on in the classroom and how our children are learning. We know what areas to help them with – academically and socially. We know that our children are ready for grade one (english or french immersion) and full days of school when they leave Building Blocks as they are taught to listen, ask questions, as well as social skills. The teachers are engaged in their program – they refine it every summer. Since I started being a parent at the school 7 years ago, the teachers have introduced Super Brain Yoga, science experiments, new games and music and art. The children love going to school – they are excited to be in the classroom. Joanne Freer and Karen Sanger, the principle teachers and owners of Building Blocks, show their passion for their students everyday. “There is such a great satisfaction in helping children discover all their strengths, and at the same time observing their sense of wonder”, says Joanne.

Without any advanced warning, the 2 board members dropped in during the school 1 hour lunch time to deliver the news to the teachers who had to continue teaching that afternoon while still reeling from the news. The week before Joanne Freer and her husband had been in the classroom on Easter Monday doing some repairs to the school equipment. One of the church board members was there as well – saying that they were planning to replace the carpets and paint the school rooms and was asking Joanne what colour she would like the classroom. Clearly not everyone knew the board’s decision. The school has been operating in Heart Lake United Church for over 10 years. Previous to that they held their classes in another church in the area.

As a parent of children in the school and believer in engaged education, I am appealing to you for your help. Please pass this story on to local news and government officials to gain their coverage and support to help us appeal to the church’s board and their Christian morals.
In the meantime, if you know of any space – other organizations – that are looking for a reliable tenant with impeccable values please contact the school at 905-846-3305 or email:


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Encouraging The Art of Storytelling with Technology

I used to love going to camp and learning new things. I was really excited when my boys went to The Amazing Rainforest – I wish I could have gone too. So I decided to organize a day of camp at our house – for my boys, of course.

My husband had seen an ad in the boys’ magazine – The Magazine for The Director’s Cut . When we looked it up online, their programs sounded outstanding – making movies and watching movies over spring break inconjunction with Cineplex, learning how to make cartoons, stop action movies and others. Unfortunately they didn’t offer a week long camp near us – otherwise my day of camp would have turned into a week for my 8 year old. I contacted the organizers to find out if we could do a one day program at the house. No problem, Linda Perry, Key Contact for the Simcoe/ Peel Region for The Director’s Cut, tells me –  we can divide the children into groups and each group can make their own movie and then the children can take home a copy of all of the movies that they make that day. Perfect! 

From 10 to 2:30,  8 children (2 5 year olds, 1 10 year old and 5 8 year olds) made their imaginations come to life with Tiff – the facilitator and made Live Action Comic Books! . First, they practiced using digital cameras – taking pictures of different items and people in different poses and from different angles so they became very comfortable working with a digital camera. They mapped out their storylines by working out what was going to happen in each scene. Then the real fun began – they dressed up and became their characters  and took pictures of themselves making their stories come to life. Once done, they uploaded their pictures into the mac books and started to manipulate them using imovie software – adding captions and sound effects and voices. This was their favourite part by far – everyone felt they were artists making their masterpieces just like Shrek. 

Creating Stories

Each of the stories was so different and creative. I understand that by grade 5 some of the media development is taught in the schools. As my eldest son starts grade 3 this week, I do hope to see more emphasis placed on storytelling – specifically writing stories that have a clear beginning, middle and end. I hope I am wrong- but my observation is that our children’s ability to write stories and express themselves through storytelling is not being developed in schools. I love The Director’s Cut programs as they not only teach storytelling but enable children to bring their stories to life.

Teachers and Principals – please look into having the folks from The Director’s Cut come to your school this year to give your students an opportunity to be storytellers in our technologically driven world.

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All Child’s Play

Last night my hubby and I watched the movie Grown Ups with Adam Sandler. While not a particularly stellar film, (but there are a few good lines) the sub-plot did give me something to think about. Have children forgotten how to play amongst themselves without video games/ electronic devices? Can they conjur up activities amongst themselves without adult help?

I was going to say it can be a struggle until about 5 minutes ago when I discovered my sons with their friend who has slept over, making up their own game in our basement. Yes, it involved battling but the toys were meant to battle. Eight year old boys seem to be wired for competition. I am happy to say that they came up with this game without any adult intervention (turn off the tv, put away the electronic gaming units) and they seem to be playing happily together. I am curious to see how this play evolves – inevitably someone gets hurt or someone gets bored or both. The good news is they are entertaining themselves and interacting with each other better than I expected. Perhaps I need to raise my expectations or trust my children and their friends more.

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