Sunday, April 29, 2012

Another Sleepover

The girl let us know that it was way past time for a sleepover this weekend. We know that she will bring her internal perpetual motion motor with her, but we swallow hard, batten down the hatches, and put our game faces on.

Once again, she amazed me at story time. She pulled out an old ABC book where every letter becomes a lesson for good behaviour. It's a rather saccharine Christian kids book, but it's what she chose. Anyway, she read most of it to me -- the part in bold at the beginning of each page. I continue to shake my head at this kid who is still in Junior Kindergarten. I don't know how she figures out so many words. Yes, she needs help from time to time, but really ...

Here at random are a few of things that she read.

B is for Behave; It means doing what's right. Be happy and helpful; Don't argue or fight.
F is for Forgive; If a girl or a boy is naughty or careless and breaks your new toy.
K is for kindness to Grandpa and Gram; Be helpful to others, be sweet as a lamb!
U is for Unselfish; Be willing to share. Be thoughtful of others and always be fair.

... and so on ...
Onto the pictures.

Gramma helped the girl do her nails in the morning.

We did lots of yardwork, mostly her idea, believe it or not.

She worked hard.

You did good, Buppa and deserve a hug.

Time to sit and relax and try on Grampa's cap.

Didn't we do good, Buppa? I think it's time for ice cream.

Friday, April 27, 2012

In Thrall

Zach is already a TV/DVD addict. More often than not lately, he will watch a DVD on the computer -- partly because Amma and Buppa are too dimwitted to fathom the kids' tv/satellite/dvd system. Sheesh!

Lately, the movie in favour is Toy Story. I mentioned to Cuppa that we could put it on in the morning and rerun it continuously all day, every day, and he would sit there the whole time utterly entranced. I wasn't entirely kidding when I said that.

We do our best to keep him down to no more than two viewings a day, but on cold, cloudy days when it's not nice to be outside and when he doesn't feel like playing, it's tempting to make it three or more viewings.

I foresee significant problems in his teenage years.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Trip to Balderson

Having been reminded that I haven't posted lately, perhaps I can rectify that situation by sharing some weekend photos.

On Sunday, the Cupster and the Cloud took a wee car trip to Balderson. It's just one of those corner places about a half hour from home; it's not even a small village, but it does have a couple of nice shops.

So off we went.

It wasn't a great day for pictures, but I took some anyway.

Early in the trip we passed by a neat barn complex with nice red doors.

In Balderson, we found this former and dilapidating shop.

A closer view of part of the building.

In colour: quite a crooked, old place.

Balderson United Church: a unique structure that begged me to capture it.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Birthday Celebrations

Last weekend, we had a party for the adults in Nikki Dee's life. Then on Thursday, her actual birthday, I picked her up from school at lunch time. We had a hot dog and fries at the chip truck before enjoying ice cream cones. For supper, her parents ordered pizza, and put a candle in cupcakes, so we could all sing again and watch her blow it out more than once.

Celebrations will continue on Saturday with the real fun — a kids party. Amma and Buppa plan to stay away, but we will contribute in our own way by taking both kids in the morning while Mom and Dad prepare the house for the invasion.

The first four are from the family party.

The next lot is from her actual birthday, taken while they were playing outside the ice cream place. Cuppa will likely have more photos later. I didn't have my camera out for much of the time.

Finally, a few shots from blowing out the cupcake candle.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Five Years Old

Those of you who have been here for a long time will remember Nikki Dee's arrival and early years. How could anyone forget, for I posted pictures almost daily hourly? I was besotted with her then, and I am besotted with her now. She's a special one. Today, the little one whom we used to call Smudge celebrates her fifth birthday. She remains a joy in my life. Just this morning, I went over feeling sick and grumpy, but after I took her to the bus stop, I came home happier because her joy for life lifted me.

Nikki Dee at Five
This is a pretty recent picture of my five-year-old.

Now, let's step back through time.

Just Born
Shortly after birth

First Birthday
One year old

Second Birthday
Two years old

Third Birthday
Three years old

Fourth Birthday Card
Four years old

Nikki Dee at Five
Taken last Sunday at her first birthday party — the one for adults. There will be a family supper tonight and a kids party on the weekend. Sheesh!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

From the Inbox

Email forwards can be a pain, but at times they can also be worthwhile and interesting. For example, who knew that this coming July would be so unique? The month will contain 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays. Apparently, this only occurs once every 823 years.

EDIT: I take it back. I just looked at a real calendar, and this is wrong. There are 5 Saturdays, Sundays and Tuesdays (not Fridays). Grrrr.

Someone also sent this clip of a Chinese ballet company's version of Swan Lake. To me, it's ballet with a touch of Cirque de Soleil. Impressive.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Photographs of a Dawdler

I took the boy out for a little stroll the other day. What a dawdler he is. AC with his sore foot is a very slow walker, but I still have to wait to wait and wait and wait for him to catch up. He is the complete opposite of his sister with whom I cannot keep up.

The good point to his dawdling is that it does give one time to snap many a picture. I have recently been reminded that it doesn't work to have kids look at the camera and smile. It is not natural for them. Nikki Dee tries very hard, but her smiles are blatantly fake and just plain weird. No, with little kids, it's best to catch them in action. That's what I was attempting to do in this series.

He is standing on a pile of gravel, about ten feet high and sticks out his tongue as he tosses a rock.

Let me give you a few pointers, Buppa.

His stern look.

Balance is the key to living a good life.

Shall we dance?

Something has caught his eye.

He desperately wants to climb these poles but sometimes it's all that a guy can do just has to hang on.

Having a stare down with a Power Ranger that belonged to Althegal about 25 years ago.

Friday, April 13, 2012

To Stan from Phillis

Cuppa recently uncovered three old books in the basement when she was clearing some shelf space. We would have taken the books from my mother's place when she died in 2003. Then, they came across province with us in 2005. But we certainly lost track of them until just last week. I assume they all came from my paternal grandfather; one of them certainly did, as you shall soon see. Surprisingly, none of these has a publication date although the most recent copyright notice in The Book of Knowledge reads 1923.

As you shall soon see, The Pilgrim's Progress was given by my grandmother, Phillis, to my grandfather, Stan, in 1904. This was years before they were married and perhaps before he emigrated to Canada: either that or she shipped it to Canada from England. I do know that he emigrated before she did, but I'm not sure of the exact time frame. They married after she also emigrated.

Left to right: The Book of Knowledge, The Pilgrim's Progress, and The Life of King Edward the Eighth.

The inscription from my grandmother in The Pilgrim's Progress, April 11 1904.

A closer view

The inscription in the King Edward book. I don't know who the old gang is, and I am unaware of any of my antecedents inhabiting Bridgnorth, which oddly enough is where Cuppa's maternal grandparents come from. I also can't make out the penultimate word, the one before Eng.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Trikes, Religion and Viruses

What a helpful lot you all are with various suggestions and links for trikes. Unfortunately, it's too late and substitutions have been made. Perhaps she will adapt to the bicycle with training wheels before long.

On the weekend, I was shocked to learn that Americans don't normally get a holiday on Good Friday. It's one of the statutory holidays up here, and schools and government workers also get Easter Monday off. It's hard for me to fathom that the most fervently religious country in the developed world disregards such a sacred day. I'll never understand you guys. But that's okay since I don't understand much, including myself.

There was a time when I was a boy that Sundays were close to being sacred in our home: to the point that even turning on the tv was problematic. Apparently, however, such zealotry never caught on in America ... or if it did, it stops at noon when football takes over. I am not saying that I have a problem with this as for me anything goes on Sunday, but I have difficulty understanding how football Sundays fit in with the prevalent religiosity. Then again, Sunday shopping was in vogue much earlier down there than up here. For us, it only opened up in the nineties after much wringing of holy hands.

I hope I am being clear that I am not judging: merely scratching my noggin ... which perhaps explains my baldness.

We've had a flu bug going around here, visiting hordes of people. Nikki Dee was sick for a few days last week, and Zachary was sick for on Monday. Yesterday, the germs visited Cuppa, and without going into the gruesome details, I don't think I've ever seen anyone as sick as that in my whole life. The worst of it lasted for about three continuous hours. I haven't been feeling too well this week, but I sure hope to avoid that. My goodness.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

No Trike for this Tyke

I have been searching high, low and futilely for trikes, both on the internet and in stores everywhere.

First, I would like to know if I am the only person in the world to call a tricycle a trike. I mean to say if a bicycle is a bike, why isn't a tricycle a trike? You know, that's the way that I learned it from my parents — trike — but nobody else seems to use the term. Personally, I think it's a winner.

I have been searching for trikes for a certain tyke's birthday — Nikki Dee's in point of fact. For as the weather has warmed up this year, and the kids have wanted to get outdoors, she and we have discovered that ND is too big for her old riding toys. She has a little bike with training wheels that she will eventually graduate to, but at this point she finds it wobbly and not terribly responsive to her pedalling.

Her brother has a trike that kindalike fits Nikki Dee in a pinch, but it's his, so he isn't zactly anxious to share it too often or for too long.

And so ... and so we have been looking for a trike to suit her. But we can't find one. Anywhere. Well anywhere except Toys R Us, USA. The trouble with that is that we don't live the USA and our Canadian subsidiary doesn't carry those models. Pity that, but we often get short-changed up here in the Canadian wilderness (see Aside Rant, below).

Back in the day, I had a trike, and I am positive that it was big enough for me to ride until I was 7 or so, but 4 seems to be the current cutoff age. Such is progress.

So, the kid is caught in-between. She's not quite ready for the bike, but is too big for her trike, and we can't find one to suit, which is what we wanted to do for her impending birthday. So, we wring our hands and scratch our heads trying to think of an alternative. It's not going well, I'm afeerd.

Aside Rant: Honestly, sometimes you'd think Canada was north of Timbuktu when in reality almost all thirty-four million of us just live with a few hundred miles of a razor-thin, imaginary line separating the two countries. To my everlasting frustration, we repeatedly see this in shipping costs. I will sometimes click on an item advertised on an American website only to find that the company charges an astronomical fee to ship it the extra hundred miles — because that's about how far we are from the border to New York State. Back in Sarnia, we almost lived on the Michigan border and could have swam/swum across if we had so desired, but the very same nonsense applied. Maddening really.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Happy Easter

A sunrise photo seems to be appropriate for Easter Sunday, even though I shot it last autumn.

When my Dad was much younger than I am now, he would get up early and attend Easter Sunrise service on Mount Royal in Montreal. I am guessing that he did this regularly for any number of years, including at least sometimes when I was a boy. For a while, around the time when I entered the world, Dad was a preacher, and he always remained a believer, even when for one reason or another he no longer attended church.

Saturday, April 07, 2012


I mentioned how Chad was killed in an auto accident the year after I taught him and had moved to another school. He was the third and last of my students or former students to have been taken this way.

The first occurred to Tyler in my very first year of teaching. He sat at the front of the class and was a very pleasant boy. He came into my class late, I think because he had recently transferred to my school. Whether he had recently moved to the area or just transferred schools, I can't recall. He did live in the country, so it was odd for him to commute to the city school in which I was teaching. One day he didn't show up to class, and the students advised me of the fatal accident.

About fifteen years later, another former student, Katrina, was also killed in an accident. I had taught her in a country school in the previous year. This was the most difficult passing for me because she had been an excellent student and enjoyed participating in my class, discussing Shakespeare or whatever literature we were studying at the time. I went to the funeral home to pay my respects and told the family how much I had appreciated having her in my class, and they replied that she had mentioned the class and enjoyed it.

I still remember her boyfriend, the driver who had escaped with few injuries, sitting forlornly all by himself while Katrina's family received us visitors. I'm sure there was blame, but I admired that he showed up when he must have felt absolutely terrible. I didn't know him, so I didn't offer any words of comfort, but to this day I still feel badly for him; the family at the very least had the comfort of mourners, but he had no one.

Although I spent more time teaching in a city school than a country school, all three of these kids lived in the country.

When I first moved to the country school, I heard about an activity called crop touring. Although first puzzled, I discovered that it was a euphemism for kids driving and drinking around the countryside. I don't know how much of it actually went on, and neither do I know for certain that any of these three accidents involved alcohol. Of course, I have my suspicions. Sadly.

Thursday, April 05, 2012


Although I never pursued the matter of the naughty video that gave Rob such anxiety (see previous post), I have a feeling I know who did it. Chad.

It was a grade ten class (or the tenth grade as they say down south, a form which always causes me to imagine the voice of James Earl Jones), mostly constituted with boys. Although teenage males can be (ahem — pun warning) boysterous, it was a pretty good class. It was a group that could easily have gotten out of hand, but somehow, we found a way to co-exist, and it actually turned out to be quite a good class.

However,  mainly because of Chad, the class certainly had the potential to have gone off the tracks. He was a bad boy, not tough guy bad, but mischievously bad in quite a bold and audacious way. He'd do his best to get both me and the class going, but somehow, I would always manage to reign him in without too much fuss or muss. The class would laugh at or with him, but they would get back on task pretty easily.

It wasn't that way for Chad in all of his classes I'm sorry to say, for in that very same semester one teacher hightailed it home to lick his wounds, and he never came back. Another teacher told me that it was Chad who had done said teacher in. He was doubtless a contributing factor at the very least.

I recall one time taking Chad out into the hall to give him the benefit of my teacherly wisdom. I tired of Chad goading and arguing with another student, a good guy who had a bit of a peculiar speech mannerism, which I hesitate to call an impediment. I don't know if it was a learned pattern or if this boy just couldn't say some words quite like the rest of us, but Chad would pester John and then mimic John's voice during the ensuing give and take. That day when I took Chad into the hall, I didn't yell or carry on but simply informed him that it was not appropriate to make fun of people for things they couldn't help or change.Chad just took it my words without comment but he never teased the other boy that way again — at least not in my presence.

At the end of that year, Chad stopped me in the hall one day and told me how much he enjoyed being in my class. When I looked at him rather skeptically, he insisted that he was serious. Such a step is highly unusual for high school students, and the fact that he made the effort in all apparent sincerity caused me to believe him.

A year or so later, I was teaching in a different school when I learned that Chad had been killed in a car accident. I felt badly but oddly good at the same time because, somehow, Chad and I had found a way to respect each other.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Can You Beat That?!

Due to the wonders of Facebook, I recently came across this story of a priest who meant to show a video about communion to a group of kids and parents. However, his computer was set to autoplay and what is described as a hardcore gay porn video began to play. According to the article, he unplugged his USB stick and walked out without saying a word. Apparently, the diocese is investigating. Do ya think?

Reading this led me to recall two incidents in my teaching career, neither of which I was directly involved in. Thank goodness.

Rob was supply teaching for me one day, and I had left a relevant video for him to show to one of my classes. However, when he turned it on, one of the jokers in the group had pulled a fast one and substituted a porn video. When Rob told me about it the next day, I began to giggle, but I soon stopped because Rob was incensed, declaring that such things were against everything that he stood for. Well me too, but I also saw the humor ... and still do as a matter of fact.

He had called in the vice principal at the time of the incident, and she was also on the warpath. However, when that class filed into my room later that day, I opined that it was a funny idea to switch videos but the choice a subject matter was not the best and a cartoon would have done the trick.

What else was there to do? The deed was done; no one would have given up the perpetrator; and, ranting and raving would have made me look pathetic. Besides, it was what some might call a teachable moment, and I think my calm reflection may have led the mischievous perpetrators to be more appropriate in future when pulling pranks. Well, that's my theory anyway, and I'm sticking to it.

The vice principal had becalmed herself by then and was happy enough with my reaction. I also heard from a parent at a later parent's night that she thought I had handled it well. I never did get back to Rob, though. Sometimes, it's best to let sleeping dogs lie.

About twenty years prior to that when society was somewhat less uptight, the teacher across the hall from me had a similar experience. Of course, that was before the days of video, but in his case, someone had taped a centerfold to a map. When Tom pulled the map down during the course of a lesson, he didn't miss a beat and just started talking about physical features such as mountains etc.

Tom had his good points, but he could be a somewhat crude guy. As I have related, Rob was rather pure of heart. In fact, at this point in his life he was the youth director at a local church who supplemented his income by supply teaching.

I am only aware of these two such incidents in my three decades of teaching, and they occurred about twenty years apart. Times had changed in those twenty years, but the two characters and their reactions were also completely opposite.

Although I think Tom's reaction of going with the flow was probably the better one, depending of course on how far he pushed the physical geography lesson, I really did like and respect Rob much more.

The thing is, Rob was Tom's son.

Can you beat that?!

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Critters and Lighthouses

Hmmm ... I had been attempting to update this space more frequently, but it has now been a week since I posted Happy Birthday wishes for my significant other. But what can you expect? It's been a pretty ordinary week with a return to cold weather after the unseasonably warm weather of the previous week. One tends to cocoon in such weather, and when one does venture outdoors, there's nothing much going on. Several times I have taken my camera with me but returned without firing a shot because it's rather bleak and forlorn between the winter snow and spring blossoming. Here's a somewhat unusual one from two weeks ago, however.

We had grabbed a coffee and sandwich from the Canadian Mecca, Tim Hortons, and taken it to the park. We ate in the car and watched the critter below for the whole time. S/He was busy feeding himself in this little overflow pond just beyond the riverbank. He was there when we arrived and there when we departed after lunch and a walk. For all I know s/he might still be there or would be except I suspect that the pond/puddle has dried up. I'm not sure what the critter is. It looks beaver-like, but I never saw a tail. Muskrat?

Since Nikki Dee's fifth birthday is coming up soon, we headed into Ottawa yesterday to try to find a gift. Three stores later, we gave up in sheer exhaustion. There was nothing that jumped out at us, plenty of items for the boy, but he's already had his birthday. Nikki Dee doesn't stick with any task for very long, including playing with toys, so I dunno. We should probably buy her her very own computer because she does like etc but ... naw.

As per usual I could rant and rave about sleep or lack of same. The past five nights have gone something like this: two nights of waking up for several hours in the middle of the night, followed by two nights of waking up very early after only five or six hours between the sheets, followed by last night in which I took many hours to fall asleep. This is getting ridiculous.

I have recently been re-visiting photos that I took two summers ago during our all-too-brief visit to Nova Scotia. The following set was taken of or around the Cape St Mary Lightstation, or Phare du cap Ste-Marie in Canada's other official language, near Forchu. We never made it to the famous Peggy's Cove, but our hosts guided us to this and another very fine lighthouse to make up for it, neither of which was over-crowded with tourists ... like us.