I hope I never lose my sense of wonder. If that makes me naive, then so be it.

Wednesday, 28 February 2007


Life has been in a bit of a holding pattern since the fire at my sister's place last Thursday. Not that things haven't been happening (since really we seem to have been almost constantly on the go), but I feel as though little is getting done. School has been on a definite break for my girls and my nephews, though R did get some more work done on her Historica project. I figure the academics can wait for a bit and we'll just add it on to the end of the year - but the Historica fair is next Thursday, and I want them to do their projects justice. Things seem to be stalled, that's all.

Meanwhile, on the fire front, my sister and her husband have been busy making calls, figuring out their plans for the future. It's been surprisingly good having 9 people in our little house. I guess the right attitude makes all the difference. We did go through the salvaged photo albums and pull out a good many pictures, and on Tuesday my sister and I went to the house site and started going through the piles of rubble. She was alternately laughing and in tears, depending on what we pulled out. A few interesting finds:
- pages of paperbacks from one area of the house, and intact books with soot on the covers in their bedroom, the least-burnt part of the house
- intact Lego and melted Lego ... what decided what melted, I wonder?
- a gift for M's birthday, still in its plastic bag and perfectly good to give to her
- my bro-in-law's chain saw, melted down one side
- the side wall of the computer, effectively dashing any hope of finding a hard drive that could be rescued
- metal that had melted, then cooled in little metal puddles
- glass that had done the same - according to the fire department it was a very hot fire
- part of their nativity set (one wise man, Mary, and the Baby). We should find Joseph or people will start to talk
- a couple more photo albums
- the large metal plate that held the strings of the piano
- skates that had been fused together
- more Christmas decorations, including outdoor lights (the cable all melted together), window candles (melted and broken), strings of beads (intact and looking strange, all bright and shiny against the drab grey and black of the charred wood and ash), and three needlework decorations (the wooden frames were gone but the fabric and stitching was not even singed)
- a bunch of dishes in a metal rack, which took us a moment but then we realized was the rack from their dishwasher

It is strange to see the items that we think of as making up 'home' reduced to rubble and barely-recognizable bits. But then, it reminds us that home isn't in the things. It's much more intangible than that. I saw a quote online and now wish I could recall it - of a little girl whose house had burned down and when someone said they were sorry she had lost her home, she replied, "Oh, we still have a home, we just need a house to put it in." I like that.

It was an afternoon of hard work and realizing that my muscles have gotten out of shape over the winter.

Today was an afternoon meeting with the group planning a weekend retreat for pastors' wives for which I've been asked to lead the worship times. That's at the end of March.

Tomorrow is band rehearsal for Sunday. A set list would definitely be a good thing for that, but my mind is acting very lazy this week.

And in true "ha-ha-you-thought-winter-was-ending-but-I've-got-one-more-storm-brewing" Mother Nature style, we're supposed to get the biggest storm of the winter tomorrow night. I'd normally relish the thought of a snowstorm, but our older sister is hoping to come up this weekend (yay! more people in the house!) for a visit we have all been hoping for. I don't want her on dangerous roads, though.

My thoughts are stupidly scattered. They're sort of running here and there, peeking around the corners of my mind then running away again, then hiding behind things and jumping out to yell "boo!" and then laugh maniacally and run away again.

Look, there goes another one.

Friday, 23 February 2007

love in action

Every so often things happen to remind me of what is important in life. I'm not saying that they happen for my benefit, but I do hope that I can see that in the midst of darkness, there are glimpses of light.

Yesterday my younger sister's house burnt to the ground. Even after standing by the remains of the house for a few hours and seeing it, it remains surreal. And it's not even my own personal loss. The light in this? The family were not home. Their young boys, my nephews, do not have the image of their home burning etched on their minds. They were not asleep in their beds at the time. Very little was salvaged from the house but what did come out (albeit slightly smoky-smelling and darkened) were items of sentimental value that no amount of insurance money could have replaced.

And the love in action? They are staying with us, for as long as they need to. Our small house is feeling smaller but that's ok. We have been inundated with countless offers for help, with boxes of clothes for all four of the family, with more food than my fridge can hold. Toothbrushes and toys and videos and books appeared. People have offered to watch both their kids and ours so that we are free to do whatever needs doing. All of this from our church family, some of whom were at the house to give the only help we could give, hugs and a listening ear. People from the church have offered housing, anything they can to help out. I would never wish this to happen but to see our church family spring into action like they have is truly heartwarming. Their neighbors on the street, too, have contacted us with more offers to help.

What do you do when all of your material possessions are, simply put, gone?

You focus on what's important.

God is good.

Thursday, 22 February 2007

of zambonis and triathlons

The skating rink did happen, with me snowblowing off a large portion of the creek on Saturday afternoon, then scraping off what the blower didn't get. The five of us had a great time skating until dark. We didn't get out again until Monday afternoon, when some snow had fallen and drifted over the creek. So while the girls skated, I got the shovel and scraped (and scraped, and scraped) off the snow. Got about half of it done. Yes, it may have been quicker to get the blower out again, but frankly hauling that machine through snow up the riverbank took most of the strength I had, and doing it again had little appeal to me.

Yesterday R very much wanted to skate again, so out we went and I finished scraping off the rest of the snow. It was interesting to note that the areas where I had scraped off snow the day before were much smoother than they had been at first - it seems that the sun was melting a bit of the top surface, then it would freeze again. So nature and I were acting as a zamboni of sorts. And, our farm is now truly Canadian with its outdoor rink.

My arms are sore but I figure it's a good start to getting in shape for triathlon season. I plan to do one, maybe two "try-a-tri" races, mini triathlons that would be simple for real triathletes but are a push for me. D had started doing them last year with good friends D & J and did three races, and so I got interested and joined them for one on Labour Day weekend. It was a 200m swim, 15km bike, and 5km run. It was the hardest physical activity I've ever done (well, maybe next to childbirth). Let's say, the hardest physical activity I've ever done in public.

But what a sense of accomplishment when I crossed the finish line! I have always hated running, but it seemed different in the race. I knew 5km would be hard to run on its own, not to mention after the swim and bike. I knew from the limited training I'd done that I would have to run-walk it, so I'd run until I felt like I was going to fall over and then allow myself one minute of walking, then run again. My goal this year is to not walk. I don't have a desire to do longer races (unlike D, who wants to do the Olympic distance this year - not a full Ironman yet but I wonder if he's cooking up that little scheme in that cute head of his), but I do want to do better at that distance. First chance is the Early Bird triathlons series in April or May. The swim will be in a pool at the university, then an 11km bike and 2km run. I can do that, right?

And, scary as it is to admit, I am actually looking forward to training for it.

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

can't say i blame them

In the course of R's project, she has been emailing her grandfather to ask what he remembers his father saying about the war. Several emails later, the answer seems to be: not much. D finds it amazing that so little of something so big is known. And it really is too bad, to have lost the perspective of someone who could tell you what books cannot: what was it like, at Juno Beach? On the trail through Belgium, the Netherlands, and into Germany?

But then when I read accounts of those who did share their experiences, I can get a piece of understanding why they did not want to talk about it. When we talk about something we recall it, resurrect it in a way. And to recall that hell on earth, seeing what weapons can do to a body - why, when they returned to their homes and families, to the smiling faces of their children, would many of them want to?

I am glad some have shared. To lose that insight would be a loss indeed. But I think I can sympathise with those who tried to regain some sense of normalcy. D's dad told R they didn't want the next generation to think that war was the grand adventure that the movies of that time showed it to be. Makes sense. Unfortunately, a generation seemed to forget, at the same time, just what it owed those brave men and women. And so now, we dig through records in our own little attempt to honor their sacrifice.

Sometimes it hurts to remember; I know that well. But we can't forget.

Monday, 19 February 2007

one down, one to go

School projects, that is. Friday was R's due date for her Hobbit book report. Her power point slides were finished in time and an oral presentation made for Daddy that evening. She did a good job, content was good, and she handled questions well. All in all, between learning book report format, character studies, and power point slide creation, it was good academics. The oral presentation was good practice for the next project, the Historica fair. Research continues on that one and it is great to see R at 10 years old gaining appreciation for history as she learns about D-Day and the contributions of Canadian soldiers in the war. It's certainly more than I had at her age, or even older.

In 1999 D and I went to France for a conference for his work, then added an extra week for ourselves. We decided to go to the Normandy area and went to Vimy Ridge. It was a Canadian site, after all. Neither of us knew much of anything about it and being there changed out outlook. After going through the very well-done interpretive center that described the action from 1917, we walked out toward the monument - two huge spires of white stone leaping straight up to the sky, perched on the ridge itself. Statues display moving emotion, showing grief and sacrifice. And the sides - adorned with the names of some 60,000 who fell no one knows where. Then the cemetery, tidy rows of identical white stones bearing the names of the men, the boys who fell. And every so often, 'A Soldier of the Great War, Known unto God'. The tunnels and trenches, testament to the stormy past of the now-quiet fields. We asked each other if we had learned about this place; neither of us had. I think part of our decision to homeschool was made that day as we realized some of the gaps in our own educations. There is something, too, about being in a place where they have had wars literally in their own backyards that makes me thankful to live where - and when - I do.

Friday, 16 February 2007

farm life, sort of

Looking ahead ...

... to the mornings when instead of drafts coming in the windows, I will awaken to birdsong and the sweet breeze coming across the fields.

... to the mornings when the trip to the chicken coop does not require bundling up and hoping to get there before the eggs freeze, then returning to the coop so the hens have water that's not frozen solid. I think the chickens are literally feeling cooped up and will themselves be happy to get out in their run again.

... to the mornings when I stop on the way back from the coop to pause by the garden, sneak a few fresh beans, and marvel at how much grows from tiny seeds.

... to days when all the windows are open and the clothes come in from the line smelling like a piece of heaven.

... to the mornings when I'm awakened by the sun on my face and the mooing of the cows that board here in the summer. Well, sometimes the mooing. At 5:30, it's not always appreciated, especially since then I wonder if they've escaped and are themselves sneaking a taste of my veggies.

... to the delight on the girls' faces as they explore and learn about nature at the creek.

Simple pleasures. Ones that make all the work here worthwhile.

But here we are in February, so we make the best of it. The temp is supposed to be better this weekend for being outside so we plan to get the new snow off the creek and do some skating.

And for a bit of farm life ...
... yesterday Sam (5 year-old German shepherd and not the brightest thing on four legs, typically) became 'Sam the Mighty Hunter'. I was outside and saw him pouncing in the snow and sticking his nose in, then pouncing again. So we figure, the 7 brain cells must be running amok today. Turns out he tracked down and fished a mouse (or vole?) out of the snow - the little critters stay awake in this cold weather, and stay insulated under the snow and make little tunnels through it (this is, of course, when they're not coming into my house and making holes in bags of food and leaving little 'calling cards' in my cupboards.) He found it and kept hunting it as it ran through the powdery stuff, then caught it and flung it up in the air and caught it in his mouth. By the time I got there the little thing was past helping. When I returned a few minutes later, it was gone. Much as I'm sorry for the mousie I was mildly amused at the look on Sam's face. He was rather pleased with himself and got a snack to boot.

It's interesting that while life here has taught us to appreciate growth and life, it's also shown us the other side of things. Like dogs preying on small rodents. Like realizing that when we see a heron stalking by the creek, or a hawk circling lazily over the fields, or hear the coyotes yipping and howling at night, there are predators going about their business of finding lunch. And learning that sometimes farm animals get themselves into scrapes and don't make it. Last summer we boarded 21 cows, each with a calf. Late in the summer I found one calf just standing all alone, not moving, the rest of the herd nowhere around. Odd. I went into the field and he didn't move, not even when I got close. They're usually very leery of us. I got right up and even patted him but still nothing. So I called their owner who came over and realized the calf had likely gotten into something and, as a result, was standing there blinded. End of the story was, this calf and two others died from lead poisoning. It wasn't until December that Derek found the old car battery that someone years ago had thrown into the edge of the field; the calves had been licking it in their kid-like curiosity, not knowing any better.

Three years ago we still lived in a huge, modern house in a nice neighborhood. The drafty farmhouse has been a place of healing, growing together, learning about life, and gaining new appreciation for simplicity. It's worth it.

Thursday, 15 February 2007

what a wonderful world

Several things need to be established first to tell this story. (sort of like the 'whereas' clauses that lead up to the proclamation of an act of parliament or somesuch)
1. I do, despite its inconveniences, love a good snowstorm. It's the kid in me, I guess. It's one of my simple pleasures that warms me up inside, looking out the window as the storm rages. Being caught in one would be another matter, but I do get happy watching one.
2. My dear D surprised me for V-Day with an iPod Shuffle - this thing is amazing. It's about the size of a piece of mini shredded wheat (sorry, I can't think of another size comparison. It hides in the palm of my hand) and holds 100 songs. So I'll be changing the playlist a fair bit, but the size blows me away and in true iPod style the sound is great.
3. Our tractor, the all-purpose lawnmower/snowblower/lifter of heavy things, depending on the attachment, does not have its snow chains completely ready to go, nor is the snowblower completely hooked up. After all, we had not had any real snowfall to speak of yet and other things were clamoring for our attention.
4. We had, in a bit of forethought, not sold our push snowblower that we had at our pre-farm house. We kept it in case the tractor couldn't get going.
5. Yesterday Ottawa got 25cm of snow (by no means the most from this storm ... how are things down your way, goaliemom?), along with nasty wind from the north.
6. While I like the look of winter, cold and I are not good friends. We're on speaking terms, like we met once at the party of a mutual friend, but we don't send Christmas cards to each other. I like winter activity but don't like being cold.

So, after supper last night, the girls were set to the supper cleanup and I bundled up to try to get some snow clearing done before D got home and did it all himself after a long day's work. I took the iPod and out I went. And I've never enjoyed shovelling so much. I took the blower out along the laneway, and a couple of those songs that just get me into my happy place were on. So, while the blower went up and down the driveway, I guided it from behind and danced like an idiot. The dancing song was 'Holy' by Jason Morant (replayed multiple times), a song that I am absolutely in love with, and then I'd stroll along smiling while Louis Armstrong sang 'What a Wonderful World'. The wind and cold were felt but ignored in my own little piece of fun.

In the country, no one can see you dancing in your driveway. I was a bit sorry when D came out to relieve me of duty, though my cold face was telling me otherwise. Maybe it was just jealous that my legs got to do the dancing.

Wednesday, 14 February 2007


Last night's supper was great; the girls made wonderful sous-chefs and the meal was greatly appreciated by D and tasted as good as we'd hoped.

Today there is rain (or, rather, snow) on M's parade as the long-awaited snowstorm finally arrived - on the day we planned for her trip to visit goaliemom for a few days. Instead we will be staying put as the snow falls and gets blown around. We will handle the storm in a very mature manner by building a fort out of blankets in the little nook at the top of the stairs and the girls will camp there tonight and make a fine adventure of it. We may as well make the best of the change in plans, and there's just something about blanket forts that is cozy and perfect for a day like this.

And of course, Valentine's Day. D and I have marked 21 of these now (yikes!) between dating and marriage. And I'm more in love with him than ever.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

chez glennies

Still slightly sick, but just that sort of annoying sick - not enough to feel great and want to do much, but not enough to be justified in laying low all day.

Tomorrow being Valentine's Day, the girls and I decided to make D a fancy dinner at home. Fun, and cheaper and less crowded than a restaurant. So yesterday we planned the meal for today since tomorrow we may be driving M to visit goaliemom for a little visit. The girls had a blast poring over my cookbooks and we planned a four-course menu that was a bit fancy while being simple enough so that the girls can have a big part in making it. So, the meal tonight at Chez Glennie will be:

Soup: 'Elegant Consomme', a good starter; chicken broth with julienned vegetables
Salad: mixed mesculun with a sweet balsamic vinaigrette (R's speciality)
Main course: Cornish hens in orange glaze, twice-baked potatoes, and fresh green beans
Dessert: 'Angel Pie', chocolate whipped cream in a baked meringue crust, garnished with fresh raspberries
Reservations are required. It is, after all, a pretty exclusive restaurant.

Monday, 12 February 2007

weekend recap

Is it Monday already?

Saturday was a blur of car races; R's mummy case did not get a prize (though her completely unbiased mother thought it should have). But that's the joy of contests for design, it's all subjective. Speed, however, does not lie and A's car finished second overall, much to the delight of both her and R. My favorite thing of the whole morning was seeing A be gracious in winning and R being gracious in not winning. We have tried to teach the girls to be good sports whether winning or losing, and to see it in action is encouraging.

The afternoon's high-speed online searching also went well and, as with most good research, opened the door to many more questions that R will need to address for her historical fair project. Her topic is the history of the regiment in which her great-grandfather served in the second World War.

Sunday was good, playing with my awesome team of a band, an amazingly talented group of musicians who have a great time together. Then it was lunch at an old family restaurant in town (the sort of place that you can picture design people from those restaurant makeover shows walking in and shuddering, but the food is good and the service has that friendly, homey feeling that's missing from so many places today).

And today I am definitely sick. It's been creeping in all weekend, threatened my voice yesterday, and seems to have won today. 'Tis the season, I guess.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

girls and fast cars

No, not what the title may make you think. Though I still remember with a wistful grin the day we went for a test drive in an '06 Mustang GT convertible last summer. Aaaaah. I don't typically get a big thing out of cars, but that was sweet. So I have a nice amount of mild jealousy and much admiration for goaliemom for their GT, though the admiration really goes far deeper than the car. But I digress.

The day after tomorrow is the kids' club car race - much like a Cub Car sort of thing, they get a block of wood with axles and wheels and design something to go down an inclined track. Prizes are for design and speed, but mostly the idea is to have lots of fun. So, A jumped right in with designing a car that went from being a pickup truck to a Honda to ending up as a police car. It's definitely that, as one can tell from the word 'POLICE' that takes up most of the side. She did it all herself (except for the power tool part, though she was carefully guiding Daddy on that one) and is justifiably happy with it.

R, meanwhile, decided to design hers to be a copy of King Tutankhamun's sarcophagus (the second one, mind you, not the first of third. We must be specific here). Yes. So it's sort of a 'mummy-mobile', I guess, something of a reminder of our fall unit on ancient Egypt. Online we went to find pictures from the Cairo museum, then figured out how to scale it to the block of wood that dear hubby had helped her shape with the belt sander, then decided how to make it a doable interpretation. After all, it's not like we have solid gold lying around the house. It's something I'd seen many photos of but didn't realize just how intricate it is until we started looking at it to copy - the detail of the real thing is exquisite. We worked on it last night and she is also pleased with it. One good comment during the scaling process was when R said "hey, it's an actual use for math!".

Painting must be done today so D can take them to work where an accurate scale can make sure they don't exceed the maximum allowable weight for the race. Research continues as well for R's Hobbit book report and more research to be done on Saturday for the Historical projects, at D's work where there is this wonderful new invention called high-speed Internet. I love the farm, but do not enjoy the dial-up speed that comes with it.

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

dreams, the bad kind

I woke up very early this morning from a bad dream, one of those ones so realistic that you wait for a minute after waking up and then realize it's not real. I dreamt that our old dog Tash drowned and I was pulling her out of the pool and then woke up crying. It's been a long time since I've had such a vivid dream. Then I heard her breathing on the floor beside my bed where she sleeps, and heard her legs kicking in her sleep as she had her own dreams of chasing something. I hope hers were better.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007


That's "aged" not as in the verb, but the adjective, pronounced "age-ed" (two syllables), a quaint and archaic way of saying "old". It's a word Dickens uses to name a character in Great Expectations, one of my favorite books. And it describes our house. I have no idea of the precise age; its construction seems to have preceded the days of silly things like building permits. I have found a photo of the house at the local museum that, judging from the clothing of the ladies on the porch, pre-dates the first World War. I do know, thanks to R's historical project, that the land was granted to someone in 1828 and a family lived here from at least the 1850s to 1910, when it sold to a family who owned it from 1910-1970. We bought it from the descendants of that buyer in 2004.

Our basement has a stone foundation with a dirt floor, and 4 feet above that are the joists - not 8x10s or whatever, but logs, most still with the bark on them. Big, sturdy logs cut from the farm, most likely, and made to hold up a house. The larger logs are found in the barns, huge buildings made of cedar logs. I honestly didn't know that cedar trees came that large. My only experience with them was little stringy things in hedges.

The floors of the house are 1-1/4 inch thick pine (I think), and the subfloor is more of the same, with the seams between the boards offset. They need to be refinished but to me they are beautiful. Under the wall-to-wall carpet I tore up to expose these beauties, I found a trap door that goes down to the crawlspace. It was one of those discoveries that remind me how much we are living with the work of others here. The house has so many questions that we can try to answer but most I know we will only be able to guess at. Add the barns into the mix, and the mysteries just multiply.

The windows can be drafty, the roof leaks if the wind blows just the right way, the floor has a slight angle to it in some rooms, none of the doors are exactly the same, and it's home and I love it. Of course there is more I want to do here, but I never want to lose the character of this little house. It was, and shall remain, a farmhouse.

Monday, 5 February 2007


Another cold day: now this is winter. The snow is squeaky underfoot, the chickens' water frozen. Last night I checked in on them and found their water gone so refilled it. There's something bemusing about eight hens clucking happily as they drink. Drinking hens is something I never thought of before having them - you can't exactly slurp if you don't have lips, right? So they scoop water into their beaks and then turn their heads up and drink it while opening and closing their beaks. It looks funnily like a group of sommeliers tasting a vintage wine. If I could understand the clucking I think they would be saying, "this has real character, without too many overtones of oak"

But as to promise, the title of the post: this morning I noticed one of the onions that I keep in a basket on the kitchen counter ready for cooking had sprouted some little green fingerlings of shoots out the top. And despite the cold, I thought of spring and gardening and getting my hands in the dirt (oh, the smell). So I think this evening, after the day's work is done, I will cozy up by the fire with a glass of wine in one hand and the Vesey's seed catalogue in the other and dream happy thoughts of spring. As always, my dreaming will run far ahead of what I will actually accomplish. But then, isn't that what dreams are for?

Friday, 2 February 2007

of new houses and such

This morning is school, quickly done so that we can go to visit J at their new house. It's fun to help out when people are moving into a new house, to see the plans take shape in the air as they describe their ideas and fancies. It's full of excitement, promise, and often fatigue and frustration. So hopefully we can do our little part to encourage the former and alleviate the latter. And, after doing the work, it makes me very happy that we don't plan any moves ourselves in the foreseeable future. So I do it vicariously through others' moves.

It's warmed up a bit (no more frozen eggs) which may call for some time on the creek tomorrow. But there are projects that need doing too; R and A making race cars for the kids' club race in a week, R working on her Historica fair research, and a book report on The Hobbit that R is excited to be doing as it will be both a lesson in doing reports and in power point. We went over storyboarding for the slides yesterday and she has a deadline in two weeks. She can't wait to get to working on the computer. Perhaps if spelling and grammar were on the computer, there would be similar excitement about those!

Thursday, 1 February 2007


Softly falling snow is beautiful. And there's a particular sort of not-quite-silence that comes with snow falling that is peaceful and lovely, magical and musical. We're only supposed to get a little cover of snow, not the big blizzard the girls (and, I admit I) am longing for - but we will enjoy it while it falls.

Today is school (math, spelling, grammar, the nervous system, dance practice, music), the girls' weekly club, and band rehearsal. Cramming a band of guitar, bass, drums, and vocalists in the old farmhouse around the piano isn't quite the old-fashioned sing-along, but it's fun.