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

Saturday, 29 December 2007

merry merry

"I was making rather merry yesterday, sir." (Bob Cratchit)

Christmas has come and gone, the kids now out playing in last night's new snow. The gifts were not as numerous as in past years, but that didn't matter. The time with family was key this year, with Dad and Mom staying here for a week and back-and-forth visits with Bee and family. Guests Serendipity and family for Christmas dinner and Boxing Day brunch was an awesome addition.

R and A were so excited about their gifts - real compound bows to use at next summer's archery lessons (though there have been a few outings to practice with Daddy, and much fun was had there). M squealed when she opened her My Little Pony sets.. The girls gave me a gallon of paint and a coupon for help from three little painters, to finish our bedroom. Their own idea and I was pleased with the practicality as well as the thoughtfulness. D once again established his position as fashionista for me, picking up a few awesome items that fit and looked great. How does he do it? For a big hockey player/hunter kind of guy, he does awfully well at it. I was duly impressed.

The week since has consisted of days with the kids playing with toys (and weapons, counting the bows!), hanging out with Dad & Mom, and just sort of enjoying the kind of week that has very little responsibility and even less schedule. It's nice to sit and think, "what day is it, again?". I do enjoy those weeks.

Friday, 21 December 2007


December 21st. Four more days. A bit of wrapping to do. Groceries to buy before the weekend in which I do not want to set foot into a store. Tidying up the office that is our occasional guest room in preparation for Dad & Mom's arrival on Monday. A few gift baskets to make and some cookies to make with the kids today. Tonight, D & I are having an evening out, probably just shopping and snacks at a pub, but a bit of us time that will be nice.

The girls finished school yesterday and M has been announcing all morning that as there is no school she has an important job to do, playing with her Barbies. A meanwhile decided that Willow the hamster needed some exercise and so I have been visited by her a few times. R is just enjoying a day with no responsibility.

The house is cozy, the music for church this week prepared and as of last night rehearsed. And today I was looking at the tree and thinking on the star, and a story referred to but not written down. So here is the story as I know it. Short, but it has reached almost legendary status in our family.

Christmas 1961: Dad and Mom's first year married. They were newlyweds, money was tight, but there was a tree to find a top for. Dad went out to the store and found one, and brought it home. Mom became quite upset on seeing how much money he had paid for it. How could he spend so much on just a tree star? Sure, it's pretty, but the money could be used on other things! But just look at it - all silver glitter, lit up from inside, "with sparkling halo effect!" the box triumphantly declares. So pretty! So much money! Even so, the star was kept and continued to grace their tree for years to come. Last year when they downsized and moved into an apartment, it came to my house and took its place on our tree. It spent 45 years on their trees and now is in our house for the second year.
The box still bears the price sticker: $2.50.

I emailed my dad this week and asked him if he could remember why he chose that particular one, why he, who has always been in my mind careful with money, would put out such a scandalous amount of cash for it. His response: "It being our first Christmas, I was probably still so awestruck by your mother's beauty that I wanted something really beautiful to complement her." I love that he would say that after 46+ years of marriage.

So the star sits on our tree. If it could talk, what stories it would have to tell! Four more days until it has tales of another Christmas.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

found and built

School was fun yesterday, interrupted by sighting an evening grosbeak at the feeder. It's so odd to see something other than bluejays, sparrows and chickadees in the winter that we stopped lessons to watch the flashes of yellow as the male and female scouted for seeds before flying away.

We did have shear bolts, and so by installing a bolt that was about 2 inches long and 1/4 inch in diameter, the whole snow blower was working again. Yay! I felt a real sense of accomplishment at that, though it's really the extent of my tractor repairing abilities. No trip to the dealer needed, I stayed home and finished some snow clearing until the Snowman family arrived for gingerbread house time.

The kids had a ball, many sugar highs were in the making, and the end result was cute houses, happy kids, and a nice visit for the moms. I have a feeling the houses aren't up to code, but I do think that marshmallow roofing is an idea whose time has come.

It's hard to believe that Christmas is less than a week away. I think it's because I did finish a lot early. I don't say that to brag, but simply because while the older girls were at JPP, I spent some days shopping with M that I wouldn't otherwise have had, and as a result that bit of craziness was done early. This week will be some Christmas food make-aheads, planning two Sunday services and the Christmas Eve music, finishing school, and taking some time to enjoy the season. I'm enjoying not being in malls right now. Maybe that's why it feels so calm; I'm not rushing around in that insanity.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007


Ottawa's biggest storm in ages, and our first real snowstorm on the farm. They say 37cm fell, but the wind made a huge difference. The creek is bare ice in some parts with no snow cover to speak of, while the drifts in this picture are over 3 feet high. Capricious is a good word for it, with the wind being a sculptor again, but almost with a sense of whimsy as the drifts curl and curve around large things (barns) or the tiniest stick poking out of the snow. It's lovely.
But for the 'oops': today will be a search for a shear bolt for the tractor's snow blower. Hooray!

I was clearing out the drifts in the driveway in the aftermath of Monday's huge storm, and a fist-sized rock got into the blower. These tractor implements work from a shaft that spins at 540rpm, so something getting in the works could wreck the machinery if not for these nifty little things called shear bolts, whose main purpose in life is to break. If something messes up the works, the bolt breaks and keeps the 540rpm from trying to turn the rest of the implement. Smart idea. But now I have to see if (a) we have a 1/4" hex bolt thingy on hand, or (b) if the tractor store hasn't yet closed for Christmas break and I can drive 1/2 hour to get a few.

I never knew a thing about shear bolts before I lived on a farm. The things you learn out here. Some are interesting, some sublime, and some, like this, necessary but really not all that exciting.

The girls had a realization yesterday when I announced that there was a certain amount of work I had planned to finish by Friday, and that once that work was done there would not be new work added before Christmas break. They put two and two together and figured out that a day of no school on Friday might just be possible. There's motivation for you! A final chapter in their history book was begged for (really, how can I refuse three little girls saying "please, Mom, we want to hear about the fall of the Roman Empire!"?) and Rome was accordingly done away with. Today, barring drives to tractor stores, we are getting together with the Snowman family to decorate gingerbread houses.

Monday, 17 December 2007


Our weekend fit into so many classic Christmas stereotypes, it was funny.

Saturday we traipsed (love that word. Traipsing just sounds fun. Much better than merely going.) to a local Christmas tree farm where we rode on a wagon to the tree field, looked at many before finding what A dubbed 'the perfect tree' and cutting it down. Back to the main area we went, to sit by a huge bonfire sipping hot chocolate and watching the girls sled down the hill nearby. Home we went to put up the tree, then watched Elf as we ate chili for supper.

Sunday morning was the kids' Christmas program, performed for a surprising amount of people who braved the worst December snowstorm in decades. It started with the 3/4 year olds singing 'Away in a Manger' while Seren's gaffer stole the show by innocently stepping up to the mic and singing his sweet little heart out. Adorable. The kids sang, some played piano, others violin, and R&A did some highland dancing (well done!). Afterward we enjoyed cider and cookies, then set out for the trek home. Slow was the order of the day as Ottawa received 37cm (that sounds low from what I saw!) and strong winds that made visibility a questionable thing at best sometimes. The roads were pretty good (our road not plowed though) and we didn't get stuck until the last leg of our driveway, where the drifts were up over the wheel wells of the vehicles. Both car and truck got nicely stuck, but the walk to the house wasn't too far.

The wind in this storm was from the east, so the drifting was in an entirely new direction. Some drifted into our enclosed back entry, and I was laughing at snow drifts that were almost indoors. The chickens seemed nonplussed by it all, merely jumping down to peck the snow off my boots when R and I went to see how they fared.

In we went, built a fire, then D went out to snowblow the driveway for 3 hours. The early evening was spent sitting by the fire watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special. I think that one is my favorite. It's funny and sweet and the music is awesome and the story is just so simple and so good. And I always laugh at the way the kids dance.

Once that was finished we set about decorating the Christmas tree. The girls ask every year for the story of the star we have. They know the story but like to hear it. I always did too, I think. There's just something about opening the box of ornaments each year and recalling the stories that accompany most of them. We have some from my parents' early years together, so at 40+ years old they're antiques as ornaments go. We also have two special ones that D's mom had on her tree when she was a little girl, and a couple that are reminders of Josh. Others bring to mind our own family history, and it's a chance to remember and celebrate.

The tree done, the kids to bed, and between the tree lights and the firelight the house seemed a little more magical. The wind howled around the house, casting more drifts that we knew would have to be addressed today, but for the evening we were all snug and cozy.

Some stereotypes are kind of nice.

Thursday, 13 December 2007


cacophony - n. - chaotic noise, resulting from the girls' delight in every sample song on a keyboard, often playing two or more samples simultaneously.

Goaliemom graciously let us take home a keyboard that she would not be using. I was excited at the possibility of having a source to enter my music in MIDI format. Hooray! No longer will I have to enter my songs by clicking up and down on the staff in the music software. I can play it and have it wonderfully, instantly, show up. What a time saver it would be!

I forgot that every keyboard comes with a series of sample songs to show you the different sounds available. I also didn't realize that they could play more than one at once. So right now I'm hearing 80's-style TV show theme song-type music interspersed with some salsa thing that sounds like the Dora the Explorer song, and a banjo playing bluegrass. It is ... interesting. It's punctuated with cries of "ooh! Listen to this! Hey, how did you do that? Hahaha!" until the girls' speaking and laughing becomes like one more sample track in the mix. Oh, listen, flamenco guitar. Who knew?

It's loud, confusing, and somewhat endearing.

Meanwhile, I plan to escape downstairs to finish up some baking started last night. Florentines were being made at a dizzying rate, and stolen by D at a pace that was itself alarming. But he gets that little smile on his face when he steals them that makes me laugh, and oddly enough one seemed to break every time he walked by the cooling rack. Funny, that. Today is sandwich style cookies.

Oh, and band rehearsal tonight. George of the Jungle, here I come.

On the keyboard front, the Mexican salsa is being joined by waves on the seashore and a sax rock thingy, and birds chirping. It's like Salvador Dali does music.

Friday, 7 December 2007


The stuff hasn't gone away, but I feel more on top of it now. Sort of like when I'm down at the creek, by the pile of wood we have stacked (mostly dumped by the tractor bucket) and I walk on top of the 6-foot-high pile looking for likely candidates for the fire. I'm on top but I have to watch my step or I'll be in a hole up past my knees.

Last night was a marathon band rehearsal, working on Sunday's stuff (well, I listened to that as I'm away Sunday. I realized it's good for me to sit back and listen to the band without playing/singing. I hear more) and then pushing on to learn six songs for the kids' musical next weekend. They're cute little songs but I got the giggles when one part sounded an awful lot like the 'George of the Jungle' theme song. Well, not an awful lot. Exactly like. Drum beats, chords, everything. I couldn't stop laughing. Another one is Christmas carols to a Latin beat - also fun and kind of amusing.

The girls' costumes for today's JPP seemed to be a bust until they got a bit creative and so R is 'bike girl', all decked out in a cycling shirt, helmet, and my cycling glasses, and A is 'Christmas girl' complete with red cozy socks, Santa hat, and other decoration stuff. They've even made up some super powers that they have. Way to go, girls! M and I are home this morning but then will head in. We plan to finish up a few things here, though she ran for it when I wrote "tickle M" on the list. Time to go catch her.

After all, even when there's stuff to be done some things take precedence. Right now cuddling with a cute little girl who's wearing My Little Pony socks is high on the priority list.

Thursday, 6 December 2007


Today seems to be under the attack of 'stuff'.

There is much to do for tonight's rehearsal; charting songs for next week's kids' musical numbers will take some time. I'm not leading this week as the girls and I head out to visit goaliemom and hubby for a few days.

I need to pack for that, since tomorrow is basically a writeoff for work at home. Last day of JPP and we're invited to see the kids and meet the teachers in the afternoon. Dance class tomorrow night.

Tomorrow's JPP is a fun 'superhero day' where the kids get to dress up. Costume ... hmm. How will we swing that?

I have to decide about timing and place to record the theme song from the conference. I have vain hopes that it will be done before Christmas. Listening to some samples today. Quality would be good but speed is also a factor. Oh, yeah, and cost. Studio time is not cheap.

My head hurts; I think it's some residual from last night's migraine. I wonder if spending two hours with my feet facing the front of the tractor and my head looking at the back of the tractor?

Christmas decorations are spread here and there. Attempts to keep all orderly was disrupted by three little girls' excitement.

But inside me, under the stuff, I still am happy and looking forward to the holidays. Last night's addressing Christmas cards by the fire with Bing Crosby on the CD was a nice break. Well, until UFC came on. Not exactly peaceful.

The girls are up, M has happily gotten Willow the hamster out of her cage and tells me she's singing 'We Wish you a Merry Christmas', but the voice sounds oddly like M's.

On to the day and all its stuff.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

i do like it, i do, i do

Sort of 'I think I can', but after spending two hours plowing the driveway. Thank goodness for our tractor, clearing away 30cm of snow plus drifts. The power outlet for the snow blower is on the back of the tractor. So, that's two hours driving backwards. My neck is now, I'm sure, a chiropractor's dream. Or nightmare. But it's plowed and I still think it's pretty and I still love living in the country. Honestly.

The house has been warmed today by my oven making baked beans from scratch. A long process but well worth the result, especially on a day like this. The kids are just in from playing in the snow; a fire and warm supper awaits.

I have been pondering the strange beauty of snow drifts the past couple of days. They are so fluid, yet take on strange angles and have odd little cuts into them. The wind as sculptor - I love it.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007


Here it is, Tuesday. And I am indeed getting my comeuppance (who invented that word?) for complaining last year that winter was decidedly un-wintry. The earlier snow had no chance to leave before another 30cm came along, starting early yesterday morning. I'm not complaining yet. I am definitely liking it. Wait 'til February, then I'll be sick of it all. But I will definitely not be saying that winter is too slow coming this year!

The weekend was busy but all good. Friday R and A went to JPP and got back their history and science marks (R scoring A+ in both, A getting A's in both) and hearing glowing reports about them from their Creative Writing teacher. As their mom it's heartwarming to hear them so well spoken of, and as their teacher it's doubly good to hear their academics praised by another teacher. Next week is the last until next term. I've enjoyed the days one-on-one with M but I think the break will be good for us all. That and not driving downtown through the winter weather.

Saturday was the party for the band. It's nice to get together with no need to accomplish something rehearsal-wise. I had a ball making lots of fancy little fussy goodies. Everything came together well. I'm writing it here so next year I can remember just what the heck I did:
- sweet & sour meatballs
- satay beef with Thai peanut sauce
- mini phyllo cups filled with Greek salad - cucumbers, onion, tomato, olive, capers in a vinaigrette
- broiled shrimp with two sauces: Cajun mayo and raspberry horseradish (thanks to Goaliemom)
- endive leaves piped full of a cream cheese/sundried tomato pesto mixture
- phyllo triangles filled with brie, green apples, walnuts and shallots
- crescent canapes, made from biscuit dough covered with cream cheese/horseradish and fresh veggies
- stuffed mushrooms
A big pot of wassail (sort of a hot mulled cider) simmering on the stove was also a big hit. Everyone brought desserts or drinks and we had a fun evening together. Silly me took no photos at all. *sigh* I didn't get the whole house decorated but used some natural materials to make it pretty. I filled one large bowl with fresh-cut cedar, apples and oranges, and another with cedar, cinnamon sticks and one Christmas ornament. Not too bad, and that sort of decorating seems to suit the old farmhouse.

Sunday was church, then in the evening we headed to a local seniors' home to provide music for their Christmas service. We led a few carols and I brought in some special guests: violinist Snowman and her brother, and R, A, & M. Between the kids on violins and the girls singing a couple of songs, I'm not sure the rest of us needed to show up! I think the folks really enjoyed what we played/sang for them.

Yesterday we enjoyed the snowstorm from the comfort and safety of our house, and the girls realized a drawback of homeschooling: school doesn't get cancelled in bad weather. Cut short to allow for play time, perhaps, but not nixed. Tonight we plan to head to Seren's for dinner for much food and conversation and laughs.

The farm looks pretty but the barns seem more lonely - except the chicken coop, where the hens are glad for their heat lamp. The rest of the buildings, though, are dark and lifeless. When will we change that? Sometimes it feels so far away. I stood out last night in the wind and snow, looking and them and thinking how forlorn they looked. Someday ...