Saturday, March 31, 2007

Book reviews

In this post I thought I'd list some of the good books I've read in the last several months.

- Walking After Midnight by Katy Hutchison (nonfiction). The author's husband was murdered in 1997 when he intervened in a neighbourhood party. The book discusses how Hutchison dealt with this trauma, how she forged a relationship with the young man who killed her husband, and how she developed a career of speaking to young people about violence, forgiveness, and restorative justice.

- Wounded Prophet by Michael Ford (nonfiction). This is a biography of Henri Nouwen.

- Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer (nonfiction). This book discusses how we must listen to our internal voice, not external influences, in order to determine our life calling.

- The Spiral Staircase by Karen Armstrong (nonfiction). The author talks about her emergence from seven years in a convent and how she struggled for many years to find her life direction. She is now a noted author and speaker on issues of reconciliation between Christians, Muslims, and Jews.

- Before I Wake by Robert Wiersema (fiction). This novel is about a toddler who is hit by a truck and enters a sleep-like state; those who come in physical contact with her find themselves healed of physical ailments. There is also a good-vs-evil drama behind the scenes that adds depth to the story.

- Reading Between the Lines: The Diaries of Women by Betty Jane Wylie. I picked this little book up at Value Village! It's an interesting overview of the diaries of both famous and not-so-famous women.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Today I have the privilege of sending birthday wishes to Lori Vos, my friend and fellow Hobbit. Lori and I have been friends since my first day in the Queen's University English department, 21 years ago. True friendship is a special gift and, as I have learned, should not be taken for granted. Happy Birthday, Lori!

On the subject of friendship and playmates ... yesterday was a beautiful 15-degree spring day. Allison brought sidewalk chalk to school, having been encouraged by Sue (her counsellor) to take a play object outside with her to help her approach schoolmates and engage them in play. After school I asked her if anyone did chalk with her. She replied, "Yes, lots of people! The schoolyard is covered with sidewalk-chalk pictures. And some girls got me to lie down and they drew around me!" This may seem like a typical, ho-hum picture of childhood--but for Allison it is a big achievement. Way to go, Allison--you are quiet, but you can make the schoolyard a beautiful place.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Can you point your fingers and do the twist?

If that phrase doesn't mean anything to you, then you obviously don't know the Wiggles: four enthusiastic Australian guys who dress in blue, red, yellow and purple and who sing, dance, play instruments, and basically have fun. Allison and Jonathan discovered the Wiggles last year when they received one of the group's CDs for a gift, and they've become avid fans. Jonathan asks for a "Meegles DDD" at least once a day and is in fact, at this very moment, watching the "Wiggly, Wiggly Christmas" video. The Wiggles' songs include such classics as the abovementioned "Can You Point Your Fingers and Do the Twist?", "Fruit Salad, Yummy Yummy", and "Dance the Ooby-Doo with Dorothy the Dinosaur". I'm not making this up--actually, I wish I had, because then I'd be a millionaire! (Beeeeauty, mate!)

On one of the Wiggles DVDs we watched recently was a song I haven't heard since I was little. Do you remember this one? (I haven't got the words exactly right but this is the idea)

Hear the whistle blowin', makes a sleepy noise
Underneath the blankets go all the girls and boys.

Rockin', rollin', ridin', out along the bay
All bound for Morning Town many miles away.

Maybe it is raining where this train will ride
All the little children are warm and snug inside.

Somewhere there is morning, somewhere there is day
Somewhere there is Morning Town, many miles away.

I wonder if, in 35 years, Jonathan will be saying, "Gosh, I just heard the 'Fruit Salad' song--does that ever take me back!"

Friday, March 23, 2007

full of beans

A going concern.
A high-maintenance guy.
A handful.
That's our Jonathan!

Today we took him to mass at Allison's school. He ran around in circles in the empty gym until the students started arriving. As the priest began the service, Jonathan could be heard saying loudly, "Abba-dabba-bla-bla chocolate cookie" and other equally meaningful remarks. Dad and Jonathan left early. Not a moment too soon, actually.

Jonathan is 4-1/2 years old--a boy with a busy body and a busy mind. His language skills are quite limited (mostly one word at a time), and what he does say is very concrete and immediate. A typical conversation:
Jonathan: "Bret-tut [breakfast]."
Mom: "Would you like some toast?"
J: "Mommy?"
M: "Yes, mommy will have some toast too. What do you want on your toast?"
J: "Jam and beeta-bee [peanut butter]?"
M: "Yes, I'll have my toast with jam and peanut butter, but I'll get yours first. What do you want on yours?"
J: "Jam and beeta-bee?"
M: "I'll have mine too, but I'll get yours first. Do you want butter or peanut butter?"
J: "But-ta!"
Toast inserted in toaster.
J: "Pop?"
M: "It'll pop in a minute."
J: "Pop?"
M: "It'll pop in a minute--you have to be patient."
J: "Pop!!" grr, fuss, cry, complain ...
And so on.

As we prepare for the prospect of Jonathan attending kindergarten in September, I have moments of panic, often in the middle of the night. I wonder how he can go to school when his communication and other skills are so delayed... whether the school can provide an Educational Assistant to help him in the classroom... whether he will be able to learn like the other kids and progress at grade level, or whether he will always be working at a different pace...

For several years now I've had Psalm 139 posted on the wall over the kitchen sink; the paper is water-splattered and smudged. These verses from the Psalm help me feel calmer whenever I'm worried about the kids (which is often):

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." (vv.13-16)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"Finish the sentence" with Allison

Here is an interview with Allison, age 8.

My favourite colour is...

My favourite food is...
noodles with pesto.

My favourite activity is...

My favourite book or book series is...
the Junie B. Jones series.

My favourite subject at school is...
reading again.

My favourite thing to do with Jonathan is...
read a book.

My favourite place to go on a trip is...
Prince Edward Island.

My favourite game is...
"The Wild World Board Game" which we got out of the Toronto Star.

My favourite thing to do on the computer is...
go on the Kids CBC website.

My favourite thing to watch on TV is...
a Wiggles DVD.

My favourite park in our city is...
Compton Park.

My favourite animal is...
a duck.

Thank you for this information Allison! Best of luck in your future endeavours.

This is Mom, signing off ...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

March madness??!!

It's March: time for those two little words women love to hear. Just say them, and note how gracefully and mellifluously they roll off the tongue!

NO, not "final clearance"!

Or "free chocolate," either--though that's a good one ...

I mean those other two words:

"Figure skating."

World Championships! Tonight at 8! Woo-hoo! Bye honey, go on out and buy lots of power tools, I'm hunkering down in front of the tube!

See you in April .....

Monday, March 19, 2007

Do you hear what I hear?

Last week I went for a hearing test. My doctor had told me some time ago that my right eardrum was very scarred (probably from childhood ear infections), and I'd always had trouble hearing out of it. This winter, after a particularly bad cold, my hearing in that ear suddenly deteriorated.

The test showed that my right ear is not, in fact, working well at all: the eardrum did not move as it should in response to the sounds produced by the machine. However, the technician said that the hearing in my left ear is exceptionally good: "like a five-year-old," she said.

As I left the appointment I was not so much discouraged by my poor right ear as elated that my "five-year-old" left ear is working so well. I imagined how much I would miss in life if I couldn't hear: particularly music.

In her memoir Heart Matters, Adrienne Clarkson says that she adopted as her personal motto these words from an Anglican collect: "May only the truth be spoken; may only the truth be heard." For that last part, one needs good ears! Even only one good one might do.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy Birthday, Ed!

Richard's brother Ed Prinsen celebrates his birthday today. At this moment he is in Cuba, preparing for his marriage to Mari one week from today.

Ed, you have always been a free spirit, and you continue to surprise us! God bless you as you prepare for next Saturday.

And happy St. Patrick's Day, too!

Friday, March 16, 2007

The devil made me do it

If envy is one of the seven deadly sins, then I confess! I decided I wanted to have a blog too, just like all of those (other) cool people. I do not have a digital camera (yet) and therefore cannot post photos on this blog (yet) -- but first things first: at least I can enter some text. After all, I be literate, eh?

Welcome to the home of Jeannie, Richard, Allison (8) and Jonathan (4).