Wednesday, December 24, 2008

happy cousins

This past weekend there was a rare sighting of the four "MacEachern" cousins all together in one room! L-R: Jonathan Prinsen (age 6, of Kingston, ON); Sadie MacEachern (age 4, of London, ON); Meredith MacEachern (age almost-16, of Brunswick, Maine); and Allison Prinsen (age 10, of Kingston, ON).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A "Sensible" Christmas

Today Jonathan performed in a Christmas concert about "The Five Senses" at Rideau Public School. There is Jonathan in the back centre.

On Jonathan's left (green hat) is his classmate Meena Baksh, who is one of Jonathan's special friends and always looks out for him!

Here is Jonathan with his teacher, Kathy Mardicis ...

and with his afternoon EA, Joe O'Connor.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Yesterday at church the Sunday School children participated in the worship service by singing two songs, "Joy to the World" and "Joy". Here are Jonathan and Allison in their Christmas finery at home, just before leaving for church.

Here is the choir: see Allison back right and Jonathan front left, in red sweater with stripe.

And here they are waiting their turn to perform. Jonathan looks pretty relaxed!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

a Christmas story

Every Thursday I attend a women's group at Bethel church, and this year we're studying a book called Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. (based on the Biblical story of Mary and Martha). Our group is having a Christmas brunch this week and for our reflective time I decided to write a little story about Mary and Martha at Christmastime. I'll share it with you here if you are interested.


Once upon a time there were two sisters named Martha and Mary. They lived in a little house at the edge of a village, and they were very happy. They loved to visit with their friends along the main street, and have company in for tea.
But this particular season they were especially happy, because it was almost Christmas. Martha and Mary both loved Christmas. Martha would say (a little sarcastically) that Mary loved Christmas because there was someone named Mary in the Christmas story. Martha thought privately that if she were to be one of the Christmas story characters, it would probably be the innkeeper’s wife: the kind of person who did all kinds of work behind the scenes and received absolutely no credit.
But, if she were honest, Martha would have to confess that she loved the "work" of Christmas: the decorating and baking, wrapping and shopping. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the little house was a whirlwind. Martha would climb the ladder to the attic, carefully take down all of her decorations and knickknacks, and spend hours getting everything just right. Martha was all about themes. One year she had an all-white theme, so that all the napkins, tablecloths, and tree decorations had to be white. Another year she focused on stars, so that all the napkins, tablecloths, and tree decorations had to involve stars. Another year ... well, you get the idea.
Martha was a whiz in the kitchen, too. Her cooking was legendary. It wasn’t enough just to make one kind of Christmas cookie; she had to make seven. It wasn’t enough to have a ten-pound turkey; she had to have a twenty-pounder (after all, you never know how many unexpected guests might show up for Christmas dinner). And heaven forbid that she buy a can of cranberry sauce, slide it into a bowl and chunk it up with a fork; she had to make the real thing from cranberries she’d picked herself on a farm within a 100-mile radius of her home.
Mary loved Christmas too, but she wasn’t quite as practical or organized as Martha. Sometimes she would find herself standing in the living room, forgetting what she’d come in for, because she was mesmerized by the Christmas music playing in the background. She loved all of the Christmas carols and spent a lot of time each year trying to figure out which one was her favourite. Just when she was absolutely sure it was O Holy Night, she’d hear O Little Town of Bethlehem and then had to go back and re-evaluate. Martha thought that was kind of a waste of time – why not just make a decision and that’s that? – but she never said that to Mary.
Martha used to try to involve Mary in the Christmas preparations, but Mary would suggest changes ("Let’s have chocolate-chip shortbread instead of plain") and Martha didn’t like changes. Or Mary would ruin the blue-only theme by going out and buying green napkins instead of the blue ones Martha had specifically requested. So now Martha just got Mary doing little jobs that didn’t disrupt Martha’s plans, like stringing popcorn (for the all-natural theme) or putting stamps on Christmas card envelopes.
After the tree had been decorated, the baking done, the properly-coloured guest towels folded in thirds in the bathroom, and all of the other details taken care of, it was time for Martha to set up her favourite thing of all: the nativity scene. It was a very special nativity scene that Martha and Mary’s parents had made for them many years ago. Their father had made a lovely little wooden stable and carved tiny figures, for which their mother had sewn beautiful little costumes. (Clearly, the apple did not fall far from the tree as far as Martha was concerned.)
Martha got out the box with the nativity scene in it, and started unwrapping each separately-wrapped piece. There was the stable, with a miniature dove glued to the rafter ... the little x-shaped manger with crinkly straw in it ... the small blue Mary figure, kneeling ... tiny Joseph, with a painted-on beard ... a shepherd, with a rough burlap cloak ... three wise men, wearing crowns with tiny jewels glued on them. She looked each piece over carefully, making sure no parts needed repair, and set them up exactly where they belonged. Mary stood watching, absentmindedly popping the bubble-wrap that Martha used to protect each precious item.
But instead of the "Ahh" of satisfaction when the nativity scene was perfectly set up, Martha began to get agitated and started looking through the box, shaking all the pieces of plastic wrapping. Something was missing.
"Where’s baby Jesus?" she cried anxiously. "Everything else is exactly where it should be – but the baby Jesus is missing." The tiny, inch-long figure of a sleeping baby, wrapped in the littlest scrap of white cloth you could imagine, was nowhere to be seen.
Mary helped her look. They examined every corner of the nativity scene and the box it had been stored in. They looked under the table, under the Christmas tree, and in among the pine boughs on the mantel. They retraced Martha’s steps back to the attic in case somehow it had fallen out of the box ... but they could not find it.
Martha was devastated. She felt that her Christmas was ruined. How could their beautiful nativity scene, the valued gift from their parents, be missing something so important? Jesus was the centre of the whole thing, after all; if he wasn’t there, then what was the point? Martha prided herself on having everything just right – how could she have lost something so precious?
Mary tried to be comforting, saying gently, "Martha, maybe you could make another one. You’re creative, just like Mama and Papa were. You could make a little Jesus out of wood and wrap it in white cloth, and it would be just fine."
But Martha shook her head. It just wouldn’t be the same, she thought. She stared at the empty manger, and tears filled her eyes. She wanted her Christmas to be perfect, but now, it seemed, it was completely spoiled.
That evening after supper their house was very quiet. Unlike most evenings, Martha didn’t suggest a game of Scrabble (Mary’s favourite) or read out grammatically incorrect sentences from the newspaper to make her sister laugh. Martha didn’t even want to turn the tree lights on and admire her handiwork. The two of them just sat quietly in the darkened living room while Christmas music played softly.
Suddenly, as Martha half-dozed in her comfortable chair, she saw a faint light shining in the corner, near where the nativity scene was set up. Ever-mindful of the dangers of fire during the holiday season (after all, she was the type to have a smoke detector in every room and check the batteries in each one on the first day of every month), she jumped up quickly and moved toward the corner table. Mary hadn’t been silly enough to leave a lighted candle too near a curtain, had she? No, it wasn’t that; the soft glow seemed to be coming from the nativity scene itself. She came closer and – no, she wasn’t imagining it – there was a tiny, shimmering light in the empty manger.
"Mary!" she cried excitedly. Her sister came and stood beside her, and they looked at each other in amazement.
"What in the world is it?" Martha exclaimed. "What could it be? What could it mean?"
"Maybe we should just be quiet and see what happens," Mary whispered.
So they waited, gazing at the tiny light. It flickered slightly, yet it seemed very strong and sure. Then a voice spoke quietly from within the gentle glow – so quietly that they had to lean forward to hear.
"The manger is empty."
"Yes, I know," Martha replied. Her eyes filled with tears. "I’m sorry. I lost the baby Jesus. I don’t know where he is. I looked everywhere; I don’t know what happened to him."
"Martha," the voice said, "Don’t worry about it. Your nativity scene is perfect, actually. The manger is supposed to be empty."
"What do you mean?" Martha asked. "It’s missing the most important thing."
"Martha, listen very carefully," said the gentle voice. It almost sounded as if whoever spoke from within the glow was smiling. "It’s me, Jesus. And I’m not in the manger any more. Some people try to keep me there – maybe they think it’s safer that way, I don’t know – but I left there a long time ago. You know where I am, don’t you? I’m sure you do know, because I know you love me."
Martha felt the tears starting to run down her cheeks. "Of course I do," she whispered. "You’re right here in my heart."
"Exactly," said the soft voice. "So it doesn’t matter if the nativity scene is missing some parts, or if the blue theme gets spoiled with some green, or if you have only six kinds of cookies instead of seven. As long as you know I’m in your heart, none of that matters."
Then, as they watched, the shimmering glow faded and disappeared.
Martha looked at her sister. "I’m sorry he didn’t have a message for you, Mary."
"That’s all right," Mary smiled, putting her arm around Martha’s shoulders. "It was your turn this time." Then she stepped back. "Martha, can I turn on the tree lights?"
"Sure," said Martha, wiping her eyes. Mary went over and plugged in the Christmas tree, and the living room burst into beautiful, colourful light.
"That looks wonderful," Mary said, surveying their cosy, festive room. "You sure do have a knack for making things look special, Martha."
The missing baby Jesus figure never did turn up. At first that still bothered Martha a little bit, but as time passed she no longer went searching for it. After Christmas was over she put the nativity scene away without regret, and the next year when she pulled the box out of the attic and set up the little stable and tiny figures, she reminded herself that Jesus was in her heart where he belonged.
They say that Martha changed a little over the years – that one year she actually let Mary choose their Christmas decorating theme. Mary selected "an unmatched Christmas," which Martha thought was a ridiculous theme; but she kept that opinion to herself. And one year, it’s said, Martha even made chocolate-chip shortbread instead of plain. It was, she had to admit, absolutely delicious.
* * * * *

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

blue coat bites dust

... or "bites snow" might be a more appropriate expression. Jonathan's been wearing the winter coat that his cousin Josh (who is now 18 and a 6-foot-7, 280-pound Holy Cross football player) wore when he was a little guy. On Monday, when it was -18 degrees, the zipper failed just as Jonathan's EA Joe was getting him ready for home time. His teacher, Miss Mardicis, found some safety pins to hold the front together -- and thank goodness, since our only other alternative would have been a bungee cord. How pathetic is THAT?

Jonathan now has a very cute new green puffy coat. I'm not going to throw the blue one out just yet, though. If Josh becomes famous it might be worth something ...

Monday, October 06, 2008

fall fun

Here are some nice shots from a beautiful fall weekend. Allison and her friend Athena enjoyed a play date Saturday afternoon, which included some serious bouncing on the trampoline (with Ducky and Big Quack).

Here are Allison and Aslan. Or more precisely, Allison and the lion statue at Macdonald Park. But it's a lot more fun to pretend it's Aslan.

"Have ball, will travel." Here's Jonathan adding even more colour to the beautiful flowers in Churchill Park.


Like, TOTALLY cool, dudes.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Birthday celebrations

Because we were on holidays in August, I neglected to commemorate Allison's birthday on this blog. Allison turned ten on August 4. Happy belated birthday to a beautiful, creative, funny girl!

Jonathan turned six today, September 8. Happy birthday to a silly, feisty, affectionate guy!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Back to school!

It was a beautiful day to go back to school! Today Allison started grade five at St. Joseph/St. Mary Catholic School. She has two new part-time teachers and looks forward to getting to know them.

Jonathan began grade one at Rideau Public School. Today was quite different from his first day last year, when he cried and screamed upon entering the classroom. Today he was a little clingy and a bit uncertain about his new classroom, but was very happy to see the familiar faces of the vice principal and his teacher (whom he had last year as well). The teacher said he walked right in to the class and sat expectantly on the carpet, so he remembered the routine very clearly from last year. He has a new E.A. but he spent some time with her last year as well, so everything seems quite comfortable.

It was a good day for all of us!

Friday, July 11, 2008

"School's out for the summer" ... NOT!

Sorry, Alice Cooper, but you're wrong about that. The school year may have wound to a close at the end of June, but for Jonathan, school is still going strong. For 3-1/2 weeks this month, Jonathan is attending the "Bridges" Summer School for Students With Developmental Disabilities. It is offered by the Catholic school board and is open to students in both the Catholic and public boards. It's held at Regiopolis-Notre Dame high school here in town, and runs from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday to Friday, from July 2-25.

We heard about this program from Jonathan's special needs worker at school and decided to enroll him. One stipulation is that each student who attends must be accompanied by a personal care worker who will help them with all the activities--sort of like an EA. So we asked our friend/neighbour Heather, who is a primary-school teacher who does mostly supply work, to be Jonathan's support worker.

She picks Jonathan up in her car every day and takes him to the program, and brings him home. They do lots of fun things together like go to the gym or walk on the track; they go on walks and special outings like bowling and to the park; they do crafts and puzzles and read books. Most of the other students in the program are teenagers, actually, but because their developmental levels are quite varied, Jonathan fits right in. He is apparently a very popular member of the group and is having a wonderful time.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Waterloo welcome

This weekend we also visited our friends the Hellingas in Waterloo: Lori, Bruce, Nathan, and Jonathan. It has been a long time since our two families got together, but with the Hellingas that never seems to matter; we feel comfortable right from the first moment. That's what being good friends is all about.

old London town

This past weekend we went to London, ON to visit Alan, Genevieve, and Sadie. Here are Allison and Jonathan enjoying time in the park with their cousin. Sadie seems to be having a great time too!

The wagon proved to be a great way to get around.

We visited the London Children's Museum, which has many different theme rooms such as outer space, the environment, and the Arctic. Here is Allison in the pioneer schoolhouse, doing a little light reading.

Jonathan, meanwhile, loved the recycling centre.

We also visited our friends the Smits in London. We hadn't seen them in a year and a half so it was great to catch up with them and see how much the kids have grown. Here are our kids with Hannah (8), Cody (5), and Olivia (11).

Thursday, June 19, 2008

simply marsh-velous

Today the nursery school had its year-end event: a trip to the conservation area marsh. The kids got little nets to dip into the water to collect various marshland creatures. Jonathan did very little actual dipping but had lots of fun!
(Photos by Meghan Wall)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Kindergarten Fun on the Farm

Today Jonathan's kindergarten class had a concert all about The Farm. Each child was a different animal, and they all sang songs like "Old MacDonald", "There Was a Farmer Had a Dog", and "Five Little Ducks." (See them quacking, above.) They also did "The Bird Dance".

Jonathan whispered his line: "I am a cow ... moo."

Here is Jonathan receiving his kindergarten diploma from his teacher, Kathy Mardicis.

And here he is after the concert, relaxing with his Educational Assistant, Pam Stewart.

Goodbye, Bayridge Nursery School

Yesterday was Jonathan's final day at Bayridge Nursery School. He has gone there for two years, and it has been a wonderful experience for him. He will certainly miss his two well-loved teachers, Laurie ...

and Janet.

Last night the Nursery School held its end-of-year concert. Jonathan was very nervous and refused to go and sit with his class, so he sat with us until the other class had finished their performance. When it came time for his class to perform, he got out of his seat, walked to the front alone, and crawled up on to the stage. We were so proud of him.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Jonathan's school year winds down

Yesterday I had a meeting at Jonathan's school with his teacher, the vice principal, and the special ed rep from the board--the same folks I met with in January. Jonathan's first school year is winding to a close and it has been a very good one. It's hard to believe it's almost exactly a year since I first ventured into Rideau School to enquire about registering him, and now he is almost finished kindergarten! We discussed his status for this fall, and it looks as if he will probably enter a Senior Kindergarten/Grade One combined class. That allows him to move up with his age-level peers yet still gives him more of a kindergarten environment. It also allows him to go to school full-time right from day one, whereas repeating kindergarten might mean he could only go half-time (if there were not enough kindergartners registered to make up two classes, which wouldn't be ascertained until mid-September). It will be a new challenge for Jonathan but the school will provide support for him and he can work on achieving his own individual goals.

writers' group

Last night we had the second meeting of our new writers' group. Three other women and I are going to meet biweekly to share our writing with one another and give each other feedback and encouragement. This was our first evening of reading aloud pieces of our own work. It was a bit intimidating at first but turned out to be a great experience. The stories were all so different but very interesting: one about a young man on a bus who is mistaken for Jesus by a little girl; one about a woman who has an imaginary love affair with a neighbour; one about three train travellers whose stories intertwine; and one about a blue cardigan sweater that falls into a series of different hands. We all got really excited about each other's stories, sharing our impressions and making suggestions. Most of all we got excited about getting back to our own writing! That's the solitary part--but the group provides motivation and inspiration.

Friday, May 23, 2008

old-fashioned fun

Allison's class went to Upper Canada Village yesterday. Here are some photos Rich took of the trip. Kids with calf ...

Allison with 2 carriages...

Allison working the hand pump...

Watching the sawgear at work ...

and enjoying a wagon ride with her classmates Monica and Karina.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Monday, April 28, 2008

Run Rich Run

This past weekend Rich went in 2 road races: a 10k on Saturday afternoon, and a half-marathon on Sunday. He came 3rd overall in the 10k. Then, after that nice little warmup, he ran his best time ever in the half-marathon, doing it in 1 hr 36 mins and coming 40th out of almost 300 runners. Here he is near the finish line of the half-marathon (large photo taken by me) and running through the rain in the 10k (photo taken by a friend on cellphone).
Way to go Rich!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

life's little ups and downs

We got a trampoline this week! Yippee!

fun with family

We've had lots of fun with company this past week. Here's Jonathan with Grandma ...

with Grandpa ...

Allison with her cousin Sadie...

and Jonathan with Sadie.