Friday, June 28, 2013

Go long! Go deep! Get open!


Yesterday was the last day of school.  We were pleased to  be invited to attend Rideau Public School's final assembly of the year and see Jonathan's Educational Assistant, "Mr. O," receive an Outstanding Service award from the school board.  When he went up to accept the award he said that, like the Grinch, his heart had just grown three sizes!

His award was not just for his work with Jonathan, of course -- he's had a long career working at several different schools -- but that's the aspect that means the most to our family.  Mr. O's patience and dedication have been a huge part of Jonathan's success at school.  (And no, Mr. O's not retiring.  Whew!)

And then there's "Mr. Yan," another EA who was new to Rideau this year and has become one of Jonathan's best buddies at school.  Unfortunately for Mr. Yan, it was usually on his watch that Jonathan would start acting silly and running into the girls' bathroom (which led to consistent consequences such as no yellow-blue-red) -- but they still had some great times having lunch together and doing exercise.  Mr. Yan introduced Jonathan to such sports phrases as "Go long!"  "Go deep!" and "Get open!"

Thank you  to Mr. O, Mr. Yan, 
and all the other great staff at Rideau.  
See you in September!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday morsel: "every detail of our lives"

I've recently discovered a Christian blog called Not Alone: Where Special Parents Find Community.  I've been enjoying the posts I've read so far and will definitely be returning there to find insight and support for my calling as a parent of kids with special needs.

One recent post talked about the fruit of the Spirit as described in the book of Galatians in the Bible, and quoted a passage from the Message paraphrase.  I understood what the writer meant when she described these verses as a summary of how to parent "the special needs way" -- even though I realize it has a much broader application than that.  But especially I like the passage because it emphasizes the joy that life holds in spite of (even alongside) the challenges.  So I'm sharing it here as my quote for the week.

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. ...

Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.

- Galatians 5:22-23, 25-26, The Message

Monday, June 17, 2013

Monday morsel: "ideas, impulses, proverbs, and plots"

From the book I'm currently reading:  The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap by Wendy Welch:

"I remember as a very young child being warned that libraries and bookstores were quiet places where noise wasn't allowed.  here was yet another thing the adults had gotten wrong, for these book houses pulsed with sounds; they just weren't noisy.  The books hummed.  The collective noise they made was like riding on a large boat where the motor's steady thrum and tickle vibrated below one's sneakers, ignorable until you listened, then omnipresent and relentless, the sound that carried you forward.  Each book brimmed with noises it wanted to make inside your head the moment you opened it; only the shut covers prevented it from shouting ideas, impulses, proverbs, and plots into that sterile silence.  What an enigma (a word my young self wouldn't know for years) that such a false sense of quietude should be imposed on this obviously noisy place."

I like the idea of a bookstore full of books that hum; that doesn't seem at all unlikely, considering I know of a bookstore where the books dance the night away.  Visit it here.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to my dad!  Love from me, Richard, 
and the two punkins!

Friday, June 14, 2013

read it, reading it, will read it

This post is linked up to Modern Mrs. Darcy's June "Twitterature" post, in which she shares short reviews of books she's read. 

I've just finished ...


 ... Booked:  Literature in the Soul of Me by Karen Swallow Prior.  In this book the author talks about the significance of books in her life journey and how particular books (from Charlotte's Web to Jane Eyre to Gulliver's Travels, and more) shaped her family, her faith, and her soul.  This book could have used more editing to eliminate repetition and some truly cringeworthy typos (I know, I'm probably overly picky about that stuff); but that ultimately didn't diminish my enjoyment of Swallow Prior's reflections, mainly because she's an honest and thoughtful writer and because she went into such depth in discussing the books and their impact on her.

I'm currently reading ...

... The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap by Wendy Welch.  (Richard surprised me with this book for our anniversary on Sunday; we don't usually exchange gifts, so this was an unexpected treat.)  Welch and her husband Jack Beck left the fast lane and moved to Big Stone Gap, Virginia, to realize their dream of opening a used bookstore.  This book tells of their experience making friends, making mistakes, and making a home for themselves and their customers in a small town.  So far I'm loving it:  it's funny, touching, and quite informative about the world of book sales as well.

Next I'll read ...

... Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin.  I haven't read Rubin's first and more famous book, The Happiness Project, but I've read her magazine columns so I have some sense of where she is coming from, and I enjoy her reflections.  This book caught my eye at the library, maybe because I'm a homebody.  (Whether that's what the book is actually about or not, I'm not sure, but I'm looking forward to finding out!)

deja vu

Wednesday was a perfect nearly-summer day:  sunny, warm, and breezy, especially lovely after days of cloud and heavy rain.  I was on the deck hanging laundry and trying to decide whether I'd walk to the library to pick up Jonathan's holds before lunch, or wait till after.

The fire and ambulance stations are just over on the next street, so when I heard a siren flare up and glimpsed a blur of flashing lights through the trees, I didn't give it much more thought than I would usually give something that happens many times a day.

Then the phone rang.  I stepped inside to answer it, thinking, "That'll be Rich"; when he's working he always calls at least once to check in and see how things are at home.

Instead, it was a teacher from Jonathan's school -- but, strangely, his former teacher, not his current one.  I knew there was only one reason another staff member would be calling me.  "Jonathan is having a seizure," she said.  "We've called 911."

As I ran to the car and made the quick two-minute drive to the school, I had this strange feeling of deja vu, considering the same thing had happened almost exactly a month ago, at almost the identical time of day.  I drove up to the curb, parking in the wrong direction, then ran across the school's front lawn, my shoes squishing in the wet grass, and up the front steps. The teacher who had phoned met me in the lobby and said Jonathan was in his classroom.  I went up and the hallway was silent, and all classroom doors were closed.  Inside the classroom Jonathan was sitting on a chair in the corner with Yan (the educational assistant who looks after him when "Mr. O" is absent) and a paramedic, who had put an oxygen mask on Jonathan and was pricking his finger to get his blood sugar level.  Jonathan's teacher and the vice principal were also there.

When Jonathan saw me he made a sound of recognition and then yanked the oxygen mask off.  I sat down beside him and he said, "Sad hiding," which is a reference to one of our peekaboo games.  This showed that he was coming out of the seizure.  As with the last episode of a month ago, Jonathan had been acting totally normally and then drifted into an unresponsive state that lasted about ten minutes; then he slowly came out of it, looked around, and started talking and making huge yawns.

The paramedic got my written permission to waive the option of taking Jonathan to the hospital, and he and the other paramedics and firefighters who'd arrived afterward left the school.  We sat for a while talking and letting Jonathan get his bearings once again.

As has been the case ever since Jonathan started at Rideau Public School nearly six years ago, I felt overwhelming gratitude for the support we receive there.  His teacher talked about how concerned his classmates were and asked for my permission to tell them more about Jonathan's seizures so that they would understand what was happening.  The vice principal, who has only been at the school for a couple of months, was calm and reassuring.  And "Mr. Yan" sat with Jonathan, talked to him, encouraged him, and helped me take him out to the car when he was steady enough on his feet.  I knew this was more than just a day at work for the staff; they truly care about Jonathan and make every effort to make his time at school happy and safe.  These episodes have been rare, thankfully, but every time they've happened I've come away grateful that Jonathan has such a supportive environment to learn and grow.

I took Jonathan home and he slept on the couch for about an hour.  While he napped, I called his doctor and left a message saying that he had had two episodes since his last appointment and asking her to let us know what our next step might be.  (I'm still waiting to hear back from her.)

After his nap, Jonathan woke up and was quite disappointed to learn that he would have to wait until the next day to return to school.  Yesterday he was eager to get back and entered the schoolyard excitedly.  Once again Mr. O was absent, so Jonathan went happily up to "Mr. Yan" to greet him, then headed off to the yellow-blue-red to take a few shots before the bell.  I left with a feeling that no matter what happened, he was in good hands.  Another day of learning was about to begin.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Monday morsel: "Do it again"

 My church women's group is studying Beth Moore's Believing God, and last week's chapter included the quotation below from G.K. Chesterton. It was meaningful to me because I find that life can be so much "same same," as Jonathan would say.  We hear so much about God being a God of dramatic miracles and transformation that I can't help wondering at times:  is a life of "same same" really His will? But here Chesterton speculates, in his unique and imaginative way, that God may truly enjoy sameness and repetition and routine. 

"Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, 'Do it again'; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, 'Do it again' to the sun; and every evening, 'Do it again' to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we."
 - G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Thursday, June 06, 2013


Lately I've been observing someone whom I admire and want to be like ... but I'm not going to tell you who!  Read this description and you 'll see why I like her -- and maybe you'll figure out who she is.

She is fictional, but not in a book.

She has a position of authority, but she also serves.  She knows her place and accepts it willingly.

She is respected both by those she serves and by those under her.

She is thoughtful and considers all sides of an issue before she acts.

She is not afraid to say what needs to be said.

She doesn't wear her heart on her sleeve, but she can be very compassionate, often showing kindness to those who haven't received it from others.

Unlike her closest co-worker, who sometimes displays an exalted sense of personal importance and an idealism that may not fit the real world, she is humble and practical.

She is Scottish -- always a good thing!

Have you guessed yet?  Click here to find out her identity.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

days of small things

It's June, and the rest of the school year is now measurable in weeks (4), not months.  By the end of this month, Allison will have one year of high school under her belt.  Jonathan will get his report card and Individual Education Plan at year-end, and we'll be able to look back at his goals and see what progress he's made toward achieving them.

As I look back on my own life since September, it strikes me that I have not really achieved any major goals -- although maybe that's because I didn't set any.  I didn't go any farther than an hour from home; I didn't stay away anywhere overnight; I didn't attend any conferences or go to any inspirational talks; I didn't take any courses.  It's hard to see any significant accomplishments beyond the everyday, relatively small things.  I did mark over 200 assignments, walk to and from the school nearly 200 times, make about 400 school lunches and 300 family suppers, and do 100+ loads of laundry.  I read more than 20 books.  I wrote two poems and rewrote a few others.  I sent several pieces of my writing out to literary journals and received rejections on all of them.  I revised several chapters of the tween novel I'm working on ... but I still have as many as five more chapters to write from scratch.

One thing I did make progress on since September, however, is this blog.  In that time I've written 98 entries, the vast majority of those being since December, in fact.  When I decided to write an Advent blog series in which I would reflect on a favourite Christmas carol each day, the enjoyment I got from that sparked a desire to write more, and oftener.  I also started exploring other blogs, which opened up a whole new world and has led to some very satisfying online contacts, even friendships.  My own readership is still pretty small and my commenter-ship even smaller, but I'm trying not to worry about numbers and just focus on sharing reflections about things I've read, what's happening with the kids ... just the ordinary stuff of my not-very-exciting life.

The thing I've come to realize from reading other people's blogs, though, is that even not-so-exciting lives are actually pretty interesting.  I enjoy reading what one person bought her kids for Christmas, what another preached about last Sunday, what another discovered while listening to her daughter's prayers. When other writers reveal their challenges, their humbling moments, and their glimpses of grace, I feel with them and sense that what they're sharing is for me, too.

In the Bible, God told Zechariah not to "despise the day of small things":  a reminder that God completes what He starts and has a purpose in even the simplest and most mundane aspects of life.  So I'm happy to have rejuvenated my own writing life and, in the process, entered into the lives of many other writers who are walking the path set out for them and sharing their insights -- small and great -- from that journey.

photo Jeannie Prinsen June 2013

Monday, June 03, 2013

Monday morsels: "truth triumphs"

So far 2013 has been a great year for reading.  I've been enjoying two books lately.  One is Barbara Kingsolver's book of essays entitled High Tide in Tucson.  (We discussed two of her essays for our book study group, which is why I read the book in the first place.)  The other is Karen Swallow Prior's Booked:  Literature in the Soul of Me, which tells about her journey through books that shaped her life at different stages, from Charlotte's Web to Jane Eyre and more.  (I heard about this book through many of my blogger friends and knew it was a must-read; so far it's wonderful.)

Interestingly, almost on the same day, I read a passage in each book about the importance of letting children read widely and not censoring their reading.  (Swallow Prior uses John Milton's phrase "books should be promiscuously read" to characterize this type of free, indiscriminate reading.)  I appreciated these comments because I know my love of books was enhanced by the fact that I was allowed to read whatever I liked, from Archie comics and Tom Swift books to Lucy Maud Montgomery and S.E. Hinton and Judy Blume and .... the list goes on.  In fact, after reading these passages, I am now almost not embarrassed about how many Harlequin Romances I read while babysitting.  Almost.


"Now that I am a parent myself, I'm sympathetic to the longing for some control over what children read, or watch, or do.  Our protectiveness is a deeply loving and deeply misguided effort to keep our kids inside the bounds of what we know is safe and right.  Sure, I want to train my child to goodness.  But unless I can invoke amnesia to blot out my own past, I have to see it's impossible to keep her inside the world I came up in.  That world rolls on, and you can't step in the same river twice.  The things that prepared me for life are not the same things that will move my own child into adulthood .... If there is a danger in ... the works of ... authors who've been banned at one time or another, the danger is generally that they will broaden our experience and blend us more deeply with our fellow humans.  Sometimes this makes waves."
- Barbara Kingsolver, "How Mr. Dewey Decimal Saved My Life"
High Tide in Tucson (pp. 50-51)


"It seems to me to be an entirely negative, not to mention ineffective, strategy to shield children from reality rather than actively expose them to the sort of truth that emerges organically from the give-and-take of weighing and reckoning competing ideas against one another.  Discovering truth is a process that occurs over time, more fully with each idea or book that gets added to the equation.  Sure, many of the books I read in my youth filled my head with silly notions and downright lies that I mistook for truth, but only until I read something else that exposed the lie for what it was .... Milton argued passionately in his treatise [Areopagitica] that the best way to counteract falsehood is not by suppressing it, but by countering it with truth.  The essence of Milton's argument is that truth is stronger than falsehood; falsehood prevails through the suppression of countering ideas, but truth triumphs in a free and open exchange that allows truth to shine."
- Karen Swallow Prior, Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me (pp. 14, 19)