Saturday, 13 September 2014

Autumn - Beautiful Season, Exciting Times

With autumn colouring our world, I should try to keep up to speed on my blog as well - deck it to match the season. The killer frost that crept around during the night a few days ago, is a clear indication that our warm days are numbered. But at least we haven't had a snow storm here in Manitoba yet. Only Alberta has the distinction of being powdered with those pretty white particles almost every month of the year.

Some exciting things have happened in the last few weeks: We're back and school... yes, still settling in, trying to get ourselves organized, and the things-to-do list is growing. But still, it's good to be back!

My family has been hosting friends from Germany the last little while. It was great to see them experience Manitoba, or listen to their stories of all they'd taken in - and they saw a lot: Winnipeg, Portage la Prairie, Hamiota, Brandon, Riding Mountain, Swan River, Pelican Lake, The Pas, Dauphin, and the Peace Gardens at Boisevan. They were quite excited to be able to say they were in the USA, as part of those gardens stretch into that country.One day they also went into Sasketchewan, I think, just to say they were there - if only to take a few pictures with the sign.

A proud Marianne on her lofty perch.
 If you remember, when I was working on the German POW research project. My virtual path crossed with Lutz Beranek's, as he too was researching this era. His father had been a prisoner of war in Canada, and spent most of his time in Manitoba. So the purpose of this trip was for Lutz, his son, Marcel and sister, Marianne to visit the places where Lutz' dad had been stationed. I met Lutz and his wife last summer during my time in Hannover, Germany. We spent a weekend together and they made sure my birthday was a memorable one. It was great getting to know Marianne and Marcel now as well, and I was happy to return the hospitality I enjoyed while in Europe.

 Lutz, Marcel and Marianne were fascinated with our huge farm machinery, especially the combines and semi trucks. One day when we out on the field Lutz pointed out, "Our fields are not big enough for such big machines." They were very grateful to spend time on two Hutterite colonies and learn more about our way of life.
Marcel and Lutz trying out the combine

I have to share one of their adventures while traveling around Riding Mountain. They were touring the area with a guide, Michael O' Hagen, who's also involved in the German POW era. One day they came to a spot where a forest fire had left a lot of half burned trees. They wanted to get to the ridge beyond that forest, and would have to brush their way across debris and thick underbrush. Marianne opted to stay at the vehicle. At one trampled down area the guide pointed out that an elk must have slept there... not so long ago, as it was freshly trampled. They looked around, but saw no elk.

Meanwhile, Marianne was happily taking pictures of wildflowers in a meadow near the road where their car was parked. Once while bent over in an attempt to capture a little flower, she heard something behind. Thinking this was the men coming back, she wasn't alarmed at all. When she turned around, however, she froze. Not 15 feet from where she was, stood an elk. It stared at her for a few seconds and then ambled on. Then she remembered her camera, and as she was still shaken, she was unable to take a picture before the elk was back in the bush. At that point she also realized the car was locked. When she told us the story she laughed and said, "That's all I would have needed, if a bear had come along, and me not being able to get in the car." She was of course very excited to tell about her four-legged visitor, when the men came back a few minutes later. After that, Marianne made sure the car wasn't locked and the key was in her pocket, when the men decided to do a little side trip on foot.

Barbeque supper, or Grillfest  at my brother James' and Karen's house.
They really enjoyed beef, which they hardly have back home - too expensive.

Lutz summed up his trip like this: "My father enjoyed his stay in Manitoba immensely, deeming it as 'the best years of my life'. Now I know why, I'm enjoying it as much as my father did! This is like a dream come true! I don't know how we can ever thank all the poeple who hosted us, who have been so kind and helpful."

Thursday, 11 September 2014

A German Reading Series by Kathy Waldner


In many Hutterian schools, the primary text to teach reading has been the ABC Fuchs.   However, as teachers learned more about how children acquire reading and literacy skills, the need for a different reading series became apparent and aufdenWeg came into being. Each book is carefully written using story ideas and experiences that are relevant and engaging particularly for Hutterite children.  The story texts increase gradually in complexity in a child-friendly way. Illustrations and photos enhance the stories but are also a necessary support for early readers. (Excerpt from the Level 1 Teacher's Guide) 

The Teacher's Guide comes with helpful Blackline Masters for the activities used with this Series, songs and poems, assessments, resources and much more.

 The author of these books is my friend and colleague, Kathy Waldner, who lives and teaches at the Decker Hutterite Colony. 

I used the first level readers for part of last year. What is evident from the minute students lay eyes on the books, is their excitement to have books/readers with Hutterite characters. Which is understandable, as they can relate very well with them, and this is the first Hutterite reading series! My students were also in awe when I told them I know the author of these books very well. They never forgot to say 'written by Kathy Waldner', after reading the title. Of course, the students are young, but it seemed like they realized that this is something special. 

 My students were always eager to do the activities that go with each book: 
  • responding to the suggested questions, 
  • taking part in discussions, 
  • alphabet picture sorting,
  • interactive writing,
  • shared writing...
In this first level, the easy, repetitive text help students learn sight words in context, and quickly feel success with reading, and using them in their own speaking and writing. Each activity is explained thoroughly, and also why it's an important element in learning to read. The photos and illustrations are precious. (:Yes, I know I'm a tad biased as they are clearly Hutterite:) But they also do enhance the learning experience of the child, as they generate disccussions, besides helping the students read the words.

I'm looking forward to getting the second set and using it in class!

For more information on this reading series, click here.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

The Mysterious Autostadt Water Arches in Germany

 I love to reminisce about my Europe trip...

Walking around the Volkswagon automotive theme park, known as Autostadt, and located at Wolfsburg, Germany was a delightful experience. This was one of the places I saw while in Europe last summer. If you remember, in one of my Europe posts I told you about the twin Auto towers, which serve as Volkswagon showrooms. Unfortunately we couldn't go inside, as the lineup was too long  and admission fee too steep. So we visited the other showroom where I made myself comfortable in one of the snazzier models on the floor. I'm not really into cars...well, I'm grateful for them as they can make travel rather nice (We toured Europe in Das Auto), but I can't get really excited about cars, or any other vehicle for that matter. If they get me from point A to point B, that's all that matters.

Anyway, so my friend, Kathy and I were walking around this park, enjoying the sights and sounds of the place. There was a lot of water, with fountains or some kind of pump shooting water high into the air - sometimes rather unexpectedly, so you got sprayed a bit. But it was a warm enough day, so we didn't mind too much.

There were also gorgeous flowers along the walkways. It must have been the year of the hydrangea - where ever we saw them, they were a splendid spectacle.

As much fun as that whole day brought, my most delightful moment came, as we were standing in front of the white arches which were squirting water. We were some distance away, and were watching people walking through, and wonder of wonders, it seemed like they were not getting wet! "OK, what's the deal here," I wondered out loud, "Why are those people going through, not wet? Is this some kind of fake fountain?" Kathy found this rather funny and I guess it is, because is there such a thing as fake water?

"That's it." Kathy stated after watching this spectacle for a few minutes. "I'm going through. Here's my camera. Take  a picture." I couldn't wait to see this! I moved closer with Kathy's huge camera, but as she got closer to the arches I was so intent on watching her come out dry, I forgot about the fact that I was to capture the moment. Too late, I realized, that the moment that should have been frozen in time, was not. There are three arches and I could see that this water was for real, as soon as Kathy went through. She turned around, came back through the squirting arches. As she stood in total disbelief right in front of the arches and announced, "I'm wet!" Her face was absolutely priceless, like it was the most unbelievable concepts in all of Europe to get wet with water. And it was then I realized I hadn't taken the picture... Well, I did take one, but not the one I wanted. Somebody else should have taken a picture of the two of us laughing like hyenas.

We took a closer look at those mysterious arches and realized the two outside ones were squirting water to the left and the middle one was squirting water to the right. What we missed before, from our directly in front view, when people walked through, is that they were weaving their way through, going under the squirts at the sides, instead of right through the middle as Kathy had done. Had we looked at these arches from the angle in the picture, Kathy wouldn't have had to take that version of the 'bucket challenge'. But neither would we have had such a good laugh. Kathy was a real trooper for this one!

And when Kathy will send me the picture that I did manage to get, I will put it right here.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Back to School...Soon

Where has summer gone? In some ways it seems like yesterday when the holidays started, but in others, oddly enough, much longer. Most likely because there was so much going on in the last two months. Let's see:

  • cleaning the school 
  • waxing school floors
  • cooking and baking
  • preparing for a conference
  • gardening
  • sewing
  • spending time with family and friends
  • canning
  • writing
  • hosting the International of Hutterian Educators
  • reading, (not as much as I would have liked)
  • hosting friends from Germany
  • and preparing to resume classes   

Yes, a very full and satisfying summer, for sure. But next week, it's back to school. I chatted with a few of my students a few days ago; they seemed very excited about coming back to school. Moms always tell me, towards the middle of August, summer fun/free time loses some of it's lustre and children are eager for classes to resume. 

So, for those of you who are going back to school soon, I found this great quote for the start of the new school year. I actually picked it up at the conference I helped plan. Thanks Hutterian Brethren Book Centre!                                 

Friday, 22 August 2014

What Kept Me From Blogging:

In recent weeks, I`ve spent little to no time in the blog world, (but with good reasons) - I wasn`t visiting other blogs and certainly not writing on my own, other than a few posts here and there. Needless to say, I`ve miss it. I`m not going to promise that will change now, for I can`t, not yet, anyway... That`s right, classes start soon, so preparations for that takes priority. Plus, I`m expecting visitors from Germany in a few days.

I`m on summer break, well, if one can call it that. It`s a break away from classes, for sure. But this is summer on a colony, so there`s tons of work: cooking, baking, gardening, canning, berry picking....

Besides all that, I was part of the planning committee for the International Conference of Hutterian Educators, which took place in Winnipeg, Aug.13th - the 15th. This took up a good chunk of my time, but it was all very worthwhile. The conference was a huge success, getting rave reviews from those who were part of it! We had phenomenal keynote speakers, outstanding presenters, a variety of interesting vendors and many, many attendees: dedicated community leaders, teachers, parents and young people. I`m extremely grateful that so many took time from their busy summer to take in ICHE 2014! Here are a few photos to give you a glimpse of this great gathering at the beautiful Victoria Inn:

Our Artist in Residence, Victor Kleinsasser

           A storytelling session with Dora Maendel and Joe McLellen

Kent Julian, our final keynote speaker 

The Victoria Inn served the most fabulous food one could wish for at a conference! Every meal made you feel like you were royalty, being catered to by well-dressed, efficient and friendly waitresses and waiters. Sitting down at those beautifully set, round tables was a grand experience, every time!

Our gorgeous centre pieces, which matched our conference colours perfectly, came from Schapansky`s in Portage la Prairie - delivering them all the way to Winnipeg! These bouquets added an elegant and cheery look to the classy decor. 

When I had a few minutes during the past few months, I did some writing - I`m working on a book. But more on that at some later date. Its something I`m certainly very excited about and I can`t wait to tell you more, However, it will have to wait. So stay tuned!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Surviving Henry - Erin Taylor Young

About the Book:

Sometimes you seek out love. And sometimes it broadsides you.

You don't always know what you're getting into when you bring home a puppy. You hope for laughs and cuddles, long walks and a wagging tail. And sometimes you get . . . Henry.

Henry is a boxer who suffers from Supreme Dictator of the Universe Syndrome. He vandalizes his obedience school, leaps through windows, cheats death at every turn, and generally causes his long-suffering owner Erin Taylor Young to wonder what on earth she did wrong that God would send this dog to derail her life.

But this rogue torpedo of a dog wasn't sent to torment his owner--well, not just to torment her. Through all the hair-pulling and questioning of her own sanity, Erin learns something very powerful from Henry, a dog who brings new meaning to the concept of unconditional love.

Through his laugh-out-loud antics and jaw-dropping escapades, Henry will careen into your life and steal your heart. 

My Review:

Well, Henry didn't steal my least not in an I-want-a-dog-like-this kind of way. Because nothing could be further from the truth.  Just looking at the picture makes me think his name should be Trouble.

I chose to review this book because I love dogs, and because Ms. Young is a humor writer - good combination, I thought. I enjoyed reading about all the mischievous antics this dog got into, embellished by the author's wit. The whole time I was wondering why someone would want to not only keep him, but write a whole book about him. Only a person with undying puppy love could have this kind of patience and dogged devotion. What I found extremely hilarious was the fact that the family used German commands for Henry; the K9 University Henry attended (Yes, seems like there is such a thing) suggested 'German-based commands in case you want to have your dog trained in personal protection. That way your dog responds to words a potential attacker won't know.' Makes sense, however, Henry ain't no guard dog, and never will be. University or not, he never did learn the meaning of, Heel - Foose, (not my spelling), Down - Platz, in German or English.

'Next week they teach the Lie Down session. Total catastrophe. Well, for us. Everyone else's dog gets it figured out. It's not a hard concept when you're wearing a choke collar. You lie down, you get to breathe. Not Henry... Nothing like having your own melodrama in front of a class of calm, recumbent dogs.'

If you have a dog lover in your life, this would be the ideal bone to throw their way!


Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Snapshot Muse # 24 - Geh' aus mein Herz und suche Freud'

I love summer, because of the flowers! And I know I don't take enough time to just walk around our colony to admire them all. With a camera, of course. Maybe this evening will work.

I'm just a tad sad right now about my four beautiful pots of bubble gum waves at the school. Someone was spraying the crushed rock for weeds, where the planters stand and killed all four. Right when they were at their loveliest. It took me a few days to finally let go, and realize there was just one thing left to do with them - send them to the compost grounds. Never even got a chance to take pictures of them.

Oh well, such is life...and death. And we still have many, many more lovely flowers around. So I will try to forget these, forgive the person who sprayed and celebrate the plants we can still enjoy for at least another two month. My colony is blessed with quite a few avid gardeners, and I love to listen to their flower stories - sometimes it seems like they're talking about their children.

My song for this post is one by Paul Gerhardt and is one of my favourite summer songs, Geh' aus mein Herz und suche Freud: