Thursday, 7 December 2017

Christmas Comes Early

Christmas often brings unexpected surprises - some come wrapped in pretty paper, ribbons and bows. Others aren't wrapped at all and may come in some old reused cardboard box. No matter the shape, size, content, or even if the surprise was meant as a Christmas gift or not, they always bring smiles or even squeals of delight. Our super-lovely surprise this week came in two big cardboard boxes. 

With the wind howling a subzero song, I settled down for a hot cup of tea during recess. I was reading phone messages and saw one was from one of the dads on our colony:
"Someone gave me some German and English books and games. Would the Brennan school teachers be interested in them? They're for younger children."
Books always excite me, so I replied, "Sure. Thank You." I thought that they were probably books that his children no longer wanted. It's always nice to get books, even second-hand ones. And if they're German ones, that's even better. It's rare to be given German books and as everybody who's ever bought any knows, they're expensive in Canada, because they're all shipped here from Germany or some other German-speaking country. With all that playing in my mind, I was looking forward to seeing the books we were offered.

I didn't have to wait for long. The guy who sent the message brought them to the school. I asked him to leave them in my classroom. As luck would have it, I didn't have time to dig into the two boxes right away. However, just a glimpse at those open boxes told me these were not second-hand books! I was tempted to dismiss my seven Kindergartners early, just so I could unpack the books right away. Restraint prevailed, and during the next forty-five
minutes, while we were working on alphabet activities, my eyes kept drifting to the treasure chests of books waiting for me. It was like waiting to open the presents under the tree as a seven year old, with the afternoon and evening dragging on forever.

Finally it was time to dismiss my students and I was able to unpacked the treasures. I don't know what I'll get to unwrap on Christmas Eve, but I don't think it will be as exciting as this.
Naturally I unpacked the German books first. Never before have so many beautiful, brand new German books found their way into my classroom in one day! I didn't squeal, but I certainly felt like it! Not one of them is a duplicate of the books already in our library. All of them are gorgeous picture books. Some have a puzzle on each page, some are flap books. Others have wheels to turn to reveal pictures. Board books, hard and soft cover books. A wonderfully varied collection - fifty-eight in all!

The second box had English books, games and puzzles. Most of these items were new as well. Even though we have some of the lovely books in our library, we're very grateful for them. I know they will all be put to good use, perhaps as prizes or birthday gifts for students. No question, the games and puzzles will be enjoyed by our students for years to come, as well.

Yes, Christmas came early - just after the first of Advent, actually. Even though the guy who gave them to us didn't give them as an actual Christmas present, they were certainly received as such. I have all the books sitting on a table in my classroom, for another few days anyway. So you can imagine how hard it is to keep the students from taking them. But, of course I want to stamp them first, so as not to lose any of them. Hopefully, I'll be able to fit that in over the Christmas break.

In the meantime, I have a thank you letter to write.


Sunday, 26 November 2017

Watching our Amaryllis Grow...

and wondering if we'll have lovely flowers for Christmas.

Just like last year at this time, my Kindergarten class is watching an amaryllis grow. It's the very same plant I had last year, as I learned how to take care of it over the summer and it worked! You can read about its summer splendour here. Because it bloomed in August, I wasn't sure if we'll see any flowers around Christmas.

Last year I had three boys in Kindergarten, this year it's three boys again, but also four girls. A happy, lively and eager-to-learn bunch, who are keeping me on my toes. It seems none of them have ever seen an amaryllis, but perhaps seeing it in bloom will jog their memory. In any case, we're making some delightful green-and-growing memories now. And learning about taking care of plants at the same time.

This group also each got a tree or shrub to plant in spring; in preparation for our the fall when we were planning to start the school year with a tree unit. They helped their parents plant and take care of it, and remembered to take pictures to share with their peers. I was also planning on creating a book with their photos. Our Trees and Shrubs is complete and will be enjoyed for years to come, along with all the other tree unit books we've made over the years. I heard so many exciting tree stories the first few months of school! The wonder of watching things grow through the eyes of young children is delightful! Every time. Of course, there's wonder in every plant, but even more so seeing it through the eyes of a child.

But, back to our amaryllis. I can't wait to see those seven excited little faces tomorrow, because the stalk has grown quite a bit since we measured it last Thursday. They also enjoyed predicting what colour the flowers will be. Some will be happy to learn their guess was correct.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Yesteryear Treasures - pretty re-purposed paint pails

Things were different back then. Since money was often tight, people tended to make-do with what they had, instead of going out and buying it. It's almost like they lived by this New England proverb as a mantra: Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.

Do you know someone who took the time to re-purpose pails? Syrup pails, paint pails, any kind of pail, really. I had a grandma who couldn't see a perfectly good pail go to the nuisance ground, so she gave them a new life. She turned paint pails into practical works of art. Grandpa must have helped her cut off the top ridge. Finally grandma added her own creative touch: After applying a coat of paint to the outside of the pail and allowing it to dry, she added the pretty floral design. These pails were used as knitting 'baskets' or to store stuff in.

The pail featured here is one my Grandma Anna gave to my Grandma Susie. She used it as a knitting basket for many years. After she passed away, my aunt had it for a while. I'm not sure what she used it for, I'm guessing for some hobby like crocheting. Then it was passed on to my sister, Joanne, who uses it for knitting, just like grandma did.

There's something to be said about reusing things, instead of going out and buying them. I know, with places like Dollorama we all seem to think it's not necessary. But now and then we should borrow a page from our grandparents and let our creativity go wild with re-purposing something you are tempted to throw out.

When I see grandma's pretty pail, it reminds of a book we had in our school years ago: Syrup Pails and Gopher Tails: Memories of the One-Room School. During those one-room schooldays, children brought their lunches to school in syrup pails. Does syrup ever come in pails nowadays?

How about you, any syrup pail tales in your family? I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Up in Flames

As we woke this morning the smell of burnt rubber still lingered in the air, and the charred remains of a Maple Leaf feed truck were a grim reminder of what jolted us out of our beds in the wee hours of the morning. But it's not like we needed any reminders.

It's not unusual for a truck to deliver pig feed during the night. Most of the time however, they unload and leave without incident. Last night was different. As the driver moved from one bin to the next, he had left his auger up. He promptly had a hydro line reminding him loud and clear that wasn't wise. Fortunately he was able to jump from the truck and came away unhurt. His truck started burning soon after. Since his phone was in the truck, he had to run to one of the homes for help. In short order many adults were at the site watching in helpless disbelieve while that big truck was engulfed in flames. There wasn't anything they could do right away since a power line was down.

Photo credit: Sonia Maendel

Clean Up !    Photo Credit Sonia Maendel

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Lake Agazzi, The Rise and Demise of the World's Greated Lake - Bill Redekop.

Long time Winnipeg Free Press columnist, Bill Redekop, has just released another book. "It is a story not well known even though Manitoba was at its centre," writes the author. "Although the lake also stretched into Saskatchewan and Ontario, as well as the Dakotas and Minnesota. It was that large." 

I haven't seen the book yet, but I have it on my 'to read' list. I was wondering if this was something schools would be interested in and asked Bill. Here's his response:  "I would love to see it in schools. In fact, the book points out field trip-worthy sites to see the former beach ridges, or paleoshorelines, of glacial Lake Agassiz. It also talks about the large animals that walked the shores of Lake Agassiz, including woolly mammoths, mastodons and short-faced bear. 

I offered Bill to help promote his book: Should anybody wish to attend, McNally Robinson in Winnipeg is hosting a book launch. For more info about the book and the author, click here.


Tuesday, 17 October 2017

While Strolling Along in the Country

Today was a gorgeous fall day, perfect for an after school stroll. Fortunately, I had my phone with me to capture some of the gorgeous scenes. No words necessary. Enjoy!


Saturday, 14 October 2017

Would I be Willing to do a Live Radio Interview?

Perhaps, if it's for a good cause.

(My apologies about the links in this post, which for whatever reason are hardly noticeable. And I don't know how to fix that. Look closely for the words which that are just a touch different than the rest of the text.)

I've learned over the years that one never knows down which roads your musings will travel, and what will bounce back at you.

When I started working on the post 'There are None so Blind', I didn't have any lofty plans for it; just this blog post. However, while I was writing, I needed answers to certain questions. For example, why are the wait lists for corneal transplants so long. The best person to answer that would be my ophthalmologist, Dr. Rocha, who also happens to be the President of the Canadian Ophthalmological Society (COS).

I found out there was no short answer for this question, so my article ended up being longer than I first anticipated. I was also fascinated with the information from Dr. Rocha, and read various articles on this topic online. Information I thought would be interesting for other people as well. When I finished writing, I asked Dr. Rocha if he'd have time to edit it, as I wanted my article to be accurate. He kindly obliged and asked if he can share it with the COS. I had no problem with that, because by that time I'd learned so much about tissue donations and the lack of awareness so felt that it's a message that needs to be widely spread.

Shortly after, Courtny Vaz, COS Coordinator, Communications and Public Affairs contacted me asking for permission to post my article on their website, See the Possibilities. She also wanted to know, with World Sight Day on October the 12th, if I'd be OK if she'd share my article with the media, should anybody be interested. I chuckled , thinking nothing will happen, but gave my consent. 

Then I got an email from Fontane Choi, who's with a PR agency working with the Canadian Ophthalmological Society. She wanted to know if I would be willing to do a live interview with Mike Ross and Joeita Gupta at Accessible Media Inc. in Toronto. Live? I've never done a live interview before. I guess my nothing-will-happen chuckle was short-lived. To say I wasn't nervous about a live interview would be an outright lie. I never like to be on the air, live or taped. Period. So my first instinct was to decline. However, I thought about this for a few minutes and decided I wanted to help spread the message about organ and tissue donation, which is the whole point to my article, and agreed to the interview. This is worth venturing out of my comfort zone for. Plus, it's going to be just a short ten minute interview. Hopefully I won't have to bumble my way through it. 

October 12, World Sight Day, I was going to be on air together with Dr. Phil Hooper, an ophthalmologist in London, Ontario. I liked that part, that way I won't have to talk so much. You can listen to it here: Live From Studio 5. Click on 'Receiving a Corneal Transplant'. If you don't have iTunes on your device, you'll have to first download it; the link to the free download is right there at the top of the Live from Studio 5 page. (UPDATE: Apparently the podcasts don't stay up very long, so you can't listen to it anymore. So sorry.)

That same morning Fontane Choi emailed and asked if I'd be willing to do another interview that day, this time with Global News. Oh. My. Word. What did I get myself into? Okay, so twice in one day I crawled out of my comfort zone, in the name of spreading an important message. But this time it was a taped interview - somewhat easier. You can read this one here. Both interviews went well, though.

My sincere thanks to Dr. Rocha, Courtny Vaz and Fontane Choi for sharing my article. It was a pleasure working with you! I appreciate all your help!

You too, can help spread this important message by sharing the above mentioned article, There are None so Blind via Email, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, or any other way you'd like. Some of these are made fairly easy at the bottom of this blog post. Who knows, perhaps because of your sharing it, some future organ or tissue recipient will be grateful.