Monthly Archives: March 2007

The gifts of friends

The postman delivered a couple of gifts from friends lately. Last week we received a box of cocoa sent by a friend on the other side of the world who read of our difficulty in finding some to make chocolate icing, thank you. Yesterday, our former neighbour, who now lives on the other side of the country sent two pages of paper dolls to cut out. The dolls are from eight different countries and have two national costumes each from different time periods. A10 has already cut out quite a few and mounted them on cardboard. Thank you for continuing to think of us just as you did when we were right next door, we miss you.

In a week’s time a friend arrives from the other side of the world to stay for as long as we can keep her here. She and I have known each other since 1975, I can’t wait.

Today I am enjoying a birthday gift from a friend. I know my birthday is long gone, but the gift is today. The gift of a day. She said, “I have a gift for you that I have quite a bit of, but you do not. I will have your children for a day and you can spend the day however you wish.” Yesterday L12 mentioned that she thought her day (today) sounded more appealing than mine. After all, she would be spending the whole day with friends (and math books and violin) whereas I would be spending it alone. B6 was also a little surprised that I wanted to be by myself all day! But I think it is a wonderful gift and now I just need to narrow down the hundreds of possibilities into a few realistic ones and get going.

Continuing “Round the World”

As I had hoped B6 has a new enthusiasm for school since he became a world traveller. He has now visited Nunavut, Iceland, Scotland and is in the Netherlands as I write. Along side the Inuksuk on the window ledge is a Loch Ness monster. While he was in Scotland the girls and I were called in to participate in a Highland Games event, the Tug o’ War. Unfortunately B6 and I lost to the girls, twice! We tried to have a mini Caber Toss in the backyard but the wee caber tosser got dirt in his eyes and became quite distressed so the event was cancelled. A happier event by far was our lunch today, “Dutch Eggs and Cheese” which he prepared himself.

A pleasant part of our journey  is reading him the books I have gathered, both fiction and non-fiction. In Iceland we read the ridiculous tale The Backward Brothers see the Light which B6 found quite amusing. While in the Netherlands I read Boxes For Katje to him and we discussed the desperate need of the Dutch people after WWII. The book is based on the author’s mother’s experience and I thoroughly enjoyed both the story and illustrations. Another war story from Holland is The Greatest Skating Race which we began tonight.

End of the Spear

End of the Spear by Steve Saint provided new insights after our unit on Eco-tourism in Ecuador. The book barely mentions eco-tourism but Steve deals with more significant survival issues for the tribe of people a little deeper into the rainforest than those in our simulation game. Our game was based on the Quechua people, Steve’s lifetime association is with the Waodani people.

Years ago I read Shadow of the Almighty and Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot. She tells both the story of her husband’s life and the story of five missionaries, her husband among them, who were murdered by Waodani people (aka “Aucas”) in 1956. Steve Saint’s father was also one of those five missionaries. Like Elisabeth Elliot, Steve’s mother did not leave Ecuador after the death of her husband but stayed on and continued to work for the mission organisation. Steve’s aunt lived with the Waodani people and grew to love and be loved by them.

End of the Spear begins with Steve attending to the burial of his Aunt in the village where she had lived with the Waodani. He had also lived there with her, for some time as a young boy. I found it a little hard to follow initially as the story flips back and forth from Steve’s childhood time with the Waodani to his current life in the US and touches on other events in between. The further in I got the more the focus narrowed in on two issues. Steve was trying to piece together all he could about the events surrounding his father’s death. He was also trying to assess if and how he could help the Waodani

“…learn the skills and develop the economy necessary to take care of their own needs…”

In order to assist the Waodoni, Steve and his family lived with them for 18 months. An airstrip was built by Steve and local villagers. Steve and his sons then built a house for the family. The majority of his time was spent flying between villages each day.

My average flight was about eight minutes long. But to travel the equivalent amount I had that day with old BTS (his plane) would have taken two hours on the trail for every minute in the air. It would have taken about three or four Waodoni to carry the cargo I had delivered.

Naturally there were decisions that had to be made about which calls for help he would attend. Steve insisted that the Waodoni make these decisions and give him instructions. In a culture without a leadership structure this took some getting used to. When Steve’s time in Ecuador was drawing to a close the Waodoni realised that they wanted to not only continue to have access to a plane, but also be the owners and operators. Steve’s desire to help the Waodoni equip themselves motivated him to establish I-TEC on his return to the US.

It was intriguing to read of Steve’s experiences, hear his descriptions of the Waodoni’s lifestyle and the change in the lives of many who heard the gospel from Steve’s Aunt. The man who killed Steve’s father has become one of Steve’s dearest friends and is a surrogate grandfather to his children. Because such love exists between them they were finally able to discuss the events on Palm Beach where Steve’s dad was speared. Before becoming God followers the Waodoni would have assumed that Steve would make contact with them only so that he could have revenge for his father’s death.

The story does not end when Steve and his family return the US. Some of his Waodoni friends come to Florida and their reactions to all they see are both amusing and sobering. Steve continues to work with his friends to help indigenous tribes around the world learn new skills and obtain equipment. He also continues to tell the story his father set out to tell so many years ago. The story of salvation by the grace of God.


Now that the skis have been put away, the skipping ropes and goggles are out(but not at the same time). We have tidied up the basement floor so we can skip every day. B6 is the least experienced skipper but has increased his individual and large rope totals considerably in just a week. When the weather becomes a little drier we will probably skip outside, but for now the basement, with Toby Mac blaring, is just fine.

Friday afternoon skiing has been replaced by swimming. None of us had swum laps in quite a few months so it was good to be back in the pool. I managed to do 1050m in 25 minutes which I was pleased with after such a long break . L12 did a little more than that and A10 a little less so it was not a bad start.

In a few weeks the gloves and balls will be out  as Andrew and I have signed up to play softball again this summer with his work team.


Our chore list is, I guess, what you could call a rolling list. When it is chore time we just look on the list and see what is next. This way we don’t have to do the same chore every week. I also like it because if we have a busy week (if?) then the next week we just pick up where we left off.

Well, I was just dusting in the girl’s room, usually one of them does this. Both girls have beautiful fairytale dolls, with full skirts, on the dressing table . I picked up the dolls to dust the dressing table and found a stash of bits and pieces under the skirts, you know the kind of things which are just a pain to put away. They all go in a different drawer or box, it’s much easier to put them all in one place, like under a doll’s voluminous skirt for instance.

We have been discussing taking initiative in keeping things clean and tidy around the house. Does this count?

Round the World in Forty Days

School is not B6’s favourite thing at present. I believe there are other 6 year old boys who feel the same way. When the girls were around his age I remember we hit a bit of a slump with our school work as well so I invented a world travel unit. They had tickets to fly on our own family airlines, travel journals to fill and a world to discover. We recreated many famous landmarks in our own school room. Exotic foods and original crafts were tried.

I am attempting to capture B6’s interest by creating something similar. In the mailbox yesterday was a challenge. He has to travel round the world in forty days. He must visit at least 25 countries, travel by ten different modes of transportation and take pictures every where he goes. He might encounter danger, be captured or have to eat strange food.

I’m glad to say he accepted the challenge. As soon as he had filled out the requisite form he received a list of items he had to gather together before he could begin the challenge. A world map, pencil, eraser, travel journal, scissors, ruler, cell phone and binoculars were easy enough to find. Getting a passport took a little longer as did raising $500. Fortunately for him, his sister works at the passport office (actually she is the passport office) so by this morning he had a beautiful new passport. He earned his $500 doing chores around the home so he was ready to start. B6 believes that the letters and instructions are coming from me but as he doesn’t have any proof he has started saying that they are coming from “the community” and that I am part of “the community”.

His first assignment was in the mailbox today, a trip to Nunavut. Reluctantly he worked out what was written on the page. It was no use asking A10 and L12 to help, they were banned from reading it to him. After reading that he was going somewhere cold he had to list the clothes he would take; he drew them.img_2273crop.jpg I know that was clever of him, but I made him write the names anyway. After all, this is replacing his language work. I met him in Nunavut and showed him around, via books , then he built an inukshuk. His cellphone came in handy to book a hotel room for the night as he is yet to complete the whole assignment.



seabird2677.jpgHolling Clancy Holling’s books have a style of their own. While telling a story which spans generations, in Seabird, he has also given us a glimpse into the lives of whalers, sea captains, sailors and their families. There is history, geography, marine biology and ship building all woven into the story of a young Ship’s Boy. Ezra Brown is the ship’s boy on a whaling ship in 1832. During his watch, high in the crow’s nest one day, he is entranced by an ivory gull. The sudden, unexpected movements of the ivory gull trigger a memory which prompts him to shout,”Iceberg! Dead Ahead!” His warning saves the ship and a relationship begins.

Soon after his experience with the gull Ezra carves a model of one from walrus tusks with amber, slate, coral and whalebone for the details. He names the model Seabird. As we follow Ezra’s progress we see how his life stays linked with Seabird. Ezra becomes a captain and has a son, who also forms a bond with Seabird. And so the story goes on, spanning 100 years of adventurers in Ezra’s family.

Every second page in the book is a short chapter and the facing page is a painting. Around the text are small but detailed line drawings with notes for the reader. These line drawings give more detail to the story being told. Sometimes they provide background information describing how something was made or formed. There is often extra text around the pictures explaining a process or occurrence.

The book is short enough to read at one sitting but I would recommend doing what my son and I did and read it over a few weeks. I imagine we will probably read it again when he is older and he will glean even more from it than he did this time at age six.

Project Feederwatch

img_2223cropagain2.jpgAlexandra has been participating in Project Feederwatch this winter. Her designated area to watch is our backyard where we have two bird feeders and a suet basket hanging on our washing line. It is the only place we have found where the squirrels can’t help themselves. With three weeks to go and the weather warming up we might see a few more varieties.

She has seen:

downy woodpecker
song sparrow
dark-eyed juncos
American crows
a robin


More on dresses

I mentioned my Aunty Dot the other day as one of the three aunts who taught me to sew.  Aunty Dot had been a home economics teacher but was retired when I knew her. In me she found a willing student. It was in her kitchen that I learned how to make scones, always rubbing in the butter, never melting it. It was in her living room that I learned to sew, beginning with the dolls clothes and accessories I wanted to make . img_2256crop.jpgWe still have some of the clothes I made, under her supervision, for Barbie and Wendy. In amongst the clothes, also are those that she made, many of them works of art. There are reversible dresses, skirts and cloaks for Wendy. Beautifully sewn evening gowns, complete with strings of pearls, lined coats and suits, and frilly nightclothes were created for Barbie. At left are some of the clothes in just as good shape now as they were when I played with them 35 years ago.

She also made some lovely clothes for my mother and me. Yes, I still have some of them too. I don’t hoard everything, but an original item of clothing made out of a beautiful piece of fabric is hard to give away. And you never know, I just might find the right occasion to wear it one day.

Last May my own girls and some of their friends wanted to learn how to sew. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching them on Friday afternoons. There were looks of satisfaction on their faces as they completed each step and looks of disappointment when I told them that something needed to be redone. Perhaps I had similar looks on my face when my great aunt showed me how to unpick and try again. Never the less I’m glad she did.


When writing about the Group of Four acting out scenes from Romeo and Juliet the other day I didn’t mention a small detail which delighted me. The acting was great, they really stepped into their roles, they made their props and organised their costumes. The extra little bonus for me was seeing A10 and L12 in dresses I had made for myself many long years ago. These dresses are not worn by anyone at present but neither have they been relegated to “dress up box” status. They hang with the formal dresses from the wedding years.

img_2248crop.jpg L12 wore my 21st birthday dress. I designed it and made it out of white voile with lace inserts, pintucks and a blue sash to go round my waist. A10 wore the dress I made for my older brother’s wedding. It was violet and gold shot silk with lace inserts (yes I did like lace inserts) in the sleeves and a very full skirt which A10 spread dramatically about her on the couch as she acted. It was made from a dress which my great aunt had made herself. Aunty Dot was one of three aunts who taught and encouraged me to sew from an early age. The material is really quite beautiful, the light catches the violet, then the gold as the folds of the skirt move.

As I was describing the history of the two dresses to one of the other mothers she mentioned how she had slightly altered her mother’s 21st birthday dress to wear to her highschool graduation. I did exactly the same thing for my highschool formal. We still have that dress in the dress ups and it has been worn by many a “princess” or “bridesmaid”.