Thursday, 31 August 2017

Time Keeps Ticking

Well the new school year is almost upon us.  The kiddies look to Tuesday with one part lament for the passing of the summer mixed with one part excitement to see their friends again and kick-off another year of learning.

I realized today, that this will be the last year that my oldest is in the same school as one of her sisters until grade 12, six years from now.  At first I felt a little sad for the one being left behind only to realize that at least she still has our youngest to keep her company at their present school.  Whereas my oldest will be on her own, trailblazing into the great unknown that is middle-school and high school.  That takes guts and grit.

I mentioned it to my girls but was careful not to do it in a way that added too much gravity to the situation.  I mean, perhaps the feeling I infused this situation with is simply parental projection...maybe I'm a little uneasy with the notion of the girls growing up and striking out on their own.  Okay, alright...I know they're still a few years from disembarking the family ship, but each milestone, like this one, reminds me of how fleeting our time together is.  And quite frankly the milestones seem to clipping by a little faster each year.

I often go through my days without much thought to the temporal nature of familial situation.  When you're in the midst of the day-to-day busyness, struggles and joy it often seems like there is no end in sight.  Then you take a moment to pause, step back, look around and you suddenly realize that what's to come is actually less than what has been, at least in regards to time.

My hope is that what's to come is far greater than what has come and gone.  I hope it is filled with time well spent with one another and spent well on experiences that draw us closer together as a family.  I strive to make it count so that the girls never feel like they're going it alone regardless of the space between us.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Full House...Again

Cottage living is the perfect foil to the regimented pace of the rest of the year.  It is the ideal setting to create sun-drenched, slightly overexposed memories of lazy summer days; my girls more than willing actors emerse themselves in their summer roles, running, swimming, climbing trees (and anything else they can wrap their arms around), kayaking, jumping and bouncing, reading, day dreaming and just general summertime romping.  My wife is an eager enabler and has taken every opportunity to sneak away to the cottage to allow the girls to make the most of their respite from the rigours of the school year. 

Therefore I have had the unusual experience of being home alone more often than usual this summer as I stay behind to attend to the duties of the job.  Two conflicting reactions emerge:

1) I'm home alone! 

2) I'm home alone... 

There are benefits to being home alone.  I can eat the best looking piece of barbecued chicken - guilt free.  I can start working out at eight instead of ten and crank the music while I do (though I inevitably turn it down because I think it's too loud).  I watch movies with the volume turned up too loud (which I inevitably turn down as well...because I'm also free to turn it down as low as I want).  I can sleep in the middle of the bed snoring as loudly as I want or at least until I wake myself up.  Ah yes - these are the indulgences that are not to be taken for granted.

I enjoy being home alone...for about ten minutes, but then I get lonely.  I don't like eating dinner by myself even if I do get the choice cuts of meat.  I miss the silly questions that zing around the table and being regaled with the adventures of the day even if it comes with extra mess and constant negotiating over how much food needs to be eaten before one becomes eligible for dessert.  It's not the same watching a movie without being able to cuddle with my honeybun and it just doesn't feel right falling asleep and waking up to an empty house. 

It puts my mind at ease and fills my heart with joy knowing my house is full...full of what is most important to me. 

"Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth.  How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them."

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Oh Canada...How Do I Love Thee?

Oh do I love thee?  Let me count the ways...

1.  Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.

Often I think these freedoms are being misconstrued in our post-modern (or are we post-post now?) world of uber-secularism and hyper-rationalism.  Many take these freedoms to mean freedom from rather than freedom of the above.  This slight change of phrase has serious consequences.  Freedom of means that we are allowed to openly confess, discuss and be whatever we will be as long as it's done within the confines of civility and law...with gentleness and respect.  The lack of gentleness and respect by many participants in this and that cause of the past has lead many to wont for freedom from the above.  Meaning that whatever you want to believe or practice is okay within a private setting but, "I don't want to have your ideologies forced upon me thank you very much!  Keep it out of the public sphere!  Practice your religion at home!  What happens in the bedroom is your business!!"  And so on.  The problem is that is not real freedom.  I'm proud that I live in a country where we still have freedom least for now.  Even if I believe what you believe is foolishness or you think my reasoning is ludicrous we should still be able to believe, confess and express ourselves as we feel is right and appropriate - with gentleness and respect.

2.  Canada = Kanata = The Village
Noam Chomsky in the book Power Systems briefly describes the rise of unions and the role they played in establishing the contrasting health care models used by the United States and Canada.  He said, "In Canada the unions struggled for health care for the country.  In the United States, the struggled for health care for themselves...That's a reflection of different cultural values and institutional structures in two very similar countries."  

Later in the book he talks about the public education system, "Public education is based on the principle of solidarity.  So, for example, I had my children fifty years ago.  Nevertheless, I feel and I'm supposed to feel that I should pay taxes so that the kids across the street can go to school.  That's counter to the doctrine that you should just look after yourself and let everyone else fall by the wayside...[public education] builds up a sense of solidarity, community, mutual support."  

This idea of civic duty, looking out for one another and community is a core Canadian value that I hold dear.  Though we are a vast and sometimes disparate nation we are one big village that needs to stay together, work together and continue to look out for one another.  This sense of community is what has made Canada what it is today.

Freedom of and the sense of community and solidarity are complementary values.  Even if we hold very different personal beliefs and values than our neighbours, we can still be unified.  If we hold to strong community values we will ensure that we express ourselves in a way that does not offend our neighbours or encroach on their rights and freedoms.  Likewise we will also defend our neighbours' right to express themselves rather than ask them to keep all of that to themselves.  

The problem lies in the danger of moving towards a self-serving sense of entitlement rather than solidarity striving sense of shared space and community.  When we concede to thinking about our rights above all others, rather than considering our neighbours' rights equal to ours, then will lose what has made this country glorious and free.  

God [help us to] keep this land, glorious and free!
Happy Canada Day!!

Monday, 16 June 2014

The Days of Our Fathers

  What a wonderful Fathers Day weekend I just had.  The family and I spent the weekend at our church's camp on Silver Lake...well at least during the day.  At night we retreated to the comfort of the family cottage not too far away.

It was a perfect way to pass Fathers Day as it reminded me of past times spent with my father and grandfathers.  What better way to celebrate fatherhood than to pass on similar memories to my girls.  It's like a legacy of leisure that speaks to the things that are important and enjoyed by the generations that came before me.

My father-in-law is dedicated to his family more than anything else. He likes to say that the main reason he owns the cottage is for the children and grandchildren.  It is truly a blessing to have such a wonderful place to retreat to.

We went for a hike through the woods on Saturday - which always reminds me of Grampa Gideon (paternal grandfather).  I remember hiking with him on Manitoulin Island and him often having some interesting fact to share.  Like the one time he found some wild mint leaves growing, took some sap from a tree and made himself some gum.  I kid you not.  He was born in the forest up near James Bay and grew up in them so he was savvy to the ways of the woods.   My knowledge of the woods doesn't come close to my Grampa's, if I tried to make gum I'd probably choose the wrong type of leaf and give everyone a horrible rash on their mouths - not the memories I'm going for.  So I didn't pull out any cool tricks on my hike (unless you count getting to the end without running through a bunch of poison ivy a cool trick). However my enjoyment and appreciation of the woods and nature are on par with his and I'm glad my girls also seem to have a natural bond with the woods.

My Pappa's (maternal grandfather) main priority was always bent towards faith.  To that end I'm quite proud to carry on that heritage and raise my girls in an environment, surrounded by people of faith that encourage them to grow and experience faith in their own right.

These characteristics are not exclusive to my grandfathers; my Dad embodies them and in such a way has been a conduit bringing the past into the present and hopefully to see them live on into the future. My Dad has always been a fun-loving, out-doorsy, water-loving, family man of faith and in that regards  I believe I am cut from the same cloth.  I don't think I could count the hours spent outside (or at outdoors shows) mainly on or near a lake with my Dad.

I spent Sunday the way that I think my Dad would have liked to spend it.  Most of it was spent either in or on the water.  I was planning on going for a leisurely dip but that turned into a massive water fight with a bunch of kids (yes, I was probably the biggest kid there) - my girls were loving it.  Then my family took a canoe out for a nice whip around the lake.  It was perfect.

Nap time
Oh and the driving...yes my childhood reminiscing would not be complete without thinking about all the driving we did.  My Dad was born to drive and our trips always included an element of driving...for hours.  This was before any cool devices that could placate kids for hours existed aside from the radio and eventually tape players (I think my older sister got a walkman at one point which was amazing to us).  Yes our cool technology was mainly books, magazines and the great outdoors.

  We were constantly scanning, "keeping our eyes open" for any wildlife that we might see...


Can you spot the deer?

Well in that regards my Dad would have been proud.  In our 2 hour drive (30 minutes X 4) from the cottage to the church campground we saw: 2 turtles, 2 snakes, 2 raccoons, 2 vultures, 2 deer, a butterfly, a daddy-long-legs spider and the shaggiest husky you can imagine.  In addition we saw a few blue herons, fish galore, and a playful chipmunk.  For awhile there, we were seeing two of so many kinds of animals I thought I might have to start building ourselves a boat.  It was wild.

So that was our Fathers' Day weekend.  A celebration of the legacy and heritage passed down that make us Gideons and Paavolas the type of men and fathers we are...a celebration of the past and the present with an eye to the future.  May you have had a similar time!

We stopped on an old wooden bridge to take this.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

We do Judo!

We have finally finished up the hockey season and the girls have just started taking Judo lessons at the dojo down the street. I must confess that judo is a much more pleasant sport to have children in than hockey. I love hockey and I'm a proud Canadian but holy smokes its a commitment. The weird part about hockey in Ottawa is that there is really no non competitive leagues around. All leagues are set up with a rep like system with tournaments, travelling, and multiple games a week etc. I have no illusions about my kids sports carers they will likely, like 99% of players, end up just playing the sport for, well, sport. So when we signed the girls up for hockey a year or so ago I was hoping for a easygoing once a week shinny style type of hockey, after all they are only 5 and 8 years old.  Unfortunately here in Ottawa, where most hockey parents have good government jobs and plenty of disposable income, hockey is pretty full on regardless of the level of the players. Two overnight tournaments in two different cities, and several week day (during the day, like when people are you know, working) games later we are happy to be done.

So far Judo has been a happy alternative. The girls are often more engaged in the exercises during their lesson than they were in hockey as it is not so easy to hang back and watch at the dojo. Their teacher is a very soft spoken and calm Japanese lady who is the smallest thing I have ever seen. She also happens to be one of the best female martial arts experts in Canada and was a coach for the Olympic judo team for several years. Her family is also pretty impressive, with her two brothers competing at the Olympics and her sons winning dozens and dozens of martial arts competitions. The awards are so numerous that they have started to nail them to the ceiling at the dojo. So at least I know the girls are in good hands.

We are not sure what we will choose to do come winter. Hockey is a big part of Canadian culture and the girls for the most part enjoy playing. However our family really has a hard time managing the commitment of such an intense sport. If this is what house league hockey is like at 8 I shudder to think of what it will be at 12, 13, and so one. Plus we don't even have all our kids in yet. Mimi will one day join her sisters in what they are playing, as we tend to keep them doing the same thing  (mostly to cut costs).

If the girls continue to enjoy Judo through the summer we may sadly say goodbye to hockey, and just do pleasure skating at the outdoor arena near our house. At least if they continue with Judo in ten or so years I will have a gaggle of girls who can protect me in dark alley ways or at Ikea on Saturday mornings (it's just like Lord of the Flies at that time, I blame the Swedish meatballs there must be something addictive in them).

Judo Hug 

Judo Chop! 

Friday, 25 April 2014

Signs of Spring

We finally survived another Ottawa winter and spring has finally started indoors at least. Here are some of the plants we have on the go. Lex is are main horticulturalist around here and I do the flower bed construction outdoors.
beans starting


Bigger beans and broccoli