15th Anniversary of the beginning of Harry? I suddenly feel very old and melancholy.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

15 years ago the J.K. Rowling released the first of her epic series of Harry Potter Books. I know the first one as Harry and the Philosopher’s Stone, the Americans know it to be the Sorcerer’s Stone. Why? I don’t know, something to do with it being more marketable in the USA. I HATE it when they do that to books.Publishers did it with The Book of Negroes in the rest of the world and Someone knows my Name in the USA. Anyways…

I became a Harry Potter fan by accident. I needed to find a story book to engage my young son in so he would want to become a reader. Books that girls would like to read seemed easier to find. I picked up this book in the Scholastic Book Club Flyer and decided it would be the bed-time story for the next few weeks. By the time we had caught up on the series, we were waiting for The Goblet of Fire to come out. We dressed up and went to the book launch at the local book store, picked up the book and went home. I read the first chapter to him for bed-time as was our usual routine. I then took the book to MY room and finished reading by 4:00 AM. This became a trend for me. Taking the book and reading it in one go, then preceding to read it my son.

By the time we had reached the (near) end of the series, my son was reading novels on his own. He preferred adventure stories but would never read Harry Potter on his own, that was reserved for me. He would watch me read the book through with tears rolling down my face, or so caught up in adventure I couldn’t hear what was going on around me. The advantage to reading first was I knew when a good time to stop the book for the night. Chapters aren’t always a good break in the story.

Rowling isn’t the worlds greatest literary author, but who cares. She made children readers because they finally understood that a book can transport you away to another time and place and lets you spend time with characters who might resemble you and your friends. Better yet, they might show flaws that make you feel normal. I knew Harry had an impact on my son when, as a 16 year old, he came home from a School Trip to California sporting a wand, 11 inches long, made of holly and had a phoenix feather core. It made me smile. The movies were fine, but both of us agree the books had that extra detail that became important to the characters and their lives.

They were important to me, because it gave me some extra cuddle time past the age when your mom reading to you at bed-time was not so cool. Those books were important to him too and set the stage for the future us to discuss books, movies and other geeky things we both find so fascinating. Even now, both my kids like it when I read to them occasionally  I take advantage of every second because these times are growing few and far between. One day it will be me and my grandkids cuddling up to read new adventures.

I’ll leave Harry Potter for the future grandkid’s dad to share with them because that needs to be a special time between a parent and child to let the tradition continue.

The Pope’s Prophecy as told by a 8 year old

When I was a kid, I went to Catholic School. The early years of my education was in Canada’s Arctic   I was instructed by Nuns who floated around the school as if they didn’t have feet but roller skates instead. When we moved back to Edmonton, my Catholic education was at the hands of a kid named Rolland. Sure I went to a Catholic School, but I only remember the lessons he taught in the school yard.

Roland was the type of person who would only know a small bit of information, add it to what he thought was true and gave examples to prove his street cred. It worked, we all believed everything that came out of his mouth. He was charismatic. Every grade three kid knew he was THE authority on all things from the Prime Minister of Canada being married to Queen Elizabeth II to when the last Pope dies the world will end.

images (1)This morning when I heard that Pope Benedict decided to retire, my first thought was, DUDE you are suppose to die as the pope. But then I remembered what Roland prophesied and was thankful The Pope decided to step down, because here is why…

We were sitting around our desks at lunch, we had just came back from getting our milk and cracked open our tin lunch boxes. Mine was the Flintstones and Roland had the Mystery Machine. We were talking, as grade 3 kids do, about the world ending. It was 1975 and I was 8. Vietnam and Watergate were being talked about at home and I didn’t really know what this meant, so I asked Roland. He watched the news and read the Edmonton Journal. He took a sip of his chocolate milk – right from the cardboard container, looked thoughtfully for a moment and said, “This is God’s way of telling us to get ready for the End of the World.”

I was shocked, and scared, of COURSE I believed him. He knew everything true.

So I asked him when that was going to be. “Apparently, there are 4 Popes left to die. When the 4th one kicks the bucket and THAT will be it.” He was so calm while saying this.

I had just seen a movie about finding Noah’s Ark and the end of that movie showed the earth burning up in a fiery ball of orange and red. That movie was a documentary of how they discovered Noah’s Ark and of course it was true. It was a documentary. So now I had the image of the Apocalypse in my head. Every movie in the 70’s was about death and destruction. So now I had proof. Roland said it would happen.

pope_paul_vi_postcard-p239354259447071593baanr_400Fast forward to 1978. Pope John VI dies. Up until that moment, he was the only Pope I ever knew. My life was a series of constants, Pierre Trudeau was the Prime Minister of Canada for my entire life (Pearson didn’t count, I wasn’t even 1 yet when he left office.), Queen Elizabeth II – the only Queen in my life time (and still hanging on! Go Bessie!), Kermit the Frog was still the front man for Sesame Street and started his own variety show. Obviously my life was shattered when Pope John VI died. It was also very interesting. I learned about how the Cardinals of Rome locked themselves in a room with a fireplace and picked the next infallible guy through divine intervention. They sent coloured smoke up the chimney to let everyone know how the progress was coming. Apparently there was some smoke signal language that I didn’t know because I was taught at the hands of Tonto from the Lone Ranger, and he could read it like it was words. Pope smoke was different.

Then Pope John Paul was picked! Be celebrations took place in Rome, there was special a mass said at our Parish. and life was great for a month. Then he died. This was when I started to get nervous. Roland said 4 more deaths. YIKES 2 down and 2 to go. Luckily the Cardinals picked a healthy dude, Pope John Paul II and he seemed like a nice guy too. john-paul-1-sized

Pope John Paul II was a good guy. people liked him, he was big on kindness and he went touring in the Pope Mobile. That was kind of cool, he even came to Edmonton. I didn’t go because, I’m not sure why other than I think I was out of town, but the souvenirs were cool, like Pope Soap on a Rope.pope-soap1 He lasted a really long time and Roland moved away and I didn’t think about the world ending until the Iran hostage crisis. But the Canadians saved them and the Pope didn’t die so all was safe in the world. Even when Desert Storm happened and 9/11 I knew the world was a lock because Pope John Paul II was still going strong.



How could you not like a guy who goofs around?


In 2005 he died. He was number 3. I thought about Roland for the first time since I was 9. When Pope Benedict was elected/chosen/ divinely inspired, and I realized he was the oldest pope in a very long time. I knew he wouldn’t be long for this world at 78, his healthiest years were behind him. Knowing priests on a personal level for years, I knew their diets were less than healthy. I now thought about the end of the world in real time.

Other Apocalypse predictions came and went. I thought it would be funny if the Mayan calendar considered with the passing of Pope Benedict, but that was not to be. Then news came this morning about how he is too frail to sit as Pope anymore, and he had prayed on this decision with God for a while before deciding to step down on the 28th of February. My thoughts went back to Roland. If the Pope dies before February 28th then that’s it. World over, good night nurse! But if he steps down and the new Pope is elected by Easter (March 31) we have bought ourselves some time.

According to Wikipedia (reliable? no because it is a wiki meaning anyone can change info. Don’t use Wikipedia as a source in your University papers kids!) the next Pope will be Peter

 In ꝑsecutione extrema S.R.E. ſedebit.
In the extreme persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit.[66]
   Petrus Romanus, qui paſcet oues in multis tribulationibus: quibus tranſactis ciuitas ſepticollis diruetur, & Iudex tremẽdus iudicabit populum ſuum.[67] Finis.
268 112 Peter the Roman, who will nourish the sheep in many tribulations; when they are finished, the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the dreadful judge will judge his people. The end. Unknown Unknown

So not only will Rome fall (do the Romans know they are just Italians now? Do they know they aren’t in charge anymore?) But the church will cease to exist. The next Pope will be the last Pope. I am not sure the world will end, but it will get interesting. It’s funny how I think of Roland in times like this. Part of me hopes he was a great Prophet. How cool would it be to tell my grandkids that I had lunch with the Great Prophet Roland? I could sell t-shirts and start a social media champagne  Perhaps sell Roland soap on a rope too.

Interesting times indeed…

My Backyard Adventure: The Milky Way


Working hard already this morning on my new courses for University, only to discover that my last practicum is only offered during the winter session. The profound sense of disappointment is overwhelming. This will push back my graduation. Not that it really matters in the grand scheme of things but…still!!!

This leaves me with two choices, 1) I can defeat me or 2) I can look at it as a stress reliever and be thankful I won’t have a full schedule.

Meanwhile, I need to think back to my day adventure to relax me. I truly did have the best day with my kidlets. Even the trip home was fantastic.

We reached Edson and decided we needed to eat. Something for the road, so we needed a drive thru. We are NOT McD fans, so we looked for an A&W. I remembered seeing one one the way through the first time. But now it was dark and I was tired so I had my kids ask Siri. Siri is my personal iPhone assistant. She is as aggravating as she is hilarious. I have commanded her to call me Danger Girl and she complies, much to my delight, because no one else will come me Danger Girl without laughing. The conversation went something like this:

Girl: Siri, where is A n W?

Siri: I do not know what that is, shall I search for it?

Girl: Where is A AND W?

Siri: there are several quite far from you.

Girl: I want one close by.

Siri: What does that mean?

Girl: Where is an A AND W CLOSE BY?

Siri: There is one close by.

Girl: Where is it?!

Siri: I do not know Where is it? Shall I search for it?

Finally we figured out where it was….thanks Siri… geeze. But the street signs in Edson are printed red on white. I cannot read red letters. Obviously some sort of colour blindness. That and I never could read yellow chalk on a green board, weird.

We packed our food and got back into the car. Apparently we were starving. Who knew? It wasn’t until the hot fries hit our gullet that we became aware. During our conversation over dinner, it was decided that my phone needed to call me Dark Wing – being named Robyn and all, my boy thought he was hilarious. So now call me Dark Wing. The least cool superhero EVER after Superman.

It was only 5:30 pm but to felt like midnight it was so dark. The stars were brilliant out in the country, something that I had forgotten by living in the city for so long. My son is an amateur astronomer and was thrilled at the sights. We saw Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, and Jupiter right away. It was a little harder for me to search the skies because I was driving, but my kids were able to spot the Milky Way Band and Pleiades Cluster, Taurus and Orion from the car. I knew if Orion was visible then Cassiopeia would be directly behind us. My Grandpa always told me that was God’s initial in the sky – Short for Warren, his name. Obviously my Grandpa thought he was hilarious because his name was Warren too. My boy wanted to stop and look at the stars. I was not too crazy about stopping on the side of the road in the pitch black of night, so I suggested we head towards Seba Beach. It was a summer village that I use to visit frequently in my youth and I knew the stars there were brilliant on the lake. The boy was eager but the girl had watched too many Fringe episodes and was worried about Mole Babies and Observers, not to mention Aliens and Serial Killers. I convinced her that it was perfectly safe and it was a VILLAGE not an episode of the Fringe.

We made the turn off of Highway 16 and headed south. 3 minutes later we turned onto Main Street. I realized I hadn’t been here for 20 years. It had changed slightly, the gas pumps were gone and so was the ice cream shack. But the Hall was still there at the Beach. I parked the car and told the kids about a movie that was filmed here. Bye Bye Blues. I talked about how much I loved that movie and that eased Chatterbox’s fears somewhat. We walked towards the Main Pier only to discover it was gone. It was stacked up on the boat launch. This also surprised me because I remember many a stroll along the main pier at night to look at the stars. Even without the pier in place, the sky was brilliant with stars. The Boy had a nerdgasim. He was excited and was showing his sister Jupiter, various constellations and the Milky way which was a brilliant white against the dark sky. Jupiter from my iPhone

Jupiter with the iPhone

The Milky Way

The Milky Way

Then ChatterBox’s thoughts retreated back to death and she asked me if this was where the accident was.

While ChatterBox was training for her lifeguard certification, she asked me what was the most traumatic first aid case I had come across. There was two that stood out. A preschooler had his finger cut off in a door, and the worst one happened here. Two men were driving their skidoos out on the lake at night. They must have been new because they didn’t know about the main pier out on the ice. They both hit the pier at full speed and flew into the air. One man was thrown clear of his machine and landed on the beach. I ran over to discover he was conscious but couldn’t move. I suspected a broken collar-bone was the worst of his injuries. I covered him with my coat and ran to the other guy. He had landed on the pier and the skidoo crushed him and bounced off. He was unresponsive and not breathing. I removed his helmet and my hand felt his skull compress. His head felt like a bag of jello. I knew he was dead. My friend started CPR but I knew it was pointless. I ran to find someone home. Being a summer village, not many people inhabit the village during the winter. I found help and ask they call and ambulance.

My son looked at me in horror and said “you watch someone die?” I replied with  – yes.

We looked out at the sky and now I knew why the pier was no longer in the ice, aside from winter break up, it was just plain old dangerous.

Back into the car and we needed to bring the mood back to fun and light. So the boy played his playlist of sing-a-longs.

There is nothing I love more than spending time with my children. I learn more about their hopes, dreams and bucket lists. I learn more about what makes them laugh and how close they are to each other. I had hoped they would be friends when they got older, but realize they are friends now. I learned lots about them that day.

They learned a lot about me too.


My Backyard Adventure: Jasper National Park

A friend of mine tagged me in a post on facebook today because it reminded her of me.

“You could read in these pages about explorers who go to the deepest, coldest, highest places on Earth and beyond, but the truth is that exploration is as near as your backyard – and it can be profoundly life affirming.” (Chris Johns, Editor, National Geographic Magazine, in the 125th Anniversary Edition, January 2013).

I am one of those lucky girls who lives a couple of hours from a world class vacation destination. The kind of place where Europeans save up for their entire life to make a trip to. The kind of place Japanese tourists can’t wait to visit. Yet I don’t go very often. Why is that?

Sometime before Christmas, I had a feeling or desire to drive to the Rockies for the day. I live close enough that a day trip to Jasper is not unreasonable. Something in the back of my head always whispers to me “that is unreasonable, you need to stay home. Moms don’t up and leave their home town for a day.” Um… really? I bet lots of moms do. I told that voice to shut it and asked my kidlets if they wanted to go with with me. I was perfectly happy going by myself.

My son loves the Mountains as much as I do. There is something about the energy that is invigorating. I always feel re-charged when I go. My son feels the same way. My daughter on the other hand, prefers the flat lands of the prairies. However, Santa bought her a new camera and she knew she could get some beautiful shots in Jasper National Park. ChatterBox agreed to join us. They asked the night before how early they had to be up. I wanted to leave the house by 7:30. Hard for a couple of teenagers on vacation. They are use to sleeping in until noon-ish. They both were perfectly agreeable and were up long before I was.

We left early, not so bright because it is Canada on the prairies and its dark until 8:30. Filled the car with gas, snacks and water then proceeded to Starbucks. We needed coffee. We were out of the city by 8:00. By the time we were fully ensconced on Highway 16 West, the sky was pink with the beginnings of a sunrise. It was beautiful in spite of it being to our backs. By this point I turned on some podcasts to listen to. Stuart McLean and his tales of Dave’s family from the Vinyl Cafe were new to my kids. We laughed all the way to Edson. This is where the boy had a turn to choose what we listen to. On came theme music for road trips. His own personal sections of appropriate travel music. We sang along to Arrogant Worms, Portal 1 and 2 as well as had to guess what epic overture was playing. My kid has a thing for epic scores.

The Boy – “Which one is this?”

Me – “Clash of the Light Sabers? Escape from Cloud City?”

The Boy – “No, Dumbledore’s death theme.”

I was going to guess that next.

I decided he needed to hear some advanced Star Wars music, so I put on Darth Vader at the Beach. It is a real song! (You can listen to it here. It’s by Marc Beaudin a local artist who plays regularly at my favorite restaurant, Sabor Divino) He liked the arrangement and laughed because he recognized the Imperial March within the relaxing strains of music. He declared ‘awesome’ on that arrangement.  At that moment is when the Rocky Mountains unfolded before us for the first time that day.

We knew we were close!

Rockies on the horizon

Trust me they get much bigger.

Soon we were past Hinton and approaching Jasper National Park’s gate, Hello and Welcome!/Bonjour et Bienvenue!


Then we discovered a couple of rebels on the road. They must be the family cats like I am. Marching to their own drummer because they did not heed the Wildlife Crossing signs. There they were out in the middle of the road ignoring everyone.

Big Horn Sheep IMG_2851

This is when I discovered my son’s life long dream. It has been on his bucket list FOREVER (he is 16, how long has he had a bucket list?). His dream is to touch water from a glacier fed river in the winter. For those of you not in the know, our rivers here in Alberta come from head waters of glaciers in the Rocky Mountains. Glaciers are moving rivers of ice either retreating or flowing. The rivers will freeze if they are not moving fast enough, however they are still flowing under the ice and it would be stupid for any mother to let her son crawl out onto the ice just to touch the blow freezing water. I did not want to be that mom on the news whose son drowned in the Athabasca River. That river claims enough lives in the summer. So I agreed. Whaaat? I know…with a caveat. He could not walk on the ice or snow to reach the water. His sister was not to pleased I agreed. She is a trained lifeguard and just thought I was the stupidest person alive. True… but I knew there was no way we would find those conditions in January. Therefor I am not as stupid as she thinks, and my son is happy that I agreed.

We drove towards the town-site of Jasper without finding the perfect spot to stop and fulfill his dream. We did meet his other wish of eating Pizza. After dinner we walked around checking out the town. and we saw kitschy window stuff.

Canadian Evolution

Ice Sculptures at the Sawridge


And Jasper’s answer to floral baskets


Soon we were heading down the bitterly cold street shivering, but I wanted to see the new Haida Totem.


That blue sky is why I put up with winter in Alberta.

We watched my boy do Cleese’s silly walk and then we headed back to the car to wrap ourselves in warm blankets, turn the heat on full and drive to Marmot Basin. The local Ski Hill – when I say hill – I mean Mountain. It looks small from the lodge but this is just the ski school and starter slopes. The chair takes you to slopes beyond amazing.

Marmot Basin

We looked over the edge to take a gander at the Tonquin Valley. It was surprising warm up there compared to the town-site. Perfect day for skiing!


Then we headed for the Athabasca river where The Boy figured he could crawl out on his belly to reach his goal….um I don’t think so pal.


I had been here plenty of times in the summer and called out to the rafters to watch for rocks, the bend in the river, bears and other weird things to tease them. I knew how deadly this river is. There was no way I was letting my kid crawl out there. So we just looked. The snow here was amazing it was giant crystals the size of my thumb nail. The sun shone on them and they sparkled like diamonds. It was so beautiful!

Next stop Maligne Canyon. Holy Frozen Face Batman! It was the coldest here.


ChatterBox didn’t hike up to the falls with us. She was too cold, so after we climbed down to the canyon, she head back to the car for warmth. The funny thing about this canyon, the paths are steeper than the bunny hill at Marmot, the climb back up was was slick. Glad we had our all terrain boots on, yet snow still filled our knee high boots. It was deep at the canyon.

We were ready to head home. It was a long day and the mountain air makes you more tired than city air. This is a scenery we had to look at on the way out of the Rockies…I know, poor us.


Around this corner I saw the open plains of the valley with beach and no snow. Weird. I pulled over and let my boy finally fulfill his destiny.


As you can see, touching liquid ice is painful – but apparently worth it.


Fiction - October 09
Fiction – October 09 (Photo credit: Pesky Library)

Here it is 8:00pm Wednesday night and my children are buried deep in their books. They finished their homework hour ago, this is reading for fun. The house is silent except for the hum of the water cooler and refrigerator. The odd comment comes from one of the offspring and a giggle about the part of the book they have reached. They are both reading Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan. This is the latest from the Percy Jackson series that hooked my kids a long time ago.

There is nothing that gives me as much pleasure than knowing I raised readers.

It started when they turned one. I read Good Night Moon every night before bed. Children need lots of repetition. When we could talk about what was happening in the pictures we increased the books to two before bed. Eventually, we worked up to longer content and by the time my kids were in school, we were reading chapter books together. They would read to me for homework, then before bed, I would read to them. It was pure pleasure on my part. Together we read The Magic Coin, Charlotte’s Web, The Trumpet of the Swan, The Narnia Series and of course the entire Harry Potter series. We read classics like Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. I would choose stories that I loved from my childhood, like Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great and Tales of the Fourth Grade Nothing.

Parent/Teacher interviews often had a book fair on the same evening. These fairs were library fundraisers for the school. I would always reward my children with a books of their choice. It was a big deal. Family nights were often a trip to the bookstore and a cup of hot chocolate. We learned that Alex Rider was a great series and Clementine made for great bedtime reading. The trick was finding books that appealed to my kids sense of adventure.

Then one day, the day came when my kids read on their own before bed. They would come and kiss me good night, and tell me they were going to bed early so they could read the latest adventures of Peter and the Star Catchers or Anne of Green Gables. Even as they entered high school, the stories changed and Michio Kaku and his physics books became more interesting than fiction, they still would read every night and complain if they were out of books.

On the “I have read these books” shelf, my kids have placed The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Steve Jobs, The Time Travelers Wife, 11/22/63, Tara Road and many other adult fiction titles. It makes me smile when they pick up a book they have already read because it feels like an old friend. The books that get revisited most often are the Peter and the Starcatchers series and the Hunger Games. Occasionally book #4 of Harry potter comes out or a companion book like Magical Beasts and Where to find them.

Dinner conversation sometimes revolves around books, “I never thought I would see the day when ‘underscores’ were used in dialogue.” Huh… I wasn’t even sure what that meant, but a meaningful conversation ensued. Both offspring have decided to take it slow with Mark of Athena because of the sadness that comes with finishing a great book. We have all gone through that mourning period when we think about the characters long after the book is finished. They each have several books in queue, but the one they are reading is currently the best. Perfect for a quiet Wednesday night at home.

What were some of your favorite reads as a kid?

I’m so pretty and that is NOT a good thing

I feel like the stupidest prettiest person ever.

I have too much on my plate and it’s my phone that’s stupid.  My phone is a 3G iPhone, not 3Gs not 4 or even 4Gs. My stupid phone doesn’t even get software updates anymore. I go to type a status and my fingers move faster than the keyboard, letters get missed, end of words don’t appear and my cousin eats me alive. To be fair, it WAS hilarious. My friend started the bashing. But still…. I HATE IT WHEN I GET CAUGHT BEING STUPID PRETTY!!!!

In my family we have a saying when someone does something … not very bright or less than ideal, we tilt our head, say “You’re so pretty” and smile at them. I don’t think I have ever said this to my son, but my daughter hears it, my father hears it, my sister hears it…. then they said it to me. CRAP!

Here is what happened, a student of mine was doing a puzzle with me. A HARD 24 piece puzzle no less, when he commented that I am so smart. This was ADORABLE! You betcha kid! I am smart because I excel at preschool work! So I brag about being called smart and decided to put that in my resume and WHAMO…. I leave off some letters because it’s my PHONE THAT IS STUPID and my friends says “maybe he should read this status and take that title away” HAHAHA …. hey wait a tic…

Then my cousin weighs in and spells smart S M R T…. nice – again I laughed but geeze…..


We were all in the car and having a discussion about various sciences – that’s right, I live in THAT family. I had asked my son what science Meteorology falls under and before I could explain what I meant, my son says very dry and very sarcastically… “meteorology” Damn… I was caught with my pretty on.

What I intended and what I said were very different things. I meant to ask him what science class would it be in Chem, Bio or Physics. Ya… too little too late, I was busted pretty and they had the last laugh. For the record I hate kids. Especially mine. I wanted a baby not a teenager.

I work hard at being smart. Smart does not come naturally to anyone. Smart is not a measure of intelligence, smart is thinking before you speak. I got caught being pretty for DECADES, then I started to engage the brain. Some pretty examples for your viewing pleasure:

  1. My Ex father-in-law had a thermometer hanging out his truck window…don’t ask, but I looked at it and asked how could it be that accurate when you are driving? I did not mean the AIR MOVEMENT that creates windchill, I was thinking in terms of vibration. The possibility of the alcohol or mercury vibrating within the tube. Ya… he assumed I meant windchill…and he laughed his head off and I was forever branded the stupid one. Ya well… dude you had NO ROOM TO TALK!
  2. My girl say’s ManScans count as being pretty. A ManScan is when you can’t find something because you don’t look well enough. Therefore that makes me Pretty
  3. My boy claims me not taking the time to set up MSWord and adjust fonts, headers and have him do it makes me pretty.
  4. Apparently, the headset and mouse not working because they are plugged into the WRONG USB makes me pretty. I think that just makes me lazy…not pretty. I also think I am resourceful to make someone else do the work for me. That makes me GENIUS not pretty.

Note to self: Think before you act, proof read from the smart stupid phone and lazy=pretty in my children’s eyes. It’s going to be hard work not being pretty now that my kids are smarter than me.

The Learn to Drive Milestone


A rite of passage happened yesterday. It was a very exciting moment for me.

My son drove a car for the first time.

This was a big deal. I remember being 16 and my dad took me out in his Blue Dodge Diplomat to the church parking lot. He put the car in park, opened the car door and stepped around to the passenger side. I couldn’t wait to get into the drivers seat! My dad is a teacher by trade profession and is one of the best. He explained in very clear detail, my step by step procedure.

When you put the car in drive, it will move forward, so keep your foot on the brake.

As you slowly release the brake, the car will move forward.

Stomping on the brake will cause me to vomit.

Take your time, we have all the time in the world – we don’t have to rush.

And thus began my first driving lesson 1983 – an era before seatbelts.


Last night after dinner, I said to my 16 year old. “are you busy? Can you come out with me for a bit?”

He looked at me suspiciously, assessed the situation and agreed. I drove out of the city and to a country school about 10 minutes from my home. I figured this would be a good spot with no pedestrian or motor traffic. He looked at me and said, “Either this is a driving lesson or you are about to murder me and dump my body.”

Me-“Correct, I have a baseball bat in the trunk and a carpet to roll you up in.”

He laughed and climbed out of the car, went around to the driver’s side and waited until i was in the passenger seat before he got in. The first thing he did was put on his seat belt and complain about how weird it felt crossing over the other side of his body. I asked how he felt, the reply was “Nervous and a bit scared.”

Me- “We won’t be going of 10km and there will be no reversing the car today. Just slow on the straight away and turns.”

I gave him the same instructions my dad gave me. Calm and quiet, full of confidence I never felt. I forgot to mention the part about stomping on the brake will induce vomiting. Sure enough, I was thankful for the seatbelt as he tested the brakes. He drove in circles for about a half hour. He tried stopping various times and got the hang of not smashing my face into glass. He actually was a quick study. He pulled up to the fence and I inquired as to how he planned on moving the car since I said no reversing. He said he could either get out and have me do it, or he give it a try himself. I gave him the step by step instructions for reversing, this included how you turn the wheel in the opposite direction of where you want to go. I then heard the Doc Hudson reference from him. The quote from the movie

I’ll put it simple: if you’re going hard enough left, you’ll find yourself turning right.

Ummmm nooooooooooooo. But secretly was happy he used a Pixar reference. When he didn’t shoulder check I made splat sounds and told him that was puppies and babies he ran over. He laughed and put the car back up against the fence and did it again. This time he shoulder checked. About 10 more minutes, and I directed him to park near the gate. We traded places and I asked him how he felt now. His reply was one of confidence. “I don’t feel scared anymore. Just nervous because there is so much to remember.”

I drove down the country road and into Sherwood Park. I found the Dairy Queen where we planned to celebrate. He asked if this was the one his Grandpa took me too. “Nope, that one is an insurance company now”. We had blizzards to celebrate. He told me he hated the licence plate cover on my car. It says “I’d rather by in Walt Disney World.” I told him I hated the Datsun B210 I had to drive when I was a kid.

You never get to drive the cool car when you are young because it is too expensive. Once you can afford it, you look like a ridiculous old dude trying to recapture his youth. He laughed and agreed that bald guys are hilarious in a convertible. I rest my case. I reminded him to look at the cars the high school kids drive – if they are lucky. He laughed and said, “you’re right, they are all beaters or mommy vehicles.”

Now my boy is motivated to get a job. Insurance is expensive, now that he has a glimpse of the freedom of the future.


Have you hugged a Teacher today?

Summer Solstice Sunset
Summer Solstice Sunset (Photo credit: erik9000)

Today is Summer Solstice, 17 hours of sunshine in my home town of Edmonton. I may complain about the cold winter on a daily basis for 8 months a year, but once a year it all becomes worth it. Today is the day of endless sunshine, the promise of summer vacation and everyone sings Alice cooper’s ode to all things summer. Sing it with me “Schooooooooools out for summa!” Okay, so it is not quite out for summer. While I am laying in bed, trying to sleep with the sun blaring into my eyes, I will be counting down until I say good-bye to my little lovelies for this year, and begin the process of fearing the next round. That’s right, FEARING. September always means starting from scratch. The life of a teacher is, well, exhausting mentally.

Yesterday I wrote a blog with the intent of supporting my friend Joe who is running 12 marathons in a year. He is actually running 14, because 2 are for other charities he supports and is in final race is called The Dopey. Aptly named for those who run a 5k Friday, a half marathon on Saturday and a Full Marathon on Sunday at Walt Disney World in January. That is a whole lot of running. Now here I thought I was being supportive but actually I was being controversial. Look at me I am controversial! Well done Tourist! Making a name for yourself!!

I wrote about a colleague who I ADORE, we just talk smack at the photocopier and at Starbucks when I run into him there. We all have that friend. The one who is a fake enemy but is really your best pal through thick and thin. He worships the Maple Leafs, and I think that is a mistake. He was misinformed as to the distance of a marathon and mistook it for a fun run. We cleared that up. By no means are we enemies. He is too hilarious for me dis and dislike. On top of that he is one of the finest teachers I have ever worked with and a compassionate human being.

There was an unfortunate event with a reader, who happens to be my uncle. He commented on the intelligent level of this teacher and generalized it into many teachers. I could launch into a rant here, but I received no less than 60 emails and blog comments from friends and  strangers who are, know or love a teacher. My blogger friend SD, came to my rescue like the superhero he is and eloquently defended teachers. There are a few sad facts that surround this controversy.

1. I come from a long and prestigious line of Teachers (my Dad and my beloved Great Grandma) who, in my humble opinion are the finest teachers to ever grace a classroom. (I will explain later what makes a great teacher)

2. Betrayal by a family member is hurtful and shocking. Although I do not feel slighted personally, I truly felt I needed to defend the honor of my colleagues, Father, Gram and every other teacher who made a difference to someone.

3. Intelligence is not the measure of how much information you can store in your head (because I would win that in a kickass Trivial Pursuit game). Intelligence is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge. Having knowledge doesn’t do anyone any good if you are not a critical thinker. Knowing fire is hot is useful on a science quiz. Using fire as an element in your plan for world domination is intelligence.

I heard a voice echo in my head during my swim today. It was the voice of the finest teacher I know, my dad. Take the High Road Robyn. So I am.

Let’s talk about Job qualifications both spoken and unspoken in a job interview for the position of Elementary School Teacher. This applies to most of the people I work with except me and my team. We are Early Education, that falls under a different category. See…we have learned something new already!

To be a Teacher in Alberta (I cannot speak to other provinces, states or countries – I am a prairie girl) You must posses a valid teaching certificate issued by Alberta Education – this is the government of Alberta. They are bossy and have rules. One of those rules are to receive this accreditation – yes ACCREDITATION – you must have a minimum 4 year bachelor of education degree or B.Ed. from an accredited University, not college, not technical institute, not an on-line diploma from Sally Struthers. To receive this degree you must have done reasonably well in high school, apply to the university and give them all your money.

Now, the University does not care which degree program you apply for, but they do care if you don’t pay. It is pretty much the same cost for a B.Ed as a B.Com. Thus when a teacher graduates, they are called a PROFESSIONAL. I know! Now you learned another new thing! Professionals range from Doctors to Lawyers, to Pharmacists to Compliance Officers. All over the country, these professionals are regarded with respect from peers and clients with the exception of the Lawyers and that is for other reasons, but lawyers work their asses off, as do teachers. Yet the average teacher in Alberta makes $50, 000. Lawyers make way more. Remember, professionals do not get overtime. They are salary.

To get a school board to even LOOK at your resume, you have to have an excellent teacher practicum, done volunteer work and a pile of substitute teaching gigs. Those are NOT PLEASANT people! Then they ask you the scariest possible scenario to see how you would handle it. You pass or you fail – none of this no zeros allowed crap because this is the real world!

Once you are installed in a school, you get you room, your list of children. This is is a minimum of 27. There are bright kids, average kids, special needs kids and the dreaded behaviour kids who ALWAYS end up being my favorites. If you are lucky you get an assistant, but you must have a special circumstances to qualify for that. Then Alberta Curriculum sends you the course requirements for the year. Everything you must cover for these children to pass into the next grade. At no point in time was your intelligence ever in question. These people know you can write papers, answers questions, ask thoughtful questions, problem solve, and follow directions. No one ever gives a Doctor an IQ test before he opens up his private practice. It is ASSUMED he/she knows what he/she is doing.

Then why are teachers expected to know every tiny bit of knowledge available to the human race?

If you expect that from a teacher, you had the worst school experience ever and I am sorry for you.

Teachers come to work as early as 6:00 am (my kindergarten teacher friend does that) and leave long after 5PM. Lots of professionals do this. Do not for one minute think your child’s teacher leaves school when your child does. This does not include the work the Teacher brings home, lots of other professionals do this too. I remember my dad having stacks of essays, tests, papers just sitting by his chair. Every night he would plug away at marking.Not one of these people complain. It is understood that a teacher will put in an extra 40-70 hours a week EXTRA over and above the regular school day.

Teachers stay late to coach, drama, music or any other extra curricular activity your child wants to be in. Then the teacher has MORE work to do, marking, grading, preparing for the next day, planning field trips, planning for YOUR child to go on a holiday (for the record, your child is missing out on instruction time. This cannot be made up from “extra work sheets”. This will affect the final body of knowledge you child gleans from the year. Make the trip a good one and worth your child’s time.)

Now, a teacher rarely stands in front of the classroom yammering about facts. Your child would fail. Teachers need to now teach to all learning types, the doers, the lookers, the listeners, the repeaters and THIS does not include the special programming that is required for special needs, gifted, ESL, other differences that would blow your head off.

A teacher’s role is to take the curriculum, design a program that will be adjusted to the individual needs of their classroom. Encouraging, guiding and supporting your child into finding the information they need, applying it to other situations and retaining this information. Spewing facts has nothing or very little to do with a teachers job, remember google is your friend.

A teacher needs to be a social worker because a child confessed that their dad climbs into bed with them at night.

A teacher needs to be a nurse because your child can’t follow directions and climbed up on the shed roof and fell on their face and split a lip.

A teacher needs to be a police officer because your child took rum from the kitchen in YOUR house and put it in a coke bottle to share with their friends.

A teacher needs to be politically correct and up on every nuance of every culture known to mankind because you might be offended if they touch your elbow.

A teacher needs to be a security guard because lunatics sneak into the school and hide in the girls bathroom.

A teacher needs to be a crossing guard because you can’t make your child’s school safe for them to walk into the school, you create a traffic jam because you are to lazy/busy/hurried to park across the street and walk your child to school.

A teacher needs to run a food bank because you didn’t send lunch or feed your child breakfast. This causes them to not pay attention and your child gets labeled a BEHAVIOR.

A teacher needs to run a clothing shop because you send your child without mitts/hats/socks/shoes/boots/underwear. You have it, but you are in a rush so your child goes without.

A teacher needs to be compassionate because if they do not make a connection with your child, your child cannot learn.

A teacher needs to smile even when their dog dies.

A teacher has to listen to YOU yell at them because your child won’t do their work in school and has to bring it home, now there is homework and you don’t have time to make sure they do it.

A teacher gets labeled mean because they see potential in your child and will demand your child does better.

A teacher will cry every June because your child will make it in the world or not.

Tomorrow when you go to school or even tonight as you reflect on the teachers of your past or the teachers of your present, think about these things that make a great teacher. I am willing to bet you know a teacher who does at least most of the things on this list. If that is the case, you are lucky and did not receive a human to teach your child, but a bonafied TEACHER.

  1. You notice older students coming back to talk to your child’s teacher. This means these children connected with the teacher and have a special bond that was ripe for optimum learning.
  2. Your child’s teacher knows the names of the parents.
  3. Your child’s teacher will take time out of their day to make sure you are having a good one.
  4. Young kids will want to hug the teacher. Older ones will want to “hang out” and talk.
  5. You are welcome into the classroom at ANY TIME
  6. You see the teacher sitting beside a student helping them figure out a problem.
  7. Your child’s teacher is always available via email and will return a phone call on THEIR lunch break.
  8. Your child’s teacher will call or send a note home because something has changed and they just can’t put a finger on it but something is not right. Their spidy sense is tingling and they are concerned about your child.
  9. Your child’s teacher greet’s your child by name as they walk into the classroom.
  10. Your child’s teacher laughs every day.

Did you notice not one bullet about intelligence? Or marks? Or attendance?

If your child’s teacher makes a lasting connection with your child, the bond will never be broken. They will be set for life for learning and always will want to make their teacher proud. Sadly we don’t reach every child, but that doesn’t stop us from trying.

So for all of you who know a teacher, go thank them. You are the great human you are today because you responded to one teacher in your life and they made a difference for you. If you cannot recall this ever happening in your life, I’m so sorry, but we tried. Trying is a two way street.

I am proud to be called Teacher. I stand proudly with my peers and together we know we make a difference in the life of a person, big or small. I go to sleep every night know I matter in the life of someone. Can you say the same? You can if you had a great teacher in your life.