It’s the Little Things

Little thingsThe Mitton crew has just returned home from a lovely vacation in our summer dwelling.  It truly was lovely.  Except, that about two days in, I got sunburnt.  It was my own fault, really, I did not re-apply the sunblock and could feel the crispy-ness attacking my legs… but was simply too lazy to head back in to shore from the rubber dingy I was lounging in.  Consequence received, I spent the next few days slightly pinked and diligently re-applying the “after sun” aloe vera gel and searching for home remedies for sunburn.  Then the youngest got a sliver in her foot after dancing around barefoot on the dock.  Why is a sliver always the biggest disaster to a small child?  Breathe.  Dig out the blessed thing, slap a Band-Aide there, and move on.  Sheesh.  I soon discovered that it’s the little things in life that make up your days.  Much to the delight of that same little girl, we also fed pistachios to a cheeky little black squirrel who was just brave enough to come near.  We watched the sun go down over the lake and marvelled at the orange and pink glows that silhouetted the trees beyond us.  We giggled under the covers as we read our book late into the night.  None of these things were super adventurous.  We didn’t save the world or climb a mountain.  There were no great heros.  None of these things were utter disasters, either.  There were no trips to the hospital or bank loans needed.  And yet, as I seek to be more grateful, I am again reminded that often it’s the little things that matter.  You can consider this post my gratitude journal of sorts.  A documentation of things that simply remind me of why I should be happy.Little things3

As time goes on and my hair gets a few more streaks of grey in it, I can’t help but stop and remember the days when the kids were babes and we rejoiced at their first steps, and encouraged them as they splashed and played in the sand at the beach.  The greatest joys were when the sandcastle moat collapsed and you had to quickly breach the leaks before the whole kingdom was washed away in the floods.  Slivers were a big deal then too.  But so was jumping off the dock, and pushing the limits was getting just a bit closer to putting their whole face under the water!  Now they strut about with their friends like proud peacocks, hoping mom and dad don’t totally embarrass them by acknowledging their presence.  Oh — the horror — you have parents!

I am delighted to see you grow and come into your own as you begin to lead.  To begin to take more chances and go off on your own.  To not only put your face underwater, but jump wholeheartedly forward… willing to sink or swim. I remember hearing a preacher say once that when you are a new mom, you should be thankful for every Cheerio you pick up off the floor — revel in the moment that you are in right now.  Little ThingsTo be honest, if you are that new mom… you have no desire to be thankful for those blasted bits of cereal… I know, I been there, sister…  but now that some time has passed, I can tell you…yup…it’s true… you are thankful for the Cheerios.  Psychology tells us that there are benefits to gratitude, to counting our blessings and to recognizing that seeking joy makes us healthier.  (Just so you know: it’s not psychology… it’s a God thing…)

Our lives are so full of little things.  The everyday blessings and hurts of this journey we call life.  The slivers and the sunsets.  I am trying to enjoy the learning process — are you?  Are you taking time to revel in the moment that you are in right now?  To not complain about your aches and pains, your lack of wifi, your bank balance or what the weather is doing?  It’s hard.  I get it.  I have those days too… when I am tired and sad and everything seems to go kaput.  But we are here for a only a brief moment, a mere blip in the eternity of time.  So pull out that splinter, slap a Band-Aide on there, eat the Cheerio off the floor, and go jump in the lake!Little things2

 

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The Green Debate

The green debateThere has been a tonne of articles showing up on my social media feeds about the environment lately.  Have you seen this thing about banning plastic straws?  Many environmentalists are looking to curb the use of plastics, with particular focus on the energy consuming, and very damaging, tiny plastic straw.  The topic was supposedly listed for discussion among the G7 leaders this spring.   Vancouver is set to ban all plastic straws, containers and foam cups by June of 2019 — the first Canadian city to do so.  Apparently, even the Queen has “gone green” and banned plastic straws and bottles on all royal estates.   It’s a hot topic and got me a thinkin’… what is our responsibility to the environment?

Now let me state for the record… I really try and do my part for the earth.  I am forever turning out lights in my house… which gets me critiqued all the time for “living in darkness”.  I recycle often and buy used.  I turn off the tap when I brush my teeth.  I tried banning juice boxes in school lunches after a debate broke out at a school council meeting over — you guessed it — non-recyclable plastic straws.  It didn’t go over so well… my kids instantly rebelled at the lovely reusable drinking containers I purchased and demanded the return of the convenient juice box.  It’s just simpler when you have a large family to go with what is easiest.  I see these adorable Instagram posts of zero waste, environmentally friendly products and wonder… do these people have children?!  Do these people have millions of dollars?!  It’s a huge crisis in my brain when I go to the store and have the option of buying two products… one “green” and one … well… cheap.  I am sorry to say… I opt for cheap.  Sustainability.  Is it really cost effective? Why is it cheaper for me to feed my family of six at McDonalds than to buy organically grown, local vegetables?! Something is wrong.

Perhaps it is moving in the right direction, however… McDonald’s has apparently began looking at the straw thing.  With good reason.  Americans use over 500 million plastic straws per day!! Most of those are used for less than 20 minutes and end up floating around in the ocean.  These and other plastics take forever to degrade… which means that 90% of our marine animals have consumed plastics in their lifetimes… simply mistaking it for food.  This doesn’t include the other environmental hazards like entanglement, toxic leakage and who knows what else.  So far though… I still get a straw when I order my lemonade.  What do I do, then?  I have seen arguments on both sides.  I read a good one about how a complete banning of straws would impact the special needs world significantly.  Many people need the convenience of a plastic straw because of medical or mobility issues, and the alternatives are not suitable.  Hmmmn.  The debate digs deeper…

So let’s take it even further… when is the last time you heard a sermon on caring for the environment in your local church?  Oh. Oh.  We debate sex, drugs, rock and roll — we even dabble in politics and the love of money — but not much gets said about banning straws in church.  Should we be concerned about the environment?In fact, social science studies show that the far right christian worldview is much less concerned with the environment than the general public.  Either because we want to stay away from “tree hugging new age philosophies” that worship all nature as “god”, or because we simply think that this world is all going to be gone anyway when Christ comes back so why worry about it?  And so I muse… WHY?

Is there a need for Jesus followers to be concerned about the environment?  Should we be going green?  Or is it not something we need to be concerned about?  I did a quick google search… and was quite surprised to see very little information about the green debate, the environment and christianity.  A few articles about those radicals, a few scientific studies about how we don’t care… but very few about sermons or discussions on the topic.  One that I did find was a transcript of a podcast by Chip Ingram of livingontheedge.org.  He has a two part series on this very subject.  I encourage you to check it out!  Since I am not an expert, I was pleased to find that the Bible does indeed have lots to say about the environment, and how we should care for it!  It really is a spiritual discipline that we should be considering more.  God created this earth.  He gave it to us to take care of.  Yes, we have “dominion” over it and we were called to “subdue” it… but Ingram does a good job of explaining what that means… it’s not simply to rule and overtake… but a delicate balance of working within the confines of what God has set in motion for our Earth.  We are to preserve the beauty and the natural cycle of the land… without worshipping it.  Did the Israelites know about organic soils and nitrogen replenishing?  No… but God instructed them to let the land rest.  God gives us so many rich resources… and the means to preserve them… if only we would consider it.  I encourage you to dig a little deeper with me, and truly discover what God does say about this issue.  It’s an interesting muse.  Perhaps there will have to be a “Part 2” to this post as I continue to learn…

Until then, I will still be turning out the lights in my house.  I will try and lug-a-mug to church for the coffee fellowship.  I am going to try and explore a bit more about how to be “greener” (and continue to be jealous of those instagram posts).  Will I convince my kids to not use juice boxes?  Time will tell.  Maybe Kermit the Frog had it right:  It isn’t easy being green.not easy being green

 

Have you enjoyed the muses?  Have thoughts or comments on this one?  I’d love to hear from you!  Please join us for this learning adventure… new changes are coming soon and I would love for you to be a part of them!  Click on the follow button on the side bar!

 

 

 

DIY Teacher’s Gifts: A Lesson in Gratitude

DIYTeacherGift

Okay, confession time.  I am not good at being grateful.  Oh,  I have manners and know when to say please and thank you and I’m sorry (I’m Canadian afterall!) but I am not so good at being full of gratitude.  Recently, I was having a discussion with some friends about this topic of gratitude and it triggered a thought… are my children truly thankful for all they have?  Am I truly thankful for all I have?!  I live in a wonderful country where I am free to post my feelings and thoughts on a blog such as this.  I have food on the table, clothes on my back, and a roof over my head.  We have two cars and a place we can enjoy in the summer.  Our family is truly blessed.  In fact, I think we have way too much!  I have to start sorting and sharing as soon as the hamster wheel slows down.  Gratitude is tricky.  Are words enough?  Do we need to repay the kindness of a gift with another, reciprocal gift?  How do we be good examples to our children and show kindness and exude gratitude without being caught in the cycle of looking like we want something in return?  I don’t have the answer to this one.  Leave me a comment if you have some insight!

What I do know, is that we gotta start somewhere!  So, I decided that after my friendly discussion and sudden enlightenment about my lack of proper parenting, I knew that I had to tackle some thank you gifts!  The end of the school year is a great time to make some gratitude filled, easy to make, teacher thank you gifts!  These ones were pretty frugal too… an added bonus!  #gratitudeWe started out with some simple, dollar-store clay pots and leftover plastic buckets from spring planting… and then decorated away with paints and stickers and ribbons — stuff I had hanging around from other projects.  The paint didn’t stick to the green plastic, so we used some fun stickers and ABC’s for those.  The youngest and I had a nice bonding time doing some crafting… and it was a great opportunity for me to encourage her.  She didn’t think her bee looked quite right… so we added whimsical googly eyes … with such a cute result!

Next, we spooned in some dirt and simply added cuttings from some of my overgrown house plants!  This not only served our purpose, but gave us another opportunity to discuss sharing and being thankful for what we already have!  Succulents are perfect for this, as you don’t need much preparation ahead of time… simply snip and stick in some soil… this kalanchoe we had was spreading and already had tiny root shoots… so was easy to transplant.  We also separated some herbs and a lovely purple shamrock plant.  In the end, we had six quick and easy (and almost free!) gifts… enough for three elementary teachers and a few great sunday school helpers!  Some hand made cards topped off the lesson in gratitude (hand written by the kids, of course!) and volila!

TeachersRSpecial

Teachers are very special people… and I am forever telling our four beloveds that teachers play a huge part in their lives!  Trust me… it is really hard to impart information to a large group of young people from diverse backgrounds who often don’t want to be sitting in that desk in front of you.  Especially when they come with a set of parents watching your every move.  Be kind to teachers.  They are human too.  They need some love and thanks after a full year in the classroom!

I’m not sure that my gratitude level has jumped too many degrees up the scale from this project… but at least it gave me a chance to chat a bit with the youngest two — and share some love around.  Perhaps it’s a start.  Perhaps it will “grow” on us as we practice more…. Sorry… couldn’t resist… some teacher taught me about puns once… aren’t you grateful? 🙂

 

P.S.  Once you have said “thank you” to your beloved teachers and said good-bye for another school year… keep following mittonmusings.com!  Click the follow button on the side bar … I have some exciting changes coming this summer!  You won’t want to miss it!!

 

 

 

Dinosaur Fossils: My First Guest Post!

 

Thanks so much for following along with me at mittonmusings.com!  I am encouraged by my steady increase in “followers” and am thoroughly enjoying the adventure.  Thank you for participating in the journey!  If you care to share, please pass on your favourite post via google+, facebook, bloglovin’, instagram or pinterest!  Drumroll… I am now tweeting on Twitter too!  You can also email your friends the link or follow along via wordpress reader!  Ha!  You can even TALK to others about it… how crazy would that be?! I am quickly learning that in the blog “underworld” (yes, it truly is another world lying in the shadows of a undiscovered realm of bloggers and writers in this thing we call the internet!) sharing is the biggest way that you can grow! As I learn to put myself  “out there”,  I am happy to announce that I have shared in my first guest post!  So… instead of posting another blog this week… please head on over to visit Anna at abrazoandcoze.com and read all about my easy dinosaur fossil craft!

 

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I’ll be back next Tuesday with another muse about something close to my heart!  Until then, encourage one another, love deeply and smile a little.  🙂

 

Dragons Among Us

DragonsAmongUsWe live in a zoo.  And it is not just the wildebeest kids, either.  Currently, in our tiny, two story bungalow, we have:  two cats, a turtle, about 30 fish that keep multiplying, my pond specimens for work,  three rats (we’re down from eight rescues), corner web-dwelling spiders, and a variety of dust bunnies — all living happily with the six of us.  We also dog sit from time to time.  So, I was a little hesitant when the oldest son wanted a bearded dragon for his birthday.  That is a rather stout lizard, in case you were unaware.  Now, don’t get me wrong… I love my creatures!  I worked for a veterinarian clinic for three decades and have always loved animals.  I was that little girl who rescued the newly hatched classroom ducklings and brought them to live in our bathtub for the weekend.  I had an ant farm in my bedroom drawer.  I studied zoology for four years.  I do pets.  Alas, one more creature in the household meant more work and more time.  Not to mention that this particular child often quickly becomes enamored with an idea and promptly changes it to move on to a different life goal.  Magic tricks, guitar lessons, Lego masterpieces, the giant Ninja Warrior obstacle course… perhaps he’s a little like his mom and dives into projects.  Continuous learning is an amicable trait, right?  So I waited for a bit, hoping he may “grow out of” the idea of another pet.  He did not.

Thus, “Indy” has arrived.  “Indy”, short for “Indiana Jones” , the legendary archaeologist played by Harrison Ford of the great 80’s films… Temple of Doom and all that.  My house was becoming the Temple of Doom according to grandma, auntie and a few cautious friends who are now reluctant to visit.  Normally, I am the one who is all “whohoo” for new pets… and I don’t have a problem with reptiles… I have had lizards and snakes before… but for some reason, this little guy freaks me out a bit.  Maybe I am getting old.  Maybe it is the way it cocks it’s head slightly left and stares at me with it’s beady little eye as though it is trying to figure out what I am.  It seems to be listening to my very thoughts.  No wonder they call them dragons.  Maybe it is because it is still a “juvenile” and small enough to quickly skitter across the floor versus saunter casually like the laid back lizard I envisioned.  My limited knowledge of bearded dragons (“Beardies” as they are affectionately called by enthusiasts), tells me that they are easy to care for, bond well with their owners and “hang out” with you.  They also eat crickets.  Live crickets.  More creatures to keep viable.  *Sigh*  WelcomingIndyIt is pretty though… kinda spiky with a hint of orange throughout it’s grey-flecked, scaly, skin.  It’s belly is surprisingly soft and cuddly.  “Indy” is learning to “hang out” with it’s owner… until it randomly jumps away… adding to my anguish that it will be devoured by a cat.

Assuming it does not get eaten, “Indy” will be with us for the next 10-14 years or so, so I guess I better get used to the sound of crickets and it’s beady little eye-stare.  It’s a slow process, but I am “adjusting”.  The Australian native is kinda cool to watch — snapping up it’s prey in toothless gulps and munching down greens.  Bearded dragons are omnivores… which means they eat both meat and plants.  So at least my leftover salad is getting used.  It’s also pretty neat the way it buries itself to keep cool in the sand under a log after basking in the heat lamp in that weird yoga pose it mastered.  As time passes, Lovingdragons“Indy” and I are establishing an acceptable living relationship.  Have you ever had a relationship with one of those people who you are not quite sure of?  Maybe someone who creeps you out a bit?  Or stares at you with a beady-eye and cocks their head slightly left and you just know they are thinking evil thoughts about you?  Or maybe they really have turned your home into the Temple of Doom, and have hurt you deeply or someone you love.  Life is hard, my friends, and loving our “dragons” is even harder.

I was recently teaching a Sunday school class about the Beatitudes in Matthew 5.  The familiar passage is all about relationships.  Hard relationships.  It’s not easy to mend trust and forgive our enemies.  It’s not easy to mourn a lost loved one.  It’s not easy to make peace when you live among those who randomly jump at you when all you want to do is “hang out” and bond.  Verse 45 tells us that “… He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”  We all live under the same heat lamp, my friends.  We have to learn to get along.  Do we have to be best friends and share leafy greens?  No.  Dragons are very happy to be left alone sometimes.  We are called to live peaceably and to forgive.  To share our space and make some room on our log so that each of us can bask in the light a little.  To cool off in the sand and “hang out” again when the time comes.  Perhaps I could learn a little from our new pet.  Now if only I didn’t have to feed the accursed crickets!


Want to learn more about keeping Bearded Dragons as pets?  Check out our Pinterest page for lots more references.  We are not experts yet, so encourage you to seek out the professionals on this adventure!  

 

Mother’s Day Hoarding

forgetmenot2By the time you read this post, Mother’s Day (in Canada at least) will be over and the flower shops and restaurants will be filling their coffers with yet another year’s profits.  Teachers will be breathing a sigh of relief that their entire class of 27 six-year-olds managed not to kill off their forget-me-nots, which were sent home on Friday, delicately blooming in hand-painted pots destined for moms and grandmothers.  The “mommy-I made-it-all-by-myself breakfasts in bed” kitchens will once again be tidy and neat and the dose of antacid tablets will be taken to settle the fact that you actually ate that “mommy-I-made-it-all-by-myself” breakfast.  *gag*  The moms will smile and wink at the dads who managed a card and who dressed the kids for church and dinner so you could get two more full seconds of sleep on this “special day” (Trust me… little girl tights are not something dads should handle).  Oh… but friends, I promise you this:  We loved every minute of it!

Even now, as mom of two teens, a semi-adult, and an almost grown-up pre-teen, I still appreciate the grunt and nod of acknowledgement that is directed my way every once and awhile.  Come to think of it, I also still have to clean up the kitchen from the “mom-I-made-it-myself” messes.  Hmmn.  So, I muse:  Why?  Why do we, as moms, savour every glimmer of appreciation from our kids?  Why do we never forget a Mother’s Day, even as adults? I think because we were given this God given gift of connection the moment we weloveditheld those beloveds in our arms for the very first time.  According to some early-stage scientific research, we have things called “u-opioids” that are released in our brains when we are socially connected to someone… specifically our mothers.  It’s that whole bonding/proper imprinting thing that is exemplified by those little ducklings illustrated in classic children’s books.  Moms make us feel warm and fuzzy — so we connect — and are now willing to follow them into the water even though we have never swam with our newly hatched tail feathers before.  It’s already pre-wired in our brains.  (Reminds me of that post about chocolate.  In case you missed it, you can read about that here.)

I remember studying about Rhesus monkeys in animal behaviour — when removed from their mothers and isolated, the tiny monkeys clung to warm pieces of cloth in their cages… anything to help them feel safe.   Even the basic need for food was only used temporarily… the monkeys went back to the warm, safe feeling momma.

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It’s in our very nature to connect… especially to our moms. (Photo: via UoT research archives)

Not withstanding the controversies of animal research in the 1960’s, these studies certainly showed us something about our need for connection.  I’m sure it’s biological.  And spiritual. Or both.  How much more do complex humans struggle to connect and bond than our animal counterparts?  Our relationships are the key to our existence.  A God woven ticket into our complexities.  We are too fragile to exist without one another.  Every good Hollywood film or compelling book sets it’s protagonist in an entanglement of relationship woes — and we, as an audience, rejoice when they “live happily ever after”.

I don’t have any research to back it up, but I suspect that even moms who are not particularly close to their kids still hoard things that connect them to their children.  A picture, a note, a card.  Even estranged or adoption birth mothers reflect on the day of their child’s birth.  Just a little bit.  It’s really hard to ignore something that grew inside you for nine months.  I’m a die hard scrapbooker and have been since I was a child.  I collect every ticket stub, brochure and report card.  I have file folders for each one of my beloved offspring and a couple of random ones for the leftover stuff.  I am compelled to save these random trinkets — just in case.  Just in case I need to know that in grade 2 your sister got an 82 in English and was a “pleasure to have in our class”.  Seriously.  I have no idea why I keep these things.  I’m sure it has something to do with u-opioids.  Some inexplicable bond that keeps me connected to my kids and my kids to me — through random photos and sticky, wrinkled papers rescued from the bottoms of backpacks.  These things remind me of the experiences we have shared together — and so I hoard and pile them up as the kids grow into adulthood.

This was the first mother’s day without my sweet mother-in-law.  She was taken from us all too soon from the end stages of Alzheimer’s.  Even though her memories were clouded and her fragile body was fearful at times, the family rejoiced in glimmers of recognition at an old hymn, or at some pattern in the table that struck a chord with her somewhere back in the depths of her memories.  She loved to look at my family scrapbooks.  She’d point and smile, and you could tell something clicked.  This is why we keep these little bits of memorabilia.  Our humanness wants to connect.  We need to feel loved and nurtured.

So, if you are a young mom still struggling with sleepless nights and piles of laundry, I hate to tell you… not much changes.  We still have sleepless nights and laundry.  Only now we are awake because they are out past curfew.  And the laundry just stinks more.  But you learn to treasure the coloured mother’s day cards complete with sparkles that’s hoarded away in a folder.  Why?  Because they remind you of the times your little ones believed that you were all that mattered in the world, and they were willing to follow you into the pond water — no questions asked.  As they get older, your treasures become the Facebook likes on your posts,  or the “mom, how do you make that meatloaf I love?” texts. You even relish in the “Can you please wash these pants in time for tomorrow’s presentation?” just before midnight.  And when your mom needs to be the one who gets cared for, you rejoice that you have made the connection complete.  And you’ll smile when the time comes to clean out her closet after she is gone, and discover that she hoarded a few photos and mother’s day cards from you, too.

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Charity on the Refrigerator

Does anyone else have a refrigerator covered in photos?  Those ones your ex-cousin’s- sister-in-law-once-removed gives you of their perfect family photo poised angelically by the Christmas tree? (Seriously! How many re-takes did that require?!) Or those magnets you get in the mail from all the realtors who are trying to buy your home and the pediatric dentist/walk in clinic that just opened up named “Mr. Smiles”?  Yup.  We have one of those fridges.  I still have those colourful magnet letters on the side… should one of my blessed offspring choose to practice their name.  (Note: my youngest kid is almost finished grade school and has been spelling her name for 8 years now with no troubles).  I love my fridge.  When friends come over they poke at the photos and comment on it.  “Hey!  How do you know these people?” or “Wow…who is that cutie?”  It’s my connection to the people I love.  I heard a speaker say once that God has a big fridge, too, with all our photos and crayon scribbled drawings on it — just because He loves us.  That thought makes me smile.fridge magnets

There are a couple of photos on my fridge that are kinda special, though.  They remind me to expand my love to not just my beloved friends and family… but also to the world at large.  One is a beautiful, dark-skinned newborn still all squeaky and fresh.   She (or he… I don’t even know!) is wearing one of my handmade, crocheted hats.  The hats were delivered via a visiting friend to an African hospital.  The photo makes me just wanna squeeze something.  The other photograph has now been replaced by a digital version delivered to my inbox.  It is of Shurjio, our sponsored child from Bangladesh.  He’s grown a bit since our first photo, but it makes me a proud “foster” momma.  I have never met either of these children, but something I did reached them… so they get a place on my fridge.  A connection to my heartstrings.

Now, I don’t want you to think that I am a super woman who pours my heart into charity and raises thousands of dollars to “save the world”.  Angelina Jolie I am not.  In fact, my heartstringphotosbetter half is much more aware of such issues and his empathy is usually the leading factor in our family donations to charity causes.  He was raised in a missionary family who served in a variety of places out there in the world — many members of which also have “prayer cards” stuck on our fridge to this day.  And so, by association, we share our resources diligently.

The purpose of this post is not to promote one charity mission or the other — it is simply a muse about some stuff that is on my to-do list, and close to my heart.  Some time ago, I read a book by Dr. Wess Stafford, one of the CEO’s of Compassion International, called “Too Small to Ignore”. He too, was a missionary kid growing up in a different culture and shares how his life was impacted by the world around him — so much so that in his adult years, he chose to  passionately make a change.  It’s an inspiring book that changed some of my thinking about sponsor children.  Our sponsor child happens to be with Compassion too… and they have some great resources for how to write letters and such to your sponsor child.  toosmallbookCheck out our Pinterest page if you want some great ideas for your family, school’s class or church group.   It’s on my to-do list to write to Shurjio… his birthday is coming up!! (We “picked” him because he shares the same birthday as my middle son).  I want him to know that some Canadian folks remember him, care about him, and want him to have a life deserving of all children.  Complete with school, hugs and some birthday wishes!

That being said, I truly recognize that not all charity should be directed overseas.  Our own neighbourhoods are filled with the poverty-stricken, the homeless, the helpless.  I applaud the many who do great work right here.  The blogging community is full of them, and my new adventure has connected me with a few new ones that I hope to stick on my fridge sometime soon.  So where do we start?  I read recently, that a according to a recent Angus Reid survey,  one-third of Canadians feel they should be “doing more”.  Tragedies like the Humboldt crash and their overwhelming GoFundMe page response, show that we are definitely trying.  More and more of us give “goats” and “soccer balls” at Christmas via charities. We recognize that we don’t need more stuff… we have plenty to share. Our next generations are so much more aware of their world’s needs and are full of justice seeking ideas.  My daughter’s fourth grade class recently raised enough money for a whole herd of goats.  A bunch of seven and eight years olds made an impact in their ever shrinking world!  Heaven smiles and sticks another photo up….

The skeptic in me wants to be sure, though.  I am not as quick with my cheque book as others.  I want to be sure that my funds are not being fueled into the pockets of those who don’t really need it.  There are lots of articles out there about those charities.  Do your research.  Learn about the work and the people who do it.  And then, if you are like me, and have a few photo cards up on your fridge, make sure you connect.  Take the time to build relationships with some kids you don’t know.  Whether they are down the street or across the ocean.  Kids and moms and dads are the same all over… we worry about the same things, and like to play the same games.  Me? I gotta find some stickers to send to a birthday boy in Bangladesh.  Maybe he will put his birthday card from Canada up on his fridge. 🙂

Refrigerator Charity Photo Samer Daboul

#1.  Do your research.  Pick a charity that uses their funds wisely and makes a difference to the people or things that really need it.

#2.  Be consistant.  Set up monthly payments or keep track.  Don’t commit and then give up on them.

#3.  Connect.  Write letters, fundraise, put some effort in.  Share your talents or gifts to create some unique masterpiece they can use to help.  It will make the cause more special to you. (Don’t forget to put that photo up on the fridge!)

#4.  Share.  If you love a charity, tell others about it.  In this day and age of social media, we have no excuses.

#5.  Pray.  I know so many people supported by this simple act of kindness.  Perhaps you don’t have the funds or are physically unable to walk or fundraise.  You have no idea how God will use your prayers to update the photos on His fridge!

Science Fairs are Fabulous!

I have a fondness for fairs — especially a good science fair.  I loved them as a student, and I love them now!  There’s something about all that genius in one room that invigorates my senses! I’m not much of a physicist, so life science projects float my boat, but a good model is always an eye-catcher.  Even if it is made of cardboard toilet paper rolls and scotch tape.  Recently, two of the younger folks at our house participated in their respected school’s science fairs.  Here’s my little muse about the results.

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Photo: Andrew Jay

I don’t know about yours, but my kids are kinda the last-minute-mom-it’s-due-tomorrow students.  Many a times I am running to the 24 hour Wal-Mart in search of bristle board! So, I have a book called “Help! My Science Project is Due Tomorrow” for just such an occasion.  It is great for some simple, yet thought-provoking projects for the kids.  This and Pinterest are my best friends.  The youngest, strong-willed one, decided she was doing a project on Chromatography.  She liked the fact that she could play with markers and colour.  Chromatography is “…the separation of parts of a mixture…” in its simplest terms, and this particular fun project is to see what colours are separated out of single coloured markers.  She decided to tackle her discoveries with a friend and the results were super!  The write up was complete; now to put together the display board.  Did I mention she was the strong-willed one?  Those glue stick wielding kids slapped those print outs on the board so fast they forgot to pay attention to the scientific order of such project. *sigh*  My “slightly-controlling-freak-out-science-fair-project-junkie-self” took over for just a moment but — I smiled — breathed — and suggested we carefully peel off the print outs and start again.  Maybe with some pretty coloured matting this time?! And a title!? Her grade level doesn’t move on at her school, but her and her partner proudly displayed their (slightly gluey) board in the gym and nobly collected their participation ribbons.

Her slightly quieter and more methodical older brother, proceeded to complete his project at a friend’s house with ne’er a notice to his science fair loving mom.  The nerve!  They completed a wonderful prototype model of a Concussion Measuring Helmet.  (Coming soon for a $499.99 price tag).  Did I mention he’s into sports?!  His school chose to organize their fair under the premise of “product pitches”.  Despite the fact that they had no parental influences,  I am pleased to say that the two sports buddies were asked to display their project at a local university’s “Innovation Science Fair for Young Inventors”.  My son pleaded with his mom not to go.  Ahem.

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One of the super things I love about science — especially kids and students doing science — is it is just magical enough to ignite that love of learning.  Why are erupting volcanoes so popular at science fairs? Duh… it’s because volcanoes EXPLODE and you get to make a huge mess in your mom’s kitchen because it is “for school”.  It’s hands on and it’s investigative and bonus: it teaches you something!  What could be cooler than that?!  Another thing about the great discipline of science in our world is that it is so diverse.  We have life science, engineering, micro, macro, space, technology, math… and the list goes on.  Just about any topic you choose can somehow be related back to science.  One of the top projects at our school this year was about bananas.  Bananas! Did you know there are a variety of ways to store different types of bananas?! This is science fair at its greatest, my friends!

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Besides the spark of ingenuity and diversity of the great competition, science fairs often spark connections.  Parents often work together with their children on projects.  As much as I have heard complaints of “that so and so parent did that child’s project” (which I certainly don’t condone!) it is usually a project that needs to be completed with some guidance and over time at home.  A perfect excuse to be involved in your child’s education! These connections sometimes put children on a career path that they may never have thought of before doing their research.  Could a visit from a real scientist encourage a child to become the next great surgeon or astronaut?  Could they be the one to embark on an epic journey or discover a new cure for the world at large? Absolutely.  Even if they are not the next Albert Einstein, some kids will become part of a great team of professionals and bring their expertise to their work.  I love how the Bible’s description of Ezra’s journey in Ezra chapter 8 includes “learned men“.  This was an epic journey to fulfill a religious duty, and yet Ezra brings learned men (I am sure a scientist or two!) to round out the collection of priests, musicians, scribes etc.  Even the Magi of the Christmas story were astronomers!  Despite our backgrounds and diverse beliefs, science often rounds out our discussions and strengthens our faith through discovery and collaboration.

Alas, maybe you are not like me.  Maybe you dread the science fair and all it brings.  No worries, my dearest reader, here are five fun resources to make connections with, to learn from, and to make your next science fair project the best one ever! (oh… but don’t forget to use pretty matting and put it in the right order!)

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Photos: KMitton and vlad-tchompalov(unsplash)
  1.  Your local library or college/university fair.  These are great places to start.  Visit a competition and see what makes the grade and impresses the judges.  Find books — there are a tonne out there– that give you step by step instructions on completing a great project!
  2.   Television.  Call me old school, but I love Bill Nye the Science Guy.  Cable Channels like Discovery have shows like Myth Busters and Shark Week.  Our local Public Broadcasting System (PBS) have great shows that spark imagination in kids.  Talk and news specials too. Just remember to watch with your kids.  Make appropriate connections.
  3. Professionals.  Do you know a doctor, astronaut, engineer?  Take a kid to work day may be a great option.  Ask the teacher!  They know! Get those high schoolers ready for the real world and workplaces.  Participate in a live project!
  4. Charities.  I love Scientists in School.  Often they are the first exposure to a real scientist that kids have.  Their workshops provide lots of resources to ignite that creativity in the little ones! Edutopia also seems like a really great resource in collaboration with the George Lucas Educational Foundation… and who knows science better than the Star Wars guy?!
  5. The great internet!  I would have loved access to the internet back in the days when I had to create my projects.  Homeschooling moms, true scientists, educators and authors have lots to share on Pinterest and other places.  Don’t worry, your kids already have googled ” super gross experiments” and have their top 5 list for you.  Word to the wise though… filter filter filter!

 

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Why are there Hockey Sticks in My Shower?

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We “Do Hockey” at our house, but I am so not a hockey mom.

Tonight is hockey finals for three out of four Mitton kids who play diligently on Friday nights.  The last night of the season! I cannot say that I am disappointed.  Now, please note, we “do hockey” at our house.  NHL.com is book marked and regularly read on our computer.  My boys know the stats of all their favourite stars, their celebrity crushes, and what they ate for breakfast.  My very own grandmother was known to shout at the television set during a particularly good play.  My youngest daughter was eager to show up the boys with her newly learned skating skills and isn’t afraid of a good slap shot.  We play year round… on ice in the winter and on the street all summer.  We even held our own Stanley cup playoffs and had a trophy presentation complete with the kisses of the piggy-bank-turned-ultimate-prize.  In spite of the fact that I own a book called “50 Things to Make with a Broken Hockey Stick”…. I am so not a hockey mom.

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Check out our Pinterest Board for more hockey goodies.

I enjoy watching my kids excel at anything.  I try and encourage them and strengthen their confidence by attending any activity they choose.  I do not, however, revel in freezing my tush-y off, huddled around a coffee cup and spending hours on end in slightly dank and dingy arenas trying to keep warm.  Okay, most hockey moms will say the same… they don’t like the chill of the arena and dealing with the ever growing pile of equipment and endless trips to the skate sharpening guy.  I have heard many a hockey mom complain that their teenager’s equipment could get up and walk away on it’s own –it stinks so bad.  I shudder at the microbe population taking up residence in my mini van!  I have heard this from many a hockey wife, too!  Currently, there are no less than 5 giant hockey bags in my basement… and a stack of hockey sticks in my shower?! I do not understand this. Only 3 of my kids play.

 

But you are Canadian they say … you are supposed to love “The good ol’ hockey game “/Stompin’ Tom and all that.  It’s in your blood, they say.  We have Tim Horton’s for goodness’ sake!   Sorry.  It’s not my thing.  For many families in Canada, it certainly IS a thing!  According to CBC news, the estimated total cost to a Canadian family with one child playing in minor hockey at the triple A level (the highest caliber in the minors) is between $8000-$15000 annually.  One kid.  I have four.  And a husband and a few pets.  As much as my eldest son would love to play AAA (and he could too… he’s got some skill!) we had to make the decision that our family simply could not balance everyone’s individual activities at such a level.  So I muse again, why?

I will fully admit that I am not a sport lover… I was that kid who took Saturday morning art classes and hated swimming lessons. I really am not that hockey mom who shines at the competitiveness of it all and works herself up into a fan frenzy.  From what I observe, competitive sports does something to people. Often it is magnified ten fold when we see it ignited in our kids.

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Sports creates an outlet for some kids (Photo: KMitton)

  The fact that all of us seek acceptance and affirmation often perpetuates the game.  We want to be good at what we do.  We aim for the prize because it provides us with the recognition that we crave so badly.  Sports creates an outlet for some kids who may not be the “academic one” in school… but man, can they skate.  (Yes, Art is another outlet, no worries my fellow Saturday morning art class alumni).   But the game of hockey drives many a feisty creature to a new level of purpose.  There is a new movie coming out soon, produced by Clint Eastwood, called “Indian Horse”…based on a true story of a young man who’s escape from tragedy was yup, you guessed it, hockey.  I haven’t seen it yet, but it marks the story emphasized by so many players… hockey gives them something to escape to.  Something to excel at, to revel in.

Often it is not about winning… I can pretty much guarantee we are not going to be first place at finals tonight.  To me, it is about playing the game well.  2 Timothy 2 reminds us that we are to stand approved by our character and integrity.  I expect my boys, especially, but all of my children to play the game with strength, purpose and by competing according to the rules.   They are allowed to be disappointed.  They are allowed to be angry at a play, call or loss of game.  They are allowed to fail and not get the winning goal. Or any goal.  They are not allowed to cop an attitude about it.

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Hockey moms rejoice.  Not-so-hockey-moms take notes.  Those smelly hockey bags may prove to be a life lesson.  Sometimes you get hit up against the boards.  Sometimes life is not fair.  Get up and try again. Do it with determination and learn from your mistakes. Practice your skill.  Aim for the trophy.  Remember that each player on the team has purpose. Being quarrelsome and resentful will get you no where.  Those frozen parents on the bench are there to coach, encourage, and help you grow.  Oh… and please learn to  store your sticks somewhere other than the shower.  You might need the shower after the game.chris-liverani-510543-unsplashnet


In light of the recent tragedy in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, where 15 lives were lost, and many others changed forever,  I encourage my readers to pray for the hockey moms who have lost their children.  I started writing this post before Friday’s events unfolded, and as much as I write a little tongue in cheek about competitive hockey, I recognize that the Broncos team is suffering greatly.  They would easily trade in all the stinky equipment and shower sticks for the return of their beloved family members. My heart is, again, reminded how hockey truly does impact so many of us; as parents, as family, as a nation.  God is in control and yet, He allows us to question why such tragedies happen.  I don’t know the answers either, but perhaps part of its purpose is to be encouraged and strengthened by one another as we aim, with dignity, character, and team spirit, to reach the goal between the posts at the other end of the ice.

 

Lost Socks… and How to Love Them

When my kids were a little younger we loved to read a book called “Lost Socks”.  It follows the possible life of a lost sock and ends with the little boy discovering he has two pairs of socks… exactly the same! *Giggle* It’s a cute book with a good attitude.

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Unfortunately, with a full house, my attitude towards lost socks is not always as good.  I am forever finding one abandoned under the bed… making friends with dust bunnies.  I have a shopping bag full of the creatures… mismatched and piled high because their partner has gone off to better places or is still travelling among the escaped Lego bricks.  It got so bad at one point, we decided to buy all the same colour socks so we could match pairs randomly.  I still have lonely ones in the bag!  A friend of mine painstakingly pins his socks together so if he loses one… he loses both!  Seriously?! I ain’t got time for that!

So what do we do with lost socks?  My Pinterest board is full of ideas… sock puppets, stuffy toys, new mittens… all good things!  My favourite option, however, is wear mismatched!  Just like the little boy in the book.  Be proud to be different!  March 21st was World Down Syndrome Day (2018) and the social sites were scattered with folks supporting it  — with none other than LOST SOCKS!  I love it!  World Down Syndrome Day was first observed in 2006 and encourages everyone “to raise public awareness of Down Syndrome”.  One video that caught my eye was little Tabitha’s.  I know her mom, and although I have met Tabitha only a few times, her warm smile brings joy to my heart. You can visit Tabitha’s YouTube video here.

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Photo credit: Katemangostar

I am not a mom to special needs kids.  I have no idea how difficult it is to maneuver this world with a kid with downs, or on the spectrum, or with physical difficulties.  Be that as it may — I have certainly loved a few.  After volunteering in school for awhile, I was moved by the lack of support being given to teachers, parents and the special education students.  So much so, that I returned to college to seek out some true education on the subject.  (College in my 40’s!  Whew… that’s another whole blog post!) My placements and research put me in the middle of the fire.  And my heart melted because of it.

I could write a big, long, blog post about the inconsistencies and problems of the education system… but I am not.  What I do think is important is supporting one another.  Supporting our students, supporting our parents, and supporting our teachers and staff who make it their jobs to love these kids day in and day out.  It’s hard enough to be with 30 kids at a time, let alone engage and initiate a love for learning in each one of them!  I salute you!  My heart is especially broken for those on the “fringe”.  Blog1 - Page 012The truly lost sock — full of anger and frustration because they are trying to be connected and engaged and simply don’t fit anymore in the system the way it is.  They aren’t truly identified as “special needs” and therefore don’t get the support they require to function well.  Perhaps their families need the biggest support and can’t access it.  They are mismatched and left to wander among the dust bunnies in the corner of the playground.  They have collected some of those lost Lego pieces along the way and are trying to add it to the great tower with all the other kids… only to see it crash down again.

I am certainly no expert in the field.  In fact, I am still quite intimidated by this special needs world.  I don’t really know what to do, or say, or “fix”.  But God is teaching me to love the mis-matched socks of this world.  To appreciate the colours and patterns and wildness of those who might be full of holes and a little worn on the edges.  Those covered in dust bunnies and carrying one lonely Lego piece to add to the tower.  Maybe, just maybe, I can find the match for that lost sock.  It might not be the right colour or style, but it will be one less lonely creature in that shopping bag full of lost socks.

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“…Love your neighbour as yourself…” Mark 12 (Photo credit: Pexels)