Walk Your Angst Away

November 30, 2011

the polytonal leaves
that crunch
beneath my feet
and my stroller
remind me that there is beauty
in every step
and every season;
the dying leaves
are not the end.

the polychromatic leaves
guide my gaze upward;
in doing so
my spirit lifts
and reminds me:
my gaze
and perspective
should always be


Morning Prayer

November 30, 2011

Please —
Please bless me with confidence
that I can support him
through this trial
better than I have with previous trials.
Make me the wife
he needs right now.

Please —
Please bless me to keep perspective
that I can still make merry
for the children.
Bless me that I will create happy memories
for them
that they will be spared
from what I feel inside.

Please —
Please make me strong.
Please help me to keep
priorities straight
and that I won’t give in
to the pressures
of stress,
of worry,
of helplessness.

Please —
it is my job to keep things running
and running normally.
Please make me the person I need to be:
mold me, shape me.
I know this requires going through the fire
and I am ready.
Please, do with me whatever is required
that I can serve them, love them, and support them.

and please,
let this season of refinement be briefer than this season of joy

The Key to a Happy Marriage

November 21, 2011

I actually made it to book group this month. We had a great talk about “Nothing Daunted” and passed out the new book, “For One More Day.” It’s a beautiful book, and short. I finished it somewhere over middle American but enjoyed it and will likely reread it on the flight home.

At one point the mother gives her son advice prior to his wedding. “You need to love three things,” she says. “You need to love yourself, you need to love your spouse, and you need to love your marriage.” Sometimes things get tough and you don’t always love yourself or your spouse, and you don’t want to continue, but you can still love your marriage, and you can hold on to those happy memories until things get better.

Her advise resonated well with me as it represents much of why I love returning to Michigan. I have many happy memories here, from our engagement, our honeymoon, and many many holidays spent here. Because we visit here on holiday we are much more relaxed, and thus nicer to each other, making the memories happier and sweeter. It’s easy to remember hurtful words, a perceived lack of support, and an endless list of other slights. It’s more important to remember the reason you married, and the happy moments. We can choose how we remember the past, and it is in doing so that we write our own future.

I have had a beautiful past with Paul, and I know that we have an eternity of happiness ahead of us. I hope that we spend a lot of time returning to Michigan to walk the paths of our happy memories as we create new memories.

Today, in the words of my friend

November 18, 2011

“Ella, look at the little Orangutan. Oh, he’s a good climber. Look at him climb that pole. Oh my goodness, he got out!”
And thats the story of when we were evacuated from the L.A. Zoo

(I am very sad to report that while we were with these friends at the zoo, we were looking at the tiger when this happened, so we didn’t get to see it. We only received a curt “we are evacuating the zoo” due to a “situation” from an employee not long after.)

Not surprisingly, Blue has now decided he’d like to be a zookeeper when he grows up. He thinks chasing runaway orangutans around a zoo sounds like fun.

French in Appalachia

November 18, 2011

There are so many stories I’ll never be able to tell my first year with my own classroom. You know the drive, and you’ve gotten a couple of clever quips from the children here and there, but that’s probably all I’ve said about that year. Truth be told, it was a very difficult year for me, but it’s important to me to remember that it wasn’t just something I white-knuckled till June.

I had a varied list of assignments. The ages and abilities of the children that came through my doors spanned almost the entire school. Being as rural as it was, ours was a K-7 school. I was a 6th grade homeroom teacher, but we tried to “departmentalize” our upper grade classes to prepare them for high school. I taught 6th grade remediation English, and a 6th grade History class. (or two? It’s really getting blurry.) I taught 2nd grade Reading extension to a small, pull-out group. I also taught French to the gifted group (grades 5-7.) It wasn’t an ongoing program, the French class, it was something conceived during my interview when the principal saw on my resume that I was fluent in French. The curriculum was entirely up to me.

I immediately logged into Amazon.com and ordered everything I thought my be helpful; I think it came to 10 items. At the time Amazon was the only way I could get books in the middle of nowhere and their foreign-language selection was even smaller than it is now. I emailed family and friends begging for help. My mother found some books discarded from the library of the French Immersion school up in Whitehorse, and my friend Michelle hit up the rummage sales in Montreal.

So then I had books, but what to do? These children were classified as “gifted” in our school not necessarily because they were, but because they outperformed their peers. My Tuesdays were split between teaching French to the children who could actually read and write in English, and then teaching English to those with little command (or regard) for the language. I worked through the bilingual books, working on a few key phrases and routinely singing repetitive songs. All in all, I think it was just an enrichment experience. They probably don’t remember a single word, but they probably won’t forget the teacher that didn’t belong there.

Also, of my handful of children (five? seven?) one of them was instructed by her father to stop coming in the spring, “because those French traitors are not supporting us in the war.”  What can I say?  It was 2003 and tensions were high.

Preschool: French

November 17, 2011

(This lesson is my contribution to the Ratatouille unit, it was thrown together at the last minute, but came out well enough.)

Curious George (the movie) in French

Normally I don’t use tv with the children, but in this case it served several purposes: it allowed me to finish up my prep in the kitchen, it kept the children from pulling every toy out of every box (it’s been a problem) and it allowed them to hear some French without being frustrated by not understanding what was going on. (They only watched about 20 minutes or so.) The songs in the movie are not translated, it should be noted. Obviously my first choice was to put in Ratatouille, but it, like many other Disney movies, is only available in English on the dvd. This is a ridiculous choice on the part of Disney, as I believe all movies sold for use in North America should be dubbed into all three languages.

Bonjour mes amis!

Bonjour: good day (hello)
mes amis: my friends
je m’appelle: my name is
After going over a few introductions we sang “bonjour mes amis bonjour.”


I had a lot of fun translating our calendar time into French.  We did all of our normal calendar time routine in English, then doubled the whole thing in French.  I always do calendar time as part of our welcome activity in preschool, though I don’t normally list it in the lesson plan.

Les Livres

I only got through about half of the books I had in my possession.  (Did I forget to mention that I was a French teacher in Virginia for a year?  That’s a story for another day…)  I’ll list only a sample of the books, not the entire collection. 

La dégringolade du Père Noël” by Gilles Tibo
Ma Maman” and “Mon Papa” by Debbie Bailey and Susan Huszar
L’Alphabet” by Roger Paré
De la petite taupe qui voulait savoir qui lui avait fait sure la tête” by Werner Holzwarth and Wolf Erlbruch (translated from German but if you’re interested in a barnyard defecation story, it has been translated into English as well)
Gros Grognon” by Jeremy Tankard (a translation of this adorable book)
Château-Mystère / Mystery Castle” by Kathy Gemmell, ill. by Brenda Haw
L’Île Fantastique / Fantastic Island” by Kathy Gemmell, ill. by Brenda Haw


Working out of the cookbooks they’re using for this unit, they assembled my childhood-favourite snack:  bugs on a log.  Celery and peanut butter in equal portions with raisins on top?  It’s perfection.


For our craft we made Eiffel Towers out of wafer cookies, following the example found in my Ratatouille cookbook, “What’s Cooking?  A Cookbook for Kids.”

C’est Tout!

There are many things I’d have done differently, but I threw it together on late notice.  I’m quite worn out, but I don’t teach again until January so I have plenty of time to recover.

on Thanksgiving

November 13, 2011

We all know the story of the Pilgrims coming to America, (even I, the Canadian, know enough about this piece of American history.) They left England (by way of Holland, by way of England, oh nevermind) in search of religious freedom. They lost one of their ships on the arduous journey, and by the end of the first winter they had lost approximately half of their group. It is pretty hard to start a whole new civilization with 47 people. In their traditions they feasted as a celebration and they fasted in times of trouble. Had I been a pilgrim I’d have been fasting every other day. Instead, they gave thanks. They rejoiced over every little thing, they appreciated so much and had so little. They were a very grateful people. While not the first to have a harvest celebration or a feast to give thanks, their story is a good one to look toward as an early archetype for our Thanksgiving celebrations.

Their story is not unlike that of the Mormon pioneers travelling west. They, too, were escaping religious persecution and seeking religious freedom. They also travelled a great distance, lost countless members of the group along the way, and endured incredible hardships. They, too, were quick to give things, quick to lift their hearts and rejoice.

Thanks to the efforts of both of those groups and so many more, we live in religious freedom. We do not have to travel great distances and lose many of our family members to death and disease in search of relief from persecution. We have so much that we take for granted that is considered luxury by people around the world.

We can learn a lesson from these travellers of old. We can pattern our own lives after the example of gratitude we see in them. We can learn to be happy amid sorrow, and grateful for trials. It is in our greatest struggles that we can feel the tender mercies of God, for that is when we discover how much He buoys us up and strengthens us. I know firsthand that this is true, and am grateful for the depth of my own struggles as they have brought me to my knees and led me to know my God and His infinite love for me.