Thursday, May 31, 2012


Last weekend, our  school PAC gathered together.
A mixed-up bunch of personalities and people - all with our own stories and wishes.
We've worked together all year to give our kids the best year possible.
Now it was time to celebrate that the end of the school year is almost here.

We gathered together in our secretary Maureen's beautiful backyard, where you can see snow capped mountain peaks as you sit on their patio.   
It was a kind of perfect day.

Our kids came along for the ride.  After all, the PAC is really all about them, right?

While the kids ran around the yard, laughed, jumped on the trampoline, played air-hockey,  and ate copious amounts of cheetos, we adults had serious business to attend to.  

There was a school year to toast.
Out came the champagne.....

.... and soon the toasts began.

It wasn't an easy school year.  
The teachers were in form of job action or another all year which affected a lot of programs and plans for the year.

But we carried on and raised a lot of money, sold some art, brought in artists, had a lot of meetings, blew up a lot of balloons, and served a lot of pizza.  

We laughed some, too.
Oh how I'll miss this bunch.


Monday, May 28, 2012


..... the new blogs in our family!

Hoping to stay connected with their friends in BC, Ellie and Sasha have each started their own blog.  They join their big sister Hannah (who's been at this for awhile) in the blogosphere.

I'm sure they'd love a visit and a comment!

Sasha's blog -   "Sasha Says"

Ellie's blog - "If You're Ellie and You Know it Clap Your Hands"

Hannah's blog - "Butterfly Girl"

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Bucket Show

Last week the intermediate classes at Confederation Park put on "The Bucket Show".   For the past few months, the school has been focusing on practising positive character traits every day and learning to be "bucket fillers" rather than "bucket dippers".   Each intermediate class wrote and planned their segment of the show themselves.  

One of my favorite parts of the whole show was a piece a grade 4/5 class presented.  It was my favorite because there is a girl named "K" in this class who learns differently and requires special adaptations.  She makes me laugh every single time I see her in the hallway.  She held that "applause" sign with great gusto and flair!

Although Ellie isn't an intermediate student, she's in a grade 3/4 class, so she got to take part.  She and her girlfriends got to dance a piece representing negativity.

Hannah's class performed the song "Seed to Sow"....   

....she even got to sing a solo!

I really love this picture.  This is a group of kids from Hannah's class.  The girl in the purple ("J") beside Hannah is her age!  Look at their size difference!  I love how "J" is stretching WAY up to put her hand on Hannah's shoulder!

For the piece that Hannah's class wrote and presented, Hannah played the part of a school teacher whose words belittle a student in her class.

In the end, they all come around, just like we should.

This was a bitter-sweet production.  I loved what the students presented, but I knew it was the last time I'd be sitting in that gym watching my girls perform.   It was a fitting finale.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Unfolding a Family

When school first started when we first arrived here nearly two years ago, I was the new kid on the block.  I will always remember what it felt like to stand around on the playground and wait outside the kindergarten door - knowing no one.

That feeling takes you back to junior high pretty quickly.   The inner conversation in my head sounded something like this.  "Will someone talk to me?  Will they like me?  Will I make friends?  I like the looks of her.  She looks like someone who would fit with me.  I'm afraid of her.  I need to avoid them.  I hope they come over here.  I hope I don't sound silly...."

I needed somewhere to leave myself for parts of those first few days.  Sasha always wanted to stay and play outside when Kindergarten ended at 11:30.  Some days I didn't feel comfortable in my own skin.  I needed to find a hiding place.  On days like those,  I'd wander over to the swing set to hide where the kids were.   Though I didn't know it then, I found a treasure where I was only looking for a place to escape.

Sitting on those swings were two chocolate-brown skinned beauties, with the warmest eyes,  sitting side by side.    He was in Sasha's class and she was his little sister.  They captured me from the first time I saw them.   There they were, feet dangling, just waiting for a push. Before long, I was pushing them on the swings, sending them to places in outer space.  They would giggle and ask to go to Mars and I'd lose myself in the simplicity of the moment, forgetting the anxious feelings I was trying to get away from.

I loved to push those two on the swings.   It became "our thing" and soon A and S were my buddies.  They asked for pushes to far-off places,  and I was only too happy to oblige.

Within a day or two, I was standing near the door waiting for Sasha to be dismissed when A and S's mom struck up a conversation with me.  She shared a little of her story - she had only been the mom to the chocolate brown beauties for a few months.  They were siblings who she and her husband had adopted.  She was a natural - that much was clear - but she was also finding her way in the world of parenting by jumping in feet first and waist deep.

Pushing those two on the swings and talking to their new mom allowed me the immeasurable gift of being the witness to watching a family unfold and take shape where one didn't exist before.

Before long their mom, Heather, was my friend.  When I met her husband, Don, I snagged him as my friend after the first 10 seconds.  (Now, like it or not, I'm not letting go!)  As the year went on, I watched the beautiful evolution.  Where bodies were once a little stiff or reluctant, I watched them melt into each other.    I got to observe the rhythms and melodies of voices and calls from across the playground find their pitch and timing.  I heard the tales of the growing pains and victories and knew was there when word came that it all became official and they were a family that couldn't be separated.

But even before it was official, I knew.  They were a perfect fit, you see.  The way A fell in love with hockey like his mom and talked of little else, knowing he'd won her heart.  The way little S giggled and teased her dad, waiting for the sparkle in his eye and the squeeze of his hand.  It was amazing - to see two adults and two children who weren't connected to each other fall into the cracks and spaces of each other's lives and take up residence where only they would fit.

A few weeks ago they were here for dinner with another family.  And there were a few moments that took my breath away.  It's the way A and S say "mom and dad" and they answer them both like they've been only theirs forever.  It's the way Heather gently held A on her lap and wiped up his bloody nose.  He trusts her implicitly.  She's his mom and there is no one else for him but her.  It's when I catch them responding to Heather and Don's instructions or requests and they do it to please them because they are confident in their love.

When I think of the richest parts of these past two years,  the unfolding of this family sits close to the very top.   And I wouldn't trade those pushes on the swings that let me in for a front row seat,  for anything.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Island Adventures

We spent the May Long Weekend on Vancouver Island.

Knowing our days here were coming to an end - another ferry trip and some days exploring the Island were on our "must do" list before we leave for Winnipeg.

We boarded the ferry on Friday morning to beat the mad rush and make the most of our weekend.   The most interesting part of our ferry ride were the incredible magnitude of Hells Angels on board.  We noticed them all pull in on their motorcycles as we were waiting in line to get onto the ferry.  This resulted in an interesting conversation about organized crime and criminal gangs in our van.  Once on board, it was my main goal to spot and point out as many "associates" as I could.   (Note the lingo).  Mike was appalled that I suggested he take a few pictures of a few of them from the back - all covert like.  He just shook his head and said, "I don't think they take too kindly to having their pictures taken".    I just thought it would make a nice keepsake from the trip.

It was a windy one up on the top deck! 

After a short drive from Nanaimo (hello, Jason Smoker), we arrived at our destination - the Ocean Trails Resort just outside of Parksville on Rathtrevor Beach.  We spent some time on this beach last spring and fell in love with it.  The resort was perfect for our family.  It was just a short stroll to the beach, there was an outdoor pool, a playground, basketball court, tennis courts, and best of all - our condo was 2 bedrooms and there was room for all of us to have our space and be comfortable.  I like being comfortable and space is one of my favorite things.  If momma is happy, we're all likely to be happy.

Here's the path down to the spectacular beach.

The best part of this beach is what it's like when there's low tide.  You can walk and walk and walk on the sand and there are tide pools everywhere.  The tide pools are warm and filled with all kinds of awesome little sea creatures.

Right near the path to our resort lays the most driftwood I've ever seen.  You can walk on top of it all along the beach.

Even though it was cool and windy on the beach, it was sunny and warm at the swimming pool!

After a great first day, we hunkered down for night.  
You will notice that Piggy is still a very important part of the Penner family.

Saturday brought lots of sunshine.  We were so thankful!

The girls had a great time swimming and I had a great time reading on my lounge chair by the pool during the morning.  Then we pulled the table off our patio into the sunshine and ate our lunch outside. It felt so good to feel the sunshine.

Back to the beach for more exploring....

... and to the playground for some hanging around.

All of those activities were in preparation for going to Coombs Country Market in the afternoon.

We had to work up an appetite for the cheapest and biggest freaking ice-cream cones ever.
$3.25 for two huge scoops and a waffle cone - taxes in, baby.
No wonder Mike is smiling.

Or maybe he's smiling because there are Goats on the Roof at this place.  For real.
It just never gets old.

We had to stop at the biggest playground ever at the community park in Parksville.
I'm glad Mike still likes to play.
I still like to watch, so it all works out.

After a quick supper we made great use of the basketball courts.

Sunday was a different kind of day.  We knew it was going to be a little wet and cool so we came prepared with our vintage set of Dutch Blitz cards.  Yes, what you are about to see and read about are details about our Dutch Blitz action.  Some of you non-Dutch Blitz players may want to skip ahead.  (If you don't play Dutch Blitz, we feel sorry for you.)

Ellie and Sasha are quite the force to be reckoned with when they're playing the Blitz.   They've got their team work down to a Science, and can really rack up the points sometimes.   They also rub our noses in it.

I want to go on record with these next few pictures as proof of how terrible a player I am.  Let it be known that I still keep playing.  I don't give up or quit, for the Blitz is in my blood.  Here are my humble beginnings.....

.... and the damage at mid-round.

Never let it be said that card games are not contact sports.  Dutch Blitz is.  
Mike was our casualty.  
Finger nail clipping was attended to before the game resumed.

And here is the damage.
A Vonderful goot game if we do say so ourselves.

As rewarding as it was, the highlight of Mike's day was not winning Dutch Blitz.  He had been anticipating the solar eclipse all week and wasn't sure he'd be able to catch a good glimpse of it.  To his delight he had a great sighting of it and managed to capture a few images as a reminder.

Today was our last day.  We loaded up the van in the morning and drove out to Victoria for our last visit before we leave.  It's kind of a big deal being in Victoria on Victoria Day.  It was busy and full of people, despite the sprinkles of rain.

If you know Mike, you know how much he HATES paying for parking.  One of the hardest things for him these past two years has been swallowing his pride and just paying the extremely high parking prices in downtown Vancouver.  Well, he just couldn't shut up about how elated he was because of this little ray of sunshine in his life today.

We celebrated Victoria Day and the free parking with a toast to our good weekend.

We walked down to China Town so that Ellie could buy a fan to replace the one that went mysteriously missing after our trip to Victoria last spring.  All is well in the world again.

As we were walking down Government Street, we were all startled as Ellie let out a little shriek.  Low and behold, her tooth came out in the middle of the action.  It was a biggie, too!  She pulled this same trick in Whistler this fall.  She may be on to a new holiday tradition.... loosing gigantic molars in large crowds in public places.

After a short drive to Swartz Bay to catch our ferry, we parked on the line and enjoyed the sunshine.  Sasha had time to make a special new friend.

His name is "Steve" - named after DJ's boyfriend on "Full House".
(I know.  Full House.  You don't need to say anything.)

The reason?  He really seemed to love to eat.  The girls made him a lovely little home and served up some juicy leaves and he chowed them right down.

It was hard to leave him behind, but she knew it was the right thing to do.  Be well, Steve.

We ended the weekend the way we began - on the ferry.  

Thankful for memories of a beautiful place that we hope we can visit again.