Trick? Or Treat?

30 years ago, Halloween was one of the highest points of a child’s year. Right up there with Christmas morning, Easter egg hunts, and birthday parties. The excitement of picking out a costume, the thrill of running around the neighbourhood with siblings and friends, collecting obscene amounts of treats, and the days – even weeks – worth of candy, chocolate, and chips to enjoy. I remember being Pippi Longstocking, a parrot, and a rabbit. My mother was the kind of person who would allow us to choose whatever costume we could think of, then she’d make it come to life during the weeks leading up to Halloween. That’s a tradition I’ve enjoyed carrying on with my own children.

These days, it seems things aren’t so cut and dry. More and more people are forgoing the tradition of door-to-door treat gathering, choosing instead to have All Saints parties, trunk-or-treat parties, or just skipping the night all together.

I’m not sure exactly when or how things got so complicated, but they have. There are issues with food allergies and sensitivities that prevent children from being able to eat any of their Halloween spoils. There are fears that a holiday of Christian origins has been taken over by too much darkness and gore. There is a general mistrust of what some kids (perhaps with eggs and TP in their backpacks) might be up to on October 31st.

Frankly, I understand all of the concerns. We try to shelter our children from many things, including a lot of the spookiness that goes along with Halloween. We don’t eat wheat and we try to limit refined sugar, so treat-consumption is somewhat challenging as well. But when it comes down to it, the decision we’ve made is based on one major point: trick or treating is just so much fun.

It’s simply kind of magical. It’s one of those nights when kids can really just be kids. It’s crazy, being allowed to accept candy from strangers. It’s uninhibited. It’s playful. We steer our kids away from houses that are decorated to look creepy or ghoulish, and stick to ones with friendly jack-o-lanterns. We certainly don’t allow costumes that are in any way dark or gory, but stick to ones that are fun and imaginative. (Last year we had a farmer, a bunny, and a carrot.) Tonight I think my kids were only out for about 35 minutes before they’d filled their (small) bags and had all the excitement they could handle. It was more than enough! (Really, more than enough. In fact just a few days ago Princess threw out the remains of last year’s Halloween haul.)

The bottom line is this: I completely respect whatever decision people make for their own families, whether it’s similar to ours or completely the opposite. Send your kids out! Keep them home! Have a party! Whatever fits within your comfort zone is what is right for your family. Our decision may evolve over the years if our needs or circumstances change, but for now Halloween is all treat.

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Five For Fun

1) October is flying by. Whoa. Our days have been busy even though we Homeschool and stick pretty close to home most days. My eldest daughter is gaining confidence in her reading and it is such an honor to be there to watch it happen. We are using the book “How To Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons” and we are about halfway through it. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone that likes short, easy lessons that can be done for 5-10 minutes a day.

2) We wanted to take the kids to a pumpkin patch to each choose their own pumpkins and then go apple picking but the day we chose ended up being way too cold and within ten minutes all the kids were squabbling and crying about cold hands. We promptly got back into the van while my husband loaded three huge pumpkins into our trunk.

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3)That same day we spent the afternoon at the farm. Whenever I say “the farm” I am talking about the farm my husband works for. We consider them family and love spending time out there. The kids all jump on the big trampoline, play in the woods and go visit the sheep, donkeys and cows. I hope they will always remember those days as being special because for me as their mother they really are. My dad grew up on a potato farm and I like to think it would make him happy to see my kids in rubber boots running around getting dirty and talking to the animals.

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4) I am not a good sleeper. It is currently 12:11am and I have to be up at 7 am. Not every night is so late but I have so much trouble getting my brain to switch off that I have to stay up most nights until I am completely toast. At least I have good sock knitting and Gilmore Girls on Netflix to keep me company.

5) My girls are super pumped about Halloween this week. They have decided to be little witches and keep begging me to let them wear their hats around the house. I am saying no all the way until the 31st because in previous years I have caved and then by the big day they were bored with their costumes and would end up wearing something random from our tickle trunk. Either way, this week will be fun as we get ready by carving pumpkins, baking something pumpkin-y and make some new memories trick or treating on our street.

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Raising a Reader: The Home Library

Greetings, Mighty Ones!

A few weeks ago, I wrote a “What I Wore to…” post and mentioned that I have recently developed a love for thrift shopping.  Of course, I was talking about clothes in that context and while there is so much to say on the subject of women’s clothing, the high retail prices we pay for poor quality pieces, and the gold-mine that is second-hand clothing stores, today I would like to focus my passion for thrifting in a slightly different direction:  Books.

Those who know me will understand that when I use the word “books” I am speaking primarily of classic, well-written, high quality, wholesome literature.  So then, no vampires, no steamy smut, and very few dragons.

As a teacher, a parent, an educated woman, and a Christian it is very important to me that my children fall in love with the written word.  I grew up in a home where literacy was highly valued and promoted on a daily basis.  My mom worked at home and when I was very young we began each day with a long snuggle and lots of story books read aloud.  In those days the stories would have been primarily from the Little Golden Books series and I still remember the beautiful illustrations, the whimsical plots, and the dreamy deliciousness of a good book.

As I got older my father read The Chronicles of Narnia aloud to me in the evenings, along with the New King James Bible, and other books.  I devoured books on my own and some of my favorites included the Little House series, The Babysitters Club, The Secret Garden, Little Women, The Seventh Princess, Anne of Green Gables, The Story Girl, and the Ramona Quimby series.

I was an avid reader from a very young age, and to my knowledge my parents rarely censored my reading material.  I do not ever remember them telling me that I could not read such-and-such, or that certain books or genres were not allowed.  For the most part I chose books from the household shelves, borrowed from my school library or from friends, and read to my heart’s content.  These days some might say that my parents’ rather hands-off approach to my literary consumption was irresponsible or naive (who knows *what* kind of trash I could have been reading!), but the truth is that of the hundreds of books I have read in my lifetime there are maybe only a dozen that I now recognize as inappropriate choices, either because of mature subject matter, or just plain trashy, poor quality writing.  Now as a parent and teacher looking back, I realize that the main reason that my reading material was of such high quality was because my parents and teachers made a point of only making those types of books available to me.  They technically let me choose, but they actually had more control over that choice than I ever realized.  They were intentional about what types of books filled the shelves in our home and in my school and because of that I was able to independently develop a love of great literature.

Now that I have three children of my own, the oldest of whom is an emergent reader who loves books, I have begun to fill the shelves of our home with the kinds of books I want my children to read.  There is a little bit of everything genre-wise, from silly comedy to suspenseful drama, police mysteries to fairy tales, and there are almost 200 children’s and teen titles covering two huge books shelves.

I have managed to find almost all of these books at either Value Village or in library cast-off piles.  The retail price of my home library would likely run into the thousands and I can say with confidence that I have spent less than $300 over two years.  My children now have access to a very high quality home library at an extremely affordable cost.  True, some of the books are not in pristine condition, but the vast majority of them are.  And after all, we are not to judge books by their covers, are we?

Here is a (very) small sampling of some of our favourite titles from our home library.  All of them were purchased second hand, and all of them are highly treasured by my kids.  Most of them have been read aloud to my two eldest children, and all of them have been read by me at one point or another:

  1. James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl
  2. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl
  3. Mr. Popper’s Penguins, by Richard and Florence Atwater
  4. Ramona the Pest, by Beverly Cleary
  5. My Naughty Little Sister, by Dorothy Edwards
  6. Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren
  7. Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan
  8. Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang, by Mordechai Richler
  9. The Seventh Princess, by Nick Sullivan
  10. Stuart Little, by E.B. White
  11. The Whipping Boy, by Sid Fleischmen
  12. Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell
  13. The Family Under the Bridge, by Natalie Savage Carlson
  14. The Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
  15. A Bear Called Paddington, by Michael Bond
  16. Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

In closing, I want to encourage all parents and educators to consider creating a large home-library consisting of the kinds of books you want your children to read.  Hit the thrift store and spend some time combing the shelves for high-quality titles.  Then start by reading them aloud to your children.  They won’t like everything you choose, and they won’t read every title you purchase, but having them in the house from the beginning of their reading careers will go an incredibly long way towards raising a child who loves high-quality literature and has discerning tastes when it comes to making wise book-choices.  I firmly believe that readers do not need to be born….they can be made!  And raising a reader is an amazing feeling for you, not to mention an invaluable gift to them.

Happy Thrifting and Happy Reading, Mighty Ones!

Love, Amanda

What I Wore, Thanksgiving Edition

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving day, friends! I hope you are all getting to be with people you love, eating food you enjoy and giving thanks for you have. We had our big feast yesterday and we are now enjoying a deliciously quiet day at home together with leftovers for supper.

Today I give you one of my typical mom outfits. I am certainly no fashionista and I wear 20% of my clothes 80% of the time but I do like to look somewhat put together and cute. My husband and I are on a major mission to be completely debt free by 2015 so there is no room in the budget right now for new clothes. However, when I do buy new clothes I typically buy lots of basic, classic pieces and add in an occasional fun accessory.

Here, I am wearing some brown boots my mom bought me on a shopping trip to the states a few years ago, some black leggings, a second hand banana republic tunic that once belonged to my sister-in-law and then my newest piece of clothing, a wonderfully soft sweater made of 100% extra fine merino wool.

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Five for Fun

1) I am in over my head, folks. Granted, I am a fairly short person, but right now my to-do list is longer than I am tall. I’ve got a killer combination of baby showers, Halloween costumes, birthday presents, Thanksgiving dinners… The first thing I do when I start to get overwhelmed is make lists. I make a lot of lists. And always, always, the first list I make, is a list of all the other lists I need to make. Crazy, right? The first list is always something like, “Groceries to buy. Crafts I need to finish. Chores that need to get done.” And so on. Then I get into the details of each individual list. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this!)

2) Anybody else have attention deficit issues when it comes to crafts? I’ve been making hats, bookmarks, baby shoes, capes, masks, and Halloween costumes. I bought some of these for some tiny embroidery. And I’ve been painting.  I just need to learn to sit down and finish one project before I find something new and awesome to start.

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3) I love Halloween costumes. My kids only go to about a dozen houses for trick or treating, but I love letting the kids pick what they want to be, and working on making their ideas come to life. This year we’ll have an Elsa, a robot, a pink poodle, and a bumblebee. We have a history of bugs for first Halloweens. It’s all about those antennae.

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4) It’s almost (Canadian) Thanksgiving! We will have the pleasure of enjoying two turkey dinners this year. I’m cooking one dinner, but supplying desserts for both. Help me decide? Apple crisp, pumpkin pie with gingersnap cookie crust, lemon tart, apple pie cinnamon rolls, or something else. I need at least two. Oh, and did I mention I can’t eat grains, dairy, soy, or eggs?

5) After seven months of extraordinary sleep-deprivation, Pooter decided to start sleeping through the night last week. Six nights in a row of seven to twelve hour stretches. And then, just when he’d lulled me into a false sense of security, he’s been back to his old tricks for the last two nights. For a while there, I was drinking coffee because I liked it, but not because I needed it. I cling to the hope, however, that since he’s proven he can do it, he will go back to doing it sooner than later.