Sunday, November 30, 2008


Weekend notes:
  • Tannis and the girls put up our Christmas tree; a short, scraggly Charlie Brown special that we all like. It smells nice, the girls adored decorating it, and we can imagine that we saved it from being tossed in the wood-chipper unclaimed. Ezra is struggling with the concept.
  • Light-Up was great. The Herman family joined us for food and drinks beforehand, then most of us went into town at 7:30pm to catch Kinship and the fireworks, both of which impressed me -- quick, intense and fun.
  • I got out by myself yesterday afternoon and heard a wonderful band at a local coffee shop (one we had seen in the summer, playing excellent traditional folk songs and Celtic music), then hit a new (and amazing) exhibit at the Penticton Art Gallery. Learned all about prints — woodblock, linocut, etching, screenprinting — and it made me wish all the more that I was an artist. I was so impressed that I thanked the curator.
  • Hit the pool with the kids in the afternoon -- this has become a weekly fall ritual, it seems. They're thrilled, of course.
  • Reading a biography of Stradivarius, the great violin maker (and rented The Red Violin for good measure), and Kenny & the Dragon with Ella.
  • Beers at our place with Lorne and Andrew last night. Only a few weeks now till the Hildebrands move...I'm trying not to grieve in advance.
  • My dad took all the kids out for lunch today so Tannis and I could go on a date. Dreamy. We had gourmet brunch at the Cellar Door Bistro.
  • I've been playing violin every day -- not a creative pursuit I had planned, but it's been good for my soul. Still mostly sounds terrible, but not as terrible as it did.
  • Forgot to note how great it was to hang out with our dear friend Marj the week before last -- so lucky that she comes out here for work.
  • Nine Inch Nails this week! Looking forward to hanging out with cousin Richard, who is coming out for the show.

Friday, November 28, 2008

First Snow

Just in time for Summerland's annual light-up festival, we got (are getting, actually) our first snow of the season. And it's a beauty, snowing hard for at least six hours and piling up about five inches of fluff. Ivy and Ella woke up before me and Ezra (Tannis was the early bird, off to hockey first thing!), and as soon as they spotted the snow, they got geared up and headed outside to play. Later on, I took some photos:

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Into the Wild

I liked the soundtrack to this movie, and then Nada offered to lend me the DVD, so I checked it out. I watched it in three installments, which probably didn't help me get caught up in the flow -- the beginning didn't grab me at all, but I was glad I stuck with it. Knowing how it ended didn't make the the last half hour any easier to watch, especially as a parent internalizing the potential for pain when your kids wander.

I was curious enough to do some reading on the background story, which in some ways made it seem more tragic. The review by Katrina Onstad parallels many of my feelings about the film. I was surprised at the impact it had on me -- some of the scenes are beyond beautiful, and I thought the acting was mostly fantastic. Lots of food for thought on contrasts in decisions about how we set up our lives: thankfulness vs restlessness...optimizing your situation vs seeking out new experience...strengthening existing relationships vs developing new ones...independence vs interdependence and community...freedom vs comfort. I'll be stewing on this one for a while, I think.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Remember November

This was the last poppy of the season. It's been a weird fall, and even nature seems a bit confused. I rode along the TCT on Mt. Conkle one afternoon with my shovel, looking to do a bit of trail work -- but when I arrived and looked up the slope at the trail, I saw a mama bear with two big cubs (one very light-coloured beige/tan) staring down at me about 30 yards away. They should have been hibernating weeks ago. Anyway, it's been great for my mountain biking season and I've been taking lots of photos. Highlights this week (and some pics):


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Daddy-Daughter Date

Ivy and I went to see the Okanagan Symphony tonight. The theme was a Centennial Celebration, so it had some interesting local content, including the premiere of a piece by a composer from Penticton that turned out to be pretty amazing (to these untrained ears, anyway) and a pianist who grew up here playing one of Mozart's incredible piano concertos -- both were performed beautifully and professionally. Sandwiched in between those was some opera, which I've never been able to stomach, but it was interesting and mercifully short.

Ivy was thrilled to see her violin teacher performing on stage, and really enjoyed the first piece. She found the opera "kinda creepy, actually". Her patience and energy waned through three movements of the piano concertos, although she marveled at the skill (and memorization) displayed by the pianist. She most enjoyed the sound of the cellos and appreciated times in the music when it built from quiet to cacophony. An hour and a half was enough for us, so we left at the intermission, feeling very happy about the experience. Looking forward to taking in the Christmas show in a month.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Super Woman

Tannis really doesn't get enough credit for the amazing stuff she's pulling off right now. This fall, she's had piles of work, which happens in the evenings and weekends. This in addition to guiding two busy (and strong-willed) girls through their first year of homelearning, never mind their gymnastics, skating, Girl Guides and their other informal activities. Oh yeah, and all of that with a demanding one-year-old in tow.

Inexplicably, she finds time for baking, canning and other projects around the house -- like in the past couple of weeks, she replaced our toilet and built the girls a huge dollhouse. And she plays hockey. Seriously, it shouldn't all be possible. And somehow we still get to be friends and lovers while trying to keep this crazy ship afloat. Marvelous!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Manufactured Landscapes

I watched a remarkable NFB documentary tonight, digging into the work of Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky: Manufactured Landscapes. You can also see most of the photos in the film on his site, and they're pretty incredible views of how people have changed the natural environment. I was tipped off by a short feature on CBC's The Hour and borrowed the film from the library, but if you're curious, his TED talk is a more in-depth (30+ minutes of video) overview of his career, presented by the artist himself.

Many of the scenes of Chinese industrial production, oilfields, mines, giant dams and other industrial settings evoke the dark dystopia of sci-fi -- post-apocalyptic visions from Mad Max, 1984, The Matrix, The Chrysalids, Brave New World and others -- except that these are scenes and images from our actual world. Right now. Yet his photography (and the movie) isn't necessarily just presents a view of our current realities and lets us figure out how we want to respond.

Update: My favourite movie writer, Katrina Onstad, reviewed the film when it came out.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Now that it's after midnight, I think I can safely say that the girls slept away from home without us (or grandparents) for the first time tonight. They were very excited about the Sparks/Brownies sleepover party, but we thought they'd probably jam out when it came time to sleep. Methinks they're growing up.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mr. Milagro

The cute Ezra pics are piling up over in his Flickr set. They do all start to look the same, but for those of you who are into this sort of thing, here are some recent highlights:
Dude's been a real handful lately, very demanding and intense. But he's also more fun than he's ever been, showing a hilarious playful spirit and real cuddly warmth. He's busting out a few words now -- no, yah, mama, balloon, ball, oh! -- and lots of other communication that we've figured out but couldn't really be called words. This is when it really starts to get interesting for me.

Fall Beauty

We had some amazing warm weather earlier this week, and then the north wind blew a chill in. I've been taking some photos of the pretty stuff when I get the chance:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Site Update

After five and a half years of this site looking the same, I switched it up a bit. The obvious change is the graphic header and background, which I hope to change more regularly with pieces of interesting photos. I was plenty tired of "headspacej", which never really made much sense in the first place, so I thought I'd leave it free of words up there for a while.

The other main change is that I've overhauled the links in the sidebar, including many of the sites that I read regularly in all of my interest areas. In addition to the usual friends and local stuff, I've got links for kid's books, mountain biking, music, hockey, general brain food, and learning. As part of this, I've decided to officially archive my other blogs (haven't been updating them anyway) and simply include items here as they come up, even if they won't necessarily interest the people who come for photos of the kids. I want it to reflect a broader range of what I've been thinking about. That said, I haven't seemed to have time to update those other sites in a while, so there may not be much change in the content here.

And thanks also, as always, to those of you who comment, send notes and talk to me about stuff that shows up here. I do it for myself, and to create a record of our family's life...but it's a very nice bonus that it connects us with many of you. Please keep in touch.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Been listening to:
  • Beck's Modern Guilt -- sounds really good, perhaps stronger than most of his recent material
  • Eddie Vedder's Into the Wild -- surprising project, very solid
  • Ratatat's LP3 -- fun, mostly instrumental tunes...excellent music to work to, and much like their previous work
Been reading:
  • Coeur d'Alene, Flathead and Okanogan Indians by Franz Boas and James A. Teit -- amazing book, an ethnographic account and history of native groups in this region, written before 1910.
  • Savvy by Ingrid Law -- a YA novel, but 7-year-old Ivy adored it, and her 30-something parents liked it almost as much.
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart -- fun escapist reading in the Harry Potter vein (but no magic), targeted to 9-14 year-olds. Possibly even better than the original (review here).
  • The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall -- another kids' book, and also the second in a series. Ivy loved both books, plowing through each in a couple of days, so I read them too -- very folksy, mellow and fun, with a vibe a little like the Narnia series (also minus the magic).
  • Hold On to Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld -- interesting stuff about how we try to connect our kids to their peers to the point where their entire life orientation is toward their friends, pushing them toward independence too early and neglecting our relationships with them. Not an easy read, but eye-opening.
  • Almost forgot, we read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a bedtime story, and are currently working our way through The Meanest Doll in the World.
Been watching:
  • Almost nothing

Monday, November 10, 2008

Zin Zin Zin

Ivy had an opportunity through the homelearner's program to join a group of kids learning to play the violin. They're using the Suzuki Method, which encourages parents to learn with their kids and take an active I did. I got a bit of a late start, but I've been to a couple of lessons now and I'm catching up. I love having my musical brain engaged again (and the violin I'm renting is pretty rock 'n roll). The teacher is fantastic.

It's been cool to play with Ivy, although we've been getting on each other's nerves already. She loves playing, and beams with pride when she has success, but she resists suggestions to practice and frequently gets frustrated when things don't come easily. Tonight she refused to even try Mary Had a Little Lamb because it was "too hard" (she didn't know how to play it)...then proceeded to learn it by ear in about two minutes. I hope we can keep finding ways to make it fun so she sticks with it.

Update: My ever-generous mom just got us tickets to see a spring concert by James Ehnes, a Canadian (and Manitoban) virtuoso. Watching him play in this video is unreal; both inspiring and overwhelming for someone just learning to scratch out a dozen warbling notes and trying to combine them into "songs". Wow.