Dadda, will you sit with me?

The soft and innocent voice of the child who should have been asleep half an hour ago beckons from the dark at the top of the stairs.

“Dadda, will you sit with me?”

I know it is partly a ploy, a distraction to stay awake longer, but deep down we both know it is also a sincere request for a soothing presence to help a child fall asleep. How can I say no?

Yes, there are times when it seems inconvenient or when I am just a little frustrated because I assumed from the quiet upstairs that the children were already asleep. Sometimes I wonder what have they been doing all this time to stay awake before finally announcing themselves?

IMG_3543Tonight I was sitting contemplating a new blog post. I have not been keeping current on the blog – it has been a long time – months – since my last post. I can explain all that in future posts. Then that voice in a tone only imperceptibly different from little Cindy Lou Who called from the top of the stairs, “Dadda, will you sit with me?”

I have learned not to fight it. There will be a negotiation of how many minutes I will sit there in the dark beside their beds, waiting quietly, patiently, for them to fall asleep. Our girls are seven and five, almost eight and six, and I long ago saw that this request has nothing to do with insecurities or monsters under the bed. We as parents are big participants in the girls’ lives. I think they just like to end the day with one of us close by.

Sometimes it takes only a minute or two before the rhythmic breathing of slumber tells me they have drifted off immediately. Sometimes they are still awake when I leave the room, but I know that sleep is not far off.

Perhaps most importantly I have learned that those 10 minutes or more (it always becomes longer than originally planned) are as valuable to me as they are to them. What better way to be mindful and focus on the moment than to sit in calming reverie to sooth a happy child to sleep. What an opportunity to just be present with them. I think about the day, the next day. I think about what a soothing influence their lives are for me, for us.

IMG_3532aThe other evening when Ava wanted me to carry her up the stairs to bed, I groaned as I lifted her up, how did she get to be so big?

“Well, Dadda, day by day, night by night, I just keep growing,” she answered.

A year or so ago, I asked her the same thing, how did the little baby that I held in my hands get to be this big girl? while she was dancing in the hallway on her way to bed in sheer bliss to no music other than what was in her head. In her sweet and knowledgeable sing song voice, she answered as she kept dancing, “That’s just the way life is, Daddy, that’s just the way life is.”

Sitting here contemplating where the time has gone since I last posted a blog is nothing compared to wondering where the time has gone since the girls were babies, toddlers, even pre-schoolers. I know the day will come when they stop asking Dadda to sit with them at bedtime. These minutes in the quiet of bedtime with them are ours to cherish right now. They know I cannot refuse. It may play out as a bit of a game, as I reluctantly say I will but only for a few minutes. But we all know how this is going to turn out.

“Dadda, will you sit with me?” Of course I will.


Cold hard lessons of the cold frame

Cold frame, good. Fresh garden greens, radishes and green onions, good. Windy day and open cold frame, bad. The picture about sums it up. Don’t leave the cold frame propped open on a windy PEI day without securing it. Lesson learned.

We had finished most of the greens. They were starting to bolt. Picked out all the glass, cleaned out all the plants and more glass, removed the top and replanted. Now the cats think it is a lovely outdoor litter box just for them. Must reseed and find mesh for the top until the plants are up. Then I’ll start looking for a new window to fit the cold frame.

There’s always something to do.

All that book learnin’

Books play a major role in our house. My wife Stephenie is a librarian. We both read a lot. We own a lot of books. More than 500. I know that. I counted. I counted because I read a story in the news last year about a study that said that children who grow up in households with more than 500 books in them are much more likely to pursue post secondary and graduate school educations. As soon as I got home, I started counting. I was confident we would eclipse the 500 mark and relieved that we did. That does not include children’s books. We probably have 500 more counting those.

Our two girls love to be read to and to look at books. Kat, now seven, reads, no consumes, books almost as quickly as her mother does. They are fast readers. I am a slow reader, or as I prefer to think of it, I take my time reading and absorbing a book. Sometimes that sucks. It can take a long time to finish a long book.

We have always loved books. I have always turned to books to satiate my curiosity or find an answer to a question. I know it annoyed some people in my family when we would be having a discussion about something and I wouldn’t be able to sleep until I had looked up the answer. I always knew I had a book somewhere that would be able to give me the answer. If it isn’t obvious, I was, and still am, a book geek who found the table of contents and the index of a book a fascinating realm of information.

Which brings us to today when people Google questions rather than look up the answers in a book. It takes longer to find an online dictionary than to pick up a real one and look up the word, but it is the habit of the day. Often Google is simpler and easier. It is an amazing tool. But it hasn’t replaced books entirely, at least not in our house.

Our girls wanted to research something, anything. The idea must have come from Kat’s grade 1 class. Great idea. I said maybe to tie in with Documentary Night, we should pick a topic each month to research. They picked big cats. They wanted to get on the computer and start researching. I said we didn’t need to do that and pulled off the shelf a National Geographic book, a book about Canadian wildlife that I knew included great photos of mountain lions, and a book on wild cats of British Columbia. I presented them with the books and said, here start with these. In the old days, this is what we did. We looked in books when we wanted to research something.

I think they were a bit disappointed. Perhaps the whole research idea was a way to get some computer time. Kat even said something about that may be how we did it in the old days but she likes to be modern. After awhile, though, they were flipping through the books, asking about the pictures, and having a grand time. Then we went on the computer and watched some big cat videos on National Geographic Kids. My point, I guess, was a holistic approach. We have all these books; they have plenty of information; let’s use them. We also use the computer, but when we can, let’s start with the books.

It makes me wonder where we are headed with Google and Wikipedia and e-books. Will the study of the future say that children in a house with more than 500 books on their e-reader are more likely to finish school? Or children in homes with more than one e-reader and computer? What will happen to used book stores and what will we put on all those empty bookshelves once everything is digitized? We once tried to explain what a card catalogue was to the girls. We soon came to the conclusion of what’s the point? I don’t really miss card catalogues anyway. But I will miss all the books.

Shouldn’t it be called a warm frame?

The first greens of the season!

The cold frame works! Two weeks after we planted the first seeds, the mixed salad greens are up. We have had two snow storms, a couple of +15 Celsius days, and plenty of mornings with frost these past two weeks. The wooden box with the window on top is doing its job.

We planted radishes last weekend, and they are up, too. Gotta love those fast growing radishes. Fresh radishes are the surest sign that the garden is off to a good start. They are delicious, but even if you don’t care for radishes, plant them for the quick ego boost that something you sowed is growing.

It’s another great learning experience for the girls as well. They check the thermometer in the cold frame every day, and as soon as we are outside, they check to see what is growing. It makes us wonder why we didn’t try this sooner.

It also makes me wonder why it is called a cold frame when its purpose is to keep things warm. The girls pondered this question as well, and we agreed that the name cold frame is misleading. We put things in cold storage or an ice box to keep them cool, yet we plant seeds in cool weather in a cold frame to keep them warm. Ah, the intricacies of the English language.

Rather than make it more complicated than that, we are simply rejoicing that we have some signs of the renewal of life with the arrival of spring!

No foolin’, we planted today

Let's hope the green onions grow as well as these did in the garden last year.

Quick update on the cold frame: after snow, blizzards and other March weather, we planted lettuce, mixed greens and green onion seeds in the cold frame today. It was up to 25 degrees Celsius in there today, only about 7 or 8 outside, so it is functioning. Yay! I’ll add a photo from this year when we see some growth.

Our $4 cold frame


Just finished installing our first attempt at a cold frame. We built it with left over wood, miscellaneous hardware, and a window we found covered in dust in a back corner of the basement that we used to call our Blair Witch room (it was just creepy). The only materials I had to buy were the four pieces of wood for the window frame that I paid $4 for at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Summerside. I couldn’t find four pieces that fit in all my other wood.

It is about 30 inches by 44 inches – almost nine square feet of inside space – 18 inches high at the back, about 11 at the front. It’s cold inside and outside the frame today. We’ll see how quickly the soil warms; we are eager to plant and get a jump on the season. I’ll post photos of our progress. With any luck, we’ll be eating fresh greens in a few weeks!