Category Archives: Stories

The Philosophers Among Us

This morning my daughter and I had to walk to the backyard neighbour’s door and gather our beloved Finnegan, the family dog.

“Um is your dog okay? His skin looks awful” my neighbour asked.

“He has a disease.” I replied “He probably won’t be with us to much longer.” I added forgetting my daughter was with me. The neighbour gave me a knowing look, we said our goodbyes and the three of  us walked home.

I picked Finnegan up when we reached our home. He can’t get up the stairs anymore. Helaina my daughter watched me with a perplexed look on her face. When we got inside she asked “Mommy what did you mean when you said ‘he won’t be with us much longer’?” My heart sunk when she asked. I had been keeping the fact our dog was probably going to die to myself. See we don’t know when, we just know the tumor in his brain will kill him. Right now he is comfortable and I didn’t want to worry my children with the knowledge that his days are numbered.

Helaina and Finn, six years ago.
Helaina and Finn, six years ago.

So there in the foyer I told my daughter that Finnegan was sick and he will die. The tears came to her eyes immediately. Followed by howls and screams of “But he is only eight years old!!!” I grabbed her and did my best to console her. I cried too. My daughter’s heart was broken and there was nothing I could do to make it better. When she calmed, I said to her “It’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to cry. We don’t know how much time with Finnegan we have, what’s important is we enjoy our time with him and make sure he knows we love him.”

I decided to take her for Mother and Daughter pizza date after to cheer her up. We then wandered around downtown. She was quiet. Not many smiles appeared on her face. She was thinking and I wondered what to do. So we went to the bookstore, her favourite place, she perused science books while I desperately searched for a story about death and mourning.

I found a beautiful book by Glenn Ringtved titled Cry, Heart, But Never Break. A fantastic story about a grandmother and some grandchildren trying to distract death with black coffee. I got a little teary when I got to the end of the story.  My daughter and I went to purchase our finds. The lady who helped us looked at the book I purchased and gave me a  look with a trace of tears in her eyes.

Helaina and I walked onto the street and Helaina said to me “Mommy it’s good anything can happen.” I nodded, she continued “It’s good anything can happen, even death.” Holy truth bomb. How do you reply, what do you say to such wisdom?

In my case you nod, stand in awe and reflect on the wisdom of children. I so wanted to make things better for her today, I wanted to fix it for her. We can’t always fix it though, sometimes we just have to let them work through it.  Allow them to develop their theories and understandings and listen when and if they want to share their findings with us. Maybe, just maybe if we really listen we will learn something.

“It is the same with life and death,” Death said. “What would life be worth if there were no death? Who would enjoy the sun if it never rained? Who would yearn for day if there were no night?”                                                                                                                                                      excerpt from “Cry, Heart, But Never Break” by  Glenn Ringtved


My grandfather and I when I was two.

My mentor

My grandfather and Helaina in 2010.

A couple years ago my husband and I drove my grandfather back from another emergency visit to the o.r. in Victoria to his home in Campbell River. Upon arriving we were greeted by the local home care nurse, who wanted to go over grandpa’s medicines and care. She sat across from my grandfather and said “Well Mervyn we need to come up with a plan for you.”

“Plan, I don’t like that word.” He said.

The nurse sat there looking confused.

“You see” he continued “When I was a social worker I didn’t like coming up with plans for the people I worked with. Plans imply there is something wrong and we have to work on it. What I tried to do was find out what that persons strengths were and I nurtured them.”

I silently chuckled to myself as he continued to school the nurse in strength based practice. My grandfather is the reason I hate checklists, assessments  and learning goals.  See my grandfather schooled me as well.

When I lived up island every week I would make the trek from Courtenay to Campbell River to have tea with my grandfather. We would talk about social justice, equal rights, race, pain, children and love. My grandfather and I would often joke that we were solving the worlds problem’s in an afternoon. We couldn’t understand why they weren’t listening to us. Often at the end of my visit he would hand me a book to read. Don Quixote, Winnie the Pooh, Life of Pi, Jude the Obscure, the list could go on.  My grandfather would share such wisdom during those visits. He didn’t do it by saying Danielle this is the way to do it. He would tell me stories from his days as a social worker. The stories he shared stemmed from questions I was having about my own practice, need for advocacy and life.

When I moved to Victoria my visits were less frequent but in times of questioning I would call him and we would talk for hours.

Saturday I visited my grandfather at the nursing home. I walked into the room and found a frail man, who couldn’t talk. He was happy to see me. He wouldn’t stop kissing my hand. So I pulled up a chair and told him what was happening in the world. I told him about Idle no more, Chief Theresa Spense’s hunger strike, I told him about Helaina starting preschool, I told him about the work Kim and I were doing, I told him about Christmas with seven small children. I rambled on about my belief that change is happening. I told him I talked to his friend Peter. I cried as I told him that I lost a baby just before Christmas and how his son(my father) doted on me. I told him how I wished the world would realize how amazing my dad was. I told him everything I could think of and I tried not to be sad that he couldn’t share a story with me.

Most girls have a box of old love letters tucked away somewhere in the back of their closet, I don’t. I have a box of cards and letters my grandfather wrote me.  From time to time I go through those letters, sometimes they make me smile, sometimes they make me cry, they always make me think, So much wisdom. Today I am thankful for those letters, his wisdom, the tea shared and the school of Mervyn Davis.

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

My grandfather and I when I was two.
My grandfather and I when I was two.

Small Acts of Advocacy

 The word advocacy can be a daunting and scary one. It can conjure up images of great world leaders or tireless community leaders. People who spend a lot of their free time educating, promoting and advocating for important social issues.

Advocacy does not have to be something large, time consuming or public. It can be simple small acts of kindness. It can simply be sharing your beliefs with another.

Today when I got home from work I packed up my daughter and took her to the public health unit to get her vaccinations. When we arrived we were greeted by a table with instructions to sign in, weigh our babies, measure our babies and fill out the age appropriate checklist. I signed in and grabbed a check list for an 18 month old.

Helaina sat down with her water beside me as I filled out the form. The first page seemed absolutely appropriate, just questions about Helaina’s health and well being. Do I breast feed still? Is she brushing her teeth regularly? Is she eating a diet with foods from all four food groups? Then I turned to the second part of the check list. There it was a developmental checklist for my child, asking questions like  Can your child say twenty words? Can your child point to body parts if asked? Does your child help get dressed by extending arms for sleeves or feet for shoes? The check list had about twenty questions. My heart sank as I read through it. I hate check lists. I have spent a lot of my career trying to remove them from the programs I practiced in. I tried to fill it out, I tried to put my beliefs aside but I just couldn’t do it. Finally I handed the checklist and pen to Helaina and told her to tell them what she could do. She proceeded to draw all over the checklist.

The nurse came and got us. She asked for her weight and height as we walked to her office. Once in her office she asked for the checklist. I smiled and said “I did the first part but I just couldn’t do the second part.”

She smiled back at me. I decided to continue “See I couldn’t do it for ethical reasons. I’m an Early Childhood Educator. I have found if a child is unable to perform just one of these milestones it can cause undue anxiety and stress for parents. It can cause parents to worry that their child is not okay. It causes them to worry about their future and question their parenting.Its does this because it does not get the whole picture.”

The nurse then said “Well I have never thought of it like that.”

Now I don’t believe because of this small stance that public health will get rid of the checklists but I shared a different perspective. Hopefully that perspective will be taken into consideration from time to time when reviewing their practice.

Everyday we perform small acts of advocacy. When you get down to a child’s level, when you choose to treat families and children with respect and when we share our stories we advocate for children and families.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

Jack Layton

What small act of advocacy have you performed lately?


Weekend Links

You may have stopped by the site recently and it looked completely different and then it went back to the normal format. You may have noticed some new features, like threaded commenting, spam prevention and author bios. Well my partner got me a couple books on wordpress and I have been playing ever since.  So if you stop by and the page changes don’t worry I am just having fun.

We also have a lot of dates coming up. I will be adding them to the calendar shortly.

Weekend Links

10 Ideas for Outdoor Rainy Day Play ~ Let the Children Play

Marvelous Mud ~ an article by Rusty Keeler. The pictures in this article make me want to start a mud pit in my backyard!

Our May Ways of the Three Little Pigs ~ StrongStart

The Wolves in the Walls ~ Chapters, one of my favourite books to read with children. It was the most read book on the book shelf. If I tried to put it away the children asked me to get it out again. They acted this story out a lot as well.

So like many others out there I am addicted to pinterest. Come and find me there.

I hope everyone has a great weekend.

photo by Michelle Jones

The Wolves in the Woods

photo by Michelle Jones

 My family has a cabin on the Sunshine Coast. It sits in a little bay with a farm behind it. There are woods to the left of the bay. A month ago my parents decided to spend a weekend there by themselves. My mother was sitting outside by the fire pit while my dad walked up the hill to get something from his vehicle. When all of a sudden they started to hear the yipping of a pack of wolves heading along the left side of the bay to the creek that runs alongside their cabin. My mother will admit her first instinct was to go inside the cabin. My father on the other hand had a much different reaction. He could not contain his excitement when he heard them, armed only with a pen light that was on his key chain he ran into the woods to see them. The woods were dark and his pen light was not strong enough to see them. Eventually the wolves had enough to drink and my parents could hear them yipping to each other as they left the bay.

This of course was very exciting for both my parents. They shared the story many times with us.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. My whole family decided to head out to the cabin one night for a weiner roast with all the kids. Benny my young nephew who is pictured above was very nervous about the wolves. He kept close to his family and didn’t dare venture close to the creek. Eventually he walked over to my father and said “Grandpa we need some bricks.” My father says he said this to him many times and my father didn’t make the connection. As my parents continued to tell me about Benny insisting on bricks I couldn’t help but smile.

Benny’s preschool had been talking about the story of the Three Little Pigs. He had connected the yipping wolves in the woods with the big bad wolf.  I loved this story!! It speaks to the power of a story, a child’s imagination and the value of an ordinary moment in a  preschool and how its effects can run deep.

As many of you return to your centres and/or classrooms after Winter Break remember that what you do is important. A simple gesture,song or story told can be a very powerful experience for a child and have effects you may never know about.