Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Eight years ago yesterday you were still in my belly, hiccuping and pressing your feet into my ribs when you stretched. I could hardly wait to see you.  A day later you were in my arms and I was one scared mommy. When you were on the inside, I knew exactly how to take care of you; on the outside, I hadn't a clue! I was sure that you could see how nervous I was when you looked in my eyes, but it didn't seem to bother you in the least. I was your mommy and that was enough. See, you were Emma the Brave from Day 1!

Eight years later, you still amaze me. One minute, you're listening to my Sarah McLaughlin CD's in your room while you colour; the next, you're bombing down a black run during ski school and later telling me it was 'too easy.' I'm afraid to ask what will come next. Thankfully birthdays are a year apart. I've got time to prepare...don't I?

Never forget how much I love you, sweet pea. You are a present I get to open a little bit more every day. For this, I am so grateful...


Related post: Seven

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Breaking the News

We'd just finished supper, but the plates still littered the table.

"We have some news, girls.  We're going to move to the United States." 

Emma's eyes puddled with tears. "I don't want to move. Sylvie is too precious. "  Sylvie, the best friend.  Mouse frowned furiously, trying her best to mimic Emma's desperate sincerity, but missing the mark. She was excited.

Emma moved to my lap and Mouse, to the Captains. We listened to their fears of leaving their friends, their teachers, their home. We reminded them of people they knew who had moved to the same place--too many. We told them things they might see as the upside of the coming change: they could go to school in English every day; they would see their Canadian family more often; and, where we were headed, there were no twisty roads.  None.  Emma would not be consoled. Mouse brightened. 

I shared my own experience of moving from Canada to the United States when I was seven. "The other kids thought, because I came from Canada, that I had lived in an igloo.  I didn't correct them--at least not at first." Mouse giggled. Emma smiled, her body still rigid in my arms.  

I told them about moving back to Canada when I was thirteen and how I didn't want to go. "My best friend Jessica and I wrote letters to each other for years after that. Sometimes we sent each other pictures and stickers. And did you know, she came to Daddy's and my wedding?  Just because you live far apart doesn't mean you can't be friends." Evidently this story struck home because Emma relaxed into my shoulder, letting me rest my cheek on the top of her head. She loves mail.

Finally came a legitimate question. "When?" 

"March." We couldn't be more specific. At least, not yet.

The girls went to bed late that night. Excited, sad, and everything in between. It went as well as could be expected.

For expert advice on how to support your child when moving between cultures, listen to this fabulous podcast by child and adolescent psychotherapist Rachel Melville-Thomas of World Radio Switzerland. 

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Puddle Jumping

It's official: the Mighty's are moving to the USA.  

To be perfectly honest, I'm nervous, but not terrified. Having survived the transition from Canada to Switzerland with a pre-schooler and toddler in tow, not much can phase me. What troubles me is not so much the unknowns but rather losing what we've worked so hard to achieve. Switzerland has afforded our family the opportunity to live bilingually, perhaps more so than our native Canada. Both my girls speak French like little Genevoises. Emma the Brave even boasts a smattering of Swiss German. Mouse can sing Happy Birthday in four languages, though she can't tell me what the fourth one is. It's only natural that these assets will fade. Like a hole in the sand, our new life will fill in the gaps left by the old.  It's just that there is too much I don't want to forget. It was so hard, so worth it. 

Onward, ho!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Blogging My Novel: The Long Wait

It's been over a week since I submitted my latest draft for consideration and the wait has only just begun. The hardest part about any wait is not knowing when it will end. To mitigate this pointless anxiety, I keep a record of my communications with a spread sheet. This allows me, at a glance, to know to whom I've submitted what, when I've sent it, and what their response was--if any. Here's a nearly illegible glimpse of my 2006 record: 

It was a rough, yet reasonably successful first year: thirty-two ego-wracking rejections and three publications. 
Based on past communications with this agency, I don't expect a response on my current submission for another two weeks. Of course, that won't stop me from checking my inbox multiple times a day. I'd keep my fingers crossed if it didn't make typing impossible. Wish me luck... and patience!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Conjugation Crunch

The time has finally come for Emma the Brave to master the next to impossible, yet equally unavoidable: French verb conjugation. She brought home her first assignment this week-- regular verbs ending in -er -- accompanied by vague instructions to parents to encourage their kids memorize it. Having come into my second language relatively later in life, the painful mundanity of this task still lingers in my memory--more so, I'm afraid, than the skill itself.  Can learning French verb conjugation be fun? Perhaps. Try this:

To create game pieces, make a 3x9 grid like the one below, filling the squares with all necessary pronouns, verbs and terminations. Make sure to use an easy-to-read font and font size. (Alternatively, use small index cards and write text by hand) 
  • Cut along the grid lines and place all game pieces in an opaque bag
  • You'll also need a tall cereal box or two to act as a barrier between the players so that they can't see each other's cards when laid out flat in front of them.  

Rules of Play: 
  • The game operates much like Go Fish. Without looking, each player takes three game pieces from the bag and lays them face-up on the table behind their box and out of view of their opponent(s). 
  • The youngest player begins by asking any other player for the piece they require to complete their conjugation. For instance, in the picture above, Player 1 has the pronoun 'je', the termination '-ons', and the verb 'jouer'.  He or she can ask their oppenent if they have either the corresponding termination for 'je' (-e) or the corresponding pronoun for -ons (nous), but not both.  
  • Players can only ask for pronouns that correspond to the terminations they have in their hand. That is, Player 1 cannot ask an opponent for 'tu' because they don't have the termination '-es' in their hand. The reverse also holds true: Player 1 cannot demand the termination 'ez' as they don't have 'vous' in their hand. A player can demand a verb only if it is the sole piece they are missing to complete a conjugation. 
  • If the opponent has the correct piece, they have to hand it over, thereby allowing Player 1 to complete their conjugation and earn one point. 
  • If the opponent does not have the correct piece, Player 1 must 'Go Fish' and take a new piece from the bag. 
  • Play continues in a clockwise fashion until one player has no pieces left. The player with the most conjugated verbs at the end of play wins!
For the first few rounds I allowed Emma the use of a cheat sheet to help her remember the rules of conjugation, but after just two rounds it was no longer needed. I suspect we'll get only one more round in before the game is considered 'too easy.'  No worries, though. I have a sneaking suspicion that the verbs ending in -ir are only a week away!  That should spice things up a bit!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Touch of Colour

It took until late December, but the seedling's leaves finally turned. They haven't yet fallen which gives us hope that we've got ourselves one hardy specimen. I wonder if it will flower in the spring? I guess we'll all just have to wait and see. 

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Bingo Brush Up

The girls went back to school this week. Emma the Brave was eager; she was missing her friends. Mouse, on the other hand, would have been content with another week of holiday, or two for that matter.  She loves school when she's there but, given the choice between a home and the classroom, her preference is clear. Who can blame her? I'd pick my kitchen over the grocery store any time. 

Back to school means back to homework and not even Mouse is exempt.  For the first time in over two weeks, she and I sat on the couch to read her new book from English school.  Prior to the break she'd been plowing through these readers with little difficulty. Between her expert decoding skills and ever-growing list of sight words, listening to her read had been a quite pleasant experience. Wednesday afternoon was altogether different. She stumbled over the simplest words making loads of 'close but not quite' errors. When I tried to help, she yelled at me to stop. How frustrating!  She was in desperate need of a phonics refresher but didn't want to hear it.

On the computer I printed out five 3x3 grids based on the Jolly Phonics list of letter sounds. I printed them a second time and cut them into individual squares placing these inside a little bag. Mouse and I went on to play Phonics Bingo.  The goal: to get three letter sounds in a row (vertically, horizontally or diagonally) before your opponent.  Mouse beat me fair and square two times in a row and, in the process, got her much needed review.  The next day we sat down to read another new English book and, wouldn't you know it, her decoding had improved dramatically. Great job, Mouse! A little review goes a long way.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Blogging My Novel: Revision Rigors

I spent all day Monday reading my book, pen in hand, and all day Tuesday typing revisions. Truth be told, I like it...perhaps a little too much. I'm questioning whether I had enough perspective coming into this.  How can I be done so soon? I must be missing something. I expected to find some glaring plot thread left flapping in the breeze, but didn't. I'm convinced it's there, but I'm just too creatively myopic to see it. This is when I wish I could temporarily erase my memory and read the book as if it were written by someone else. It's a shame I can't put those eyes in the back of my head to better use. 

The scariest thing about this is that I may finally be in a position to write something new. Aside from blogging, this novel has been my only creative outlet for a quite a while. The blank page scares me a bit, but in that I'm not alone. I've sent off the latest draft, so now there is nothing left to do but wait. Hopefully I'll get some more great insight as to how to make the story stronger. This writer will take all the help she can get.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Losing My Marbles: A Two-Month Check-Up

It's been over two months since we retired the marble jars and still their effect lingers. Mouse, for the most part, no longer screams in defiance when I call her for dinner or for any other time-limited request. Emma doesn't either, but then she hadn't for quite a while. We celebrated their respective successes with a trip to their favourite park and certificates I made from a free online template. See the blog-ified version below:

Our next challenge is getting homework and chores done without nagging. Any suggestions?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Road Trip: Happy New Year from Belgium

One of the realities of making friends in the expatriate community while living abroad is a higher than average likelihood that friends will move on without you. The upside, of course, is that you have friends all over the world. Here are a few photos from our recent day trip to Gent:

Oh, and the chocolate? I'll try to bring back some for sharing, but I can't guarantee its safety on the trip home.