Category Archives: kids

Summer is gone, Fall is here, and Winter soon to follow…

For some reason it has taken me until November 2nd to come to grips with the presence of fall. I have had an explosive All Hallow’s Eve, my yard turned into a temporary cemetery, my home turned into Witch’s Inn. And that is just the start!

Then there are the children … namely my children:

He seems calm and sane enough here… but …

And then my darling daughter has taken on the persona of her favourite, rather unfortunate, childhood literary character:






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When Vancouver kids Visit Moose Jaw (Saskatchewan)

Twenty years ago I came to Vancouver to go to grad school at UBC.  I never left, Vancouver that is (I did, however, finish my graduate studies). To me, Vancouver was a postcard perfect place, so why would I ever leave? The weather is warm(ish) all year round, so much so that parkas are relegated to skiing or snow-shoeing. Cold is ten below, not thirty … No one has to plug in their car, unless it is electric. So there is no need to dangle an extension cord from house to tree to parking spot to attach one’s block-heater; our cars don’t have block-heaters. There are almost no mosquitoes, not really, not prairie mosquitoes who feast like starving vultures on unsuspecting children. And the wind … well, it’s light, predictable, and infrequent. But what about the rain, people ask … it makes things green, I say, and besides you don’t have to shovel rain.

The first week of our summer vacation, I took my two youngest children aboard a very small and movie-barren flight to Regina where my parents greeted us and drove us all back to Moose Jaw, the city I grew up in. The first night it was thirty-three degrees, the wind shrieked around the trees and lightning lit up the night sky in a blaze of fire-works. It was fantastic. Far more drama than what we are used to at home, and for me, it smelled and felt like my childhood. For the kids it was a great and fantastic show.

All that was familiar to me, is exotic to my children … a giant concrete moose …

… wind that drives the leaves of a tree sideways,

And horizons and sky like no other.

New to them were pocked roads, insect spray, and gopher holes. Finn found three gophers too, but they wouldn’t sick around for a photo. And then they walked my dad’s dog Twinkle.

We took them to the Natatorium where I’d cool off as a child on scorching summer days.

But mostly, being there was about the people, not about the landscape, the weather, or tourist attractions (which they have quite a few). This trip to the ‘Jaw’, was about connecting with our prairie roots, reminding them where some of their people are from.

It is good to be from Moose Jaw, from Saskatchewan; just as it is good to be home here in Vancouver.

(A link to more 2011 Moose Jaw Photos here.)

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‘Life is Laughing’ you said.

I came across a photograph today, it was of you. Though it is only the silky brown of your hair we see in the photo, I remember the look in your eyes, so serious, so happy. I was lifting a green ribbon from around your neck, a ribbon you carried your father’s ring on before I gave it to him. You took your job so seriously, and you didn’t drop, nor lose it.

I leaned low to touch your check with my satin gloved fingertips, to kiss your forehead. There I can see the lines creased at the edge of my eyes, not from weather, nor years, but from a deep joy that pushed its way out through my skin.  You had those lines too. You said to me, ‘life is laughing.’ Maybe you didn’t say it right at that moment, maybe not even that day, but you said it often, and I believed you. I still do, nearly twelve years later.

Now it is you who leans ever so slightly and kisses my cheek and I feel your whiskers brush against my skin. A year from now and you’ll join the ranks of adults of the world, and still you will remain my son who reminds me to laugh, and that the lines around my eyes are a good thing.

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Family Camping on Clayoquot Sound’s Cow Bay

Cow Bay is a rather perfect stretch of fine sandy beach on Flores Island, the largest island in Clayoquot Sound, and for a week this summer, on a spot between a tidal creek and the shore, was our family’s home.

Now this home wasn’t ours exclusively, by no means; we shared it with two haughty pairs of King Fishers, a rather talented Raven, a few million mice (from the number of footprints they left), three sizeable wolves, and one other human family.  The only critters we managed to get photo were the very slow moving, non-hiding variety: sea-stars, sea anemone and people…

(Note:  the feet above are size 5.  There was a dog on the beach, a very large dog, and it’s prints were about 2/3 the size of this print, but more than that the depth of the print was much more shallow.)  We never saw these wolves, just their tracks.

Cow bay is named such for the grey whale cows and their calves that frequent the area.  We were not disappointed.  Daily we saw whale boats bringing deck loads of tourists keen on spotting spouts and tails in the wild Pacific.  All we had to do was to watch the boats and sure enough we got the show from the shore.  On our first full day there, our daughter and niece spotted three grey whales feeding amid the bull kelp off the rocky point, a short clamber away from our camp.  For about twenty minutes they watched a show of jumps and sprays, before they pulled themselves away to come tell the rest of us, which turned out to not be too late.

For all the wildlife and exploring that the outer coast offers, the biggest hit with the children this summer was the fact that we gave them each a knife and let them start the campfires.  (note:  despite there being a fire ban elsewhere in British Columbia, it was permitted within 2 kilometres of the outer coast)

Then of course, we allowed them to play with it…

Until late into the night when sleep was easy, we’d sit around the fire and share stories both ancient myths we knew,  and stories from our own lives.  The children shared as much with us as we did with them.  It was these moments that will cling to my memory like the carefully woven webs holding firm the images of paw prints and toes, smiles and slivers.   It wasn’t just that we have done something special, or memorable, but that we’ve done it together.

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Filed under British Columbia, camping, environment, family, Flores Island, kids, lorrie_miller

Island Parent Published: Camping With Wolves

My hallway is lined with packs, sleeping bags, dry-sacks, and assorted camp gear.  I feel I can make some sense of it within the next few hours.  Our ferry reservation is at an ungodly hour in the morning… but odd hours is not new to me…. (unfortunately)

It is this time of year that we leave the comforts of our home in Vancouver, for the wilds of BC.  I look forward to this annual zen experience, where we give the children sharp objects, and matches to play with (mostly to carve their own marshmallow roasting sticks and then to get the fire going).

So it is with pleasure that I see my story, Camping with Wolves, in Island Parent Magazine’s August issue.  They then follow up the article with a wolf advisory, a good idea.  We will be again visitors in wolf and whale country.  And there will be more stories to be told, undoubtedly, after this camping excursion as well….

Camping in Clayoquot Sound

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Marking, Report Cards and More Spring Fun

I often get little sleep at this time of the year.  As I’ve been an educator since 1990… and spring to me has always meant report cards, student evaluation and final project marking.  Now, as a parent of four, this is also the time of year for volunteering for field-trips, fundraising, spring carnivals, and year-end performances, parties, and preparing for my own children’s school report cards.

I have given considerable thought to student assessment and evaluation, both as an educator and a parent.  I thought I’d put some of my thoughts out in the world to share, rather than just shared around the staff-room, over the dinner table and jotted into my teaching notes.

Today I published an article on the topic of assessment and evaluation on Suite 101.

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Writing with Children

For many of us who have experience with children, we are likely familiar with their joy of make-believe.  They love listening to stories, reading books with stories, and making up stories of their own.

As parents, caregivers, teachers, relatives and friends to young people, we have an opportunity to share this creative passion with them.  We can tell them stories that we remember from our own youth, we read to them, and even make up stories for them.  We can also be the attentive audience for them as they tell us their stories.

By listening to children’s stories, we validate their creativity and encourage further creativity.  You may be surprised how elastic their ideas can be.  I know that I still am after hearing many many stories.  Below is my six-year-old’s latest tale.  It has all the makings of a story: characters, conflict, plot, theme, and a surprise ending.

The Shark and the Magic Fish                 By Finn Coleman

Once upon a time there was a great white shark that ate everything in its path.

Then a day later, the great white shark met a fish.

When he was about to snap it down, the fish said, “Stop! Don’t eat me.  I am magic.”

The shark did not eat him.  Instead, they became best friends.

They ate together.

They slept together.

They did everything together.

A hundred years passed and they became very old.

Then another hundred years passed.

Then the great white shark ate the magical fish.

The End.

So, once you hear the story, what other things can you do to support and encourage them?

  • Provide them the materials to write the story down, if they are too young to write all the words, you may scribe for them.
  • Type their story up so they can see it in print form and share it with their friends.
  • Make a book for them, by spacing out the text and providing blank pages in between for their artwork.
  • Encourage them to read their story once it is printed.  This will encourage emerging readers to read new words, even though they already use the words in their vocabulary.
  • Provide blank lines below the text so new writers (K, grade 1) can copy the story out in their own  printing.
  • Some school libraries provide shelf-space for student made publications; see if your child wants his or her book to go there.


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