Monthly Archives: February 2014

No ice – why I’m not watching Olympic men’s hockey

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Gremlins got into this post and ate half of it; I didn’t realize it until today.

I love the winter Olympics. The games in Sochi, Russia are not without controversy – they cost billions and it’s probably more pain than gain for the average person living in the area. The Russian people will probably be paying off the costs of the venues for generations to come. Not that this is unique to the Sochi Olympics – it took Montrealers 30 years to pay off the stadium used for the 1976 summer Olympics and it’s basically been falling apart since it was finished. I am definitely not in favour of Russia’s anti-gay laws. As far as I’m concerned, the IOC should have slapped a big fine on the Russian government and flown the rainbow flag alongside the Olympic one.

Politics aside, there’s lots to enjoy about the winter Olympics. The majority of the events are exciting to watch – skeleton and short track speed skating, for example. biathlon, not so much, but I admire anyone who can cross-country ski and carry a rifle at the same time. While not everyone considers curling to be a spectator sport, but having curled (badly) for many years,  I love watching it played at the elite level. It looks easy, but I can attest to the fact that throwing the stone and having it do what you want almost every time requires a superior level of skill. Whether you’re a curling aficionado or think it’s the silliest sport ever, I highly recommend watching Sir David Attenborough’s nature-style curling video, put together by the BBC.

No small part of my enjoyment from watching the Olympics comes from watching Canadian athletes. Given that we’re a northern country, it makes sense that we would do well at sports that involve snow and ice. But we don’t have an institutionalized  sports system like many countries and the majority of athletes train and compete for years before they get private or public funding. It’s not easy and requires significant financial and personal sacrifice. The members of the Canadian women’s hockey team all put their jobs and families on hold for several months prior to the Olympics to move to Calgary and train. This is on top of the hours and hours of hard work it took each of the players to make the team and then prepare for the Olympic tournament. Obviously, it paid off – the Canadian women beat the Americans earlier in the week to won the gold medal.

The one Olympic event I won’t watch is men’s hockey. It’s not that I don’t like the game – M and I pass many evenings between October and April watching the Ottawa Senators play. And I don’t watch hockey just because M likes the game. I started watching Hockey Night in Canada when I was a child living in rural New Brunswick – we only got one television channel and there was only one thing on Saturday evenings. My issue with the men’s Olympic team is that all the members of the Canadian team are professionals. Multi-millionaires. The average salary of the Canadian men’s team is nearly $6 million per player. The total cost of the team is just under $150 million (the cost of the U.S. team, by comparison, is a measly $119 million). Yes, I’m sure it’s exciting for the players to play for their country and wear the maple leaf on their jerseys, but it doesn’t make the games any more interesting to watch. I can turn on the television most weeks and watch the same players battle it out on the ice. For me, excitement was watching Kallie Humphries and Heather Moyse win their second consecutive gold medal in women’s bobsleigh (they’ve got a great line in this video: “you don’t get a bobsledders body eating salad 24/7”)

I realize that this is probably not a popular opinion, given that Canada plays Sweden for the gold medal tomorrow. Thousands of my country men and women (including members of my family) will be setting their alarms on way-too-early o’clock tomorrow morning to get up and watch the game. The newspapers have been full of chatter over the last week about the team and the various games. Today’s edition of the national newspaper devoted 5 pages to men’s hockey and less than a quarter of a page to a story about the woman who scored the tying and winning goals in the women’s game. Coverage of the Canadian men winning gold in curling yesterday was buried even further in the sports section. If the Canadian men don’t win the gold, there will be much hand-wringing and prolonged national navel-gazing. As for me, I’ll be sleeping in tomorrow morning. Hopefully, later in the day, I can catch some re-runs of the 4-man bobsleigh.

All that glitters – pearl and crystal drop earrings

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During one our pre-Christmas craft show outings, my friend Beth saw a pair of earrings that she really liked. They were similar in style to these Magma drop earrings I found in FusionBead’s inspiration section (a great source of ideas and techniques).
Magma Drop Earrings | Fusion Beads Inspiration Gallery

The earrings we saw had a pearl at the top of the chain and a crystal at the bottom. She decided against buying them and I decided I’d make her a pair.

These earring are easy to put together. It took me about an hour to make them, but that includes the 45 minutes I spent hunting  my supplies (I’m working on organizing my beading stash, but it’s slow going).

To make your own earring you’ll need the following:

6-8 inches of fine silver plated chain

2 6mm glass pearls

2 8mm glass crystals – I used Preciosa, but Firepolish or Swarovski would work too (widely available, including at FusionBeads or Artbeads

6 – 2-inch silver plated headpins

2-sterling silver earring wires (optional, but they’re a nice touch)

wire cutters and needle-nose pliers

I chose pearls and crystals in a pinky-gold colour (Beth is blond and I wanted something that would complement her colouring). Preciosa crystals have a nice sparkle to them, which made them perfect for this project – I wanted the earrings that were elegant but that could also work for every day.

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To make the loops for the pearls, snip the pin end off 1 head pin.

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Make a loop and attach it to the earring wires.

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Slide the glass pearl on and make another loop, without closing it all the way.

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Cut the chain to the desired length – I used about 1-1/4 inches (I recommend cutting the chain for both earrings at the same time – you can always cut a few links off if they’re too long, but hard to add links if they’re too short).

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Attach 1 length of the chain to the loop at the bottom of the pearl and with the needle nose pliers, close it all the way.

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Slide the crystal onto a headpin and make a loop, sliding it onto the chain before you finish it. That’s one earring. P1030695

Repeat the steps for the second earring.

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Lots of glitter for little effort.

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If your local bead store sells beads individually, you can easily make these earrings for less than $5.

Beth really liked her earrings. I did too and plan to make a pair for myself, as soon as I can schedule a trip to my local bead store to pick up more supplies. I’m thinking my wardrobe needs a little purple sparkle.


Or maybe green, for spring? At less than $5 a pop, I can make a pair in every colour I have in my closet!

Links include: Think Pink Sundays at Flamingo Toes ; Monday Link Party at Craft-O-Maniac; Motivate Me Monday at Keeping It Simple; Making Monday Marvelous at C.R.A.F.T. ; Made by You Mondays at Skip to My Lou ; Market Yourself Monday at Sumo’s Sweet Stuff; Get Your Craft on Tuesday at Today’s Creative Blog; Tuesday To Do Part at The Blackberry Vine: Take-a-Look Tuesdays at Sugar Bee Crafts; Wednesday Wowzers at oopsy daisy; Flaunt It Fridays at Dotted Line Crafts; The Cure for the Common Monday at Lines Across My FaceSix Sisters Stuff – Strut Your Stuff Saturday

The hell of homework – just add ADHD

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Most days, I don’t think about the fact that M has ADHD. It’s just part of him, like his hair colour. He takes medication to help him focus and reduce his anxiety. Over the years, I’ve developed strategies to minimize his triggers and help him learn to cope; at this point, they’re so internalized, I don’t consciously think that reminding him to take his keys in the morning or giving him a head’s up before he has to get off the computer or the TV is related to his ADHD. Yes, he’s messy and has a trouble organizing himself to do household tasks, like clean up his room. But he’s a 12-year old boy. I have brothers, so I know full well that this is pretty typical of this age group.

Recently, M was having some significant challenges completing his school work. His home room teacher advised me that M hadn’t turned in several assignments. It was the end of term, and M needed to submit these assignments, so his teacher could mark them. It sounded simple – M would spend a couple of nights at home and get caught up.

It was, however, anything but. Just getting M to the table to start working was a battle of near-epic proportions. One night, his dad spent 20 minutes getting him to stop standing on his head in a chair and sit down and finish a geometry work sheet. M insisted it was “too hard,” and claimed he didn’t understand the concepts. Once his butt was actually in a chair and he focused on the questions, he knew most of the answers and finished them in about 15 minutes.

Next up was a geography project and finishing up some french vocabulary. I assumed that we could build off the success of the night before and get both of them done without too much of a struggle. Wrong. Once again, M declared it was “too hard for him” and refused to work on his geography project. He refused all offers of parental assistance and, with great drama and a few tears, enumerated all the reasons he couldn’t do the project. This was met with insistence from both parents as to why he should and could do the assignment. Matt insisted he didn’t care if he failed or not. Tempers flared and there was much strum and drang. Everyone was exhausted by the time they went to bed.

It wasn’t until a couple of days later that I realized what was going on  – this kid has ADHD. It makes it much more difficult for him to organize himself. It was less about not wanting to do an assignment or a project (although there’s certainly an element of this too); he isn’t able to look at an assignment and mentally break it down into the requisite steps. Not that this comes naturally to very many 12-year-olds, but for M, it’s even more challenging. It’s as if he lacks the necessary program that allows his brain to sort out the information and organize it in a meaningful way. If the project is at all complicated (i.e., involves several steps) or unfamiliar to M, he shuts down. Even more frustrating, when M did complete an assignment, he’s forget to give it to his teacher so it could be marked. Even when he put it in his agenda, he’d still carry it around for days before handing it in.

You would think that as his parent, I would have put tow and tow together sooner. But M’s elementary school had a “no homework” policy. We had our hands full dealing with his behavioural challenges (also ADHD-related), so no homework was fine by us. M’s transition to middle-school has gone better than I expected, so maybe it wasn’t a big surprise that I didn’t immediately make the link between the homework battles and his ADHD.

Once the penny dropped, I started trying to map out a plan to help M learn to organize himself. His dad and I could push and pull him through middle school, but high school isn’t far off and he needs skills to manage the work load. Fortunately, I have a good friend with an older child with ADHD, who gave me a number of good tips. The experts suggest that consistency is key for children with ADHD and suggest that students use an agenda which parents and teachers check regularly. M has an agenda provided by the school, but he told me that his teacher wasn’t actively using it any more. My friend suggested that an electronic organizer might work better. M doesn’t have a phone but I figured his iPod would have some sort of app he could use. However, when I asked him about it, he wasn’t very keen (he did, however, take the opportunity to lobby for a phone).

The last step was to meet M’s home room teacher and the Learning Support teacher. M already has accommodations through his IEP and the teachers were very helpful in terms of coming up with ideas to help him. Although M wasn’t keen on my suggestion to download a calendar on his iPod, his teacher helped him set it up. Most of M’s teachers post weekly summaries of the class work, so I’m checking the website on a regular basis. M used to forget to bring worksheets home but most of them are available on the website, so we re-print them as necessary. it’s not the most environmentally friendly approach, it cuts down on the excuses. M does most of his written work on the computer, both at school and at home, as he’s started saving everything on the Cloud. Even better, he set this up on his own. He seems to be taking more responsibility to do his work in class – when I reminded him about his current french project, he told me he still had several classes in which to complete it.

I don’t expect that we’ve “solved” the homework challenge. As I’ve learned over the years with M, there’s no such thing as an easy fix. I don’t expect him to rush to the table every night to do his homework. He did spend some time one day this week working on an assignment before his dad or I got home – his dad reminded him, but he did it. This is progress.

This recent experience is also a reminder to me that my child does have challenges. They may not always be obvious on a day-to-day basis – he’s doing well these days, so it’s easy to forget about his ADHD, etc. Sometimes, though, I need to dig a little deeper and figure out why he’s acting a certain way. It’s too easy to attribute his behaviour to stubbornness or teenaged attitude. That’s not fair to him. While sometimes he wishes he didn’t have ADHD, he’s managing it, rather than the other way around. This too, is progress.

Christmas in January

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My friend Beth and I always exchange Christmas gifts in January. Both of us are busy over the holidays, plus it gives us both something to look forward to, a bright spot in a long, cold winter.

This year she outdid herself. First out of the bag was a lovely infinity scarf in a geometric pattern in blues, grey and white.

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It’s very light weight, so I can wear it  inside during winter and with a outdoor jacket or a sweater when it finally gets warmer it’s got to happen sometime).

Next I found some very cute buttons in Christmas shapes – perfect for next year’s Christmas cards.

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A package of funky, retro pens. Since I never seem to have a pen when I need one,  this is a very useful gift.

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A lovely pin, made of wrapped wool, in my favourite colours (I vaguely recall admiring it at a local craft show – clearly Beth was paying attention).

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But the showstopper, my absolute favourite gift, is an apothecary jar filled with vintage buttons – metal, plastic, wood, mother of pearl and fabric-covered. Lots of shapes and sizes.

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Beth has been to enough fabric flea markets and antique stores with me to know that I love buttons. I always hit the button tables first. I’ve picked up a couple of grab bags of older buttons at sales over the last couple of years, but nothing I’ve found compares with the wonderfulness of my jar of treasures.

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I’ve only explored the first couple inches of buttons and already, I’ve found some beauties.

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Plastic and plaid – how cool are these?

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Neat details

I’m thinking about adding a button to my new pin, to give it a bit more pizzazz.

A hint of metal and sparkle?

A hint of metal and sparkle?

Maybe a bit too simple?

Maybe a bit too simple?

Too much of a good thing?

Too much of a good thing?

Cute...but not wow

Cute…but not wow

Too blue?

Too blue?

I’m not sure any of these buttons really work with the pin. Lucky me, I’ve got lots more to choose from.

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