Why you should go apple picking - and why it matters - especially for the kids!

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Sometimes we have wondered what it is with the apple picking sensation? Actually, to be honest, it is I, Bunny who has wondered. It is, in fact, one of Dragon’s absolutely favourite things to do!

I will confess that I have asked myself, why do we all go every year in throngs? Why do hoards of children ride in a school bus to make their way to apple orchards despite the cliché and redundancy? Where is the value in this activity? (I am cringing right now by the way…)

We are here to share our opinion! I have certainly upgraded mine.

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Our book The Butterfly Trap won a green books / Environmental honorable mention because it encourages self reflection and awareness of nature. This topic, as you may imagine, is dear to our hearts.

Because here’s the thing…

We are in desperate need for connection to the earth, to her bounty and to nature! She is our connection to our source and to our very essence! 

It is obvious that we devote far more time to technology than trees, so for the love of all things good and true, this is precisely why we need to get out and pick an apple, get muddy, observe the changes of the season, notice bugs, flowers and birds. These are some of the best and most magical part of who we are.

Kids are getting further away from knowing the natural world than ever before. It is our duty to at least let them fill a bag with apples that they actually picked, as a vital reminder of the beauty and importance of creation, and as the very source of food and our sustenance and survival.

This is why apple picking matters!

Let us know if you agree….

Oh! And We vlogged about it too….. Check it out!

And please subscribe to our Youtube channel while you are there

Love,

Dragon + Bunny.


Blog #59 Saying Good Bye....

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Dragon can’t stop playing the scene in her mind. The moment when she passed the heavy rock salt urn to her middle brother who proceeded to hurl it unceremoniously into the rapids of the Fleuve St. Laurent. It landed as you might expect with the splash of a boulder and was swiftly carried by the current for several feet before making its way down.

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That was how we said goodbye to Bozidar yesterday. 


His grand sons and wife and children and their partners stood nearby. We proceeded to dissect a bouquet, throwing individual white flowers in after him. A large white rose was released followed by hydrangea and lilies and carnations. They formed a beautiful procession and I hoped that swimmers and picnicers nearby might admire them too. 


He was free.

We granted his wish.

We felt so much lighter knowing that he was where he wanted to be.


He was heading back to Croatia, unfettered by life jackets, or seat belts, tickets or fuel. 

Bon voyage to one of the most upstanding, kind and loyal of them all!


Dragon’s Dad was an amateur photographer and liked to give photography advice. This one is for him as he would recommend that we avoid smiling for the best pictures. We took this right before we released him into the water.

Dragon’s Dad was an amateur photographer and liked to give photography advice. This one is for him as he would recommend that we avoid smiling for the best pictures. We took this right before we released him into the water.

Blog #58 It's Our Five Year Wedding Anniversary.... (our letters to each other)

A pic from our wedding day Aug. 16 2014

A pic from our wedding day Aug. 16 2014

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Five years ago we got married…. (there is the evidence lol)

We had a big pot luck party with our friends and family. 

There was a D.J and dancing and lots of food! So much food! But we hardly ate a bite! 

We were blessed and prayed over by some of our clergy friends. We were lifted up and supported by those who love us most.

It meant a lot to us to stand in front of our community and formally declare our commitment. 

What a day! 

Fast forward five years and we continue to stand together not just in a symbolically married way but in all the ways. We share a life together, support each other, laugh together, eat together, cherish our beautiful, kind, magical, passionate union. Every day we love one another more deeply.

So there is much to celebrate on this five year anniversary. Here is a note I wrote for Dragon on our anniversary (we don’t give each other gifts)

Dear Dragon,

Honestly, thank you for your laughter, your trust, for the ways you care for our family, for your strength, your joy, for our connection, your integrity and honesty and your endless kindness through it all.

Love,

Bunny

Dear Bunny,

I am so thankful to call you my wife. You make me smile every day and laugh until I can’t breathe anymore. Your incredible sense of adventure and play is infectious, not to mention that you are so smart and sensitive. You’ve got it all babe! Happy anniversary my dear bunny.

Love your Dragon


5 Years later… more in love than ever!

5 Years later… more in love than ever!

Where have we been? Blog #57

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Where have we been?

It seems we have dropped off the planet…

We have been immersed in a family emergency that has taken all of our time, attention and energy for the past month.

Let’s rewind a bit. When we were celebrating my birthday at our summer vacation rental we learned that Dragon’s Dad had been admitted into hospital and was in the ICU. This warranted our immediate return. We were relieved when we saw him and learned that he had improved and was expected to recover. 

We returned to the country and resumed our vacation without much concern, knowing that there were other family members on the scene and receiving reassurance from the ICU nurses on our nightly phone calls.

Things didn’t go as we had hoped, however. Sadly, we lost our Father / Father in law last week. We will spare you the details but suffice it to say that 23 days in the ICU pushed everyone in the family to the brink of complete despair.

Seeing someone you love suffer and die is traumatic to say the least but enduring this surrounded by the constant sense of urgency, coupled with the fear and anxiety of the patients and families in the intensive care unit set to the back drop of machines beeping the fragile sounds of life is even worse. 

We have all been to hell and back and are altered by the loss of a man we love. 

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But, let’s not talk about the death anymore… Let’s talk about his life...

His name was Bozidar Juretic. He was born in Croatia and was beyond proud of his Croatian identity. Having been in Montreal since he was a young man, he still spoke mostly only in Croatian and spoke mostly of Croatia and cooked food inspired by his cultural heritage as well. He wore a Croatian flag on his hat, was a devoted soccer fan, loved the arts, his walls are covered in oil paintings from his country and he devoured the news and all things Croatian. He kept in close contact with his Croatian friends and family making regular overseas phone calls, exchanging letters and always making time to check in. Family was everything to him. He was a loyal man who was true to his word. 

He loved to tell stories. In fact, even as he was struggling to breath in his hospital bed over these last weeks, he always found the energy to share elaborate tales of his heroism as a younger man - from battling sharks in the ocean to hunting expeditions in the woods. 

As a Father Dragon describes him as using a “tough love” parenting style. “He always knew better, so I always pushed harder but he would give you the shirt off his back without a doubt. He demanded honesty and integrity from us. If I said I would be home at 9:00, this didn’t mean 9:01. He was a man of honour and expected his family to follow suit. He took me to play on the monkey bars every day when I was a small child. He was so proud of my skills and would cheer me on with unlimited enthusiasm. I had to ban him from attending my hockey games however because his enthusiasm ended up stressing me out as he tapped on the glass and shouted Croatian profanities a few feet from my face which inevitably provoked me and threw off my game even further. I did however revoke the ban in recent years and he was very well behaved in the stands offering appropriate levels of praise and encouragement. 

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I think he was most proud of me when we attended a Habs game a few winters ago and I caught a Montreal Canadians t shirt from the t shirt canon. He stood in jubilant celebration shouting Bravo! Bravo!  In that moment, none of my academic accomplishments or athletic achievements could measure up. I had finally won his respect. He had never been more proud of me! It was one of my favourite memories.”  

As a Father in Law, I would describe him as one of the most loving, strong and devoted people I have ever met. He showed me love and kindness in subtle yet unmistakable ways. Mostly through his incredible culinary skills! I know that his daughter being married to a woman wasn’t easy for him and I know that he would have preferred if I were a man but despite this, he still told me fishing stories and welcomed me into his home, and received me at his death bed as though gender and sexuality were no longer an issue. When my sister died he made my brother in law a ham and I won’t ever forget his generosity and thoughtfulness. Being included as his family is an honour that I didn’t take lightly. 

So, this is where we have been…. 

Managing the suffering, the grief, the loss of a person who was a pillar to us.

Thanks for understanding where we have been.

We hope to be back soon….

Love,

Dragon + Bunny


It's Bunny's Birthday so here are 50 things about her...

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I just had a milestone birthday so I have been pretty reflective.
What does it mean to turn 50?

Turning 50 means that it’s official, at least half of my life is over. I have climbed up the mountain and now it’s time for the descent.

The hard work is over

It’s time to coast

Right?

Yes?

Not really… not for me. Yet, a part of me believes this to be true, it’s a belief that I hold somewhere. I wrestle with it because I don’t actually agree with this. I don’t feel this in my bones.  

What I feel in my bones is that it’s just beginning.

Today is the beginning.

I am about to climb the mountain…..it’s all in front of me.


50 things about me ...

  1. Fave color is red

  2. First time I kissed a girl was 8 years ago with Dragon

  3. First time I kissed a boy I was 13 ish I think

  4. I love to swim, I love water but don’t like being cold 

  5. One of my best friends died suddenly in an accident when we were 12

  6. Gardening is the bomb - healing, fun, creative and restoring

  7. I believe in God

  8. When I was a child I wanted to be a writer when I grew up

  9. I haven’t traveled on a plane in almost 10 years

  10. I am divorced and leaving my ex husband is the best thing I ever did

  11. When I was a teenager I believed I would have children (I was wrong)

  12. I have never lived outside of Montreal

  13. I was an early childhood educator in a number of settings for 20 + years

  14. My fave show (right now) is The Handmaid’s Tale

  15. Fave season is summer and I love the sounds of crickets and cicadas

  16. I hate winter

  17. I have always liked fitness and right now am enjoying weight training and yoga

  18. I love jewellery - especially gold! But silver too! And fake stuff too.

  19. High school was very problematic for me

  20. I never had a pet growing up but Lord knows I wanted one!

  21. I have had 7 animals in my adult life (3 cats and 4 dogs) 

  22. I moved out of my parents house when I was 20 and started having pets right away!

  23. I have had the same best friend since early childhood

  24. I love nature

  25. I love my wife in a way that is deeper, better and richer than I have ever loved anyone

  26. We have one dog now and she is almost 18 years old!

  27. I love to wake up really early! Mornings are my time (spiritual, energized and productive)

  28. I meditate and pray

  29. I am a good listener and am really curious about people

  30. I love to learn

  31. I have trouble learning from video tutorials and manuals and prefer learning from people

  32. My father died over 8 years ago

  33. My eldest sister died 3 years ago

  34. I fell in love with Dragon and “came out” not long after my father died. Apparently that’s a thing.

  35. I was in therapy for a loooooonnnngggggg time! 

  36. I believe in the power of prayer, thought and a rich inner life

  37. I miss living in a house and aspire to live in a house again someday. I enjoy domesticity.

  38. I currently live in the same apartment I grew up in

  39. I love singing and used to sing in a choir and a band

  40. I love art, reading and music (ok that’s three things oops)

  41. I have a strong work ethic

  42. I can be lazy

  43. I love to take baths (epsom salts and essential oils are life)

  44. I prefer a hot bath / shower - like way too hot for Dragon

  45. I have a history of co dependent, abusive relationships 

  46. I am no longer in an abusive, co dependent relationship 

  47. I love Matisse

  48. I love fun things (clothes, music, people and animals)

  49. My other sister cut me off suddenly and hasn’t spoken to me since 2011

  50. I say a robust thank you to life / God every single day 


So there you go!

Can you tell I don’t feel like it’s quite over yet? I’m still pretty hopped up on life and all it has to offer. 

I am so ready for the next 50!

Bring it!

Check out Our Milestone Birthday Vlog….



Blog #55 What’s the secret to our crazy, happy life???

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What’s the secret to our crazy, happy life???

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  • Laughter

  • Trust

  • Connection 

  • Passion

(Laughter)

We laugh every day…. And we sing all the time. Even if we are cranky we are usually able to interrupt it with some of our crazy antics. Dragon makes me laugh even when she isn’t trying to. I just find her so funny and smart! Oh wait…. Smart isn’t funny but she is smart and funny so….

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(Trust)

We have built a life that is founded on trust. We had to break the trust of  some important relationships to be together and perhaps this is why we are so committed to the health and well being of our sense of safety and trust. I don’t know I just know that we prioritize and nurture our trust by being accountable to what we say and do… it’s such a blessing

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(Connection)

We cuddle every night, we sing and make music and art together, we love and care for our fur and extended family, we share each others interests, we cook and eat together and we deeply value the spirit of connection of our partnership. We have a ridiculous amount of nicknames for each other. Here are a few of mine… Dragon, D, Bubs, Bubba, Love bum and so many more that are too weird to mention lol

(Passion)

We are passionate about so many things from sports to spirituality, fitness, music, yoga and art!

We fuel this passion in our relationship by encouraging and supporting each other.

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I mean… I actually love watching Dragon play hockey on Sundays! And I never in my life would have imagined myself saying that!  I mean who actually enjoys sitting in a cold arena for three hours at a time????

MEEEEE!!!! (Bunny!)

Love,

Dragon + Bunny

P.S Watch our throw back date night video for a laugh and how about touques AND a hood (UGH Winter!) ….


Blog #54 There is Something About Summer

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What is it about summer?

Why is it that there is less tension in my shoulders and more moisture on my skin?

Everywhere I look there is beauty and life (in fact, I am watching a butterfly drink nectar from a very mature, sweet smelling lilac flower in my neighbour’s garden as I pause to write this)

My ears are filled with the delicious sound of birdsong and the rustle of leaves in the trees.

The days are long, the air is warm, there is water for swimming and gardens for greening.

Everything expands and there is greater ease.

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Is it just me?

What’s not to love?

I have a memory of being a small child and changing into my pyjamas after supper after a long, happy day of sun and water. It was a loose fitting, flowy nightie and I had a plastic swing tied by ropes to a tree in front of our cottage. I went outside on my own with no shoes on my feet and swung on the swing without a care in the world! I felt unbelievably free and satisfied with everything exactly as it was. So simple and yet so perfect.

A warm Summer evening, a comfortable cotton nightie, a swing in the front of a house, the safety of a family nearby…. this is as good as it gets. Is this why I love summer so much?

All hail summer!


Blog # 53 My Dad

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My Dad loved nature, birds, stars, planets and rocks. I can still recall him best through natural elements. He was a very handsome man but wasn’t vain. He was not educated but was smart and read the newspaper from cover to cover every day. He worked hard and took seriously his role as provider to his wife and four children.  He didn’t talk to me much because he was a man of few words and little encouragement. For a large part of my life I don’t think he liked me much either. He had a bad temper and seemed to be trapped by his anger. But I remember sitting on his lap when I was a little girl in front of the  humble, tiny little house we called a summer cottage (which is now someones garage) where we would have campfires on warm summer nights. I felt so safe there gazing up at the vast night sky with the stars and the full moon seeming to look down at us with that familiar crooked smile. Dads hand pointing wildly to show me the big dipper.

My Dad liked beer and he was probably a little drunk that night but I won’t ever forget the feeling of being his daughter by that fire under that moon.

I know now that he loved me, didn’t always like me but he loved me. I realize that life was hard for him and he took it all on his shoulders. Joy didn’t seem to come easily to him but bitterness and resentment did. When he died I felt a combination of relief and regret, grief, loss and fear.

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Relieved because of our awkward, sometimes strained relationship and the grip it had on me, regret because there was no way to ever repair it, grief because we was my Dad, loss and fear because our family would never be the same.

I had no way of knowing how our lives would change a few months later. I left my husband and found true love, soon after that my middle sister abruptly cut me out of her life completely. Our family is but a shadow of what it once was. I think that my Dad was actually holding it all together in his own way. His quiet strength was the glue. It all came undone after he died. So Father’s Day is a time to take stock of the importance of the Dads in our lives. What are they holding up? What would come crashing down if they were gone? Sometimes this is less obvious than we may realize…


Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads!

And sending love, support and encouragement to all of the sons and daughters who’s Dads are no longer here or things may not be what you would hope for…

Love,

Dragon + Bunny




Blog #52 Is fighting a sign of a healthy relationship?

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Is conflict a healthy expression of intimacy or a harmful barrier? Bunny has something to say.

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Things we commonly hear about fighting:

It’s important and healthy to fight because it allows couples to learn how to communicate more effectively.

Or

fighting is necessary because it gets things out in the open


I am curious about this. I know I have heard it so often and surely even said it myself.

These words have comforted me and helped to justify the fighting in my relationships. Fighting that never felt healthy, important or necessary but I assured myself it was something that had to be worked through in order to be in a relationship.

Right?

Yes?

I mean everyone says so. Everyone fights they say. It’s normal. Our parents fought, their parents fought and couples represented in film and television regularly fight.. It’s what all couples do. Or at least it’s what we’re constantly told.

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Weird though that we don’t give the same permission to kids in a classroom setting. When a conflict arises we abruptly shut it down, demand apologies and regurgitate messages of  instant reconciliation.

Theories of community building suggest that conflict is not only normal and healthy but a vital part of establishing a meaningful and effective “true” version of community.


I would like to share my personal experience.

Our experience and impression of conflict can vary tremendously. Both in my family and in my romantic relationships, mine was largely unpleasant, left me feeling small and scared.

But I endured it because I believed that it was normal and healthy.

Dragon and I have been together for nearly eight years and will be celebrating 5 years of marriage in August.  We have never had a fight and I have never felt small or scared. The best part is that I have never been in a healthier, more communicative, loving and safe relationship in my life, without conflict. .

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Have we disagreed? Of course!

Did we listen to one another?

Yes of course! But without intimidating, shouting, hurting or diminishing one another.

So, if conflict is defined as a space where there are differences then yes, I agree this is an unavoidable and essential part of the journey but it doesn’t have to cause harm.

That’s the essential thing.

What is your experience of conflict? Has it been a healthy expression of intimacy or a harmful barrier towards it?


Blog #51 My Favourite childhood Book

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I was probably about 7 years old when my class went to the school library with the single purpose of looking at books. We could choose which books to read and select where we wanted to read them. I loved the autonomy of the library plus the quiet, carpeted room was soothing to me. Perhaps in contrast to the more institutional, structured classroom setting where we spent most of our time.

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I remember loving one book in particular… The Tiger who Came to Tea. I would sit on the carpeted floor in an unpopulated nook of the library and devour the illustrations, drinking in every detail.

Better still, the fun didn’t stop there… we had, what I perceived as the ultimate luxury, of taking books home! Yes that’s right, I got to bring my favourite piece of school home with me to show my mother. It was as though she could see a snapshot of my imagination on those pages. I was so excited to share. I read the book so many times that I had memorized the pages, each detail and word.

I loved this book in the quiet unassuming way that a child loves. Not because it was cool or because I was told I should or I was imitating someone else. I loved it because it spoke to me. It lit up my imagination, made me curious. I saw myself on the pages and wished I could be a part of the story.

This book impacted me, impacted the way I drew, the way I thought, the way I dreamed and what I believed. I believed that Tigers could come to tea and that parents would accommodate them.

Just last week the author of this precious work, Judith Kerr, died at the age of 95. She described herself as “incredibly lucky”. She published her first book (The Tiger who came to Tea) at the age of 45. Last week it struck me that she had no idea how much her book meant and I somehow wanted her to know. The same day I was lending a brilliant new novel that had touched me deeply to a friend who I believed would also be impacted by the book. Similarly, this author (Sophie Macintosh) would never know. I have only rarely reached out and written to an author to share my appreciation. So often, we acquire books through libraries or borrowed from friends and the author has no trace of these transactions.


Art is like that…

You create something

You set it free

And it may soar into the hearts of a few or if we are very lucky many… but mostly we never really know.

Art can save lives, transform us, art gives meaning, art lifts us up, art teaches us about ourselves and pushes boundaries, ignites our imagination, wakes us up! Art is personal and intimate and reaches us in ways sometimes that literally only art can. Often there are no words only sensations and feelings that can light up parts of our brain in new and important ways.

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But as creators we may never know the depth and breadth of this impact. Is it 1000 people we wish to reach or one person 1000 fold?

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This morning we read our book The Butterfly Trap to around 100 kids and the look in their eyes, the way they connected to the story with their gaze, their joyful laughter and enthusiasm was elating for us. We wrote this book because we wish to connect, to make meaning, to challenge ideas and to help kids make sense of the world.

We received more positive feedback this morning than perhaps we ever have and there are hardly any words to describe how it feels to learn that your art is having a positive impact. The question we received most often though was…

Do you have other books?”

We had better get busy!!!

Love,

Dragon + Bunny

(photo credit Lower Canada College)




Blog #49 Failure doesn't Always Suck

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Failure doesn’t always suck...

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Last weekend  we took part in a craft fair. We broke our 5 year hiatus, woke up early filled with enthusiasm, boxes already neatly packed by the door and ready to tackle the day. We arrived and unpacked, equipped with a new tablecloth which we had selected with great care by the way, we had a pretty bowl of candies for our visitors, new business cards and a money box complete with change for all of the transactions we were sure we would make.

Within about 15 minutes of being installed at our booth, we sat among the other vendors who had the same distant look on their faces and Dragon looked at me and said… “now do you remember why we stopped doing craft fairs?” I started laughing because I was glad she said it first. Truthfully, I was feeling it too but I was trying to look on the bright side. It all came rushing back to me …

Craft fairs are not for everyone and I think it’s fair to say that they are officially not for us.

But failure doesn’t always suck. In fact, we wrote a fun song that day, we laughed and talked to some really nice people. We shared some advice with a fellow vendor who was just 14 years old with the hopes that she could benefit from some of the things we have learned over the years, among other highlights.

So it certainly wasn’t all lost, it never is.

Failure doesn’t suck because you learn what not to do next time.

Here’s another failure for you… We had to cancel our workshop that was scheduled to run on Victoria Day Monday. We were so excited to host a Spring themed kids workshop and to collaborate with our friend Fiona. We had already begun dreaming and planning. The registration process was underway but some people cancelled and we couldn’t fill the minimum number of spots to offer the event. One of the hopes I secretly had was that we would fill the remaining workshops spots at the craft fair. I was wrong. The most popular thing at our craft fair table that day were the free candies.

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So, it is with some disappointment and humility that we accept these circumstances. The situation sucks, because we were looking forward to the workshop but the failure doesn’t because failure is a great teacher.

  • Failure means you tried

  • Failure offers important insights

  • Failure is a friend that affords learning opportunities and growth.


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These set backs can’t keep us down …we are hatching new plans and dreams and are not giving up on future workshops and opportunities. In fact, in others news, Dragon took the plunge this week and approached KidLink on Monkland about carrying our book and sure enough, The Butterfly Trap can now be found on the shelves of one of Montreal’s finest children’s book and toy shops!

We still have so many hopes and dreams for The Butterfly Trap and are beyond grateful to have you guys along with us!

Onwards and Upwards!

Thanks for your support

Love,

Bunny and Dragon


Teacher Talk

Old Ms. Kuki had a Farm

Old Ms. Kuki had a Farm

Hello lovely people, Kuki / Dragon here. The other day Bunny and I were giving each other our daily recap of “how was work today?” and it dawned on us; maybe YOU, our loyal blog readers, would like a little glimpse into the precious moments of a kindergarten teacher! Honestly, I have sooooo many stories and I probably forget most of them even before I get home, lol, but I do have a few that have stuck with me over the years and I would like to share some of these precious gems with you. So here we go.

Kindergarten and Reading

There is this magical moment for some children in kindergarten when they finally start to crack the code of reading. It’s almost like a superpower that gets bestowed onto them. (Disclaimer: not all children begin reading in kindergarten and that’s OK ) When this does happen, they are filled with this incredible joy and their thirst for more explodes. For some it begins with letter-sound correspondence, that’s when they can recall the sounds that each letter-symbol make. For others, it’s when they can read CVC, consonant-vowel-consonant words. Everyone blooms at different times, but each time they connect, it’s special. It is one of the many privileges of being a teacher, to be a part of this process.

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A few years ago I had a student who came into kindergarten able to read…

One day I had prepared a morning message on flip chart paper before my students arrived. As they sat down for circle time, he began to read the message aloud before we even started. When he finished reading another child shouted:

“WAIT! How did you do THAT!? How do you know it says that!? THAT’S MAGIC!”

I couldn’t hide the smile on my face.

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Another goodie, is when we start to decode CVC words and blend the individual letter sounds/phonemes together. They begin by sounding out each initial phoneme and then slowly blending them together until… BOOM! They say the written word and their eyes light up with joy! At this point I’m celebrating by “raising the roof” like Arsenio Hall and pumping them up because they succeeded. It’s really fun and things can get a little crazy!

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People have asked me, “What can I do to help my child learn to read?” What I usually say is that they need a good understanding of their letter-sounds, being read to daily and last but definitely not least, make reading fun and special. In class I like to shut the curtains and bring out flashlights for a special reading atmosphere, or to send home special stuffed animals to whom the students can read to. I’ve even made tents, caves and farm houses to make reading fun and special. Currently in kinder, my French teaching partner and I are co-reading a chapter book to our group in both languages. She will read a few chapters in French, then I will take over and read the next few in English! They LOVE IT!!!

Reading by the fire

Reading by the fire

Reading with flashlights

Reading with flashlights

Here’s a challenge for you! Try reading our book, The Butterfly Trap outdoors, or even with a flashlight tonight. I can assure you that if you make reading fun they will want to read more. We need to model a love of reading in our digital world.

Let us know what book you are reading and how you are making reading fun.

Have a good one, bookworms!

Love,

Kuki and Lee-Ann

Dragon & Bunny

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Letting go....

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Today would have been my sister Lynn’s birthday. She was my eldest sibling and when I was a young child she used to take me shopping downtown on exciting bus adventures with the incredibly generous offer of buying me anything I wanted in the entire department store as long as I called her Mom lol! I remember choosing a huge stuffed animal because that seemed like the most audacious thing to do with such an audacious offer!

She moved out when I was very young so I don’t have many memories of her living at home but I do remember sleeping at her cool, modern, high rise apartment and admiring her for her confidence, style, beauty and sense of humour.

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Our family has endured some major struggles these past years beginning with the passing of our Dad, followed by my divorce and estrangement from my middle sister shortly after, Mum’s stroke and most recently the loss of Lynn which took place almost three years ago.

So when I tell you that things are complicated, this may help to explain it. I know that all families fight and that conflict can be a productive way of resolving issues and even strengthening bonds, this isn’t what I’m talking about when I refer to our situation. I won’t get into the details but suffice it to say that there have been some grave, irreparable fractures which compounded the sadness of Lynn’s death even further.

When Lynn fell ill several years ago, prior to Mum’s stroke, with the earliest signs of disease, my brother, Mother, Kuki and I went to visit her in hospital right away. To say she wasn’t overjoyed to see us would be an understatement. As I mentioned, for years there was conflict which translated to long periods of silence. One of the first times I broke that silence was when I called her to tell her the news that our Father had died. But the thing is, I always felt that she had my back, that the weight of family conflict that arose was somehow not my burden to carry. Perhaps it was because I was the youngest and she was the oldest but we never really had a terribly complicated relationship. The hardest part was that we shared the same family that was such a source of pain for her. She would ask me “How is your mother or how is your brother?”

When she met Kuki for the first time after my divorce, she was so welcoming and understanding, didn’t even flinch when she learned that we were together. She came to our wedding and generously let us stay at her cottage as a wedding gift. We cherished her support.

She only revealed the magnitude of her cancer to me in confidence when I called to tell her that Mum had had a stroke. I was in a panic driving to the E.R to see Mum, not even knowing what was going on. My head was spinning when she told me on the phone but I swore I would keep her secret. And I did. She was a big support to me when Mum was recovering in hospital and rehab and would call  most nights for updates and to check in.

When she became progressively more sick I began to notice as our conversations changed. She wasn’t always logical and her speech could be a bit slurred. She sometimes got angry at things that didn’t happen. But when I would apologize and try to explain myself she would admit that she was sorry too and didn’t always make sense.

We brought her food and hung out with her and her husband from time to time. The disease progressed quickly at the end and soon she stopped eating and lay calmly in her bedroom in a hospital bed. Her husband caring for her from the comfort of their home.

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It isn’t easy to die of cancer. I will refrain from sharing the details here as I want you to know Lynn the way you see her in this picture: Confident, outrageous, beautiful, spirited and unstoppable! It isn’t easy to watch your sister die of cancer especially when you are the only member of your immediate family who was a part of it. It felt so scary and lonely. I am so grateful for the immense support of my wife who was there with me through every layer, however. I’m quite sure I couldn’t have done it without her. There is so much vulnerability and intimacy in death. I don’t even think that there is language to capture it. If there is I don’t know it. Lynn’s devoted husband of 40 years and her two sons and their partners and children were present. We looked at pictures and shared memories and laughed just a few feet away from her door the night before she died. There was something about that time together that felt sacred and holy to me and that I can hardly describe. The immaterial world is hard to describe. Sometimes I wonder if it’s even meant to be. Letting go of my sister was so sad. Seeing my beautiful, fierce, charismatic sister succumb to death and knowing that the rest of the family didn’t say goodbye to her broke my heart even further.

This idea of letting go of things we love is not easy. To be honest, the first draft of The Butterfly Trap was dedicated to my first dog Shady with the words “This book is dedicated to the memory of Shady who taught me how to let go”

I’m not very good at letting go. I tend to hold on tight. I tend to cling. I can be scared of letting go as letting go is scary thing to do. But just as Luki learned in The Butterfly Trap, loving something doesn’t mean putting it in a cage, you can love something deeply and meaningfully even if it’s not on a leash, in your grasp, or under the blankets with you. I still love my sister. I still feel her presence and will always be affected by the ways that she made me laugh and shocked me with her audacity. She was my big sister and big sisters leave an indelible mark. She was the only sister I had since my other sister cut me off almost eight years ago. So I have had to let go and I know that this is a part of the process of loving. Isn’t there a ridiculous cliche about loving and letting go. It doesn’t make it any easier or less painful because losing those we love is both of these things but it’s a part of the journey.

In the final pages of The Butterfly Trap Luki and her mother decide to spend the rest of their day outside in the garden counting butterflies flying free. Perhaps that is what we can do, look up and count our blessings and take stock of all the love, the love we still have, the love we once had, the love we have had to set free, the love we know now and the love that is still unknown to us….

Hooray for Butterflies flying free just as they are meant to be

Rest in Peace, Lynn and Happy Birthday to you my dear sister.


What we’ve learned from our dogs (cat blog to follow lol)

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People have told me that I don’t know love because I haven’t had a child. Well, Dragon and I haven’t had any children but we have loved beyond our wildest dreams!

When Dragon and I first met, she told me that she loved dogs and that she once had a dog  named Pippin. A glorious Siberian Husky who would howl with delight whenever Dragon came home. I was skeptical and unconvinced that she was a dog person, I thought that she kind of loved the dog the way that many people do as an afterthought. Until we started dog parenting together and I learned that all of the other dogs she would love, were part of Pippin’s legacy. There are few people who love as fiercely and deeply as Dragon.

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Our fur family has taught us so much about the bonds of love and the deep loyalty and connection of family.

My first dog was named Shady and was an SPCA rescue who came into my life when I was barely 21 and in my first apartment. She was a pup herself a tiny little furry black creature who was literally one of the great blessings of my life. I was scared of dogs and didn’t know what to do. She was given to me as a gift on my birthday. Upon arrival, she was placed in a closed room in my apartment with newspapers on the floor. I didn’t know what to make of her. I went to her on her first night and lay on the floor with her and talked to her. She seemed as timid and uncertain as me. That’s when I decided that we could do this.

She was such a beautiful, sweet, kind, easy, loving and perfect dog. As she grew, people would stop and ask me if she was a belgian shepherd. When I told them that she was a shelter dog they were in disbelief.

She was my first dog and she was a sheer delight! She bonded to me and it seemed she could read my mind. She was off leash most of the time and I was so confident with her. We had almost 10 years together and I am so grateful for every moment. When she died I was gutted. I think that a part of me knew that there would never be another dog like Shady. She taught me about the quiet ways of love that are beyond words and species. She also was the first to teach me that love also means letting go. I was so scared to start over as I couldn’t imagine enduring that pain again. Soon, I started researching dog breeds and learning about dog temperament. I became obsessed with dogs and carried a dog breed manual with me while visiting the local SPCA regularly. I had decided that the best way to honour her memory was to have more dogs and keep loving them and name them after her…

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Enter Shawn….  The fluffy, wild little black and white border collie who wanted little to do with me and everything to do with chasing a tennis ball. I loved Shawn to the moon and back and poured every ounce of myself into him. I was determined to give him things that Shady lacked. Sadly, Shawn lost a leg in a tragic hit and run while being walked off leash by my ex when he was barely four months old. There are no words to describe how distraught I was when he was in hospital being treated for life threatening injuries. Several weeks and surgeries later he emerged from hospital minus a leg and I began the journey of being a special needs dog mom. Oh! The places we would go! We enjoyed 13.5 years of adventures, walks, countless frisbees, tennis balls, hikes and swimming, dog camp, birthday parties and nature in all the  weather. He taught me how hard love can be and so much about dogs and how wrong things can go. (Because it all did go wrong with him I’m just leaving out the countless calamities of his life). He was my sweet sweet prince and my heart grew with every click of the leash to his collar.

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Shannon was dog number three. She is still in our lives. She is a very geriatric chihuahua who has always been a fussy old lady. Her golden years suit her perfectly! She is so thin and tiny and can hardly see or hear. She barks to be fed and refuses meals that aren’t to her liking. She enjoys sunbeams and naps on soft blankets. She has passed her 17th birthday already and is by far the oldest dog we have ever had. She was Shawn’s little sister and we enjoyed so many adventures together. Although she was known to refuse walks in inclement weather, she used to love getting out in the sunshine by the water with the hopes of catching the trail of the elusive muskrat… which she would chase with an uncharacteristically fierce passion!  

There was a fourth dog named Betsy. She came to us already named at 10 years old, having  been rehomed four times before becoming a member of our family. Yes, that’s right, we had three dogs for a while. Shawn, Shannon and Betsy! We laugh now as we remember those crazy dog days! But Betsy was a treasure! Our hearts were bursting with love for her! She was the sweetest little creature who craved nothing more than some comfort and cuddles. Knowing that she had endured so many changes and such rejection in her life, we were determined to make it up to her. We could hardly imagine how anyone could let her go. But we too had to let her go quite suddenly when she was diagnosed with cancer in her belly. She stopped eating and became very flat following a series of tests we learned the worst. This news came to us only months after we had lost Shawn and it was devastating!

So what have we learned from our dogs?

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We have learned that love is painful and beautiful and can make you move mountains and weep waterfalls and fill your heart with a deep, growing indescribable joy.

We are so lucky to have loved and lost and we know that every time you love, the universe expands its capacity to love. So keep on loving boldly, deeply, fearlessly and furiously. That’s what we have learned from them.

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Workshops for the Win! Blog #45

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Our first Workshop and collaboration! Whaaaaat!!!!


We missed you guys last week but we are back and we have news!


We love to workshop with kids! We love the self expression, creative energy, freedom and flow that this setting provides.  

I spent over 20 years in classrooms with children of all ages before I joined the nonprofit sector and during this time my love and appreciation for children’s creativity has blossomed.

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I am soooooo excited to be partnering with two other creatives who share my passion and enthusiasm!

In fact, Kuki and I dreamed of collaborating with Fiona (Fionsy Doll Party) early on in our book publishing journey. We had been watching her grow her doll making concept in schools, camps and party settings with admiration and respect! We heard how many kids were delighting in her programs. I mean, who can resist? Building your own creation from recycled materials…. It’s awesome on every level!

So, here we are! A Spring workshop is now on the horizon!

We met up with Fi a few months ago to start dreaming this up. We thought a workshop would be the perfect setting to combine all of our gifts and skills.

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Here’s how it’s going to roll.

We are accepting 15 participants for a full afternoon of creativity and self expression!

What to expect?

  • Yoga (movement, games, meditation + mindfullness)

  • Doll making

  • Creative storytelling

  • Music

  • Self expression


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Soooo…… that’s it! We honestly can’t wait to make this day come to life with your kids!

Get in touch because spaces are filling up!

REGISTER NOW





What does it mean to be gay blog #44


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This week we were asked to blog on this topic. We are so grateful because now we don’t have to think about it! Although we certainly don’t have any particular specialization in this areas we are happy to share our opinion and experiences…


Here we go…. I will go first and Dragon will follow


What does it mean to be gay according to Bunny.


For me, it means not being in a heterosexual relationship and not self identifying as hetero but let me be clear, that for others this might mean something totally different and I am not presuming what this means for them.


This blog is about me lol… now you know why I like blogging so much! Me me me….


Ok, back to the question. What does it mean to be gay?


Well, as I said, I can tell you what it means to me. I identify as a lesbian. This feels right for me.  Although this hasn’t always felt as clear. I have listened to the comments of others who have challenged this, asserting that I couldn’t be gay and that it is only Kuki that I fell in love with or that I must be bisexual because I had only ever been with men prior to her. When I first came out in the Fall of 2011, I was scared and uncertain and let people openly draw these conclusions. I was confused and trying to make sense of the situation myself.

I’m not sure when it clicked but suddenly it did. Just like that I realized that I had the agency to identify for myself and this wasn’t open to interpretation by others. I think the clarity came for me when I began to consider the letters in the acronym LGBTQ+ and became curious to learn about other members of the community, in particular those who identified as trans. I started to read books and watch documentaries and queer films and listen to the stories of the community. I found this very helpful.  I learned that some people know they are queer and / or are same sex attracted and / or feel misidentified by their biology from a very young age while others come to terms with this much later in life. Again, this is not open to interpretation. This is based solely on the experience of the individuals in question. Period.

I would often hear, “You can’t be gay, you were married to a man. You would have known”  and I would think yes. That’s true. I can’t be gay so what is going on then?

But the more I learned about people whose life doesn’t follow a linear path or make sense or subscribe to the social norms and boxes that we so dearly love, the more I realized that it was possible to be gay even though I was married to a man and even though I liked pink stuff and played with Barbies as a child. (My mother actually did say that to me at one point … but you always liked Barbies, aren’t you supposed to born gay? God bless her)

So, what does it mean to be gay? I don’t know what it means to you because it is your absolute right to be who you are, however that looks, and to allow yourself the freedom and opportunity to outgrow your gender or sexual identity and to expect your friends and family to allow you to flourish. I can only tell you what it means for me.


Our book The Butterfly Trap was not only important for us creatively, it also deepened our relationship and it felt like another step in our coming out journey. Queer people often describe coming out as something you do over and over. First we came out to our friends and fam, then at work, then we got married and stood in front of our whole community and the court of law, then we collaborated on and published our book. The assumption is always that you’re straight so our bio is unapologetically there on the pages of our book and we just decided to put it out there for all of our readers. We’re here and we’re queer lol


This is what it means to be gay. Being unapologetically and unwaveringly me. (and loving it) lol


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Ok, now it’s my turn, Kuki aka Dragon to answer the question: What does it mean to be gay?According to Dragon

 

Honestly, it means to be ME, corny and cliché as it sounds, it’s true. I knew I was different when I was little. I was the stereotypical “tomboy” although I disliked that term when I was little until I came across a soccer add featuring Julie Foudy:

Tomboy.
Alright, call me a tomboy.
Tomboys get medals. Tomboys win championships.
Tomboys can fly.
Oh, and tomboys aren’t boys.
— Julie Foudy

I never felt like a boy, I just liked the same stereotypical things. I liked Ninja Turtles not Barbies. I played sports and cops and robbers. This was my experience, these were my interests, but please be aware this did not “make me gay” I was born this way.

 

During my process of coming out there were comments made to me that questioned my interests and activities as a youth. Was it because you played sports? Was it because you went to an all girls school? No and No. I always knew, but didn’t know; I guess the same way a person who likes the opposite gender just knows.

 

I went through a phase where I tried to be girly and wear high heels and dresses, even pretended to have a crush on a boy but it never felt real. It felt like I was always in costume. I couldn’t recognize myself as that person. Slowly, I started accepting that wearing pants and dress shirts are beautiful as well, and that it’s ok if someone “thinks I’m gay” because I AM! I now proudly define my style as Ellen DeGeneres meets quirky preppie. Although I still have some students draw me wearing a dress, more and more are taking note that I wear pants and that I do look different. I think this is a great opportunity to show them that girls don’t have to have long hair and wear a dress.

 

Being gay is not easy, I do have a fear that someone will not like me simply because of who I married, I do worry that I will be stared at and judged for kissing my wife in public.

 

I was terrified when I first came out to my colleagues at work, but they embraced me/us with open arms and have been such a tremendous support ever since. The thing is, I was afraid we weren’t going to be acknowledged, but we were treated like any other couple who were about to get married. The staff collected money and bought us a lovely gift and a very thoughtful card. You see, the fear of not counting, of not being seen was huge and that is why I felt the push to be out with my students.

 

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I want all my students and especially the ones who have same sex parents to hear about my wife and all of our adventures. I want them to be represented, to have stories that mirror their life. And that is why our character Luki, her family and “The Butterfly Trap” is so important. It depicts Luki’s mother in pants and a dress shirt woodworking in the attic. In this story we can’t tell if Luki has one mom, two moms or a mom and dad or another guardian. There are such great books already written about same-sex parents like “And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and “Heather has Two Mommies” by Leslea Newman. In Luki’s next adventure, we plan on introducing another parental figure, and not making it the main purpose of the story. Stay tuned, Luki’s adventures have just begun.

Thanks for being here!!

Love,

Dragon and Bunny

Blog #42 and #43 3 Fun Facts about Dragon according to Bunny (uncensored) and 3 Fun Facts about Bunny according to Dragon

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3 Fun Facts about Dragon according to Bunny (uncensored)

OMG where do I begin? I just think about her and my heart goes pitter patter. She is truly the most incredible person! She is beautiful, funny smart and sweet. I literally can’t get enough of her but let me try and come up with 3 fun facts that might intrigue you.

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NOTE: She hasn’t seen this so she will be as surprised as you!!!!!

  1. She is fierce and competitive. You may already know that she is an athlete and has been playing organized sports since she was a child. Yes, that’s right, Kuki was an avid soccer and ringuette player, even dabbled in basketball and rugby too. But I think it’s fair to say that she really found herself as a hockey goalie in her late teens. Many years later, she still plays ice hockey at least twice a week and is in the gym training most days she is not playing. She listens to goalie podcasts, has a goalie coach, reads goalie books and is a huge Habs fan (especially Carey). Goalies are unique. As they tend the net, their game is as much mental as it is physical. They endure a lot of pressure and responsibility. It is quite impressive actually. Hats off to goalies everywhere! Now, here comes the real talk. The flip side of being an athlete means having a lot of determination and passion which at times can translate to anger and rage! If you follow hockey, you are familiar with videos of goalies losing their Sh”*t! Well, I have heard and seen Kuki do the same thing. Swearing, smashing her stick and losing control on the ice. Her teammates have seen it too and have learned when to avoid her to let her cool off. I have to admit, that on the one hand I don’t like to see her upset and I empathize because I know she can be really hard on herself. On the other hand I am secretly amused by her. I love her passion and her drive. Most people are shocked to learn about this. So, here’s Fun fact number 1! Kuki is a beast on the ice!

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2. She loves dogs / cats. I mean, she really loves them. Like in much the same way that I do. When people say they love animals I always nod and smile because it might mean they think animals are cute, they used to have a goldfish, they like to watch silly pet videos on Youtube or whatever. When I met Kuki I had two dogs and a cat and  they were my life. I love them in the life altering way that you might love a family member. I prepared all of their food from scratch, I would make sure their daily exercise needs were met at the expense of other hobbies and interests, and I even took a solo vacation with my dog Shawn to a week long dog camp in Southern Vermont exclusively for dogs and their parents. So, when she told me that she loved animals I thought… yes, that’s nice. But it was only when we started to get to know each other more and when we were falling in love that I watched her take on the role of pet parent and be as devoted, loving and kind to the fur fam as me, if not more! She is an incredible caregiver, a dog and cat whisperer, and she blows me away with her overall care concern for them and their needs (Swoon).

3. She is a wicked talented artist. She has two art degrees on top of her Education degree. She has done so much personal reflection and introspection through the process of art making. She is gifted and loves to draw and sculpt. She has a talent for rendering portraits and still life with skill and accuracy. She has also worked in performance, installation and textiles. Kuki loves a challenge and for her art mediums are tools for learning, processing and discovery. I am fascinated when she tells me stories about her creative art projects and her vision to use math, statistics and quirky social experiments to draw conclusions. The way her mind works is unbelievable. She is a natural problem solver and this is obvious even in the way she conceives of and makes her art. I know that sometimes she is frustrated and misses her fine art days. But she finds some solace in her role as a Kindergarten teacher where her classroom and students are her project that she is so passionate about. Oh! And of course, our combined effort: DragonBunny Books!

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Fun Facts about Bunny

written by Dragon

Ok so Bunny just told me that we are going to write a Top 3 Fun Facts about each other. She won’t even let me see her intro. I have no idea which direction this is going, at least it will be fun. Joy and fun are such crucial aspects of life. It’s important to relish those moments. I just listened to a great hockey goalie podcast “Goalie by Garmen” where he gives some great insight both on being a goalie and on life in general. He encourages us to remember our successes because it’s all too easy to remember the last goal that went in and not the other 15 saves you made before that.

Celebrate your successes! Now, let’s celebrate Lee-Ann Matthews, the Bunny herself.

 

Here are my Top 3 Fun Facts about Bunny by me, Kuki, the Dragon.

1.     Fun Fact #1 Gym Rat

Bunny is a beast in the gym! You would be amazed at this little 5-foot-2 woman. She loves to challenge herself and lifts as much as she can. She’ll ask me: “How many reps do you do?” If I answer 6, she will do 12. Bunny is constantly challenging herself to improve. If you saw her “pipes” you would say that she’s Kelly Ripa’s twin! Don’t mess with her!!!

Even though she doesn’t typically play organized sports, she is really competitive at badminton, like REALLY competitive. I like to think I’m the sporty one in the relationship, but SHE is the badminton champ. I can’t even believe it. It actually bugs me because I really want to win. I might have to get some private coaching to help me out over here.

2.     Fun Fact #2 Teacher Extraordinaire

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Bunny taught for many years as a preschool teacher. I remember being so inspired by her drive to create activities and her ability to remember a million and one songs off the top of her head. It’s also one of the reasons why I love her so much. She is so passionate about teaching, animating and the well-being of little humans.

One of her dreams was to be a kindergarten teacher. She would have been the best kindergarten teacher this world has known. She has a natural gift to see the world through the eyes of young children and is able to create incredible learning opportunities with ease. I try every day to be a fraction of the teacher that Bunny is. She is such an inspiration to me.

3.     Fun Fact #3: Singing

Did you know that Bunny sings randomly at least 10 times a day? Sometimes it’s not even real words, just loud sounds in an opera voice! This is our normal, call it vocal warm-up or just plain silly, it happens all the time at home. Thank God our animals are old and can’t hear as well. Jeremiah the cat can still hear, but he is a scaredy cat; he runs away if you look at him. We could never have this much fun with our border collie Shawn around. He would start barking and yipping and literally make us stop. We called him the “No Fun Police”. Shawn passed away 5 years ago this summer and our singing has never been the same.

Not only does Lee love to sing, she has an amazing voice as well. She has an incredible ability to remember the lyrics to songs and can harmonize anything! I forgot to mention that her rhyming ability is phenomenal. She can pop out a song in minutes! All I have to do is find a chord pattern and BOOM! Song is written! Stay tuned for our next single!

That’s it for this week’s blog! We did it! We broke the writer’s block!

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Love,

Dragon and Bunny

Blog # 42 Why do we blog? What's the point and who even reads it?

Why do we do this?

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This week somebody asked us why we blog? They asked, why do you do it and what is the point? Then followed up with, who even reads it?

The question was a little jarring because the truth is, creating blog content takes time and energy which given all that we do is already in short supply. So, ya, why do we even bother?

This got us thinking.

My initial reaction was, why do painters make paintings? Why do poets write poetry? Why do creatives create? Because that is what we do, that is what we have always done as a means of processing information, of building communities, understanding one another and ourselves. Ideally, these processes are not only therapeutic and helpful for the creator. Ideally, self expression creates large ripples and opens us up to one another.

I mean, isn’t connection the whole reason and purpose for life?

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When I first fell in love with dragon, I was distraught because it meant forfeiting so many things that I thought were essential. I had a house, a business, and an established marriage that was holding it all together. I was speaking to a therapist at the time and was in distress about the ways in which I feared I had failed and she reminded me that connection is the whole purpose of life, that deep meaningful connection is why we are here. I can’t tell you how that helped me.


Connection trumps everything.


Dragon and I took took a huge risk by being together. It was scary and uncertain. But after 7+ years, we can safely say that cultivating this connection has enhanced how we connect to others. We have deeper and more meaningful relationships and stronger ties to our community since we have been together.

Our connection has created waves of connection that are life giving.

That is why we wrote The Butterfly Trap.  That is why we are working on our next book. That is why we believe in the process of art making and storytelling and that is why we write a blog.

Thanks for being here.

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Dragon is Back and is she is Blogging!

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Reflections from my Cali Conference Adventure

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Last week I left for California with my kindergarten colleagues. I know Bunny was nervous about me leaving, but what you may not know is that I was as well. She is my best friend, my wife and someone who I just like to be around as much as I can. Gushy I know but it’s true. She has gone away for conferences before, but that was before Shannon (our 17-year-old Chihuahua) was so old and had so many persistent needs that are best met by both of us. I kissed our little dog on the head before I left, though I was worried and didn’t like saying good bye, I continued on.

I had to pack the night before as I still had a full day of teaching before me. Ok, Bunny packed for me as she often/always is my fashion consultant in the mornings, so I of course needed her to plan my outfits for the conference! I feel a sense of duty to represent the queer, gender non-conforming females out there and to make the statement that Yes, it’s ok to wear pants!

Last Thursday was a crazy day, I taught all morning, coached basketball at lunch, had a meeting right before literally running to the taxi that would take us to the airport. Once we were at the airport though, the reality sank in: we- are- going- to- CALI! I recalled selecting my workshops with great anticipation, as this is my first ever teachers’ conference and I couldn’t  wait to see what it was like. And the most amazing thing was that our whole team was given this exciting opportunity to attend together! I do apologize if I haven’t mentioned our kindergarten team’s amazingness until now, because they are some of the best people in the world. Our office is organized like one big table. Our desks all face each other and we often jokingly give out the “cleanest desk award” to who ever deserves it, usually not me. Other teachers marvel at how we actually get work done this way, but we do, you see, kindergarten is a village; we all care for all the students, and we all love our job. Teamwork is our middle name, we have a flat leadership approach that thrives on each others strengths.

On the plane ride we took time to finish up some collaborative work, watched a movie or two and probably annoyed our neighbours with our high fives, giddiness and my passing of

chocolate to those around me. We were EXCITED!

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When we finally arrived in Los Angeles, we jokingly wondered which actors we would see. Well, low and behold, I saw Eugene Levy and his eyebrows from across the luggage carousel! CHECK! We met our taxi driver and he drove us in style and quite quickly, I must add, to Pasadena. We rested and regrouped to be ready for our next couple of conference days.

All the workshops I went to had one underlying theme in common, Keep It Simple Sweetie. This was helpful for me as I am a perfectionist and although this motivates me to constantly improve and push my limits, I often want everything I produce to be PERFECT. The problem is that perfection doesn’t exist, and I seem to forget that sometimes. I was encouraged by the workshops because I learned that I am already doing many of the activities/ideas that were presented. I was inspired by each presenters’ passion and joy for what they do. Each teacher, retired or currently working, had one consistent message: they want to constantly improve themselves and that they love what they do. There is that old cliché that says, if you love what you do then it’s not work. Well that is definitely true here. These presenters love what they do. Which was validating for our K Team because we share this sentiment.


Here are a few broad stroke conference takeaways:

  • Tablecloths make easy, affordable decorations and can help transform a classroom in millions of creative ways

  • Don’t be afraid to be imaginative

  • Presenters with a Southern Drawl are very funny

  • Bucket Filling is a great tool for empathy and social skill building

  • “We all have feelings and we all like feeling good”

  • Phonemic awareness is crucial

  • When helping children learn to write ask what is the “spelling” and not  which “letter” do you hear

  • Seats closest to electrical plugs are VERY sought-after

  • Integrating STEM can be easy and modest: use simple materials

  • Fruit in California is divine, eat as much as you can

Not only did we learn a lot at the conference, we also became a closer team. The laughs and

adventures we experienced reinforced the bond we have with each other and strengthened our

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team in incredible ways. From playing Ping-Pong, to thrift store bargain hunting, to finding gluten-free restaurants, to going swimming at the outdoor pool in 13C weather, to renting a car and driving to the Hollywood Hills, to looking at all the big homes in Beverly Hills and trying to find a public bathroom for all of us women, to renting bikes in Venice and biking along the ocean and the canals, to saying hi to all the animals I encountered, to seeing the ocean and touching

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the water, to trying to find all the most perfect gifts for my wife along the way because I missed her terribly and knew she would have loved to be here with me and that she would have loved it as much as we did.  We had so much fun! What an incredible experience, and I am honored to bring this passion back to snowy, icy, cold Montreal.





Note: Teachers and Parents, If you want to know more about the actual presentations, just leave a note and I can write another little blog.

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