Happy Halloween

My daughter started thinking about Halloween over a month ago.  She and her friends love to plan costumes and where to trick or treat, and we went through one box of chocolate bars in early October.  I get their excitement, but I also think it can be a bit out of control.

I remember when I was a kid asking my Mom what I should be for Halloween.  It was all the talk at school, and I remember stressing about it.  My Mom was at her desk working at the time, and I remember her looking up at me and saying, “The world is much bigger than you.”  Now I usually knew better than to disturb my Mom when she was working – with four kids, plus foster kids, plus working on her Masters degree and volunteering, all while working full time – my siblings and I learned the art of picking the best moments to ask for something.  But with Halloween on the horizon, I must have been completely absorbed.  I was shocked that she didn’t care.  When I think back to that exchange now, I realize it was one of those moments when I was startled out of childhood – didn’t everyone think about costumes in September?

Now I am just like my Mom.  So in September, when Kathleen asked if I would buy her a Halloween costume, I said no.  She probably predicted that, so she waited at least a week before returning to the subject.  She told me that she really wanted to be Winnie the Pooh, and she found the best costume.  She looked at me with a smile and paused – she is also mastering the art of manipulating Mom – and then she let it drop:  It only costs 160 dollars.  “Only”.

My reaction was similar to my Mom’s.  I told her that that price was outrageous and gave her a $20 limit.  Was I turning into a grump?

Kathleen decided to be duct tape.  I found that amusing – really? Duct tape?  Two nights ago she wrapped a t-shirt in duct tape and was quite pleased with the start.  It did look pretty cool.  But before bed, she realized that she couldn’t take off her duct tape shirt….

Last night she bought more duct tape, and we brainstormed bottoms.  For the record, I suggested she create a skirt, to manage some practical considerations.  But I didn’t push it, and she disappeared with her friend to create her costume.  At dinner time, she made a grand entrance into the kitchen and held a pose – there she was, neck to toes, completely wrapped in duct tape.  Pretty impressive.  And she was quite impressed with herself.

Then the real fun began.  She had to sit down for dinner.  Not comfortable.  Ten minutes later, she had to pee…  We all giggled.  When she told me that she would have to cut her tights along with the duct tape, she said, “I promise to sew them and wear them again!”

“Okay,” I said, “But you have to wear those sewn up tights again, in public.”

When I think back on my Mom’s lack of interest in my Halloween costume, I think she gave me a gift.  I made my own costumes, often with my friends.  One year, we spent hours unraveling red yarn to make Raggedy Ann and Andy wigs; another year we all sewed circles together and went as a bag of M and Ms.

My Mom actually gave me the best gift ever by refusing to enter into my kid world and taking control.  Sometimes in stepping back, and giving kids the chance to plan and create on their own, independent from adults, we can let kids be kids….we can let them create their own magic.

I hope I can do the same for my daughter.

ps – I asked Kathleen if I could blog about this story, and she said to call it, ‘Mom is always right’

pps – Jacob wore regular clothes to school but he taped playing cards on one sleeve and chocolate bars on the other. He called himself ‘Trick or Treat’.

A blog is not a newsletter

I am tempted to write about last week’s conference on ‘Strategy and Sustainability’ – I have heard from many people that it was valuable and some have even said it was the best gathering ever.  But a blog is not a newsletter, so I will include the updates on our website.

I also want to write about the value of accreditation – our third review of the year started this afternoon, and I have enjoyed reading the email exchanges between the Visiting Committee members before and after the visits.  But rather than blog about them, I am going to include those in the November newsletter.

I really want to describe the tour with the ten agents in 18 of our boarding schools – they said things like, “I used to send students to the UK but now I will encourage them to choose Canada first” and “I had no idea that CAIS schools were so amazing.”  I had a great time with them, especially when we got to fly in a float plane from Vancouver to Shawnigan Lake, and I mean we landed on the dock of Shawnigan.  But I will include a photo and link to social media for those updates.

Why not write about three great happenings with CAIS?  Because Sarah Milligan often reminds me that a blog is not a newsletter.  It is supposed to be a personal online diary, and she doesn’t want me to bore anyone with CAIS updates.  Communications should be appropriate to the medium.

So what do I blog about on this rainy Sunday afternoon?  Sometimes I get carried away with work and need to focus on other things – so here are a few other things in my life:

Two weeks ago, right before the conference, agent tour and reviews, Kevin and I went on a four-day road trip with two other couples.  That’s six adults in one car for ten hours each way.  I was reminded that I should take time to do something crazy… even when life is busy – maybe especially when life is busy.

We went to Charlottesville Virginia.  In the downtown area is an outdoor mall with a chalkboard wall with two words at the top:  Practice thinking. I loved it.  Then we went off to Blenheim, the winery that Dave Matthews started. Not only is he an amazing musician – we blasted his music for most of the trip – but he is creative.  My favorite lines from ‘You and Me’ are still in my head:  ‘When the kids are old enough, we’re gonna to teach them to fly.’  Sometimes we need to go on a search for what is beautiful.

Our friend Lisa, who inspired our little trip, is about to go through another round of chemo.  Her cancer has spread to her lungs and liver, and yet she is the most positive person I have ever met. We talked and laughed – and sang – all weekend.

That’s what I feel like writing in my online diary.  Thank goodness I blog because I would hate to spend my afternoon doing work…

Wowed by CAIS Schools

We are currently running a FAM Tour.  For those who don’t know what that means, (and until two years ago, I didn’t either!) it refers to a group of international agents touring schools to familiarize themselves with our schools and Canada. The majority of our boarding schools, as well as most universities, now pay international agents to find mission-appropriate students.

Gardiner Wilson, a retired diplomat, along with Alyson Robertson, our CAIS Agent Coordinator, are touring ten agents as I write…

This blog is a bit of a cheat, because I am about to share an email sent to our team last night, but I couldn’t do a better job writing about it than Alyson:

“We began at SAC and they rolled out the red carpet for us from start to finish. We arrived to an incredible “Canadian” breakfast – peameal bacon, Ontario apple &​ cinnamon pancakes, a maple syrup fountain (this was my fav), Atlantic smoked Salmon, Ontario pumpkin &​ blueberry muffins, a made to order omelet…and on and on. They had prefects lined up in kilts to present and take us around and they had a bagpipe performance just for us in the chapel.  It was amazing; the agents were truly ‘wowed.’

We then went on to UCC where they had a student ambassador from each of the countries the agents were representing.  So these agents were able to chat with students from their home countries, in their mother tongue, and hear first hand experiences of how they liked being a UCC student. They gave us an incredible lunch of roast beef and salmon, dessert buffet (!!!), speeches, videos, gift bags, etc.  Jim Power was there chatting and mingling with everyone…

It was just the best day. The agents were in awe. They couldn’t believe the campuses, the residences, the facilities and most of all the warm and huge reception they received at each school.  At one point during a video, Gardiner and I turned to each other with tears in our eyes. It sounds dramatic, but it was a dramatic day. I felt very proud to be part of CAIS and associated with these amazing schools. It was a fantastic day. Schools and agents were all very happy.

SAC and UCC have set the bar high for the rest of the schools on the tour! Tomorrow is BSS and Havergal. I’ll keep you posted!”

This morning at 9:41am, she texted me this:

“Amazingness continues at Havergal!!! They have just given each agent a “travel pack” with Starbucks gift cards for their way!”

The agents will tour 18 of our CAIS Boarding Schools across Canada.  Next week, I get to meet them and drive the van to Shawnigan, Brentwood, St George’s, St. Margaret’s, and SMUS.  How fun is that?

Makes me feel proud that we are showing off our country – and our CAIS schools! – to people who can deliver us the top students from around the world.

ps – As I sit in my office preparing for our Heads, Chairs and Business Officers Conference, which begins tonight, I must admit:  Alyson’s note has made me dream of amazing food, especially maple syrup fountains (check out the photo below).

pps – I hope our five BC boarding schools read this blog and feel the pressure to wow us with their food…. no pressure….