Sunday, December 3, 2017

Dear Dad

Dear Dad,

Another year has passed. So much has happened. Our family has grown. There's a lot of excitement and changes. But the one thing that's the same, is you're not here. You're missing out on these things. And that still bothers me. I was never given the chance to say good bye. That still bothers me. I still get upset by that. I still think you should be here for us. And, this year, I am still on my mission to recap the year, and tell you everything you've missed!

January was the beginning of the baby year. We learnt that Faiza and Earvin were having another boy. (Thanks for that, by the way. Am pretty sure I asked you to pull some strings and give this family a cute little girl.) Haseena threw Rehanna and Scott a baby shower. They asked for books to start a library for the little one. You were on my mind an awful lot this month, so I bought the baby a book from you. I remember how much you loved to read to me, and talk about books and stories. I recall you especially like those true-touches-your-heart kind of books too. So this is the book I got them, from you. Hope it's ok.

So, in January, Donald Trump was sworn in as president of the United States. While I won't go into details about this, I thought I'd share with you, how much your stories, the stories of your family have influenced and shaped our lives. One of the first things that happened during Trump's first week, as a ban on Muslims from certain countries to enter the US. Because of this, many people were stranded in Canada. Karim opened his home to anyone who was stranded and needed a place to stay. If you click on his image, you'll see the article.

Back in September, Ethan auditioned for the primary school play. This is the first time since we've been back in Dar that the primary campus has put on a show. Ethan got the lead as Aladdin. There were three performances. He was great. Wish you were here to see it. Your grandson can sing! Not sure who he inherited that from. Mum came to watch the final show. We are all so proud.

On Friday February 24, baby Malik Abel Venzant made his grand entrance into the world. He was eager to meet everyone, and decided to come early (27 weeks).  

March 6th saw your niece become a grandmother. Your great niece become a mother. Rehanna gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Meet Khaled.

Shaheen came to visit mum this month as well. Mum took her for kebabs and they went to Zanzibar. One evening they saw an incredibly large star. They both say they felt you with them. Thank you for joining them in Zanzibar.

Did I mention how incredibly positive your niece Faiza is? She's amazing. Even Scott admires her positive outlook. In March, a month after Malik was born, someone asked Faiza how he was doing. Her response is beautiful;

"Malik is taking baby steps everyday and growing and learning to breathe on his own. He's got pouty lips and long limbs and I think after this start at life, he may be a future marathon runner. He works hard and paces himself and is in it for the long haul."

For the last 6 weeks, Ethan and 3 other classmates have been working hard at school. It's final X time. The students join into groups based on their passions, they come up with a central idea, lines of inquiry, they interview experts and research their topic. Ethan and his group looked into the performing arts. The final element of the PYPX is action. Ethan and his mates decided to put on a show at the Children's Cancer Ward at Muhimbili Hospital. Oh dad, you would have loved it. I hope you saw it. It made my heart melt. 

For the last few years, Ethan has been a part of the Little Theatre's Kids Rock production. He really enjoys it. This year was no exception. Once again, I helped out. This year I wrote the script and directed. But Ethan's the star. He's been taking voice lessons too. You can really see the improvement in this video.

May was also a great month for Faiza and Earvin. Thank you for watching over Malik. He came home this month. 

June brought the end of the school year. And this year, the end of the school year meant the end of an era. Ethan graduated from the PYP. Which means, come August, I will officially be the mother of a Middle Schooler! Yikes

Ethan turned 11 this month. Rasool and the family came for the weekend, and Rehanna and fam, and Nabeel and Emily joined us for his birthday breakfast. We called mum in the afternoon. You were greatly missed. 

July also meant Ethan returned to theatre camp. This year's production was Hairspray and Ethan played the role of Seaweed. 

While Ethan attended camp, I got some time on my own. 
One night, I dreamt of you. We went to the Cheesecake Factory, ate cheesecake and chatted. It was a weird dream, as we never went out for dessert. Not just the two of us. And there's no Cheesecake Factory in Toronto. (At least not yet). 
Then one day, I decided to stay in the Square One area, while Ethan was at camp. There's this dessert place across the street, and I've never been in. I decided to give it a try.
Well, I walk in and am greeted by the owner/manager. He reminded me of you. 
Then, as I look over the scrumptious menu, I noticed that some cheesecakes had a little asterisk. Looking down, I see that these cheesecakes are Cheesecake Factory cheesecakes. 
Well, needless to say, I have found my perfect spot. Thank you. 
I also made a point of leaving one bite behind, so you could have your piece.

If you remember, two years ago I applied to attend a summer program at Harvard. I applied again this past winter and got accepted. So July was an exciting month, ending with me returning to Boston. Registration took place in the Law School, and my study group was also there, so I'd like to say "I went to Harvard Law School"! This time around, I got to talk to a lot of faculty members, so it was incredibly exciting. 

And since it was the year of babies, we got to spend some time with some!

August means back to school. Ethan has moved to the secondary campus. Can you believe it? He's in middle school!

September was a month of Ethan being a risk-taker. First, he set off for a 3-day camping trip to South Beach. He had a great time. You can read about his adventure here. Later, he auditioned for a solo singing part in a music concert to be held next month. Unfortunately he didn't get it, and was utterly gutted, but if he hopes to pursue theatre, he's got to get use to rejection and take it as a learning moment. Hopefully he'll not let this disappointment steer him away from his passion.

September also marked Bahadur Papa's 80th birthday. While we missed the party, I thought you'd like a picture. 

October was steady. Ethan was enjoying school. I got some more hours, and am still enjoying it. We started Wednesday dinners with mum, but then I got involved in a play at the Little Theatre and had rehearsals, so we switched it to Sunday breakfast. 

As you may know, Minaz is our family environmentalist. I like to think we do a decent job with recycling and thinking about our planet, but she puts us to shame. In fact, she won Environmentalist of the Year! woohoo! You can see it all here

Ethan's had a few firsts this month. Who would've thought an 11-year old would experience firsts! But yes, he had his first Middle School dance (and got all dressed up) and his first G6 field trip. This year they headed to Zanzibar for a week. Five days. No phone allowed. Because of rehearsals, my evenings were busy, so it wasn't too bad, but am glad to have him back home. 

Ethan and Jaiden, heading to the dance.

Me, in one of the plays.

Ethan and Avery, back from Zanzibar

The month has just started, but already we know it will be an exciting one. Ethan has once again joined the Little Theatre's Pantomine production. Scott and I will go watch later this week. I'm really excited as I'm not a part of it this year, and have no idea what to expect. Except pure talent from Ethan.
Ethan in one costume. He apparently also plays a rat. 

Yesterday there was carol singing, to get us in the Christmas spirit. Ethan was asked to read a poem. That meant for 30 seconds, Ethan was in the spotlight. Of course he loved that. 

There's still so much more happening this month. The Nisbet clan is heading home this Christmas. First Canadian Christmas in 5 years. And then there's a whole new year ahead of us. But you won't be here. For any of that. 

I wish you were here.

But I know, even though you may not be here with us in physical form, you're with us in spirit. Please keep watching over us. It's good to know we have our own personal angel.

Love always,

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Max the Mighty - Rodman Philbrick

I absolutely loved Freak the Mighty. So much so, that when I saw our library had Max the Mighty, I knew I needed to get it.

Max seems lonely, once again. He's still being teased for being tall and looking like his dad (the felon that killed his mother) and once again, he's not feeling smart.

One day, Max is just walking, minding his own business, when he hears a girl scream. This is when he meets Rachel, also known as Worm (named this for being a bookworm).

Later, Max meets Worm and her mother, and learns the "Undertaker" is her step-father. The Undertaker is a large, mean man, who drives a hearse and "threatens" people using the bible as his defence. Feeling uneasy about it all, Max finds his way to Worm's house where he sees her mom, crouched down, beaten, and he hears the screaming. Max bursts in, grabs Worms, and runs off.

Max believes he can take Worm home, and his grandparents will help, but when he gets there, he finds the Undertaker has called the police and have accused Max of hitting his wife and kidnapping his step-daughter.

Thus begins the adventures of Max the Mighty and Worm. Worm believes her father can help, and not wanting to leave her alone, Max accompanies her on their adventure, hitchhiking, riding a train, and meeting people, good and bad, along the way.

This is another one of those awesome, feel good, easy reads.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Freak the Mighty - Rodman Philbrick

I recently joined a book club. I'm terribly excited, as it's been years since I've been part of one. We shall meet the last Wednesday of every month, and the hostess gets to choose the book.

September's book is Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick. It's a YA book, so I got a copy from our school library, but hadn't gotten a chance to read it. On Friday, I covered a G7 class, and students had 30 minutes of reading their assigned books. I figured, if the students were reading, so should I. And wouldn't you know it, there was a copy of the book in the classroom.

So I started reading. And then I was upset that the 30 minutes had gone by so quickly, as I was really enjoying it, so of course, I had to come home and finish it.

Freak the Mighty, is the story of best friends, Kevin and Max. Kevin walks with leg braces but is super intelligent. He reminded me a little of Sheldon from Big Bang Theory. Max is on learning support, and a very large boy. He looks like his father, who is currently in jail for killing his mother. He's being raised by his grandparents, who seem to be a little afraid of him. These two boys are as opposite as they come. And yet, they become the best of friends. Max often carried Kevin on his shoulders, and together they are Freak the Mighty. Together they go on quests and fight dragons. As a team, they are unstoppable.

This is a book for every Middle Schooler. Just make sure you have tissue handy.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

How to Eat a Cupcake

So how do you eat a cupcake?

Are you the kind that peels off the wrapper, and takes a huge bite? If you are, I hate to break it to you, but you're wrong!

Maybe you are a neat cupcake eater. You have a plate and cut it half and eat it with a fork or spoon. Yeah...I'd hate to say it, but that's really wrong!

You might be the kind who does not think they can eat a whole cupcake, so you portion it out, and then eat one piece. And then another. And then another. Well, despite the fact that you misleading yourself into believing you won't eat the whole cupcake, you're still eating it wrong!

You may be the kind that loves creamy frosting, so you choose to eat the bottom first, make your way up, and devour the frosting bit. Well, asides from sounding a little crazy, it's also not the right way to eat a cupcake.

So now you're probably wondering how does one eat a cupcake correctly? Well let me tell you. You sandwich it! Yup that's right. You twist off the bottom part, place it on top and smush it together!

Confused, well Ethan and my cousin are here to help;

Saturday, July 29, 2017

milk and honey - rupi kaur

During my first day at Project Zero, our study group looked at a poem for a text rendering protocol. Here's the poem we read;

For the protocol, the poem is read silently. Then, 3-4 people are asked to read it out loud. We are then split into 3 groups. One group creates a musical interpretation, one group a dramatic interpretation and one group a visual artistic interpretation. At the end of the study group, our fellow mentioned she chose this poem because most of her 8th graders carry around a copy of the book.

Needless to say, I had to look this girl up.

milk and honey is a collection of poems split into 4 sections/chapters;  the hurting, the loving, the breaking, the healing. Each poem deals with some aspect of love, femininity, abuse and violence. Some poems are sweet. Some are harsh. But they all connect in some way to what a lot of teenagers are going through.

Our fellow mentioned all her eighth graders loved this book. While I did too, I'm not sure all those poems are appropriate for 13 year olds. But then again, am I trying to shelter them?

Saturday, July 15, 2017

TLOS6 Worlds Collide - Chris Colfer

Chris Colfer's The Land of Stories has come to an end. And while it's sad, the conclusion was fabulous.

When we last saw our beloved twins, Alex had been placed under an evil spell and was wrecking havoc. So now it's time for Connor and his army to try to save Alex, fight the witches AND beat the Grand Army. Phew!

Chris Colfer does an amazing job of tying up all, and any loose ends. All our characters are revisited. Any questions you may have had are answered. Characters you may have wondered about, or forgotten about, are back. And we even get a glimpse into the future.

The Land of Stories has been amazing for a couple reasons.
1) I absolutely loved the series. I would mark down the date for the next books' release and anxiously wait for it.
2) Ethan discovered the series last summer. We spent many days discussing it, making predictions and sharing our favourite moments. This time around, we argued over who got to read it first, and then shared our favourite moments.

What will we do now?

Blood Betrayal - Tessa Dawn

I love the Blood Curse Series. Every book has been wonderful. I dive into them, and gobble them up.

But Blood Betrayal was the first book I cautiously read. Not because it wasn't any good, cos it was awesome, but it also made my heart race and my palms sweaty. Yes, it was that good!

This is the story of the Sentinel Warrior, Saxon Olaru. He finally gets his Blood Moon, but as all other books, things don't go smoothly. Kiera is his Destiny. However, unbeknown, to her, her twin sister, Kyla,  is a vampire hunter who knows all about the curse and the Blood Moon.

When the Blood Moon appears, Kyla realizes that her sister is the new Destiny, and this is also her chance to take out the clan. She arranges for Kiera to be kidnapped, and had the celestial constellation tattooed on her arm.

So, while Kyla tries to infiltrate the house of Jadon, Kiera is being tortured by the vampire hunters. you get why I had to read cautiously?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Spelled - Betsy Schow

"Girl of Emerald, no man can tame. Burn down the world, consumed by flames."

This is the curse placed on Dorthea's family. And because of this curse, our dear princess has never left her castle. And this has also probably been the reason she's turned into an incredibly self-centred brat!!!!

Like all fairytales, Dorothea's parents would like to see her married. They arrange a marriage between her and a prince, she's met once and thought he was the gardener. Needless to say, she's furious!

Wanting to escape this nightmare, Dorothea makes a wish from some orb thingy that was given to her by the Grey-Witch-disguised-as-a-child. Have you ever heard, "be careful what you wish for?" Yeah well, that's an understatement. The wish causes her parents to disappear, protective barriers to be broken and her would-be-husband into a chimera. 

So now Dorothea, Kato (the dog-groom) and Rexi (think she was the cook) are on a quest to fight the evil witch.

For a YA book, it was ok. The best parts were the cute references to modern day things (flitter for twitter, Hans Christian Louboutin shoes instead of Christian Louboutins). Each chapter also starts with a quote from another (made up) book which was quite amusing. 

But Dorothea was a brat. And I really struggled to find any redeeming qualities in her. Yes, she does grow up, but it comes really late, and suddenly. Even as fun as Rexi was, she irritated me. Actually, come to think of it, when Dorothea got on my good side, Rexi not so much. Hmmm.....

Sunday, July 2, 2017

30-Day Fitness Challenge

I'm part of a fun Facebook group, which is about fitness and fun. This month we have a lovely challenge to share some stories. Day 1 is a little long, so I've decided to blog about it. I may even decide to blog the whole month. We shall see.....

Day 1 - Your Fitness Story
So this is a long one.

I was always a skinny child. But I don't think I was ever overly active. I preferred to be inside with my book. As a child, this wasn't a big deal. As a teen, I was still skinny. And even as an adult, I was thin. Then one day, I noticed I was not.

Over the years, I've been to the gym, gotten myself a collection of DVD's and gotten trainers.

My last trainer was the best. I miss her. She knew how to motivate me, show faith in me, get me eating right, scold me when I messed up, but never made me feel like a looser. She moved last summer to Dubai and I was sure that was the end of it. Without her, how could I go on? I'm one of those people that need to be help accountable. Having a personal trainer kept me accountable. If I missed a session, she knew, and she was on top of it.

Then a Facebook friend introduced me to Beachbody. She had lost a lot of weight, and while I
 didn't ask her her secret, I did comment on how inspired she made me. She reached out and we chatted a bit. She got me to try 21-Day Fix. I loved it! It fit me perfectly. It was 30 minutes. Seven different workouts, so everyday it was something new. I loved it.

Since then I've tried a few other Beachbody programs. I'm hooked. I love them. I look better and I feel better.

And everyday, I text my trainer in Dubai. She still holds me accountable.

Day 2 - Your Fitness Goals This Month
I'm on vacation. I always have grandiose plans to workout everyday. But I'll be honest, it's not that easy. You're sightseeing, or visiting friends/relatives, or taking E to camp or traveling to Ottawa or Boston or something or another. I know it sounds like excuses, but I know me. So the solution I have is to keep active.

I bought myself a FitBit, and can I say I love it. My goal this month, really, is to keep active. Get my steps in. The days that are quieter, I don't want to spend the whole day with my coffee and book. Just half the day. The other half, I need to be out and about. Enjoying the weather. Enjoying the neighbourhood. Getting myself moving.

Thanks Nicole for this month's challenge. #hustleandheartchallenge  

Happy Birthday Ethan

My little munchkin turned 11 today. 
I can't believe how fast the years have gone.
I'm enjoying the moments,
because before I know it,
he'll become a young man.

Happy birthday Ethan.
Love you bunches. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Lost in a Book - Jennifer Donnelly

What's the opposite of Death? Think life? Nope, it's Love.

So I'm a huge Belle fan. Love her! My biggest disappointment last week in Disney was not being able to meet her. And yes I'm totally serious.

Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book begins with Love and Death. They are sisters and the total opposites of each other. (In case you didn't get that with their names.) They have been watching Belle and the Beast and Love is confident the spell will be broken. Death, as you can imagine, would prefer not. They wager, and Death decides to cheat.

Meanwhile, Beast tries to make Belle more comfortable in the castle and gives her his library. We all know how much she likes books. But Death has a plan. She plants the book Nevermore in the library.

Nevermore is an enchanted book. You don't just read the book, you enter it. Belle enters the book and meets wonderful characters who treasure her, value her, make her feel like she has friends. But it's a trap that Death has set, in order to capture Belle and keep her there, preventing her from returning to the Beast, and possibly breaking the spell.

While we all know the story of Beauty and the Beast, we know that the spell eventually breaks, but what's wonderful here is watching Belle struggle with her two realities. Are her friends in Nevermore real, or her friends in the castle?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Chosen - JR Ward

Ok, let me start by saying that I love the WARDen and I love the Brothers. However, I do not like Layla, nor did this book get me to like her, so understandably, this was not my favourite of the series, cos I do not like her!

So now you know, The Chosen focuses on Layla and Xcor. And their "forbidden love". Cos you know, Xcor is the badass that tried to kill Wrath. And Layla, well, she's one of the Chosen. Blah.

But, I have to give it to her. She goes from weakling to a strong woman who takes shit from no one. Not even a Brother.

However, I did have some issues here. First off. Xcor tried to kill Wrath, and not only is he forgiven, but his Band of Bastards get to move into the house while Tohr who has ALWAYS been loyal gets put on probation! WTF???

But you know, Lassiter does bring some laughter to the whole scene, so all's forgiven. Sorta. Kinda. Let me think about that one.

The Playbook - Kwame Alexander

Kwame Alexander has become one of my newest favourite YA authors. I truly believe all Middle Schools should not only have his books in their library, but that his books should be added to the curriculum.

Unlike the other two books of his that I read, The Playbook  isn't a novel written in prose/poems. Instead, each page contains one rule. While it seems these would be rules on basketball, they are in fact amazing life rules. Each rule is an inspiration for life. Each rule is accompanied by an amazing photograph as well as some inspiring words from athletes and role models. There are some great biographical stories to inspire students to never give up, including one autobiographical snippet.

It's one of those books you want to give to teachers and coaches. It's one of those books to give your child when s/he's feeling down and defeated. It's one of those books your students will love and gain some inspiration and motivation from.

It's one of those books you'll want to read again and again.

Secret Lies Dirty Little Alibis - Jamie Blair & Dawn Rae Miller

There is nothing that Dawn Rae Miller writes that I do not like. And thanks to her, I've discovered another great author in Jamie Blair.

Secret Lies Dirty Little Alibis is the final instalment in the Kiss Kill Love Him Still trilogy.

This one picks up where book 2 ended. With the psycho Chloe causing havoc on our 4 beloved....friends??????

It continues to shift POV between the four ladies. Ladies! Yes, that's the word....cause really....were they....are they friends????

Anyways, I digress...

Each girl shares her thoughts about Chloe and who killed Jackson. Every time you think you know, another twist comes around the corner. We learn more about Haddie's dad and Livie's mum. We even get some insight into Val's parents. And it gets all wrapped together with a pretty bow that laughs at you when you reach the end and yell "But wait!!!! What about....."

Eleventh Grave in Moonlight - Darynda Jones

I use to be great at blogging about all the books I read. But this year, I seem to be lacking. Time to catch up!

I have been a huge Charley fan from Day 1. What's not to like about her? She's a spunky Grim Reaper/Private Investigator who learns she's also a God and is married to the Devil's son. Follow that?

This time around, Charley helps out Amber who is being stalked. She also gets hired by Reyes' adoptive brother..... is he considered a brother when the people who kidnapped Reyes then gave him away then go and kidnap another child? SMH It sounds hard to understand, but it's really easy to follow. :)

Charley also learns some new bad-ass powers she possesses. Told ya she was cool.

Often with series, after awhile, you can get bored of them, or you can start predicting the events. Not here. The book was exciting from start to finish.

Father's Day Interview

For the last few years, I've interviewed Ethan, about his dad, before Father's Day, and it's been fun to see how his responses have changed and evolved. You can see last year's responses here. Now I know Father's Day was last week. I was actually semi-organized. I interviewed Ethan before we left for the summer, but then realized I did not have a recent picture of the two of them. And while I did get some great ones of them in Disney, I was utterly too knackered to upload them. So, sorry for the delay, but here's this year's interview....

What is something Daddy always says to you?
Go to bed!
What makes Daddy happy?
People doing their jobs.
What makes him sad?
People not doing their jobs.
What does he do that makes you laugh?
He tells funny jokes.
What was he like as a child?
I don’t know…..funny, I guess
How old is Daddy?
I know this…I know this… 49!
How tall is he?
Ummmmm……daddy…..oh no, he’s not here….ummmmm, 5 foot 4, I know that’s short, but…..
What is his favourite thing to do?
Let’s think…..He liked being with his family.
What does he do when you're not around?
(That hasn’t changed!)
If Daddy was famous, what would it be for?
His amazing swimming.
What is he really good at?
What is he not really good at?
What does he do for his job?
He does something about trucks.
What is Daddy's favourite food?
Ahhhhh…..ummmmm…pizza….I think…I don’t know….pizza….
What makes you proud of him?
He works hard
If Daddy was a cartoon character, who would he be?
Baby Robin……no it’s Robin from Teen Titans go!
What do you and Daddy do together?
How are you and Daddy the same?
We’re both part of the Nisbet family, we both like swimming, we both like pizza… yes, lots of things, do I have to name them all?
How are you different?
He’s older, he’s taller, he has a job, he’s better at swimming than me.
How do you know he loves you?
He says so
Where is Daddy's favourite place to go?
I don’t know…I really don’t know… I should probably ask him…

 Happy Father's Day Scott

Monday, May 22, 2017

Happy Birthday Dad

You came into this world,
so many years ago, 
bringing with you
your ever special glow.

So full of love
and with a big heart.
We're thinking of you today
even though we are apart.

I know you're watching us, 
even though you're not around.
Today we will celebrate,
and try our best not to frown.

You are always in our thoughts,
you are always in our prayers,
Happy birthday to my dearest dad,
my angel upstairs.