Thursday, February 22, 2018

Thirteen

I've got a few different things to write about but I have to veer away from doing so in a chronological manner since today is Neve's 13th birthday and that trumps everything.

I now have three teenagers. Sort of - Chloe turns 20 next month and I'm not completely sure that people are even considered teenagers once they turn 18. But all three kids' ages end in "teen" so I'm going with that. I feel a tiny bit sad that my babies are all growing up but I know it's as it should be. I do miss the days when their little bodies would melt into my arms and how cute they would look after a nap with their messy hair and rosy cheeks, holding their geckies/blankies.

Thankfully, there is also a lot I like about the stages they're currently in and I still think they're cute. Just look at those freckles and braces and teenager features!



As the youngest, Neve is treated much differently than Chloe was at her age. We still coddle her and squish her and spoil her. Chloe was earning her keep by Neve's age, working in the fields and mines. Maybe not that extreme, but she was babysitting regularly. But that's okay. I like keeping that last one little for as long as possible. She doesn't mind; she loves to snuggle with me as we read our books or watch Amazing Race. She asks my opinions and trusts my judgment. She is happy to go places with me. She is thankful for little things I do for her and often tells me so. I am enjoying it while I can.

She's also independent in the right ways: she always makes her own lunch, never has to be reminded to do her homework, and manages her schedule well. She loves gymnastics, dance, reading, being with friends, music, playing Qwirkle and hanging out with Chloe. Of course, she has faults too but we won't talk about those today. Maybe tomorrow.

We're quite fond of her and are happy to celebrate with her. And celebrate we have/are/will! It's a five-day-long birthday extravaganza. I always try so hard to keep things simple but somehow simple can end up being more complicated than going all out. Things also get tricky when birthdays fall on a weekday. I prefer weekends since it's easier to wrap it all up into one day.

Neve had gymnastics tonight so we had our family dinner yesterday. She chose to go to Across the Board Game CafĂ©, which was brilliant. We had a really good time. We played about five different games and had a lot of fun. The food was better than I expected too. So that was a big hit. Afterward, we went home and watched half of the final Amazing Race episode.



Spencer was not excited about going and brought homework to work on. But he ended up putting it aside and joined in with the game-playing. I documented his amazing transformation.


I'm sorry for recycling my Instagram pics, but this is my new favourite photo of all three kids. We were playing a game called Superfight which was silly but hilarious.

Today, Neve woke up to fresh banana muffins and some presents. For lunch, I picked up her and two friends from school and took them to Freshii. She came home from school glowing: her friends had put up a birthday sign on her locker and all the kids signed it. They sang happy birthday to her in three of her classes and a few kids gave her little gifts. I'm so happy she has made good friends at her new school.


After gymnastics (to which she brought rice krispie squares to share), she plans to get her free birthday frappucino at Starbucks and then we'll watch the rest of Amazing Race.

On Saturday, she's having three friends over for a sleepover and on Sunday we're going to have a few relatives over for birthday cake.

So it's an exciting five days for her and a busy five days for me. Actually, it's not that bad - each event is pretty low maintenance for me. It's just a lot of little things to juggle. But it's all Worth It ... your baby turns into a teenager only once (well, technically it happened to three of my babies, but this is the baby of the babies!).
 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Kornelsentines 2018



As you may know, we're pretty big on Valentine's Day around here. It has less to do with the spreading of love and more to do with a dose of cheer in the middle of a cold winter. And chocolate cake of course. Even though the kids are all getting older, there is no end in sight for this tradition.

I was trying for a mosaic heart made from Skor bar pieces.

Tia, Bella and Lexie all came for a sleepover the night before. Jim and Sabrina and the girls just got back from Florida that day so I was worried the girls would be too tired, but they were happy to come. I was also worried that Bailey might choose her new husband over us on Valentine's day, but happily they both came for breakfast. Bailey even brought cookies she made - how cute are these?!
 
 


Janet knitted these awesome hats to give to the girls. She's a hat-making machine!



After breakfast we all scattered to school and work. I drove Bella and Lexie to school. Since they had been away on holidays for the past week or two, it was their first day back. It was so cute to see how excited they were to get to school. We were a few minutes late and the girls were beaming as we went to the office for late slips (I interrupt this paragraph to address blog reader Lisa N: I know you are probably cringing to read that we were late for school, especially after the girls had already missed 7 days of school!). They were thrilled at the thought of making a dramatic entrance, with all heads turning to look at them. Bella headed for her class and I helped Lexie carry her things to her class. In the hallway outside her room as she hung up her ski pants and put on her indoor shoes as fast as she could, she said, "Why am I shaking?!" I lingered outside the door as she walked into the classroom with her glowing, smiling face and heard the growing murmur of the crowd as they caught sight of her. "Lexie!" "Lexie's here!" "Bonjour, Lexie!"

That was a pretty fun part of my day.

Another funny Lexie moment was after breakfast when she showed us a big scrape on her back and we asked how it happened.

She placed her hands on the table so we could visualize the situation and said, "Okay. I was over here (indicating one hand) and the cement blocks were over here (other hand)."

Obviously we knew that wasn't going to end well. She went on with her story but the first line was the best. It made me laugh all day.

The morning celebrations are geared towards the kids, but Dale and I had our turn in the evening at Thermea. I went over there around 3:30 and Dale joined me after work. I spent about six hours soaking, sweating, freezing (in the cold plunge pool) and relaxing. It was a perfect day for it - the temperature was just below zero (a rare mild day sandwiched between two very cold ones with high windchills). Later on, there were light flurries and it was pretty magical. Surprisingly, the place was the emptiest I've ever seen it and we were often the only ones in the steam room or sauna or hot pool (yet we still got shushed).You'd think it would be crowded on Valentine's Day but a co-worker went last year and said it was empty. Now you know for next year.

I love it there - it's like a mini-vacation and I find it amazing how as soon as I'm there, all my troubles seem so far away. Then my bubble bursts and I have to brush snow off the cold van and go home to a messy house and unfinished work.

It's been a good week though. Janet and I went to see the movie Three Billboards outside Ebbing Missouri on Tuesday and it was awesome. It's definitely one-of-a-kind and I like that in a movie.

Tonight Dale and I are going to Once at MTC. Tomorrow I'm going for lunch with a friend, then happy hour, and then getting ready to go on a little weekend excursion. Look at us getting out and doing things in the middle of winter.

I know I don't have to wait until Valentine's Day to tell you I love you all. But I did. And I do. Hugs all around!

Monday, February 12, 2018

The weekend

Oh February. You are not motivating. You do not bring me joy. I feel like staying in bed until you're gone. I want to want to get out and do things but I'm cold and directionless. I'm not sad or depressed - I'm just nothing. I really, really need a tropical getaway (really). I know I shouldn't complain; I'm in my warm house, wrapped up in a scarf and a cozy blanket with a space heater at my feet as I work. In contrast, outside my window I see workers up in a lift in the back lane working on the hydro lines. I'm sure they're dressed warmly but I feel concerned about their fingers. Any mitts that are warm enough for this weather probably don't allow for the dexterity that is likely quite important when working with wires. I bet they wish they had called in sick today. I should bring them coffee but I don't want to take off my blanket.

Anyway, life is not (always) as bleak as I make it sound - it's been a good weekend.

Friday was fun with a coffee date with Shannon, some shopping, and baking valentine cookies. Dale's mom came for dinner after being away in Miami for a bit. Later, Darla and I went to a hot yoga class, which felt so good.




Saturday night we went out for dinner with Doug & Lorie and Rob & Gab. Somehow we always end up at places that serve baby-sized portions. We like to think we're cool and hip so we try trendy new(ish) places that are all about teeny tiny plates containing a tablespoon's worth of food. But it looks so pretty. After two bites, we're done. Then we pay our giant bills and go home and eat leftovers. Or valentine cookies in this case. Oh, and the service was ... what's a nice word for slow? Relaxed? We weren't in a hurry but we didn't get our main course for at least an hour and a half (maybe more) after we ordered. We were told our food was "coming out as we speak" which did not happen for another 15 or 20 minutes. People always bond over hardships so it makes for good stories. And of course we had fun and laughed a lot and we'll do it all over again next time.

Gab shared a Cow Tail she found in her bag to tide us over until we got home. Exquisite presentation!

Yesterday I did a little bit of work, had to go to the mall briefly, and had to deal with some technical issues regarding my laptop and photos. Right now my iPhone is full, my Dropbox is full, and my laptop is full. I'm working to rectify the issues but computer problems are my least favourite thing in the world. If I had to choose between dealing with computer issues or being trapped in a small room with a hundred aggressive crows, I don't even know which I'd choose.  Obviously that's not true. I'd definitely choose the computer issues. Maybe that's the way I should look at all less-than-awesome things ... if it's better than being attacked by crows, I should count my blessings.

We also went to Dale's mom's for dinner and then watched a bit of the Olympics. So far we're not as Olympic-obsessed as we have been other years but we've still got time.

Hope you're all staying warm and aren't letting winter drag you down. Stay strong! We can do it!

Monday, February 05, 2018

This and that

I've got several half-finished and now outdated posts gathering dust on my computer. So that was time wasted. No one wants to read old news about how disappointing it was not to see the blood-moon/super-moon/lunar eclipse as I frantically ran around the yard in my bathrobe and parka trying to find it. Or about my hot yoga month, which is over by now. Or about how messy my house is - oh wait, that's still current news. My only goal right now is to sit here until I post something. Anything.

How about this? I have watched this way more times than I should admit. "But what are their shadows doing?!"

Speaking of funny things, I recently watched both John Mulaney comedy specials on Netflix and laughed a lot. Thanks to Tia for the recommendation.

Speaking of Netflix, Neve and I started watching Anne. It makes we want to go back to PEI.

Speaking of PEI, oh wait, I have nothing to say about PEI. Although we are currently discussing a summer trip and trying to narrow down some options. The northeastern states are pretty high on the list, but I've also been dying to do a Grand Canyon/California road trip. Chloe is dreaming of going to France this summer. If anyone has any connections to people to see or places to stay or work to do there, she is open to suggestions or direction!

Speaking of travelling (I hope no one's getting tired of this yet), I don't know what happened but suddenly everybody and their brother and their brother's neighbour (true story) wants to come on The Chamber's fall trip to Spain & Morocco. It is completely sold out with a long waiting list. I'm hoping we'll be able to add a second trip. It's a very good problem to have but there have also been some sticky situations with people who thought they were registered but weren't. I don't love dashing people's vacation dreams.

So my phone and email has been going crazy the last few days (including the weekend) about the trip but despite my head spinning, I whipped up an awesome dinner tonight. "Awesome" is relative but my family has low expectations. I made a chick pea chowder, one-hour French bread, and best of all, Nutella squares for dessert. I read in the paper this morning that it's World Nutella Day, so I couldn't let that slip by uncelebrated. But the greatest accomplishment of all that is that I did it while wearing long johns. It's been so cold in the mornings (all day for that matter) that I layer long johns under my jeans to drive the kids to school. But when I'm inside and still wearing long johns, I get so hot that I want to punch someone as hard as I can. I was working at the desk upstairs all day and it's cool up there so I didn't think about it but when I started buzzing around the kitchen near the hot stove, I thought I was going to lose it. I was so hot and tight and uncomfortable. But I was hurrying and didn't want to take the time to take them off. Near the end, I finally realized that if I didn't go take them off that instant, I was going to get the gas can from the garage and if there wasn't enough gas in it, I would siphon it from the minivan gas tank by sucking on a hose, then I would pour it over our whole house and light it on fire. Yeah, that might make things even hotter but I was not thinking clearly at the time nor considering the pros and cons of arson.



Luckily things vastly improved after the removal of the long johns and we had a nice peaceful dinner.

Another exciting thing I did today was buy a swimsuit, for no other reason than that a friend said I should. And it was on sale for $15 (regular price was $80) at Winners. It was a really cold day to buy swimwear. I don't recommend it. To try it on, I had to remove my scarf, parka, sweatshirt, long sleeved T-shirt, tank top, bra, boots, socks, jeans, and of course the long johns (I left my underwear on, in case you were wondering). And then I had to put it all back on afterward. The good news is that I have finally learned to dress for the weather.

Okay, so I feel like I've written a sufficient amount. I'll finish off with a variety of recent pictures on my phone. It looks like all we do is make food and then take pictures of the food, which is pretty accurate. I've been lacking motivation to do much besides work, eat and watch TV.


sushi and cookies - a perfect pairing
Waffles made with our ancient waffle-maker. Two waffles at a time make for a long, drawn-out brunch.
I made cinnamon buns on the weekend. I know you're thinking, "What can't she do?" Well, that may be a future blog post.
Not pictured: vast amounts of cream cheese icing, smothering and drowning the warm cinnamon buns.


Okay, the food pictures have come to an end.

Neve had a gymnastics competition on Saturday. She did well and was happy with the results.


This was on my Instagram but it bears repeating. After years of thinking and talking about it, I finally went cross-country skiing. We went to Windsor Park golf course because you can rent skis there. It was a beautiful Saturday morning - snowing lightly and not too cold. The scenery was magical - we even saw deer - and it was fun hanging out with Janet and Dale. There was only one problem. It wasn't as much fun as I was hoping. First of all, I don't know if I was doing it right because I was hoping to glide along gracefully and rhythmically but that didn't happen. You know when you're downhill skiing and you get to the bottom and then you have to ski across flat terrain to get to the chair lift or to the lodge? I hate that part. That's what this was like except you never reach the lodge. The best part of cross country skiing is when there's a hill to go down. So I think I can cross this off my list of winter activities. Well, I actually might go again because it was so pretty and serene but I can't see it ever becoming a regular thing. 

 

Janet and I also went skating on the river one Sunday afternoon. This pic is of an art installment by Guy Maddin. I've seen some really cool pictures of it on Instagram but I somehow managed to make it look like a temporary homeless shelter.
 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Have an ice day



Winter always seems to drag on forever but also suddenly one day everything starts melting (I'm talking about past years - it hasn't started melting yet this year) and all ice and snow related activities screech to a halt. It catches me off guard every year. When it happens, I'm always sad that I didn't do more winter activities while I could. Of course, I'm even happier that the weather is warming up but every year I vow to do better next year and take more advantage of the river trail, the Forks, the duck pond and all that other winter stuff.

I haven't done great so far this winter, but I checked a big thing off my list yesterday by going to the ice castles at the Forks. Finding a day that worked for everyone was tricky but we booked it far in advance and hoped that it wouldn't be bitterly cold that day. The weather cooperated better than Spencer did - he declined our repeated strongly-worded invitations and stayed home instead.

But the rest of us had a great time. I kept my expectations realistic and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. The ice castles really are pretty magical. We went around 5:30 and caught the last of the daylight as well as the first of the non-daylight (also known as darkness). It wasn't too busy although there were definitely more people than I thought there would be on a Wednesday night. That goes for the Forks in general, which I'll expand on shortly.

The ice castle company did a good job. I love how you can see the Human Rights Museum and the Esplanade bridge poking out above the icicles. There are caves, fire pits, slides, and lots of pretty lights. It was pretty cool (literally) and we loved it. Like everyone else there, I took a lot of pictures:












So yeah, the amount of people at the Forks. Wow. Between the ice castles, the skating rinks and paths, the "Winnipeg"  letters, the toboggan hill, the river trail, and all areas in between - there were a LOT of people. But wait! Step inside the Forks Market building and there are more! The new Commons area is the place to be. We ordered our food (at Nuburger and Red Ember) and then tried to find a spot to sit. That was the wrong order. Next time, I will FIRST find a spot, and then order. The buzzer we got from Red Ember to tell us that Neve's pizza was ready buzzed too soon so we had to wander around the crowded food court holding a hot pizza, trying to find space for four. We split up and hovered around like vultures, looking for clues to tell us if people were about to leave. Finally Neve and I pounced on some people who were thinking about starting to leave their table and brazenly started taking over their space. We couldn't see Dale or Chloe and both of their cell phones were dead because of low battery/taking pictures in the cold, so we couldn't communicate with each other. But we couldn't see Dale or Chloe and I was hesitant to send Neve to find them because I need bodies to protect our precious seats. Finally I had to let her go and she was able to round up the others. In the meantime, Dale had found room for two in the next section of the building so moved his stuff to our spot. Oh yeah, we were all bundled up in big jackets and toques and scarves and mitts so we were hot and grumpy and hungry. Once we were finally all at our table, we didn't have enough stools so we pushed two together and three of us squeezed on them. Then there was no place to put our jackets except on the dirty floor. Does it sound like fun yet? It really wasn't. Fortunately, the burgers took a while and weren't ready until after we sat down so we didn't have to carry those around the whole time.



But here's the thing. As soon as we had our food and had taken a few deep breaths, it was awesome. The atmosphere was lively and vibrant. The food was so delicious (the veggie burgers at Nuburger = amazing). I wouldn't say it was relaxed exactly but I barely even noticed the next wave of vultures looming above us waiting for our table. Most importantly though ... what does it say about Winnipeg when the Forks is packed on a Wednesday evening in January??? It's a pretty sweet problem to have. Way to go, Forks! Way to go, Travel Manitoba! Way to go, Winnipeg! You're turning us into people who celebrate winter instead of just surviving it. I'm going to be one of them! Sometimes. Maybe. Probably.

Next on my winter list is cross country skiing. I'll let you know if/how that goes.



Monday, January 22, 2018

January


January is moving along nicely. Over two-thirds of my least favourite month is behind us. The first couple of weeks of January were hard, cold weeks but then Mother Nature finally smiled on us last week and rewarded us with zero degree temperatures. I feel like she forgot that she left us on the cold cycle so long and now she's feeling bad. I wish she was feeling bad enough that she'd crank it up to 20 C but that would melt the river trail and the ice castles and I'm already terrified that I won't make it to the ice castles before they melt. I am loving the fact that I can actually breathe outside and have even went gone for a couple of outdoor runs. Dale and I went for a long walk on the river on Saturday and it was magical.

I do feel a bit of the January lack of direction and motivation but I am enjoying the more relaxed pace and less rushing around. I've been going to hot yoga every other day or so. It's a small studio which is nice, except the class options are limited and a couple of the teachers take things too seriously. One instructor is super anal and scolded someone for taking a sip of water at the wrong time. Another instructor admonished two girls for giggling when one of them fell out of half moon pose. Lighten up, yogis! There are a couple of instructors I really like and wish I was even half as strong as they are (without all the work they've done to get that way!). The best part is getting warmed up to my core and staying warm even after I leave. (Siobhan, I think of you the whole time I'm doing yoga. "WWSD?" I ask myself.)

Neve's room-redecorating is progressing nicely. We did an IKEA run the other day and came home with curtains, pictures frames and pillows. We have to go back for bedding and maybe a nightstand. You maybe be thinking to yourself, "But Ellen! You made a new years resolution not to buy stuff!" First of all, I didn't say I wasn't going to buy stuff; I said I would THINK CAREFULLY before buying stuff and to check Kijiji first. I might check Kijiji for the nightstand but I draw the line at second hand bedding. So stop raising your eyebrows at me. Or don't; I can't see you anyway. There will be room photos soon; it won't all be perfect but Neve is pretty happy so far.

Speaking of new years resolutions, I've been slowly moving forward. I have hung out with friends, including one I hadn't seen for almost a year. I also went with a new friend to see her photography exhibit at a coffee shop. Sheri-Lee and I sat together at a parents meeting at school but I'm not sure if that counts. The cultural events and volunteering aspects of my resolutions are lagging but I have some things in the works in both areas.

I've been doing photo shoots for work the past week or so, with more to come this week and next. They are for an awards gala we do in March, so I go to each of the finalists' business and take photos to show off their business. I've been doing this annually for quite a few years and I'm still always nervous. I enjoy going to the different businesses and meeting people and learning about what they do, but I feel so far out of my element when it comes to photographing them. If anything, I have gotten less and less confident over the years. I try to look professional and efficient but I feel like they can see right through me and wonder why they aren't worthy of a "real" photographer. I try to be confident and "fake it til I make it" (with varying levels of success) but it seriously causes me a lot of stress and I can't wait until they're all done.

Spencer and I had a fun mother-son outing this weekend. Our current relationship is not such that he would voluntarily come hang out with me so this one involved a financial incentive. I'm on an email list that invites me to do market research studies and surveys. I rarely do them, but this one caught my eye. They required a teenager and an adult to come and each fill out a survey. Spencer agreed and in exchange for a 40-minute computer survey, they gave us gift cards ($30 for him and $50 for me). The survey was about how your childhood affected your current level of happiness and wellness. No need to worry, Mom & Dad! You passed with flying colours. There were a lot of questions about whether you experienced the effects of addiction, abuse or poverty while growing up. It made me realize how idyllic my childhood was. Spencer had similar questions and I think he possibly may have realized he was pretty lucky as well because he seemed more pleasant and talkative afterward. I would've happily waived my gift card in exchange for that little fringe benefit. I'm always a bit suspicious of studies like this though; what are they REALLY studying? Is it to see how Spencer and I interact in the waiting room before the survey? Or is it to see if we accept their offer of a beverage? Who knows. Afterward, Spencer and I went to Fools and Horses for a latte so it was almost like a real social outing.

(Side note: they are looking for more people to complete this survey so let me know if you're interested and I'll send you the details. Your child has to be 14-17 years old).

So that's what's happening over here. Hope January is being kind to you. If not, you just need to get through nine more days. You can do it!