Monday, March 19, 2018

Neve gets a room upate

Somehow another weekend has passed me by and it's Monday again. It was a good weekend so I really can't complain. Friday was busy with a long, full Leadership Winnipeg day at the U of M, followed by a quick happy hour, and then a delicious dinner at Blake & Kristin's. Saturday was a gorgeous sunny day. I went to yoga and ran some errands and then I spent a good part of the afternoon chipping away ice on our sidewalk. I love doing that so much, especially when big chunks break off. It's like I'm chopping away winter. It was so warm and pleasant that Chloe and I walked to Starbucks for frappucinos. I didn't realize until I got there that I had enough rewards for a free drink. How could the day get any better?? Later we went to Neve's gymnastics competition in Selkirk, where she was got another silver medal. I feel like I've posted a lot of gymnastics pictures lately, so just look at those again if you want photos. Just imagine her wearing a different bodysuit. On Sunday I was feeling a hint of a head cold so except for hot yoga, I spent the day at home. I loom-knitted a hat, did some cleaning, got organized for the week and then all five of us had nachos and played Qwerkle in the evening. The girls and I also watched Nailed It! on Netflix. It's stupid but it made us laugh a lot. It was pretty much my ideal weekend.

And now it's time for Neve's room reveal. You may recall we worked on it after Christmas during the holidays.

After ten years, we finally got around to updating Neve's room. You can check out this link to see her new room in 2008. Very little had changed since then, except for the odd furniture re-arrangement. I remember painting those stripes like it was yesterday. Actually I can't even remember what I did yesterday, so you know I spent A LOT of time on those stripes.

Finally over the Christmas holidays, we got down to business. The painting and decorating came together quickly and easily but it was what had to happen before that point that was the worst part.

Neve likes things clean and organized. Her room is almost always tidy. She always puts away her clothes right away and usually makes her bed. However over the years, there was a mass accumulation of papers, trinkets, toys she no longer played with, clothes that no longer fit her, and did I mention the paper?? She always tidies up and keeps most of the clutter out of sight in her closet or under her bed, so I had no idea of the magnitude of stuff in her room. NO IDEA! And yes, that warrants all caps.


In the midst of the purging process is the perfect time to rediscover Rainbow Loom (she kept that).

We removed many, many garbage bags and totes full of stuff from her room. I'd say about 12 garbage bags' worth was given away, sold on kijiji, recycled, repurposed or thrown away. Neve doesn't have a strong attachment to most things, which made this job much easier. I can't even imagine how hard it would be if she wanted to keep everything. I'm much more of a pack rat than she is; there were several times I had to convince her to keep something (that I felt was) special.

Her room has a big closet so we were able to organize it pretty well with the things she wants to keep like special toys, school stuff, and trinkets. There is still extra room on the shelves and nothing under her bed now.

So here's a look at Neve's minimalist, stream-lined room. The only new furniture she got is a secondhand desk and chair from Tia, which I painted white. We bought a new lamp, curtains, bedding, pillows and shelves. She chose a theme of gold, white and light pink. I feel like the pictures look too dark but I couldn't lighten them anymore on Mac Photos and I was too lazy to do it in Photoshop. It's whiter and brighter in real life, so you'll just have to come for a visit if you want to see it in its true glory.

This is on one of her closet doors and the necklace hanger is on the other:

Let us just pause for a moment while I tell you I made this jewellery hanger from scratch and hung it on her door with Velcro strips. Yay, Pinterest!

Lots of floor space to do gymnastics. This picture makes it look more spacious than it really is.

Which room would you sleep better in?

She's pretty happy about her new space and keeps it neat and tidy. We'll see if this look lasts another ten years. By then she'll be 23 and her room shouldn't be my problem any more. But maybe it will be - ten years isn't that far away. And I'll be floundering in my role as a mother of adults and will beg to spend time with her and redecorate her room together. Of course we'll be rich by then (at every single stage of my life, I've always thought money would be no object ten years down the road) and we can get her designer custom-made furniture and add French doors and a little balcony.

Or in ten years I could easily be a grandma and will re-do this room as a baby room. Who knows? That's what makes life exciting, right?!

Sunday, March 11, 2018


This week, Dale and I spent 16 hours on the road to watch two minutes of gymnastics.

It was a little crazy. Maybe a lot crazy. But it was definitely an adventure and I'm glad we did it.

When I first learned Neve qualified for the Manitoba Games in Thompson, I didn't think we'd go watch her. The athletes have their own transportation and accommodations so parents aren't required to come. When I asked other gymnastics parents if they were going, they looked at me funny and said, "Well of course we're going - we definitely want to be there for our daughter!" I quickly pretended I was exactly on the same page. And obviously I did want to be there but driving to Thompson in March seemed daunting.

I guess I don't have the sports-parent gene because when Dale heard about it, he was exactly like the other parents. "I'm going," he said. "You can join me if you want." So I went.

Except it wasn't that easy. First of all, we were not on the ball with booking a hotel so by the time we called, there was nothing available. Nothing. The hotels didn't even want to put us on the waiting list because it was so long. I insisted, but I'm sure they didn't bother writing my name down. So I checked out Air BNB even though I didn't think there would be any in Thompson. Oh, but there was. Two, in fact. So I booked one: a room in someone's house. It sounded a little sketchy but I knew we'd be there only to sleep - how bad could it be?

When we booked it, I wasn't sure what day Neve was competing, so I guessed which night we'd need. I guessed wrong and tried to switch the night, but by the time I finally got a hold of the host, we had changed our minds and decided to make the original plan work. He was super difficult to get a hold of, which made me nervous.

The original plan was to leave Monday afternoon and arrive in Thompson by 10 pm, watch Neve the next day and then head straight home and hope to be home by 1 a.m. However, the biggest dump of snow we've had all winter arrived Sunday to Monday night:

Dale drove to work Monday morning and said the highways weren't too bad and they were supposed to be better the further north we got. So we set out after lunch. The roads in the city weren't great. The Perimeter was worse, with its blowing snow. Then we got on Hwy 6 and it was downright dangerous: snowy, icy and we couldn't see a thing. We both hate to give in to weather conditions but the thought of driving for hours, with increasing darkness, made us turn around. As Sheri-Lee mentioned on Instagram: we did a good job of "adulting" and made the right decision.

So we got home and sat around moping for a while. It felt like my due date when I was pregnant with Chloe and nothing was happening: my day was not turning out as planned and I didn't feel like doing anything. I was listless and unmotivated. Eventually I did a bunch of work so I ended up being productive. We decided to try driving out again the next day so I contacted the Air BNB guy to ask if we could switch our night to the next one and he said it was no problem.

The next morning, we were on the road by 4 a.m. The highways were a bit icy for a bit but most of the way was totally clear and dry. We drove for eight solid hours, stopping once for gas. We went hours without seeing a single building. Lots of trees and snow and sky. Not even wildlife, which was disappointing. We stopped to see Pisew Falls, which is about an hour south of Thompson. It was pretty amazing. I'd love to see it in the summer. There's a 22 km hike you can do from there to another waterfall, which is the highest one in Manitoba. You can camp there overnight, which to a non-wilderness camper like me sounds both intriguing and horrible at the same time. It's hard to tell the scale and the beauty from this picture. If you google it, you'll find much nicer ones.

Selfie skills are not on point

We arrived in Thompson just before noon and were greeted by this statue:

It looks like a guy with a machine gun but upon closer inspection we believe he is a miner, representing the nearby mines and the reason the town was built.

We headed straight for the TRCC (rec centre) to find our daughter. We eventually spotted her watching the younger gymnastics group that competed before her. She was not nearly as excited to see us as we were to see her. Eight hours on the road and barely a glimpse in our direction, never mind a hug.

Her competition started around 2:30 so we hung out at the TRCC til then. This was the main centre for the Games, with hockey, ringette, curling, and a bunch of other sports, as well as the food centre for the athletes. There was an exciting vibe all around the place with tons of people and stuff going on.

Sorry, I realize I am going into a lot of detail. Feel free to skip to the end. I'm writing this down so Neve will remember her glory day in great detail! Oops, spoiler alert.

Basically, Neve had the best day of her gymnastics life. She did her events better than I've ever seen her do them. Her lands were great, her turns and twists and dismounts were all solid. I could see she was happy after each event, knowing she had done well. It was fun to watch and I knew that no matter what the outcome was, she'd feel good that she had done her best. She's a good little gymnast but doesn't usually win her competitions. She's very happy if she places in the top 3, which doesn't always happen. And this competition was on a much bigger scale, with more competitors than usual, from all over the province. But all the stars aligned: it was her day and she ended up with the silver medal overall.

Lots of waiting between events

Getting some speed for the vault

First medal: bronze for vault
Gold for floor (not pictured: silver for bars)

Silver overall

None of Neve's regular coaches were in Thompson. I'm not sure why - maybe since it's a smaller club, they didn't get a coaching spot. I have no idea how it works, but whatever the case, she didn't have her familiar coaches with her. Luckily, there was a coach there who used to coach at Crescentwood years ago and remembered Neve. She took Neve under her wing and made the whole experience so much better. I'm so thankful she was there.

Afterward, we took Neve out for pizza. We also stopped to get a closer look at a giant wolf mural.

Then we said goodbye and dropped her off at the athlete's village (also known as the local elementary school. She slept in the library. Good times!).

Dale and I didn't want to get to our Air BNB too early because we were nervous about it. However, we were so tired by this time that we had no choice. We drove up to a tiny bungalow. That was our first surprise; based on the review we read, I thought it was a room in an apartment. A teenage girl answered the door. It was her turn to be surprised; she didn't appear to be expecting us and no one else was home. But she invited us in and served us orange juice. We sat on the couch and chatted awkwardly about life in Thompson. She talked about her two siblings and she mentioned that her grandfather and aunt and uncle were visiting from India and staying with them. I couldn't even imagine where everyone slept and how there would be room for us. She was actually a very sweet girl but we were tired. She must have noticed because suddenly she asked if we wanted to see our room. We did. She led us through the little house to the basement door. Down the steep stairs we went with a knot in our stomachs.

Surprise number three was a pleasant one. The room was awesome. It was clean and newly re-finished with laminate floors, a big comfortable bed and our own attached bathroom. There were no personal effects in it so it didn't feel at all like we were sleeping in someone else's room. The girl's dad came home shortly thereafter and we met him briefly before falling into a dead sleep.

The next morning, we were ready to head out by 7:15 a.m. As we headed upstairs, we saw someone sleeping on the floor and I'm pretty sure someone else slept on the living room couch. Our host was in the kitchen in his undershirt putting some frozen food from a bag into the toaster oven. When we told him we were leaving, he insisted we stay for a breakfast of "traditional Indian vegetables." We really wanted to get going but he said, "Only ten minutes! I make for you!" So we gave in. We sat awkwardly on the couch and made small talk. Then he said, "I'll put on the TV!" I thought that was a good idea ... maybe watch some news or something. But no. He found a Punjab station and we watched a religious Indian ceremony. So Dale and I sat there for at least 20 minutes listening to loud chanting. We were so annoyed with ourselves for letting ourselves be convinced to stay. And we couldn't even just sneak out because the host's car was parked behind us in the driveway.

Finally the "Indian vegetables" were ready. A plate of tater tots and potato wedges were brought to the table. That's it. Oh, and ketchup. And Indian chai tea, which was the high point. We each ate a tater tot, drank our tea and booked it out of there. It was painful. I don't like to talk or eat much first thing in the morning and I feel awkward staying in other people's houses, even when it's someone I know. Bed & Breakfasts are my worst nightmare.

But still, overall it did the trick. We had a good place to sleep, it was cheap, and we were able to switch nights at no cost. It was even kind of interesting to talk to a local (sort of - they'd only lived in Thompson for a couple of years). I would just do some things differently next time.

Finally we were on the road. A few sights along the way:

Grass River

 This was at Grand Rapids, the biggest town we passed through. I liked that they had to specify "Japanese food" under Sushi Rolls.

This was a crow at that restaurant. It was ENORMOUS. I took this picture from the safety of our vehicle.

So that was our exciting mid-week Thompson adventure. It was pretty cool seeing northern Manitoba. And even cooler to be part of the Manitoba Games experience. Neve got home late late Wednesday night, tired but happy.

I'll just add a quick little birthday shout-out to my little brother Jimmy. We were over there tonight to celebrate his birthday as well as Bella's, who turned ten on Wednesday. Nice party, guys - happy birthday!!

We are obviously not used to posing for pictures together

Sunday, March 04, 2018

This one is about Spencer

I know I'm jumping around time-wise with my blog posts. Things are all over the place. After this post, I think all significant family events have been documented and I will be back on track.

Spencer started looking for a job a month or two ago. He handed out maybe ten resumes at various places within walking/easy-driving distance of home. About a week later he got a call from the Co-op gas station down the street. He went in for a brief interview and the manager told him he was interviewing a couple of others as well and would get back to him that afternoon. Turns out one of the other candidates had worked at a gas station before and had "propane experience." It's hard to compete with that. Spencer understood and felt pretty good about even being considered for the job and it was really nice of the guy to call back like he said he would. No further job hunting happened in the next few weeks and then one morning a week and a half ago, Spencer comes out of his room and tells me he has a shift at the gas station the coming weekend. The guy called him on his cell phone and I didn't hear their conversation so I have no idea how that conversation went but I'm guessing it went exactly like this:

Co-op guy: Hello, Spencer?

Spencer: Yes.

Co-op guy: Are you still available to work at the gas station?

Spencer: Yes.

Co-op guy: Can you work this Sunday at 10:00?

Spencer: Yes.

Co-op guy: Okay, we'll see you then.

Spencer: Yes.

So he went to work on Sunday at 10:00. He was trained for 15 minutes and then was ready to jump to the pump. He worked an 8 hour shift and came home with his ski pants looking like they had been driven over by 100 muddy vehicles and smelling like they'd been doused in gas (which they accidentally had been). I made sure he didn't go near the stove or any open flame and made him throw them outside as soon as he took them off.


My neighbor Karen and I drove by the gas station while he was working and stopped to take a picture. He didn't notice but it felt a little stalker-like.

Luckily that was the night of Neve's family birthday party and since he is more polite and talkative to people not in his immediate family, he told them a bit about his day. He didn't get a break the entire 8 hours. He ate nothing. I'm sure he didn't go to the bathroom (he wasn't complaining; he said he'd rather work the whole time). It seemed to go well and he had another shift the following weekend (yesterday). We haven't heard one word about his day yesterday (oh, except that he didn't eat a thing all day) but I assume it was fine. Still no word on a regular schedule, pay, or breaks.

Anyway, the same day he got the call about getting the job, he also had a road test booked for his drivers license. It wasn't his first one and he was nervous. But all went well and he passed with flying colours. I was so happy for him and the look of happiness and relief in his face when he told me was pretty sweet.

And unlike some kids who would use their newfound driving privileges for evil, he dropped me off at home right after the test and drove to McNally Robinson. (I'm not entirely sure what kind of evil purposes are common in new drivers ... purposely splashing pedestrians with water? Drive-by shootings? Stealing cars? People that participate in those activities are probably not too concerned about being a legal licensed driver before they break the law, so it doesn't really make sense.) My point is - what's more wholesome than going to a locally-owned neighbourhood bookstore. That's my kid.

Unfortunately with our driver to car ratio now at 2:1, there are not many chances for him to drive anywhere. Fortunately, he doesn't really need to since his social calendar is pretty open and he can walk to work.

So that was a big day. It was the day we all went to Across the Board for Neve's birthday dinner, so there were lots of reasons to celebrate. It's a good feeling knowing that your kid is taking steps to become a functioning adult who will contribute to society. There is still work to be done but we're moving in the right direction.

Now back to the present day for a second:

Apparently commenting on the blog has been complicated lately. I'm going to try to change some settings; it's tricky to allow easy commenting while keeping out the spammers at the same time. I do love your comments so if you've been frustrated in the past, try again and see if it's better now.

And since apparently I can't get through one blog post without mentioning Neve, we dropped her off early this morning to take the bus to the Manitoba Games. As I write this, she's on her way to Thompson. She'll be competing on Tuesday afternoon (gymnastics). She was pretty excited and nervous. Two other girls from her gymnastics club are also going, as well as two girls from school for other sports, including one of her very good friends. One of her gymnastics friends was on the same bus as her so that was a relief.

The placement of the star right above her head was unintentional :)

The opening ceremonies are going to be on live-streamed on Facebook at 8:30 pm tonight. I'm not exactly sure how that works but here's the link if anyone's interested: . I'm not sure if the actual events will be televised or online somewhere but I'm sure updates will be posted on the Facebook page.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Birthday (still) and skiing

This week has been crazy for me at work and I feel like next week will be the same. I feel like my head is underwater and I'm fighting to stay on top. Most of the busy-ness is due to the Spain and Morocco trip in fall. We had two back-to-back information sessions this week due to the high demand and the calls and emails I've gotten since then have been overwhelming. I'm tempted to count how many emails I received this week but it would take too long. Instead I'll just complain about how my head feels like it's spinning in circles.

But it's an awesome problem to have. The second trip should be sold out soon and then things will calm down for a while. I am keeping my sanity by sneaking off for a hot yoga class whenever I can - I joined another studio for a month. This one is the complete opposite of the strict one I went to in January. Sometimes I feel like it's barely even yoga. A couple of the instructors are kind of hard to understand and half the time I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing. Yesterday's class had music playing super loud. And not relaxing harp music either. There were songs like Renegades by X-Ambassadors. The lyrics totally drowned out the instructor's voice. Yeah, I know I sound like an old cranky lady. I don't care (which is a sure sign of being an old lady!). But it feels good and I'm always happy I went.

I'm still catching up on here. Let's go back to last week with a few more pictures of Neve's birthday celebrations.

Post gymnastics frappucino. It was supposed to be free but they charged her which turned into a long saga that I won't get into.
The day after her birthday, we went to the mall to exchange a sweatshirt she got and also to ....

... get her ears pierced (again). She is quite pleased with the double-piercing.

On Saturday, she had her three oldest, closest friends over for a sleepover. These girls are awesome. They are a very fun bunch and yet sweet and polite and kind. They are low-drama, smart, talented, and creative ... I honestly couldn't wish for better friends for my kid. They stayed up til all hours and were up early for crepes.

We finished off the celebrations with some family over for cake on Sunday. I made an ice cream cake and it turned out pretty well. Spencer has requested the same cake for his birthday in April, so that's a good sign.

The partying is over now and life can proceed as normal.

Now we're going to backtrack to the Louis Riel weekend when we went on a mini ski holiday. It was Chloe's reading week and I really wanted to go to Fernie or Banff to ski. We had such a good time when we went four years ago that we vowed we'd make it an annual thing.

Obviously we didn't.

No one was as excited to go as I was; Bob & Janet and my parents wouldn't be there this time and the kids thought it would be boring just on our own. The younger kids didn't want to miss school; Neve especially was distraught at the thought of missing school on her birthday. What is wrong with kids these days? The future looks bleak.

So instead, we all compromised and went to Asessippi for the weekend. We drove to Russell on Saturday and spent the evening eating, watching the Olympics, playing games and sitting in the hot tub.

We skied on Sunday. It was a lot of fun, but one day was good. It was a bit cold coming down the hill. I don't have a ski jacket so I just used my usual parka. For the first couple of runs, I didn't have my hood up. My face was frozen solid by the time I got to the bottom. Then I put up my fur-lined hood and I was never cold again. I could barely see past the fur so my visibility was terrible and it was definitely unsafe and looked ridiculous, but warmth comes before pride or safety. I love hoods and tell my kids all the time how much warmer they are than just hats. They don't heed my wise advice but at least they're smart enough to not complain about being cold in front of me.

It was our first time at Asessippi and I was impressed. It was much bigger than Holiday Mountain. There were three chair lifts and a good variety of runs. We don't ski a lot but the kids did great; I probably had the worst fall of anyone (two actually, one right after the other), right under the chairlift. I was pleased to be able to give the people on the lifts something to look at. There's probably a video of me on the internet somewhere.  Luckily no one can see my face through my fur-lined hood.

At the end of the ski day, we repeated the evening activities from the day before. It was very low key but I enjoyed the rare occurrence of our whole family being sequestered for 48 hours. I doubt the kids enjoyed it as much as I did but that's their problem. At least we had a two-room suite so we had a bit of breathing room. It's quite a happening hotel, with a pool and waterslide, restaurant, and even a bar with live music in the evening. They also showed family movies each evening in one of the conference rooms. I liked that the room had both an exterior door (easy for unloading the van parked right outside) and an interior hallway door to the pool and the rest of the hotel. Two thumbs up from our family. That being said, if/when we go again, I'd like the weather to be a bit warmer and I'd like to go with other people we know.

Monday morning we had breakfast in the restaurant and then headed for home. Interesting fact about Russell: this little town has produced three Olympians.

Okay, I'm done for today. I'll be back.

Thursday, February 22, 2018


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!).