Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Surprise

Last Friday we had plans to go to the Keg for dinner with Jim & Sabrina and Bob & Janet for Dale’s birthday. Jim & Sabrina picked us up at 6:30 and on the way to the Keg at Portage & Moray (near the airport), Jim asks if we can stop at the airport to pick up a suitcase. He said a friend came to visit their exchange students and his luggage didn’t arrive. So we get to the airport terminal and I make Dale get out and we’re all standing on the sidewalk. I told Dale that Jim & Sabrina and Bob & Janet had a birthday gift for him, and Jim pulls out a suitcase from the trunk. Dale is totally confused about what’s going on by this time. He admires the luggage and we’re still standing there, and I don’t even know what to say. Finally I say “I don’t want to go to the Keg for dinner, so let’s have something in Las Vegas instead.” Poor Dale is trying to figure it all out: “We’re going to Vegas NOW?”

It took a couple of hours for it to sink in and I was scared his dazed look would become permanent, but it was so much fun surprising him. I booked the flights 2 months ago and I was pretty sure he’d find out somehow but I wanted to keep it a secret as long as I could. I was pretty stressed out the few days before we left – getting everything ready to go and making arrangements for the kids and packing, etc. On Friday I had a knot in my stomach all day. I think I was as happy as he was when the surprise was finally unveiled. I needed a holiday just to recover from the lies and stress. But it was … WORTH IT!!!

Vegas is the most surreal place I’ve ever been. Everything is big and bright and loud and crazy. When we arrived around midnight, we had a hellish shuttle ride to our hotel with Satan driving. He hit something – not sure if it was a car, a pole, or a person – and kept going before finding out what it was. Other vehicles were honking at Satan and his Deathmobile like you wouldn’t believe. It stopped at 6 other hotels to let people off, and yes, we were the very last. So the first lesson we learned in Vegas: don’t take a shuttle bus. As a bitter irony, the cab we took on the way back to the airport cost the same amount as the shuttle. So by the time we got to our hotel (Mirage), we were shaking. Then went we went to check in, they didn’t have the room we requested so I was mad about that. Then we had to cart our luggage (Dale’s nice new luggage) all the way through the crazy casino and past the restaurants and shops to the room elevators. By the time we got to our room, I had sensory overload and a headache. I wanted to go home. But after a good sleep, I felt calmer.

We spent the next 3 days walking and gambling and eating and napping. We went on a roller coaster, saw David Copperfield’s show, went to a Titanic exhibit, toured the other hotels and casinos, went shopping, etc. One thing about Vegas that I didn’t expect was that it was actually quite pretty. Our pool area was beautiful – lots of palm trees and tropical greenery. It wasn’t warm enough to swim, but we sat in the sun by the pool and went in the hot tub. We also walked through the shops, which were amazing. Most of them were so upscale that I couldn’t get myself to go into them with my grubby jeans and clunky shoes and stretched out black hoodie. The best store was FAO Schwartz, the toy store. It was so cool. When I told the kids that we were going to Las Vegas (the day we left), they said they wanted to come too and I told them, oh no, there’s nothing for kids there. When they saw our pictures of the giant piano keyboard and the doll nursery at the toy store, the roller coaster, the M&M store, the big motorcycle sticking out of the Harley Davidson store, the tiger in our hotel and on and on, they were a little choked. There actually is a lot for kids, but I can’t imagine taking them there ever. “Mommy, why are there pictures of naked girls everywhere?” There are actually quite a few kids around, even out on the Strip at 2:00 a.m. Maybe their father (or mother) is a professional gambler and he wants his family near him as he works. Whatever. It’s another thing to put in the category of “I’m not the worst parent in the world.” Maybe those parents are looking at me and thinking “I can’t believe people would leave their kids for days to come here and gamble. What kind of parents would do THAT?” That being said, the kids had a great time at Mom & Dad’s, and then Grammy (Dale’s mom) spent the night at our house with the kids on Monday night. We were supposed to leave Las Vegas at 11:20 Monday night, but the flight was delayed two hours. I wasn’t able to sleep in the airport or on the plane. There was a bad man sitting behind me. Even though he and every other passenger on the plane reclined their seat, he was unhappy that I reclined mine. He kicked and bumped my seat for the first 15 minutes, then I swear he took both hands and shook my whole seat. I got up and turned around and asked him if he was having a problem. I ended up putting my seat back up and sitting straight and tall the whole way. He didn’t touch my seat again. And when we got off and were waiting for our baggage, he stood as far away from me as he possibly could. He was with his girlfriend and he had hickeys on his neck. Nothing says you’re cool like dark red hickeys when you’re 35 years old. I hate him.

By the time we got through customs and made it home, it was 7:00 a.m. Tuesday morning. So I made the kids lunches and took them to school and that was the end of our vacation.

Our hotel

Me (with my grubby jeans and stretched out black hoodie) on the big piano at FAO Schwartz

New York New York Hotel with the Rollercoaster That Only Insane People Ride

Christmas decorations in the shops at Caesars Palace. Everything is BIG!

Dale at the airport, dreaming of being 39 again.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Today Neve napped for 2 and a half hours. I love her so much more when she does that. I get lots of work done when she’s asleep, so when she wakes up I can read to her and give her my full attention. Well, let’s be honest here. I don’t think I have ever given my FULL attention to anything since I had Spencer. That has nothing to do with the boy himself, but life seemed so easy with one. I shouldn’t say that – that’s probably as annoying for you people with one child as it is when a parent with teenagers tells me how easy my life is compared to theirs. I guess I should take that as a compliment that I make it look easy taking care of three children. That can’t be it. Now that I think of it, maybe no one’s ever said that to me. I probably overheard a conversation like that and day-dreamed that they were talking to me. Anyway, the full attention thing (See??!). Neve brings me a book and throws it at my head. She refuses to talk, so she just makes annoying sounds until I say “do you want me to read this to you?” Then she stops making those noises and sits down where ever she is, usually in the middle of the kitchen floor and waits for me to do the same and read it to her. And I do. Unless Chloe is home. Then I say, “go find Chloe. She’ll read this to you.” Fortunately Chloe is remarkably cooperative when Neve is involved. She used to be that way with Spencer. Now all I hear is “Spencer. Spencer. SPENCER. SPENCER!!!! I SAID we’re playing school. Don’t you want me to give you a treat??? Don’t you??? SPENCER!!!” (The “treat” is usually a picture of a truck that she drew for him. He’s caught on that it’s probably not going to be candy or a new hot wheels car, so he ignores her.). Then Chloe’s voice gets quieter, so I can’t hear what she’s saying.

Then loud crying – but not the kind that’s hurt or sad, just the I’m-making-the-loudest-most abrasive-sound-that-passes-as-crying kind: “MOM!! Chloe says you’re going to give me away if I don’t play school! WAAAA WAAAAAAA!”

Then Chloe says, “I didn’t say that.” In a whisper: “Spencer! Come here. I’ll let you have one of my Halloween candies? You like Rockets, right?”

And then other times they are so sweet to each other. Just today we were at the cheap chocolate place and the lady offered Spencer and Neve suckers (I guess to distract her from grabbing and squishing the little Lindt santas). Spencer asked the lady “Could I have another one for mine big sister? She’s at school.” Yes and she also has about 30 suckers in her Halloween bag. Now she has 31.

We had the best ever meal last night. Jim & Sabrina had us over for a seafood night. Crab legs, shrimp, paella, crab cakes, salmon and cream cheese on breadsticks, etc. etc. Some of it was contributed by others (not us) but Sabrina cooked up a storm, making things I didn’t know were possible for a regular person to make. I ate so much that I didn’t eat until 3:00 this afternoon. It was amazing. We’re never having you guys over again because we can’t compete. Or I won’t even try to compete and we’ll just have meatloaf.

I feel like I have to say something about the house, out of habit if nothing else. With the advice of Decorator Shannon, I painted a big rectangle on the wall in Chloe’s room as a background for all her art pictures. We rearranged her room and put up some pictures, now we need to put up some shelves and curtains and Chloe wants me to paint flowers around her room. I’d like to finish it up this week and move on to the next room. Dale put up the shelves and rods in Neve’s closet today. She has a big closet; Dale put up the shelves at the end of the closet a while ago. But now there are more. I have closet envy – she has big double doors, a light, and more shelves than I know what to do with. Dale and my closet has a single door, it’s as dark as an underwater cave, and tiny. But if it means having to ever see another speck of drywall dust, I like my closet just the way it is.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

IT'S ...

… FINISHED!!! (did you think I was going to say “worth it”? oh no. not yet.)

We had some neighbours over Sunday for a little open house. We worked like crazy last week to finish up stuff and we got a lot done. It was good to have a deadline. We put away all the tools and paint and cleaned everything and served apple cider and chocolate cookies, chocolate fudge, and more chocolate cookies. The open house was very nice; we had a steady stream of neighbours. Everyone seemed to like the house, although what are they going to say? “Hmm, that’s interesting. Did you do that on purpose?” or “Did you go through the proper planning procedures? Can I see your permit? And don’t you have any food that’s not chocolate?” It was a nice opportunity to visit with the neighbours, and I’m glad we did it.

SO … from now on, when people ask me if our renovation is done, I am going to say YES! Even though the work guys have been out of the house for a few weeks, I was always hesitant to say we were done because we still had so many little things to finish up and my mind was still preoccupied with that. But after this weekend, even though there’s still a couple of things to do, we are officially DONE!! Every homeowner alive (at least every one I’ve met) has a list of house projects they want to do, so I’m transferring over to that category. Yesterday was almost a surreal day. I didn’t paint anything, I didn’t go to Home Depot, and I didn’t have a to-do list. I dropped Spencer off at a friend’s after I took Chloe to school, so I just had Neve and hardly knew what to do. Luckily I remembered the mall, so we went there. I actually did buy something for the house – some storage containers for the playroom shelves. But I also bought a Christmas present so I feel like I accomplished something besides renovation stuff. Neve & Spencer both slept all afternoon, so I got lots of Chamber work done. It was such a nice day and I feel so settled and peaceful. I hope this is the new normal.* It’s amazing. I have a feeling I better enjoy it while I can – Dale’s 40th birthday is coming up in a few weeks, and Christmas isn’t far behind. But at least I’ve started my shopping…

* I started writing this yesterday. Today Neve was very high maintenance and wanted attention (those one-year-olds!) and I had lots of work to do. She did eventually nap, but not without a fuss. So the new normal has some room for improvement.

Well, the guy across the street has made great strides with his renovation project. All the walls are up and Tyvek-ed, and he even has siding up on the front side of the house. His gang friends must have come through for him, although I still see bare rafters inside (when I stalk his house at night with my binoculars). I know I should be happy for him, but I’m not really. I want everyone’s projects to take crazy long and cost more than the house is worth. That’s just nasty. Why do I feel that way? Am I the only one? Please tell me this is normal. Actually I don’t care. I’m so beyond normal, I try not to compare myself to people who are. I’ve been thinking of the permit process for renovations. I have a few suggestions. I think people should have to get tested to see how they can handle stress. You would have to go to Home Depot, with a long list of things from every department, but not a detailed one so you don’t know exactly which electrical breaker to buy and you have to find someone knowledgeable to help you (ha ha) and you have fussy children wearing no shoes and your contractor is calling you on the cell phone to find out if your home insurance policy covers a pipe bursting. When you finally get to the checkout after 3 hours of frustration and misery, your debit card and all your credit cards are refused. And you can still smell Subway. No one would pass that test. And if they do, that proves they are already insane (I don’t know why, but it just does) and should be institutionalized anyway.

At any rate, we survived. Definitely a little scarred and battered, but we made it.

Here are some photos of Halloween and some upstairs “after” pictures. I should dig out some “before” ones to compare. Next time.
This is the first picture I've been in since 2003.
Very bundled-up princess and pirate

Caterpillar (not a very co-operative one)

Window seat in the playroom upstairs

The railing my dad made

Neve loves this spot