Monday, August 27, 2007

the best conversations happen when we're driving

I’ve been meaning to post something all day, but I’m so disorganized and behind in every aspect of my life right now that it just didn’t happen (well I guess now it did).

So until I get this house and my anxiety under control, here’s a little conversation we had in the van the other day.

Chloe was talking about some girls she’d heard of pooling their summer job money to hire a limousine to drive them to school on the first day. I made some mother-like comment about how that money could have been more nobly spent on providing food or clothes to poor children (what a fun mom I am). Spencer pipes up and says, “Yeah! There are children walking around naked with bare bums and penises and vaginas all over the place!” After a pause while we all pictured this in our heads, Chloe says, “Spencer! When people say children have no clothes to wear, it just means that they wear rags. They’re not completely naked.”

Thursday, August 23, 2007

your mother wears army boots

After today, I have a deep new appreciation for Clay and all the construction workers who worked on our house (except the stucco guys). I spent the day working at a Habitat for Humanity blitz build. I wore a hard hat, the steel toe boots pictured above, and a pouch. I used a drill and a hammer and a measuring tape and a pencil. I carried drywall, measured and cut and hung it. Also did some miscellaneous hammering and worked on securing the vapour barrier with that black tarry stuff in a caulking gun. I worked most of the day with the woman who will be living in the house, and she was awesome. She was so gracious when people would say rather patronizingly, “Aren’t you excited to be able to have your own house?” (meaning, “Aren’t we wonderful, generous and charitable people to be helping you? Even though our place of employment is paying us to “volunteer” here and have paid for everything from our required CSA-approved footwear to our hammers, and even though our lunch and all snacks are provided, I’m still awesome. And smug.”) It was actually quite fun and even though I feel like a bulldozer drove over me slowly with the blade down, it felt good to do some good hard physical labour for a change. I could have done without the soccer game tonight though. We were short two players and I got tripped in the first 5 minutes and I went down with a very heavy thud and everything hurts. We’re going to Hecla for the weekend tomorrow, so I must drag myself to bed so I can get up bright and early to pack (again).

Here’s the only picture I took at my sister’s cottage this week. The kids are playing unwrap-the-many-layered-present game. Then my camera battery died. The cottage was fun and the kids had a blast. The weather was awful on Monday, okay on Tuesday, but Wednesday was beautiful. Still waiting for another stretch of nice hot weather … I know it’s coming.

Oh, and how nice to have all those comments (double digits!) on the last post! Doesn't even matter that most of them were from the same couple of people - I still feel special.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Yurts and Babies

Unlike most (but not all) of you, I spent the weekend in a yurt at Nutimik Lake. A yurt is a cabin-meets-tent sort of thing, and perfect for people like us who have no tent or camper, and don’t particularly enjoy being in nature but do so for the sake of the children. It had beds and a table and electricity. The only thing that would have made it even more perfect was if it had its own bathroom and kitchen. But I guess that’s not camping. The campground there is really nice – the spots are private and you can’t hear your neighbours zipping up their tents or their AC/DC Greatest Hits (Teresa’s Nelly Furtado drowned that out). Even though it wasn’t a hot weekend, it was very pleasant camping weather and the kids even went swimming. Their lips were blue and we didn’t have enough towels, but they have to learn that camping is all about roughing it. Plus I don’t want to make it too fun for them or they’ll want to go more often. But despite my best efforts, they had lots of fun and the yurt was a big hit. On Sunday we went for a 2.8 km (each way) hike to some rapids, which would have been more fun if Dale & I hadn’t had to take turns carrying Neve the whole way there. And still more fun if Spencer’s flip-flops hadn’t been swept away in the rapids and Dale had to give him a piggyback ride all the way back while I carried Neve.

After the hike, we dropped the kids off at Bob & Janet’s cabin, and Dale & I came home. I’m heading back out there in a couple of hours and staying til Wednesday. I sure would love a few days of hot weather, but it’s not looking too promising right now. Here are some yurt photos: (some settings have changed on Blogger and I'm having some trouble)

The whole gang at the rapids

In other news, my cousin Rob and his fiancĂ©e had a baby girl on Wednesday night. She is so tiny and gorgeous. We dropped in to see them last night. They’re all doing great and I’m so happy for them. Her name is Elle, so she’s extra special to me.

More baby news: my brother & sister-in-law announced they are expecting their first baby in February. And faithful blog reader Corinna (not sure how faithful now that she has more important things to do) just had a beautiful baby boy last week. And I can’t forget other loyal blog reader Shannon, who is about halfway through her pregnancy (right?). Two of my neighbours, who both have little girls Neve’s age, are expecting their second in the next month as well. I’m so happy I’ll have lots of babies to hold, and still get a good night’s sleep.

Elle being held by her proud big brother

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Stucco Saga

I’m still fighting a losing battle with the stucco guys. I’ve been phoning them on a regular basis and they keep telling me they “haven’t forgotten me” and they’ll “definitely be there, just can’t say when.” So far this week I’ve called them every day and keep getting voice mail. Here’s the message I wanted to leave them.

Peter. This is Ellen (notice I even skipped the “Hi” – I can be so mean when I want to). I left you a message yesterday, the day before that, AND I believe the day before that. I’m running out of patience and demand you to give me the exact date you will be here to fix my stucco. If I don’t hear back from you by 5:00 p.m., I will pursue legal action.

This is the message I actually (more or less) left:

Um, hello, this is Ellen. How are you? Hope you’re having a fun summer. We are still LOVING the great job you did on our stucco, but I’m just wondering if maybe you could possibly fix the colour on the south wall soon. I apologize for all the messages I’ve left, I’m sure you must be really busy and I don’t want to bother you. And maybe you’re on holidays at the height of a busy stucco season and didn’t get my messages. Because you surely deserve a holiday because you are such an excellent busy stucco-er. So good for you – I hope you’re having a nice time. If you’re not on holidays, do you think you could phone me back? If it’s not too much trouble? You’re awesome. We are very happy with the house. You do such good quality work. No wonder you’re so busy. Hope to hear from you soon! But if we don’t, I understand because I know you are busy. Bye-bye.

The ironic thing is after I wrote the above paragraphs, I called them again and someone actually answered. It was Paul, a guy I’ve never talked to before, because Peter is indeed on holidays. For 7 to 10 days. Paul cannot give me an exact date because he is “just a junior plasterer” and “does not have authority to make that kind of decision.” Yet Peter has left him in charge for an indefinite period of time (“I don’t even know when Peter will be back. He might call me in 7 days and say he won’t be back for a while yet. He’s not even in Winnipeg.”). I was so naively optimistic that they would eventually fix the problem, but now hope is pretty much lost. Maybe I will find it again in 7 to 10 days.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Snips and Snails and Puppy Dogs Tails

I feel like I spent the whole solid day with Spencer today. He was the first kid awake this morning at 9:45 so I had lots of time with him before the girls woke up (in fact, I had to wake Neve up at 11:45 from a dead sleep. She went to bed at 11:00 last night. Oh how that fall schedule is going to hurt.). Anyway, he spent the whole time looking at his Lego catalogue asking me how much every single item cost and if I could buy it for him, while I tried to get some work done. After Neve finally got up and had breakfast, we biked to the park for a picnic lunch. It’s hard fitting all the meals in some days. The park was great, but the ride there and back was a bit intense. I was like a parrot on the bike path: “Keep to the right. This side, Spencer! Look where you’re going!!! FOCUS!!!!” I wasn’t sure whether to ride in front of him to lead him or behind him to encourage (scream at) him. One stretch when I was riding in front of him, we passed a roller blader, so I called back my usual “Keep to this side!” but then I heard the roller blader screaming “LITTLE BOY! LITTLE BOY! WATCH WHERE YOU’RE GOING!!” I looked back and she was pretty much forced off the sidewalk heading towards an embankment. I think I heard her yell something about “CONTROL YOUR KID!!” but by that point I wasn’t looking back anymore. I was scared she was going to turn around and come after us, but luckily her blading skills didn’t look that stellar (and not just because Spencer ran her off the road). Or maybe she fell down the embankment and is still lying on the shores of the Assiniboine River. If she survived, I’m fully expecting to see a letter in the Mailbag section of the newspaper this week along the lines of “If parents can’t control their kids, keep them off the bike path.” So please don’t tell anyone it was us. And then Spencer kept going off the paved path in favour of the dirt trails in the bushes. I had Neve in the bike seat on my bike and didn’t feel like having branches hit us in the head, so I stayed on the main path and tried to glimpse him through the bushes that seem like they are brimming with pedophiles. One time he called for help, so I made Chloe go find him (again – not so agile with Neve in the bike seat) and apparently he was teetering on the brink of a sharp drop to the river. Chloe retrieved him and on we went. By the time we got home, my nerves were wrecked, so I put him and Neve straight down for a nap. Thank goodness that boy still naps.

Tonight I had a soccer game and I took Spencer with me (Chloe got to come last time). I wasn’t sure how he’d sit through a long boring game with basically no supervision, but he did surprisingly well. He brought his stick (see above photo) with him which always helps. He plays with this stick for long long stretches of time, pretending it’s a sword or doing ninja moves or something. He’s always embarrassed if he sees someone watching him, but I snuck a picture the other day. On the way home from the game, we stopped at Superstore for a couple of things. When I was bagging the groceries, he was pressing the button to move the conveyor belt, and there were two little girls and their mother bagging their groceries right beside us. He looked at their packages of meat and said to the little girls, “Did you know that’s a DEAD crab?!” The girls looked a bit freaked out and wouldn’t touch it after that. The mother was looking at me, and I just cringed and said, “We’re not vegetarians or anything.” I didn’t know what else to say. What a quick thinker I am.

And now my little boy is tucked in bed with his gecki, sucking on his two fingers. He drives me crazy, but he makes me laugh my head off. I don’t want to say the “S” word, but I’m going to miss him like crazy when he starts Grade One.

(Picture from Friday's wedding)

Monday, August 13, 2007

I'm Never Wearing That Dress Again (probably)

Okay okay!! Here I go…

First of all, back to Friday morning. I had the day completely planned out, but things went awry at 11:00 when I was about to leave to do a few errands and pick up my sitter for the afternoon (my niece). As soon as we started driving, I realized the van had a flat tire. So the time I had allotted to wash the van and go to Dollarama for something was spent on the phone trying to make arrangements to get my sitter here. For the record, I did start changing the tire and was making good, but painfully slow, progress. I was following the instruction book very intently. If I’d kept working steadily, I’d probably have it done by now. Since I didn’t have that kind of time (Chloe & I had manicure appointments at 11:45), my sister managed to get Bailey here, which was no simple task since she didn’t have a vehicle and had to make my brother-in-law come home from work. I’m sure he understood we had to get to our manicure appointment no matter what. It was just a few blocks away, so my sister drove us after she dropped Bailey off. Chloe & I had hair appointments right after, about a kilometre away, and I wasn’t sure how we would get there. But a kind and generous acquaintance at the nail place lent us her vehicle, which was a huge help! We zipped over and got our hair done, and by the time we got home around 2:30, Dale had come home, changed the tire, taken it to get repaired and was on his way home. Then we dropped off the borrowed vehicle, Dale went to pick up some fruit trays for the wedding, I brought the sitter home, and we all leaped into our wedding clothes. Then we dropped Neve off at Dale’s mom’s, and we made it to the wedding with literally one minute to spare before the procession started. Much to my (and no doubt, the bride’s) dismay, it was raining so the ceremony had to be inside a tent instead of outdoors. And more dismay on my part – Dale’s Johnny Cash outfit was much more suitable than my Easter wear. Oh well, now I’ve gotten 2 wearings out of that dress and it can be retired. I really liked it though. I skipped the matching glittery necklace, which somehow seemed fine when I wore it at Jim & Sabrina’s wedding last June, but seemed completely over-the-top this time. Back to the wedding. My nephew and his now wife are not exactly conformists, so I was quite intrigued to see what the wedding would be like. Some things, like her dress, were surprisingly traditional and some things, like the bride’s lip ring and hair, were unsurprisingly untraditional. The ceremony was quick and nice. They had a band called the Rippers performing a couple of songs during the ceremony (not so traditional, but quite good). The reception was held at her parents’ home. The rain had stopped by the time the ceremony ended and it turned into a gorgeous evening. We had tacos for dinner and DQ ice cream cake for dessert. Later on they had a pork roast. There was a dance floor and an open bar and it was all very casual and relaxed. The bride and groom genuinely appeared to be having the time of their lives and didn’t seem stressed about anything, so it was a fun atmosphere. And people were fairly discreet, so I didn’t notice anyone openly pointing and staring at me (or Jenn). Well maybe at Jenn, but that’s just because she was the photographer. Yay for the phat aunts.

Then Saturday morning, we picked up Neve and went to my parents for the rest of the weekend. The whole family stayed over – some slept in a tent, some of us in a camper, and the not-so-rugged pansies slept inside in real beds. I’ve never called anyone a pansy before, but I think I’m going to make more of an effort to do so. Anyway, we played Frisbee golf and Bocce and roasted marshmallows and looked at the stars. The kids had a blast playing and swimming and running around. The weather was perfect, and we were sad to leave last night, and sad to see Dan & Jenn go back to where they came from.

And an hour after we got home, we had Dale’s family over for a mini birthday party for Dale’s mom. So it was a busy weekend, and I’ve got a busy week ahead and then we’re going camping next weekend (and the weekend after). I am making every effort to be as organized as I can, but it’s definitely not one of my strengths. But I keep trying…

Thursday, August 09, 2007


With two whole days still remaining until my nephew’s wedding, Dale suddenly decided he needed something to wear. So we got a babysitter last night and off we went to Polo Park. I don’t mind spending babysitting dollars for shopping by myself, but shopping with Dale? Not so fun. He walks slower than a turtle going backward. I am always 3 steps ahead of him, and I really don’t walk that fast. And when I stopped and looked back to wait for him, he stopped and looked back too. I thought I was going to have a breakdown. I’d almost rather have the Spencer-standing-in-front-of-the-stroller scenario. Anyway, he decides he needs new black pants for work, which was fine, but I thought he might like something lighter and more casual for the wedding (which is outdoors and quite casual). He disagrees. Then we try and pick a shirt. He insists on a long-sleeved, charcoal gray one with white pinstripes. Again I try to tell him this is not the best choice for an outdoor August wedding on a hot Friday night. But stubborn he can be; now I know where Neve gets it from. So I’m hoping for hot muggy sticky weather tomorrow just to prove I’m right. The other thing that bugs me is he’ll be all black, and I’m all light turquoise like an Easter jelly bean. Just doesn’t go together.

Back to Neve’s stubbornness. I think I mentioned she insists on getting into her car seat by herself. Now she must do the buckle herself too. If I put it over her head by accident, she takes it off and does it over. “No, me!” She must also be the electric door button-presser when we exit the van. If anyone else does it, the door must be closed again so that she can do it herself. She’s also a bit obsessive before bed. If there are any clothes or books lying around her room, she hurls every last thing out into the hall, then slams her door. She HAS to turn the fan on, HAS to push the bottle nipple into her bottle when she’s done (don’t tell my doctor I still give her that thing), and HAS to feel the zipper side of her blanket when she lies down in her crib. And I’m trying really hard not to drink (alcohol) or eat chocolate (due to the snug dress situation), so I have no crutches to help me cope. But she gives me cute hugs and kisses so that helps.

And to give you something to think about, here’s a question Spencer asked me tonight: “When Canada goes to war, what colour are we?”

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

August Resolutions

Funny how things change overnight from July 31st to August 1st. The days are suddenly shorter, the night air is cooler, and even the daytime weather has a different feel. People are back from vacation and there are more people out and about. You start thinking about school clothes and backpack shopping (our school provides all other supplies, which I know is worked into our fees but SO worth it). And my personal least-favourite sign of August: people start asking the kids “Are you excited about school?” There’s still a month of summer vacation left! Leave them alone! I completely and fully admit I have asked kids (both mine and others) this a million times. But my solemn vow this year is to let them enjoy every last drop of summer and not mention the S word to any child until Labour Day. My kids might be a bit surprised when I wake them up at 7:30 and tell them they have to go to school that first day. But surprise is the spice of life, or something like that. One day they’ll be sitting on the beach; the next day they’ll be sitting in an orange plastic chair. We’ll see how much they appreciate that.

Since summer is still officially in full swing, we’ve been spending time with out-of-town relatives, spent a day at Lilac Resort, went for a picnic in the park, lots of playing outside, built part of a fence in the backyard, had lots of popsicles and slurpees and ice cream. On that topic, my other vow is to not eat any junk food til Friday. My nephew is getting married Friday night and my dress is a little snug. I realize I’m by far not the main attraction at the wedding, but if I don’t stop eating, I will be. If I hear someone whisper, “Who’s the fat aunt?”, I’m leaving. Then everyone will stop and stare as I lumber to my big fat van.