Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Signs

A sign that we're another step closer to our winter vacation:


Passport photos are always lovely and mine is no exception. I look like a heroin addict on a poster that tries to convince teenagers to avoid drugs or they'll end up looking like me. Dale looks like he just murdered someone for their wallet so he could get his next meth fix, so at least I'm in good company.
Not only did we get our passport photos taken today, I got my second dose of hepatitis vaccine and we're on the very brink of booking our trip. You'll all know when it's booked and confirmed.

A sign Christmas is over:




Another sign Christmas is over:


The tree is down and the furniture has been rearranged...to focus on our new fake fireplace. Since I haven't yet convinced Dale to embrace the look of an electric fireplace, I made my own today. It's not great, but I tried my best. My strategy is that Dale will get tired/embarrassed of having a painted sheet of plywood as a focal point in our living room and will one day decide that a real fake fireplace is better than a fake fake fireplace. But for now, we pretend.



I also wanted to update you on the Free Press carrier/earrings/gift card situation. They picked up the payment envelope we left in the mailbox this weekend, but they did not take the clearly-marked envelope containing the gift card, which was with it. WTH?! That was their last chance.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

More Christmas and some front end damage

This is Bella, the 2008 elf. This little elf suit has been worn by my two nephews, my two nieces, my three children, and now by my littlest niece, Isabella. Twenty-one years of elfishness. Jim and Sabrina will have to plan ahead so that there’ll be an elf-suit-sized baby for the 25-year anniversary in 2012. It’ll be a huge elf celebration (elfebration).

Since my last post, we’ve spent two days celebrating Christmas with family and two days of doing basically nothing. For Christmas, I got three of my favourite things: a puzzle, a great book (several actually), and season two of The Office. It’s been awesome – I do my puzzle for a while, then read my Twilight book when I get bored, and then watch an Office episode or two when I need a break from my book. Then the whole exciting circle begins again.

As I feared, Spencer was disappointed with Santa on Christmas morning for not bringing the Lego set he wanted. He couldn’t understand why Santa had brought his sisters what they asked for, and not him. The items his sisters asked for were less than $10; his was well over $100. Except we couldn’t use that argument since Spencer doesn’t believe Santa has financial constraints. We just told him Santa knows best. In the end, he agreed with us because he got five other Lego sets from grandparents and aunts and uncles. And he’s been playing with his DS a lot, so I’m happy with the decision we made. Chloe and her iPod have been inseparable, and Neve’s enjoying all her new things, especially the dress-up stuff. Below is some of the dress-up stuff she got from Uncle Dan and Auntie Jenn:

One glitch in all the holiday happiness is that we ran into a front end loader on the way to my parent’s yesterday. The front end loader won. Our van lost. Tomorrow involves making a police report and dealing with Autopac. But luckily tomorrow will also involve more puzzling, more reading, and more Office.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Tidings

It's officially Christmas! I don't remember the children ever being as impatient and excited for Christmas to arrive as this year. On Christmas Eve, we always have a family dinner*, torture the children by making them endure the candlelight service at church, and then go home and open gifts. We give each of the kids one main gift, plus they give each other small gifts. On Christmas morning, their stockings are filled with little things from Santa. The kids know to ask Santa for something small/inexpensive, but last year Santa was not thinking clearly and brought Spencer a large Lego set. This year he asked for another large Lego set, and when I told him Santa just brings smaller things, he reminded me about last year. He may be a bit disappointed tomorrow morning, but fortunately things went extremely well tonight so that should help. Chloe got an iPod and Spencer got a Nintendo DS with a Lego Indiana Jones game, and their reactions were worth every penny. Neve got a dress up trunk with three princess outfits and she spent the rest of the evening trying them on. Dale & I got great gifts too - Chloe gave us each three things she had made or bought with her own money. The best thing was a book where each of the kids wrote what they liked best about us. Neve made a really cute (honest!) pinecone candleholder at pre-school and kept it a secret right til tonight. That almost worries me - who knows what else she's keeping from us? She was so proud of herself; it was the cutest thing ever.










*Back to the family dinner for a moment. Other than the non-alchoholic sparkling beverage we have every single year, the quality of the Christmas Eve meal has deteriorated over the years. We used to have barbecued steaks and baked potatoes and salad. One year we had a fancy pasta with scallops, and then we started ordering in sushi. We were going to do the same this year, but my stomach is still acting up and no one else seemed that hungry, so we just made nachos. No one complained, but I'm scared next year it will be hot dogs. When I was young, my mom made hot dogs for dinner one fateful Christmas eve. We were at the Christmas Eve service, when all of a sudden I could no longer contain my excitement or the hot dog I'd eaten. The hot dog reappeared in a stinky chunky puddle at the back of the church as I was running for the bathroom. Yummy, I know. Go on and enjoy your Christmas meal now.



Wishing everyone a magical, merry Christmas. I hope you all feel loved, peaceful and warm! Hugs and kisses to you all. XOXOXO

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Two more days

I started this blog entry three days ago – I was beginning to think I’d never finish it. I’m going to have to make a New Years resolution to blog more consistently. I really enjoy doing it, but it’s been hard to find the time lately. Not sure how a New Years resolution can change that, but we’ll see.

An update from the last post: I found a Tim Horton’s gift card in the cupboard that we had barely used (just kidding, it was new), so I popped it into an envelope on Friday night, wrote “Free Press Carrier” and “(thanks for the earrings”) on it and put it into the mailbox. On Saturday morning, it was still there, along with our paper. We tried again on Saturday night, but they still didn’t want it. So I guess that means either they didn’t see the bright red envelope with the thick Sharpie writing or they really did give the earrings out of the goodness of their heart and want nothing in return. The whole situation is very odd. We don’t get the paper again until next weekend, so I guess we’ll try again then. Maybe I’ll tape the envelope to the outside of the mailbox. Or maybe I’ll just buy myself a double double (look at me trying to sound like a coffee drinker).

Sunday night was our third and final Christmas concert. The “stupid” line went well – Spencer was quite honoured to have the privilege of saying the “only bad word in the play.” I videotaped the dress rehearsal version for your viewing and listening pleasure.


Chloe was a wiseman who had two lines (she is singing in this photo). She said them very well, but anyone who didn’t know what they were wouldn’t have heard them. Her performing voice is three octaves lower than her regular voice, and things were further hindered by the eternal Sunday-school-concert issue of dodgy sound quality. And Neve and her three-year-old friends sang two songs, one of which involved holding stars.



After the concert, my parents and Jim & Sabrina and Bella came over. Dale made me a birthday cake from scratch (including the icing!), so we had that. It was delicious and now that I know he can bake, my life will be a lot simpler. My stomach’s been queasy for a few days which has completely taken my appetite away. I continue to eat anyway, but only things I really like that would be worth throwing up.

There's lots going on in this picture - my birthday cake didn't quite make the frame.
Yesterday (thanks to everyone for the birthday calls and emails and Facebook greetings!) I went downtown with the kids and my Florida nieces (who arrived Sunday night), and we met my sister and the Winnipeg nieces at Toad Hall Toys. We only had a few minutes to spend there though, since our next stop was IMAX at noon. We saw Santa vs. the Snowman in 3D, which is a favourite of two out of three of my children. Neve cried and begged to go home the whole time. We were going to go to the sushi place at the McLaren Hotel for lunch, but for practical reasons we ended up going to the food court instead. My kids wanted food from three different vendors. Luckily I’d left my cat hair jacket in the van (underground parking), and Jan took Neve to sit at a table so it was no problem! The lesson to be learned here is that without a hot, bulky jacket and a 3-year-old, life is so much simpler. I guess simpler isn’t always better – I think I’ll keep my 3-year-old. She did look cute at the Christmas concert. In the afternoon, my neighbour came for a visit, and then to complete my birthday celebrations, we went out for dinner with Mike & Darla (whose birthday is the day before mine) to a Vietnamese restaurant on Sargent. It was a really nice day all around. The only thing that would have made the day even more perfect is if I’d been able to have a nap. But I fully expect to have lots of naps next week, so I won’t complain.


Here's Spencer working on our first puzzle (thanks, Teresa!) of the Christmas season, which we have since completed. It was a fun 550 piece puzzle that Spencer did a larger percentage of it by himself. Dale got me a 1000 piece one for my birthday, so we'll be starting that one shortly.
The final Christmas crunch is here – I still want to wrap, bake, clean, and shop. Like the defensive guy at Costco told me this morning when I complained that the photo book that was guaranteed to be ready for Christmas had not yet arrived: “There are still two days.” Apparently there are many people waiting for their “guaranteed” orders, so I bet his two days will be more stressful than mine. In true Christmas spirit, I hope they are.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Did anyone else get jewelry from their paper boy

Today was my last day in the office until January 8th. Unfortunately I still have work to do from home, but I’m hoping to get everything wrapped up early next week and not think about work again until January 5th or so. All I want to think about is deciding which pyjamas to wear all day and how much of my puzzle I can get done.

Tonight we enjoyed Christmas concert #2 - Spencer’s school concert. We sat in the balcony so we wouldn’t have to worry about Neve being disruptive, but she was fascinated with the kids and the singing and sat quietly with Chloe the whole time. Neve decided to sit on the floor right by the railing of the balcony, and it just so happened that a group of boys from Chloe’s class were sitting there as well. Next thing I knew, Chloe got up and went to join her sister. The concert was cute and everything, but watching the boys and Chloe was considerably more entertaining. Neve said hi to one of the boys (prompted by Chloe? I’m not sure…) and they turned and saw Chloe. Then they whispered among themselves and looked her way, and much blushing ensued. It’s the beginning of a whole new era. And it will all be documented here in great detail.

Continuing with the ‘highlight’ format from last week: Tuesday we had our church’s Teen Mom program Christmas party at our house. Everything went well and I believe a festive time was had by all. Also on Tuesday, Julie dropped by for a visit. Julie was my roommate when I first moved to Winnipeg, but we go back even further when we used to lend each other books. Actually she had way more books than I did, so mostly I just borrowed hers. She lives in Ottawa now and I hardly ever see her, so thanks for squeezing me in, Julie! Yesterday I was treated to a delightful pre-birthday lunch by a friend, and breakfast at the Radisson this morning with my boss. I have one gift (plus some gift cards) left to buy, most of the gifts are wrapped, and I even had time to watch a Christmas show with the kids one night. I should mention that I didn’t send out Christmas cards this year, so if you’re feeling left out and unloved by us, shake it off. We love you, really we do – we’re just lazy. Christmas concert #3 (in which Spencer gets to say “stupid”) takes place on Sunday night, and that will be the end of our formal obligations.

In our mailbox today, there was a typed note and a pair of earrings from our Free Press carrier. We only get the paper on the weekend, so he/she made a special trip to deliver this. The note said (in part): “I’ve teamed up with my significant other to bring you some holiday warmth a little early this year. These are handmade earrings, made with care in our home, with all the attention we think you deserve. For whatever reason you have to say thanks this holiday season, this is our thanks to you.” It may as well have said, “We are very much hoping for a substantial tip from you this holiday season. With these earrings, we guilt you into it. You have two days to prepare your tip/gift.” I suspect this strategy will be quite effective. Come Saturday, there will be a Tim Horton’s gift card waiting for them in our mailbox (or should I give cash?). If I was the Grinch, I’d go raid all the mailboxes early Saturday morning before the carrier arrives.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Holiday cheer update

Friday night’s party was a big success. Just the right amount of people came, there was plenty of food and drink, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. I love it that there was a mixture of seniors, young families, single people, and teenagers. I invited our eccentric neighbour and also the family that refused to take my cookies when they first moved in, but neither of them showed up. However, the woman whose babysitting arrangement I slept through came by, so that was good. Our block isn’t the type where everyone hangs out together having barbecues and block parties, but the people are friendly and easygoing for the most part. I’m especially happy to have one family nearby with a girl Neve’s age, and a girl next door around Chloe’s age. Spencer has a couple of boy friends in the next block, but somehow much convenience is lost when you have to cross the street.

Other highlights this week:

  • Thursday night was Chloe’s school Christmas concert. She’s now in “middle years,” so they have their own concert. Despite recorders being briefly involved, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a nice change from the “early years” concert where 50 parents hover in the front row with their extended zoom lenses to take pictures of their five year old in his little dress shirt and sweater vest singing a tortured version of Away in a Manger with xylophones and triangles. And yes, I used to be one of those parents (and probably will be again when Neve’s in kindergarten). There were still some doting parents at this concert who videotaped a large portion of the program. Even the part where the whole audience sang “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” They were zooming in on their child. I wonder how often they’ll watch that footage. Maybe if our video camera battery worked, I’d do the same. The plugging-in part makes it complicated.
  • Chloe had a couple of friends over Saturday afternoon for a mini Christmas party. It basically consisted of five hours of giggling, screaming, and whispering (when adults were present). And even some boy talk. It’s quite amusing right now, but I am well aware how un-amusing it could quickly become. I don’t think Chloe will be super boy-crazy, but what do I know. I also took the girls (and Spencer) to Bethlehem Live, which is a show put on by Gateway Church. It was very well done and the kids loved it. It only takes about half an hour to walk through and it’s free. It’s on again Sunday morning and afternoon; I definitely recommend it.
  • There’s been a few nice Christmas celebrating/socializing things this week: we had our work gift exchange game on Thursday (I ended up with a Starbucks gift card – thank you, Ellen), a party Thursday night (after the concert), and more food and cheer at a friend’s on Friday (before the neighbourhood party).
  • And no recent blog entry would be complete without a Hutterite sighting. They were shopping at Costco on Friday.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Enjoying the moment

I’m really struggling with blogging consistency these days. There’s so much going on and it seems this is what gets cut out of the time equation when it’s busy. I’d much rather eliminate dealing with paper piles or clipping the children’s nails (three sets of 20 – no wonder someone’s nails always need trimming), but alas, the poor little blog is always the victim of neglect.

Things seem to be more or less under control as we hurtle towards Christmas. I still have a few small gifts left to buy, but nothing worrisome. I’ve wrapped three presents so far, so that could use some attention but I’m still way ahead of the people who haven’t started their Christmas shopping yet. I love those people. They make me feel so organized.

I’ve had a few epiphanies lately. Epiphanies might be a bit extreme; how about realizations? That sounds considerably less dramatic than epiphanies, but we’ll go with that. I’d been feeling stressed and busy the last month or two, pulled in all different directions. I felt like I was always looking forward to “next week” or “after next Thursday” or “Christmas holidays” – always wishing time away and never enjoying anything. So my new outlook is to enjoy everything I do: work, being with the kids, shopping, wrapping, cleaning, etc. I’m trying to live in the moment, as cliché as that sounds. That’s it for the looking-inside-myself segment for today. (But I enjoyed it!)

We've invited a bunch of the neighbours over Friday night for "holiday cheer," so we'll see how they interpret that. I've put invitations in more than 20 mailboxes. I don't know if I'm more worried that too many people will come or that no one will. I baked three batches of cookies, but I still need to make some squares and buy appetizers.

I was thinking I should have made these cookies for the bake exchange, but I really hate: a) making icing; and b) sitting there and icing cookies with a sticky knife for what seems like hours. My neighbours better appreciate them or I will re-enact the icing process for them until they look at me with awe and wonder. I’ll leave out the part where I lick the knife.



Last Saturday was Gingerbread House Decorating Day. Dale & I did the work; the children ate the candy, and a photo was taken. Next year the process will be repeated. There are several other Christmas activities on our agenda, but it takes a lot of effort to leave the house on cold winter nights. We went to the library after school today and took out a pile of Christmas books and Spencer and I spent some cozy time tonight reading together in the living room. The house was quiet, the Christmas tree was sparkling, and Sarah MacLachlan was singing Christmas carols. A fake fireplace would have been the icing on the cookie.

Oh yeah, and I saw Hutterites at Canadian Tire today. I swear they're stalking me.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Mexico and more hutterites


In case you can't tell, this is me one step closer to going to Mexico this winter. Oh man, I should have made that into a guessing contest. The prize would have been a souvenir sombrero from Mexico. I got vaccinated today for hepatitis or something. We haven’t booked our trip yet, but even the thought of a break in the middle of winter makes days like yesterday and today more bearable. As if my freckly arms should be further exposed to the sun.

I forgot to share some exciting news yesterday (besides the pregnancy). I successfully registered Neve for Kinderballet through the Leisure Guide yesterday. When I tried registering for the last session, I was caught in the middle of a nightmare. This time I had my login ID and was at the computer at 9:00 a.m. on the dot trying to get through. After about five minutes of the “Too Busy” message, I phoned one of the City sports facilities, got through instantly and was able to register over the phone. It was so easy. At noon, I checked the website and the class was already full. I feel so victorious.

I don’t feel quite as victorious with my Christmas shopping. I’m pretty close, but my long day dedicated to shopping has not yet materialized. One of my unsecured gifts is a photo book I’m planning to put together. That’s causing me the most anxiety since I really need to order it this week. I did get to a couple of interesting stores today: Valu Lots (formerly Odd Lots) and Star Books. I hadn’t been to either place in years, and it was quite a treat. Valu Lots has everything from the usual bargain store fare (cheap toys, housewares, and DVDs no one wants) to an $8000 ATV parked in the middle of the store, to a full service pharmacy. They have some good brand name clothing for reasonable prices, and I was excited about the tights and Gymboree socks I bought the girls tights for $1. The Hutterites were there too. They were checking out the DVDs. I was curious to see which ones they were interested in, but my staring was getting obvious.

Star Books has a lot of great books – not so much the regular reading kind, but cookbooks, trivia books, and kids activity books. I must stop shopping though – I’m just adding to existing gifts that were already checked off my list. I'm going to try to stay out of the stores for a few days and only go back when I can be trusted to stick to my list.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Public service announcements

Today I am promoting the wonderful things some of my friends do. I'm sure all of you do wonderful things, so if you let me know what great thing you do, I'll put in a plug for you too. I finally backed up all my photos on CDs this weekend; that's the extent of my greatness.

First up is Teresa. She's the silent blog reader who has taken an oath to never comment. But I will rise above that and promote her business anyway. She runs a concierge-like service called Consider It Done. She can plan parties and dinners and organize corporate events, and at this time of year she also offers help with Christmas shopping and wrapping. She has great taste and everything she does turns out Martha Stewart-like. Guys (my few male readers), if you're stressed out about what to buy your wife for Christmas, give Teresa a call. And women, if you're concerned about what your husband is going to buy you, just pass on Teresa's number or email (below) to him. It's a win-win.

Next is Corinna. Her and a friend have a brand new shop called Lilypad on Etsy where she is selling her bags. You may remember she made me a bag a while back and I use it all the time. I don't know how I used a regular purse before. I love that the bag goes across my shoulders so I have my hands free all the time. It's made me a happier person. The fabrics are gorgeous and the sewing is done so neatly. They have slings and baby blankets and change pads for sale as well. Definitely worth checking out.

And this isn't nearly as interesting, but I thought I'd mention that my office is selling tickets for Winter Wonderland, the drive-through lights thing at the Ex grounds. Tickets at the gate are $15, but if you buy them in advance through my work, they're only $6. The tickets can even be mailed to you for a small fee. I usually buy a few extra to give to teachers, etc. They have skating and mini-donuts, so that's always a draw for us. Although last year it was sickeningly cold but we still went skating. It wasn't really that much fun. But the mini-donuts were excellent. Anyway, if you want reduced-price tickets, let me know and I can set you up.

Lastly, this is for my sister (who also prides herself on never commenting here): she's looking for a gray mouse nose for her church Christmas concert. I don't even know what that is, but if anyone has one that they would be kind enough to lend her, please tell me.

And here are two Neve quotes that I'll forget if I don't write down somewhere:

Lying in bed with me early Saturday morning, she looks out the window and says, "Look! It's getting morning-er."

In the van today, "Mom, is the number four a boy or a girl?"

I'm leaning towards girl. What do you think?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Santa and the princess ball


Despite not quite meeting all my goals, my day was still pretty great. I took the kids to see Santa at Polo Park. They have a very civilized system of giving you a number and telling you how long the wait will be, so even though it was busy we didn’t have the frustration of standing in a long line-up. We shopped and then came back just before our turn. Neve was nervous at first, but she sat with Chloe and all went well. She even told Santa what she wanted for Christmas: a princess ball. When she told me yesterday she was going to ask Santa for a ball, I asked her if she meant a princess ballroom dance or a ball you can catch. She looked at me like I was talking crazy talk and started giggling, “The kind you catch! You can’t buy a dancing ball at a store!” It was like it was the silliest thing she’d ever heard. I just didn’t know where she got the idea that she wanted a princess ball. I went to Toys R Us tonight and was very relieved to find a 3-pack of princess balls (two rounds ones plus a football). I was worried I’d have to search eBay for it. A random observation: every time I go to Toys R Us, there are Hutterites shopping there. I guess they’re not into handcrafted wooden toys anymore.

Back to Santa. I paid for the picture with interac, and the tipping option came up. Is that weird? I automatically skipped the tip before it really registered, but later I thought I probably should have because the helper elf remembered us from last year. But the quality of the photo was even worse than last year (and it was bad last year), which made me feel less guilty for not tipping. Hopefully Santa won’t take it personally and will still bring Spencer the giant Lego set that we’re not buying him.

After our visit with Santa, we got pretzels and neon orange process cheese dip from Pretzelmaker for lunch. The mall was crowded, but the kids were cooperative and patient and I managed to buy six Christmas presents, which I totally didn’t expect.

I wanted to make clay tree ornaments with the kids this afternoon to hang on our outside Christmas tree, but no one seemed very interested so we made cookies instead. I got out all the Christmas decorations in anticipation for getting our Christmas tree tonight, but the tree lot was closed despite signage indicating the contrary. I’ve never before put up our tree in November, so maybe it’s a sign that I shouldn’t start now. We ordered sushi for dinner and then we all went skating at the community centre. It sounds so simple, but I spent a large part of the day getting ready. I had to make sure the kids all had skates and helmets that fit, I dropped mine and Dale’s skates off to be sharpened this afternoon, and I organized all the outerwear. Getting the kids laced up and head-protected at the arena did not put me in a good mood and I swore in my head that we would not go skating again until the children can all tie up their own skates. However, it was actually quite pleasant once we were on the ice. Neve went from not being able to stand on the ice at all to skating/walking with skates all by herself. She could even stand up on her own when she fell. So since we all have the equipment, I think we’ll try to make it a regular thing.

And that was our November 28th. Hope you had a good day too.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Expectations and ruffles

I just finished the last of a flurry of work projects that have been consuming me for the last couple of weeks and although I thought I’d feel even lighter and free-er than I do, I still feel pretty swell. I promise I will now stop complaining about how busy I am. I’m a little worried I’ll have nothing left to talk about. Luckily there are a few more projects on the horizon, so I’m sure I’ll resume the whining at a later date.

To celebrate the load being lifted off my shoulders, I am wearing my sweats and eating popcorn and watching back-to-back episodes of The Office. I feel somewhat guilty because instead of choosing to spend time with my children whom I haven’t seen all day, I put Ratatouille on in the basement and left them to their own devices. I’ll make it up to them tomorrow; they have no school and we have a full day of fun planned. If everyone cooperates and things go as they should, I’ll blog about it tomorrow. My silence will indicate things did not live up to my sky high expectations.

My Christmas shopping deadline of December first is fast approaching and I still have quite a few gifts left to buy. But I have a pretty good idea of what I want to buy, so I think I could finish up in one miraculous, productive day. A long day with midnight madness hours, fuelled by Arby’s burgers.

Neve was playing in the tub for a long time tonight. Suddenly she noticed her prune-like fingers and said with alarm, "What are these ruffles?"

Sunday, November 23, 2008

How did a whole week go by?

I’m still here. I’ve been trying to post something all week, but spare time has been elusive. It’s been one of those weeks where there’s been pressure from every angle; I’m a little stressed out, but I guess it’s better to have everything condensed. I’m dreading this next week too, but after that I hope to have time to just sit and listen to Christmas carols and stare into space as drool drips from my half open mouth. Oh wait, that’s what I’m doing now, minus the nothing to do and the Christmas carols. I’m trying to do some work and nothing is coming together for me. It doesn’t help when Chloe comes into the study to pound out her “Little Indian Brave” song on the piano at frequent intervals, and Spencer is on the computer, wanting me to help him “go on a dot com that Eric was on the other day but I don’t know what it was called.” Neve keeps coming in every five minutes to ask if she can have another orange. I swear that girl could keep the mandarin orange industry afloat single-handedly. Oh well, it’s a good reminder that I shouldn’t try working when the children are awake and underfoot.

The highlight of my week was getting a new stereo after years of hating our old one. It was enormous and awkward; our new one is a iPod docking station with a CD player. Here are the before and after pictures.




Whenever the children are not interrupting my work, they are gathered around this listening to music. The CDs in our old stereo used to skip whenever anyone jumped within 20 feet of it, and for some reason that freaked the children out beyond explanation. So they never listened to music. I’m still in the process of putting all our CDs on the iPod so I’m getting a little sick of the limited selections so far, but we’re heading in the right direction. We also bought a iPod car adapter thing; our CD player in the van has been broken for almost a year, which is a blessing in many ways, but now we can listen to Christmas music or other music that Neve deems appropriate.

Next up is new, narrower shelving for the living room. I also want an electric fireplace but Dale is fiercely adverse to fake fireplaces. I'm hoping he comes around.

I can’t really remember much else about the week, except that Dale and I went out for dinner last night for his birthday. We went to Star Grill, which is one of my favourite restaurants (even though this is only the second time we’ve been there). It’s a small place with a great atmosphere and amazing food. I had lemon thai basil tortellini and Dale had some kind of BBQ shrimp dish. His birthday is actually today, so we’re having his family over for angel food cake with raspberries and whipped cream tonight. That’s almost as good as Las Vegas.

I should go clean up and make whipped cream, so I’ll leave you with a recent video of Neve.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My bedroom's cleaner than your bedroom

I’m not sure how it’s suddenly Sunday night. I’m scared one of these days it will suddenly be Christmas Eve and I’ll have no idea how that happened. I’ve bought a few gifts, including all of my children’s main gifts, but there are still many items on my list to be checked off. My goal is to be finished by December 1st. I’ll let you know how that goes.

There are three noteworthy things to report about this weekend.

I’m most excited about the first one. Dale has turned over a new leaf and is making a conscious effort to help out more around the house. He is doing a stellar job and I am much happier with him and with things in general because of it. I’ve been feeling weighed down by how unorganized our house is, and so overwhelmed I didn’t know where to start. Dale came up with a plan that breaks our house into six rooms/areas:
  1. the storage room
  2. our bedroom
  3. the study
  4. the living room
  5. the basement rec room
  6. the upstairs

The kitchen’s supposed to be in there as well; I’m kind of guessing because I don’t have the list in front of me, but you get the idea. So every Saturday, we both spend an hour or two cleaning the room of the week. After six weeks, we start over at the top of the list. Last weekend we cleaned out the storage room, and I regret not taking before and after photos. Three garbage bags went to Salvation Army and another three went to the garbage. The first three should probably have gone to the garbage too – I just find it so much easier on my packrat conscience to donate stuff then throw it out. But when you feel you have to drop the bags off and run before anyone opens them and sees the junk you brought, it’s probably a sign that the goods are somewhat lacking in quality. But the storage room transformation is stunning. There is still more we could clean up, but we’ll have another crack at it in six weeks. This weekend we did our bedroom – moving furniture and vacuuming under the bed, washing the curtains, and clearing off the dresser. It feels so amazing. This is probably not nearly as exciting to you as it is to me, but I can’t believe how much less stress I feel. Next week: the living room!

Number two on the list is the Santa Claus Parade. My office is on the parade route and we have a boardroom on the second floor where we can watch the parade from. Some family and friends joined us and we watched in warmth and had our own little party going on. I think we lost out on some of the atmosphere and sights and sounds, but we were warm. The kids loved it and Neve was so excited to see Santa.


The third high point of the weekend was Chloe’s gymnastics show this afternoon. It was low key and relaxed and Neve and I had fun watching her (Dale and Spencer were at karate). I am so lame with videotaping; I missed Chloe’s cartwheel on the beam and only ended up with seven seconds of footage.


I’ll leave you with some kid-talk…

At the gymnastics show, Neve was looking at the lady (a complete stranger) sitting next to her, and when the lady looked back at her, Neve said, “Do you remember me?” Three year olds really do believe they’re the centre of the universe.

A little while later in a quiet moment, Neve said loudly: “Mom! Sing me a song from Mamma Mia.”

Then there’s Spencer. I was helping out with Sunday School today and all the classes were practicing Christmas concert songs together. The teacher was describing one of the songs and asked the kids what they would do if they saw angels singing in the sky. Spencer said, “I would get the biggest …..” and pretended to be shooting a gun at the sky. (I cut him off before he could say ‘gun’). I spend a lot of time worrying about what his teachers must think. On the plus side, at least he raised his hand before speaking.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

King for a day


My only goal tonight when I got home from work was to stay home and do nothing (except watch The Office). But that dream was shattered by this:

Spencer: I want to be a knight for the Fairy Tale Ball tomorrow.

Me: For the what?

Spencer: The Fairy Tale ball. We all have to dress up as fairy tale characters.

I love Spencer’s teacher with all my heart, but it seems like all the projects for the year have been condensed into November. So far this month, Spencer has had to build a boat from scrap materials, and do a community project which involved walking around the community, taking pictures and filling out a worksheet. We have an ethnic potluck coming up, as well as Me in a Can (which is less interesting than it sounds) due by the end of the month.

And then there’s the fairy tale ball. I do recall hearing about it, but November 14th seemed so far away at the time. I even signed up to bring napkins and cups (much easier than the dreaded veggie tray that no one eats anyway) which I had totally forgotten about. Spencer thought it would be a great idea to make a knight costume tonight. I felt differently. I suggested some costumes that we already had: pirate, cat (puss in boots?), princess. He thought those were all stupid ideas. So since I had to go buy napkins anyway, off we went to Party Stuff. Dale was working tonight, so I had to take all the children. The bright part in this story is that Party Stuff is actually one of my all-time favourite stores (stay tuned for a future post about my top ten stores – I know, so exciting!). First thing we saw when we walked in was boxes and boxes of costumes that were being cleared out for $10 each. Actually that was the second thing we saw. The first thing was a very chesty mannequin modeling a ballerina outfit. The girls thought this was the most beautiful thing they’d ever seen. Most of the costumes were … let’s just say not appropriate for fairy tale day. Well, they might be somebody’s happy ending, but that’s a whole different story.

As is often the case, nothing suitable was to be found in the clearance boxes, but we did find a king costume elsewhere in the store. It was $20, which is a bargain compared to having to make a knight’s helmet and armour out of silver-spray-painted cardboard. We also found cute fairy tale napkins with a picture of a crown-wearing frog, but since Spencer thought they were too girlie, we also bought a package with dinosaurs on them. I know dinosaurs aren’t particularly fairy tale-ish, but it’s not like he’s going to be docked marks because of that or anything.

Eventually we got home, the kids were bathed and put to bed, and I watched The Office. I was secretly very thrilled with myself for pulling it off. But just now, I was sifting through school papers and I see that Spencer’s class is decorating gingerbread cookies tomorrow. Spencer’s supposed to bring Skittles.
The thrill is fading.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

We wish you a stupid Christmas


Yesterday I took the girls to the mall (Spencer was at my parents overnight). Chloe has yearned for a second build-a-bear for some time, so when she got a coupon in the mail this week and promised to spend her own money, I finally gave in. The whole build-a-bear industry seems excessive to me, but I admit Chloe plays with her build-a-frog a lot. Spencer has two build-a-bears (one was from a birthday party) which he completely ignores, despite the fact that he named one of them “Love.” Anyway, the short version is that she now has a lovely new bear (only $6 with the coupon!) and is on cloud nine. There’s actually not a long version, unless you count the 30 minutes spent deciding on an outfit.

The Build-A-Bear store was really empty, but the rest of the mall was not. I rarely go to St. Vital, so maybe it’s always like that, but there were a lot of people. Most kids didn’t have school, so I’m sure that was part of the reason. My least favourite thing about the mall yesterday was going for lunch in the food court. All three of us wanted food from different vendors and all of the lineups were crazy long, right into the seating area. So there I was, boiling hot in my cat-hair jacket, trying to balance the tray from the first place while standing in line in the second. Neve was exhausted and whiny and clinging to my leg or lying on the floor. I got Chloe to stand in the third line, so when I got the food from the second place, I took her place in line and she went to find us a table. It all worked out in the end, but I was so hot and grumpy and hungry that I vowed to never … what? ... never go to a food court again? Not likely, but next time we will all get food from the same place. I felt great pity for the workers, especially the ones who have to clean up trays and wheel around their big cleaning carts. At least they weren’t wearing cat-hair jackets. Oh, plus my food sucked and I only ate half of it.

I do have to say that even though I’m not normally a fan of early Christmas decorating, this year the snow makes it feel right. I even got out our Christmas books and CDs this weekend. Another sign of Christmas: the Sunday School Christmas play. Chloe and Spencer both have one-line speaking parts this year and are thrilled. Spencer’s line goes something like this: “That’s stupid! It’s made out of wood and it can’t speak!” This is going to be his best Christmas ever because he gets to say ‘stupid’ in front of the whole church.

Friday, November 07, 2008

What is this powdery white stuff and why are my feet always wet and cold


Getting out of the daily blogging habit was a lot easier than I thought it would be. Because of the time change and a sore throat, I have slept more this week than I have in the last six months. One night I went to bed at 9:00. That felt like the longest night ever. I woke up thinking it was morning, but it was only 10:30 pm. I woke up every 90 minutes or so all night long. That was a good lesson for me to go to bed later.

We woke up to the first snow of the season this morning. Even though it happens every single year, it’s still a shock to the system, especially when it was 19 degrees on Monday. You can tell I’m a true Winnipegger – instead of being overjoyed about the gorgeous weather, I’m complaining that it made the snow seem even worse. Actually I was pretty overjoyed about the nice weather. Unfortunately that’s all behind us now. But life goes on as usual; we went to Storytime today and driving was no problem. The streets were pretty empty which was nice. I have a brilliant friend (is there any other kind?) who gets appointments with specialists who have long waiting lists on days like this because they have so many cancellations. I was trying to think of a specialist I could go see today, but surprisingly, I came up blank. It’s not like I couldn’t benefit from just about any form of professional help.

The first snow always makes me scramble for kids’ outerwear in a mad panic as we’re trying to get out the door. This year I thought I was so organized by going through snow pants and parkas and boots. But somehow we’re still missing major pieces. Chloe went to school in boots that are three sizes too big for her and Spencer wore gloves that are man-sized. I was so pleased with the bright pink hat, neck warmer and mitts I bought Neve a while back to match her pink puffy vest, but I forgot to take into account that eventually she would need to wear her winter jacket with sleeves, which happens to be bright red. I might just buy a different jacket to match the accessories. I just realized I have never – not even once – bought a snowsuit for any of my kids. I have bought the occasional parka, but we get so many hand-me-down ski pants and jackets and boots that we can usually find something appropriate (thank you, hand-me-down suppliers!). My kids don’t complain about it, so I’d rather spend the money on myself. Yeah, right. There is not enough money around to buy all the things I need for winter. At the top of my list are winter boots or some other snow-appropriate footwear. As I was standing ankle deep in slushy puddles this morning (something I like to do regularly), I realized that canvas shoes suck in winter. I may as well go barefoot. Then there’s my jacket. It’s down-filled, and the feathers have been seeping through the lining ever since I bought it. Except the feathers look exactly like cat hair, and since my parka was very cheap, it may well be stuffed with cat. The feathers/cat hair stick to everything I wear, so I have to wear a hoodie as a second lining. One last bit of complaining for today: snowy, wet clothes and boots and mitts all over the floor and stepping in melted puddles of snow with my socks on. I dislike that a lot.



The children were very excited about the snow. I shoveled the sidewalk while Neve played outside. It was actually kind of fun and I would have shoveled more, but I had to save up my strength for my pushup routine later today. I’m thrilled to announce I am indeed up to nine pushups, although I much prefer to say I did 35 in less than 10 minutes. Anyone else have anything to report?

Our baby friend Cate was over this morning and Neve was quite insistent that Cate should wear a crown. In my experience, Cate doesn’t love hats of any kind and a sharp poky crown was no exception. But she went along with it quite graciously, although it never stayed on long. Neve looks downright wild with her crazed hair and her dress falling off.



This picture is blurry, but I think Spencer's glee still comes across clearly. Hope you have a great, snowy, cozy weekend.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Day 31 (I still have more to say)


We are at the height of the princess phase. At least I don’t think it can go any higher than this. Besides the Snow White dress on Monday, which I made her try on for Halloween, she wore these outfits the entire day everywhere we went. She is still doing it this week, but I’m hoping once it gets colder, I can convince her to wear something from her dresser or her overloaded closet. There are many good outfits going to waste.

Speaking of the weather, according to my thermometer it’s currently 17 degrees outside. The weather was gorgeous all weekend. On Saturday we got all of our leaves raked and bagged. My neighbour dealt with his leaves the same day. Except he used his friggin’ freakin’ leaf blower to blow all his leaves onto the street, which had just been swept by city crews the day before. The garbage men are probably thankful.

How is everyone dealing with the time change? My baby niece, Bella, woke up for the day at 4:00 a.m. on Sunday, happy and ready to play. Neve had been waking up between 7:00 and 7:30 every morning before the time change, so I was worried about Sunday morning. But luckily she must be programmed by the same satellite signals that automatically change the time on our wireless thermometer. She woke up around 7:15 (the new time) as usual. Now if only that same satellite could program her to stop biting her siblings.

I happily invite anyone who’s interested to join the pushup challenge. We’ll have a little pushup support group. Dale got a booklet with the program from someone at work, but you can get it online at onehundredpushups.com. You do it three times a week, and it only takes about 10 minutes each time. I’m curious to see how many pushups Stephen can eke out. I hope with all my heart that it’s less than eight.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Day 30 - The End

In keeping with my tendency to condense my exercise into one day, today I went for a run AND started my new push-up program. Dale started this training program a while back (though he’s currently “taking a break” due to a neck injury) to do 100 push-ups in six weeks. A few other people are also doing the program so being the follower that I am, I didn’t want to be left out. On the first day, you test yourself to see how many push-ups you can do. I did a grand total of eight. My MUCH older sister did way more than that – I think she did around twenty. (Jan, correct me if I’m wrong. Oh, but that would mean you’d actually have to comment on my blog.) That result determines which schedule you follow, so I’m starting pretty much at the bottom. I thought I’d share this on here so I’ll be motivated to keep going and amaze you all with my ability to eventually do 100 pushups non-stop. If that day ever comes, I will be amazed myself. I’ll even post a video of it. Or not.

I finally baked my bake exchange contribution just hours before the event on Saturday. Darla hosted a great party as always and I came home with baking that was far superior to mine. I feel a little guilty but I’ll get over it. This is what 144 cookies look like.


And that brings us to the end of the 30 day challenge. This has become a bit of a habit, but I'm trying to find a little more balance in my life and my computer time is definitely weighing down the scales right now. I'll definitely continue to post, but not every day. Thanks to everyone for reading; I love you all!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Day 29

And now for the Halloween report. I was too sugared up on Wonderbars to write last night.

Amazingly and thankfully, the weather was very civilized for a Winnipeg Halloween night. No parkas, snow pants, or hats were needed. I also love that the time change doesn’t take effect until after Halloween – it’s one hour warmer and it’s nice not starting out in the pitch darkness.

Neve wore a white princess dress. She misplaced her crown and magic princess mirror just before we left and we couldn’t find it anywhere (still haven’t). We found an alternate crown but it didn’t stay on, so she didn’t wear anything on her head. I wished I had done her hair fancy or something.

Spencer was Indy. He was supposed to wear khaki pants, but he forgot and wore his jeans instead. We had a talk about whip mis-use, but he was so focused on the pursuit of candy that it wasn’t even an issue.

Chloe wore the business woman outfit we put together the other day including the Snow White hair, plus she added my old Royal Bank name tag (I save everything) which was a lovely touch. Her friend was dressed similarly, and everyone asked what they were dressed as. Their career evolved throughout the evening; at first they said “business women”, then they started telling people they were “business agents”, then just “agents” and finally “real estate agents.”

We had a great night; friends brought pizza for dinner and the moms and kids went trick or treating and the guys handed out candy. Neve made it 1½ blocks and back and the rest of us went a little further. When we got home everyone dumped out all their candy on the floor and went crazy. We let the kids eat as much as they want on Halloween night, which we might want to reconsider. Spencer’s prayer last night was: “Dear Jesus, please help me not to be sick and help me not to get diabetes.”

I resisted the urge to buy more candy, and fortunately it turned out okay. We had more kids than usual, but a bunch of them were teenagers we didn’t know and who didn’t bother to dress up so Dale only gave them one mini chocolate bar each. I guess it was enough to take us off their egging list.

So it was a successful Halloween all around. The children are very pleased with their bounty and I’m thankful I have an effective threat that should last til about Christmas.

Chloe's pumpkin


Spencer's pumpkin


My masterpiece



Our first trick-or-treaters. Jim & Sabrina and Bella arrived in their vintage Cadillac, making quite the scene.


The garbage can at the end of the evening

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Day 28

I’ve got nothing today. But I’m determined to write something because the end of the 30 day challenge is so close I can almost taste it. I just hope it doesn’t taste like chicken. I’m hoping it tastes like Wonderbars, which is one of my favourite Halloween treats. Speaking of treats, I have enough treats for about 50 kids and I’m suddenly panicking that I might need more. In the ten years we’ve lived here, we’ve always had around 30 kids, but you never know. A bus load of kids from Starbuck or somewhere might show up this year. Neve always drops out of trick-or-treating early, so as long as the Starbuck kids come later, we can give them the un-popular candy from Neve’s bag.

We carved our pumpkins tonight. Chloe went the no-carve route with her pumpkin (I took a picture of the end result but I’m too lazy to download/upload it) and Spencer designed a “scary face” for his pumpkin. It doesn’t look at all scary to me, but he was pleased. I saw this great idea in Family Fun magazine where they inserted bolts into the pumpkin to look like Frankenstein, but Spencer didn’t think it was as great as I did. (It’s so frustrating when the children don’t like my ideas. Chloe is working on a school project and I have so many fabulous ideas and suggestions, but she doesn’t like any of them. So I wash my hands of it. Well, I’m trying, but my hands really want to get dirty.) Luckily I got a pumpkin all to myself so I carved a spider in a web. Hopefully it looks better in the dark. I love carving pumpkins, but they never end up like I imagined in my head.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Day 27

Just got home from the movies and since I want to get to bed at a reasonable hour, I’ll test the “picture (video) is worth a thousand words” theory and post a video of Neve watching Benjamen watching the video of Neve dancing. Notice how Neve furrows her brow when Benjamen is asked if Neve is his girlfriend (you have to listen carefully), and her relief when he says yes.

Your turn, K.r.y.m.u.s.a family.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Day 26


I got a little carried away with Photoshop tonight. I rarely use it on my pictures other than to take away red-eye or a zit. Okay, and maybe to remove the occasional love handle. But I haven’t yet stooped to smoothing away my wrinkles or adding cleavage. You don’t really want to hear, “You look so … different … in real life.” Unless it’s in a good way. Although I’ll probably only be around for another forty to fifty years; the pictures will probably last longer. Except if they’re stuck in my computer, which will be defunct long before I am. Here’s a little confession. When we got our first digital camera (may in rest in peace), I VOWED (yes, in capitals) not to be like everyone else with a digital camera and stop getting prints made. I kept up for a while, but eventually my vow was broken and I have not printed out photos since August 2006 (besides the occasional trip or special occasion). TWO YEARS. I have thousands of pictures on my computer. Some of them are saved on CDs, but most are just on my hard drive. I’m so far behind that instead of feeling overwhelmed or guilty, I’ve decided that this is my new system. The photos are all sorted by date; it’s easy to find one if I need it. So I’m saving money, time, and storage space. If I would at least get them saved onto CDs, I think I’d get over my uneasiness over the whole situation.

Back to Photoshop. I was playing around with an online tutorial and discovered a whole new world of sharpening/brightening effects. I’ve probably overdone it on these pictures, but they’re my first attempts. If I can’t even be organized enough to save or print out my pictures, I don’t know why I’m dabbling in this, but I just am.

BEFORE
AFTER


Notice how one girl is wearing a parka and one is wearing a fairy costume with bare legs.

Off I go to bed to traumatize Dale with my night guard.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Day 25

Today was Halloween Costume Coordinating Day at our house. I thought I’d take some pictures before everything’s covered in outwear on Halloween night.

Neve has been saying for weeks that she wants to be Snow White, but she’s exercised her 3-year-old prerogative to change her mind. She now wants to wear a ballet costume to her pre-school Halloween party tomorrow and our standby cat costume on Halloween. I had to bribe her to try on her Snow White costume so I could at least take a picture. That plunging neckline would be a bit chilly; I guess the cat costume is a smarter choice. Maybe the 3-year-old is smarter than I give her credit for.


Spencer is Indiana Jones, although he looks like a cross between a pimp and a Hassidic Jew. Someone is lending us an authentic bullwhip to complete the outfit, so I’m sure that will change everything.


Chloe decided to be a businesswoman, based solely on her desire to show off her cell phone (our old non-serviced one). When Neve discarded her Snow White hair, Chloe decided to add that to her costume. If anyone sees any other Snow Whites with cell phones on Friday night, let me know.