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 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