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?