Friday, July 30, 2010

Nine overused words of the week

I don’t know if you’re as tired of hearing “I can’t believe it’s already the end of July!” as I am. Okay fine, I admit to saying it a few times myself even though I feel strongly about not spending time talking about time. But facts are facts and in case you haven’t looked at your calendar for a while, today is indeed the second last day of July. I don’t know why, but I haven’t enjoyed this summer like I usually do. Work has been busier than it normally is in July and I’ve been struggling with organizing my work time. It’s impossible to stick to my self-scheduled hours when the kids are home so I do bits and pieces here and there, which means I spend way more time thinking about work than actually doing it. My goal for August is to work early when the kids are up and again in the evening when they are in bed. I’m not a morning person, so this isn’t a perfect system but it will be better than my current state of disorganization. So today may be the second last day of July, but it’s also the first day of the rest of my new improved summer.

Speaking of work, I spent the day at the office today for the first time since June. Being the Friday of a long weekend, there were only about twelve people in the entire downtown area. And one of them was lying face down in Old Market Square at lunch. Two more were holding him down while a third called the police. I didn’t see what happened, and I didn’t stick around to see the outcome. I’m always secretly scared of being accused of something that I had nothing to do with, so I left. That probably makes me look more guilty. Anyway, I realized I love going into the office. It’s like my day off. Nobody is whining because I’m making them go outside. No one is nagging me to thread their shrinky-dinks (that we forgot to punch a hole in before we shrunk them) onto a necklace. No one is asking me which tank top looks better with her shorts. The few staff that were in the office today left early; someone asked if I was as well. On the contrary, I would've stayed all evening if I wasn’t sort of scared of the Smith Street parkade after dark. That’s two fears I’ve admitted to in one paragraph – look at me being all raw and honest.

But luckily, because of my fear I went home and we had a great evening. For the first time ever, we went to Ballet in the Park. It was actually better than I thought it would be (I'm all about the low expectations). The kids enjoyed it too - Spencer didn't even complain. It was a beautiful evening and we had a lovely bike ride to and from the park.

Neve and the neighbour kids dancing

Okay, so Spencer wasn't exactly riveted. But he finished reading The Lightning Thief for the third time, so that's awesome. I guess.


The neighbour boy got much delight out of showing everyone a naked Barbie butt. The rest of us got quite a bit of delight from that too.


There were several things I kept meaning to post about, but as I looked through recent photos just now, it doesn't look like we've been up to much. The kids were all in day camp this past week - Chloe in volleyball camp, Spencer in a full day camp at church, and Neve at a half day church camp (I helped out at that one). All those early mornings combined with ridiculously late bedtimes has left us all exhausted. Last weekend we went to the Quarry (with the same neighbours); here are a couple of pictures from that. It was the hottest beach day yet.

Spencer proudly displaying his wrist band (to prove he swam his laps)

And a final story…

There’s a song on my iPod that has the word sh*t in it. Spencer is particularly fond of this song, mainly because of the “swear” (I know, we’re awesome parents). The other day he asked Neve, “What’s your favourite thing about that song?”

“The swears,” she said.

“Which one?” he asked (he wants her to say it because he believes she will get in trouble).

“The s-word.”

“Neve! Do you even know what the s-word is?” (still trying)

“Yes!” she says indignantly. It’s “school.”

Monday, July 19, 2010

Rushing River / Cabin

We got back from our mini-holiday last night. We camped for three nights at Rushing River, then went to my sister’s cabin for one night. We had a great time. This was my first time at Rushing River and I wasn’t disappointed. I had to get up at 5:00 a.m. or something to book the campsite back in February, but it was definitely Worth It. Our site was right on the water; the kids could swim right there, and when we unzipped the window flaps of our tent, we could see the lake while we were lying on our air mattress. That’s mainly because our new air mattress is pretty much as high as a real bed. It felt like we were the king and queen while our lowly servant children slept on the roots and rocks below us. Except that an air mattress is still an air mattress and it still deflated slightly during the night and Dale and I still rolled into the middle. Good times. The weather was pleasant, but it would have been nice to have a little more sun and a little more heat. I can’t complain though; the only rain was a few brief afternoon sprinkles which didn’t affect us at all. The kids still swam every day and we were outside the whole time. We went with two other families; the kids are all similar ages and they had a great time. Except for a little friend for Neve, there were no other girls so Chloe felt a little outnumbered. She was no match for a crazy six-pack of boys. It’s not hard to imagine what the boys are plotting here (Chloe's on the air mattress):


Neve and her friend loved floating around in the dinghy. It was tied to a tree, so they had a delightful time rowing around in circles. Did I mention how awesome it was to camp right beside the lake? The two little girls had so much fun together. They loved running back and forth between our campsites, playing Barbies and pretend. Neve got her hair stuck in the tent zipper at least four times, and her friend once or twice as well. It was pretty comical. Next time I'm going to bring a pair of scissors to keep by the door.

We rented a canoe one day and explored some islands. We went on hikes, had fires every night, ate lots of smores and chips, and watched the kids swim. We hope to do it again next year; I’ll have to prepare myself for another early morning to get the same campsite.

On Saturday, we went to Kenora for a picnic lunch and then headed to Bob & Janet’s cabin. The weather wasn’t great Saturday, but Sunday was a perfect day. We spent the whole day either in the water or on the dock. I love it at the cabin, but my kids love it even more. Spencer can’t get enough of the boat or tubing. Chloe was the dark horse this year (I don’t even know if that makes sense). Before this summer, she refused to go in the boat, was too scared to go tubing, and wouldn’t even consider waterskiing. This weekend, she did all three completely on her own initiative. The waterskiing really surprised me; she did awesome and got up right away. Spencer briefly attempted waterskiing, but tubing is his thing. He couldn’t get enough. He literally shakes with excitement. Or maybe that’s fright. I went on a gentle tube ride with Neve (she wasn’t impressed. She said she’s not doing it again until she’s 94), and was expecting the same slow pace on my next ride with Chloe, but no. I flew off a couple of times and am feeling it in my arms and neck today. I won’t be doing that at 94; maybe not even at 49.

The long, hot shower in my own bathroom last night was so heavenly that it made up for all the depressing piles of dirty laundry, wet towels, grimy bedding and leftover food. We got most of it cleaned up, but I’ll probably be dealing with residual mess until it’s time to pack for the next excursion. So really I shouldn’t bother.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Home sweet home

After a magical, peaceful week which by now seems like it never happened, the kids came home Friday night. We picked up the girls at my parents first. They had a lot of fun – eating berries and ice cream for breakfast, playing in my parents’ camper, helping paint the playhouse, going to the MCC thrift store, and having their baths on the trampoline with soap and water. Good country fun; it doesn’t even cost anything. Well, except for the money Chloe spent at the thrift store on a dress and high-heeled flip flops, which she feels is the best $4 anyone’s ever spent. So it was a great success; my parents seemed to have had fun as well, or at least they restrained themselves from celebrating until we were off the driveway.


Then we rushed straight to camp to retrieve Spencer. His eyes lit up when he saw us, but then he remembered he had to be cool in front of his cabin mates. He did eventually let us hug him, and was very happy to be coming home. He told me he had been homesick and that a few times “tears were in my eyes and I had to wipe them away.” He was very excited about all the activities they had done, so I’m happy he had fun anyway. He said he didn’t tell anyone about being homesick, nor did he tell anyone he couldn’t open the buckle on his suitcase, so the only access he had to his clothes all week were through the zippers on the side. Nice.

Stopped at Syl's on the way home

After being away, everyone was ready for some home time, so we had a very quiet weekend. We went for a nice bike ride during which no one complained, which is a first. We also had a family from the neighbourhood over for dinner Saturday night. They are from Iran, but are working here temporarily; they have a boy in Neve’s class at school. Communicating was difficult; there was much lost in translation. I had asked about their dietary restrictions and thought chicken was okay. It turns out the chicken must be blessed first, so that was too bad. The irony is that I almost never cook meat; I just wasn’t sure what else to make. They ate a lot of potatoes. And we got out some yogurt from the fridge. Best meal ever. Loud too - Dale thought maybe they would understand English better if he shouted. I kept kicking him under the table, but he didn’t get it. It took all my willpower to keep a straight face. Besides that, it was a really nice evening. We ate outside and they video taped it, along with an entire train that passed by during the meal. They are a very nice family and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. If we understood correctly, they have five homes in the Middle East and we are invited to all of them. We’ll have to practice speaking at a normal volume first.

Stops along the way on our bike ride

We are on holidays the second half of this week and are going camping. It always sounds like such a good idea far in advance. Even at this point, it’s not too bad. But when we’re dirty, soggy, bug-bitten, and crabby from sleeping on leaky air mattresses – that’s when I always vow to never do it again. Too bad my memory sucks.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Organization


Things continue to be deathly quiet over here. I can't believe how much I can get done with no children around. It's amazing - I put something away, and it STAYS there! No one needs a snack or help finding something or their hair brushed. Today was the first meal I cooked. I haven't washed dishes since Monday, and there are still only three things to wash. I haven't run the dishwasher, done a load of laundry, or nagged anyone all week. On the flip side, I've gotten very few hugs, no cards or pictures drawn for me, and I've only laughed twice (maybe). It's been a wonderful week, but I can't wait for everyone to be home tomorrow night. I'm hoping we will all have a new appreciation for each other. I also hope, completely unrealistically, that the house can stay clean. I'd probably need another three weeks of no children to get everything organized - who am I kidding, more like three years - but some impressive progress was made.

My friend Shannon spent the afternoon here yesterday, cleaning and organizing the playroom closet. I told Chloe that I was going to convert it into my home office while she was at Grandma and Poppa's, but I guess my heart was softened by her absence and with Shannon taking charge, I decided to give the kids one last chance. Shannon is launching a business doing exactly this - organizing and beautifying spaces - and I'm helping her by providing frightening spaces, of which we have no shortage. Every square inch of her giant house is the epitome of organization, and so pretty to look at as well. I can highly recommend her services; she's helped me with many design/organizing spaces before, including the living room. Sometimes a fresh perspective is needed, especially when there are problem areas that are constantly messy and chaotic.

In the playroom closet, she worked strictly with what I had. I'm tempted to go and buy matching baskets for the shelf on top, and paint it all a fun colour, etc., but I'm VERY pleased with what was accomplished in just a few hours.

Here's the before picture again:


Here's the After:
I don't know if Shannon would approve of the pictures I hung up; I just wanted you to get the idea. The great thing about this is that it's not just tidied up, like I usually do (by "usually," I mean about twice a year). Whenever I cleaned it, it would go back to its messy state within a few days. But now there's a system, and a spot for EVERYTHING, labelled and all. There is now absolutely no excuse for not keeping it tidy. I'll take a picture of it again in a week and let you know how it's working out.


All that purging/cleaning/organizing got me motivated, so today I cleaned Neve's room. I didn't get to the closet, but I organized some of her toys that previously had no home. This is the cleanest it's been in a very long time.



And lastly, here is my deck furniture. I am happy to say "Stain deck furniture" has now been checked off my list. At least until next year, when I will try to purchase a less orangey hue. I should probably add "Stain deck" to my list, but I don't want to go there.


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Not a creature was stirring...except the fruit flies


Spencer is at camp and the girls are at my parents for the week. All this quietness during summer vacation feels very odd. I’ve thought of many things to do during my free time, but very little has actually happened yet. I went strawberry picking yesterday morning with my mom and the girls, so the rest of the day was spent working with the berries. I made lots of jam and other stuff, and the rest Dale and I are eating in every way, shape and form possible. I left a few on the counter because I didn’t know what else to do with them and the fruit flies were thrilled. How does a person get rid of them? (the fruit flies, not the strawberries).

Besides working, I am also hoping to finish staining the deck furniture (I’m scared that will be my summer-long goal), clean/organize the playroom, save all my digital photos onto discs, and fit in some bike rides. So far, I have just been walking around thinking about all the things I should be doing. One thing I did last week that I’m very proud of is clean off the counter where the school stuff was piled. Check out these before and after pics.


BEFORE:



AFTER: (with the help of a big black opaque plastic friend)



Here's a closer picture of one of Neve's pieces of artwork from the pile. It was part of a big scene displayed on her classroom wall. When I came into her class to see it, I asked her what the red squiggles were. She made me bend down so she could whisper in my ear, "It's listening to an i-Pod."


This is the before picture of the craft closet, which I hope to purge of all garbage and then get Shannon’s help with organizing it.

Back to camp. Spencer got it into his head a while back that he wanted to go to camp this summer. I was skeptical; he likes being at home, he dislikes structure, and he’s not especially fond of outdoor activities. But he was adamant about it, so eventually I signed him up. As it got closer, he was a bit nervous, but never once said that he didn’t want to go. The mom in front of us in the registration line told us how much she hated camp when she was young, which was too bad since I had just told Spencer on the way there that I didn’t know anyone who didn’t love camp. He whispered to me, “I wish you could stay with me.” But when he got to his cabin, he joined right in with the other boys who were drawing a mural. When I said goodbye, he barely looked up, and said a short, “Bye.” I forced a hug on him, and left. It felt very strange to leave him there; I know lots of kids his age go to camp, but he’s never struck me as the camp type. I find myself constantly wondering about what he’s doing, but I know he’ll have fun and I can’t wait to hear all about his adventures. Deep breath.

The girls on the other hand, are in a very familiar environment and I can picture where they are and what they’re doing. I’m happy they can have some “country” injected into them. They were both excited to spend the week with their grandparents.

My brother and sister-in-law, Daniel & Jenn (that’s for you, Sheri-Lee) moved to Montreal this week. He’s promised to update his blog regularly (right?!?), so check it out so he’ll feel pressured to update it.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Summer begins

Summer is slowly shifting into first gear. The last two days have been nice and hot and humid, just the way I love it. I took full advantage of the heat by sanding and staining the deck furniture a lovely orange hue, which is exactly the colour I told the paint lady I did not want.
Other things we’ve been doing since school finished on Tuesday:

Spent the afternoon at the Quarry with Darla and other friends on Wednesday. The weather was chilly, the water was cold, and I wore my sweatshirt the whole time. But we still had fun. Even Spencer didn’t want to leave when it was time to go, which is rare. We’re hoping to go back tomorrow.

Neve had her final soccer game. She was very pleased with her medal. I am very pleased about not having to rush out the door at 5:45 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays.


We went to Teresa & Anthony’s for a Canada Day BBQ last night. It was delicious as always, and later we went to see the fireworks in Morris. It was a surprisingly good show and we didn’t have to deal with any traffic jams on our way home. The kids didn’t get to bed until 12:30 a.m., but the younger two were still up and about before 8:00. I’m hoping that situation changes in the near future. Chloe, on the other hand, sleeps like a teenager-in-training.

The kids played on our new Slip ‘n Slide pretty much all day today. It is now wrecked, but it’s not the worst $10 we’ve ever spent. The neighbours might feel differently. The kids were squealing and shouting and splashing at very high volumes. But isn’t that what summer is all about?