Sunday, July 31, 2011

Harry Potter Party

Even though we're the only people left in the city this long weekend, we are having fun.  The weekend was kicked off yesterday with a Harry Potter party that's been in the works since we were in Miami this spring.  Chloe and her cousin Sarah put lots of thought and planning into it and it was amazing.  Everyone was in costume, a feast was served in our basement which was decorated like the Great Hall, there was wand-making, and two of the Harry Potter movies were shown back-to-back.  I joined them for the meal, which the girls made completely on their own: potato wedges, tortilla chips & homemade guacamole for the first course, tuna cakes, a salad, and sparkling juice for the main course, and Butterbeer and cauldron cakes (cupcakes filled with whipped cream with a string licorce handle) for dessert.  Did I mention it was a gorgeous, sunny day?  We made the kids come eat supper outside so the sun could shine on their pale, drawn faces.  The movie-watching continued after dinner, and Dale, Neve and I biked to Ballet in the Park with our neighbours.  It was a perfect evening without a bug in sight.  I love this summer.

From left:  a miscellaneous Slytherin student, Luna Lovegood, Hermione, Harry Potter, Professer McGonagall, and little Ginny Weasley in front. ( I was Mrs. Weasley).  The ties were all made from duct tape.  Remind me to talk about duct tape in a future post.

Today the girls went to the Quarry and the boys went on an all-afternoon bike ride.  Tonight we went to the Banana Boat for the first time ever.  The ice cream was delicious and relatively inexpensive and there's a lovely little trail down by the river, where we happened to meet my aunt.  Tomorrow we're planning a trip to Grand Beach.

Something that's been happening a lot lately over here is jumping from the garage roof onto the trampoline.  If we can't find Spencer in the house, chances are high that he's on the garage roof.  No injuries so far, but stay tuned.

Day camp went well this week.  Spencer and Neve had a lot of fun, and Chloe ended up coming to help me a couple of mornings, which she really enjoyed.  Every evening this week was free, which hasn't happened in what seems like years, so not only did I fit in a couple of bike rides and runs, we took the kids to a movie at the cheap theater (Soul Surfer - yes, I know it's already on video), out for dinner with Jim & Sabrina (Pizzeria Gusto), and Neve and I went to the Marble Slab for ice cream with the teen mom I mentor.  Little known true fact: if you bring in a movie stub from the last seven days, you get 50% off your entire bill.  It works.  You're welcome.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Lake

We spent a few days at my sister Janet’s cabin last week. It was so relaxing and fun. It was hot and sunny, so we spent lots of time in the water. The kids tubed and waterskiied and swam all day. Sabrina and the girls were there as well, so the kids all had lots of time with their cousins. One highlight was seeing a garter snake. Chloe first spotted it by the beach in the shallow water. To put it mildly, she is not a fan of snakes and vowed to never go in the water again. None of us believed her, and shortly after we finally convinced her it was just a leech, I saw it again on land. It was definitely a snake. Bella was less afraid and basically tried climbing under the car that it eventually slithered under.

Another highlight was a gigantic blowout in Baby Lexie’s diaper. We placed her face-down on the deck while we put together an action plan. She is so easygoing that she didn’t mind. I like that baby a lot.

Neve & Bella captivated by the diaper situation

Spencer's first time waterskiing

It was almost sad looking through the pictures to find some to post; I wish we were there now. It’s so nice to have a break from everyday responsibilities. It was also the last chance to spend time with Janet and Tia before their family set off for Europe today. Just to spite her for her eye-rolling at other people’s blogs, I’m going to link to hers here. Feel free to follow their adventure and comment lots, even though she has only commented on my blog once in the last six years.

And now another week of summer holidays has begun. The younger two kids have day camp at church this week, and I am helping in the kitchen in the mornings. After several weeks of sleeping in, it was a tough morning but a little structure is not the worst thing. Spencer went to Fun Mountain this afternoon; usually the Fun Mountain day is cool and bleak. But not this year, in this golden summer dream that never ends (rain again today, Vancouverites??). I’m sorry, that was unkind but we so rarely get to gloat.

Since the rest of us are at camp, Chloe is running around unsupervised in the city. I texted her when I got home today to see where she was, and she was in Osborne Village with a friend. Not bad, considering she was fast asleep when I left this morning. She came home at 6:00 p.m., all aglow with the adventures of the day. She has plans with her cousin tomorrow afternoon, but I have encouraged her to help at day camp tomorrow morning so I can reign in her independence. I mean, so she can give back to the community.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rushing River - year 2

It was another perfect day, although there were some people who were wishing it had been just a tiny bit warmer (I haven’t actually heard the official temperature, but I don’t think it reached 34.5 C).

The weather so far this summer has been like a dream I never want to wake up from. This stretch of good hot days reminds me of when I was a kid; every day was sunny and no event every required an alternate rain date. Or maybe I’m just remembering it that way. Sometimes I seriously wonder about my memory. We went to a wedding on Saturday and sat with some old friends we used to spend a lot of time with. Since we had just gotten back from camping that afternoon, they reminded us of a funny camping story we had told them years ago. It involved a cool, rainy camping trip in which we were awakened at 6:00 to another wet day and decided to pack it in. We were almost packed up when we realized the clock was upside down and it was really only 12:30 a.m. So we just went home anyway.

Great story, but neither Dale or I can even remotely remember this. Our friends were positive it was us, and said they’d laughed about it many times over the years. I’m not sure why we couldn’t tell it was the middle of the night; it really must have been dismal weather that weekend. I do remember many rainy July long weekends camping with my cousins so it could possibly be true, but I find it disturbing we have no memory of it.

Oh well, another good reason to keep blogging … if my memory keeps getting worse, I can always read old blog entries to my grandchildren.

We spent last week Wednesday to Saturday at Rushing River. It was our second annual camping trip with the same friends we went with last year. As mentioned, the weather couldn’t have been better. The days were hot, the nights were comfortable, and the mosquitoes waited until exactly 10:00 p.m. to appear. We had the same campsite as last year (#256, right on the lake) and it was every bit as amazing as I remembered. The kids spent most of the time swimming and paddling the dinghys (dinghies?) around the lake. Our friends both had awesome campsites as well, which the boys explored for hours. Spencer lost one of his flip flops in a marsh; fortunately it happened on the last day. He’s had footwear issues on several camping trips; we really need to start bringing an extra pair of flip flops. We went on a couple of hikes, did a treasure hunt, had campfires & smores, and talked and ate and laughed. One evening the dads and kids (except the little girls) paddled/swam to a nearby island to play Kick the Can, which was Spencer’s highlight. We also had a great time swimming around the rocky river rapids. Cousin Sarah from Miami came with us, so Chloe was very happy she wasn’t quite as outnumbered by boys as last year. It really was the perfect camping trip. I can’t think of anything negative to say. Oh, except for a bad case of toxic gas Dale had from the burritos we had for dinner one night. That was pretty stinky; I was waiting for morning to come so I could get out of the tent. If I had remembered the upside down clock story, I would have re-enacted it so Dale would think it was time for his early morning walk. Besides that, I almost don’t want to go camping again because I can’t imagine any future excursions being as perfect as this one.

But all good things must come to an end, so we went home Saturday, dumped all our stuff in the basement, scrubbed all the dirt off ourselves, and went to see our beloved babysitter Lisa get married. She babysat the kids for years, until Chloe turned 12. That was the same year she graduated from university and got a real job as a teacher, so it was good timing. Lisa was the kind of babysitter you didn’t have to give any instructions to; we just walked out the door when she arrived and didn’t think about the children once while we were out because we knew they’d be fine. She took them on outings and for haircut appointments, spent hours playing and reading to them, and even stayed with them when we went to Mexico. We all love her; it was a beautiful wedding and she was gorgeous.

The summer fun continues today. We spent part of the day with my parents at Birds Hill today. They have their trailer there for a few days, so we all went to the beach and then had supper with them. Their kind of camping is a lot more civilized than ours was – the air conditioning and running water were pretty sweet. The children stayed for night; I’ll pick them up tomorrow morning on my way to my sister’s cabin. One day soon I will have to get my house in order; things are pretty out of control with the packing and unpacking we’ve been doing. My washing machine is tired. But there’s a long fall and winter ahead, so I’m going to enjoy every minute of summer while I can. Hope you’re doing the same.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Why I won't ever be a complete vegetarian


It was another beautiful summer weekend.  I could get used to this.  There was a lot packed into this one - went for several bike rides including a family ride to the park, a bonfire, a movie with Teresa, yardwork, errands, and spending time with family.  Chloe was away at a birthday party Saturday night, so we took the opportunity to go eat some meat.  My friend Claudine introduced me to Mrs. Mike's in St. Boniface many years ago, and summer just isn't complete without one of their burgers.  They put chili on them and lots of chili on their fries, and it's all just so delicious in a bad sort of way.  It's a walk-up restaurant with a few tables on a concrete slab outside.  The sun was blazing and there wasn't a drop of shade anywhere; Dale looked like a lobster glistening in the sun, but it was awesome.

Dale's sister and her girls arrived from Florida on Thursday; since then, Chloe and her cousin have spent more time together than apart.  They are two peas in a pod. 

Dale and I are on holidays most of this next week, so we've got a few things planned.  Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Bits & Bites

  • For the thousands (millions?) of you who are tired of constantly checking my blog for updates, today is your lucky day. You can now automatically get new blog posts via email. If you scroll down a bit, you will see a spot on the sidebar where you can enter your email address. It’s pretty straightforward and you can unsubscribe any time. You can thank Shannon for all the time you save (it was her idea). Subscribe to hers too while you’re at it.

  • My friend Jenn turned 40 yesterday which reminded me that I’ve been meaning to share her blog link. I love her writing and the entry she posted today actually made me emotional, which is not an easy feat.

  • Neve had her first non-family sleepover last night at her friend Anna’s. She was beyond excited, but was worried about her gecki (blankie) and all its strips being seen by others. Anna’s mother assured her that Anna also slept with a blankie, so after that it was more exciting than Christmas, her birthday, and Valentines day all rolled into one.

  • I went into work today, so this was one of the first times (possibly the very first) that the children were home alone the entire day (Neve and Spencer arrived home from their sleepover mid-morning). They took it all in stride; Chloe made them lunch, took them to the park, set up the sprinkler, and everyone did their chores without prompting. In the past, I’ve worked with people whose kids phoned them at work every half hour when they were home during summer holidays. The number of phone calls I received? Zero. I’m only gone one day a week, so it’s a bit different, but still. I called home once, but Chloe was anxious to get off the phone because her and Neve were in the middle of a piano lesson. I apologize for boasting about my children, but they are not gifted in sports, music or academics, so I have to work with what I have. If there was a national Staying Home Alone competition, they would ROCK.

  • I am going to try with all my heart not to mention the Chore Chart in every post, but I can’t not tell you about the dinner Chloe made last night. She made tuna cakes, which consisted of peeling, boiling, and mashing potatoes; cutting up veggies and adding other ingredients, forming them into patties, breading and cooking them. I helped with the patty-making and the frying. They were delicious. To think that only cost me 20 cents (4 points). I love my life.

  • I officially declare the first week of summer vacation a success. I was up every day by 7:00, went for a bike ride or a run each day, then got in a couple of hours of Chamber work by 10:00 (I did a little in the evening as well). That left the main part of each day free to go to the beach, the splash park, the library, and have friends over. I love sleeping in, but the sacrifice has been worth it.

  • Now go read Jenn’s blog post.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Chore Charts

You can click on the chart to make it more legible, but the type is still not very large.  You get the idea of what it looks like though.  The column of numbers is the point value of each task; each point is worth 5 cents (I know, we're getting a bargain!).   I've laminated them and they check off each task as they do it.  I should probably start getting them to put in the point value rather than a check mark so that it's easier to add up each day.  Plus it would be good for Neve to practice writing her numbers every day (I'm starting to think more like a Tiger Mom every day).

Since the chart image is hard to read, here are the list of each child's duties:


  • Make Bed / Tidy Room
  • Empty dishwasher - plates, bowls, glasses, mugs & knives-top rack
  • After mealtimes, put dishes in dishwasher & help clear table
  • Tidy bathrooms
  • Before bedtime, clean up your things from main floor and stairs
  • Put away shoes - should be ONE pair on entrance floor
  • Wash dishes

  • Clean bathrooms
  • Fold laundry / put yours away
  • Give Neve piano lesson - 15 min.
  • Sweep walkway
  • Plan & prepare one meal
  • Empty trash on Saturday

As Requested:
  • Pull weeds
  • Water plants
  • Laundry
  • Clean van
  • Vacuum


  • Make Bed / Tidy Room
  • Empty dishwasher - cutlery, Tupperware & utensils
  • After mealtimes, put own dishes in dishwasher & help clear table
  • Set table for supper
  • Listen to Neve read one book to you each day
  • Before bedtime, clean up your things from main floor and stairs
  • Put away shoes - should be ONE pair on entrance floor

  • Dust living room
  • Fold laundry / put yours away
  • Tidy playroom
  • Tidy basement
  • Plan & prepare one meal
  • Empty trash, put out garbage and recycling the night before pickup

As Requested:
  • Pull weeds
  • Water plants
  • Vacuum
  • Clean van


  • Make Bed / Tidy Room
  • Dry dishes
  • Empty dishwasher - plastic dishes
  • After mealtimes, put dishes in dishwasher & help clear table
  • Push in chairs after mealtime
  • Before bedtime, clean up your things from main floor and stairs
  • Put away shoes - should be ONE pair on entrance floor

  • Fold laundry / put yours away
  • Tidy playroom
  • Tidy basement
  • Plan & help prepare one meal


As Requested: 
  • Pull weeds
  • Bring things to basement

I also made a list of other rules for everyone in the household:
  • Be kind and encouraging to each other – you’re on the same team!
  • Get own breakfast and don’t interrupt my work until 10 a.m. (I am trying to get up early and get all my work hours in by 10:00)
  • You will be asked to do things sometimes that are not on the chart
  • The chart may be modified – we’ll see what works
  • Pay day on Saturday.

If the kids do all their daily & weekly tasks (not counting "as requested" items), they will receive: 
Chloe: $4.30/week
Spencer:  $3.60/week
Neve:  $2.60/week
Until we now, we gave Chloe and Spencer a very sporadic allowance.  There is much debate among parents about whether a) kids should be paid for chores or b) if they should be expected to contribute to the running of a household without pay.  The correct answer, of course, is b).  However, my kids are at a stage where money motivates them so I am taking full advantage of it.  My hope is that come fall, these duties will have become habits and we can forgo the charts and just pay them an allowance of approximately the same amount.  My kids love the idea of charts and rewards though, so if we have to do this for the rest of our lives, so be it.  I can add things like don't miss curfew, put gas in the car, and tell your mother you love her.
I figured if we expected them to be consistent with their chores, we would have to be consistent with payment.  So I put "Pay children on Saturday" on Dale's chore chart.  Just kidding, I didn't make one for him, but I did assign him the payment responsibility.  I would actually very much like to make him a chart too, but I am holding myself back.  A nickel just doesn't motivate him like it should.
Speaking of a nickel, Chloe's room has been cleaner for more consecutive days (3) than ever before.  When I tucked her in tonight, I said, "Don't you love having a clean room?"  She agreed.  And instead of just ending the conversation right there, I said, "And to think you get five cents a day for keeping it like this!"  I hope my sarcasm doesn't make her realize she doesn't have much to lose by letting it get messy again.
I am so pleasantly surprised at how well it's been going so far.  I thought I'd have to do lots of reminding at first, but not so.  There is little to no complaining and the house is much tidier than it usually is.  I feel less stressed, less overwhelmed, and way more in control.  I have even sat on the deck and read my book several times this week.  As expected, there are a few kinks to work out.  Spencer's had some trouble with Neve reading to him.  They were both almost in tears yesterday - I could hear Spencer saying, "Neve!  You should know that word!  You read it three times already!  Are you even trying?!"  It turns out the book was too difficult; they picked a new one and things went much smoother. 
When I asked Spencer what meal he was going to make this week, he gave it some thought and then said, "Hmm, I'll probably just order pizza."  He was totally serious.  He seemed surprised to hear that wasn't really what I had in mind. 
By now, those of you who expressed interest and probably sorry you ever said anything.  This is not riveting material.  If you're still reading, I'm always interested in how other families operate - I'd love it if you'd comment about your chore lists, whether they're tied into kids' allowance, and how much allowance you give your kids.

Monday, July 04, 2011

July long weekend

My memory's not stellar, but I would have to say the weather this weekend was the best of any July long weekend I can remember.  I took the day off on Thursday, so I had a wonderful vacation that felt like it was much longer than four days. 

Just so you can have a riveting detailed account of my weekend, I'll back up to Wednesday.  It was Spencer's last day; he was not happy that the girls finished school before him, but he was pretty happy about finally being done.  Neve had her last soccer game that night, with a pizza party after.  I was kind of grumpy about soccer going right until the bitter end of June, but it was actually a fun way to celebrate the beginning of summer.  Her coaches were so good, the other parents were a lot of fun, and Neve really enjoyed soccer and learned a lot (despite not being very aggressive).  Definitely a positive experience that we hope to repeat next year.

After soccer, Dale & I dropped the kids off at Dale's mom's.  It was pretty sweet waking up to an empty house the first day of summer vacation, even though I did get up early.  I went to my niece Bailey's convocation, then picked up the kids and headed to the Quarry.  It was overcast, but scorching hot and muggy, so there was no better place to be.  Shannon, Darla, and Jenn were there as well; we had so much fun we stayed much later than I thought we would.  Ah, summer, how I love you.

The Quarry

At the Quarry, in order for kids to be allowed to go in deeper than chest-level, they have to get a wristband by showing the lifeguard they can swim back and forth between two docks.  Spencer did it for the first time last year, so I thought he'd have no problem this year, with two more sessions of swimming lessons under his belt plus all the swimming we did in Florida.  I was wrong.  He could swim the distance fairly easily, but his technique was poor and he made it look like he was nearly drowning the whole time.  The lifeguard was basically crouched down on her haunches ready to jump in at any second.  When Spencer finished, he lay down on the dock and said he was exhausted.  Not surprisingly, the lifeguard didn't give him a wristband but told him to try again later.  Spencer ignored every helpful hint I gave him (such as "pretend you're not tired") and he did not succeed the second time either.  Nor the third.  The fourth went better, but by now there were new lifeguards who wanted to see improvement in different areas than the previous ones.  I have to say, that boy showed persistence and determination of which I did not know he was capable of.  He kept trying every 10 or 15 minutes, and about half an hour before we left, he finally succeeded on his eighth try.  Yes, the eighth.  The lifeguard was great; he made a big deal about it and even gave Spencer two wristbands; one for each arm and told Spencer he was going to go far in life.  Spencer was so thrilled that he jumped right in the water and swam right across the lake.  I was a little concerned about that, but swimming sixteen laps between the docks was obviously good practice.  It's funny how an initial disappointment can turn into such a positive thing.  I'm sure there is a life lesson in there somewhere.

On Friday (yay, Canada!), the morning rain turned into afternoon sun, so we went to my cousin's pool for a swim.  They weren't home, so don't tell them.

Spencer and Baby Lexie

Then we continued on to another cousin's for a Canada Day BBQ.  The food was amazing as always.  Is this not the perfect summer meal?!  The turkey burger was the best burger I've had in a long time.  Dale and I decided that our main goal this summer is to find or create a veggie burger recipe that equals the flavour of this one.  I don't know if it can be done, but we'll be eating a lot of burgers this summer to find out.

Dessert nachos...mmmm

On Saturday, we went to Matlock to visit friends who were renting a cabin there.  It was another perfect day; we spent the whole day outside on the deck while the kids played.

The boys spent a lot of time with the army guys.

Chloe is in the cutest little independent stage.  She had the choice of going to the beach with friends that day or coming along and spending the day with us (there were no other kids here age).  I wish she would have at least pretended to be torn between the two, but she was packed for the beach and out the door so fast, she didn't even have time to hug us and tell us what great parents we were.  I'm sure she meant to.

When we got home from Matlock, she was already home so we seized the opportunity to bond and threw everyone in the van and went to Salisbury House on the Provencher bridge for a late supper.  Spencer was very concerned that the restaurant was not stable so we promised him an iPad if it collapsed and he lived to tell about it.  After that, he kind of wished it would, but luck was not on his side.  This was one of the things on our Summer To Do list, so I'm feeling pretty good that we can check one thing off already.  We tend to avoid Sals due to a waitress we once had who would not leave us alone and even tried to feed Spencer (who was still in a high chair) his fries.  If you know Dale at all, you will know that he does not like people touching his, or his children's, food.  I'm not nearly as germophobic, but it really did cross way over the line.  However, we had a very nice experience this time around and would definitely go there again.  I might just put it back on the list.  We enjoyed seeing debris float by in the very fast-moving river below us, particularly what we think was a soccer ball but looked exactly like a skull.

As we walked over the bridge, a cyclist almost hit Neve and he yelled "watch out" or something to that effect.  Dale and I didn't even see what happened, so we were standing there all confused when the cyclist turned his bike around and came back.  I was about to tell him off when he said, "Is she okay?  I'm sorry, I was going much faster than I should have been."  I thought that took a lot of character.  I don't know what I would have done if I'd been him.  I'd have probably felt so bad that I'd have just gotten away as fast as I could.  But he knew he'd made a mistake, admitted it, and apologized.  Another negative experience turned into a positive one.  I'm just full of life lessons today.

Chloe and I biked to church this morning and spent the rest of the day at home.  Chloe had a friend over and the kids all had a big waterfight that lasted on and off throughout the day.  I lost count of how many times they changed clothes.  I shudder to think where all those wet clothes are lying right now.

What an idyllic day - even the ice cream truck made an appearance.  (Not sure why the kids are just gazing wistfully at it; we did let them buy ice cream)

This weekend, the new chore charts were unveiled.  Day One has been a crazy success.  If this continues to go as well as it did today, the quality of my life will improve ten-fold.  A hundred-fold, even.  I hate to get ahead of myself, but I just might quit my day job and create chore charts for families instead.  I'll need something to do; I've assigned all my household duties to the children and have nothing left to do except think.  And not about anything stressful, just things like 'what colour of dry erase markers should I buy when the blue one runs dry?'