Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Thinking of a title shouldn't be this hard


I’m going to be honest: the last week of summer holidays is not my favourite week of the year.  I feel like I should be clinging onto these last precious few days of vacation and delighting the children with surprise picnics, a homemade piƱata, and fingerpainting a giant mural of our favourite summer memories.  Of course none of those things are going to happen, and fortunately the children are happy playing at home, but I still have that nagging feeling that I am not living life to the fullest.  I feel restless and unfocused and tired.  I am trying to let go of my impossible expectations and just enjoy each day for what it is.  Today we had plans to go swimming at the outdoor pool, but even though it was warm out, it was a cloudy, sleepy kind of day.  No one really felt like going, so the kids played with Playmobil for quite a while until they started fighting, and I eventually ordered them all outside.  Both girls ended up having friends over and Spencer spent his time asking me every three minutes if I’d play Stratego with him.  It’s a new board game he just bought with a gift card, and it’s long and Risk-like.  I want to want to, but I just can’t bring myself to spend the two hours doing so.  I am trying my best not to learn how to play so I can use that as an excuse.  I know that sounds awful; if I outlive Spencer, it will probably be one of many heart-wrenching regrets I will carry around forever.  Anyway, my point is that even though the day veered off from the original plan, it turned out pretty well.  Neve and I even got some indoor shoe-shopping done tonight, which was an unexpected bonus.

By the way, this is what Spencer drew on the sidewalk today during his outdoor exile.  It's hard to tell from this photo, but it's two war planes (he would be able to tell you the exact name of each aircraft) in a dogfight.  Somehow he has become a military buff and walks around all day sharing war trivia.  It's all unfamiliar territory for us peace-loving mennonites, but I guess it's normal.  It's just not your average sidewalk chalk drawing.  We had a little downpour about an hour after he drew this.  He was disappointed, but it's probably not the worst thing.




Setting up Playmobil "houses" which cover 90% of the surface of the playroom. I'm tempted to fire up the vacuum cleaner and reduce that percentage.
 
Yesterday I got all the kids up and onto a downtown-bound bus by 10:51 a.m.  Bus fares seem to have risen significantly, and Neve is no longer free.  It cost us $8.10 each way, except I didn’t have change for a ten dollar bill on the way home, so the day’s transportation total came to $18.10.  And we didn’t even get to witness anything interesting or dangerous on the bus, so it wasn’t the best $18.10 I’ve ever spent.  I’m trying to tell myself it’s an investment: if the children are familiar with taking the bus, I can spare myself from driving them everywhere when they are older. 


We had a nice lunch at the Line Up, and enjoyed exploring the Exchange District, especially the used bookstore and Toad Hall Toys.  Despite advance warning, Neve was very unhappy that I wouldn’t buy her anything at the toy store.  It does seem a bit cruel to show her all these awesome things and not let her have any of it, but normally she’s okay if I tell her I’ll write the desired item on her list (which exists only in my head).  She was very grouchy but perked up long enough to chase Chloe with a rubber snake, which resulted in Chloe knocking over a display stand.  I heard the crash from the far end of the store; an employee helped clean up the mess and we left the store immediately thereafter.

Outside, I had a talk with Neve to encourage her to behave civilly, but I was unsuccessful.  I said, “Could you please stop talking mad?”
She said, “This is NOT my mad voice!”  After a pause: “This is my angry voice!”

Much better.

 
We spent a significant part of the day at the library, which made even Neve happy.  I got two Express Bestsellers (which are due back in 7 days or you have to pay a steep overdue fee) which is silly because there’s no way I can read two books in one week, plus I’m already in the middle of a different book.  But somehow I’ve almost finished the first book, which will be less impressive when I tell you which book and how large the font and line spacing are.  It’s Tina Fey’s book Bossypants, which I’m finding quite humourous.  When I finish that, I have Miriam Toews’ Irma Voth to read; thank goodness there’s a long weekend ahead.  So when I feel guilty about not taking the kids to the park to fly homemade kites or creating a cityscape with Plasticine, I’ll just tell myself the Winnipeg Public Library is forcing me to read.  It’s out of my control.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

One more week


A day without sugar is like a day without sunshine.  Usually it's in the form of ice cream or slurpees or both, but today it came it was decorate-your-own cupcakes in honour of Neve's half-birthday.  I always feel embarrassed to admit we celebrate half-birthdays for fear of sounding like an over-organized supermom, but I will defend myself by saying the half-birthday child just gets to choose what's for dinner and dessert.  There are no gifts involved, although every year the children secretly hope this year will be different.  I'm scared to set that precident; maybe sometime I'll surprise them.  But make no mistake: there is no over-organized supermom here.  For example, a rare mood struck me this weekend and I decided to tidy my bedroom.  On the dresser, I found a pile of things from our Florida trip in spring that I'd never got around to putting away.  Not tucked away in a corner, not stuffed in a drawer or a closet, but sitting right in the middle of my dresser for five solid months.  Shannon is probably getting all shaky and rashy just reading this.  Or the opposite - all excited and giddy that there are people like me incapable of keeping their house organized on their own.

Chloe was at camp this past week.  We missed her very much.  Spencer and Neve mentioned  a few times that "this isn't fun without Chloe."  Dale and I missed her even more; our morning runs couldn't overlap and I had to be home before he left for work.  Rough, I tell you.  Plus I had to do her chore chart duties.  We were a lot happier to see her on Saturday morning than she was to see us.  I sort of prefer the after-camp reunion we had with Spencer last year - I will never forget the relief in his eyes when he saw us.  Chloe spent a large part of the weekend pining about not being at camp.  I know it's quite a letdown from non-stop fun, cool counsellors, and being surrounded by friends around the clock, but you'd think cupcakes should count for something.


After the camp pick-up, we went to my sister's cabin for the day.  The kids tubed and skiied and gotten bitten by a dog, but I didn't get my camera out once.  Oh, except when we stopped at the ice cream store where my niece Tia works.  Sadly, Chloe was the only one who got ice cream because the rest of us were too stuffed from an amazing supper (slow-cooker pork on a bun, tomatos with mozzarella cheese and basil, corn on the cob, fresh salsa, and a variety of squares for dessert).  We are not delicate people; we can usually squeeze in a cone no matter how full we are.  I was scared there was something wrong with us, but maybe we've just reached our ice cream capacity for the summer.  Ha ha, like that's possible.


This is Spencer trying to fry an egg on the back lane on a particularly scorching day last week.  I don't think it worked out great; it was taking kind of long and we were too hot to check back later.


We're on the brink of the last full week of summer vacation.  I'm hoping to get a few more activities crossed off our list this week, and then I will be very happy and ready to send the kids back to school.  I have to practice looking wistful and forlorn on the first day of school, when really I'm giggling with elation on the inside.  When I mentioned at bedtime that it was the last full week before school, Neve got teary and anxious.  She wanted me to promise I would sit outside her classroom all morning on the first day of grade one.  Bedtime turned into a long drawn out affair because of this, so eventually I just said yes.  I sure hope she forgets about that, because keeping that promise is not plausible.  The other parents and school staff would think I'm crazy.  It's probably wrong to be more concerned about that then about keeping a promise, but life doesn't always make sense.  Plus I know Neve will be fine after the first minute. 

Wishing you all a carefree, relaxed, hot last full week of summer vacation!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Family Weekend 2011


For those of you who have been lying awake at night wondering when I was going to blog about my family weekend, lie awake no more. I’m afraid it will be a bit of a let down since there’s really nothing crazy to report.

We had a great family weekend, which is an annual tradition when Dan comes to visit. Everyone except Jenn was there or at least made a brief appearance during the weekend. We did all the usual things (click here for last year’s recap), as well as some new things like fireworks, a beanbag toss game, kittens, a giant sprinkler and an outdoor movie night. The cousins had a lot of fun together; we were happy to have Bailey & Tia (and their parents) back safe from Europe, and the younger kids always love spending time with their older cousin Jordan. Spencer loves getting Jordan to spin him around in the hammock, but the last time we were at my parents’ house, Spencer wasn’t holding on tightly and fell face down to the floor. This resulted in a fat lip and a bloody nose, so when Spencer begged Jordan to spin him in the hammock this time, Jordan said, “Why don’t I just punch you in the face instead?” That was my favourite line of the whole weekend.



It was baby Lexie’s first family weekend, and judging by her lack of crying, she had a pretty sweet time. She’s such a content baby and only cries when her big sister demonstrates her love in a painful way. Her diaper overflowed at one point and caused a mustard-coloured geyser to spray all over Auntie Janet. That was a highlight for my kids, since nothing can ever be funnier than poop.

Some of you asked what rollkuche are - here's a nice closeup of the cooking process. Mmm - delicious, bubbling pot of fat, how we love you.
Sack race fun

Seed plant climbing fun... Spencer's second best highlight of the weekend.

Rocketing pop bottle fun

Beanbag fun - look how gracefully Jim throws a beanbag


Trampolining fun. Sabrina enjoyed this a lot.
And out came the mask again.
I have hundreds of pictures, but I will stop here. Looking forward to next year already...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lake / I love my job


As previously mentioned, Chloe, Neve and I went Lake of the Woods on Wednesday to visit friends from Wednesday to Thursday.  Their cottage is on an island so it was pretty fun taking a boat from the mainland.  Neve didn’t think so initially; there was a very strong wind, so the waves were huge and the boat was rocking vigourously where it was docked.  We were all getting into the boat when Neve suddenly leaped out and ran up the stairs leading down to the dock.  My poor friend had partially untied the boat already so she had to hold the rope with all her might while I tried to convince Neve to get back in.  It turns out that she wasn’t scared of the boat capsizing, but that she might get boat-sick and throw up.  No one likes throwing up, but she has an intense, passionate phobia of it.  Finally she relented and after 10 seconds on the boat, her fears dissipated.
 
We had an awesome time at the cottage, doing all the usual lake things like swimming and eating.  I would weigh 500 lbs if I spent the whole summer at the lake. My neighbour Karen was spending the week at her cottage nearby, so she boated over for cocktail hour on Wednesday and we boated over to visit her the next day.  It was so beautiful out there and even though it was only one night, I felt like I had a real holiday.  I fell asleep listening to the waves lapping up on shore outside my window and woke up to a beautiful view of the cove.  It was hard to go home, so we dragged it out as long as we could and got stuck in a torrential downpour on the way home, but it was Worth It.







I usually work on Thursdays, but all staff was requested to be at an all-day meeting on Friday, so I rearranged my schedule.  There was some secrecy about the day, so while some people were optimistically curious, I was expecting a strategic planning session for the upcoming fiscal year.  Not so.  There were fresh croissants and pastries, a fruit tray and mimosas waiting for us in the lobby when we got to work.  Then Dave (the big boss) announced that there were limos waiting outside to take us to Polo Park mall.  The sceptic in me was still thinking it was some kind of team-building scavenger hunt, until he started passing out gift cards for each person to spend.  I felt like we were on Oprah: we each got a $400 gift card that we were instructed to spend on ourselves, and then meet at Earl’s for a late lunch.  When we got to the mall, customer service presented us all with shopping bags with a couple of goodies inside and an iced tea from David’s to sip on as we shopped.  And shop we did.  I bought jeans, two pairs of shoes, a skirt and some makeup.  I couldn’t decide what to spend the rest on, so I’ve got another shopping trip in my future.  It was such a fantastic day; it was great fun talking about our purchases and seeing who bought what.  A couple of people bought iPads (topped up with their own money), someone bought a small flat screen TV, and one guy bought a wedding ring to finally replace the one he lost years ago.  I’ve discovered that saying about money not buying happiness is wrong.  Some rich person probably just made it up to make the rest of us feel better.  I feel pretty happy when I'm wearing my new shoes.

The limos had us back at the office around 3:00, and then we all went home to get ready for the evening festivities.  Lovey’s catered a BBQ at Dave’s house followed by a campfire complete with smores and the most amazing fireworks I’ve ever seen in a private setting.  The kids each got a Best Buy gift certificate as a parting gift, so everyone was pretty happy.  Let’s just say there was no perusing the Careers section in the Free Press this weekend. 



Right after the party, we headed to my parents’ house for the weekend.  I am going to leave you all hanging in suspense and save that for another day.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Uncle Dan



My daily posting goal was obviously way too ambitious. I seem to be gradually making a shift from a relaxed, casual, breezy summer frame of mind to a full-out lazy, unmotivated and sloth-like state. It's not pretty.

Oh well, I will enjoy these last few weeks of summer and just pray that when I awake on September 7 (first day of school), I will be brimming with renewed energy and vigour and a strong, purposeful sense of direction.

Dan spent a couple of days with us and when I review what we did, it's actually pretty impressive. On Sunday, we biked to - and through - the park to have ice cream at Sargent Sundae. My parents and Jim & Sabrina came as well, so that was pleasant especially since my dad paid for all the ice cream. (Thanks, Dad.)

Yesterday Dan, the kids, and I went to the Quarry for the afternoon. My friend Jenn and her kids met us there for our 3rd annual beach day. It was yet another gorgious day and we had a great time catching up. When we got home, Dan ordered in pizza for us and then we went to the Forks. We walked all over the place; the highlights were watching Neve try to get out of the bowels of the skate park and enjoying the fireworks after the Goldeyes game.

Today we had a lazy morning - there was cloud cover and even a bit of rain! - but there were zhu-zhu pet activities and a 1000 piece puzzle to keep busy with. After lunch Dan, Spencer and I hung out in the Exchange District for a couple of hours. We went to Toad Hall Toys, got cupcakes, and checked out a used bookstore. Dan headed back to my parents' house later on; it was great to have him here and the kids love having him around.

Tomorrow morning, the girls and I are off to a friend's cabin and then we're spending the weekend at my parents' so chances are slim that I'll blog for a bit. Maybe I will be so re-energized after the break, I'll start posting twice a day.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Grand Forks and beyond


Our little trip to Grand Forks came and went in the blink of an eye.  It wasn't the best family time ever; the drive there was long and painful due to construction, I was cranky which I blamed on the hormones that were resulting in intense hot flashes every ten minutes, the kids were fighting and complaining a large portion of the time, and we stayed at a cheap hotel that time forgot.  But I will dwell on the positives: walking across the river to Minnesota where we had dinner on the patio at Applebee's, getting most of the kids' school supply shopping done, watching a show about snakes on Animal Planet, a delicious breakfast at I-Hop, playing a family game of Grounders at the playground, and of course, a stop at Cold Stone Creamery.  Funny how most of the positives involved food.

Three purple girls at the playground

My brother Dan arrived from Vancouver on Thursday, so we stopped at my parents' on the way home to see him.  The kids played and we had a quick fire before heading home.

Today Dan, Jim & Sabrina and us went to the park for a BBQ.  I was trying to be like the ethnic families I always see at the park with their rice cookers and crock pots and exotic food.  All I could muster up was burgers, but we did fry up mushrooms and onions, which is about as fancy as I get.  It was a beautiful night and the kids had fun running around the playground and we all walked around the duck pond.  There was a full moon, and if we'd waited a bit longer, we could have seen the fireworks that were going to be set off a bit later.  Not quite as good as pink unicorns, but not bad.






Thursday, August 11, 2011

Staycation



As mentioned yesterday, we decided not to go camping as we originally planned. We attempted to have a vacation day at home today before heading to Grand Forks tomorrow. It was mildly successful, except for a trip to work to sort out computer issues and a meltdown requiring a certain six-year-old to have a nap just as we were hoping to head out for some fun. At 3:30, we finally got to Kildonan Park, where the kids swam, played on the play structures, and stopped by the Witch's Hut. We've never been to the pool there before, but we were all impressed. There are two waterslides, a gradual entry pool, and a big splash pad area for younger kids. If Neve was just a bit older and I wasn't bound by the in-arms-reach rule, I would park myself in a lounger and get the pool supervisor to wake me when the pool closes.

Afterwards, we went to friends' house for a delicious fish fry for dinner, and now I'm watching Morning Glory, which is one of the lamest movies I've seen in a long time. Dale fell asleep a long time ago; I'm making myself stay awake until the washer cycle is done.



Tuesday, August 09, 2011

I need a Mac



My picture-a-day aspirations are not working out well. This is largely due to my computer contracting a virus and making me think all my files were deleted. Actually that only happened on Sunday night so I will have to think of an excuse for the days prior to that. I thought I was going to throw up when I saw that all my files were gone; I hardly slept that night and flew into work at the crack of dawn Monday morning. The wonderful IT guy knew what the problem was right away and calmed me down. If Dale hadn't had that operation, we would be naming our next child Mark.

Luckily my files were all there but since the virus is not easily removed, he had to wipe my hard drive clean (after saving my files elsewhere) so all my programs had to be reinstalled. Things are slowly getting back to normal, but it's a bit of a process. I tried for hours today to get one of my programs working like it used to; the kids were wild,* a friend stopped by, there was noisy construction going on next door,** the green space behind our house was being mowed by a very loud tractor, jets were flying low overhead and I was getting very stressed. Dale & I are both on holidays the rest of the week, so I also some vacation plans I needed to make. We were going to go camping, but no one was very excited about it and I was not in a place to pack and get organized so we called it off. I'm kind of sad about not going, but it's just so much work that if no one is literally jumping up and down and counting down the days with a paper chain, it's just not Worth It. Instead, we're planning to take a one-night trip to Grand Forks for a little break.
* While I was on the phone with the IT guy, Neve came running into the study, frantic and crying. I asked her what was wrong and all she would say is "Come!" I showed her I was on the phone and tried to wave her away, but she was so upset and agitated that I thought it must be something serious. I told Mark I'd call him back, then ran to follow Neve to the basement where she pointed to the Wii/TV and sobbed that she couldn't figure out how to finish this level in her Princess Wii game. Let's just say that didn't turn out well for anyone.
** The next door neighbour is having a new deck built. For anyone who's making career decisions and wondering what would be a fun job to do, based on these workers, I believe deck-building is your answer. They laugh (loudly) all day long. Everything is hilarious. I enjoy my job; I laugh regularly - not so much when I'm working from home by myself, but when I'm in the office. But if I laughed half as much as these guys do, I'd never want to go home. I'd be begging to work evenings and weekends. By the time this deck is done, my kids are going to abandon their dreams of becoming teachers and archeologists in favour of this significantly more humourous career.

Okay, enough about my computer trouble, stress, and indecision. On a much happier note, we had a great weekend. We went to the Quarry late Friday afternoon and stayed most of the evening (top photo). It was a perfect evening and we had the place almost all to ourselves. The kids played, we had burgers and onion rings, and it was warm and calm. The only thing that could have made it more magical was if a pink unicorn had come sliding down a rainbow into the quarry.
On Saturday, Spencer spearheaded a yard sale. It was mostly books and toys he's outgrown, along with a few other household items. It was a huge success; we had lots of traffic and got rid of almost everything. Lots of neighbours came by, Chloe and Neve set up a lemonade stand, and we had fresh brownies. We ended up making 3 batches of lemonade and it was just a really fun atmosphere. The picture below makes it look like we were intimidating and a little bit angry, but we weren't. Dale's menacing pose was mostly just for the picture; he was only outside for about 2 minutes of the sale. If the deck-building doesn't work out for Spencer, I think he'd do pretty good in sales. Whenever a customer showed interest in something, Spencer would describe the virtues of that item. Or he'd ask someone if they had children who liked Hot Wheels cars, etc. Sometimes he asked if they had grandchildren, but I tried to steer him away from that question since it can be tricky for a 10-year-old to judge age.

Dale's family came over for dinner Saturday night - another gorgeous evening spent sitting on the deck. On Sunday we went to the waterpark in Portage, although the hot sunny day in Winnipeg became a cooler, breezier day in Portage, which is not very desirable when you're shivering in line at the top of a waterslide. Luckily the kids didn't care and they had a lot of fun.
Not sure how much more consistent I'll be with the daily picture-posting going forward, but maybe my guilt will spur me on.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Pictures



My goal is to post a picture most days this month. I'm not sure how successful I'll be, but I'll try my best. These pictures are from Tuesday, when we spent the day at my parents' house. The kids brought friends and everyone had lots of good country fun: riding in the back of a pickup truck, climbing trees, riding the tillacter, and doing the zip line.



Mom made rollkuche (to go with watermelon) - mmmm.



The monster mask in the basement got a lot of use. It probably would have been used even more if it hadn't been 60 C inside that mask.





A few of the many, many plants my mom has.


And here's a picture from yesterday, when we went glow bowling with the cute neighbour kids. Ah, Chloe. That girl never loses hope. Never say never.


Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Toothless wonder



It's amazing how long a wiggly tooth can hang around (literally). After almost two months of wiggliness, Neve's tooth finally came out while she was eating ice cream the other day. Ice cream isn't your traditional tooth-jarring food, but there were smarties involved. In fact, she thought the tooth was a smartie, but spit it out just to make sure.

Even though this was the fourth tooth she's lost, she was still pretty excited. It makes me feel kind of sad though - I know they'll grow back (hopefully straighter than the bottom ones are) - it's just another step from the little girl stage to the not-so-little girl with missing teeth stage, followed by the awkward adolescent with braces stage. Oh well, it's still better than the toilet-training stage or awake-in-the-night stage. Right??

Monday, August 01, 2011

Goodbye July



I loved you, July. I am very sad to see you go and can hardly wait until we can be together again. Thank you for sharing your hot, sticky days and non-stop sunshine, and for sparing us from the pesky mosquitoes. You've outdone yourself this year; it's going to be a hard act to follow. Your sister August has brought some welcome rain tonight, but tell her to go easy with it.


All my love,


Ellen