Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Furnace



I’ve been taking a break from all my usual things: work, blogging, exercising, eating in moderation, cleaning, laundry, showering, personal grooming, and supervising my children. It’s been awesome. I know I have to re-enter civilization eventually, so I thought I’d start with blogging. I have a lot to catch up on, so I’ll aim for a few smaller posts rather than everything at once. By “a lot,” I don’t mean anything particularly exciting, just the usual Christmas festivities.

As I mentioned in the last post, we woke up to no heat last Thursday morning. After the professionals were unable to revive our 19-year-old furnace, it was removed from life support and laid to rest. We (Dale) freaked out at first, but it all worked out as smoothly as possible under the circumstances. We got a couple of quotes on Friday and went with a company who was not the cheapest, but who did all the paperwork for us regarding rebates and financing through Hydro, etc. Most importantly, they could install the furnace for us on Christmas Eve. Even though the weather was (and still is) very mild, it was nice to get it all done before the holidays.

Friday was a crazy day; it was the kids’ first day off school, and three families were coming over for dinner so I was trying to cook and clean between furnace quotes. Things were a little intense, especially when I stabbed Spencer’s balloon with a knife because it kept floating into the kitchen. He steered clear of me after that. As he should. Luckily my mother-in-law appeared in the midst of it all and drove the kids to a friend’s house for the afternoon.

It all worked out in the end and we had a great time that night. Because it was so mild and because there were so many bodies in the house, no one could even tell we had no heat. The next morning the furnace guys came to put in the furnace and by the time we got back from our annual Christmas Eve sleigh ride at Birds Hill, it was all done. Well, except for the payments which won’t be done for another five years. Ever since we did our reno, the second floor never heated properly so I was hoping that a new furnace would be more powerful and we’d notice a big difference. Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case and our lives haven’t improved at all. Oh well. I’m thankful we have a house and heat and everything we need and then some.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Birthday


Thursday was the anniversary of my birth. Thank you to everyone for the birthday cards, texts, emails, and Facebook greetings. Don’t feel bad if you forgot; chances are good that I forgot your birthday too.

These are the good things about my birthday:

  • Dale and the kids made it a special day. The kids all made me cute cards and Chloe gave me a cute heart necklace. Dale gave me a book on Marilyn Monroe and a tripod, which I was very excited about.
  • Going for dim sum at lunch with friends from work
  • Gifts and birthday cards and birthday messages, as mentioned above, plus a little visit from Kristin
  • Picking up the kids from school on their last day before Christmas vacation
  • Going to Sushi Train for dinner. We sat at the counter by the train track and Neve and another girl down the track exchanged notes via train the whole time. The yam tempura was particularly delicious.
  • Lemon pie at home for dessert
  • Walked over to a friend’s house, where four of us girls (if I still qualify as a “girl” at 42) had a great time like we always do.


These are the things I could have done without:

  • Waking up to no heat in the house
  • Having the gas light go on in the van on the way to work. Our gas gauge is not accurate, so I have no trust it in and decided it would waste less time to get gas than to run out of it.
  • My bank card not working when I tried to pay for gas
  • Finding out my bank card was actually my Plum Rewards card
  • Having to leave work right after lunch to meet the Hydro guy, therefore missing our staff Christmas gift exchange
  • The Hydro guy not being able to fix our furnace
  • Having to call another furnace guy who spent three hours trying to fix our furnace. I suspect that was not the favourite part of his day either.
  • Calling more furnace companies to arrange for them to give us quotes the next day.


So to summarize, the pros outweighed the cons. I am thankful for another year of health, happiness, and more wonderful friends and family than I deserve. And my house is now warm - I'll blog about that another day!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Done



Neve was so excited when she saw the sky today that she made me go outside and take a picture. It was quite beautiful and a nice start to the day. Neve gets excited about a lot of things. The other morning I woke up to her exclaiming, "WOW! That is SO beautiful! Where did it come from?" She was talking to Dale in the kitchen about a new Christmas Kleenex box I had bought the night before. She ran straight to my room and asked if she could keep the box when the Kleenexes were all gone. I said no. Just kidding, I said yes, now let me go back to sleep.

I am officially done my Christmas shopping. Well... I actually still have to get a Tim Horton's gift card, but that hardly counts. But no more stores for me, and not a moment to soon. It is a blessing to everyone that I don't have a smart phone to tweet or post facebook statuses with because the last week or so I would have been complaining non-stop about long line-ups, unfriendly and incompetent staff, or my latest pet peeve, poor signage about sales or prices. Today at Sears, some items were marked 30% off, but there were no prices on the items whatsoever. 30% off is great, but 30% off what? When I took it to the sales desk to ask what the price was, the grouchy lady said, "Well, whatever they're scanning at is the price they'll be." So helpful. I did try to be friendly and sympathetic to the sales people everywhere; I bet they don't look forward to work this time of year.

Several stores did make me happy though. I'm thinking particularly about Rocky Mountain Soap Company. I always buy their pumpkin soap in winter because it helps with the kids' dry skin. Since I'm registered in their system, I got an email telling me to come in for a free bar of soap during my birthday month. I thought it might be just a sample size, but since I was at the mall tonight, I went to check it out. Not only was it a full size bar, you could choose what kind you wanted. I know Sephora and Starbucks have free birthday gifts too - I love that. It makes me feel very warm and loving towards them.

So it was a good day - shopping done, volunteering in Spencer's class this morning, and a delicious lunch at Shannon's (check out her blog for some organizing inspiration - or better yet, hire her to help). I also helped Chloe make cake pops to give to her friends at school, and Neve hosted a Snowflake party in her room that involved dancing and halloween candy (WHY is that still around??) and spiralled into a candy-throwing fight. Good times.


Neve's new favourite past time - playing Webkinz with her friend Anna while talking on the phone to her. Usually she has the phone on speaker; yesterday Neve brought the phone to the table at mealtime and was planning to keep Anna on the line while she ate until I made her hang up. Today I overheard Anna say she had to go to the bathroom and then after several minutes, she came back. It was nice she didn't take the phone with her; she's a lot more considerate than the people you see in public washrooms talking on their cell phones.

I'm off to bed now and very much looking forward to waking up to a shopping-free day tomorrow. I wish the same for you.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Long rambling update

I’ve gone from one blogging extreme to the other – from every day to hardly ever. Well, I guess it could be more extreme. It really hasn’t been that long.

With less than a week until Christmas, things have been busy. On Thursday, someone I work with had a connection to two Jets tickets (not free, but for substantially less than face value), so Dale & I went. We were supposed to go Christmas shopping since my sister picked the kids up right from school and went to my parents’ for the evening, but it was our first chance to go to a game so I couldn’t pass it up. Dale was delighted that he not only got to go to a game, but he was spared from going Christmas shopping. I think he felt like it was a bit of a Christmas miracle. Anyway, the game was fun but I was a bit disappointed that the Jets not only ended their 5 home game winning streak that game, they didn’t even score a goal. They won again yesterday, so apparently I’m not their good luck charm.

On Friday, I was at my Leadership Winnipeg class all day, so the kids went to Grandma’s (the other one) right from school again. Dale & I went to an awesome concert with our neighbours Friday night. A local band called Quinzy (who I’d never heard of before) puts on a Christmas show every year called Quinzmas. It was great fun – very high energy and festive and a good mix of music. We plan on making that an annual thing.

Continuing on with my weekend of arts and culture, I had tickets to the Messiah at the Concert Hall for Saturday night. However, Neve was falling apart because she was tired and she missed me. Between Wednesday night and Saturday morning, I saw her for a total of about one hour before school. Chloe put the kids to bed two nights in a row and she wasn’t feeling great, so I felt like we should stay home. My mother-in-law had tried to get tickets but it was sold out, so she was more than happy to take them. So it was a relaxed day. Dale worked all day, so I took the kids to their church concert practice and Neve’s gymnastics party. Spencer also had his fencing Christmas party, but we couldn’t fit it in. I also spent a fair amount of time helping Chloe with her Egyptian death mask homework, wrapping presents, baking and cleaning. My neighbour came over for happy hour, and then we went to the little Christmas train out near the park. It was a beautiful, mild evening and all the Christmas lights are amazing. I just wish the old guys working there didn’t make us feel like they hated us. I remembered their surliness from the last time we went three years ago, and it hasn’t gotten any better. I expect in a few years they’ll be blatantly swearing at people and forcefully pushing them to the ground if they don’t get out the train on the correct side. We met friends there and we all went to our house after for apple cider and Christmas goodies. I’m taking a break from counting carbs until mid-January.

Today was a relaxed day – more wrapping, some crocheting, and even a nap. Dale went to the mall, which I thought was insane. He said he just picked empty stores to shop in, so I’m guessing we’re all getting gifts from Hakim Optical this year. Oh well, they have nice things.

The kids had their concert at church tonight – Spencer had a speaking role and Neve was an angel. She chose her role based strictly on wardrobe. Yesterday her friend Anna told her she was wearing making and sparkly hair spray, so that’s what Neve was fixated on all day. I believe the tidings of great joy may have been less important to her than eye shadow and sparkly hair. Must work on that.

And the week ahead brings some shopping, cleaning, and hopefully some time to relax and read some Christmas books or watch some Christmas shows with the kids. It’s on the late side for online shopping, so I’ll have to strategically plan my shopping trips to keep the chaos to a minimum. I’m dreading some returns I have to do at Zellers and Toys R Us – if I ran those stores, I would do things differently. The problem with going to the stores the last week before Christmas is that everything is on sale, so I buy more and/or I see things I’ve already bought for a fraction of the cost I paid.

Sorry, this long update was far from riveting. I’m sorry for taking up prime December minutes. Have a great week; hope it’s calm and happy.

Monday, December 12, 2011

This is why I don't send family photo Christmas cards

Yesterday I got a half decent picture of the whole family in front of the Christmas tree, so I suddenly thought maybe I should send out photo Christmas cards this year. I only send out cards every second or third year, so just when people have given up on us and taken us off their Christmas card list, we surprise them with a card. And then they frantically send us one that arrives on Dec. 27.

Anyway, my eye looked funny in the picture, so I did some photoshopping. Then I didn't like how my bangs were so short and wispy, so I worked on that. Then I thought, "Wouldn't people be impressed if I was thinner?" so I fixed that. One thing led to another and then suddenly I look like this:



My bangs are a little odd, but see how smooth and young my skin looks? Too bad my eye still looks funny. I really wanted to tidy up Spencer's hair and delete the wisps of hair on Neve's neck, but I still have a lot of work left on me. Next year, I'll get a family photo taken in March so I have the rest of the year to edit it. So no cards from us this year. But we love the ones trickling into our mailbox; please don't take us off your list.

Christmas is not even two full weeks away. That freaks me out a little; luckily I know it always comes together in the end. I still have several gifts to buy, but I'm caught up on my wrapping and I did some baking on Saturday. The evenings this week and next are not overly scheduled, so that makes everything less crazy. The kids are getting excited - it's nice their school concerts are done - we just have one more at church next weekend.

Speaking of church, Neve had her coat stolen from there yesterday. After the service, it wasn't where we hung it, so we were wandering around the foyer looking for it. Two other people were doing the same thing - it appears someone took three coats and a pair of boots from three different areas of the foyer. One coat and the boots (belonging to the same person) were found later in the elevator, but Neve's coat and a man's coat have not been seen since. The custodian usually sits in the foyer during the service, so it's all a bit of a mystery. Neve was pretty upset, but if someone needed a coat that badly for their kid, I guess it's all good. It was getting a little on the small side for Neve anyway, but I'm sad about the MEC mitts in the sleeve. Oh well, I guess that kid might need warm mitts too. Or maybe it was all just thrown into a dumpster. I sort of expect it to turn up yet, but in the meantime Neve needs a coat. I was thinking about sneaking into a hospital or women's shelter to steal one, but I bought one at Zellers instead.

On a happier note, 22 Words is my new favourite website - I believe I got the link from Corinna. Here are some picture of Amazon's headquarters - it's insane. It's amazing they can fill so many orders. I guess they must have a system. :)

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Konflicting Kornelsen Khristmas Koncerts



Have I ever mentioned how much I love when people spell "C" words with a "K" just to be cute? No? Oh right, because I hate it.

Last year, each of the three children were in separate Christmas concerts on separate nights. That meant three precious December evenings were spent in crowded school auditoriums/multi-purpose rooms. This year, fate was smiling down on us; all three kids had their concerts tonight. I went to Neve's concert at 6:00, Grandma took Spencer and Neve to their school for 6:30, and as soon as Neve's concert ended, I zipped over to watch them. Dale worked late and went to Neve's 7:00 concert (they have several performances). So it was a busy night, but very nice to have it all condensed into one night. Or should I say Kondensed?

The whole week's been busy ... Neve had a checkup at the doctor's on Monday, the kids all had dentist appointments on Tuesday, and I ended up taking Chloe to the doctor yesterday because she woke up with a big swollen eye (turned out to be nothing). Neve just woke up a few minutes ago crying that her ear hurt, so I am praying it will be better by morning so I don't have to go see the doctor three times in one week. The ironic part is before this week, I hadn't taken Neve to see the doctor since she was three, and Chloe hadn't been since 2008. The doctor was freaking. Neve hadn't even had her four-year-old needle. Oops.

I'm also hoping Neve will be better tomorrow so I can do some Christmas shopping. I have quite a few gifts left to buy, and they're the ones I've put off because I don't know what to buy. Maybe I'll get an epiphany in a dream tonight.

I didn't take any pictures of the big kids' concert; just a few of Neve's. It was a very relaxed and cute concert. It started off with three grade six boys getting the giggles while introducing the first song. The grade five boys accidentally (?) hit a button on the stereo during their song and it jumped to a totally different song and they had to start over. A baby from the crowd toddled over to the music teacher while she was directing the concert and wanted up. The music teacher held her for a while and the baby wasn't pleased when her mom came to retrieve her. The casual atmosphere is still a novelty for me after years of watching Chloe and Spencer's concerts. Their concerts are always very polished and professional, with no mistakes or glitches. It's lovely to watch, but sometimes (okay, often) I wish that someone's timing would be way off on their little Orff instruments, or that someone would sing the wrong words. Oh well, it's all good. All three children were quite pleased with their concerts and it was all very Christmasy and nice.

Okay, I'm off to receive my epiphany.

Neve's the one in the middle with her arm up.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Day 30 - The End



I had one goal today: to decorate the tree and house for Christmas. The bad news is I didn't reach my goal. The good news is that despite that - or probably because of that - it was another stellar day. December's been a good month so far.

I went to Corinna's craft sale and sipped on hot apple cider while I browsed. I got some cute things - I'm particularly excited about the banner I bought - well, not exactly a banner; it's little triangular flags all strung together like a garland. I can't describe it properly - look at the picture on Facebook. I like to put up streamers on birthdays and other special days, but from now on, I'm going to use this.

My friend Kristin came to the sale with me, so when we got home, we sat and talked and crocheted while the kids played. My neighbour and her daughter joined us for a drink later, plus Bella hung out with this afternoon, so it was a fun, busy household. In the past, the half-opened boxes of Christmas decor all over my living room would have hindered my ability to relax and enjoy the afternoon, but it didn't today. I'm not sure if plummeting standards are a good thing or a very bad thing. But I like it.

For dinner tonight, we went to friends' house for a delicious steak BBQ. We had a great night and I fulfilled my goal of eating, relaxing and talking. The decorating can wait for another day.

And that concludes my 30 day challenge. It's been fun and I'll be back. But not tomorrow.

Day 29

I feel like I’ve had a really good week. I felt productive and energetic, neither of which happens very often. I dedicated the day today to getting errands done, and I got almost everything on my list crossed off: Rona, drop-off at Salvation Army, Toys R Us, the LC, Zellers, Superstore, the bank, the store right beside the bank who’s name escapes me .. oh – Small Indulgence, and almost every store in the Polo Park Shopping Centre. Neve came home for lunch today, so I even worked around that.

All that being said, I actually only bought a couple of Christmas presents. In fact, I made more work for myself by re-buying the Barbies that I’d already bought Neve. I found them at Toys R Us for significantly less money, so now I have to return the other ones. I hate when that happens, but they were almost half the price. Oh well, since it’s still early in December, I didn’t feel too stressed or rushed so it’s all good. One cashier asked the customer in front of me, “So are you all ready for the holidays?” Hello?! It’s December 2! Is there any person in the world who’s ready for the holidays yet? Maybe she was talking about Thanksgiving. I got that one under control. I noticed Rona wasn’t quite ready for the holidays either – they had the song “Highway to Hell” playing in the store. I actually never realized that Rona played music over the intercom. But they do. And apparently a 45-year-old heavy metal fan is in charge of the music.

Dale & I just got home from my work Christmas party. We got picked up by a limo service, though unfortunately it was a mini-bus and not a stretch limousine. Chloe thought it was a Fed Ex truck but when it just stayed parked in front of our house, I realized it was our ride. The party was a lovely affair at the Delta. The main party was in a hospitality suite, with a delicious turkey dinner at the Blaze restaurant. It was a lot of fun; a little too much fun for some people. Thank goodness there was no photocopier.

While we were out, the Christmas tree fell down and all the water spilled everywhere. It leaked through the floor and was pouring down into the basement. Luckily our neighbour came over and helped Chloe deal with it all. You’re a star, Karen. We hadn’t started decorating it yet, which was also lucky. When we got home, Dale sawed off the bottom branches while I held up the tree so now it’s nice and solid and tied to a hook in the wall. Our good clothes are all covered in sap and pine needles. I know you artificial tree lovers are smirking right now. But does your house smell like you live in a forest?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Day 28

Funny how I got a head start on this LMNNWM challenge and yet I'm the only one not finished. It's not fair. It was supposed to be just a November thing, so I could say I'm done, but I feel guilty about the few days I missed.

Today was fun for several reasons. It was the first day of the advent calendars, so the kids were all happy this morning. We have a few Playmobil advent calendars which I rotate each year, even though it's a bit anti-climactic when you already know that Santa is in Box #24. I bought a new one this year - the post office. Playmobil has gotten smart; this one is a different style so I can't re-use it like I do the others. I could put the pieces in the little boxes from one of the other sets, but it's tricky matching the box sizes up with the Playmobil pieces. Anyway, the kids take turns opening it. I wrote their names down on the kitchen calendar so no one forgets whose day it is. I also bought cheap chocolate advent calendars, so they each have a piece of chocolate for breakfast every day in December (don't tell Dale). Not every day - I know there are some calendars with "bonus days" that go right til the end of December, but I feel like that's cheating. I always feel kind of sad after Christmas, so you'd think I'd be happy about extra chocolate but instead, it seems depressing.

Wow. A whole long paragraph about advent calendars. I will continue with the other good things about today.

We got our Christmas tree today. This was actually not that much fun for anyone, because instead of the happy family outing where we walk to the tree lot and pull our tree home on the toboggan and have hot chocolate when we get home, I just stopped at the lot on my way home from work and threw a tree into my van. So when I cheerily announced I had gotten the Christmas tree, the children were not happy. I didn't realize this was such a significant tradition to them. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's not. In the past ten years, we've probably done the aforementioned scenario only two or three times. And even on those rare occasions, I can guarantee someone was complaining about being cold or having to walk so far. They just choose to remember it all Thomas Kinkade-like, which is awesome. I'm not going to set that record straight.

And lastly, Chloe and I went to my niece Tia's piano recital today. It was short and sweet and Christmasy and I had a nice visit with an old friend whose children played in the recital as well. My parents were there too, and we all went to my sister's after and ate cookies and watched home videos and talked. That's what I want to do more of this month - relaxing and talking and eating.

Happy December, everyone!