Saturday, March 31, 2012

Minneapolis in a big nutshell

We stayed in downtown Minneapolis the first two nights. After we checked in on Saturday, we went for a walk on Nicollet Avenue, which is the main downtown strip. As mentioned yesterday, I had remembered downtown Minneapolis a tiny bit different. I was thinking more Chicago and less Winnipeg. I don’t scare easily, but being unfamiliar with an area always makes me feel a bit guarded, and it didn’t help that we walked by a few gang-like groups of youth. When we walked through one group, we were treated to a full-on marijuana experience. We walked through it again and again until we were feeling awesome. Not really. The police happened to slowly drive by right then and the group quickly dispersed. Then the cruiser pulled over just down the block and arrested a man right in front of us. The man was not happy about this; he swore a blue streak at the police as they handcuffed him. The kids were a little traumatized about that, but what seemed to affect them even more was all the people they saw smoking. When we got back to the hotel, Neve looked at me with eyes as big as saucers and whispered to me, “Should you have brought me here??” Spencer was also worried about the situation and expressed some concern about spending the night in our hotel. I told him there was nothing to worry about; there’s a doorman in the lobby and it was safe. Neve said, “I’m going to get up in the night and peek out our door at the doorman.” After some questioning, it turns out she thought there would be a guard stationed right outside our door. But it was all fine, although I did have to call the front desk at 3 a.m. because of very loud angry yelling in the hallway that continued on at great length. Fortunately the kids slept through it.

On Sunday, Chloe and I went for a run through a gorgeous old neighbourhood and around a lake. The rest of the day we swam, walked, shopped, rode the light rail a few stops (or whatever their public transit train is called), and watched TV. We had brunch at a cute little crepe place and finally found a restaurant suitable for children for dinner. I also read a couple of books while we were away, plus I started reading Anne of Green Gables aloud, which everyone enjoyed (and continues to enjoy) despite a lot of initial complaining from the boy.

Chloe and her shoe obsession (and no, she didn't buy these)

On Monday, we packed up and headed over to the Mall of America area. We stayed at the Radisson, which has a big indoor waterpark. That’s where we were from 4:00 until bedtime, and again the next morning until checkout. The kids had so much fun on the waterslides and everything else. Neve couldn’t be convinced to go on the big waterslides, so she mostly stayed on the water play structure. Spencer loved having the run of the place and ran around on his own pretty much the whole time. It’s amazing we found him at the end of the day.

Oh yeah, there was an arcade in the hotel too. That place really was a kid's dream.

The next day we did some shopping and then started driving. We spent the night at an interesting hotel in Fargo. Interesting, as in ‘I’m not even going to check for bedbugs because I’m pretty sure I’ll find some.’ Hotwire makes things exciting. It actually ended up being okay and the kids loved the pool. After a stop in Grand Forks the next day, we got home Wednesday night. I’m not sure anyone was really looking for a day-by-day account of our trip, but there you have it. It’s a very diluted, rosy account – I left out the parts where Spencer complained about shopping, how itchy the kids were after being immersed in chlorine for four days, how Spencer kind of threw up in the night, how much TV was watched, and how much I longed to have some time to myself. But overall, we all had a great time and found it hard to go home. The rest of the week has been relaxing and unstructured and lazy, except for Chloe’s birthday party. One more full day of spring break remains; the weather’s supposed to be nice, so I hope to enjoy every minute. Hope everyone else had a happy little break too.

At the Lego store. Neve bought a "Friends" Lego set with her own money and did a great job putting it together all on her own when we got home. Move over, Spencer - there's a new Lego freak in town.

Passing time on the drive - tongue tattoos and teaching the kids to blow bubbles. I recently realized the younger two had no idea how to blow bubblegum bubbles (I hate gum, so the kids never have any). I could have probably taught them something more intelligent like needlepoint or logic problems, but the bubble blowing was a big success.

Friday, March 30, 2012


I don’t think it should be possible to have a fourteen-year-old when I still easily remember being that age. Sometimes I feel like I still am that age. I’m basically like a teen mom. So young and hip. Hmm, just using the word ‘hip’ automatically makes me the opposite.

So Chloe turned fourteen last Saturday. We’ve had a disjointed week of celebrating because of our jaunt (another old-person word) to Minneapolis. We drove all day on her birthday, so we celebrated the day before. We went to see The Hunger Games (so good!), had sushi and cake for dinner, and gave her her gift. We got her an iPod Touch, which she wasn’t expecting – despite the emails she got from Apple earlier that week saying WELCOME TO YOUR NEW IPOD TOUCH. They helped me set up her email at the Apple Store and I didn’t clue in that her emails would also appear on her regular email account. We had to weave a tangled web of white lies, but she says she believed us and thought the emails were sent to her by mistake.

Chloe with her iPod. Neve is always a little sad when it’s someone else’s birthday, especially when she has eleven months to wait until hers.

oh, brother

Grandma and Bob & Janet both dropped in briefly to wish her a happy birthday. As mentioned, we spent a large part of the day in the car on her actual birthday, but thought we’d go out for a nice birthday dinner. We stayed downtown, which I remembered differently from the one time I’d been there many years ago (more on that next time). When we asked the hotel staff to recommend a family-friend restaurant nearby, he directed us to one called Hell’s Kitchen. With the slogan of “damn good food,” it didn’t sound super family-friendly but we went to check it out. There was a long line-up to get in, a live band playing and not a person under 21 in sight. So we walked around for a while trying to find something else, but the only restaurants we found were either fancy or closed. We were getting to the if-we-don’t-eat-something-soon-we-will-collapse-on-the-sidewalk-and-moan stage, so we dragged ourselves back to the van and decided to find a boring but familiar chain restaurant.

Long story short, we ended up at the Mall of America and Chloe chose to eat at the Rainforest Café. If I could live that evening over again, I would do it differently. First of all, I thought for sure they’d do something special for birthdays, so when I told the waitress it was Chloe’s birthday, she said, “Okay, we have a chocolate volcano you can order for $13.99.” What happened to a free piece of cake? Or how about just turning your head and saying, “Happy birthday” to the birthday girl? We didn’t end up getting any birthday dessert; luckily we had a box of fudge from Scheels in our hotel room. Secondly, do you know how loud that place is? It was super crowded mostly with children under 5, the apes were squealing above us, there was occasionally a loud fake thunderstorm, and whenever a waiter brought out a chocolate volcano (which everyone in the restaurant ordered except us), all the waiters shouted and yelled. That was so annoying I felt like punching them in the face. My senses were very overloaded and I was so relieved when we finally got back to our quiet hotel room.

Fast forward to tonight. I am writing this sequestered in the study while Chloe has friends over to celebrate some more. A while back, I told Chloe my birthday party planning years are over, at least for her. I encouraged her to do her own party planning and invite friends to go bowling or something. Then I offered to order pizza if they wanted to come here after. Then I ordered a DQ ice cream cake. And bought helium balloons. And Justin Bieber napkins and plates. And chips and pop. And veggies and dip. And Eggies and gummi bears. Sounds like I’m still in the party-planning business. I drew the line at goodie bags though. Oh well, it has been pretty low maintenance. They’re currently watching movies in the basement while making duct tape flip-flops. However, there is no official party end-time, which is slightly concerning.

Now for a few sappy words of love for Future Chloe to read someday. I’m so proud of the confident, lovely person you are. When I talked to a couple of your teachers last week, they both were impressed by your confidence and how you appear to be fully comfortable with who you are. It’s something I have always wished for you; it was one of the best things they could have said. You’re also responsible and kind and love to laugh. I love that you’re always willing to try new things, even when it means going for a seven mile run on vacation. I could say many more nice things about you but I feel shy to brag in public. Obviously not that shy.

On a related note, this is for parents of pre-schoolers. Don’t listen to the people that speak ominously about the teenage years. I know Chloe’s been very easy on us so far and I’m not naïve enough to think we will get through it unscathed, but I think any age when a kid can not only use the bathroom independently, but also clean that bathroom weekly, is automatically a thousand times easier than a 2-year-old. Look at me trying to be all wise, dispensing parenting advice; now things are guaranteed to get rough for us. If that happens, I will delete this post.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Spring break has begun

Spring break is upon us. Chloe and Spencer’s last day was today, and Neve finishes tomorrow. I love spring break, but it means the end of the school year is just a blink away. I always get nostalgic this time of year and just want things to stay like they are: I love the ages the kids are at, school is going well for all of them, they each have awesome teachers and friends, and I just want time to slow down. I especially feel it this year with Chloe about to change schools. It’s exciting, yet I don’t feel great about my kids all being in separate schools. The kids don’t love the idea either; Spencer said he wants to go to Neve’s school next year. I’m tempted, but that school only goes to grade six so he’d have to switch schools again the following year. It’s all good; I know we’re lucky to have so many great school choices.

The spring break fun starts tomorrow (I guess today – it’s after midnight) with a Hunger Games matinee. I actually have a knot in my stomach about it because the movie trailer looked so intense. I hope I can handle it. We’re also off to Minneapolis for a few days during the break and are all very much looking forward to that. I have big plans to read and go for walks, maybe even at the same time. Throw in a bit of shopping, watersliding, and eating out, and it doesn’t get much better than that.

Last Wednesday was Spencer’s science fair. The angels were celebrating when this thing was over. Somehow the project all came together in the end. It was adequate, though not life-changing. Unless you’re one of those people who think they study better with music. You don’t. Okay fine, maybe you do, but according to his/my research even the people who said they concentrated better with music, actually don’t. Anyway, Spencer had a pretty good grasp of his/my project and I think he had a good day. Now we have a two-year reprieve until the next science fair. Oh, and for of all of my work on this, combined with my incessant complaining, Dale bought me a present (Wii Zumba). I must remember this strategy the next time there's something I want.

We met my new baby great-niece this week. She is the cutest thing ever, but her big (one-year-old) brother was the main attraction for my kids. He was fascinated with Neve’s hair and kept touching her ponytails. She pretended she didn’t like it, but really she did. He loved Spencer too and took him by the hand and led him downstairs to play. Then he came back for Neve. We don’t see him a lot, so that was pretty fun.

I was going to write more, but I'm running out of steam and can't remember what else I was going to say.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The nieces

I’m so behind in my blogging. I’m behind in a lot of things – I know my blog header and my facebook profile picture need to move into spring mode. With the gorgeous weather we’ve been having, I’ve had a tough time sitting down at my computer unnecessarily. If you’re longing for more consistent blogging, go check out Steve’s daily haiku feature. That guy is good.

So Baby Bella turned four a week or so ago.

Like I said in that post, she’s still a perfect little angel. Oh wait. Chloe was reading this over my shoulder and laughing. Bella may no longer be as perfect as she was when she was freshly born, but she’s way more fun. She’s got energy, attitude and a crazy spark. A few weeks ago, her parents hid all the scissors because she was running with them. The next day she came across a pair of little craft scissors, which she promptly used to cut off almost all her hair. She went from long, beautiful hair to this in no time flat:

She was very upset when she realized her hair was gone, and even more so when she was told Daddy couldn’t tape it back on like she asked.

My adult niece (the one that had a baby last week) is a hairdresser and she fixed Bella’s head. Luckily Bella has an exceptionally cute little face that can pull anything off and her new hair totally suits her.

Anyway, I always say four is the stepping stone from toddler to girl/boy, so she’s officially a real girl now. Like Pinocchio, except different. We’re pretty crazy about that girl.

Going back even further, I never posted about our second round of valentines celebrations. My nieces usually come over on Feb, 14th, but because there were conflicts with work, etc., we rescheduled to Louis Riel Day. Bailey and Tia joined us as usual, as well as Caroline (the foreign student that lives with them), and Bella came for the first time. Everyone slept over the night before and woke up to chocolate cake and treats for breakfast. It was fun and festive and two valentines days are better than one. Maybe we can stretch it into three days next year.

Switching to Dale’s side of the family, my 14-year-old niece Sarah ran a half marathon at Disney World a few weeks ago. Her mom is a marathon runner who probably runs at least a half marathon several times a week and a full marathon at least once a year. Her and Sarah have done some shorter runs together before, but this was Sarah’s first half marathon and she did awesome! Despite an intense schedule in the months before the run practicing for band and choir performances at her school, along with an unplanned trip to Manitoba because of the death of her grandfather (on the other side of the family), and not training as much as she would have liked, she ran it in just over two and half hours. I think that’s amazing and I’m so impressed. Way to go, Sarah!

Continuing with Niece News, Sarah’s sister Amy is finishing high school in Florida and has applied to come to university here next year. Well, not only did she get accepted, they were so impressed with her application and high school marks that they gave her a substantial scholarship that she never even applied for. She’s a bright girl. It will be so nice to have her live just minutes away from us next year.

I could go on; all my nieces are brilliant and talented. The nephews too, but they’re all in their 20s and apparently have better things to do than hang out with their aunt. If you’re reading this, guys, come over for a visit and I’ll write something clever about you. Even on the extremely slim chance they read this, somehow I don’t think that will be an incentive. How about – if you don’t come over to see your auntie, I’ll post embarrassing pictures of you when you were little. Until then, I'll end with a picture of the littlest niece, Lexie. Luckily her big sister hasn't gotten to her with scissors. Yet.

The difference 120 hours can make

The first picture was taken Monday morning. I wish I had taken a picture one day earlier; a lot of snow had already melted since the day before. The second one was taken yesterday.

Flip flop blisters, pink cheeks, jumping on the trampoline for hours, slurpees and kids falling asleep the second their head hits the pillow. How I love spring, especially when it catches us by surprise by arriving so early.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Productive week

After a busy week at work last week followed by all the action of last weekend, this week was a nice change of pace. I did a few little projects: I organized stuff in the front hall closet, the corner cupboard in the kitchen, and I was inspired by Shannon and Darla to clean out and organize my pantry. It’s amazing how good that made me feel.

There is still a lot going on though. I’m preparing to host four different parties (don’t ask), planning a mini spring break getaway, I have several side work jobs to do this weekend, birthday gifts to buy, and most dauntingly, Spencer’s science fair project looms over me like a black cloud. I set aside tomorrow afternoon for him and I to work on it, and then I realized he’s at a birthday party the entire afternoon (and at fencing in the morning). There goes my Saturday night. And Sunday. And Sunday to Monday night. I’m not happy about losing that time change hour this weekend – we need every minute we can get. This is the part where I use every ounce of self control I possess to not be negative and bitter about the science fair.

In more positive news, I have a new baby relative. My nephew and his wife had a baby this week, which I believe is my great-niece. I always mix up grand-niece and great-niece. I think great sounds better and younger than grand, so we’ll go with that. She is adorable in the pictures I saw, and I’m looking forward to meeting little Nixi in real life.

I think I’ve mentioned before how much Neve loves her stuffed puppy, Jessie. They are in separable except when Neve is at school. Every morning before school, I am instructed to play with Jessie. When Neve gets home, she is very displeased if the dog is in the same spot as she left it because that means I didn’t play with her. I’m always looking for extra ways to fill my day, so this is great. Neve took this picture of her. Notice the real collar and tag Neve/Jessie got for her birthday from her friend Anna – one side has Jessie’s name engraved on it; the other has our phone number.

This is a conversation I overheard today:

Spencer: Neve. If you could choose between me and dad dying, or Jessie getting lost but you could always buy another one just like her, which would you choose?

Long pause.

Neve: Would I have to buy the new Jessie with my own money?

Spencer: Yes.

Neve: I’d choose to keep the old Jessie.

Spencer: So you’d rather have me and Dad dead?

Neve: You and dad? I thought you said Mom & Dad. Then I would definitely choose the old Jessie. Sometimes even when you buy the same stuffed toy, they look a bit different.

While it hurts my pride to know I rank behind a stuffed Webkinz in Neve’s life, I actually think it’s a good sign. I know she’s only joking (I think), but there was a time that being apart from me for longer than a half day at school filled her with great anxiety. The fact that she can pretend differently now tells me she’s come a long way. Her class has started doing intramurals at noon some days, which means Neve stays for lunch even if it’s a home-for-lunch day. I thought this would be an issue for her, but instead, she’s excited about it. I’m so happy and relieved about the whole situation. Thank you, Jessie.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Now that was a weekend

This weekend, we made up for all the weekends that we do nothing.

It mostly rotated around my brother Jim’s surprise 40th birthday party on Saturday night. Jim knew Sabrina was planning a party, but she told him it was the following weekend, and didn’t tell him where. My brother Dan decided to surprise him further by flying in from Vancouver for the party. He arrived Friday afternoon, and since my kids were off school, I decided to send some surprise their way, especially since Spencer was very disappointed he couldn’t come to Jim’s party. He hadn’t realized it was an adults-only thing, and was quite stung by the exclusion. So I told the kids we were going on a little field trip to see the new airport. We looked around, got drinks from Tim’s, and sat on the benches and pretended we were going somewhere. When Uncle Dan appeared out of the blue, it was pretty fun. Since Dan only told me he was coming a few days before, I didn’t have to keep the secret very long, but I almost gave it away many times. I can’t imagine how Sabrina kept the whole party a secret from Jim for months! You are my hero!

Friday night, Bob & Janet and the girls came for dinner and then we all went skating at the Forks. Dan hasn’t been to Manitoba in winter for many years, so the snowy evening was perfect.

On Saturday morning, the kids had their usual gymnastics and fencing, plus Chloe and I went for a five mile run (we’re training for the half marathon in June – more on that another time). In the afternoon, Dan and I went to help decorate the lounge where Jim’s party was being held, then back home to change to our rockin’ 80s outfits, and back to the party place. This dress was the dress I made my bridesmaids wear (this one is my sister's). I wish I had a picture of the giant bow on the back. How I thought that was flattering, I do not know. Some day girls will think the same thing about "JUICY" written on the butt of their sweat pants. Don't say I didn't warn you. Yes, you. I'm sorry, bridesmaids. But at least I was right when I said, "You'll be able to wear it again." The waist line cut into my stomach in a painful way, so I brought a change of 80s clothes. Outfit #2 was stretchy pants and a long top - it was so comfortable, I'm glad that style is coming back. I can eat all the peanut buster parfaits I want and no one will know.

Jim thought he was coming to Sabrina’s soccer social, so when he walked through the door and everyone yelled SURPRISE, he looked confused, shocked, and disoriented all rolled into one. He had no clue, so it was very fun. Most people put a lot of effort into their 80s costumes and it was definitely a blast from the past. Lots of neon, legwarmers, mullets, side ponytails, tight acid wash jeans, and heavy metal wear. Good times.

Dale and I ducked out early so we could drop into another 40th birthday party - for my good friend and neighbour Karen. We went in our 80s wear, so that was awesome. I wish I could have eaten and drunk ten times more than I did – the food was awesome at both parties and the company delightful.

And the next morning, we were up at 6:30. We washed the hairspray out of our hair and headed to Holiday Mountain for a day of skiing with the kids (except Neve). It was a gorgeous day – snowy in the morning, but turned sunny at noon – good snow conditions and no lines to wait in. The kids loved it and the improvement from start to finish was amazing. The chair lift only had to stop for Spencer twice this year, so I think we’re almost ready for the mountains. Note to self – if you (I) read this before going skiing next time, remember to bring our own food! We had to wait 40 minutes for our food, which cut into our ski time. Why have I never thought of leaving myself notes here before? Remember to call for a massage appointment. Clip Neve’s nails tomorrow morning so her teacher doesn’t think we’re beggars. I feel my life getting more organized already.

After skiing, we went to hang out at Bob & Jan’s for a bit. Ate too much, played some ping pong, held Lexie. We were all dragging a little, so we didn’t stay too long. But it was great having Dan here. The kids were sad that he left today, but Spencer tried to look on the bright side. “Oh well, it was bonus time that we wouldn’t normally have had with him.” So true. And the 50th birthdays are already starting to happen, so maybe he’ll come around for some of those. :)

Monday morning arrived with a vengeance, especially since I didn’t get to bed until 1:30 because of work I had to catch up on. Spencer needed black shoes for his music festival today, Chloe came downstairs two minutes before we had to leave for school with a birthday party invitation she had just found in her room. She accusingly told me the party was TODAY, like I should have known. I had to get that sorted out (which including buying school supplies to donate to charity in lieu of a gift and dropping them off at the party girl’s house), plus I couldn’t find my bank card anywhere; the last place I had it was while skiing, so I had to make a trip to the bank as well in the middle of a busy work day.

EXHALE. Tomorrow looks more civilized so I think I can pull it together. Although who knows what the morning will bring. I kind of wish I did.