Saturday, September 29, 2012

If fall was always like this, I wouldn't hate it so much


So many people say fall is their favourite season.  I'm the opposite of those people.  While I do prefer fall to winter, it's overshadowed by the feeling that fall is just a slow, dreary march into winter.  But not today!  The march has changed direction and we are heading back to summer.  We took advantage of the gorgeous 29 degree day and biked to the park.  The kids climbed a tree, played at the playground, we got treats from Sargent Sundae, played a little game of soccer, and lay on the blanket and felt the warmth of the day.







Neve is featured so prominently in all these photos because Chloe hides her face when the camera comes out and Spencer makes silly faces.  These pictures look a little blurry to me, but I'm not sure why because they were fine in Lightroom.  Could be my tired eyes that are having a hard time staying open.  Anyone else feel exhausted by 9 p.m. lately?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

In need of a project

I've been feeling blah and unmotivated lately, which I believe is mostly due to the fact that summer is over.  It's always sort of exciting getting back to routine with school and other activities, but now the novelty is over and I find myself dreading winter already.  But today is a lovely sunny day, so I will try not to whine when really there is nothing in my life that is worth complaining about.  Not that my life is perfect, but there are a lot of people who have legitimate reasons to complain.  So I will suck it up and be thankful for what I have. 

I've been trying to think of a project or something to keep me busy - it always feels so good to organize something or paint a room - but I haven't yet come up with something I feel like doing.  I did notice how sad my (fake) mantel looked the other day.  Some people (ie. my friend Kristin) have such talent and taste that they can whip up stunning displays like this:

 

 or this:



Not me. This is my mantel:


On the left we have two candles, two gourds I got from my mom, and - for some unknown reason - a pack of felt to put on the bottom of chair legs.   The gourds are the extent of my fall decorating.

In the centre of the mantel is a lone white marble (you have to look closely at the above picture).  It's been there for months for no reason other than no one has had the desire to move it. 



On the right we have Napoleon III and Swimmy II. They have each lasted about two weeks now and appear to be doing well, so hopefully there will be no Napoleon IV or Swimmy III. The pet shop guy said it was healthy for them to see each other because they'll think they have competition and puff up their fins, which is apparently good for their fins. But sometimes they get too excited so Neve puts the Rapunzel book between them to let them calm down. And sometimes a mirror gets placed between them so one of them can see their reflection.

So the mantel could use an overhaul, but I don't know how to do that. The tree branch decal overpowers everything, but I'm not ready to take it down because I still kind of like it. So I don't think this project is going to go anywhere. 

Speaking of projects, I stained my deck furniture this summer and always meant to post before and after pictures.  Here's before:




Here's during:


 And here's after:

It's a big improvement and felt so good to get done.  My goal is to come up with a project I can feel good about, and is hopefully more fun than staining those chair backs. What projects you're working on?  Maybe someone has a brilliant idea I can copy.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Neve


Neve’s been having some listening issues lately.  With school starting, she’s been tired so I’ve cut her some slack but yesterday there was no more slack to cut.  After three separate incidents - one involving me running around the block trying to find her at bedtime – I finally snapped and we had a nice long talk (Neve would dispute the ‘nice’ part) resulting in her not being able to watch TV or go on the computer for two days.  No one wants to go on our computer anyway because it’s so old and slow, but the TV loss was a blow.  She sobbed, “But what will I do?”  I was kind of wondering the same thing, but I held firm.  She ran up to her room and as she lay sobbing on her bed, her sweet sister took pity on her and tried to comfort her.  Chloe promised she’d do something special with Neve the next day.  So today, Chloe set up a whole spa in the bathroom - with pillows and ocean music and dim lighting – and gave Neve a manicure.  Neve was in her glory so I’m not sure the TV ban was as effective as I’d hoped.


Today at dinner, Neve said, “There’s this girl at school who does everything I tell her to.  She’s my servant.”

Oh boy.

Further questioning revealed that a grade one girl in her class – Neve is in a split grade one/two class – follows all of Neve’s orders, such as “Go get me a pencil” and at recess when the servant girl is “it” in tag, “Don’t tag me.” 

“But she likes it,” Neve insisted when Dale and I expressed our doubts about this arrangement.  Neve’s best friend at school has a servant as well, and it sounds like they’ve got a pretty good gig going.  A tiny part of me is sort of proud of her.  But the rest of me is mortified.  I’ve told her she has to be kind and use good manners, but it probably won’t be nearly as fun with those restrictions.  Thank goodness she’s not in the grade two/three class or she’d be someone else’s servant.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bet you never saw this on Veggie Tales


This picture makes me laugh every time I see it.  I posted it on Facebook earlier today, so many of you have already seen it but it's too good not to share via all forms of social media. 

I got a bunch of carrots at the local farmers market the other day, so Chloe took one to eat.  At first she just saw the back of it, and said, "Oh look, it looks like a pair of pants."  Then she turned it around and we got a happy little surprise (which she refused to eat). 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Yard sale / pool party

Yesterday’s yard sale was a big success (sadly, I realize I didn't take one picture).  It was a beautiful, sunny day and we had a good number of customers and got rid of a lot of things.  The customers came in spurts: sometimes there would be no one for fifteen minutes; then five different groups would come at once.  It was actually pretty fun; the kids loved it.  Neve sold lemonade - which came with a free brownie – so she was in her glory.  We made $98 all together, which far exceeded the number I had told my kids to expect.  The biggest ticket item that sold was $7 and there were a few $5 items, but most of that money came in quarters. 

It felt so good to purge unused items and clear out some clutter.  Right after the sale, I dropped off the leftovers at Salvation Army, except for the Little Tikes easel, vanity table, and slide which I put on Kijiji today.  Within 90 minutes of posting the ads, the items were sold and picked up.  So that’s another $30 to add to the $98.  The bulk of the money is going to Haiti and the kids got a few dollars each.  Spencer is saving every penny he can to go to the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio.  I calculated that he’d need to save $100 a month for the next four years, so he’s kind of obsessed with that.  He wants to make business cards to give to the neighbours – what his business will be is not yet clear.  He’s thinking yard work or odd jobs, but there will need to be some teaching done first.  Like how to start a lawn mower and how to unfold a step ladder to wash windows.  But if they need help reaching the next level in their Sonic Wii game, he’s their man.

Anyway, I’m not sure if we’ll do the sale again next year; I was a bit crabby that my family didn’t help out with the preparation and clean-up as much as I had dreamed they would, but I’ll probably forget by next year and let them do it again.  And by “them,” I mean “I.”  Thanks to those of you who stopped by; it really was a good time.    

Later we went to my cousin’s house.  Rob & Gab are the king and queen of entertaining – they always have amazing food and drink and their backyard is a party yard if ever there was one.  They even fixed the weather so that we could swim on a hot mid-September day. 

The little girls drawing with chalk
I love Lexie's little scribbles

The boys getting silly

Sillier.  I won't even show you silliest.  You guys owe me one.   

Neve all dolled up and showing off her eyeshadow

The water was so nice and warm - I should have left some money to put towards their heating bill.





Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September craziness and some cute girls

Check out the shoes.  Also her nose looks enormous because there's a patch of sunlight shining directly upon it.

 September is living up to its reputation as a crazy busy month, so I’m really just blogging to tell you that I don’t have time to blog.  It’s a busy time at work, plus I have a large freelance project due this week which is taking up most of my spare moments.

On top of that, I think we’re going to attempt a yard sale this Saturday.  The kids had so much fun doing one last year and have been asking for another one all summer.  I would enjoy it too if it meant someone else compiling all the items, pricing and setting up, baking brownies and making lemonade, so that I could just sit there and look cute and get all the credit for everything.

The children’s extra-curricular activities are all starting up… Neve’s soccer resumed tonight, Spencer’s fencing begins Saturday; gymnastics, youth group, hip-hop and possibly theatre classes are not far behind.  I said no to judo (Spencer) and swimming is being put off until January.  I really wanted to take a course myself, but at this point I’m glad I’m not.  Sometimes procrastination works in my favour.  More often than you’d think, actually. 

Then there’s school with its endless amounts of papers to sign, meet the teacher nights, walk-a-thons, and book orders.  School seems to be going well for everyone here.  Neve hasn’t had any anxiety issues yet.  She talks about her new shoes a lot.  Every day when I pick her up, she talks the whole way home about how she wore them as indoor shoes, but she kept them on outside too and they didn’t get dirty but her friend said she had to put on indoor shoes but the bottom was spotless!  And look how they sparkle!  When you brush the sequins up, the shoes look black, but when you brush them down, they look grey!  And people ask me how I tie them up, because they can't see that there are zippers on the side!  And so on. And on.  They really are quite something and she gets a lot of comments on them, much to her joy.  Sometimes I freak out about how fast the kids are growing up, so it makes me feel better to buy them something ridiculous that I know they'll love. And that girl loves her sparkles.  Who am I kidding - she'll probably still love sparkles when she's 30.  I needn't have bought the boots.  But then what would we talk about?

Spencer has no complaints about school, which is a very good sign.  He loves his teacher and always hangs out with two good friends, so all is right in his world.  He’s starting band this year (trumpet), which he has already decided he hates.  I guess that's one complaint he has.  It’s going to be a long three years.

Chloe’s learning to navigate her way to classes and is enjoying her classes.  She’s had a lot of homework so far; high school is definitely a whole new world.  She’s still clinging on to the same friend she knew from before, but I assume she will gradually expand her friend base as she gets to know kids in her classes.  I get to go to her school Thursday night for Meet the Teacher.  I'm supposed to follow her Day 1 class schedule to re-enact a day in her life.  I hope I make friends.

There.  I’ve just spent half an hour telling you how busy I am.  I love doing that, especially when it means putting off my garage sale preparations.  After this, I’m going to create a detailed spreadsheet and a Prezi to further reiterate my busy-ness.

On a less whiny note (and to further procrastinate), here are a few pictures of my nieces.  Bella and Lexie stayed with us on the weekend while Jim and Sabrina tried to recover from a 3-week trip to Portugal with a 48-hour-delay on the way home.  They are adorable (I’m referring to the girls, not Jim & Sabrina, although they’re pretty cute too) and we had lots of fun with them.  Lexie has a shoe fetish and loves bringing people their shoes, and Bella’s the best at making funny faces.

We played outside for a while; Lexie tried chasing a rabbit, and Bella and Neve rode scooters, etc.  After a while, Bella got hurt when she drove over her foot with the scooter so we all went in, abandoning the outdoor toys near the front sidewalk.  A while later, I happened to be looking out the window when I saw some boys (I’d guess 12 or 13 years old) on the sidewalk.  One grabbed the scooter and zipped away, another took our little stop sign, and a third grabbed the doll stroller and they all ran down the sidewalk.  In a rare spurt of quick reflexes, I ran outside and started yelling at them, “STOP!  What do you think you’re doing?  Bring that stuff back!”  I caught up to the last kid pretty quick; he was like a very frightened deer in the headlights.  I was wearing bad clothes and my hair was wild, so I looked a little crazy.  When the boy on the scooter saw I had his friend, he turned around and came back, and he said very nervously, “It’s giveaway weekend, so we thought these were free.” 

I had totally forgotten about that; it was indeed the weekend where you leave unwanted things at the curb.  I felt so bad; I scared the crap out of those kids!  I apologized and they apologized and I almost hugged them and made them cookies but instead I asked, “And where’s the stop sign?”  The middle boy sheepishly walked to some bushes and retrieved it from where he had thrown it when I came running after them like a madwoman. I kind of like the madwoman persona.  If I ever move to a new city where I don't know anyone, I'm going to reinvent myself as one.  I'll be this wildcard person that everyone will be scared to mess with because they have no idea what I'll do.  Anway, in my defence, these toys were on our side of the sidewalk.  People aren’t supposed to take things unless they say “FREE” on them, unless they’re very obviously sitting right beside the street.  And I’m pretty sure these boys wouldn’t have much use for a doll stroller, so I’m thinking there was some monkey business intended.  But I’m pretty sure they’ll steer clear of Giveaway Weekend from now on.  If they come by our yard sale on Saturday, maybe I’ll sell them that doll stroller.








Oh, and I just discovered that Stephen's doing haiku this month, which never fails to impress me ... go check it out!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

First Day 2012


Here's the annual before school shot.  Spencer looks less worried than other years.  The only back to school clothes that were purchased was Neve's jean jacket.  Chloe gets so many hand-me-downs from her cousin that she just needs to open a bag or drawer to find something new, and Spencer doesn't care.  We got a free t-shirt in the mail yesterday from a Cheerios offer, and since Spencer wasn't yet wearing a shirt when the mail arrived, he just put the Cheerios one on.  Too bad he didn't save it for today so he could have worn something new (his shirts don't ever stay clean enough for a second day). 

I wish I would've had them holding their bags/backpacks so this looked more like a back-to-school photo, but I didn't think of it.  We were almost late for school as it was.  I meant to park at Spencer's school and go with him to where his class lined up so I could meet his teacher, like a nice, caring mother.  But by the time we got to school, the classes were already filing into the building, so I just dropped him off in the drive-through zone.  Spencer said he didn't care, but I'm sure he would have secretly liked if I had come with him.  I was the one and only vehicle in the drive-through lane today.  All the other parents somehow pulled it together better than I did.  But I bet the other parents did not have two more schools to drive to before 9:00 a.m. 

The first day was a success.  I thought about Chloe all day, and I was so happy a friend of mine happened to see her on Academy at lunch hour, and she reported that Chloe was looking happy and confident.  She did seem to have a great day; she came home beaming and happy.  She has a friend from before that's in the same homeroom and several of her classes, which I'm so happy about.  Chloe's sharing a locker with her, and hung out with her and her friends at lunch.  They walked to Tim Horton's and to 7-11, which are in opposite directions. Not sure how they fit that all into one hour.  I'm so thankful for this friend; Chloe's day would have been very different if she didn't know anyone.  It was mostly an orientation day, but she also had a couple of classes and was impressed with the teachers.  To further heighten the excitement of today, Chloe got a new cell phone tonight.  Her old plan was up, so she shopped around and got an android.  It's been a big day.

Spencer had a good day as well.  He loves his teacher so far and his desk is beside two good friends, so what more could you want.  Neve's day was okay.  She was disappointed that they hadn't done anything "special or fun."  I need to teach her my low-expectaction trick.

To answer Siobhan's question in the comments yesterday, this is how we're planning to do three different schools.  Spencer starts at 8:20, so we drive him there first (and pick up carpool kids Monday, Wednesday & Friday).  Neve's school doesn't start until 8:50, so I have time to park the van at home and Neve and I walk to her school.  That leaves Chloe.  Today Dale drove her to school for her first day, but normally she will either walk, ride her bike, take the bus, or catch a ride with the neighbours.  I could also drop her off between Spencer's and Neve's drop-offs.  After school, Chloe will get home the same way she came, Spencer usually gets a ride home with the carpool, and I walk Neve home.  Not sure if you were looking for such a detailed answer, Siobhan, but writing it down helped get it straight in my mind too.  I'm sure I'll forget to pick a kid up occasionally, but they always seem to find their way home in the end.

Best moment today:  at dinner tonight we were talking about school, and Spencer asked Chloe, "So did any boys check you out today?"  (Chloe was so mortified by her brother asking her that question that she refused to answer.  Which I interpret as a yes.)

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Brave




Chloe starts high school tomorrow.  This is where I should insert a baby picture of her that seems like it was taken only yesterday.  But digital cameras weren’t around ‘yesterday’ so that would involve looking through photo albums, removing a picture, and scanning it.  Whenever I do that, the picture never ends up back in the album and just sits around until it gets lost.  So just imagine an adorable little baby.  A baby who is switching from her private Christian school to one of the biggest public high schools in the city.  She got her timetable last week, with all her first-choice electives.  She is greatly excited and greatly apprehensive all rolled into one big ball of nerves.  We’re all looking forward to getting her first day over with; the unknown is so stressful.  At the end of the day, I’m sure there will be relief and happiness and a load off her shoulders.  She’s a strong, smart, brave girl who makes good choices and I know she’ll be fine.

Spencer loves school the least of the three kids, but he admits he’s excited for the first day.  The second day not so much.  But he has the teacher he wanted and good friends in his class, so he’s in a good place.

Neve appears to have a much better handle on her anxiety this year.  She doesn’t seem worried about school at all; in fact, she is begging to stay at school for lunch more often.  I don’t really want her to stay more than the two times per week she did last year because I like taking a walk in the middle of my workday and having lunch with her.

I think I mentioned this before, but Neve’s teacher last year was amazing.  Not only was she an excellent teacher who put a lot of effort into making schoolwork fun, she was warm and kind and caring.  She was so good with Neve and her anxiety issues; understanding and sympathetic, yet always encouraging her to be brave and overcome her fears.  She was filling a maternity leave position, so sadly she won’t be at our school this fall.  But last week we found a book in the mailbox from her, with the sweetest note ever.  The book was “Wemberly Worried” about a girl that worries about everything.  In her note, she said she was thinking of Neve as she starts a new school year and telling her to be brave and she’ll be fine.  I’m so impressed by her thoughtfulness and sadder than ever that our school couldn’t keep her on (she is starting a new position at a school nearby).  I've heard good things about Neve's teacher this year, so I have high hopes for another good year.

So there it is.  We had a nice last day of holidays - we had friends over and the kids all played outside a lot and enjoyed the day.  Even though the kids and I are ready for a bit of structure, I’m always sad when summer ends.  It’s such a long time until the next one.

But I’ll try to be brave.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Yurts

The view from the deck of our yurt


We did a final summer excursion this weekend.  We spent the weekend at the yurts with friends at Stephenfield Provincial Park. None of us had ever been there before and had no idea what to expect. We’ve stayed in the yurts at Spruce Woods and Nutimik before and loved them, so we thought we’d try a new place. Stephenfield is about 15 minutes past Carman and the closer we got, the more skeptical I became about this park in the middle of nowhere. I grew up relatively close to this part of the province and I'd never heard of a lake out there. My expectations were quite low all along, which is a life philosophy I try to embrace. As so often happens with rock bottom expectactions, it turned out to be much better than I'd imagined. The yurts were right along the shore of a small, cute lake. There was a nice new washroom that was shared by us and the other two familes we went with - it required a code to enter, so no one could use it but us. There were lots of trails to hike or bike, a sandy beach, and best of all for the teenagers - free wifi near the park office.  The weather wasn't great - kind of cloudy and nappy - but it was quite warm and didn't rain.  The nice thing about a yurt is that even if it does rain, you're nice and cozy and dry.  They're such a perfect alternative to tenting.







There was a beautiful sunset Friday night, and just as the sun was going down, the moon came up.  

Holding the moon

The girls

The little girls.  They spent lots of time playing in the yurt, at the playground and putting on dances and plays in the dark with glow sticks.




Teresa striking a pose while eating a pie iron.  I'm impressed at the flexibility of her right hand.



It was a good weekend with great friends, eating and laughing and drinking and carcoaling. The kids all had a lot of fun hanging out together.  We've been getting together as families since before the kids were born and it's very cool to see the kids grow up together.

And it's impossible to drive through Carman without a stop here.  I have such fond feelings towards Syl's - when I was young, my family would drive through Carman to visit relatives in the area and it was so exciting when we got to stop here for ice cream.  The milkshakes were the best.