Monday, December 31, 2012

Happiness is ...

Happiness is...
  • not having to set my alarm for 12 days in a row
  • not having to rush around to kids' activities
  • not having to cook because everyone munches on caramel popcorn and Ferrero Rochers all day instead of eating healthy meals
  • not exercising for two weeks - and I mean NO exercise, unless you count walking between the living room and dining room to get another Ferrero Rocher
  • no laundry to do because everyone wears their pyjamas all day
  • finishing a 1000 piece puzzle
  • getting together with friends and family

At my parents' house.  My dad built this Stonehenge-like snow fort for the kids (and/or for himself).  In the background, you can see Bella going down the zipline.  If it's not scary enough in summer, icy steps to climb and frozen brakes add a little extra excitement.

Because I know some of you like it when I'm negative, here's part two:

Unhappiness is ...
  • still feeling full when you wake up in the morning (but eating anyway)
  • the weird, disturbing dreams you get when you've been sleeping too long and just can't summon the energy to get out of bed
  • the thought of going back to our regular routine
  • Spencer's glazed eyes after spending hours playing Minecraft on our new computer
  • trying to get all our programs working on the new computer.  We're loving the new Mac, just have a lot to learn.
I've run out of time for now ... Happy New Year's Eve!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve

I love it when my birthday falls on a Saturday; it spreads out the celebrating for the whole weekend.  Well, maybe no one else was still celebrating me by Sunday night, but I was.  It started Friday with shellac manicures at Tiber River with my friend Kristin.  I've never had one before, but I love it. 
Friday night, Dale and I went to the Quinzmas concert with some friends and neighbours.  It was such a great show - so fun and spirited and Christmasy.  This is the last year they're putting it on, which is very sad.
Saturday was a lazy morning.  Neve was supposed to go to her gymnastics Christmas party and then we were going to go for brunch, but both Neve and Spencer weren't feeling great.  Neve skipped the party and Dale made crepes for us instead.  My family spoiled me with gifts - in addition to the iPhone Dale gave me last week, I got a carrier bag for my bike, a book I really wanted, cookies Neve had made at school, a duct tape wallet from Chloe, and more.  Then we headed to Teresa & Anthony's for dinner with friends, lots of delicious appetizers, sushi-making, and an amazing cake.  Spencer still wasn't feeling great so he stayed at my parents' most of the time, and Neve lost steam early, so that was too bad, but it was still a very fun night with great friends. 

I forgot the photo trick of holding my arm away from my side so that the flab doesn't spread out like this.  It's hard to remember everything when you're 43.

Yesterday, we had another lazy morning with mildly sick kids.  After a while, I got tired of smelling the kids' sick breath everywhere I turned, so Dale and I went to a matinee.  Then we went to Bob & Janet's to celebrate Bob's birthday.  The nerve of him cutting into my birthday weekend.  Another fun, late night.  Today the kids have been tired and cranky, so we're setting ourselves up for an awesome Christmas Eve.  I had hoped to go sliding or skating, but it's - 50 or something outside.  Then I thought about going bowling, but the bowling alley was closed.  Some fresh air would have been beneficial for everyone, but we're using the children's ill health as an excuse to stay inside and watch Christmas with the Kranks. 

Attacking the gingerbread house at my sister's

We're going to get some dinner going shortly, then go to the candelight service at church, and come home and open some presents.  Dale's mom will join us, and hopefully my sister and her family will come by for a bit as well.  Tomorrow we'll go to my parents, and to Dale's mom the next day.  Lots of fun and excitement ahead - just hoping the kids will be happy and reasonably healthy.

Wishing everyone a happy, relaxing, joyful merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas countdown


Here are some poor photos (with other children’s identities obscured - makes the monks look rather sinister) from this week’s concerts.  Spencer had a few lines at the church concert, and Neve sang in the choir.  It was really cute.  Neve’s school concert was on Tuesday, which was also adorable.  They did The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and she and all the other girls in her class were Cindy Lou Who.  They wore their pyjamas and Neve was beaming the whole time.  I’ve learned the hard way not to use my new cell phone as a substitute for my good camera.  Who knew.  At least I don't even have to try to obscure anyone's faces.  Neve is the one on the far right in the light pink pyjamas.


Spencer was sick today, which totally changed my day.  He went straight to bed as soon as he got in the door from school yesterday and still had a fever and headache this morning.  So instead of spending the day at work, I just popped in for a few minutes, did a few errands and stayed home the whole rest of the day, except to pop in to the drug store tonight.  Spencer slept on the couch all day – we tried watching a movie together, but it hurt his head – so I wrapped every last gift.  I’m 100% done shopping and wrapping.  Oh, except for one more thing I have to pick up tomorrow.  I hate that “one last thing.”  When I was walking into the drug store tonight, I saw Gail Asper running to the card store nearby, but it had just closed.  So she ran into the drug store and I saw her trying to choose a card.  It made me feel better to think that even successful people probably always have that “one more thing” too.  I just assumed they were more organized than me.

I always panic at the end because I think of other people I should thank at this time of year with a heartfelt, thoughtful token.  Like the computer teacher and the school custodian and the trash collectors and our local MLA.  And even though we contributed to the teachers’ group gifts, should I still get them a little something?  I have to stop thinking about it and tell myself that these people will have happy Christmases even if I don’t give them a little 3-pack of Lindt chocolates.  Or will they?  Maybe Shoppers is still open.

I haven’t done a card for a few years, ever since the 40th Fiasco.  Not to open old wounds or anything, but you may remember the year I was about to turn 40, I did a Top Five highlights of the year type of letter.  At Dale’s suggestion, I added in a box that said “most anticipated event of the year,” which was “what will Dale do for my 40th since I surprised him with a trip to Vegas.”  I remember asking him if he was sure he wanted to include that, and he said yes.  Based on that, and some not-so-subtle hints that we were going to Mexico, when I opened my tickets to Vancouver, I may not have been as excited as Dale was hoping.  Long story short, after our Christmas letter went out, people kept asking excitedly what Dale had gotten me.  That put me off Christmas letters for a while.  But it’s all water under the bridge and Vancouver was lovely.

But since we had a decent family picture from PEI this summer, I thought this would be the year to do a picture Christmas card.  I left it too late, until last week one night when I couldn’t sleep.  Let’s just say the whole thing looked better at two in the morning then it did when I picked up the finished product at Costco the next day.  I have no list or labels and am just randomly addressing them and handing them out when I have a minute.  Some have made it into the mail; others have not.  I’ve given at least one empty envelope; others may receive two cards, and still others none.  I’m sorry.  Me and Christmas cards are not best friends.  If you didn’t receive a card and want one, let me know.  I ordered a lot.  I wasn’t thinking clearly at that hour.

I’m officially off work now until after New Years, so I’m pretty excited about that.  I got a lot done today and while I may not be ahead of the game, I’m definitely in the game.  No one likes to see their child sick, but the house sure stays neater.  I really hope he’s better tomorrow; he doesn’t want to miss the Christmas festivities at school and I don’t want to miss my manicure date with a friend.

Happy almost-Christmas-holidays!!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A quiet Saturday night

One more week of festivities until Christmas holidays: two more kids concerts - one at church and one at Neve's school, a Christmas banquet with the teen mom group, an adult concert (Quinzmas), a gymnastics Christmas party, Christmas chapel at Spencer's school, a couple of lunches/coffee with friends, and a sushi night with friends.  Throw in a little work, a tiny bit more shopping and wrapping, a hair appointment, bringing baked goods for an assortment of school and church functions, sending out Christmas cards, and I've got myself a busy week.  I'm actually looking forward to pretty much everything - it's going to be a good week

Thursday was Neve's turn to shine.  She's been taking a hip hop class at the community centre and they put on a ten-minute recital for the parents.  If only all concerts/recitals/performances were ten minutes long, this world would be a better place.  Neve loves hip hop and she takes it with two very good friends; I think the teacher has her hands full with them.  Let's just say those girls are not shy when they're all together.


I had such a great day today.  I had to transport children all morning, but I was home shortly after 1:00 and didn't leave the house again.  We had pancakes for a late lunch, I had a blissful nap, and then put on my old gigantic heather grey Reebok sweats and my grey Roots sweatshirt that I got for my birthday at least 20 years ago - not even exaggerating.  Chloe went to a party at her friend's house and Dale went to a party that I opted out of, so Spencer, Neve and I ate popcorn and watched Christmas specials.  Best night ever.  A night off on a December weekend is such a luxury.  The school shooting in Connecticut made me treasure a night with the kids even more.  I can hardly stand reading or hearing about it - I wish I could just pretend it never happened.  I'm sure the families there wish that a thousand times more than I do.  One little grade one girl that was killed apparently went to Spencer's school last year ... so, so sad.

Back to lighter things, Dale gave me my birthday gift a week early, which is something we never normally do.  It's a new cell phone; he didn't know if he'd have time to buy it later this week, and I can't go a week without a phone so he gave it to me tonight.  Once the kids went to bed, I set it all up and have been playing with it ever since.  I've never had data on my phone before, so I'm feeling pretty advanced with my new technology.  Good bye, Hello Kitty phone.

We had our little neighbourhood party last night.  I guess a lot of neighbours were feeling like I did tonight, and just stayed home in their pyjamas instead of coming by.  A grand total of three neighbour families came; luckily they were good ones, and some other friends and family came by as well, so it was a fun night.  The kids loved it and all the adults appeared to have a good time, so I'm calling it a success.  It made me clean the house and get things organized, so that made today extra nice with no cleaning to do or food to prepare.

Neve and friends at the party

Monday, December 10, 2012

The weekend

Saturday was the most perfect baking day ever - snow falling, Christmas music playing, nowhere to go - so I had a bake exchange with myself.  The marble pan is something I've never made before: a finely-chopped pecan base with white and dark chocolate swirled around on top.  Oh, and whipping cream.  They're supposed to be like truffles, but in a square format.  I also made Hershey Hugs cookies (dipped in icing sugar), caramel chocolate squares, coloured marshmallow squares, and ginger snaps.  The ginger snaps turned out a little too gingery, which is odd because it's a recipe I love from my sister-in-law Joan and I've made them before and they've always turned out perfect.  I forgot the baking soda and I lost count of the cups of flour, so I guess there may have been human error involved. 

If you lived on my block, you could come over Friday night to eat these, as well as a few more things I'm planning to make this week.  Hopefully at least a couple of my neighbours come; I narrowed down the invitation list to only the ones I like.  I have so many things to do before the party it isn't even funny.  Besides the food and drink to prepare, I want to scour my entire house, organize every cupboard and closet and repaint the bathroom before Friday.  They say if you reach for the moon, you might make it to the stars or something.  I'm happy with stars.

My office Christmas party was on Saturday night at the Radisson.  It was supposed to be at the old/new Metropolitan theatre, which I was very excited about.  I love old buildings, especially when they've been vacant for years and then developed into something cool.  But it was not to be.  First we found out they didn't have a liquor license yet (not a big deal), and then on Friday we were told they weren't ready to serve food yet (bigger deal).  Fortunately arrangements had already been made to go to the Radisson for pre-dinner drinks, so the whole party shifted over there.  And I'll have to wait a little longer to see the Met.

The best thing about Chloe's new school (if you ask Chloe) is the cheerleading team.  I kind of rolled my eyes when she told me she was interested in doing cheer.  I thought they'd just cheer at football and basketball games and be all stereotypical and wear their cheerleading uniforms every day like they do on Glee.  Well, let me tell you about the world of cheer.  It's its own sport!  Who knew?  They practice twice a week after school (much to Chloe's dismay, she can only go once a week because it coincides with her Japanese class).  They do gymnastic-type things and stunts and everything.  They've been having extra practices in preparation for a competition that was held yesterday at the U of M.  This is serious business.  Their team is pretty modest in terms of skill (all but three of the kids are in grade 9, so have only been doing this for a couple of months), but some of the schools take it pretty seriously.  I was pretty impressed - I'd be scared to do a lot of the things they did.  Once the high school competition part was over, they had the club teams (or whatever they're called).  We stayed to watch a couple of teams perform; it was pretty amazing.  I had no idea cheerleading existed to this extend in Winnipeg.

I video-taped the performance and I haven't had time to figure out how to get a better quality still photo from the video, so here are a couple of blurry ones.  Chloe's the "flyer" on top.

She's the one on the top left in the picture below (they don't have their official uniforms yet).

The least fun part of the whole thing was forcing Neve and Spencer to come watch.  Neve ended up enjoying it, but Spencer complained bitterly for much of the time.  Someday in the not-so-distant future, he'll look back and kick himself for not enjoying a few hours of being surrounded by cheerleaders. 

Later that afternoon, he had a fencing tournament at the opposite end of the city.  He played hard and put everything he had into it, but he didn't win any of his matches and was very discouraged.  He doesn't handle disappointment and sadness very well, so the rest of the day was rough.  Nothing we could say helped; I guess it just had to run its course.  He was much better today.  If anyone has good advice on how to help kids work through disappointment while still keeping things in perspective, I'd love to hear it.

He's the one on the right.  Maybe fencing pants would help.

At the tournament, I watched a very intense match between two adult fencers.  One of the spectators was being an idiot and trying to psych out one of the players.  After every point, the spectator would lunge towards the player and yell loudly at him.  Understandably, this was getting on the player's nerves and he and his teammates who were watching started freaking out and were very close to getting in a fight with the annoying yelling guy.  The ref went crazy and gave them all yellow cards and then things calmed down.  And that was the most exciting thing I've seen at fencing.  I still don't know the rules of the game and I can never tell who gets the point.  Hopefully I'll learn one day.  Although I'm getting older and less sharp, so it's not looking good.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Would the real Santa please work longer hours

With only a precious few free evenings before Christmas, we used one up to go visit Santa last night.  Our timing was poor; the real Santa was finishing up with his last child of the day.  So we got a fake Santa instead of the one who's been on almost every single one of our Santa pictures since Chloe was born.  I wanted to come back another day, but wasn't sure when/if that would happen, so we worked with what we had. 

Spencer said this Santa rushed him along, which isn't that surprising since the only thing Spencer asked him for was a "standard electric sabre," which drew a blank stare from Santa.  I guess Fake Santa's not into fencing.  Neve asked for scented markers and clip-on earrings and Chloe asked for books.  It's an easy year for Santa.  Except for the sword.

Luckily the kids all got the memo about wearing a tshirt with writing on it.

Afterward, we went to Boston Pizza, where the service was even poorer than our Santa timing.  We were all hungry and irritable after waiting for over 45 minutes to get our food.  The worst part was that when I asked the waitress nicely if there was a problem with our order since other tables that had been seated after us were already finished eating, instead of apologizing, she said, "Don't worry, your food will come."  As I punched her, I told her, "Don't worry, the bruise will heal."  At least in my fantasty, that's what I did.  I get so ill-tempered when I'm hungry. 

The point of this whiny story is that the "idyllic family outings" I look forward to often don't live up to my expectations.  And when I have no expectations, that's when the magic happens.  So here's to an unplanned, unorganized, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants December.  Looking for the positive in everything wouldn't hurt either.  For example, all that waiting time gave me lots of time to take pictures.  I should have taken one of the waitress's bruise.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

And suddenly it's December

It was Elf night at our house tonight.  We didn't have spaghetti and maple syrup or anything, but it was pretty fun.  It's such a great movie.  The best part was cleaning our basement beforehand.  It's still not great, but at least now I don't want to pick up a sledgehammer and tear down our wannabe Mexican stucco walls quite as badly.

My goal for December was to be finished my shopping (sorry, talking about Christmas shopping again) so I could just relax and hang out with the family and feel Christmasy.  I've done pretty good with the shopping; there are lots of odds and ends I still need to get, but I was still able to have a nice, relaxing weekend.  We got our tree, decorated part of it, and have house decorations spread around the rest of the house.  Neve unpacked things and lined everything up in a row on the mantel, which looks awesome.  Actually it doesn't look much different than when I do it so it will probably stay that way.  My Christmas decor isn't perfect, but it all has sentimental value to the kids, so I'm happy with that.  My biggest advice to new parents would be: be careful what you buy or display when your children are little because it just "won't be Christmas" for them without that cheap ceramic Santa sitting by a fireplace with a tea light candle holder that makes the fire look real(ish).  We're locked into that one for the rest of our lives.  But it is fun seeing how excited the kids get about all their favourite ornaments.  The Playmobil advent calendar is another thing we'll be doing forever.  We've done all the Playmobil calendars a few times each, so now I buy miscellaneous Playmobil sets and make up my own, using the boxes from the calendars we have.  There's nothing I'd rather do at 7:00 a.m. on December first.  All I can say is:  young parents, be careful!

This weekend started off great Friday right after school when Neve convinced me to come to the far end of the field to see the ice slide she plays on at recess.  It was just a small, gentle slope, maybe a foot high at the start.  She showed me how she went down it, both hurling herself to her knees and sliding down, and by sliding down in a standing position.  I thought I'd be the fun mom and try it.  The crashing to the knees looked violent and painful, so I thought I'd try standing.  That was the worst idea I've ever had.  Like something straight out of AFV, my feet just gave way under me and I fell FLAT on my back on the hard ice, banging my head on it as a bonus.  Of course I jumped up quickly and pretended to be fine, but MAN did that hurt.  I woke up Saturday with pain in my back, ribs, and head.  Dale happened to have a disposable heating pad thing for lower back pain that you wrap around and affix with velcro, so that helped a bit.  It sucks being old.

Saturday was a day of great joy for Neve - Chloe took her to the mall for their first shopping trip together.  One of the best things about being a parent of more than one child is seeing your kids enjoy being together.  (I'm full of parenting wisdom today.)  Apparently I wasn't the only happy one; I took a picture of them before they left, and Dale took one when he dropped them off at the mall.  They were so cute together; they even coordinated their outfits the night before.  When I met them a few hours later, they were both glowing with their little shopping bags from Forever XXI and Claire's (Neve) and Bath & Body (Chloe).  I'm not a fan of crowded malls on December Saturdays, so I wanted to get out of there, but Neve wanted me to come to Lush to show me some soap that was like play-dough so I fought my way through the crowds.  I think she was expecting me to buy it for her but I didn't, so she bought it with her own money.  Then Chloe made another stop at The Body Shop and the store was so full with a long line-up and she couldn't decide what to buy and I was getting claustrophobic and boiling hot because I was still wearing that heating pad. So that was the end of that shopping trip.  The crowds didn't bother the girls at all, so I'm sure this was the first of many excursions.  At least until their money runs out.