Saturday, December 28, 2013

That was Christmas

I've got a lot of catching up to do, so I think I'll do it mostly in picture form.  I'm in my annual holiday hibernation mode now, so I'm keeping things easy.

I had a birthday.  It was a good one.  I've come to the conclusion that Sunday is the ideal day of the week for a birthday.  I slept in and Dale made crepes for breakfast.  We took the kids to Dale's mom's for their annual cousin cookie-baking extravaganza, then Dale and I went home and watched a movie that I wanted to watch - no compromising on my birthday.  Mike & Darla picked us up later and we went to Prairie 360 (the revolving restaurant) for dinner.  Darla's birthday was the day before, and in an ironic twist, we gave each other the exact same book as a present.  We all enjoyed our meals and the view, then they came over to play cards after.  It was a lot of fun.  On Saturday night Dale invited some friends and family over for birthday pie (he made lemon pie, my favourite).  Teresa was always a big part of my birthday - she usually made the cake and had us over and got me awesome presents.  Her physical absence was very obvious, but it made a big difference that so many friends and family called and emailed and messaged and took me out for lunch.  I sound like I'm seven years old and need lots of birthday attention, but I guess feeling special and loved is awesome at any age. 

On to Christmas.  We've had a busy few days, but it was all good.  We had lots of fun everywhere we went and had a great time hanging out with our families.

On Christmas Eve, we went to our usual candlelight service, then came home and opened a few gifts and played games.

Christmas morning - Santa came through.  Even Neve's doll's stocking was filled despite the very late hour of that addition.

There were no spectacular I-can't-believe-it gifts this year, although the Rainbow Loom came close.  The kids all chipped in and got Dale and I really sweet, thoughtful gifts.  I know Christmas is about more than gifts, but I love seeing the kids' excitement and smiles and it's neat to see them develop their love of giving too.

After the gifts were opened, we headed to Dale's mom's.  Dale's sister and her family from Florida were (and are still) here for Christmas.  They haven't been home for Christmas for a few years, so it was a big treat to have them here.  Chloe is especially thrilled to have her cousin Sarah here.

The next day, we headed to my parents' for more celebrating.

Dan & Jenn gave each of the kids T-shirts with pictures of them when they were babies or toddlers.  They were a big hit; the girls have been wearing theirs ever since.

My dad built a snow/bale fort

Playing fox and hound

Today is our first day at home.  I haven't showered or dressed yet.  The healthiest thing I've eaten so far is the nuts in my hazelnut chocolate bar.  I'm working on a puzzle, a pile of books, and helping Neve with her Friends Lego set.  We were going to go sledding, but there's a blizzard outside with a cold north wind.  If I needed an excuse not to go out, that would be it.

I hope you all had a magical Christmas.  Love you all!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas things

One more week until Christmas and most of the preparations and rushing-around is over.  As you know, my shopping was done weeks ago (it makes me happy just to be able to say that), but the kids’ concerts and other activities have been keeping us busy.  They’re slowing down to a trickle now and it feels manageable. I treated myself to a shellac manicure and a massage today.  The massage was actually not that much of a treat.  My massage therapist does not give relaxing massages.  He will find any sore spots and work them until you rue the day you were born.  My silent screams drowned out the Japanese flute music and tears of pain fell through the face cradle, bouncing onto the organic bamboo floor.  But I felt really good after.

Neve’s school concert was last night. She is not shy and she loves being on stage.  That’s a bad combination.  Her class did a dance; they didn’t have to sing because they played the song over the speaker instead, but Neve knew all the words so she lip-synced along.  But not just regular lip-syncing, all-out, dramatic, wide-open mouth lip-syncing. And the whole time, she was making eye contact with me.  The dance went around in a circle, so even when Neve’s back was to the audience, she turned her head to look at me. You know how at every kids’ concert, there’s a kid that you just have to laugh at/with?  This time it was my kid.  Neve loves performing and was so excited about the concert that her joy just bubbled over and she didn’t know how to contain it.  So she didn’t.  We got lots of comments from other parents about how … um … animated she was.  I wish I had videoed it.  I take lots of pictures, but I seldom think to video anything.

Children's faces have been obscured with questionable success.

Then we got locked out of the house.  My parents came over for supper and then we walked to the school.  When I locked the door behind me, something clicked in the deadbolt and the key just turned around and around.  Dale stayed behind to try to get it open, but he ended up having to call the locksmith.  The locksmith hadn’t arrived by the time the concert ended, but luckily my dad had the keys to their van with him, so we had a warm place to sit until he got there.  The locksmith picked the lock on our front door in about a minute.  I was happy we could get into the house, but also somewhat concerned that it’s that easy to break in.

Neve and Spencer were also in our church play on Sunday night (above).  It was mostly singing, but Spencer was in a short skit. He did good; I think he was inspired by the play we saw at MTC on Friday night.  When I bought tickets to A Christmas Story, most members of my family complained that they “had” to go.  No one was complaining afterward though; we all really enjoyed it.  Jim and Sabrina came too. We all had front row seats (cheap tickets).  At first we were startled by how close we were to the stage, but when the show started, it was great. Neve and Bella had to sit on laps so they could see onto the stage, but it kept their attention the whole time.  Two children from Neve’s school were in the play, which made it even more interesting.

I’ve done quite a bit of baking, but I wasn’t good at putting (hiding) it in the basement freezer soon enough and now a lot of it is gone.  I have to bring some baking somewhere almost every day, so I’ve been making pretzel bark a lot.  It’s fast and easy, and doggone it, people like it.  Speaking of baking, I have to go get some ready to bring to work tomorrow. 

I included this picture as proof that I let Neve use the EasyBake oven.
Her forced smile doesn't adequately portray the great fun that was had.

Monday, December 09, 2013

The best surprise face ever

I hate it when a week goes by without getting a chance to blog.  I have all these random thoughts in my head and I feel like I need to write them down so I can free up some brain space. When I finally have time to sit down and write, I feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.  So this is going to be a Post of Randomness (POR).  I love acronyms because I think they make me so sound so young and cool.  Chloe would disagree. She hates it when I say IKR (I know, right?) because it takes longer to say the initials than the actual words.  IDC (I don’t care) because I still think I’m awesome.  YOLO.
Speaking of feeling young, except the opposite, we went to Dale’s Christmas party Saturday night.  Only a handful of the people there were his regular co-workers; the rest were from another branch of the company.  The majority of these others were young, single, beautiful women in their twenties.  The seating worked out poorly and I was surrounded by girls young enough to be my daughters, except for Dale who had his back turned to me the whole time as he happily talked and laughed with his middle-aged co-workers seated on his other side. The girls were very nice, but they spoke to me with great respect as if I were their great-aunt or their mother’s boss.  But the joke’s on them because while they may be able to pull off wearing leather short shorts to an office Christmas party, I only had to spend about seven minutes getting ready because I didn’t have to impress anyone. Or at least that’s what I thought.  Just wait until next year. 
My work’s Christmas party was the night before at Prairie 360, the newly re-opened revolving restaurant. The food was delicious, the view was amazing, and it was a treat to be with people of all ages and talk about things other than which bars are the best place to meet guys.
Speaking of work, I had the shock of my life at work on Thursday.  There was a meeting lined up for noon in the conference room, so two co-workers and I went upstairs together.  The lights were off when we got to the room, but I could see a powerpoint on the screen on the wall to my left.  I saw a few pictures of me on it, and while I was looking at the screen trying to figure out why, I was startled/terrified by a group of people yelling “SURPRISE!” from the other side of the room.  All my co-workers were there – even Dale was there – and I still didn’t know why.  Turns out I’ve been at the Chamber 15 years, and either they decided it was something to celebrate, or they think 15 years is long enough and they were hoping they’d scare me to death.  My friend Wendy got the perfect shot of my face at the perfect moment:

I laugh every time I look at that picture. There is pure terror in my eyes.  People said it was the best reaction to a surprise they’d ever seen.  And heard … I screamed, even though I’m so not a screamer. I never once suspected a party; I can’t believe Dale didn’t give it away.  I always thought he couldn’t keep secrets from me, but now I’ll start to worry.


Once my heart rate returned to normal, there was food and cake. I also got a beautiful silver bangle and a photo album with pictures from the past 15 years.  There are a couple of blog readers at work, so the theme of the party was “Worth It.”  It was very fun and unexpected (as you can see from the picture!) and I felt pretty special.  I have amazing co-workers and I have it so good that I’ll probably still be there in another 15 years, but everyone will be so tired of me by then that I’ll have to throw my own party.  But it will be worth it.  (You probably saw that coming.)
My boss and Dale wearing Worth It t-shirts!!  In my two favourite colours!

You can see my new bangle (the one closer to my fingers!)

I still haven’t written about achieving my Christmas shopping goal.  Actually I was late by one day, but that’s okay.  I have to say it feels as good as I hoped it would.  Unfortunately, the kids’ schedules are so crazy that there is never time to sit and relax.  If I still had shopping to do, I’d be so stressed and exhausted.  Now I’m just mildly stressed and a bit tired, which is way better.  I’m setting Saturday aside to do some baking, which is kind of silly since the few things I’ve made so far have all been eaten instantly.  They don’t even make it into Tupperware containers, never mind the freezer.  It’s an eating free-for-all.  It’s the true meaning of Christmas. 

Sunday, December 01, 2013


It's December first and my shopping isn't done.  But I'm very, very close.  There are only a couple of small, very specific things I need to buy, so no aimless mall wandering is involved.  Celebrating Black Friday here is the big new thing, but it actually set me back rather than helping me.  I hate crowds, but I thought it probably wouldn't be that bad since Friday's actually not a holiday here and people have jobs.  Apparently a lot of people do not.  I drove onto the mall parking lot and drove right off again.  I decided I'd rather pay double.  Except that's the thing - based on the flyers and ads I saw, the sales weren't even that great.  I mean 20% off?  That's not even worth the gas you waste trying to find a parking spot.  I did go to Canadian Tire for one thing I saw in the flyer, but of course that item was sold out. 

I understand why retailers want people to spend their money here rather than in the U.S. and I fully support shopping local (except sometimes), but I don't know many people who go across the border just to shop Black Friday in the first place.  But we consumers get all crazy and unable to think for ourselves when someone tells us there are sales and we should be shopping.  And the retailers in their Canadian head offices are laughing and shaking their heads and saying, "I can't believe that worked!" Well, the joke's on them, because I saved 100% by not shopping on Black Friday.  (I saw that on Facebook, accompanied by a picture of Julie Andrews twirling on a meadow in the mountains.)

All that to say I would be done if it weren't for my aversion to crowds and retail gurus trying to control my mind.  So I'll go tomorrow instead.  I really showed them.  By paying full price and spending more money, I'm making quite the statement.

I was pretty productive in other ways though.  I wrapped presents, we watched Elf as a family and I made homemade Nutella.  It was easier than I thought it would be; I made it on Saturday morning between picking Spencer up from fencing and dropping Neve off at gymnastics.  That means nothing to you because you don't know when their activities start and end, but the point is, it didn't take long.  Other than being a bit thicker than the bought version, my Nutella turned out pretty good.  With a few adjustments, I think I'll make some more to give as hostess gifts and such.  I also made some sugar cookies and chocolate bark.  The sugar cookies looked soft and lovely, so it was a bit of a bad surprise to bite into them and discover they were as hard as rock, but the bark was good.  

Saturday afternoon I went on a house tour with some relatives.  We started at Pineridge Hollow and took a bus to five different houses that were decorated for Christmas and one church.  The houses were amazing and the decorations were beautiful.  It was very fun to look at, but most of the houses were over the top.  Every surface in every room was covered in Christmas stuff.  I kept wondering where they charge their phones or put their mail and where their kids do homework and where they store the stuff for ten or eleven months of the year.  I also felt very sad about my lame Christmas decorations that I had yet to put up.  I'd rather go on a tour of dilapidated rooming houses or homeless shelters so I could feel awesome and thankful for my house.  

Today Dale put up the outside Christmas lights and I decorated the tree and the house.  I'm not volunteering my house for a public tour anytime soon, but it all looks Christmasy and cozy, especially when the lights are dim.  My friend Shannon's house could definitely be on the tour circuit.  I stopped in today to take a peek since they've just finished a big renovation.  It's amazing - you can see pictures here.

In other news, Spencer's pet fish Napoleon has moved on to the big fishbowl in the sky (if that's where things end up when they get flushed down the toilet).  Napoleon was on the brink of death for several weeks; we were about to flush him a few times when he'd suddenly started swimming again.  Poor Spencer - we kept telling him his fish was dead … no, wait!  He's alive.  Oh, NOW he's dead.  Oh, maybe not.  By the time Napoleon died for real, it was almost a relief.  We had him for well over a year, so he did good.  Neve's little Swimmy is still going strong.
It looks like they're saying a prayer, but I think they're just trying to figure out how to remove Napoleon from the bottom of the fishbowl in the least disgusting way.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Dale has a birthday and other stories

Dale turned a ridiculous age this weekend.  I can't quite believe how old we're getting.  Especially Dale. But there are presents and cake involved, so it's not the worst thing.  As is appropriate for his age, we stayed home and had a very low key day.  I made scones for breakfast, Dale went for a massage, had a nap, and watched TV.  Dale's mom came over for birthday cake in the evening, followed by a few wild and crazy rounds of Red Seven.  But then!  We summoned all our energy and left the house after 10:00 p.m. on a bitterly cold November night.  I had suggested going to a new casino/bar called the Shark Club in the afternoon to watch the Jets game, but Dale didn't seem interested.  Turns out he thought I wasn't interested (why I would suggest it if I didn't want to go is unclear), so we decided to check it out after most of the kids were in bed.

When we got there, there was a line-up and we quickly realized this may not be the place for us.  There was no one over the age of 25 as far as the eye could see, and no female who was wearing as many clothes as I was.  We stood in line while deciding what to do, feeling very old and frumpy.  There were three girls behind us who convinced us to stay, and when we got near the front of the line, I asked the bouncer if the place was suitable for people of our age.  He told us there were people of all ages (not true) and let us cut to the front of the line and let us in for free.  He probably didn't want us standing in line, scaring away the younger, hipper crowd.  

Anyway, it all turned out fine.  The casino had a few other "mature" people; Dale played blackjack until he lost his modest allotted entertainment fund, and then we went home.  I might try a little harder in the birthday planning department next year.  Actually, the jewel in my birthday planning was the remote car starter I surprised him with - installed and all.  Blake and Kristin also contributed to the celebrations with a delicious ledis rap (as spelled by their daughter) dinner with an amazing pavlova for dessert on Sunday.

Also this weekend: SANTA!!!  (as in the movie Elf).  It breaks my heart not to post the picture here, especially since it may well be the last one with all three kids.  There was strong opposition from the older two about going in the first place, and I was very worried about what Spencer was going to ask Santa for.  He ended up asking for a sonic screwdriver and a TARDIS, which are Doctor Who-related items.  In a surprising and amazing stroke of luck, turns out Santa is a Doctor Who fan who actually knew what those items were.  I hope he didn't promise Spencer he'd get them.

Our Santa visit was followed by dinner at Boston Pizza, and then Chloe, Spencer and I went to see the second Hunger Games movie, Catching Fire.  I didn't find it quite as intense as the first one, but we all liked it.  I love Jennifer Lawrence.  I think we could be friends in real life.  Well, it might be more one-sided.  The line between friendship and stalking can be tricky sometimes.

I've been very committed to finishing my Christmas shopping by December first, which is unprecedented.  It's been my life-long goal to be done early so I can relax and enjoy December without having errands and shopping constantly in the back of my mind.  I think it just might be possible this year; my only hope is that's as awesome as I've always dreamed it would be.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Not ready

We got our first snow this weekend and it looks like it’s here to stay.  I know this is what happens where we live, but I’m finding it difficult to come to terms with.  There’s a dark cloud over my head about the arrival of full-fledged winter, which seems kind of wrong when I live in a good, safe, comfortable city with many friends and family around me. I keep reminding myself that many people would give anything to be in my situation, which unfortunately does little to lift my spirits. So, a generous dollop of guilt for my ungratefulness is a nice complement to the dread I’m feeling about how I’m going to get through the next four or five months.
I hope you didn’t come here expecting to find something cheery and positive.  Sorry.  Here’s a picture of Lexie to cheer you up.  She stayed with me on Monday morning, which was pretty fun.
I pride myself on being a pretty good winter driver. In my approximately 30 years of driving (I can hardly believe that … oh boy, am I old!), I don’t think I’ve ever had an accident.  As I was driving along Monday morning after dropping Spencer off and the carpool kids at school, being proud and haughty of my awesome driving record, I hit an icy patch as I came near the turnoff onto Route 90.  I couldn’t stop or turn in time, and I clunked the van up onto the curb of the little barrier boulevard. I sat there for a second, then put the van in reverse, backed down off the curb, and drove away.  Amazingly, everything seemed fine but I was shaking the whole way home.  I’m so thankful no other car was involved and I’m so thankful that the van seems okay.  I hope there’s no internal injuries that will affect the van later, but it’s not like the van is in the prime of its life anyway. But it didn’t deserve to hit a curb.
Since then I’ve been more cautious on the roads.  But if I’m worried in a vehicle, I can’t imagine how cyclists must feel.  I’m noticing a lot of cyclists on the road and I can’t help but admire them, but mostly I just feel very, very scared for them. I saw two cyclists biking along on the icy streets in Osborne Village tonight - one was wearing a ball cap and one other was wearing a beret.  Maybe they feel like a helmet won’t do much for them if they slip under the wheels of a bus. It was dark and neither had reflective clothing or lights on their bike, so I’m guessing safety does not come first.
And here's Lexie again.  She's a little frustrated with trying to get that baby's pants on.

Snow always makes Christmas seem that much closer, so I’ve been trying to get a handle on the shopping. We’re planning to go see Santa on Friday despite the objections of the older two children.  I think I’ve successfully threatened/begged/convinced them to go, however, their condition is that I not post a picture of it on the blog. That saddens me; I’m still hoping they’ll have a rush of Christmas spirit and goodwill towards their mother and allow me to post it. On the way home from school yesterday, I asked Spencer what he’s going to ask Santa for, and he said,  “I’m going to ask that everyone with a Cockney accent would start speaking regular English.”  Apparently Cockney accents annoy him. I believe he had an accent-related request for Santa last year as well.  I started to encourage him to ask for something else, but his other ideas were even worse so I left it. He should be asking for things like common sense, awareness and many guardian angels, because right after this conversation, I dropped him off at the corner near our house so he could run home while I went to pick up Neve from school.  As he was getting out of the van, I said, “Be careful crossing the street.”  He proceeded to start walking straight across the street without even lifting his head, never mind looking both ways.  There was a car coming, so I honked and he quickly ran back to the curb.  I was turning at the corner, so I waved to Spencer to walk before I turned.  I meant that he could go before me; he took it to mean that he could try and cross the street again without looking up.  Another oncoming car, another frantic honk by me, another scampering back to the curb.  The third time was the charm and I was pretty relieved to see that he was still alive when I got home five minutes later. I will be praying hard every time he leaves my sight.
I think I've posted before and after pictures of this closet many times before.  How does it keep getting so messy?!  It always happens when the seasons change; the mix of summer, fall and winter stuff was driving me crazy.  So in twenty minutes, this:
became this:

Yeah, it's probably not particularly interesting to anyone else, but for some reason the thought of posting before & after pics of it on the blog motivated me to clean it.

Here's a random picture involving an interesting onion ring and Chloe.

Here's an awful picture depicting the cold and messiness of the season that is now upon us.

And finally, a happy Lexie picture. That cheers me up a little.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The weekend that feels like it will never end

Sometimes I find long weekends too long.  Hello, first world problem that I should never say out loud.  Normally I love long weekends, especially in summer when we can go to the beach and do other fun outdoors things.  I also love them if I have a project or task that provides direction and focus.  But a cold November weekend with no plans and all five of us in the house can drag on.  Spencer and Neve had no school on Friday, so that makes it four days of staring at each other and our four walls.  It feels like all we’re doing is eating.  Sometimes we’re not finished cleaning up from the last meal before the next meal starts.  Neve often complains that we don’t have enough “sit-down” suppers, but even she commented on how many we had this weekend.

I always say I’m not one of those people who needs to be doing something all the time, but I’m starting to wonder.  As much I say I love to sit and read a book, after about five minutes, I get restless.  Maybe that’s why I have three books on the go at the same time, all of which are taking me very long to get through (years, in one case).  These are some of the things I’ve done this weekend, all in short spurts: played games with the kids, taught Chloe how to crochet, took the kids swimming, did lots of Sudoku, did laundry, made peanut butter rice krispie squares, went for a run, applied for new passports, ordered and picked up photo prints, wrote two letters, did yoga, Christmas shopped - both online and in-store, made two trips to Tutti-Frutti, went to a movie (Captain Phillips) and out for dinner with Dale, put together our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, had two movie nights with the kids, learned how to create a website, and went through some bins of clothes. Oh yeah, and I read two of my books, plus a different one that I’m reading to Neve.  Every time I looked at the clock, I couldn't believe it was still so early.
Despite the hundreds of hours of free time this weekend, it wouldn’t be complete without the kids suddenly remembering all the homework that’s due tomorrow.  Panic, frustration and despair have all made an appearance.  Tuesday, I’m ready for you.  It's time to start looking forward to the next weekend.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Before and after

Hello again.  It's been nice taking a little break and not feeling pressure to come up with something when I had nothing to say.  But I've missed you.
You may remember my bathroom fix-up paint job. The good news is that I got it all done a couple of days after I started.  The bad news is that I probably should’ve just left it as it was.  At least before, people assumed I had done a good job of painting, but you know, funny things happen in older houses and there are always cracks and imperfections.  Now people will look at it and think, why did they let Neve paint the bathroom? (sorry, Neve.)  I tried so hard to sand it smoothly and evenly, but it looks sloppy and rushed.  I am saddened by my lack of skills, but I find it pretty easy to move on and will just try never to look up there again. 
Also in the good news category is that I patched and painted a couple of spots in the living room since I had the mud and primer out anyway. I am quite pleased with my handiwork on one spot in particular, but I think that may be largely due to the fact it's in a corner where the lighting is poor.
I forgot to take a picture before I started, so this is more like during and after.

While cleaning up the yard this weekend, I couldn't help but compare this (at the height of its glory):
to the current situation:
Comparing summer to fall is not exactly comparing apples to apples, but still. One day last week while I was working in the study, I heard a crash on the deck.  One of the hundreds - if not thousands - of squirrels that live in and around our yard knocked one the plants down.  Thanks for that, vile rodent.