Sunday, July 28, 2013

Arrivals



We've had lots of new arrivals this week.  Thankfully none that get me on the show "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant."  

1.  Yumi:  We’re hosting a Japanese exchange student for one month and she arrived yesterday. For blogging/privacy purposes, I will call her Yumi (pronounced you-me, not yummy). Communication is more of an issue than I thought it would be, but she is sweet and cute and polite. I can’t imagine what she must be thinking and feeling, being thrown into a strange family in a strange land, unable to understand anything. Neve is very concerned about Yumi’s well-being and keeps whispering to me that she thinks she feels sad. Spencer is trying to learn enough Japanese so that he can have a meaningful conversation with her about her religion. Then he noticed she bowed her head briefly before she ate lunch today, so when he sat down to eat a few minutes later (it was a casual, go-get-your-own-food-and-come-sit-on-the-deck kind of meal), he clasped his hands together in prayer and bowed his head for a good 30 seconds. I’m not sure if he’s trying to out-do her or convert her. Either way, it’s a lofty goal when we are struggling with simple conversation like, “How was your sleep?” Between the little Japanese I used to know, the Japanese Chloe learned in school this past year, a phrase book and a translation app on my iPhone, we are stumbling along. Yumi will be helping at our church’s day camp this week (with Chloe) and I have no idea how to tell her. I think our best bet is to wake her up tomorrow morning and say, “Put on this red shirt (that helpers have to wear) and come with us.” We have been springing a lot on her: right after we picked her up, we went to Dale’s mom’s for a get-together with the entire family. In the evening, we went to my brother Jim’s for a get-together with my side of the family. The poor girl was probably very overwhelmed. She did have an afternoon nap, which hopefully helped. And today we mostly stuck close to home except for a bike ride to Assiniboine Park to meet up with Dan and Jim & Sabrina, and tonight Dale took all the kids to his mom’s for supper. So I have the whole place to myself. It reminds me of September. 

2.   Dan:  I picked him up from the airport on Wednesday and hung out the rest of the day. We swam at Mike & Darla’s, had supper,* got hit by a cyclist, dropped the kids off for a sleepover at Blake & Kristin’s, hung out at the Fringe Festival, lost the car, ALMOST hit a rabbit, and watched Amazing Race. Who says Winnipeg isn’t exciting. Well, most of that wasn’t quite as exciting as it sounds – the cyclist wasn’t hurt, the car was found, and the rabbit was miraculously spared death. As Pa Ingalls would say, “All’s well that ends well.” Hmm, summing that up with a Little House on the Prairie does not up the excitement quotient (sorry, Sio). 

3.  Dale's sister and her family:  They arrived at 6:00 pm Thursday and by 8:30, they were at Dale's nephew's Fringe show.  Pretty impressive!  Dale's brother-in-law was only here for a couple of days after a very long, frustrating experience, but his sister and kids are here for a couple of weeks.

4.  Chloe:  She arrived home from camp Saturday morning.  Yumi and her beloved cousin Sarah were already here, so she was pretty excited.  By all accounts, camp sounds like it was a success.

5.  Mike & Darla: They arrived home all too soon (just kidding - glad you're home safe), but we took full advantage of their pool this week.  The weather wasn't totally cooperative, but it was warmer in the water than out, so there were only two days we didn't swim.  

And that's all I have to say, except for some random pictures from the week.



chili fries: they taste so much better than they look




*Meat Week continued with a recipe Neve chose: chicken pot pie. I’m pretty sure she’s never had chicken pot pie in her life before so it was a surprising choice. But it was a big hit and everyone loved it – yay, Looneyspoons Collection. As mentioned in the last post, this week we also had burgers from Mrs. Mike’s, and pulled pork for dinner on Friday. Oh, and barbecued chicken at Jim & Sabrina’s yesterday. I admit it was all delicious, but Chloe’s home now and the forecast calls for beans and vegetables.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Lake / Summer

 
We spent a few days at my sister’s cottage last week.  It’s a beautiful place right on the water and we are very lucky that they are always so willing to share it with us.  Dale had to work, so the kids and I left Tuesday evening to make it there in time to celebrate the last few hours of Jan’s birthday (good thing, since we brought the cake).  We spent the next few days swimming, tubing, waterskiing (even Neve tried skiing but couldn't stay up), eating, and relaxing.  My parents were there the first night as well.


 



The jumping rock



Favourite summer meal

Picking blueberries on Blueberry Hill (where else?)


Tia learning to slalom

The girls taught themselves how to do back dives


Since we got home on Friday, we’ve been sticking close to home.  We went to the Fringe Festival a couple of times – my nephew is part of an Improv show called Parking Lots Presents Strangers & Fiction.  It was super entertaining; I admire improv performers immensely.  Spencer saw the show yesterday and loved it so much that he wants to go to every future performance, so if you go, you’ll probably see us there. 

Today has been a funny/odd day, starting with the outfit I chose to wear.  It’s a maternity skirt that I’m wearing as a strapless dress.  Enough said.  I’m not going to take a photo. 

The only time we left the house was to take Spencer to his bari sax lesson.  We didn’t do much of anything, yet I somehow feel productive.  I spent a good part of the afternoon preparing for our foreign student, who arrives on Saturday morning.  She will be taking over Neve’s room and Neve will be sharing Spencer’s room.  So not only did I have to clean Neve’s room, I had to clean Spencer’s as well.  I pictured the kids helping a lot more than they actually did.  They are okay with making their beds and cleaning up their clothes, but when it comes to going through piles of papers and toys and stuff, they are not so useful.  Their groans and whining started to sap me of my motivation and energy, so I released them to their activities of choice.  Neve has been playing with her Build-a-Bears this week, which happens so rarely that I like to encourage it when it does happen.  Those frickin’ bears and their clothing cost more than our RESPs are worth and I don’t feel we’ve gotten our money’s worth yet.  Spencer has taken to reading the Bible, which he occasionally takes a break from to read Tolkien’s The Silmarillion and practice his sax.  I don’t know where that boy comes from. 

After a whole unstructured day, we are a little bored and stir-crazy.  Luckily we have an outing planned for when Dale gets home from work.  We’re going to pick up chilli burgers from Mrs. Mike’s in St. Boniface and have a picnic at Mike & Darla’s pool.  I wish they were home and we could bring them some too.  Since Chloe’s at camp, we’ve been going crazy with meat.  I cracked open a recipe book yesterday for the first time in months and told Spencer I’d make whatever he chose, within reason.  He picked a homemade mac & cheese dish with turkey bacon.  I’m not a fan of bacon, never mind cooking it, but my love for him carried me through.

To summarize, I feel like our summer is on the right track (you may remember our rough start from a few posts ago).  I am reminding myself to relax and enjoy the little moments.  I've been reading Harry Potter (now on the third book).  I've also been working on my computer on the front porch, which has been lovely.  The squirrels and birds concern me somewhat, but I get the kid to come out and sit with me sometimes.  Right now, Spencer is sitting here and reading aloud from Quidditch Through the Ages.  I hope Dale comes home soon.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Minneapolis



I’ve been away from my computer as much as possible lately, so I’m sorry for the blog absence.  If you’ve been out having fun and enjoying summer and haven’t even noticed, disregard my apology.  I'm going to have to back track and do a few catch-up posts over the next few days.  We're planning to be home this whole week and I'm actually looking forward to it, especially since we have the important responsibility of "taking care" of Mike & Darla's pool.  I will not be taking my duties lightly.

We took a little trip to Minneapolis last week (technically the week before last).  We went with Anthony (Teresa’s husband) and Doug & Lorie and all our kids.  I had mixed feelings about the trip: I was looking forward to hanging out with everyone, but was worried about how odd and sad it would be without Teresa there.  Every fall when we were in Grand Forks, the same conversation took place.  Dale would say, “Next year we should go to Minneapolis instead.”  Teresa would tell him, “Sure, let’s do it.  As long as you plan it, we’ll come.”  So we finally did.  I’m not sure if she’d be proud of us for making it happen or mad that we didn’t do it sooner!  She was very much missed, especially when the adults sat around the pool area like we always did in Grand Forks (and any other time we got together).  Teresa was always the one who got us laughing the most and it wasn’t the same without her.  But Anthony and the kids were amazing and they inspired me to have fun too.  I feel like the trip went better than I expected; we had lots of laughs and made some good memories. 


Lego store at the mall


Valleyfair was so much fun.  Dale and I were there many, many years ago and all I remember about that visit was seeing a girl in line at the water raft ride who was wearing overall shorts.  I thought they were the cutest thing I had ever seen and was obsessed with getting some just like hers.  We stopped at every store on the way home from Minneapolis to Winnipeg, but I couldn’t find any.  I continued my quest in Winnipeg and finally found some at The Bay.  I spent way more on them than I ever spent on clothes at that point in our student/meagre-salary days, but I got every penny’s worth out of them. 

This time I didn’t see any fashion trends I couldn’t live without, only rides that terrified me but felt I should go on.  I used to love going on scary rides, but as I grow older and wiser, I don’t really want to anymore.  I did make myself go on the Wild Thing, which is the biggest rollercoaster there.  It was so intense, but I loved it.  I also loved when it was over.  I wish I’d had the nerve to go on the Power Tower (also knows as the Drop of Doom/Mega Drop, etc.) and Steel Venom, but maybe next time …


This is the only ride every single person in our group went on.  Chloe is not a rides girl so she was pretty pleased about it (especially once it was over).

The brave ones going on the Power Tower

The less brave ones going on the Hot Air Balloon ride

Dippin' dots

The post-ride euphoria

The gang

The waterpark - Chloe put her fears behind her (you can see her near the top)

We also went to the Como Park Zoo.  It was a very hot day, so one loop around this cute little zoo was perfect.  The gorillas were our favourite, especially when the gorilla on the other side of the glass jumped up and banged hard on the glass.  We all jumped pretty high.

 




Another day we took the train downtown and walked aroud a bit.  Some of the kids had never been on any public transportation before, never mind a light rail system.  It appeared to be a good time for all; much silliness and laughter took place, especially with the boys.    



These girls had a blast.  They spent a lot of time shooting a video which I have yet to see.


The kids' table at TGI Friday



The adults' table.  Lorie and I with our "Teresa" drinks.

Just looking at these pictures makes me want to be there again.  Maybe we'll have to make this our new annual thing ...

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Getting our groove on




Yesterday was our first full weekday of summer vacation and let’s just say there is much room for improvement.  My goal is to get up early on work days (7:30), go for a quick run, work for a few hours, and then be free to spend the rest of the day with the kids.  This is how my day actually went:  Got up at 9:30, worked a few minutes, took Spencer to his sax lesson, worked a few more minutes, made lunch, worked a few more minutes, instructed the children to clean the garage, worked a few minutes, had to provide more detailed instruction on garage-cleaning, worked 20 minutes (!), took the kids for frappucinos, worked a bit more, took over the garage-cleaning, set up the sprinkler, made supper, worked some more, went to the library, worked some more.  If you think that was annoying to read, imagine how annoying it was in real life.  My low part of the day came when I was sweeping out the garage.  I was already irritable from getting so little work done and the kids not being a little more aggressive with cleaning the garage, and by this time the sun was low enough in the sky that it blazed through the open garage door, making all the dust and squirrel shit and everything else swirling around in there to stick to my sweaty skin and give me a nice grey coat of filth.  I was also on edge the whole time in case a squirrel or bird (or both at the same time) would come scampering/flying into the garage.  At least the garage looks much cleaner and better, even though I ended up just throwing everything back on the shelves in an unorganized manner because I was tired and hot. 

Spencer realized I wasn’t having the best day of my life, and at one point he said, “Thank you for everything you do for us day after day after day.  It must be a grim existence.”  Note to self: try to appear less burdened.

The children were out of sorts all day too.  It might be because Chloe’s away this week; she’s the one they usually gravitate to and who instigates activity and fun.  Whatever the case, I think we need some sort of structure or plan each day.  The kids are hoping for a plan that doesn’t involve major cleaning projects, but I’ve got a few of those I plan to spring on them unannounced.  When they wake up in the morning, they’ll have no idea if it’s going to be a fun, frivolous, exciting day, or a day of hard labour and drudgery.  I think the uncertainty makes it fun for them.

But today was a step in the right direction.  I got up around 8:00, skipped the run, and got right to work.  I need to work on making sure the kids don’t interrupt me, but it’s nothing an electric fence can’t fix.  We hung out at Rob & Gab’s pool for a swim this afternoon and walked around the Forks tonight … luckily for the kids, today was a fun day.

Speaking of fun, here are a few pictures from the long weekend.  

The weather was fantastic all weekend and we spent most of it outside.  On Saturday we went to see Blake & Kristin in Matlock and kids and adults all had a great day.






We went to a 50th birthday party Saturday night, and on Sunday we went to Rob & Gab's for a pool party.  They just re-did their pool this spring and it's awesome.

Hiding in the corner during Marco Polo

 



Monday was Canada Day and we spent most of it at home getting some stuff done and sitting outside, before heading to Mike & Darla's for supper and a swim.  We are very thankful for our pool friends!!  We had a clear view of Assiniboine Park's fireworks from their deck, so we didn't have to deal with any traffic.  Good times!!








Chloe missed out on all our weekend fun, but hopefully she is having some fun of her own.  She left on Saturday morning for a trip to Kansas with her youth group.  They are helping out an inner city mission with whatever they need help with.  So far they’ve done cleaning projects, went to a soup kitchen, and have talked to random people on the streets.  We haven’t heard from Chloe directly, but we’ve been following their activities here.  Sounds like they’re having great experiences; check it out if you’re interested.

She's not a morning person - her eyes weren't fully open yet.



Monday, July 01, 2013

No more homework ...




The end of another school year has come and gone.  Neve had a pretty good year; she wasn’t as in love with her teacher this year – especially since she left on mat leave and another teacher finished up the year – but she also didn’t have the anxiety she had in grade one.  She is confident and positive and has some really good friends.  Spencer had a good teacher and good classmates, but his anxiety issues overshadowed a lot of the positives.  His marks were really good and he seems to know a lot, so I think it was a success.  Chloe had a much better year than we expected; we knew changing schools would be a bump in the road, but she did great.  She made some good friends, loved getting involved in Cheer, and was accepted into the IB program for next year.  I’m pretty proud of them all. 

Spencer had the option to switch band instruments for next year.  He doesn’t love band, but since he’s very dedicated to practicing his trumpet, he does okay.  I didn’t think he’d want to switch instruments because it means leaning a whole new instrument, more practicing, and private lessons over the summer.  I was wrong.  He ended up switching to baritone saxophone.  I’m not always the most supportive mother and I’m not musical, so all I was concerned about was that his instrument be small and easy to transport.  When Spencer came home with his new bari sax, I almost lost it.  He was carrying a box as big as a coffin.  I overreacted a little and said things like “we are going to have to build a new room for that thing” and “we can’t carpool anymore because it won’t fit in anyone’s vehicle.”  Except I didn’t say it as calmly as it sounds here – I screamed it while wringing my hands.  I didn’t realize that Spencer was very worried about things until he told me out of the blue, “I love you, Mom” and “Is there anything I can help you with today?”  That brought some perspective back to the situation and after I emailed the band teacher to ask WTH we were supposed to do with that thing and she replied that the only thing that needs to be brought to school is the mouthpiece, I took a deep breath and set about mending my broken relationships.



To celebrate the first day of summer vacation, we went to the Quarry with friends.  After a shaky start when the weather didn't look cooperative, it ended up being a great afternoon.  Even Spencer had a good time (he's not a fan of the beach).  When it was almost time to leave, it started pouring.  That was unfortunate, but it sped up the packing-up, which is never fun anyway.  (Looking for the positive!)








It's amazing how the end of school lightens the load and brings such relief, and somehow when school starts in September, it does the same.  Our summer is fairly unstructured, although it’s slowly getting fuller all the time.  I’m hoping it will be the right mix of free time and fun time (not that free time isn’t fun too).  I’m working most of the summer, so I always worry that I won’t have as much time for the kids as I’d like, plus I also want to make sure I take the time to sit and read and do nothing sometimes.  Here’s hoping for long, sunny, lazy summer days that surpass all expectations!