Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Final week of summer holidays

Spencer and Neve had dentist appointments this morning. It started off poorly with much whining about getting up early.  I had to wake them up at the unearthly hour of 8:20 a.m.  If this is a sign of how school is going to be, I’m booking a trip for next week or faking an illness that requires hospitalization (am I the only one who views a stay in a mental health facility in a rosy light?).  I grew weary of the complaining (I’m so tired.  My heel hurts.  I have a cramp.  My neck hurts when I turn my head this way.  Why did you make this appointment so early?) as we walked to the dentist, so I played the guilt card.  “I’m sorry that I’m not a better mother and can’t fix your problems and make you happier.”  Things got much better after that. 

I have a recurring problem at my dentist’s office. I always specifically ask them to book the kids’ appointments at the same time with different hygienists, and they never do.  I honestly don’t know how much more clearly I can ask.  Maybe “at the exact same time with different hygienists” means something else in dental lingo.  When I found out today that the kids were scheduled to be seen one after the other, I expressed my displeasure (not to be mistaken with whining and complaining) and suddenly another hygienist was available.  And then I had to be all grateful and thankful, when it was their mistake in the first place.  The upside was that the newly available hygienist is Spencer’s favourite, so he was happy.  Maybe not happy, but less surly than he was before.  And then to top it off, Neve had three cavities.  Until now, Chloe is the only one of my kids who’s ever had a cavity, and that was just last year.  Neve’s cavities are all tiny and all on her baby teeth, but it’s embarrassing.  I admit I am not a tiger mom when it comes to flossing, so I guess that’s going to change.  When the receptionist said, “When do you want to book the appointment to have your daughter’s THREE cavities filled?”, I thought she said it much louder than necessary.  Every head in the waiting room jerked up to stare at the negligent mother who couldn’t be bothered to properly care for her children.  Or maybe they just thought I looked nice so early in the morning.

We’ve reached the point of summer holidays where we start struggling a bit.  We’re all on edge because summer is slipping away and trying to make the most of it.  Unfortunately my definition of making the most of it varies greatly from everyone else’s.   Chloe’s ideal day would involve lots of sleep, and Neve’s would involve re-watching every Amazing Race Canada episode.  Spencer would love nothing better than to sit at home and read all day every day with a little bit of Minecraft thrown in.  He’s become more independent and now goes to the library and the comic book store on his own.  It’s getting harder and harder to limit his reading.   My work really picks up at the end of August, so I’m trying to come up with things for them to do on their own that are educational and productive and don’t involve books or screens.  This morning, after the dentist, I got them to make banana bread and ordered them not to ask me any questions while I worked.  That worked out quite well, so there will be more of that in the days to come.  The only problem is that I’ve already put on a few pounds this summer and don’t really need to be consuming more baking.  But if I have to choose between peace and quiet or gaining a few pounds, it’s an easy choice.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Beach Day

I have no idea how this happened, but until today I hadn't had one full beach day all summer.  I've been to the Quarry twice, but both times were cut short by rain.  Today was a hot, sunny, perfect beach day, so we packed up and went to Grand Beach with Jim and Sabrina and the girls.  The kids had a lot of fun playing with their cousins.

After the beach, we went to the sand cliffs near Victoria Beach.  I always take lots of pictures, but they don't do it justice.  My photography skills don't reflect the scale or the beauty of the area.

The kids love running down the steep hill, which is probably doing nothing to preserve the natural dunes.  Spencer especially loves it and never wants to leave.  So that was our day ... one of my favourite days this summer.  The weather is looking promising this week, so I'm hoping to get in a couple more beach days this week.

Saturday, August 24, 2013


We said goodbye to our sweet little Yumi yesterday.  We dropped her off at a hotel where she met the rest of the group that she travelled with.  In an unprecedented show of emotion, she started weeping when we said goodbye.  There was a cameraman filming the goodbye process, and I could tell he was giddy at the awesome tear-filled footage he was getting.  I was secretly a little giddy myself; I took it as a sign that she enjoyed the month more than she ever let on.  I think it might be one of those experiences that all parties look back at one day and remember it as more awesome than it actually was.  That being said, we were sad to see her go and will miss her quiet, gentle presence.  Neve took it the hardest; she was sobbing in the van as we drove away.  Once she stopped crying, she was angry at the rest of us for not being sadder and accused us all of hating Yumi.

Speaking of Neve, I think she is ready for a return to routine.  She's been moody and belligerent and nothing pleases her.  You may remember our tradition of celebrating half-birthdays, which I don't like to mention very often because it sounds like something only an anal, perfect mother would do  The way I look at it is that I don't have an abundance of special mother skills like sewing cool Halloween costumes or making fancy Pinterest recipes or crafts, so I thought surely I can let the kids choose what meal they'd like for dinner and call it a half-birthday party.  Neve's half-birthday fell on Thursday and since I was at work all day and we had plans in the evening (plus I had no idea how I'd explain a half-birthday party to Yumi), I asked if we could defer the celebration until the weekend.  She grudgingly agreed.  Neve requested lasagna as her birthday meal, but not just any lasagna - she wanted a custom-made lasagna with macaroni in it (in addition to the lasagna noodles).  Hello, carbs. I'm not a fan of cooking at the best of times, but when I realized how hot and humid it was today, I knew that I didn't want to be anywhere near a stove.  I carefully broached the topic with Neve to see if we could postpone the lasagna until next week.  That displeased her greatly and the rest of the day was spent listening to her complain about how her half birthday wasn't special.  I do feel a little badly that I kept postponing it, but I did give her a giant chocolate and smartie-covered marshmallow on a stick from Morden's Chocolates.  I also made puffed-wheat squares and stuck a candle in in and we sang happy (half) birthday.  Take that, Pinterest moms.

As mentioned, it was super muggy today.  I love that feeling since it's so rare in these parts.  Unfortunately, it also seemed like it could pour at any minute all day long, which kept us from making the most of a hot summer day.  On the positive side, we got a lot of cleaning and laundry done.  Chloe, Neve and I also did a school-supply run to Target, where the half-birthday disappointment continued when I wouldn't buy Neve a top she "loved" even though the only size they had left was too small for her.  That's when I threatened to end the half-birthday tradition forevermore.  Maybe by next year, I'll have forgotten all this and will look back fondly upon half-birthday celebrations of yore.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Proof that we have tried to make our exchange student happy

These are just some of the things we’ve done since we got home from camping late Saturday afternoon.
  • Laundry & unpacking – most of it is done, but there are various piles of things still sitting in the spot where they will likely remain until September because I have no interest in cleaning them up.
  • Zoo – When we mentioned going to the zoo on Sunday to Yumi, her face lit up with the most expression she has shown in our presence.  It looked like we might have to change our plans when Sunday came with its ominous-looking weather, but luckily the sun came out and we could go.  I was so relieved because I couldn’t wait to do something that Yumi really wanted to do.  It’s been hard to tell if she’s enjoying something (showing expression in her culture is sometimes viewed as immature or rude), so I thought the zoo would be the magic tonic that would shake off all cultural habits and restrictions and transform her into a new, dynamic, spirited merrymaker.  In hindsight, my expectations of the zoo were not realistic.  In reality, I’m not sure if a smile was even cracked.  I don’t think I cracked one either; there’s something about the zoo that makes me hot and tired.  I’ll try to remember that the next time I’m feeling too energetic and peppy – a loop around the zoo will return me to my usual lethargy.  Approximately 80% of the zoo is currently under construction; I’m sure it’s going to be amazing when it’s finished but right now, not so much.
  • Mike & Darla’s – The only thing that kept me putting one foot in front of the other at the zoo was the thought of going to Mike & Darla’s for dinner.  By the time we got there, it wasn’t as hot anymore, but it was still wonderfully refreshing and renewing.  An amazing seafood dinner was followed by Rook, so it was a great evening.
  • The Forks – Yumi leaves on Friday, so we are packing in as many things as we can this week.  We walked around the shops and outside.  I am not one to say anything bad about the heat, but walking around aimlessly with four hot sticky children isn’t the most fun I’ve ever had.  We bought candy at Sugar Mountain then went home.
  • Rainbow Stage – My neighbour Karen and I took the kids to see Mary Poppins Monday night.  It was an awesome night for Rainbow Stage – it can get pretty cool some years, but this time it was hot and muggy and no sweaters were needed.  They did a good job; the sets and everything were amazing.  I don’t think Yumi understood much of it, and to be totally honest, I didn’t understand it all either.  I don’t know why Mary Poppins came and left so often without any explanation.  But I guess if I could fly with an umbrella, I’d seize every opportunity to do so too. 
  • Spa – Kristin, Corinna and I spent a lovely afternoon at Ten Spa yesterday.  We had massages and sat in the steam room and lounged around talking and eating lots of cucumbers and cheese.  I could do that every day.
  • BDI – yet another thing we wanted to squeeze in before Yumi left.  It was such a beautiful day yesterday, but exactly at the ice cream hour, things turned chilly.  We took a little stroll on the bridge but it felt like the wind would pick us up and sweep us into the river, so we went home.
It’s been a whirlwind of tourist attractions, with more on deck.  Having Yumi here has been great for getting us out doing things, but I’ve got to say I look forward to lounging on the couch just chillin’ in my Snuggie. You know, kick up my feet and stare at the fan.  But I’ll also have to eventually do some P90X because we’ve been eating a LOT of ice cream because Yumi loves it.  I work a maternity skirt/dress yesterday; I might have to go shopping at Thyme for a few more things if I keep up my robust eating.
On with my day.  Here’s a parting quote from Neve as she studied my face the other morning: “You’ll probably have gotten your moles removed by the time you have grandchildren so they won’t be freaked out by them.”  (or maybe not.  I might like to be known as "The Mole Grandma.")

oh, and we also started and finished a puzzle

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Rushing River – Year 4

Last week was our fourth annual camping excursion at Rushing River.  Preparing to go camping is one of my least favourite things ever, but since the first three years were Worth It, I overcame my frustration and exhaustion and made it happen.  I have a packing list that I refer to each year but it’s the food and bedding that are my biggest challenges.  I don’t like taking more food than I need, but it’s hard to think of every instance in which butter will be needed.  And I err on the side of packing too much bedding because the thought of being cold all night terrifies me.  We all take our giant wool comforters, which take up a LOT of room.  Every year I try to be more efficient with packing, but every year our van is fuller.  It’s a toss-up between investing time and money in making things more efficient (ie. buying a really good sleeping bag for each person) and just accepting that it’s a once-a-year problem and squishing as many blankets into the van as possible. 

Packing stress aside, it was wonderful.  We had our usual campsite, which is the best campsite in the entire campground – no, make that the entire WORLD.  We had a beautiful view of the lake; just looking at it makes me feel peaceful.  We went with the usual friends who we never get tired of sitting around with, eating and drinking and talking and laughing and chasing away chipmunks that aren’t scared of people.  We canoed, swam, had a picnic lunch on a nearby island, hiked, played in the rapids, and sat around the fire at night.  The boys ran in a pack and loved exploring, the little girls played Barbies from morning to night, and the big girls (Chloe and Yumi) floated around on air mattresses and played Dutch Blitz.  The weather was perfect for camping – hot and sunny, basically no mosquitoes, and the nights weren’t cold (but I’m still glad I brought the extra blankets just in case).   Ironically, the success of camping is only about 1% dependent on the hours spent packing and preparing and 99% dependent on the weather, which I have no control over.  I should write that on my packing list for next year.


Lunch on the island

view of our campsite from the island


The Canoe King

Star gazing


Chloe was not happy when she came out of her tent one morning to find me wearing the same t-shirt.  But she kept it on so I think she secretly liked it.

Barbie's house with a view

Barbie situation in foreground - not sure what's going on here. 

Now the Barbies are swimming


Until next year ...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What we've been up to

I am very grateful for my job today.  Not only can I sit outside on the deck and enjoy lovely fresh air while I work, I also don’t have to stick my head into someone else’s disgusting, horrid-smelling dishwasher.  That’s what our poor appliance repair man had to do today.  I bet when he was at the Career Day expo, the recruiters told him happy stories about high end fridges needing light bulbs changed or new fuses needed on a fancy range.  I’m sure they never mentioned the food-and-grease-clogged hoses and the cloudy sludge on the bottom of aging, low-end dishwashers.  But he was still cheerful and friendly and competent and prompt.  I read about a guy (I think on Corinna’s Facebook?) who keeps extra bills in his wallet every month to give as a surprise, generous tip when he feels someone deserves it: $100 and $50 bills if I remember correctly.  That’s something I want to do one day, and if that day was today, I would have emptied out my wallet and given him signed cheque blanks as well.  As it turns out, he didn’t even charge me anything yet because he still needs to come back and change a hose.  That gives me time to stockpile some cash for him.  I thought he’d say we needed a new dishwasher, but he was quite confident from the start that he could fix it.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit sad about that; Dale’s brother and sister-in-law have a new dishwasher that’s the quietest thing ever, and I covet it.

What else have we been up to, you ask?  Actually, you’re probably afraid to ask since I just wrote an entire paragraph about our dishwasher.  I’ll tell you anyway.

Yesterday was Dale’s mom’s 80th birthday, so we put on a party at Dale’s brother’s house.  It was a good turnout, delicious food, perfect weather, and a happy birthday girl/woman.  She is so active and has so many interests and passions that she makes 80 look very good.  Dale’s sister and niece from Florida were here for the party and left to go home this morning.  Chloe and her cousin are very close, so it’s always hard to say goodbye.

Spencer was at camp last week.  I don’t think he’s much of a camp kid but he continues to try to be, which I give him much credit for.  This year’s camp was a rustic, outdoor kind of camp; sleeping in teepees and cooking food over an open fire.  He was with three of his friends and he definitely enjoyed parts of it, but I don’t think his counsellors were a good fit for him.  That’s a polite way of saying they didn’t seem very fun or dynamic.  Spencer was very happy to see me and is so thankful to be home that he’s been exceptionally pleasant to all of us.  Neve was overjoyed that he was being so kind to her, so I guess we’ll send him back to camp again next year.  On the way to pick him up, I was dreading the pile of dirty clothes and bedding I’d have to deal with and thought about how I’d gladly tack on a few bucks to the camp fee if they sent the campers home with a suitcase full of freshly laundered clothes.  Alas, not only did he come home with lots of dirty laundry, the boy himself was in need of a pressure-wash.  Five days … zero showers.  They had shower time on the last day, but it was right before swim time (in the man-made lake that is susceptible to swimmer’s itch) and, well, my kid takes after his dad and hates showering in public showers that are less than pristine.  I wished I’d brought a drop sheet to cover the seat of the car with.  After a long, hot shower, clean pyjamas, and the washing machine running, he was like a new boy.
The stop at Syl's on the way home is probably the primary reason for going to this camp

Tonight I took the kids to Folklorama.  We went to the Japanese pavilion so that Yumi could experience something familiar.  I don’t know how this transpired, but while we were looking around the cultural displays, I turned to see a middle-aged Caucasian man teaching Yumi how to make an origami bird.  The bird was much less complex than any origami she’s done for my kids, so I don’t know if she was just humouring him?  We got some rice and noodles and sushi; even though the hall was packed, Spencer scored us some seats in the VIP section.  One of his talents is finding good seats in a crowded room.  Seriously, I don’t know how he does it.  Okay, this time it was because he ignored the Reserved sign, but still.  Yumi didn’t seem captivated by the food or show; I’m thinking maybe it would be the same for us if we’d go to a Canadian show in a foreign country, and they’d portray Canadians as pemmican-eating lumberjacks.  Sometimes things get lost in translation.  But she seemed to enjoy having a conversation with another Japanese girl who was always just visiting Winnipeg.  I would be curious to know what was said – it could have been “Please, please rescue me from this crazy family and their nasty-smelling dishwasher.”  Maybe that’s just my paranoia.  It was probably, “Tell my family I’m never coming home because I love this family and their typical Canadian life.”

Then we went to the Portuguese pavilion, where they featured the cutest dancer ever: my niece Bella.  She was so adorable in her dance costume, which used to be her mom’s.  She did great, and the whole show was fun and lively.  My sister-in-law Sabrina’s parents are very involved in the cultural centre, so we were treated like VIPs with free food and drinks: shrimp, shrimp perogies, and Portuguese beer and pop.  It was a good night.

We’re now more than halfway through our month with Yumi.  We’re running out of time to show her all the things we’ve planned.  Some things we’ve done recently include an outdoor movie at Assiniboine Park, a tour of the Mint, gelato at Eva’s, and shopping.  She’s slowly breaking out of her shell by trying more English, although she’s still pretty timid.  She’s understanding much more of what we say, and relaxing and giggling more.  She’s such a good sport about everything and never complains.  We’re growing quite fond of her.  We’re going camping later this week, so she’ll get to see me in my frustrating, disorganized, packing fury.  I wonder what she’ll write in her journal about that.