Thursday, October 31, 2013

Day 29

Grumpy old lady
Another Halloween has come and gone.  Our Halloween friends came over for pizza and then the kids set forth on their candy quest.  I went out with Neve and her friend for a bit, but then Chloe and her friend took over, so it was the first year I wasn’t outside the whole time.  I was looking forward to handing out candy and seeing the neighbour kids, but we had less than 20 kids.  It was such a nice night; no one needed big jackets or boots or hats, so I’m surprised there weren’t more kids.  But all of ours had fun and there are mountains of candy to prove it. 
Chloe's school costume: Audrey Hepburn from Breakfast at Tiffany's

After-school photo shoot

Granny gets feisty

Granny is angry

Granny is incredulous


Granny is cantankerous

The first wave.  Spencer is the ninja. I only have one picture of him because he doesn't have the patience to pose for pictures.

The second wave. They are not as disguised as well as I would have liked. They got a couple of comments that they were a bit old to be trick or treating, but one person also told them not to stop.  Chloe thought maybe next year she won't wear something with the name of her high school on it.  But it was worth it for the candy.

Neve's x and o game, and my drilled-dot creation

Spencer finally decided how he wanted his pumpkin carved: with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. 
Guess who went to We Day?

Chloe's pumpkin with a  carrot nose
I emailed the receptionist at work yesterday to ask if any of the staff were dressing up for Halloween today.  As mentioned yesterday, I don’t remember working on Halloween before, but I know there are always a few people who wear costumes. The receptionist replied that yes, some people were dressing up.  When I got to work today, I found out that one of my co-workers had told her to tell me that as a joke.  Well haha, the joke was on him because I got to dress in jewel-tone teal satin and he didn’t.  I got up early this morning and put much effort into dressing up like an authentic 80s bridesmaid. I wore the same dress I wore to Jim’s 40th birthday party (the one my bridesmaids wore - who knew that dress would get this much use almost 25 years later?).  So it was great fun all around when I was the only one at work to show up in a costume.  I had brought extra clothes in case my snug dress burst at the seams or got too uncomfortable, but it was way too much fun being dressed up.  I made my trickster co-worker go with me when I went out in public to buy my lunch (he even offered to pay to assuage his guilt).  It was all good fun and I got lots of attention.  Not sure if that’s good or bad, but you know, YOLO.  I have to say it was a huge relief to take the dress off at the end of the day and be able to fully exhale.
PS: I ended up carrying Neve's walker around.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Day 28

Tomorrow was supposed to be my last day of blogging, but I've missed two days, so I guess I'll continue until I've done all 31 posts just to feel some sense of accomplishment.

It was a busy day from start to finish.  I tried to fit in more than I should have, but it mostly worked out.  My sister and I went to my parents later in the afternoon and stayed for supper.  I don't remember ever doing that before without taking the kids, but it was fun and we're hoping to do it more often.  We cut out lots of denim squares from old jeans so that someone (not me) can sew them into blankets.  I bet that's something none of you did today (except Janet).

When I got home, I painted the spot I patched in the bathroom (will discuss that further another day), carved pumpkins, cleaned up, helped Chloe with her costume, and a million other things.  The pumpkin carving was a bit of a bust this year.  Neve was the only one who was interested.  She decided she wanted an X and O game carved into her pumpkin.  I don't know how that's connected to Halloween; I think it was the first thing that popped into her head.  I had my own little pumpkin to carve, so I jumped on the pumpkin-drilling bandwagon with limited success.  Will try to post pics tomorrow.  

I don't remember Halloween falling on a Thursday before, although scientifically speaking, it must have.  That means I'll go into work, so I'm still debating what kind of costume to wear.  I'm leaning towards 80s bridesmaid, possibly with a zombie twist.  I'm not sure if anyone else at work will dress up, so that could go horribly wrong.  Whatever - YOLO.  (I'm not normally into acronyms-of-the-moment, but Chloe will be mortified that I said YOLO, so it's worth it.)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Day 27

For far too long, I have had zero interest in doing any projects around the house or yard.  I just can’t seem to muster the energy or passion needed to even start a project, never mind finish one.  But I miss the feeling of working towards a goal, using some skills, and feeling some pride in what I’ve accomplished.

Shortly after I painted the bathroom in January, some of the paint started to ripple on the wall near the ceiling. It looked like the effects of moisture, but the wall and ceiling felt dry, so I attributed it to some unexplained phenomenon.  There are a lot of those around here.  We didn’t fix it right away just in case it got worse, but ten months later, it still looks the same.  I was tempted to leave it like that for another year or three just to make sure, but this morning I suddenly found myself standing on a stool in the bathroom, sanding away the paint bubbles. I thought I’d quickly sand it, prime it and paint it in short bursts throughout the day and be done by suppertime. 
Best picture ever.  Feel free to use this as your desktop background if you want. 
Let me know if you want the high res version for enlargements.

But of course, things are never that easy.  Despite many layers of paint in the bathroom, when I started sanding, it instantly sanded down straight to the bare plaster.  There was no sign of previous paint colours. I thought that was weird. After much sanding, there was still a significant ridge where the plaster ended and the paint began.  That means I have to even it out.  I have lots of mud, but I needed a putty knife.  The only one I could find was a giant one, so after a fair amount of time searching for a smaller one, I finally decided it would take less time to go buy a new one.  So I bought a new one, brought all the mudding and painting supplies to the bathroom and will try again tomorrow.  Maybe if I can muster even an ounce of energy, I will put a layer of mud on tonight so I can sand first thing in the morning.

In the midst of work and everything else, I managed to bake Halloween cookies. I like to build up the children’s sugar intake slowly so that they’re ready for the deluge of treats they get on Halloween. I only want what’s best for the children.  My mom always made these cookies on Valentines Day and Halloween, so that’s what I try to do.  They’re chocolate roll-out-the-dough/cookie cutter cookies and the best part is the icing.  To make it orange, my mom added some orange Kool-aid powder, which makes it all tangy and zippy.  You either love it or you hate it and I fall very squarely in the first category.  I feel like I’ve written this before.  That’s basically what this blog has become … re-writing the same things over and over.  Luckily none of us are getting younger, so we’ve all probably forgotten anyway.

I have quite likely written this before too, but Dan’s comment in the last post about going trick-of-treating reminded me of the one time Jim and I went to our elderly neighbours.  They had never heard of Halloween, which seems odd in hindsight, since we went there every year.  We didn’t have that many neighbours so we had to literally walk for miles - always in bitterly cold wind - to get maybe three mini chocolate bars, a couple of apples and a pack of raisins.  I’m not exaggerating. Anyway, we had to explain to these seniors that they were supposed to give us candy.  Since they didn’t have any, they gave us each a bowl of ice cream instead.  We had to sit at their table, making small talk in our pillowcase ghost costumes while eating a bowl of cold ice cream before heading back into the dark, icy weather to continue our elusive quest for candy.  Despite all our hardships, there was never a question that it was Worth It.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Day 26

Today was a day of catching up, doing some paperwork, and starting Halloween preparations. Putting up the decorations took 60 seconds: I hung up two bat-like things on the front porch, one happy pumpkin on our door, and one black spider on the railing of our front steps. Done. When our Japanese friends came to visit, they asked if we didn’t celebrate Halloween in Canada. They had come from New York (New Jersey actually) where they said every single house and yard was already decorated for Halloween in early October. And not just a pumpkin on the porch – there was serious time and effort involved. I love the neighbourhood fun part of Halloween, but all that decorating doesn’t interest me. Right now I’m in more of an anti-stuff phase than usual, so all I can think of is ‘Where would I store all that stuff for eleven months of the year?’

Besides, I need every second I save by not decorating to help the kids get their costumes organized. I like to keep it simple, and by keeping it simple, I mean instead of just going to Party Stuff in mid-September and shelling out $50 for a costume they’re thrilled with, I drag it out until the day before Halloween, scouring the internet for hours looking for costume ideas that you can make at home; making multiple trips to thrift stores, dollar stores, and department stores, culminating in a lame costume that the kids are embarrassed to wear. But I’m sure I’m teaching them important values. I don’t know which values those might be, but I’m not going to waste time thinking about that.

Neve copied her friend’s idea and is being an old lady. She’s wearing an old black skirt, a lovely yellow cardigan, and a scarf tied in an old-ladyish bow. White tights, sensible black shoes, a wig, and glasses round out the costume. But the shining star of this ensemble (in Neve’s eyes) is the walker that she plans to walk around the neighbourhood with. It’s a logistical nightmare: we go trick-or-treating with friends, and it’s crowded enough with a bunch of kids clustered at the top of people’s stairs. Then when the storm door opens outward, standing room is hard to come by. Throw in a walker and you’ve got a recipe for mayhem and frustration. Guess who’s going to end up carrying it around the neighbourhood. 

Spencer wanted to be some obscure character from some book that I’m pretty sure no one on our street has even heard of. I finally convinced him to be a ninja. Black pants, black turtleneck, black ninja mask made with a t-shirt. He’s not pleased because he thinks it’s one of those costumes that people only wear when they’re desperate for a last-minute costume. Whatever. At least he agreed to one of my ideas. I had a lot of good ones, including the old man from the movie Up. Helium balloons tied to a walker with tennis balls on the bottom of the legs. Oh well, I’d probably have ended up carrying two walkers.   

Chloe decided she was getting too old for trick-or-treating and would stay home, dress up in her cheerleading outfit (costume #1) and hand out candy. Great, I thought, one less costume to help plan. But no. She still wants to dress up for school, so she decided to be Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s) (costume #2). Fortunately she has a dress and pearls and is borrowing some accessories, so the only thing we bought is long gloves. She’s also going to borrow some shoes, but we don’t know yet if they will fit. That would be a glitch.

Then her cheer coaches told the girls they could dress up for cheer practice on Wednesday evening, as long as they could still stunt and cheer in them. Holly Golightly in a fitted dress isn’t going to work. So Chloe’s going to dress up as an 80s fitness girl (costume #3) with legwarmers and neon and a headband, all of which she has.

Finally, the friend that’s coming over on Halloween wants to go out trick-or-treating a bit, so Chloe decided that she would actually like to go too. This presents a new problem. It would be optimum if she could disguise her face and age so that people think she’s a very tall 11-year-old instead of a 15 ½ year old who can drive a car. Neither costume #1, #2 or #3 fits that bill. Things started getting ridiculous when we started talking about costume #4. I finally told her to wear one of the first three costumes and if anyone asks her if she isn’t a bit old to be trick-or-treating, just say “Yes, but I’m also old enough to buy eggs and be out late at night.”

I feel like I’m forgetting to insert Worth Its into my posts. This bothers me, but I don’t know why. There’s no prize money on the line. Skipping a day, abandoning my theme, what’s next?? Things are going crazy.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Day 25

I didn't blog yesterday, but I have a really good reason.  I totally forgot.  I seriously didn't think of it once yesterday.  I've just proved the person wrong who said it takes 21 days until you form a habit.  Sorry to discourage you if you're trying to develop a new good habit, but you're going to have to work at it a little longer.

The reason I forgot is that my sister and I took our girls to Grand Forks, so I was out of my usual routine.  We only went for one night, but we left early yesterday morning and got back around 8:30 tonight so it was two pretty full days.  We had a really good time shopping, eating, swimming, playing, laughing, saying yes to the dress, and popping lots of raspberry m&m's.  I got a little start on my Christmas shopping which feels good.  I'd like to keep the momentum going and finish by December 1st.  I'm also going to try to simplify and downsize my Christmas shopping, which I say every year but never happens.  

Spencer was invited too, but I had to create awareness about how much shopping he'd be forced to do with us before and after hotel check-in/out.  To say he hates shopping is a huge understatement, so he opted to stay home.  Dale worked both Friday and Saturday, so the boy stayed home by himself both days, all day.  I should probably feel hurt that he preferred that to being with me, but I'm actually relieved.  Dale's mom checked in on him, and in the evening Dale and him went for burgers and watched a movie, so it worked out for everyone.

So I got my Grand Forks fix, and because it was so different from our usual annual weekend there, (different hotel, different people, different dynamic), it all worked out better than I expected.  Hopefully it will be a new annual thing.  Thanks Jan for inviting me and making the arrangements - you're the best.

Playing Heads Up

Neve was in her glory and proud to be part of the girls weekend



We stayed at the Sleep Inn, which was new and nice.  We're hoping to be the Guests of the Day next time.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Day 24

There's a show on Family channel that Neve loves called Next Step.  It's all about a dance school and the drama that unfolds between its dancers.  It's a nice, family-friendly show that I actually look forward to watching with her.  When we heard from Darla that the cast of the show was coming to town, we instantly cleared our calendar.

Tonight was the big night.  I rushed home from work, picked Neve up, and off we drove to a mall clear across the city to see our heroes.  A lot of other people had the same idea.  When we got there, we couldn't even see the stage.  I tried sending Neve up to the front, but people were so jam-packed that she couldn't get through.  Despite repeated announcements asking adults to move to the back so that the children could see, this didn't happen.   So the only people that could see were the people sitting on the floor in front of the stage and the adults at the front of the standing crowd.  If I had been running this event, I would have done it differently.  And by differently, I mean better.  I finally pushed Neve towards the front of the crowd with strict instructions to squeeze through and say "Excuse me" to the adults and even tap them if they didn't hear her.  Then I lost sight of her for the next half hour.  I had no idea if she made it to the front or if she was squashed or trampled by the bully adults who insisted on standing in front.  At one point there was a ripple in the crowd and word got out that a girl had passed out near the front.  The least aggressive security guard ever finally shuffled over and by the time he got through the crowd, I believe the girl had recovered.  I think he was pretty relieved about that.

When the show ended, Neve emerged from the crowd.  She was hot from being so crowded, and disappointed because she hadn't seen much of the show.  On the up side, she met two friends from school so at least they were together.  She said one of her friends had tried to move around to see better when an adult told her, "You have to move.  I can't see."  I wish I'd been there to address that situation.

As we walked out of the mall, I moved to put my arm around Neve to try to console her and help her come to terms with the fact that things were not as she imagined they would be.  But I guess I moved too fast and wild, because I ended up hitting her hard in the eye.  She started crying but I couldn't keep myself from bursting out laughing because it was all a bit nightmare-ish.  Her eye was red for a while but it got better.  And later when I asked her if going to the mall was worth it, she said, "Maybe."  All things considered, that's not bad.  I'll settle for a maybe.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Day 23

The condition of our street has been rough as long as I can remember.  In the last couple of years, it got so bad that everyone in the whole city avoids it if at all possible.  The city filled the potholes from time to time, but it was like a band-aid.  Not a professional first aid kit quality band-aid; the cheap, no-name kind that doesn't even stick to your skin in the first place.

Suddenly yesterday morning - with no warning - there was heavy equipment and city workers on our street.  They roughed up the street with some kind of pavement cutter blades (not sure what the technical term would be) and then they came back today to pour new asphalt.  By 5:00 p.m. today they were done and we now have a brand new, smooth, pothole-free street. 

It's weird that we had to suffer through so many bad, car-destroying years when it could all be fixed in 16 hours.  And that's counting lunch.  It makes me think this might be the good quality band-aid.

In other news, I started volunteering as a library lady at Spencer's school.  I've been very un-involved with volunteering the last few years, so I thought I better seize the opportunity to be close to Spencer while I can.  I told him I'd come to his class and call, "Spency!  Mommy's here!  Big hug!"  He pretended to believe that I was joking, but I could tell by the look in his eye that he wasn't totally sure.  I wish I had videoed the look on his face when he saw me in the doorway of his classroom.  But all I said was, "Here's some money if you want to buy something at the bake sale today."  He took it and ran.  I didn't even get a little hug.  But it was Worth It.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Day 22

I took this picture on our last Grand Forks trip - exactly one year ago yesterday

I woke up to snow today.  And the six month mark since Teresa left this earth for a place where it probably never snows unless you want it to. 

I know it’s a cliché, but the world really did feel brighter with Teresa in it. She always had something going on, something funny to say, a new idea, new recipe, or new restaurant she wanted to try.  She made life exciting and it doesn’t feel the same without her. 

I am fortunate to have other good friends and I’m more thankful than ever for them, but a cousin/friend that’s been a constant part of your life from the beginning can’t be replaced.  I can’t let go of her yet. I very much believe I will see her again in heaven, but I’d really like to be seeing her on earth as well.  We have a lot of things we need to talk about – six months worth, to be exact. 

If you have a minute, please say a prayer or send good thoughts to Teresa’s husband, kids, mother, and family today.  Everyone says that time helps, so hopefully the next six months are better than the last six.

Day 21

I feel like all I did today was work.  I got over fifty emails today (I counted) and only about five of them were personal.  Not Worth It.  Except on payday. 

My new fallback when I have nothing to say is to complain.  Sit back and let me tell you a story.

Chloe's really enjoying the IB program at school.  She has a ton of homework and has to work pretty hard, but that's okay.  The teachers are really good and appear to enjoy teaching classes where all the kids actually do their homework and are fairly motivated.  But there's one class that Chloe's having some trouble with at school.  I won't say which one because someone might know the teacher.  I'll just say it's not the class where they get to take the baby home. 

So her class wrote a test about a week ago and half the class failed (not to brag or anything, but Chloe squeaked by with a 56% - my little overachiever).  When half the class fails, I can't help but think that either the material wasn't explained very well or that the test wasn't an accurate reflection of what was taught. 

So the teacher hands out a stack of worksheets and says that whoever completes them all can take a re-test in a week.  Then she proceeds with teaching the next unit without going over any of the things that people obviously didn't understand in the previous unit.  Chloe does the worksheets, but like most of her other classmates, she is still struggling with the concepts.  Many of them go to the classroom at lunch hour for extra help; sometimes the teacher doesn't show up when she says she'll be there, and when she is there, she still doesn't explain things clearly or patiently. 

The teacher warned the students that the re-test will be more difficult than the first test and that if they get a lower mark, too bad - that's their final mark.  Chloe writes the re-test after school on Friday because the teacher does not allow any further class time to be taken up with that unit.  (To be fair, I'm sure the teacher doesn't feel like staying after school either). 

Chloe found out today she got 52% on the re-test.  The teacher told them one-third of the class failed.  Again, I believe such a large number of poor marks reflects badly on the teaching methods.  Chloe has to take some responsibility as well; she probably could have studied harder, but she did everything in her power to get extra help.  The class is continuing on with the next unit now, but I'm concerned that there will be problems when exam time rolls around or when they take the next level of the course and are expected to build on what they should have already learned.  It's still pretty early in the year and if the students are struggling already, it doesn't bode well for the rest of the year. 

I emailed the teacher tonight to ask her for suggestions on how Chloe can get some help.  I told her that Chloe signed up for a peer tutor, but hasn't been assigned one yet (I omitted the fact that she only signed up today).  Maybe I should be more optimistic but I'm not expecting a helpful response.  I'm not really a tiger mom despite my best attempts, but I'm gearing up for a fight.  One thing that was stressed in the IB information session and many teachers have reiterated, is that they are always available and willing to help students who are having trouble with something.  This doesn't seem to be the case in this instance.  To complicate matters, I actually know this teacher as an acquaintance.  She's a nice person, but I can see how she might not be the most warm, gentle teacher ever.

What do you think?  What's my next step?  Or should I bother taking a next step?  Am I over-reacting?  Am I a tiger mom?  (please say yes!)  If you're a teacher, what do you think?  Will it work itself out?  Do I hire a professional tutor? (please say no).  What's the best way of dealing with teachers whose teaching style you don't love?

As I re-read this, I realize it's not the most captivating story.  But it was kind of therapeutic to write it all out.  So I'm sorry if it's boring but it was worth it. 

It's not my best "worth it" moment.  Tomorrow is a new day.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Day 20

Twenty down, ten to go.  Can you tell I'm struggling? 

Today was cold.  There were flurries in the air.  I went for a run this morning and I wasn't cold at all, but the rest of the day whenever I had to go out, I was freezing.  I should just run everywhere.

As part of Chloe's baby project, she also had to do a baby book about the weekend, so I helped Chloe with it for a couple of hours this afternoon.  I haven't even done baby books for all my children, but the doll has a thorough, detailed record of her life, complete with pictures and personal reflections.  Of course, it doesn't hurt that her "life" was only three days long.

Spencer chose today's dinner menu:  sushi, calamari, and cookie dough for dessert.  Just when you thought nothing could beat that, Bob and Jan joined us very impromptu-ly (made-up word), and brought a giant pan of nachos.  I ate way too much and feel a tiny bit sick, but it was worth it.

The Sunday night cloud of gloom has set in ... Neve is anxious about not falling asleep quickly, Chloe is stressed over the homework she didn't finish, Spencer wishes there was no school tomorrow, and I'm trying to remember if there was any important work I meant to do on the weekend.  Actually I'm trying not to remember.  That's what Monday mornings are for.

Day 19

I'm a few minutes late today but it still counts. I can make up my own rules. I'm blogging from my phone for the first time ever - it's a bit awkward but It's worth it because I am all cozy in bed instead of sitting at the computer. 

It was a nice relaxing Saturday. I got a bunch of little things done like fixing Neve's school bag and sewing on buttons. Neve is the Star of the Week at school next week so I was helping her get stuff ready to bring for show the class. That was way more stressful than it should have been but we eventually worked it out. For some reason most of the things she wants to bring are related to our summer exchange student - pictures of her, gifts she gave us and cards she sent us. I tried to tell Neve that Yumi was not the Star of the Week but that was pointless. 

Chloe was delighted to learn that she could take a baby home from school again this weekend. There was an extra one that no one was using so she asked if she could take it home. This time it's just for fun since she was marked on the last one, but Chloe is taking it just as seriously. Her friend has a baby this weekend too so they got the babies together for a play date today. They even took them to Starbucks. Chloe always was a doll girl so she's pretty thrilled she gets to play dolls again. 

My highlights were going for coffee with friends while Neve was at gymnastics, going for a walk with Dale, and having Mike and Darla over for a couple of games of Rook tonight. I won one and lost one. Can't win em all.  

Friday, October 18, 2013

Day 18

Since Siobhan asked so nicely for some negativity, here we go.

I think it was Stop in the Middle of the Aisle Day at Costco today.  Shopping there isn't my favourite at the best of times, but today was even worse than usual.  Countless times - seriously, I can't even count how many times - people just stood smack in the middle of the aisle for no reason, blocking all traffic.  The store was crowded and no one was in a hurry except me.  As just one tiny example, there was a man with a shopping cart and his wife in a wheelchair who were exactly spaced out so you couldn't fit on either side or between them.  When I said "Excuse me," they slowly, slowly moved over a few centimetres.  No apology, not even a polite smile.

At the massage therapy office, I overheard this conversation between the receptionist and a customer:

"I love your vest!"
"Thanks! I love it too!  I just love fall layers!"
"I know!  I love fall clothes!  Fall is my favourite season!"
"Mine too! I would be happy if it was fall all year round!"
"I know!  Me too!  Like, sunny fall weather!"
"Yes!  About 10 degrees and sunny!"

Then they kept talking about some magical place in the world where it's always fall temperatures and how much they'd like to live there.  My self-control had to work very, very hard not to jump up and bang both of their heads together.  I know there are a lot of people who love fall, but it was the stupidest conversation I've ever heard.

Tonight we had friends over for Anthony's birthday (Teresa's husband).  It was great to see him and the kids and everyone else and we had a nice evening, but Teresa should have been here.  Her absence was felt so deeply and it's hard to accept that this is the new normal.   This is also the weekend of our annual Grand Forks trip.  We all looked forward to it every fall, but we just couldn't bear to go this year.

I'll try to be more upbeat tomorrow (sorry, Sio).

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Day 17

Is it really only Day 17?  It feels like Day 117.

Today was one of those days that turned out better than expected.  Chloe was supposed to cheer at a football game at the stadium tonight, and between working late, Drivers Ed, and Spencer’s acting class, it took a lot of time and effort to work out a plan to get everyone where they needed to be.  But all the stress of coordinating this was worth it because of the relief we felt when we found out it was cancelled.

Some other good things about today:
  • It was a busy day at work, but I finished everything I needed to so I shouldn’t have to work all weekend.
  • Delicious corn chowder for lunch with a co-worker at the Free Press Cafe
  • Eating a peanut butter Oh Henry even though I was still full from lunch.  Those things should be illegal, they're so good.
  • Hanging out at the Forks for an hour during Spencer’s acting class. 
  • Neve’s excitement at the book I bought at the Forks: “The Day the Crayons Quit”
  • The kids did most of the chores on their to-do list with barely any nagging

So it was a good day and I have high hopes for the weekend.  It’s a good mix of social and anti-social (or “down time” as my family prefers to call it).  We’re having people for dinner tomorrow (mmm, my favourite) but I feel like things are under control.  The icing on the cake is that I have a massage appointment tomorrow morning.  Not to brag about my amazing life or anything. But you know I don't hesitate to complain when it's not so perfect.  I'm guessing that's more interesting to read than cheerful, positive bullet points about how it's so awesome being me.  I'll try harder tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Day 16

There was one thing today that was not Worth It and one that was.

Not Worth It: I was interviewed by a TV station at the mall today. They didn’t really ask if they could interview me, they just started asking questions. I was too polite to say ‘no thank you’ and walk away, so instead I took the stupid road and made a potential fool of myself for the whole city to see. The story was about Ottawa’s announcement that they want to equalize prices between US and Canada, so they asked me some questions about cross border shopping. I don’t know if they even aired my interview - we PVR’d the 10:00 news just in case but I haven’t checked yet. I am not a fast-on-my-feet thinker, so my speaking was filled with ums, stuttering and contradictions. A spokesperson I will never be.

Worth It: I sat on a hard bleacher in Chloe’s school gym for 75 minutes tonight, listening to an endless stream of students’ names and clapping as they got awards. It’s a big school and there were lots of awards. Chloe got one for Honour Roll (except they call it Kappa Sigma) and an Excellence Award for Family Studies. Seeing how much she loved her baby, that’s hardly surprising. (Actually these awards were for last year, which was pre-baby.) It was a long time to sit but I was proud of Chloe and they served cookies after. Plus I got to see what all the cool kids are wearing these days.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Day 15

When I went to wake Chloe up this morning, baby Scout was in Chloe’s bed for one last snuggle (as much as you can snuggle a rock hard plastic doll).  The doll was actually pre-programmed to shut off automatically yesterday morning.  With past participants, it hasn’t always turned off when it was supposed to, so Chloe was hoping with all her heart that would be the case again.  Alas, her baby cried at around 10:30 a.m. yesterday for the last time.  She still held it and carried it and took it wherever we went because “what if it starts crying and no one’s there?” She was pretty heartbroken about giving it back today, and said her arms felt so empty now.  (Incidentally, today happens to be Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. There is no comparison of course, but at least it made Chloe realize things could be worse.)  But I think the silver lining was a good solid sleep last night, which makes everything better. She was looking pretty haggard the last couple of mornings.

Besides gymnastics and Drivers Ed right after school today, tonight was a rare night with no activities, and all of us were home all evening. It was a nice treat, but I kept feeling like I was forgetting something. No one phoned in a panic asking where I was, so I think it all worked out. Neve was delighted because in addition to her going-to-bed-late anxiety, she also prefers that I don’t leave the house after I tuck her in. That’s going to pay off in winter when I don’t want to go out anyway; I’ll use it as an excuse so that Dale will have to drive the other kids around or do errands.

I’m having trouble coming up with a way to insert “Worth It” into my post today. I’ve spent a lot of time working today, so my mind isn’t in peak form by this point. The best I can come up with is that we ate sketchy leftovers for supper but it was Worth It because now the fridge is a lot emptier. How about some audience participation … if you can think of something in your day that was worth it, feel free to share it in the comments.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Day 14

Sometimes my expectations for long weekends are too high.  About a week before a long weekend, anytime I think of a task that needs to be done or when the children ask me for something, I say, "I'll do that on the long weekend." Help Chloe with her school project?  Long weekend.  Do a craft with Neve that she got for birthday in February? Long weekend.  Finish the Harry Potter series? Long weekend.  Of course by the end of a long weekend when zero of those things have happened, I realize there are the same number of hours in a day on the weekend as during the week. 

But good news!  This weekend was different.  Because we had guests, I had no expectations of doing anything productive all weekend.  Even though they left Sunday morning, we had Thanksgiving dinners on Sunday and Monday, so I knew there wouldn't be much leisure time.  But I didn't realize our dinner today wasn't until 5:00, so suddenly I had a whole free day.  I slept in, read, went for a run, helped Chloe with her project, watched Neve perform a dance, did my summer/winter clothes exchange, tidied up and did some laundry.  I also did some delegating: Dale and the kids raked the front and back yard. 

Neve wanted to come home early after our family dinner tonight.  She's going through a phase where her tummy is upset every evening and she's worried she'll throw up.  She gets very nervous if she goes to bed too late; if she thinks it's late, she doesn't want us to talk about what time it is.  These little anxieties are frustrating because it's impossible to reason with her, but it's sort of worth it because bedtime is very fast and easy these days.  All we need to say is, "Look at the time!" and she's under the covers.  Anyway, her and I came home early, which allowed me to get a bunch of stuff done for work so I feel better prepared for the week ahead.  And that's a good thing, because for the last week, I've been thinking of all the things I need to do and saying, "I'll do that next week."

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Day 13 - Thankfulness

I'm thankful for our Japanese visitors.  We were all sad to see them go this morning.  They were so good to us and the kids and we miss them already.  They're off to New York for a couple of weeks before heading back to Japan. We feel so honoured that they made a special trip here to visit us and we'll never forget it. We've always wanted to go back to Japan to visit and now we're more determined than ever.   

I'm thankful for the joy that Chloe's baby has brought.  The Japanese ladies loved that doll and asked how much it cost.  When Chloe said $850, they thought that was quite a bargain.  I wouldn't be surprised if they buy one. Baby Scout (that's what Chloe named her) was a hit at my parents' house today too.  Bella and Lexie were pretty intrigued by her. But last night didn't go too well; Scout cried several times and wasn't calmed down by a diaper change or feeding.  Chloe looked pretty ragged this morning but she says it's worth it because she loves that baby.

I'm thankful that no one fell while climbing this today.  Especially my sister's exchange student.

And of course I'm thankful for my family, friends, faith, health, and home.  I'm thankful for my blog readers, especially my faithful commenters!  And I'm thankful that tomorrow is a holiday.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Day 12

Neve very much enjoying her 15 minutes of fame

Another day of entertaining guests has come to an end.  They are very easy guests and seem to enjoy everything immensely.  It was cold and windy today, so we spent most of the time inside.  We took three separate trips downtown - to the Legislative Building in the morning, to The Forks after lunch, and to the restaurant on the Esplanade Bridge for dinner.  Dale's mom joined us and it was a good evening.  It was the first time I'd been there since it was Salisbury House and I really liked it.  The least favourite part was walking back to our car after ... it was so cold but the view of downtown made it worth it.

Chloe has fallen in love with her fake baby. It woke up once during the night and wanted to be fed for 30 minutes, then again around 7:30 a.m.  I heard it cry at 7:30 and I was flooded with relief that I didn't have to get out of bed.  It doesn't bode well for my grandparenting skills; I better work on that.  The baby came with us everywhere we went.  The car seat was heavy and awkward (welcome to the real world) so she borrowed a baby sling from Corinna.  That worked a lot better.  She got a lot of looks and a few comments at The Forks.  We were in the elevator with four men when the baby started to cry.  I quickly told them it was for a school project.  I'm not sure why I felt such a strong need to tell them; I guess I didn't want them to think I had a promiscuous daughter.  I suppose I should also work on skills to support my daughter rather than caring what total strangers think.

I better not show this to Chloe or she'll be using it as her Christmas card
(on her cheek are tattoos from the football game last night)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Day 11

I had a great day today with the Japanese ladies.  They are a lot of fun to hang out with and I'm really enjoying having them here. We had a nice leisurely breakfast of fresh pumpkin muffins, yogurt and fruit at our house after I got the kids off to school.  Then we went to the park and walked around the gardens and duck pond, followed by a trip to IKEA.  They have IKEA in Tokyo, but it's far from the city they live in, so neither of them had been there before.  They loved looking at all the room set-ups and were amazed at pretty much everything.  They opened every drawer, cupboard, and appliance in every kitchen.  It was pretty fun to watch.  They love looking at people too, especially children.  They were so excited about some twin babies we saw that the mother eventually tightened her grip on the stroller and edged away from us.  The ladies were just getting their cameras out and I could see them considering chasing after the babies.  Luckily their attention was diverted by a big white kitchen with TWO ovens.

When Dale got home from work, we went to my parents' for supper.  This was another source of great joy and wonderment.  The house!  The yard!  The enormous freezer full of food! (photos were taken) The pantry full of canned food from the garden! (more photos were taken)  How amazing my parents are!  They both live pretty comfortable lives in Japan, so I don't know if they're genuinely so amazed or if they're just being polite.  Probably a little bit of both, but it made me think I shouldn't take it for granted.  

The day Chloe has been waiting for for a year (I'm too tired to rearrange that sentence so that there aren't two "for"s in a row) has finally arrived.  As part of her Family Studies course, she has to take care of a baby for the weekend. It's a doll, but it's as realistic as they can make it.  When it cries, Chloe has to figure out if it needs a new diaper, a bottle, or just wants to be held.  It has a floppy head that needs to be supported, and a car seat it needs to be buckled into when driving.  There is some sort of computer chip inside that reacts to the sensors in the diapers and bottle and neck-flopping.  Chloe also has to wear a wristband all weekend (that can only be removed by the teacher) so if she moves too far away from the baby, it cries.  When the weekend is over, the teacher retrieves all the data and can tell how well it was taken care of.  The baby is called Baby Think It Over, but I'm afraid the only thinking-over that's being done is by Chloe planning how to get a real baby.  However, she had to cheer at a football game at the new stadium tonight and had to bring her baby.  It cried.  The car seat was heavy.  Things were complicated.  I hope the baby doesn't cry all night tonight and wake up our house guests, but I guess if it means preventing a teenage pregnancy, it's Worth It.

Is that the face of a girl thinking a teen pregnancy is a bad idea?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Day 10

I'm cutting it close today... I've got 15 minutes to write something meaningful. I guess I'll leave the meaningful writing for someone else, and just aim for something.

My guests arrived today.  My friend looks exactly the same as she did 20 years ago.  Her and her friend are hilarious.  They love laughing and joking around and seem very happy to be here.  Their English is really good, which is a nice change from our summer exchange student.  They find everything interesting and are so polite and complimentary, which is awesome for the ego.  We had dinner at home (I served them pasta with the homemade marinara sauce - I couldn't really tell the difference between bought stuff and homemade, but I sensed the wholesomeness) and then went to my sister's for my niece's birthday.  The ladies had been up since 4 a.m. so I didn't know if they would want to come, but there was no hesitation.  Other family was there as well, so it was loud and crazy but they loved it.  I'm looking forward to showing them around and hanging out with them the next couple of days.

Time is almost up; it was a busy, exhausting day from morning to night, but it was definitely Worth It.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Day 9 - Japanese visitors

My Japanese guests arrive tomorrow. I’ve been working feverishly to make my house and yard presentable for guests. I want them to have the best possible impression of Winnipeg so I’m trying to pretend it’s still summer. I’ve tried to remove all traces of fall by plucking away the dead stuff on my plants and getting rid of every leaf on the ground. I was thinking of gluing some leaves back on the trees and inserting fake flowers in the window boxes, but that would be crazy. I think. I still need to find somewhere to hide the leaf bags.

Why yes, I did gain about 20 lbs in Japan.

Twenty years ago when Dale and I taught English in Japan, my job was to go around visiting different English classes as the native English-speaking guest teacher. The classes were regularly taught by Japanese-speaking teachers (some of whom knew so little English that I couldn’t even have a conversation with). One of the teachers was a cute older lady who wanted to practice her English. I taught a weekly class at a school near her house, so we arranged a standing lunch date before my class every Wednesday. She would make me traditional Japanese food and we’d speak English. I practiced my Japanese a bit too, but she was much better at English than I was at Japanese.

Her husband was the manager of a ski resort, so they took us skiing a couple of times, all expenses paid, from our ski suit rentals to our meals. They also took us out for dinner a couple of times and we met her children and her siblings. In the twenty years since then, she’s sent me Christmas cards every year and postcards from her travels. Sometimes I wondered why we bothered keeping in touch when we’d probably never see each other again.

But a couple of weeks ago, she sent me an email saying that her and a friend were taking a trip to New York and asked if I could meet her there. Long story short, her and her friend are coming here instead. I’m excited to see her, but am also a little nervous … mostly about how to best entertain them and make sure they have a good time. From what I remember, she is a very easy-going person who loves to laugh. Twenty years ago, it was still pretty unusual for an older Japanese woman to be working – teaching English, no less – so she’s pretty modern and forward-thinking. I think it will be pretty fun to have them here and I’m honoured that they are making the effort to come and visit. And that’s why it’s Worth It to keep in touch with old friends.

This is the last time I saw my friend
(she's the shorter one with the red top)

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Day 8

“I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

- L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
I’m different than most people.  I hate fall.  I’m never ready for summer to end, so I resent the shorter days, dread the cooler temperatures, and am saddened by the sight of leaves falling off the trees.  To be fair, it’s not fall’s fault.  It’s just that I know what lies beyond fall.  My memory’s not always great, but it never forgets winter.  All that being said, today was a beautiful fall day.  I had to spend most of the day working at my computer, but I ate lunch outside, washed windows and raked leaves to get some fresh air.  It was hard to make myself go back inside.  If every October day was like today, I might soften my stance on fall.  But even then, I probably wouldn’t go so far as to agree with the quote above.
It’s my dad’s birthday today.  He’s awesome - he’s 76 but seems way younger.  He is talented at many things and can fix or build anything.  He has no shortage of crazy ideas – building things like the zip line, a mood enhancer (I can’t explain that one), and a tillacter (cross between a tiller and a … ?).  He always makes things fun for the kids (and adults).  Happy birthday, Dad!
I’ve been craving chocolate all day and handfuls of chocolate chips just aren’t cutting it.  Dale just went to pick Chloe up, so I gave him a very strong hint that I’d love him to pick up a chocolate bar for me.  And then I followed up the hint with a direct request.  It turned out he had picked up on the hint so he was annoyed that I didn’t leave it at that because he wanted to look like he was all intuitive and sensitive to my every whim.  I’m sorry I ruined his surprise but sometimes it’s Worth It to spell things out just to make sure.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Day 7

It’s Day Seven and the blogging novelty is wearing off. I think we’re all getting a little tired of the words “worth it.” Or maybe it’s just me (go ahead and leave me me heartfelt words of encouragement and reassurance in the comments section now). I’m always surprised at how long it takes me to write a post. I think to myself, “I’ve got ten minutes before I have to pick Neve up so I’ll quickly start and finish a blog post.” And then suddenly it’s an hour later and Neve has been forgotten and abandoned. She is eight already so she needs to learn some independence anyway.

We are having company from Japan this weekend (I’ll elaborate on that in another post) so I have a long list of things to do before then. We don’t host adults overnight very often, so at first I panicked and put things on my list like buy a new house, take a fancy cooking course, and learn fluent Japanese. Then I realized that was probably too much to accomplish in two weeks, so I changed the list to: buy new dishes, buy a new toilet for the upstairs bathroom, and train the children to be polite and engaging. Still unrealistic … my current list includes: wash floors and windows, fix the draining problem in the upstairs tub, and plan meals. That’s still reaching for the stars, but at least I might end up on the moon or whatever that saying is. I like the moon better anyway.

I better get going on that list, but here a couple of links I’ve enjoyed recently (slight language warning, but it’s worth it just to see #13 on the first link. For some reason I laugh every time I look at that picture).

Awkward situations

Anyone who eats lunch at their desk will like this

(Did you notice how I snuck in the Worth It? Although pointing it out takes away any cleverness that may or may not have existed in the first place).

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Day 6 - Pumpkins

This weekend zipped by like a bullet.  Dale came home today; the kids and I didn't get everything done that we planned to do while he was away.  It was a full weekend though and like usual, I may have been unrealistic in my goal-setting.  I was going to paint some furniture and build a brick pad for our barbecue.  Those projects didn't even get started, never mind finished.

And apparently the circus wasn't in town this weekend, so we never did that either.  So we went to a pumpkin patch instead.  Kristin was telling me about a cool place they went, but I think we may have gone to the wrong place.  It was really just a vegetable stand that sold pumpkins.  Oh well, it was a nice fall thing to do.  Afterward, we hung around downtown for a bit and then I dropped the kids off at the Children's Museum.  Their cousins met them there and brought them home, so I had a few hours to myself.  

I had started rearranging the living room this morning, but the kids were all sitting on the couch while I was trying to move it and Neve was dancing on the coffee table.  It was a lot easier doing it when they weren't home.  It's not a drastic change, but I liked the idea of the couches facing each other.  Rather than having to turn our heads at unnatural angles, we can now look straight ahead and gaze into our guest's eyes.  I'm not quite done yet, but I'm not a decorator person and this room will never be featured in a magazine so there's no rush.  I foresee a problem when it's Christmas tree time, but we'll worry about that when the time comes (all too soon, I fear).

Here's Dale in all his post-run, sweaty glory in the Atlantic Ocean.  He had a great time in Miami, celebrating his sister's birthday.  He keeps talking about the tropical air ... the tropical smells ... the tropical birds ... blah blah blah.  My jealousy prevents me from being too happy for him, but I'm trying my best.  I know it will be Worth It when it's my turn.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Day 5 - Baby you can drive my car

Several people have asked me if Chloe passed her Learners test; I guess I forgot to provide closure on that issue.  She did indeed pass, and apparently answering a few test questions correctly allows you to suddenly be trusted to operate motorized vehicles, which are in the top ten causes of deaths in the world.  Contrary to what I said the other day, I took Chloe driving this afternoon.  She drove from the community centre to the Crescent, through Assiniboine Park and back home again.  She did very well, although there is room for improvement in important areas such as shoulder checking and not panicking when a vehicle comes towards you (in its own lane) on a two-way street.  She's pretty cautious, which is good.  Maybe not great for the guy behind us when we're stopped at a green light, but that's okay.  Chloe and I did lots of deep breathing to relax ourselves; hopefully the other drivers we encountered did the same.  Instead of the NOVICE DRIVER sign we can put in our back window (which we forgot), we should have a TAKE A DEEP BREATH sign.  I guess they kind of mean the same thing.  My Worth It moment: driving with Chloe even though I only did it because she begged me.  It went much better than I expected and Chloe was so excited and proud and it gave her a big boost of confidence.

Kristin's husband is also away this weekend, so her and I took the kids miniature golfing at the black light mini-golf place and then had dinner at their house.  Our kids get along so well together and are at the stage where Kristin and I can sit and talk for hours about anything and everything with no interruptions at all.  We discussed lots of dreams of making the world (or at least our neighbourhoods) a better place.  Talking is the fun part; the following-through is another story.


Yesterday Neve said, "Today my principal came out at recess and we talked.  And we both jumped up at the same time and tried to bump each other's stomachs."

To someone who doesn't know her principal, this sounds kind of bizarre.  I knew him years before he came to work at our school and he's an awesome guy who loves being goofy and having fun with the kids.  Even still, when she said this, Spencer and I looked at each other and had a good laugh.  I can't quite picture that scenario happening with either of the other kids' principals.