Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Missing Joan at Christmas

When I was a kid, there was nothing in the world more exciting than celebrating Christmas with my family. We were all together, everyone was extra nice to each other, we had presents and peace and joy and goodwill to man. It was way, way up there in a special category of its own and nothing even came close.

It got even more awesome when I was twelve and my sister-in-law Joan joined the family. She took it up a notch (or ten) with her perfect gift bags filled with excessive amounts of tissue paper and huge bunches of sparkly, curly ribbons on top. The gifts themselves were always awesome – one of my favourites was the Beatles Early Years cassette, which coincidentally is the exact same album Jim & Sabrina gave Spencer for Christmas this year - but even better than the gifts was her laughter and excitement and Christmas spirit. She made everything more fun with her sense of humour and love of life. She would bring little houses made of Toblerone with After Eight roofs to put at each place setting and tubs of gummy bears. When my nephews were born, she’d dress them in baby elf and Santa sleepers and we’d all laugh our head off at how cute they were and it was all so awesome. I should point out that every single person in my family contributes to the awesomeness in their own way and if anything happened to any one of them, I would write something nice about them too. I really hope I don’t have to.
Last Christmas: two-thirds of my beautiful sister-in-laws

Anyway, with all people and things combined, Christmas was so magical that every year when the day came to an end, I would have this dark little voice in my head telling me that this might be the last year we would all be together. I believe it started around the time that Teresa lost her dad and I realized how life could change in an instant, and I still think it every single year.  

This year was the year that I was dreading. Missing a loved one at Christmas is as bad as I always feared it would be. There was a huge hole that sucked out much of the usual excitement and made it feel heavy and melancholy (I don’t think I’ve ever used the word melancholy before, but it fits). My brother and nephew deserve a lot of credit for showing up and making it through the day with us. I know I’m fortunate to have had forty-four years of celebrating Christmas with all of my family alive, but it makes me sad that my nephews only got about half that and Teresa’s kids got even less. It just isn’t fair.

But we still had some good times. We played games and ate and talked and laughed. The ping pong games in the garage were limited to those who were okay with the possibility of a lynx attack and also able to withstand strong gas fumes. Jim may have won the most games, but he probably also had the worst headache so it probably wasn’t worth it. We also had a lot of fun trying to access the iPad we gave my parents. Jim had set it up in advance but forgot the passcode. The rest of us are pretty excited that we have something to mock him about for the rest of our lives. To his credit, he figured out how to wipe it clean and start over. If I have to write a tribute about him someday, I’ll have lots of material.  

I shouldn’t even joke about that. But if you can’t joke, you may as well be dead. Laughter is the best medicine and all that.


Cool shoe painting craft from Dan & Jenn

We went out for dinner with Mike & Darla the other day and Darla suggested that I do a blogging blitz to end the year. It took me two days to write this post so it’s not going to be much of a blitz, but since blogging is a nice complement to my current schedule of puzzling, reading, and eating chocolate peanut butter balls, I’ll give it a shot. Especially since today is already the 30th.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas catch-up

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone is having a wonderful, magical, meaningful day with family and friends. For the rest of you who have time to read blogs today, there’s always next year. Who am I kidding - reading blogs is a pretty magical way to spend Christmas. So is writing them. This December has been my busiest December on record so I’m very happy to have the time and energy to sit down for a few minutes and spill my overloaded brain out onto the internet.

Three Christmas concerts (four if you count my niece’s), two work Christmas parties, our neighbourhood party, a piano recital, family get-togethers, my photography course, a hip hop recital, shopping, wrapping and baking - all on top of a busy schedule of work, school stuff, gymnastics, youth, cheer, hip hop, fencing make for a very full month. But it made for a very fun month as well. I am making a conscious effort to enjoy the moment rather than letting myself get all stressed and anxious about all the things I need to do. On a scale of one to ten, my success rate has been about three. But that’s better than a two. And way better than a one! 

Reading about how busy I’ve been probably rates a zero on your scale of one to ten, so I’ll move on. Let’s talk about my birthday instead.

I turned 45 on Monday. That sounds a lot older than 44. Jan and Sabrina took me out for breakfast. We went to the Pancake House at the Forks and watching people skate and smile and take selfies made it feel like I was on holidays. Then I had to work for a few hours which was unfortunate; that’s the downside of being 45 rather than 65. I really wanted to go to the Art Gallery because dragging my family out to get some culture is my idea of a good time, but it’s closed on Mondays. The museum was my second choice, but it’s also closed on Mondays. Monday is not a good day to have a birthday. Someone should have planned that better. My third choice was Sky Zone (a trampoline park) which doesn’t sound like something most adults would choose to do on their birthday, but it was awesome. We picked a good time to go (I guess Mondays aren’t all bad) and we had the place almost to ourselves. We played volleyball and dodgeball and jumped our hearts out. We were all sweating by the time our 30 minutes was up. Then we took our sweaty selves out for sushi, and then some of my family came over for birthday cake. I also got lots of lovely gifts including a nice watch from Dale and Body Shop stuff from the kids. It was a great day and I felt loved and special, so I really can’t complain about turning 45 on a Monday.

Stepping back one day before my birthday, Neve had a speaking part in the church Christmas concert. She did great memorizing all her lines (and everyone else’s) and she even sang three solo parts. When I heard she was going to be singing solos, I was skeptical and a little afraid. Our family has not been blessed musically. I just hoped people would be kind and gracious and not laugh openly as she sang. In a surprising and happy turn of events, Neve did really great. My world has been shaken to its core; it’s causing me to re-think our identity as a non-musical family. She is also doing pretty good on the piano, and Spencer is enjoying the bari sax so much that he wants to join the jazz band at school. It’s a crazy world. Next thing you know, I’ll be dragging people out to karaoke.

That brings us to the present. We had a relaxing Christmas Eve yesterday; we went to a candlelight service, then Dale’s mom came over and we had appetizers and a chocolate fondue and opened a few gifts. It was a gorgeous evening, so we went out for a walk to see a little Christmas display a few blocks away, and then played grounders and made snow angels at the playground. It was so quiet and magical and no one complained once. This morning, the kids woke up to their overflowing stockings and have been playing with new toys ever since. At least the new toys that actually work. There are a few glitches this year. We already had the Wii game we bought the kids (oops). The iPod dock/clock radio that Neve got doesn’t work with her old iPod. The power cord is missing for the record player Spencer got, and the puzzle I got is completely different than the picture on the box. Santa really needs to do something about his quality control department. Heads are probably gonna roll. The kids handled their disappointments well and lucky us, it means we get to stand in some customer service lines in the days ahead.

Neve is excited about her gift before she finds out it's useless to her.

Spencer is excited about his gift until he finds out he can only look at it until we get a power cord.

This was a success - a runway with lights. I predict this is going to get a lot of use.

This was also a pretty big success. Thank goodness at least one thing works.

Well, I should return to my world of reading, eating chocolate, and trying to do a 1000 piece puzzle without a picture. Spencer got lots of Simpson, Doctor Who and Full House DVDs, so there is TV watching in my future as well. We have no plans all day, so I’m living the dream. Hope you are all having a lovely day with lots of love and joy and peace and very few glitches. Merry Christmas – I love you all!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

December catch-up

December is a complicated month. I love the excitement of Christmas preparations but I struggle with the stress of the busy days and even busier evenings. Up until Boxing Day, December allows us only two or three evenings that are unscheduled. Most of the plans we have are fun and festive, but leisurely evenings spent reading Christmas books to the kids and listening to Christmas carols by the tree are pretty much just wishful thinking. I'm trying hard to live in the moment and enjoy the busy-ness instead of fighting it. I'm having limited success with that, but I keep trying.

There's a lot to catch up on, so I'll mostly do it with pictures. One thing I did not get a picture of is Chloe's cheer competition at the beginning of the month. I took a video but I haven't yet learned how to get a decent quality still photo from a video. Chloe's team did well in spite of several concussions (thankfully not her this time) and won their category.

My brother Dan came to hang out with the family for a week. We were in charge of the annual Christmas get-together with my Dad's side of the family so he helped out a lot with that. As always, it was great to have him home.

Trying to make Uncle Dan laugh (I think?)

At the family gathering:
Doing crafts
Playing Knipsbrat

Ping pong tournament

Slight hiccup during the ping pong tournament

The Costa Rican ping pong champ is victorious again.

The girls waiting to go home.

I don't love posting pictures of people without their permission, but I hope my relatives don't mind.

I took a couple of vacation days this week, so Dan and I went to the Human Rights Museum on Wednesday. Lucky us - turns out it was International Human Rights Day so admission was free. We spent a couple of hours walking through it and taking in the architecture, stopping now and then to read something. There's a lot to read. Don't go if you can't read. I guess you wouldn't be reading this if you can't read. Also (spoiler alert) it's not the most cheerful of places. The content is pretty heavy. I know it's important to recognize and remember, but it's the type of place that doesn't exactly lighten your burden.  That being said, I'm planning to go again and tackle some more of the exhibits; it's just too much to take in on one visit.

This was pretty fun

Later that day, after I had sent Dan on his way back to the land of rain and milder temperatures, Neve had her first piano recital. My niece Tia teaches her and our neighbour girl, so it was a tiny little Christmas recital followed by some delicious treats. It was very cute listening to their Christmas pieces.


I spent the rest of the week Christmas shopping and preparing for our neighbourhood party on Friday night. In the midst of a busy month, I was second-guessing my decision to do the party, but it's so awkward to un-invite people. I try and do this every year or two and the turnout is usually pretty modest. But this year it was a full house. The basement was filled with kids and the main floor was packed with adults (doesn't take much in our house), there was lots of food and drink and everyone seemed to have a good time. We had people coming to the door that I'd never seen before. Everyone was super friendly and outgoing and it was a really great night. I even made a Christmas tree veggie platter, so how could it not be?

Things got really crazy near the end.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Lots of photos

For the few of you who may be interested in seeing some of the fruits of my photography class, today's your lucky day. The rest of you: maybe it's your lucky day too but you'll have to look elsewhere to discover that. 

The first group is from the Legislative Building. It's such a beautiful building with lots of detail. At my class on Monday, we looked at the pictures everyone took and it's so interesting how the exact same thing can be shot so differently - different angles, distance, etc.   

The next batch is from the Western Canada Aviation Museum.

And the last two are from a bokeh assignment. Bokeh is when things in the background are out of focus, which I didn't know there was a name for before this class. 

Next week we're going to the Forks for another field trip so we'll see what comes out of that.