Thursday, January 30, 2014

23 days

Today you’re getting all kinds of randomness that’s floating around in my head. It’s like a little window into my brain.  I should probably pull the blackout shades down and never let anyone near that window, but here goes nothing.
I enjoyed this sign when I walked into Safeway yesterday:

Mmm, horse stirfry.  They sure know how to make people shop on a hungry stomach. I ran straight over to the horsemeat aisle, but there was none left.

Speaking of marketing strategies, I hear the Canadian Target stores are not doing as well as they expected.  However, later on in the same article it said Target is planning to open nine more stores in Canada in the near future. I know nothing about marketing, but it intrigues me. I imagine this is how the conversation went at Target head office:
“Sales suck.”

“That’s bad news.  Should we hold off on opening more?”

“Nah, let’s just carry on and hope for the best.”

Or maybe:

“Our sales are awesome!  The Canadian market has surpassed all our expectations!”

“That’s good news. Issue a press release saying the opposite so people will feel sorry for us and shop more. And open some more stores while you’re at it.”

Whatever the case, I appear to be one of the few people that love Canadian Target. Sure, the prices and selection aren’t the same as in the U.S., but that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone since the same is true of other U.S. stores that have come to Canada.  However, I enjoy shopping at Target much more than at Zellers or Superstore (Walmart goes without saying. Except I just said it anyway.) … cleaner and more organized, shorter line-ups, and friendlier staff.  Almost every time I’ve been there, an employee has approached me and asked if I need help finding anything.  Although that may be because I haven’t combed my hair in weeks and look sloppy and dishevelled every time I leave the house. It’s not easy looking awesome when you’ve been wearing the same parka and Sorels for three months straight.

I officially started my vacation countdown today.  Twenty-three more days, not counting today or the day we leave.  I’m not entirely clear on countdown protocol – am I supposed to count the day we leave?  I wish we were leaving tonight.  I don’t know if I can stand this weather for 23 more days. At the beginning of January, I said to myself - and to anyone else who would listen - “There’s so much going on in the next two months. Time is going to fly by and our trip will come before we know it.”  False.  Time is creeping by slower than rush hour in Atlanta after a dusting of snow.  Oh well, I’ll just keep staring at this picture to get me through the next 23 days.

The other day, Dale noticed that there was a bit of water running down the wall in the basement laundry room. We couldn’t immediately figure it out, so we were about to leave the room and ignore it and hope it fixed itself (that happens more often than you’d think). Then we had a burst of homeowner responsibility and determined it was coming from the kitchen sink. We decided our faucet was leaking, so we took it apart.  Neither of us had ever done that before; in fact, we didn’t even know it was possible.  It took every ounce of both of our problem-solving abilities plus a little help from a plumber on YouTube to figure it all out. We inspected the washers and cleaned all the gunk and couldn’t find anything amiss.  So we reassembled it all, which was more difficult than I’m making it sound, and sadly discovered the leak was still leaking. That was a lot of time wasted on a perfectly good Tuesday night. However in a moment of clarity, Dale finally found the problem: a leak in the metal hose for the pull-out sprayer. Trips to Home Depot and Rona were unsuccessful, so now we have to go to a wholesaler or special-order one.  In the meantime, we can only use the kitchen faucet with the sprayer head lying in our sink so that the leaky hose doesn’t drip water into our basement.  I feel bad for making you read this long, un-stimulating paragraph, but I’m not going to apologize because writing it down has used up a few minutes of the 23 days I’m trying to wish away.
Speaking of wishing time away, have you seen this?  It’s a calculator that figures out how much of your life you’ve wasted on Facebook.  Why anyone would want to know that is beyond me.  Why anyone would want to develop a calculator to figure that out is even further beyond me.
That reminds me of an awesome Valentine’s Day card I saw on Etsy.  I'm just going to email the link to Dale and save myself $4.50.
If you want something intelligent to do while you’re staring at a screen, go read Corinna’s blog.  She just started blogging again, which I’m pleased about. She bakes and cooks like a fancy TV chef, her kids say cute things, and most of all, she is refreshingly open and honest. I want to do more of that (the being open and honest part, not the cooking).
Okay, I'm done.  That's freed up a lot of space in my head.  Go in peace.  Happy Chinese New Year.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Illness, recipe fail, and assorted other thoughts

The weather is nicely staying on track to be the coldest winter in the history of the world.  The temperature this morning is minus ... nevermind.  On the plus side, I don't see the dry, bare dormant tree branches swaying, so there's not much of a wind and the sun is shining.  My furnace is working well, so as long as I stay in my house, things could be worse.  We had a few hours respite from the bitter coldness on Friday.  When I stepped outside that morning, I could actually breathe.  It dawned on me that it had been a long time since I took a breath outside.  I automatically take a deep breath before I leave the house and don't exhale until I'm in my vehicle. You know things are bad when you don't even realize you haven't been breathing outside. I guess I must breathe when I walk Neve to and from school, but my scarf is always covering my mouth so it hardly counts.

I am counting the minutes until our Costa Rica trip.  There are still way too many minutes left.  My friend Sheri-Lee came over on Friday afternoon to show me pictures and tell me about their Costa Rica trip last year.  It made me want to be there so badly.  Unfortunately, our visit was cut short when I got a call from Spencer's school.  I was secretly hoping Spencer was in trouble, but instead they told me he had thrown up in science class.  IN science class.  On the floor of science class.  Most kids would be mortified, but Spencer didn't really seemed phased by it.  I think he was just happy to start his weekend early, at whatever cost. He said his stomach had been hurting in the morning, but he still ate his lunch because it was a two-pizza-ticket Friday and he didn't want the tickets to go to waste (he gets two pizza tickets every second Friday, and only one ticket the alternate weeks).  I questioned the wisdom of that decision, but he said, "I don't regret it."  I bet his teacher, his classmates, and the janitor all do.

Luckily, his illness was short-lived.  By Sunday morning, he was pretty much back to normal. It was almost exactly like Neve's little bout last weekend, so I guess I can rule out the A&W mama burgers.  Neve stayed home from school last Monday and it was a nice cozy day.  We snuggled on the couch while I read to her, she had a long nap, and she quietly rainbow-loomed while I sat and got some work done on my laptop.  I felt she was ready to go back to school on Tuesday, but she felt otherwise.  In a weak moment, I let her stay home again but the rose had come off the bloom.  Neve was up and around and active and wanting to do things with me, while I was impatient and distracted and busy with work. I think we were all happy to get back to our normal routine on Wednesday.

Cozy Sick Day #1

I don't think I can blame this on her sickness anymore at this point, but Neve's been so temperamental lately.  By 11:00 a.m. yesterday, she had already had three meltdowns over ridiculous things.  The first all-out sobbing session occurred because I made pancakes and didn't use her favourite recipe.  The reasons for the other meltdowns were even sillier.  Once she recovers and gets a grip on things, she is always sheepish about it and apologizes over and over.  But half an hour later, something else sets her off and the pattern repeats itself.  We had a nice long, civilized talk about it yesterday, and things have improved since then.  I'm pretty sure the talk itself did nothing, but the threat of a Rainbow Loom confiscation accomplishes what mere words cannot.

We've got a lot invested in rubber bands

Just to show life isn't all fun and games, here's Neve washing the floor.  Actually, this is such a rare occasion that using the mop is a huge novelty.  I couldn't get it away from her.  I'm tempted to get it out more often, but I have to tread cautiously or it won't be fun anymore.

I saw these peanut butter oatmeal bars on the Facebook the other day and knew my life would not be complete if I didn't make them.  (Here's the link).

I followed the recipe exactly and this is how they turned out:

What's that you say?  Maybe I just didn't take the picture from the right angle?

(Not that I need to label these...)



I'm sure my mistake was not putting mine on a white plate.  Whatever, they actually tasted pretty good, but they weren't suitable for the no-cutlery purposes I intended them for.

Neve had her first gymnastics competition coming up, so her class did a practice run-through on Saturday.  It was really cute and fun to watch.

Also on Saturday, Chloe and I met my sister and nieces at Baked Expectations.  I hadn't been there for years, but I think the last time I went, it was also freezing cold.  I only associate it with cold weather.  For all I know, it's not even open in summer.  But we had a good time; going out on a cold dark January night was well Worth It.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Embracing Winter

Today was the day Neve has been dreading for years.

Just before she started Grade One, she developed an inexplicable, intense fear of throwing up.  I think it was combined with some other anxieties, and things got pretty crazy.  When I got to the very end of my rope, I took Neve to talk to a counsellor, who had her pretty much healed in 50 minutes flat.  I could have saved myself months of stress and frustration if I had gone sooner.  Anyway, even though things improved 99%, she still had a lingering phobia of throwing up.  She hadn’t thrown up since she was two or three years old, so it seemed pretty irrational. 

Yes, I said “hadn’t.”

Neve was her usual self all day; we went to church, to A&W for lunch, and then to the park for some skating and sliding.  When we got home, she mentioned a few times that her tummy hurt.  I hear that a lot, and it’s always due to something she’s worried about.  I asked her what she was anxious about, but she said there was nothing.  She didn’t eat supper (thank goodness) and was still complaining about her tummy when we were all downstairs watching Mr. Bean.  Watching Mr. Bean blow his nose into the lining of his pocket or stuff his head into the cavity of a turkey makes my stomach hurt too so I didn’t think much of it.  But suddenly things got very bad.  I will go into as little detail as possible but Dale and I froze for a few seconds before springing into action.  A bucket, rags, scrubbing, baking soda, Febreeze, washing machine, washing-up, clean pyjamas, and one pale, quiet girl tucked into bed.  She handled it all very courageously; between bouts of being sick, she said cheerily, “This isn’t so bad!”

Winnipeg is working on changing its winter image …  embrace winter and be proud of it rather than hate it and apologize for it.  I’m not a fan of winter, but they've got a point.  We can’t control the weather; we can only control how we react to the weather.  Do I sound wise and convincing? I should be a counsellor myself.  So here we are, embracing winter for one hour.  Blake and Kristin and Bob and Jan came for a brief winter embrace as well, so we had fun.

Kristin pointed out this garbage can by the toboggan hill ... how much more Canadian can you get? Broken sleds and lots of Tim Hortons.

Perfect snowflake on the pom pom of Neve's hat

Stand like a pole and embrace winter

This is Spencer's favourite face to make when I come near him with a camera

Now I’m trying to convince myself that my stomach doesn’t feel queasy.  Those #!$*#% Mama Burgers.  On the bright side, a minor illness wouldn’t exactly hurt my Costa Rica weight loss plan.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The boy with the new bed

My staging skills are poor

There are never a shortage of projects that could or should be done around the house.  Reorganizing Spencer’s room wasn’t on the list.  There’s technically not even a list, just random thoughts that I throw into a corner of my brain. The pile of thoughts is so large and disorganized that it’s become a jumbled mess that I try hard to ignore.

Then my sister asked if we wanted a loft bed that they no longer needed. I wasn’t overly interested because I pictured bumped heads and awkward tucking-in routines.  I made the mistake of mentioning the bed offer to Spencer and his face lit up like a smartphone screen in the dark. Since his face doesn’t light up like that very often anymore, I didn’t have the heart to say no.  I’ve never met a kid who doesn’t think loft beds are awesome and magical. A few head-bumps are a small price to pay for never having to make your bed because a) it’s too awkward and b) from the ground, no one can tell.
So despite my better judgement, Spencer has a new bed. His room is quite small, so the extra floor space underneath the bed is actually pretty nice.  It makes the room feel a lot bigger and he loves it. 
I scrounged through my photos looking for a “before” picture of his room.  After hours of looking at old pictures and watching video clips from when Neve was a silly toddler, I came up with only two photos, neither of which reflect what his room was recently like. I must remember to take a camera to his room more often.  Spencer will love that.

The first one is from a couple of years ago that doesn’t show anything besides the floor.  This was an ill-fated attempt at organizing his Lego.  It seemed like such a good idea at the time.

This one is from early 2007, shortly after the reno was complete:
Look how tiny and concerned Neve looks
He was still using that cute little blue bed.  I found the headboard and footboard in the garage when we bought the house and eventually painted them and stencilled on a little lime green train.  Dale bought a plywood sheet to make the base and carried it all the way home from Home Depot along the train tracks (a story that is still the source of much laughter and mocking from my family). So it’s all a little sentimental, but I guess the time has come for Spencer to move past his choo-choo bed.

The floor of his room was always littered with clothes, lego, books, more books, his gigantic bari sax, and still more books. Now that there’s more floor space for his stuff, I’m hoping the mess will be less dense.  I wish I had made him sign a Clean Room Contract before I agreed to the bed. What was I thinking?!  I missed out on a golden opportunity.  The contract could have been expanded to include all areas that could use improvement like more unsolicited hugs and confiding in your mother and less Dr. Who.

The superhero mural lives on; Spencer has made no mention of wanting it gone and I haven't asked.  Spencer has been sleeping well even though it looks like Batman is coming to punch him in the face.  Or maybe he just wants a fist-bump.  Spencer still uses the bedding in the above picture, but this blanket is warmer for winter.

When he went to bed the first night after it was set up, both Dale and I went up to see him in his new bed.  As I feared, instead of a nice, warm, loving good-night hug and kiss, Dale and I stood on the floor beside Spencer’s bed, looking up at him.  He sat up in his bed and waved goodnight to us like he was the pope and we were the crowd below. That made Spencer pretty happy because he pretends that he’s too old to be tucked in anyway.
Now that Spencer’s bedroom has been checked off before it even made it to the list, if anyone has any drywall they want to get rid of, we could use some in our basement bathroom. Actually, never mind, Dale can easily carry a few sheets home from Home Depot. 

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

The light

I hate winter. 

I try to stay positive.  I try not to spend time or energy complaining about the weather and being bitter about something I have no control over. I know I have so much to be thankful for and that the positive things about living here far, far outweigh the negative things. I love Winnipeg and will always stick up for it.

But I’m struggling. It’s impossible to dress warmly enough (but I’m getting close). The roads are icy, rutty, slippery strips of horror.  There are shattered car parts at every intersection.  The mountains of snow lining the streets make it impossible to see other cars at intersections. Chloe hasn’t driven in weeks.  We’re going to have to start the training over by the time road conditions are better.  Even a lot of sidewalks haven’t been cleared since the last big snowfall.  As if walking home from school in -30 C temperatures isn’t bad enough, Chloe has to walk the entire 2 km along a narrow path that’s been trampled through the deep snow. Some people just walk on the road, which makes the roads even more treacherous than they already are. When I was driving yesterday, a woman suddenly appeared on my right, attempting to cross the street.  She was wearing a long white coat with dove grey pants.  Luckily I saw her in time because she couldn’t see me because of the fur trim on her big white hood.  Everyone should wear neon.  This is not the time to blend in.

But there’s a big bright warm light at the end of this very long white tunnel and it’s called Costa Rica. That’s where Dale and I are off to in February. I’m not letting myself think about it too much yet but it’s always there in the back of my mind, helping me get out of bed each morning. I just thought I’d share that with you; maybe the thought of my happiness will help you get up each day too.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

The holiday home stretch

I’ve been leaving the house more often lately, gradually re-entering society so it won’t be such a shock on Monday morning.  Well, it’s still going to be a shock.  Sometimes I wake up at what feels like the middle of the night, but it’s really 7:30 a.m.  It’s so heavenly to be able to roll over and go back to sleep for another two or three hours.  I have no idea what time the children wake up, but I think the younger two have put in a fair amount of time in front of the TV or computer by the time I hoist myself out of bed.

The weather has made it very easy to hibernate.   When it isn’t frigidly cold (almost never), we’ve had blizzards.  It snowed all day yesterday and covered the streets and sidewalks and patio furniture.  Our street is a snow route, so the graders always plow our street first.  I think every snowplow  and dump truck in the city rushes to our street first when it snows.  You’re probably thinking, “How nice for them.”  But you’re wrong.  The ridges left by grader after grader is ridiculous.  They leave a high wall of icy chunks of snow, completely blocking street access to our sidewalk.  If you don’t start shoveling right away, it freezes into a solid mountain that you basically have to dynamite your way through.  After the first set of snowplows came yesterday morning, I went out to clear a path to the street.  All my other neighbours were shoveling too, so we all kept an eye on each other, watching for heart attacks.  One guy I hadn’t met before came over and helped me once he was done his sidewalk.  I told him he didn’t have to help because I had a perfectly capable son inside who could help me (for the record, my daughters could have helped too, but they weren’t home).  Spencer was inside watching through the window, wearing only his pyjama pants which weren’t visible from the other side of the window.  I guess the guy thought my pale, skinny, naked boy was no match for the ice ridge, so he kept shoveling. He was actually a contractor doing some work on the street, and we had a conversation about the neighbour he was doing the work for.  I thought he was talking about a different neighbour by the same name and I didn’t realize until later that we were talking about two totally different people.  It’s going to result in an awkward conversation when I meet the new neighbour he was talking about because I claimed to know him and his girlfriend and pretty much his whole family history, but I When he was done, the guy gave me his card but I’m not entirely sure if it was for personal or business reasons.  I must have looked pretty good in my snow pants and parka.  Maybe obscuring all my features made me seem mysterious.  I guess it’s also possible he wants work.

Like I said, I’ve been occasionally leaving the house.  Neve and I even went to Urban Planet and Michaels this morning.  I had a credit from Urban Planet and since I find their policies a bit sketchy, I wanted to be safe and use it as soon as possible.  Neve needed jeans, so we took a bunch to try on and both squished into a tiny change room.  My parka and scarf were making me hot and crazy and the music was loud and insane.  I know that makes me sound old and uncool, but seriously they play the most annoying music ever.  I’m sure they’ve done the demographic market research and all that, but to me it sounds like they choose the “Music That Makes You Want to Tear Someone’s Head Off With Your Bare Hands” Songza playlist. Neve and I were in a cramped change room with only two small hooks, which was not enough to hang two parkas, my purse, and five pairs of jeans.  If I were in charge of change room bylaws, I would issue a decree that every stall must have ten hooks.  And a clean floor and a mirror.  This room didn’t have either, so for Neve to see herself, we had to scrunch together - being careful to stay in the middle of the room, away from the dust bunnies and hairballs around the edges - to allow space for the door to open in and then squeeze around it to look at the mirror on the outside of the door.  So that was fun.

At Michaels, Neve stocked up on rubber bands for Rainbow Loom.  She spent some of her Christmas money (thanks, Auntie Joan) on packages of different colours.  Now we’re all set in case there’s a blizzard or other crisis that shuts down the city.  Rainbow Loom bracelets for everyone.


The kids and I also did an excursion on Thursday. We went downtown and walked through the walkways and bridges and tunnels from Portage Place to The Grain Exchange Building.  Hard times have fallen on some of these areas, but I'm hoping the children didn't notice and viewed it as glamorous and exciting. That might be hoping for too much, but I do hope I pass on my love for downtown to them.  We ate lunch along the way, got cookies, went to the library, and to the Bank of Montreal building.  It's one of the last grand old bank buildings that's still being used as a bank and it was pretty impressive.  A nice employee took us to the vault and let us go in it and even take pictures, so it was a fun outing.  The whole thing was Darla's idea, but unfortunately they couldn't make it that day so we'll have to do it again sometime.

In other news, we finished the puzzle.  That was a relief.  I think I might start another one though.

Once the puzzle was done, I had time to undertake a filing drawer project.  The drawer was so full that you couldn't stuff in another piece of paper, so things weren't being properly filed anymore.


It's probably not prudent to share my files with the entire internet, but look how pretty they are.  There's even some colour-coding going on for files that Dale needs for his business.  

Well, I should go and make the most of my remaining forty hours until real life resumes.  I’m hoping eight of those hours will be spent watching Suits.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Twenty Fourteen

When I was younger, so much younger than today … I remember how I thought about The Year 2000 as nothing but pure science fiction.  Surely the earth as I knew it would no longer exist - either the second coming would have occurred or it would be a Jetson’s-like fantasy world.  I never dreamed I would still be alive in The Year 2000, and in hindsight, I’m not sure why. The simple math equation of 2000 minus 1969 would have shown that I would turn 31 at the very end of 2000.  Of course, when you’re twelve, age 31 may as well be 131, but still, my lack of intelligence is kind of disappointing. 

I also remember predictions of telephones where you could actually SEE the other person.  We had cousins in BC that we would sometimes phone (after 6:00 p.m. when long distance was cheaper) and I couldn’t even comprehend how magical it would be to see cousin Ted’s face from three provinces away.  You can video-chat with anyone now, including the young Filipino girl whom I mistakenly face-timed with when I thought I was calling Chloe.  That was awkward, especially since I woke the little girl up.

Anyway, all that to say we’ve been living in the 2000s for 14 years now and I still haven’t skyped or face-timed with Ted.  I should make that my new year’s resolution.  My last year’s resolution/goal was moderately successful: I tried to take a photo a day to post on Instagram.  I was right on track until Teresa died; I skipped a week or so and was never as passionate about it after that. But 322 posts isn’t too bad.  Dan did a bit better than me; he even surpassed 365 pictures.     

My holiday hibernation is going smoothly.  I have left the house as seldom as possible.  I’ve been mainly sleeping in, working on my puzzle (#$&^% sky) and reading.  I finished “419” and have now started the book that Darla and I gave each other. (I think someone asked in the comments if that was planned –- no, it was a coincidence.)  Some productive things have also happened, including cleaning out the storage room (ongoing), renewing passports, and … hmm, maybe that’s it.  It’s been so awesome not having to run around or watch the clock or drive the kids to their activities.  We’ve been existing on the four main food groups: popcorn, Toblerone, Nutella, and After Eights. Sometimes we have pretzels to balance it out.  

So now I'll carry on for a few more days. It's hard to believe I'll ever tire of this unstructured utopia, but past experience has taught me otherwise.  Until then, I'll be in my sweats.

Just some of the empty boxes I cleaned out of the storage room

Neve spent lots of time building her Friends Lego and showing it to me every single step of the way.