Saturday, February 22, 2014



It’s been a whirlwind of a week.  I feel like I haven’t had a second to spare with getting everything ready for our trip.  I’ve been staying up late to work every night, trying to get everything done before I leave. Then there were school projects, food and home to organize for the kids while we’re away, a birthday to get ready for; all of this with a heavy heart, constantly thinking about someone close to me who was just given some sad medical news.

In happier news, Neve turned nine today.  She loves her birthday.  She’s been counting down for months. Some years I feel I haven’t pulled off the magic that she craves for, but I’m feeling pretty good about this year. 

It started with an early birthday present Thursday morning: tickets to Disney on Ice that night.  I haven’t taken the kids for a few years, but Neve’s fleeting childhood flashed before my eyes and I decided to take her while it was still magical. I probably don’t need to worry about it since Chloe was still pretty excited to go at 15.  So it was a girls’ night out and we had a really nice time. I didn’t love being squashed in a one-aisle-access row between a guy who reeked of stale smoke and a group of large adults who oozed over into our seats. However, it was okay because we got added entertainment value from watching one of the adults (dressed in fleece Duff Beer pyjama pants) try to drink her $10 snow cone out of a plastic Mickey Mouse cup with no straw.  Mickey’s nose kept getting in the way.  Ah, who can resist that Disney magic?  Apparently we can, because the girls didn’t even ask for a snow cone or popcorn or light-up twirly thing. I was feeling super cheap: we got cheap opening night tickets, we parked on the street for free, and I brought my own bottle of water and chocolate eggies from Bulk Barn as a snack. But no one complained.
On Friday, Neve brought cupcakes to school (decorated with fancy swirly icing like Teresa taught me), then we had a family party in the evening.  Bailey made a crazy amazing cake and Neve felt special and loved.

Lining up again for a birthday photo opp

Today, Neve woke up to a stack of presents and oatmeal pancakes.  After breakfast she and I went to Tiber River for pedicures.  I knew the rest of the day was going to be crazy, so I enjoyed every second of relaxing and being pampered.  They now have a new nail polish that dries completely in 8 minutes. Best invention ever, except then I didn’t have an excuse to sit there longer and avoid the rest of the day.

I have to say I accomplished amazing things today: laundry, cleaning, baking, preparing, packing, hosting a birthday playdate with Neve’s best friends, hosting Happy Hour, dinner out at Boston Pizza, and now, late at night, blogging after helping Spencer with his science fair project.  It’s all Worth It, because it’s going to make our vacation that much more amazing.  Hope you all have a great week.  I'm sorry (not really), but I just have to brag about the forecast for the area of Costa Rica we're going to.  I'm glad to see it warms up a bit by Thursday.  Love you all!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Recent events

This will be a quick photo update of a few recent noteworthy events.  First there was Valentines Day on Friday:
The nieces all came over for breakfast (the two youngest came for a sleepover).  We had our usual chocolate cake, got everyone all sugared up and sent them away.
But not before I made them all line up for a photo:
Neve had her first gymnastics competition on Sunday. She was nervous about it for weeks beforehand, but had her nerves pretty well under control on the actual morning.  It was very cute seeing all the little girls on the beam and vault and everything.  Neve did well and ended up getting second place overall in her category. They had a little awards ceremony with a podium and medals and certificates. We really aren't a competitive family; we tend to go with the "do your best" strategy.  But I can't even begin to describe how joyful Neve is about getting a silver medal. I'm pretty sure the million singing angels came through for her. Since then, a minute has not gone by without talk of her victory. She's analyzed and deconstructed everything: the events she did well in, where she could have done better, what it felt like when they called her name, how high the podium was, the quality of the medal ("Do you think it's real silver?"), and much, much more.  She's worn the medal at all times except for when she showered and when she slept. She's wearing it to school right now. It gets a bit intense for the rest of us, but it's pretty fun to see how thrilled she is.

The bronze medallist looks sad, but I believe she was just looking down at the moment.

Yesterday, my whole family except for Dan & Jenn (where were you? we waited and waited.) went out for dinner to celebrate my mom's 75th birthday. Her actual birthday isn't until next week, but some of us thoughtlessly booked a trip exactly over her birthday. My mom hasn't been home for her birthday in 15-ish years (my parents go south for the winter), and exactly the year she's home, and exactly when it's a big birthday, we will be away. That was poor planning on our part. 

Going out for dinner with 22 people is no small feat; just deciding where everyone was going to sit took about an hour. But it was well Worth It; it was a lot of fun and the food was delicious.

We went to Bob & Jan's afterward for an awesome cake made by Bailey and Tia.  All the kids lined up with Grandma (my nephew Dylan and his family had left by this time or there would have been a few more in the picture).  My family has a long history of lining up for pictures ... every time one of us had a birthday, we all had to line up behind the birthday girl or boy for a picture. Or does everyone do that?  Whatever the case, twenty photos later, this is the best one.  My mom looks amazing - hard to believe she is 75. We are lucky to have her. Love you, Mom.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentines, medals and more

Things have gotten busy here.  Between work, school projects, trip preparations, valentines day, and birthday planning, blogging time is scarce. Somehow we still find time to watch the Olympics many hours a day.  I have four Olympic apps on my iPhone to keep me updated when I’m away from the TV, including one that alerts me every time medals are awarded.  We eat all meals in the basement in front of the TV.  Neve had a dream the other night about Sarka Pancochova, the Czech snowboarder who cracked her helmet in a bad fall.  In the dream, Sarka was at our house (as she so often is) and Neve kept asking her if she was okay (not the most exciting dream, but still).  If I could turn back time, I would have scheduled our trip a few weeks earlier so that I could have been more productive with my preparation time. 

I’m trying to understand why it takes longer to prepare for a trip than the actual trip. Not all my busyness is specifically for Costa Rica, but in my mind, the trip is a solid wall of a deadline for many things that have to happen by then.  When I finally hit that wall and break through to the vacation side, I am fully expecting my whole world to burst with the joy of a million singing angels.  I’m starting to wonder if planning ahead is overrated.  For example, I have been thinking about Neve’s birthday way too much.  I should buy her present the day before her birthday and make a cake the day of and call it done.  But I feel like there should be a special breakfast and balloons and cupcakes to take to school and family and friends to help celebrate and goody bags and special surprises.  If I didn’t plan ahead, I wouldn’t have time to think of crap like that.  Once it’s in my head, it’s hard to get it out.  I really don’t want to be a Pinterest person who fills their child's bedroom with balloons for a magical birthday wake-up or someone who gives their child a birthday present on the hour, every hour throughout the day.  Or do I?  No, I guess not.  But I sort of wish Dale was that person.  Instead, he gets to be the person who whispers, “Which one’s birthday is it again?” while we’re singing happy birthday.

One thing that's worth thinking about ahead of time is valentines. I learned my lesson the hard way when Chloe was in nursery.  I remember two days before Valentines Day, we started writing out her valentines for her classmates.  I thought that would be plenty of time, but then I realized it took her ten minutes just to write "To Courtney, From Chloe." She quickly tired of this activity while I tried to encourage her to hurry up.  There was not a lot of love flowing during that excruciating experience.  Turns out Chloe's valentine-writing was sheer joy compared to Spencer's a few years later.  How I didn't turn into a homeless alcoholic that February is nothing short of a miracle. Thankfully it's one of the few mistakes I actually learned from, so Neve's valentines were all ready to go by the beginning of February. When I picked Neve up from school on Tuesday, I overheard a mom saying to her Kindergarten-aged son, "We should start writing out your valentines tonight because you're supposed to bring them to school on Thursday."  Rookie mistake.  Some day she will be as wise as I am.

Neve made 25 Rainbow Loom valentine bracelets (and I made the cards)

As a follow-up to the situation with Neve and her student teacher in the last post, I am pleased to inform you that Neve decided to give her a second change.  Miss L is only in their classroom on Wednesdays, so Neve had all week to worry about what to do. And worry she did.  The topic came up every day.  When I picked Neve up for lunch yesterday, she was jubilant.  She had had a long talk with Miss L, in which she told Miss L she was hurt and disappointed in her (!) for not keeping their secret. Miss L apologized and amends were made after Neve told her she would give her a second chance, adding that if she breached her trust again, there would be no more chances. I suggested a little graciousness and forgiveness might be in order, but I’m not sure how effective that was. I wouldn’t be surprised if Miss L abandons her teaching aspirations after this. The bad part is that she has a part-time job at the same place where Neve takes swimming lessons.  I tried to avoid her this week, but Neve sought her out.

Here are some pictures of my little medal winners from the other weekend:

I have to show off my adorable great-nephew and -niece.  They came over last weekend and we didn't want them to ever leave. They are such hilarious little characters.

That’s enough valuable time spent blogging. It’s actually not a waste of time; writing this helped me put things in perspective.  I just talked myself out of blowing up 50 balloons to cover Neve’s bedroom floor.  That gives me more time to watch the Olympics.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Bad day

How is it Wednesday night already?  I think Time has finally crossed over to my side and is starting to pick up the pace.

I was planning to write a nice long list of all the things that went wrong yesterday and today.  Nothing major; just lots of little things that added up into a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day (that’s a huge exaggeration, but it’s fun to say).  But then I realized that every single thing on the list is the epitome of a first world problem and I’d sound like a spoiled, privileged baby who has no regard or empathy for people with real problems. But then I decided it’s kind of therapeutic to complain about things and babies are always cute, even when they’re spoiled.  So after all that inner conflict, I’ve decided to proceed with some of my narcissistic whining.  Besides, I know Siobhan loves it when I’m negative.  I’ll add some positive disclaimers for those who dislike negativity (see, I do think of others).

I had a doctor’s appointment this afternoon, just to ask a few minor questions. My doctor is usually pretty prompt, but today I sat in the waiting room for ages while many people who came in after me were called in first. There is a prominent sign on the wall that says “There are three doctors seeing patients in this clinic, so if someone who arrived later than you gets called in before you, it’s probably for one of the other doctors.  So don’t bother us and just sit there until we tell you to get up.” The last sentence may have been stated slightly differently, but the meaning was clear.  After waiting 40 minutes – with the time to pick Neve up from school fast approaching – I finally went up to ask how long it was going to be. Turns out they didn’t have my name written down, even though I had checked in.  They put me in next, but it was still half an hour before it was my turn. When I finally saw the doctor, he could provide no information that I couldn't have googled myself. So it was all pretty useless.  (The positive: I have a doctor that I like, free health care, and friends that are always willing to pick Neve up when I’m late.)

After picking Neve up, we raced to swimming lessons. I run while she swims and then I weigh myself on the scale in the change room (I always say I don’t believe in scales so we don’t have one at home). With our Costa Rica trip slowly approaching, the thought of being seen without layers of sweaters and scarves and parkas has motivated me to try and shed some winter fat and tone up a bit. So for the past month, I have drastically reduced the number of carb servings I consume to be more in line with the recommendations in Canada’s Food Guide.  I’ve also been working out six days a week (running, workout/yoga DVDs, or sometimes both).  After five weeks, my grand total of my weight loss is …. two pounds.  Which is basically nothing, because my weight can vary that much in a day depending on fluid retention, etc.  When I weighed myself today, I was actually up from last week. Despite my skeptism of scales in the first place, my poor dietician had to spend a lot of time tonight talking me down from my disappointment. He said it’s much healthier to lose weight slowly because it will stay off longer and I won’t lose muscle mass and the weight will keep coming off in the long run, it’s a lifestyle change, blah blah blah.  Is it too much to ask to be a size 2 and have rock hard abs in five short weeks?  On the bright side, since I’ve been watching what I eat and exercising more regularly, I honestly feel better and less tired. I’m never hungry (which might be part of my problem) because I try to eat protein to fill me up. Anyway, it’s all a bit discouraging because I've been trying pretty hard and would love for the results to reflect my efforts.  (The positive: I am generally satisfied with my body and have come to terms with the fact that I will never be a size two given my age and the number of children I have produced, at least not without significantly more effort than I am willing to assert.)

Neve had a problem today as well, which ended up being my problem. At the beginning of the year, she overheard the first name of the student teacher (let’s call her Ms. L) in her class. This delighted Neve greatly and since she wanted to be the only child in her class that knew Ms. L’s name, she got Ms. L to agree not to tell anyone else.  However, after much badgering from all of Neve’s classmates, Ms. L broke down this afternoon and told everyone her first name. This betrayal was too much for Neve and as soon as I picked her up from my friend’s house after school, the sobbing began. Oh, grade three drama, how you drive me crazy. I had to listen to her go on and on and on about how Ms. L PROMISED not to tell anyone else and that now everyone would call her by her first name. I should have gotten an award for even pretending to care about that one. The last I heard, Neve is debating whether to give Ms. L a second chance or to write off that relationship for good.

Writing this down really was therapeutic; so much so that I can’t even remember what my other grievances were.  Oh, right – there was another incident yesterday when I dropped Neve off at gymnastics, then drove through downtown rush hour traffic to get Spencer to fencing before I had to rush back through traffic to pick Neve up.  As Spencer was getting out of the van, he realized he had forgotten some of his fencing equipment at home, without which he can’t fence.  Before we left home, I had asked him several times if he had everything and there were other circumstances involved that magnified my displeasure but let’s just say I freaked out and Spencer scampered out of the van to safety as fast as he could (luckily Dale was home from work early and was able to bring Spencer the missing fencing equipment). Later I wondered if I had overreacted, but the older the kids get, the less guilty I feel when I’m not a perfect mother. I figure their personalities are mostly shaped already, and besides, I kind of like the idea of them being a little scared of me sometimes.

I’ve gone on way too long and I need to go to bed so I can get up early to work out. I meant to post pictures of Chloe’s cheer competition and Spencer’s fencing competition this past weekend, but that will have to wait.  Tomorrow is a new day.  Hope it's a good one for all of us.