Monday, July 28, 2014

Counting the years until retirement

We spent a lovely week at the lake. The weather cooperated nicely and our entire week could be summed up in three photos:
Playing games: Phase 10, Spot It, and Old Maid were the favourites
But you know me ... I can't stop at three photos so here are 22 more.   
It was a perfect little resort.  There are six cabins, but most of the time it felt like we had the place to ourselves.  A few of the cabins had their own docks where they swam and hung out, and some of the other guests spent the whole time out fishing, so we sat by the little beach or on the dock and (as previously stated) swam and read and played games. The water was clear and refreshing and the view was so beautiful. Our cabin was small and a little on the rustic side, but it had everything we needed.  The best part was the big screened-in room, where we spent most of our time. The mosquitos got crazy at dusk; we made a campfire twice but ended up roasting marshmallows as fast as we could before we ran for shelter. However, the bugs were almost non-existent on the dock, so we sat out there a few evenings.  The resort owners fired up the sauna most nights, so we'd jump in the water, warm up in the sauna, and repeat several times.
Great fun was had on the floating trampoline.  Dale and the kids spent hours trying to push each other off.  Sometimes that ended poorly, but I guess the pros outweighed the cons because they kept doing it.

I guess the fourth thing we spent a lot of time doing is eating.  LOTS of junk food was consumed. There was a "store" that consisted only of a freezer with ice cream treats, where you could help yourself and write it down in a little booklet, which was tallied up at checkout. The kids thought this was amazing. I would too if I wasn't the one paying for it later.

why yes, that is a float plane in the background



Cute little mushroom on an island we paddle-boated to

My parents came to visit one day

Yahtzee on the dock
We went to Kenora one afternoon. We went to the farmer's market and to a sushi restaurant for lunch. It was nice, but it was busy and crowded in town so we were all very happy to get back to our quiet little cottage life. It's amazing how quickly I could get used to being away from civilization. We also went to Sioux Narrows one day to check out the town and the provincial campground. The whole area is so beautiful and we kept saying how we couldn't believe we were only two and half hours away from home. The cabin had no clock and we didn't wear watches, so the days were completely unstructured.  I could get used to that. It was hard to leave, but all the kids ran out of books, so I guess it was time. We'll bring more next year.
The last morning - all sad to leave our little slice of paradise.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


After way too many days of preparing and packing, we are finally on our way. We've rented a cabin near Kenora for a week and have high hopes and expectations of doing nothing except swimming and reading and sleeping and playing games. And eating of course. I think we've brought enough food to last a month. Nothing healthy either, unless you count chocolate covered "blueberries." I can't wait. 

 I'll leave you with a picture from Janet's 50th birthday party on Thursday. It was a perfect evening - the food, entertainment, weather, and company were delightful. 

See you in a week!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summer perfection?

The children playing a board game on the deck on a beautiful summer afternoon while I work … can you imagine anything more idyllic? Well, maybe if there was a rainbow arcing over their heads or if the Eiffel Tower loomed in the background. A big platter of sushi wouldn’t hurt either. Even without the extras, it wasn’t actually as perfect as it looks.  Fighter jets were flying overhead which I’m pretty sure caused some permanent hearing loss.  Chloe was still reeling from the disappointment of failing her drivers road test earlier in the day.  Spencer was contesting the rules, insisting “they’re open to interpretation” and shortly after this photo, he threw the lid of the game box onto the playing area and messed up all the cards. After the shouts and accusations were over, they cleaned up the game and started playing Life.  All was good for about five minutes until the above scenario repeated itself.  Spencer apologized, but I question the sincerity.  Shortly after, this conversation took place:

Neve: Spencer always wrecks the game in the middle of playing it.

Spencer:  I do.  I’m a sore loser.  Never be like me.

Back to Chloe’s road test: it took place in Selkirk because there were no appointments available in Winnipeg when we booked it.  I thought maybe a small town would be an advantage, but that was countered by the unfamiliarity with the town.  This is the part where I defend my child … turns out there’s a sneaky spot where a two-way street changes to a one-way and even though Chloe was going the right way, she attempted to make a left turn from the centre lane instead of the far left.  Apparently that’s a bad thing.  We drove there later and I also didn’t immediately realize it was suddenly a one-way.  I think the tester was being tricky on purpose and I choose to blame him and his shady behavior rather than my perfect little girl.  On the positive side, her parallel parking was perfect on the first try. She was quite sad about not passing, but I told her it builds character.  Hopefully no further character development is necessary and she will pass next time.

In other big news, it’s my sister’s 50th birthday today (she's the one on the left in case it's difficult to distinguish her from the 17 & 20 year olds).  She’s been a hard act to follow because she’s talented at so many things: from sewing and cooking to slalom waterskiing and jumping off cliffs.  I can’t even compete.  She is generous and compassionate and smart and beautiful.  She’s an awesome sister who has been there for me every step of the way and I’d be lost without her.  (I’m trying to not wait to write nice things about people until after they die).  Happy birthday, Jan!

The kids have now moved on to gambling with Life money.  I can’t see that being a success. I'm not sure if the lesson here is to learn to appreciate the brief seconds of time where everything is ideal, or to learn to enjoy with the less perfect parts as well. I'm not going to waste any more precious summer hours trying to figure it out.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A break at the lake

I am not lucky or smart or rich enough to have my own cottage, but thankfully I have a sister and brother-in-law who are kind to the less fortunate.  My sister spends most of her summer there, and the kids and I joined them on Wednesday and came home today.  It was a perfect little break - we had good hot weather all day Thursday and Friday and Saturday morning.  We won't talk about the weather after that, but we still had lots of fun (yellow cake uranium, anyone?).  It was just me and the kids and my sister and my niece until Friday night, and then Dale and the rest of Jan's family and two German students arrived.

It's so beautiful there and even though I've posted many pictures of it in the past, here are many more.

The Super Moon rises

The morning view from the bunkhouse where we slept

Getting the party boat ready.  It's also the last time Spencer wore his new Shakespeare shirt because it flew off the boat and sank.

New water activity: surfing behind the boat.  Once you get established in the wake, you can let go of the rope and surf around the whole lake.  I didn't try it because everyone made it look so easy and I had a strong suspicion it was a lot harder than it looked.  Maybe next time... 

Everyone looking sorry that they were playing Sorry

The one good thing about today's cool, rainy weather was that it made it a tiny bit easier to go home.  When I tucked Neve in tonight, she said, "Ah, my own bed.  But I wish I was still at the cabin." I have to agree.  There's something about looking at a lake that makes everything better.

Backing up a little, Chloe arrived home on Tuesday night from her Florida trip.  She had an awesome time, except for a sick, traumatic ride home.  I'm going to ask her to write a blog post about it this week.  We are much happier to have her home than she is to be home.  At least we softened the return to reality by heading to the lake the next day.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

One month

One month ago today, my sister-in-law Joan passed away.  It hasn’t completely sunk in yet; when she died, I was so busy and overwhelmed that I just tried to make it through the day without thinking too much. That seemed to work for me so I just carry on and tell myself I will think and remember and grieve when I can process it better.  I have her obituary from the newspaper on the fridge and am hoping it will slowly sink in but instead it’s a shock every single time I see it.  Sometimes I can’t believe she’s gone already and other times I can’t believe it’s only been one month.  Death is confusing and no matter how many times I try to tell myself that it’s natural and will happen to everyone, it just feels like the most wrong thing ever.  Anyway, Joan often read the blog and just in case she still does, I want her to know what she meant to me and my kids and how much we miss her.

I was only 12 when Joan and my brother got married, so I can hardly remember when she wasn’t part of the family.  The first time I saw her was when she played baseball on the same local women’s team as my sister.  With her wild curly blonde hair and personality to match, she stood out.  She was funny, very outgoing, always laughing, always in the middle of the action. At 26, she was already a widow, which added a whole other level of intrigue and awe.  She wore cool sunglasses and had two piercings in each ear.  She was like a rock star in my quiet, rural world. 

I could hardly believe my luck when Joan and my brother Greg started dating.  My brother was kind of intimidating - I’m actually still a bit frightened of him (it’s okay if he reads that; I think he’ll take that as a compliment) - so I was surprised that he even had a girlfriend, never mind that it was my secret hero (who happened to be seven years older than him!). That was a happy day.  I remember the first time she came to our house for dinner; for dessert my mom made a fancy chocolate cake from the cover of the Canadian Living magazine.  I guess Joan must have liked it because she ended up marrying my brother. They actually made a great pair - kind of like good cop, bad cop. They asked me to be a candle lighter at their wedding (along with Joan’s younger brother) and I couldn’t have been more thrilled.  I wore a long yellow dress with spaghetti straps and a bolero - the kids wear it for dress-up now – and I was on top of the world.

Sometime after they were married, Jim and I went to stay at their house in St. Vital for a few nights one spring break.  It was such a novelty staying in the city and being able to walk to the mall.  Joan gave us money to rent Beta movies to watch while she and Greg were at work.  This was especially exciting because we didn’t even have a TV (except in December, which is another story), never mind a video cassette recorder of any kind.  So Jim and I went and rented Risky Business, which is rated R.  We were pretty young but I don’t recall it being an issue at the video store.  When Joan asked what movie we had watched, we were hesitant to tell her but she just raised her eyebrows a little and laughed.  We were relieved that she was cool with it, but when I look back and realize she was still in her 20s then, it makes more sense.

When Greg & Joan came home to visit, I always tried to impress Joan with my piano-playing. I remember pounding out the Genesis song “That’s All” many a time on the piano in the basement.  I had very little musical ability, yet Joan still took notice and complimented me.  If she had come over more often, I might have had a future in piano-playing.  Or maybe she would’ve come over more often if she hadn’t had to put up with that racket every time.

I was in grade 12 when Greg & Joan made me an auntie.  I was so excited; Teresa was always going on and on about her nephew Josh; finally I could join in with my Dylan stories.  Jordan was born four years later and both boys were so cute and smart and funny.  Joan was so proud of them right to the very end (and rightly so).  Cheryl became part of the family a few years ago and she and Dylan gave Joan the most loved grandchildren ever.  A prouder grandma would be hard to find.  Knowing how much my children’s lives have been enriched by the love and presence of their grandparents makes me so sad that Joan’s grandchildren won’t have her in their lives as they grow up.  I’m sure she’ll be cheering them on from heaven and sending little reminders to let them know that she loves them.

My mom and sisters standing awkwardly in new aprons made by a cousin.

Joan made our family get-togethers much more fun.  She always told interesting and funny stories and loved to laugh.  She was a good listener and stuck up for people who were going through hard times.  She had a soft heart with much empathy for others. One thing that particularly stands out was her generous gift-giving.  She bought awesome gifts and the gift bags were always stuffed with excessive amounts of tissue paper and ribbons.  At Christmas, you could always tell which gifts she had brought.  For the past few years, every special occasion also warranted a musical card.  It was her trademark, and my kids especially loved and looked forward to them.  She’d underline special words in the card and always signed it “Lotsa Love …”

Her sickness was short but intense and she was amazing through it all.  Even when she was in more pain than she’d ever admit, she’d thank the nurses, compliment my children, and express appreciation for things people brought her.  Her sense of humour made things more bearable; each time my kids visited her - including the very last time - Joan laughed with them and told them she loved them.  It must have taken a big effort on her part, but it greatly lessened the kids' trauma of seeing their vibrant auntie in a hospital bed. She was gracious and classy to the end; putting others ahead of herself.

I’m glad she didn’t have to suffer long, but she left way too early.  She had a lot of life left in her; there should have been more motorcycle trips with Greg, more flowers to plant, more trips to Mexico, more deer to take pictures of, more salsa to make, and especially many more years with her family that she loved so much.

I miss her laugh, her generous spirit, her caring personality, the way she made my kids feel special, and the spark of life she added to our family.  She made things fun and exciting and was the kind of person that others wanted to be around.  Her physical absence leaves a huge void, but with a spirit like hers, it’s impossible not to think of her and smile.  And cry.  Lotsa love to you, Joan. xoxoxo

Pool Party

I didn't meet the midnight deadline yesterday, but better late than never.  It was my cousin Rob's birthday yesterday (as well as his and Gab's sixth anniversary) so they had a bunch of people over to celebrate.  (Click here to see the blog about their wedding.  In that same post, I mention going to Syl's for ice cream and one treat not being enough for "someone." Some things never change.)

Despite a brief, hard rain right when we arrived at Rob & Gab's, it was a hot beautiful day, perfect for hanging around the pool.  Rob is one of my favourite people in the world; we grew up across the road from each other and saw each other pretty much every day of our lives until we graduated from high school.  Gab and him always put on a good party with no shortage of food and drinks and music ever. The pool doesn't hurt either.

The birthday boy pretends to need reading glasses

The birthday boy shows off his moves

The birthday boy gets birthday cupcakes arranged in the number "95"

Here's a couple of pics of Neve helping me mud (in her Little Mermaid nightgown).