Thursday, August 28, 2014

Birthday Party

As you may recall from my frequent whining in the past, all three of my children’s birthdays fall within six weeks of each other.  In order to save what precious little sanity I have, I only do birthday parties for my kids every other year.  Many people are horrified by this, but my kids don’t seem to mind.  It’s not like we ignore the “off” year; there are still family parties and presents and cake and balloons and more celebrating than some kids get in an entire lifetime.  We just omit the whole “since I can’t invite everyone, which friends’ feelings should I hurt by leaving them out” drama. 

So this was a birthday party year for Spencer.  He turned 13 back in April during our spring break ski trip. The months that followed were a busy, dark blur and birthday parties were the last thing on my mind. Based on the invitations my kids have received recently, it appears that having a party near one’s actual birthdate is not as important as it used to be which is an unorganized mother’s dream. Spencer was in no rush to have his party but he did mention a summer party would be nice for a change. I sort of hoped he’d forget about it and we’d try again next year, but it turns out he didn’t. And as September came closer, I came to the sad truth that this party was not planning itself. I was hoping to take advantage of the summer weather and plan a huge Amazing Race type of party or something, but Spencer wanted laser tag and a movie. Why he wanted to do that in summer, I don’t know. But it was a thousand times easier than planning an exciting adventure game, so I didn’t try to convince him otherwise.  Yesterday was party day: we went to Lasertopia first and then came back to our house for the rest. I made them eat the pizza outside to take at least some advantage of the “summer” party. If I had been smart, I would’ve made arrangements to show the movie outside. Oh well, too late now – maybe we’ll try again in two years. Actually only a year and a half by now. I should probably get on that.

So the teaser picture I posted yesterday … that was the homemade ice cream birthday cake in progress. To clarify, the ice cream was not homemade, I only assembled the ice cream sandwiches I purchased. My sister gave me the idea, and then I found this link online. I modified the recipe slightly to make a larger cake, but that’s not exactly my skill set and there should have been more filling between the layers of ice cream sandwiches. It turned out pretty good; I regret that I didn't get a good picture of the finished product - inside and out. At least it looks better than yesterday’s photo. I think the boys enjoyed it even though almost no one finished their whole piece. I’m chalking that up to the fact that they had spent the entire past hour consuming pizza, chips, fuzzy peach candy and pop in large quantities. Spencer has a good group of friends and it’s interesting to watch as they grow older and taller and develop deeper voices. I can’t say the maturity level is increasing as fast as their height because they all still seem to find belching hilarious. I’m not actually sure there’s ever an age when boys stop enjoying the noises that their bodies produce.

Spencer seemed very happy with the party and thanked me several times for “all the work” I did. Of course, that made it all worthwhile.  He really doesn’t ask for a lot. He is usually pretty sweet and appreciative and often asks me if I need help with anything. Especially this week when he was lobbying for us to re-subscribe to the Space Channel because the next season of Doctor Who started yesterday. We had cancelled all our cable TV except basic cable and Family Channel at the beginning of the summer and no one even noticed until this week. I made a deal with Spencer that in exchange for one extra chore a day, I’d get Space Channel. I’d say I’m getting a pretty good deal for $3 a month.

This was one of Spencer's birthday gifts: fish sticks and custard mix, which is the Doctor's favourite food.  I thought it was a pretty clever gift.  The kids made it while I was at work today and said it was good.

PS:  Spencer’s invited to a birthday party on Friday and they’re doing an Amazing Race. Suckers! Haha.  Most of the same kids will be at that party so I’m more relieved than ever that we did laser tag instead; it sounds like the parents have done a lot of planning and there’s no way I could compete with that. But I bet they won’t make a homemade ice cream cake.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Summer Summary (Summery)

My blogging has been scarce this summer. I apologize to my faithful reader for the inconsistency. It’s been nice taking a break, but I also miss it. I’m going to attempt to recap things in order to give everyone (ie. my children in the future) the impression that we have non-stop fun around here in the summers.

The week after we got back from the lake, it was Day Camp week at our church. We were jolted back to reality by having to get up very early every day. Spencer, Chloe and I volunteered and Neve was a happy camper. Kristin, Corinna and I worked in the kitchen making snacks and lunch for the pre-school age kids. We had some good fun while cooking up gourmet lunches like Kraft dinner and pancakes.

On the Friday of that week, Chloe left for her second major trip of the summer. She went on a school trip (in collaboration with a U.S. school) to Churchill for almost two weeks. Her group of 15 students and a couple of leaders and scientists did research on the permafrost level, plants, and Arctic foxes.  For part of the time, they stayed in an isolated tundra research station in a national park a half hour helicopter ride from Churchill. It was an amazing opportunity and she had some pretty cool experiences. I’ll try to get her to blog about it, but I said that about her Jacksonville trip too and it never happened. My parenting has gotten soft lately; I need to re-introduce bribes and threats to motivate the children.   

Chloe is the ringleader of her siblings, so the dynamic is weird when she’s gone. Spencer and Neve got along better than I thought they would, but certain things (like the beach) are just not as fun without her.  We were going to go to Tinkertown one day but Neve refused to go without Chloe. Neve insists she’s never been to Tinkertown in her life (CFS is obviously not doing their job) so despite her strong desire to go, her desire to share it with Chloe was stronger.

We still managed to do some things without Chloe including:

the zoo (with my niece Sarah):

the Rosenort festival (with my nieces Bailey & Tia),

Folklorama (once to watch my nieces Bella & Lexie dance, and once to watch Neve’s student teacher dance)

My niece from Florida was here exactly during the time Chloe was away; the unfortunate timing couldn’t be avoided based on both girls’ schedules. They saw each other for only a few hours before Chloe left, but happily, Sarah stayed on a little longer so that she could come camping with us right after Chloe got back. Dale left for Rushing River around noon with the younger two kids, and I stuck around until the next morning since Chloe got home late that evening. We billeted a couple of girls and a leader overnight (whom we welcomed to Winnipeg by making her sleep in our musty, damp basement and use our hideous, disgusting basement bathroom). Chloe and the billet girls were on an adrenaline high or very overtired so they made cookies at midnight and stayed up until all hours before meeting the whole group at the airport for breakfast first thing the next morning. And then Sarah, Chloe and I headed to Rushing River for a couple of nights.

The weather was beautiful except for some silly rain on Friday evening. I believe that was the first evening in five years’ worth of Rushing River camping trips that we couldn’t have a campfire. And since Chloe, Sarah, and I were there one less night than usual, it went by way too fast. Luckily it didn’t rain hard enough to get our bedding wet, but camping in a tent is zero fun in the rain. My goal for next year is to buy or rent a pop-up trailer. THEN my life would be perfect. At least until I decide I need a hard trailer (there’s probably a more official name than that) with slide-outs and hardwood floors and a powerful generator.

Three days after we got back from camping, Neve and I went back to the Kenora area to visit a friend at her cottage. Chloe was tired of being away from home by this point, and Spencer couldn’t resist the lure of no adult supervision and two whole days of no one nagging him to go outside. That boy’s summer could be completely summed up in four words: Doctor Who, books, Minecraft. If I suggest (he would use the word “force”) that he go for a walk or a bike ride, he chooses the library as his destination.  I guess there are worse problems in the world.  Anyway, Neve and I had a lovely relaxing time and I even fit in a Happy Hour at my neighbour Karen’s nearby cottage.

This past weekend was our annual family weekend at my parents’ house. It was different than other years for several reasons. The weather wasn’t great so we spent a lot of time inside; my niece Bailey and my brother Dan couldn’t make it; and most of all, the sadness of my sister-in-law Joan’s absence hung over us all. It’s hard not to compare it to last year’s family weekend when she was with us, healthy and well. I don’t feel I’m at the point yet where I can look back and take comfort in remembering happy moments; it still feels too fresh and wrong that she’s not here. I feel even sadder for her immediate family and the hole she’s left. But I’m proud of everyone for making it through the weekend as well as we did, and even having a fair amount of fun. There were the usual mini-bikes and other motorized vehicles, zipline, food, fireworks, and new this year was a brand new teeter-totter that my dad built and an archery range.

Jan brought a bead craft that you have to iron … the kids spent hours doing this and claimed to love it, but I'm pretty sure Satan had a hand in inventing this.  I lost count of how many times the kids carefully placed beads were destroyed before it got to the ironing stage.  It didn't help that the iron was in the furthest room of the house.

This arrow hit the bulls eye! 

And now we’re nearing the end of summer holidays, trying to squeeze out the last bit of fun. The weather was very cool the past two days, so we stayed inside and cleaned and got organized. I finally got around to sorting through the kids’ school papers from last year, just in time before the papers start pouring in again. Today is a beautiful day so I dragged the kids out for a bike ride, which was awesome even though I had to endure a lot of complaining. That’s okay though - when they’re sitting in a stuffy classroom in a week from today, they’ll thank me.

Just now as I was typing this, I got a text from Siobhan asking if I'm still alive. Darla texted me the other day as well to say she missed the blogging.  Aw, you girls make me feel so special and loved that I'm going to blog again tomorrow just for you. Here's a sneak peek at tomorrow's topic.

(Neve took this picture)