Friday, September 26, 2014

Squirrels and facial rashes

Again, much time has passed since I last blogged. Shannon is doing the October 31 Days challenge again; I’m not officially signing up but I’m going to try to jumpstart my blogging by writing something every day anyway. I don’t feel 100% committed so if I miss a few days, go check out Shannon’s blog. She will not disappoint.

We are now fully immersed in our busy fall schedule. Sunday is our only day of rest from activities. Unless you count church. I dislike being so busy, but the children are all doing activities they really enjoy. Luckily, all activities are within a small radius of our home – and even then, carpooling is usually involved - so I can’t complain too much. No one ever needs to be at a hockey rink in Transcona by 7:00 a.m. and for that I am grateful.

I am also grateful for a beautiful, warm week. #Septemberisstillsummer all the way! My disdain for fall is lessening slightly, although I wish the leaves would resist changing colour and keep clinging to their branches for dear life. One big problem with fall: squirrels busily gathering food for winter. If I was Siobhan’s mother, I would be in heaven (not literally). But sometimes I feel like I’m in the opposite place. Those buggers are everywhere (literally). I was THIS close to stepping on one on my run the other day. They scamper to the top of our big evergreens and gnaw at the pinecones until they fall to the ground. Our front yard was completely covered in pine cones. We had to rake them every day. Last weekend when all the pinecones were finally off the tree, Dale and the kids bagged them all up and took them to the back yard where they’re still sitting until yard waste pick-up day. The squirrels seem upset about us taking away their hard-earned food for the winter. They keep climbing on the bags, trying to get into the rolled-up openings. They haven’t succeeded yet, which is weird. They can chew through drywall and Rubbermaids, but somehow brown paper bags are an impenetrable fortress.  For no other reason than the fact I hate them so much, I took some squirrel pictures. I’m sorry if you love squirrels and find my words too harsh. Maybe these delightful candid squirrel photos will make up for that.

A waste of a perfectly good apple that I could have used for apple crisp

He got a pine cone, but it's not from the bag.

I am a freaky rodent and I will pounce on you

I went to a retreat last weekend with a bunch of women from my church. I don’t normally love that sort of thing, but it was way better than I thought it would be. It was very relaxed and unstructured, other than several short sessions with interesting speakers and singing, there was lots of time for talking and hanging out with my good friends Kristin and Corinna (and others) and hot tubbing and doing yoga and having a dance party and playing games and going for walks. And getting poison ivy, apparently. I started developing a rash on my face on Wednesday. When I woke up this morning, one side of my face was so puffy that my eye couldn’t open all the way. I went to the walk-in clinic after dropping off the kids at school and the doctor asked how I got it. I told him I didn’t know, but I had been to the lake on the weekend and went for a walk in the woods. He sort of brushed that information aside and went for a different angle. He has a thick accent which is sometimes hard to understand, but this is how our conversation went.

“Your children – do they play with branches?”
“Pardon? With what?”
“Branches. From a tree.”
“Oh. No, my children are older.”
“How old?”
I have no idea what the connection is between my children’s ages and having poison ivy on my face, but I answer anyway, “Age nine to sixteen.”
He shrugs, like a-ha! “Then they could still play with branches. Do they wave them in your face?”
“Um, no. They haven’t waved branches in my face.” It’s not like it’s Palm Sunday or anything.

That stumps him. I don’t mention my walk in the woods again. I also don’t mention the picture Corinna sent to me earlier this morning when I expressed confusion about getting poison ivy on my nose. It’s a picture of me doing a show-off yoga crow pose with my face very close to the ground. Ah, I forgot about that. Oh well, at this point I feel like the cause maybe isn’t as important as the treatment going forward.

The doctor asked if it was itchy (yes), painful (no), anywhere else on my body (no). He then said it could be shingles, although shingles aren’t itchy, they are painful, and they usually don’t appear on the face first. Yet inexplicably, he couldn’t rule it out. So he prescribed some topical cream that will hopefully get rid of the poison ivy/poison oak/shingles. I’ve made the doctor sound incompetent, but I’ve taken Chloe to see him before and I actually really like him. I love that walk-in clinic; it’s right near us and they get us in and out very quickly. I'm just pretty positive that he's wrong about shingles.

I really do need to blog more often; this post is getting way too long. I’ll finish off with a few pictures from Wednesday evening, when some of us made a very short notice trip to Bird’s Hill to visit my parents while they camped there. It was a lovely evening - we had a wiener roast, went for a bike ride and sat by the fire. The only problem was that the second the sun slipped below the horizon, it was pitch black and felt like the middle of the night but it was really only 8:15. Maybe I should change my beloved hashtag to Septemberisstillsortofsummer. But as long as the words summer and September go together, I'm happy.

Lexie on Bailey's long board

Gazing at the hole where the lake once stood (sat? lay?). They are building a bigger lake and have drained the existing one during the construction period.

Bailey looking concerned about her wiener roasting duties.

Ending with a sunset pose always seems like the right thing to do.

Monday, September 15, 2014


I have rediscovered the joy of lists. I do that every once in a while and always feel like I've come up with some magical concept that no one else has ever thought of. So it was a pretty productive weekend. The list above is Sunday's list; Friday's and Saturday's were pretty successful too.
Until this weekend, we hadn't done one thing on our summer yard work list. By the end of the weekend, we turned this:

into this:

We now refer to our garage as the carriage house. Okay for real, it now looks like this:

It looks pretty sad compared to the carriage house, but it's the best we could do. The green had to go; I have no idea why I ever chose that colour in the first place. Beige isn't much better but at least it matches the house. Sometimes two wrongs make a right. Anyway, we did this in very short order. I painted as fast as I could so I could impress Dale with my progress when he came back from picking Neve up from a birthday party. It worked. So speed was more important that precision craftsmanship. With some quick photo-shopping, it looks a bit better:

That's the picture we'll use if we ever sell our house. Well, I might do a little more photoshopping first, starting with the leaning fence. I'm hoping there will be a bigger, newer garage that we will have enjoyed for many years before the time comes to sell the house.

Here's another project I did recently.

I know! Soon this blog will be mistaken for a crafting blog. You paint a frame you find in the garbage, clip some pictures to some twine and you're done. I make it sound easy, but this project was about a month in the making. I lack focus. My dining room wall is proof of that. I'll have to add that to my list one of these days.

Here's something that was not so successful today:

Chloe was supposed to bring guacamole to a potluck tonight. The avocados did not cooperate. But she also made nan bread from scratch, which was delicious.

And here's another success - the boy getting some fresh air on a lovely Sunday evening:

Hope your weekend has had more successes than failures. I'm off to return some library books.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Oh, September

Ten days into September, the novelty of school and routine has worn off already. The kids seemed to adjust well to the first few days of school and we were all making it work, but on Sunday evening within minutes of stepping in the door after being gone all afternoon, I was blindsided with a string of questions and requests such as (but not limited to):
  • We need to go buy a music book tonight because I HAVE to have it for band class tomorrow.
  • I need $20 for a yearbook.
  • I need $40 for something else.
  • I need $200 for my bari sax rental.
  • When are we going to look through my book order?
  • My flip flop broke and I have no shoes to wear to school tomorrow.
  • You have to fill out this form (and 50 others).
  • Can you sign my agenda?
  • And my favourite: My head feels itchy. Can you check for lice?
Instead of running out the door to catch a plane that would take me to a new life, I took a hundred deep breaths and plowed ahead. I resolved everything that didn’t involve shopping (the stores were closed). A very thorough lice check was done and no lice/nits were found. There was a lice epidemic at Neve’s school in spring; she was one of the very few kids – and the only one among her close friends - who never got it. It was during the time when Joan was dying and things were crazy at work and I was not in a good place. I honestly think God protected Neve’s little head because I’m pretty sure I would have shaved her head bald and lit our house on fire.

Anyway, I miss summer. I hate routine. I hate the cooler weather. I hate leaves on the ground. I hate talk of chunky knits and butternut squash and fall mums. The Thanksgiving edition of Canadian Living arrived the other day and I threw it straight in the garbage (okay, I didn’t really but I wanted to). I want hot sunshine and sangria and sprinklers and unstructured days. I feel like I didn’t have nearly enough beach days and since we aren’t going on a winter holiday this year, it will be a long time until I’ll have another one. Looks like my “September is still summer” campaign has fizzled out. Maybe I’ll have another burst of positivity and enthusiasm, especially if the weather smartens up.

Here's a little catch-up item from the September long weekend. We wanted to go on a little weekend getaway - somewhere not too far but not too close, somewhere near a lake but not camping, somewhere we could do a bit of back-to-school shopping, but not Grand Forks or Fargo. The place that fit all of those requirements was ... Bemidji, Minnesota. Who knew? The only time I'd ever been to Bemidji was when we drove through it on our way home from PEI two years ago. I remember it was about 37 C and I rolled down the window to take a picture of Paul Bunyan and Babe and afterward, the window wouldn't go back up. After a few minutes of great concern, it magically decided to work again. (It stopped working again last winter and Jim permanently disabled it so we haven't been able to open the passenger side window for about six months. That's just one of the many issues our van has, but we try not to speak ill of it in hopes that it will last longer.)

So, we left early Saturday morning and stopped in Grand Forks to get the shopping requirements out of the way. Then we continued on, stopping at an A & W drive-in on the way. We stopped at one in Wisconsin on our PEI trip as well, so it's now apparently a thing we do. The server didn't seemed thrilled at having to come outside to serve us and our milkshake order took way longer than it should have. But the children were happy and that's what matters (so they tell me).

2012 in Wisconsin

2014 in Minnesota
A little more rust makes the van look more mature and wiser (like wrinkles and grey hair)



We stayed at the Hampton, which was really nice. The room was big and modern and spotless and we were right on the lake. There was a water trampoline and canoes and paddleboats you could use. Unfortunately the weather wasn't hot, so Dale and the kids only went into the lake once. But we sat outside lots, explored the grounds and ate both dinners on the patio overlooking the lake. We also spent lots of time at the pool/hot tub/sauna, even though Neve is the only person that's really excited about swimming these days. It's kind of sad when those kids grow up and don't find it as exhilarating as they used to, but it's also more relaxing. I read a lot. Lots of TV watching also took place, mainly Cutthroat Kitchen. After checking out on Monday, we went to Itasca State Park, where the Mississippi River begins. The park has a lot of history and was actually pretty interesting (the children might disagree). And then we headed home, meandering through lots of small towns which was pretty cool but took long and the children were making me crazy. We are pretty good at long road trips, but we sometimes struggle with the smaller ones because we're not as mentally prepared. But besides that, the mini-trip was a big success. I love exploring places that are (relatively) close to home but feel like they're much further away. As I said earlier, we have no trips planned in the foreseeable future so I'm sad it’s over. But I smile because it happened because that's what Dr. Seuss says we should do.

Just to prove I was on the trip

Horsing around on the dock

Taken from the patio of the hotel

This was at Itasca State Park. I thought the people in costume had something to do with the Mississippi steamboat tour (seen in the background), but they weren't. Everyone was staring at them, waiting for them to start their performance, but in the end it appears they were just regular tourists dressed up for fun.

The Mississippi is just a small stream here - pretty cool.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

First day of the rest of my life

It's getting trickier every year to line up the children for their back to school photo.  Three children; three different schools; three different start times. Spencer was the first to go (grade 8). Here he is, looking like we're sending him off to prison camp but trying to pretend that he's okay with it.

Here's Neve (grade 4), managing a nervous smile. Thankfully her no-throwing-up prayers were answered, but she was on the brink of a meltdown because she couldn't find her little black shorts that she likes to wear under dresses. She dissolved into tears as we walked down our sidewalk, but when she saw her friend in the next block heading our way, the tears were quickly wiped away and the two little girls chattered the whole way to school.

Chloe (grade 11) didn't start until after lunch. She was pretty excited about going back and seeing her friends again. I think there was some apprehension involved, but she's pretty good at not showing it or mentioning it.

When everyone got home from school, I made them pose together. They appear to be enjoying it more than they actually did. It looks like the girls are going to a royal wedding. Note to self for next year: google ways to get them to pose more naturally.

They all seemed to have a good day. The day was cut short for the younger two because I accidentally booked doctor's appointments for them at 2:30. I made the appointment months ago, at which time I thought school didn't start until the following week. I realized my error a few weeks ago but I knew that it would take months to get another appointment, so I left it. Neve was very displeased about having to leave early on her first day. That was another thing she was crying about this morning. Anyway, it's over with now - turns out I hadn't taken them for their annual check-ups for over two and a half years. The doctor wasn't impressed, but I felt pretty good because no harm seems to have come from it. Well, I guess it was slightly harmful that it was on the first day of school.

I always have mixed feelings about the children starting school. The summer always goes by much too fast, but it makes a big difference that they all love their schools and have good friends. My work schedule is starting to pick up substantially, so a quiet, empty house will make it much easier to focus. Today was pretty disjointed with trying to fit work in between getting Spencer and Neve to school, going to get Neve for lunch and sending her back to school again, seeing Chloe off to school, doctors appointments, and trying to remember not to speed in school zones. And then Neve started twice-a-week swimming lessons tonight. September, you are my frenemy.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

September is still summer

The title above is my new favourite motto/hashtag. I actually stole it from Ace Burpee because I love it so much. I always get sad this time of year because it feels like all the fun is over, so it cheers me up to realize just because the month is 09 instead of 08, it doesn't mean we have to start crocheting and baking pumpkin pies and wearing sweaters. Actually it sort of does mean we have to wear sweaters, but just light ones - not the big wool kind. Because summer's not over, people!
However, summer vacation is officially over. I have no inspirational hashtag for that. We made the most of our final evening by biking over to the park for a picnic supper, followed by ice cream at Sargent Sundae. Jim & Sabrina and Janet and the girls joined us on pretty short notice, so it was really fun. In a lucky coincidence, we bumped into Blake & Kristin at Sargent Sundae, which was icing on the cake. They were still getting their ice cream when we took the picture (Kristin got pumpkin pie ice cream - she likes fall, but yet we are still friends.).

We basically had the park to ourselves ... everyone else was being responsible and getting their kids bathed and put to bed at a decent hour. We stayed so late we had to bike home in the dark and then we all watched Amazing Race Canada after that. I hope that doesn't come back to haunt me in the morning. Who cares, it was Worth It because .... September is still summer.

Chloe is sort of excited about the new school year, but Neve is worried and Spencer is a disaster. He always gets very anxious right before school starts. On his "first day of school" picture, his face is always chalk white and his eyes are filled with terror and dread. But at the end of the day, he is basically euphoric from the relief of having the first day over with. I don't know if it's healthy to have such a range of emotion in one day, but it's worked out okay the first eight years. 
Neve's prayer tonight mostly consisted of variations of "Please help my stomach to stop hurting. Please help me not to throw up." I hope that works out too.

(PS: This blog post is for cousin Carolyn whose sister-in-law was killed in a car accident on the weekend. There is no tie-in whatsoever to the content of this post, but Carolyn asked for more blogging, so it's the least I can do. Losing a sister-in-law sucks. Stay strong.)