Friday, January 23, 2015

ah ... global warming ...

It’s four degrees in Winnipeg today. Plus four. PLUS FOUR!! It feels like spring. The sun came out and snowmen are melting and everyone is in a good mood. Except for that one person who has the nerve to say they actually prefer the cold because their car gets so dirty on the slushy streets. I haven’t heard anyone say that yet, but if I do, I’ll … I’ll … I can think of many nasty things, but I’ll probably just give them a hug and tell them Love Wins. They probably had a horrible childhood and suffered tragedies and addictions and just need some love. There can be no other reason to complain on a January day like today.

All week has been pretty nice. We went sliding and skating at our community centre on the weekend, I managed to get myself outside for a run, and Dale and I went for a walk last night. The kids always need a little encouragement to get outside. Chloe walks home from school every day and Neve plays outside at recess and walks to and from school, but the boy doesn’t get much fresh air. I forced the kids to build a snowman after school today. They weren't pleased, but we now have a cute little snow princess in our front yard. 

Also this week, I had a little visit with Hillary Clinton. Except she did all the talking and she probably couldn’t see me way at the back of the room, but I feel like we had a connection. I clipped a recipe from the newspaper years ago called Hillary Clinton’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, which I often make because the kids love them. I’d be surprised if she has personally ever made those cookies, but nevertheless, I felt a bond. Even though all I saw was a tiny speck (thought I better add the circle to the photo below) on the stage, she came across as well-spoken and intelligent and more down to earth and likeable than I expected. The audience seemed to really like her. A couple of my colleagues even got a picture with Hillary, which is kind of exciting since she could possibly become the next President of the United States. But she's just a regular person like the rest of us and it would get tiring having Secret Service with you all the time and dogs sniffing for explosives and everyone making a big deal about you and posing for countless photos. At least that's what I tell myself.

I have a brief lull in my wild and crazy Friday night of transporting children to various activities, so I better go make the most of it. Happy weekend, everyone!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Home projects

Today was one of those days where I looked in my pantry and reached the tipping point. It was so full that the peanuts I bought at Costco wouldn't fit. So I pulled everything out, wiped the shelves, threw out all the stale crackers and expired yeast (not sure why I even had yeast) and brought some organization to my life. These before and after photos are a good reminder that I really don't need to take pictures of everything.* You are forgiven if you can't tell the difference. But my family did, so it was Worth It. I'd actually like to apologize for this whole paragraph; I'm 100% sure not one of you came here to read about my pantry. The only reason I'm not deleting it is to serve as a reminder to myself that sometimes it only takes ten minutes to make a difference.

*I am pretty fond of this "during" picture though.

And sometimes it takes years. We (I) have been working for some time on making the dining room look less like a Nicaraguan prison cell and more like a warm inviting space where we can live laugh love (imagine that in a classic, yet modern cursive font). Maybe it’s also possible to live laugh love together in a Nicaraguan prison cell. I shouldn't write about things I know nothing about. 

I love a nice cozy, pretty home as much as the next person, but let’s just say no one has ever told me I have an eye for decorating. I have friends (Shannon and Kristin – I’m looking at you) who can magically transform an entire room in one hour with three dollars, a pipe cleaner, a scrap of fabric, and some foliage from the woods. Things move a little slower and more awkwardly at my house. I’ve been talking about updating the dining room for five years, bought some materials in July, wallpapered in September, and made some further strides this week. Our dining room is small and consists only of two walls (one of which contains mostly windows) and a table and chairs, so it’s understandable that you may wonder how on earth this could take so long. And we’re not even getting a new table and chairs at this point! So … basically the project consists of redecorating a wall. I really do suck at this. But that’s okay; I accept myself for who I am. I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it … I WILL finish this project! And then I’ll post pictures! Until then, here is a before picture, taken in May. I tried to make it look as nice as possible so I wouldn't be accused of purposely exaggerating its plain-ness.

So I may not be awesome at home decorating, but I feel like I’m pretty good at something else. I saw this on 22 Words and was reminded of this (you have to scroll down past all my snow-melting pictures). I wouldn’t describe myself as photogenic so much as just inexplicably joyful when someone takes a picture of me running.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Oh, Target

I’m trying to keep things in perspective. In a world of terrorist attacks, cancer and child poverty, the closing of all the Canadian Target stores is not the end of the world. But I’m still sad. The loss of over 17,000 Canadian jobs is a pretty big deal. Think of all those employees worrying about an uncertain future. Target says they will try to pay them for the next sixteen weeks, but the pressure of looking for a new job before your pay cheques run out is never fun.

On a more selfish note, I love Target and will miss it. As a non-Walmart shopper, I often went to Target and did a lot of my Christmas shopping there this year (I did my part!). The store was clean and bright, the employees were helpful and it was generally a pleasant shopping experience, even for someone who doesn’t love shopping. I admit there were issues with understocked shelves, but as far as people’s complaints that the prices and brands were different than the US store, I don’t know how anyone could expect them to be exactly the same. We’ve seen the same thing with Old Navy, Bath and Bodyworks, Pier One and any other highly-anticipated store from the U.S. For reasons that I won’t pretend to know, that’s just how it is.

I do question their marketing plan; opening big new stores while the existing ones are failing seems like the opposite of common sense. Mistakes were definitely made. I’m disappointed that they failed so badly. I’m disappointed they are letting down so many workers. I’m disappointed that more people didn’t shop there. I can hardly handle that all the same people who hated Target are going to pounce once the liquidation sales start. Only loyal Target supporters should be allowed. I have a RedCard!

Meanwhile, Walmart is opening another new store on Taylor. I get a sinking feeling every time I drive by. I have to give them credit for having better business sense than Target, but that’s the only nice thing I’ll say about them. They are notorious for their poor treatment of employees, unfair wages, terrible environmental practices, and putting small local companies out of business. I’ll be taking the Target closure as a kick in the pants to shop the smaller local stores as much as I can.

I don’t mean to judge anyone by where they shop. Everyone has their reasons and their rights. I am just flush with disappointment and had to get that rant of my system.

I heard this heartbreaking news on the radio today. A couple from Manitoba had just arrived in South Africa to be with their son who was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident when they received news that their daughter was killed in a car accident back here. The daughter leaves behind a husband and two little children. Suddenly I have nothing more to complain about regarding Target or anything else. 

Sorry to leave this on a sad note. I will try to blog again tomorrow with something cheerier.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

New Years goals

Fun fact: I posted almost the exact same picture last year around this time.
It's that time of the year where we can't see out of the windows anymore. In the Kielburger brothers'  book My Grandma Follows Me on Twitter and Other First World Problems one of the first world "problems" is:
I can't see the winter wonderland outdoors
because my windows are fogged over from keeping
it nice and toasty inside for shorts and t-shirts.

Okay, I agree it's pretty great having a warm house and is certainly not the worst problem to have, but it's definitely a more legitimate problem than "I'm trying to text while driving but I keep getting green lights." It's our big old front windows that are the problem and they're way beyond just being fogged up. There's a solid layer of ice. Luckily the frost patterns are very pretty and I could post a different frost photo every day if I felt like it. Also there's nothing that great to see outside these days anyway.

So we've been inside a lot. It's amazing how much time I have with no Christmas shopping, baking, wrapping, parties or concerts to go to. This time of year always brings out my hopes and dreams of fresh starts, or what most people call New Years Resolutions. I don't want to be like everyone else so I don't like to call them that. I know it's a new year and I am resolving things but I prefer to call them January Promises. Nah, "promises" sound like too much of a commitment. I'll call them ... January Best Intentions.

High on my list is less time on my phone. It's embarrassing how time can slip away while I'm checking email, texts, Facebook, blogs, Instagram, Tumblr, and then since so much time has passed that I need to check email again. Chloe and Dale are even more guilty of being addicted to their phones than I am. So we're all making a conscious effort to limit our non-work, non-studying screen time. I'm limiting Spencer and Neve's screen time as well in hopes that we will all play board games and do string art and go skating and make our own soap. Actually I just want more time to read. I have a few good books on my nightstand that I never seem to have time for, so that's my number one January Best Intention.

Using up some valuable screen time

Speaking of reading, there was an article in the paper today about the parkade I use when I go to work. It's gotten much better since they started locking the stairwells, but it's still sketchy. My credit card has been compromised three separate times after using it there. It's common to find smashed car windows, all kinds of bodily fluids, empty liquor bottles, and the odd passed-out person. Last winter I found a woman struggling to get out of the elevator on the second floor. She had been beaten up and had her money stolen by some guys on the top level and she was trying to get away. But between the effects of the beating and the alcohol she had consumed, she couldn't get herself out of the elevator all the way and the doors kept opening and closing on whatever limb she managed to stick in the door. It was not a pretty sight. I tried to convince her to go down the elevator to the main floor, but she refused because she was scared the elevator might go back up to the top again. So she leaned her considerable weight on me and we somehow miraculously made it to the street level, with her bleeding on the coat I had borrowed from Chloe that day. As luck would have it, the downtown BIZ patrols walked by at that very moment and they called for help. Anyway, I hope this negative publicity will motivate the management to do something instead of raising their rates and turning a blind eye. (And yes, I could park elsewhere, but I don't mind a bit of drama in my suburban life).

Also in the newspaper was this gem:


I love the quote from "VLT player." So insightful! That is a quote worth pinning. I'll probably write it in fancy calligraphy on my decorative chalkboard. I also love the horse playing VLTs with all four hooves. If that doesn't make a person want to gamble, I don't know what would.

No wonder I never get to my nightstand books - the newspaper is way too interesting.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Almost over ...

Our Christmas break is slowly coming to an end. I’d say it’s been a big success. It’s been so great having a break from our regular routine and spending days on end together in our cozy house. We’ve watched many movies and endless episodes of Full House, played games, finished two puzzles, stayed up too late, slept in too long, listened to records, read, eaten tons of chocolate, and Dale and I have played a lot of Sudoku (we race each other.  Ask Dale who usually wins). We did not get lots of exercise or fresh air or green vegetables. It’s been awesome … exactly what we needed.

But it’s almost time to turn the page and move to the next chapter. I’m getting tired of Beatles records and pale white faces staring at the TV. Neve convinced me to sleep in the fort she made in the playroom last night and let me tell you, that was not the best night I’ve ever had. After she woke up, I crawled into my own bed for a few more hours until I started having crazy dreams. I’ve been sleeping so late that my dreams all end up weird and disturbing, usually involving a bird of some kind. This morning it was a seagull. Even Dale said today he’s looking forward to going to work on Monday, and he hasn’t been off work nearly as long as I have. I think we’re all ready for a bit of structure again.
Here's a note I put on the fridge today that proves I'm ready to have the house to myself for a few hours a day. The numbers are low because I put it up in the morning and it inspired (or scared) everyone to take responsibility for their dishes the rest of the day. I was getting frustrated with seeing dirty dishes on the counter every time I turned around.

As mentioned, Spencer is pretty passionate about listening to records. Every day he asks to go to second-hand stores to look for records. Until now, he has detested second-hand stores and refused to have anything to do with them. But now he’s excited about acquiring new records. The only problem is that he is just looking for Beatles records. I told him he should diversify and find some other bands he likes. After much research on YouTube, he announced that he now also likes Paul McCartney and Wings. Oh dear. He went door to door today handing out flyers for snow-shovelling services in order to make some record money. Someone hired him today already, so he was pleased. He keeps asking when it’s supposed to snow again. At least it got him outside.

Speaking of Spencer, here’s a conversation we had the other day:

Spencer: Is anyone dying that you haven’t told us about?
Me: No! Why do you ask?
Spencer: Well, you didn’t tell us right away that Auntie Joan had cancer.
Me: Sometimes it takes a few days for adults to process things before they tell kids bad news.
Spencer: Are you processing anything right now?

Thankfully, I'm not. Have a happy lazy Sunday. I'll be spending it trying to get as organized as I can before reality sets in, probably while listening to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

A puzzling happy new year

Happy New Year, everyone! We had a nice relaxing celebration at our house with Blake & Kristin. I copied an idea from Pinterest that involved balloons marked with every hour til midnight, each containing a paper with an activity for the kids to do (like decorating cookies, running around the block with glowsticks, playing a game, etc.). I put this together literally half an hour before they got here, so it could have been more creative but the kids liked it. We also walked over to Tim & Karen's for a while, so the evening flew by. I don't feel particularly motivated or inspired by a new digit at the end of the year, so my life will probably just proceed as usual.

My blogging blitz hasn't been very blitzy … sorry, Darla. But I've got something awesome for you today that should make up for it. And by awesome, I mean pointless and lame.

Do you feel resentful that I made you just waste 43 seconds of your life? If it makes you feel better, think how much time I wasted. I could've wasted a lot more if I'd adjusted the pictures so the colouring and placement was identical but I had to draw the line somewhere. Spending three solid days putting together pieces of cardboard is bad enough. (I returned the puzzle that came in the wrong box and just did one I already had. There was a piece missing, but I'm not passionate enough about puzzles to let that bother me much.)

I've also just finished my second book of the holidays so today is a day of wandering around the house and doing a lot of nothing. Most of the Christmas decorations are down but I need to organize the bins and tuck them all away under the stairs in the storage room. My only other goal today is to change Swimmy's water because even a fish deserves a fresh start to the new year. Dale took the older kids to a movie, so I told Neve I'd play with her in a bit. That's a risky promise: I have to be prepared for anything from a fashion show or dance-off to playing Barbies. I'm going to push for reading.