Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The more realistic birthday post

Who let me adult? I can’t adult!

I saw that on the internet a couple of days ago and was like, “Wow – I’m not the only one who feels that way!?” That thought has subconsciously gone through my head every single day since I became an adult, and now I have words to go along with it. I have a house (or at least a mortgage), two respectable vehicles (finally!), a job, and most importantly, a family that I am responsible for. Three children in school and extra-curricular activities, including one child halfway through grade eleven who is starting to make decisions that will affect her future paths. Who gave me this much responsibility?? Why and how do they think I am capable of pulling it off? I look at other people – my age or younger – and they seem to be adult-ing so easily: buying furniture at Bombay Company, throwing dinner parties, sewing costumes for their kids and being on boards and committees and task forces. Sure, there are few things I know how to do, but it doesn’t come easy.

Neve’s birthday is a good example. I made it sound all simple and effortless in the last post, but it wasn’t. I don’t mean to complain because I love her to pieces and I wanted her to have a special day and it was all worth it on some level. But pinwheel sandwiches don’t make themselves (unless you’re smart enough to buy them ready-made, which I’m not). A phone call to Safeway to order the bread, a special trip to pick it up, a few you tube videos to remind myself how to make them, and the better part of an hour rolling them up and wrapping them up to set overnight, cutting and arranging them the next morning. And that was just one tiny part of the celebrations.

The trifle that I made for Sunday’s celebration was a nightmare. It sounds so easy – tear up cake pieces, a layer of pudding, raspberries, some whipped cream, and repeat. But it took me over two hours, and that’s not counting baking the cake, which I did the day before. I won’t go into all the boring details, but between trying to combine two recipes, not having the proper supplies, the whipped cream not getting fluffly, it just didn’t work out like I dreamed. It looked impressive, but it didn’t even taste that awesome.

Moving on from my food inadequacies, scheduling is also not a strong point. Spencer has acting class on Saturdays at 1:30 but since he’s in a play in March, so he’s been going at 11:40 every other Saturday for rehearsals. He had a rehearsal last Saturday, so I assumed he didn’t have one this Saturday. He really wanted to come to Mordens to make chocolate, so he decided to miss the first half hour or so of acting class and then Dale would take him to class as soon as the party was over. Well, at 11:30 on Saturday as the guests are arriving and Neve and I are greeting them at the door and hanging up their coats and the parents leave and more guests arrive, Spencer comes to me with his jacket on and says, “Are you going to take me now?”

Turns out he was supposed to be at rehearsal at 11:40, so Dale jumped in the car and took him, leaving me on my own with a houseful of little girls, some of whom were like crazy little tornados, but louder. Luckily Chloe was there to help, so we got them fed and then moved on to the present-opening. Then Dale came home and we herded them into three different vehicles and headed to Morden’s. After Dale dropped off his bunch, he hurried to the Forks to pick Spencer up from his rehearsal. As soon as the party was over, he rushed off to bring Spencer back to his acting class. It was ridiculous, but it was sprung upon us so suddenly that we didn’t have time to formulate a better plan. As it turns out, I did have the rehearsal in my calendar but it didn’t quite register with everything else going on.

And speaking of not looking closely at my calendar, I only noticed on Saturday afternoon that it was my week to bake muffins for a baking group I’m part of that supplies muffins to less-advantaged kids at inner city schools. So in the middle of everything else going on this weekend, I made five dozen blueberry muffins. I also had to make two pans of Rice Krispy cake, clean the house, wrap presents, decorate, and a million other little details. 

So yeah, I pulled it all off. If you didn’t know what went on behind the scenes, it might have looked easy. I know we all have our strengths and weaknesses, but sometimes I feel like I’m way below the normal range. Is it like that for everyone? Are we all making it look effortless when it’s really not? Or am I the only one missing an “adult” gene? Please make me feel normal!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Ten


So my baby is ten. I think I’ve said this before (what haven’t I?) but when Chloe was ten, she was like a mini-adult; mature and responsible enough to take care of Spencer and Neve basically on her own. In contrast, at the same age Neve is like our newborn who is snuggled and read to and spoiled. We are excited when she comes down in the mornings and fight over who gets to hold her first. The other kids just get a grunt and an up-nod. We happily sit upstairs and watch her put on gymnastics and dance shows for us, clapping and cheering. Dale rubs her forehead every night at bedtime. For the older kids, we just bellow at them from the basement: “Get to bed!” It’s a hard-knock life for those who weren’t lucky enough to be the last one pulled out of my body. I’m exaggerating slightly, but probably not as much as you think. We do love the older children equally, but somehow the youngest is always the baby (right, Jimmy?).
Anyway, our little treasure’s first decade of life was well celebrated. It started with a friends party on Saturday. Eleven of her friends came over for lunch (pinwheel sandwiches made with pink bread, veggies, fruit, and cream puffs), then we headed to Mordens Chocolates. The older two children have each had a birthday party there (see, we do love them the same) and it was always a hit. Each child gets a tray filled with candy, crackers, marshmallows, chips, pretzels, etc. and a tub of melted chocolate and can make whatever they want. There were some pretty original creations. The girls were pretty wild at our house, so I was kind of concerned that they’d be super crazy at Mordens. But the chocolate-making captured all of their attention for the full hour. The employees there are so great too – so relaxed and patient, even when five kids at a time are asking to have their tub of chocolate warmed up (it hardened after a while). Just like at Chloe and Spencer’s parties, I overheard things like, “I LOVE this place” and “This is by far the best party I’ve ever been to.” I can take no credit for that, but it does make me feel good.






Sunday morning, Neve quickly opened her gifts before Chloe left for her all-day swim instructor class. We gave her an American Girl doll. She’s wanted one for years, but I’ve resisted because the price tag is not for the faint of heart. Neve’s cousin Sarah kindly lent Neve her American Girl doll, Kaya, for the last couple of years, but Neve didn’t let herself get too attached because she knew she had to give her back eventually. Kaya is native American and comes dressed in traditional clothes. Yesterday, Neve said something like, “I loved Kaya but I felt like I was taking away her culture by dressing her in regular clothes.” So she is over the moon excited about her very own doll, who is named Grace. I’m hoping the doll phase carries on for a while. It feels way more wholesome to give her a doll rather than an iPod, even if the price difference is scant.
 

 
Neve has wanted to get her ears pierced for a long time, but we told her she had to wait until she was ten. She’s been counting down the years; however, as her tenth birthday came closer she started to waver because she was scared it would hurt too much. Yesterday she decided to go through with it, so off we went to Chatters (thanks for the recommendation, Darla). She was very brave and said it wasn’t as bad as she thought it would be. Chloe had hers done when she was five, and I regretted doing it so early. I felt much better this time; Neve was old enough to think it through and make her own decision. She is thrilled with her earrings and was very proud to show them off when her grandma, aunties, uncles, and cousins came over for birthday cake (trifle) last night. Dale and I are both so lucky to have awesome families that come and celebrate our kids and make them feel loved and special.


 

Boston Pizza for dinner

 

I took about ten pictures of the bunch and this was the best one.
 
 


After everyone left, I cut the rice krispy squares that I had made that afternoon into stars to send to school today. And THAT … finally … marks the end of an intense weekend of birthday celebrations. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t exhausted.

 
We love you, Neve! You’ve got flair and passion and you make our lives interesting. You are organized and love to have everything in your room arranged just so. You are bright and clever and kind and thoughtful and you care about your friends and family. You’re a good gymnast, dancer, piano player, and speller. I love it that you often tell us all how much you love us and this weekend you thanked us more than once for all the work we did to make your birthday special. You also said, “This was my best birthday ever!” which are pretty sweet words for a mama to hear.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Vantastic

I didn’t want to keep Sheri-Lee waiting, so allow me to introduce our van.
 
 
 
Don’t mind the ugly wheels. They are winter tires. Contrary to what every single person in the entire world says, I can’t tell the difference when driving. But if you squint, the front wheel looks like an oreo cookie so that’s pretty awesome.  I’m not crossing my fingers that it will look that much better when the regular tires are on; a van is a van. You can’t put lipstick on a pig. Not sure if I’ve got that saying right. But I don’t mean to insult my new van because I like it.
 
We only buy a vehicle approximately once a decade. We like to buy gently used vehicles, drive them as long as we can, throw money at a sinking ship (I’m not sure about that saying either) until even our mechanic questions our wisdom, and then drive it for a couple more years. But ha! We get our money’s worth and haven’t had van payments since Neve learned to walk. That’s just a guess; I don’t really know when the van was paid off or when Neve learned to walk, but that just proves it’s been a while. Anyway, we’re back in the payment club now. But if being in that club means having a heated steering wheel, I’m in! Our van has all kinds of bells and whistles that are very exciting when we’re used to a passenger side window that can’t roll down, power locks that only work for locking (not unlocking), and a broken gas gauge. We had to rely on resetting the trip counter every time we filled the tank. We could never just put in $20 of gas because then we wouldn’t know when the tank was getting close to empty. The list of working things is much shorter than the list of non-working things, but the motor, sliding door, and remote starter all work perfectly. I actually don’t need much more than that, but we needed something more reliable for our upcoming trip. The children are delighted about the new van. Dale let Neve sit in the front passenger seat for a ride around the block, and she told me afterward, “I love the front! I could control everything! I have so little power in the backseat.”
 
Chloe is excited because she now has complete access to the old van, at least until we rid ourselves of it. A van obviously isn’t the coolest vehicle for a teenager to drive, but she doesn’t seem to mind that much. We told her she could keep it if she pays the insurance, but she decided not to. It’s just as well because parking three vehicles on our lot during the winter parking ban is a tricky business, but it would be easy to get used to.
 
 
 
Let’s take a moment to reflect on how well our old van has served us. We bought it almost exactly ten years ago. Neve was only a week or two old when we took her to the dealership and she slept in her little bucket seat while we made the deal. That van took us to the Black Hills, Toronto, Kansas City, Fernie, and both coasts of Canada. Your travelling days may be behind you, dear Silhouette, but your spirit lives on in the memories we hold dear. Okay fine, it’s a little melodramatic, but we tend to get attached to our vehicles.
 
Here’s hoping for a long, healthy relationship with our shiny new (to us) Town & Country. (And if you're in the market for a 2001 Silhouette that won't pass a safety inspection, have I got a deal for you.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Valentine's Day 2015



I started writing a blog post on the weekend and now suddenly it’s Wednesday. The week is zipping by too fast. I blame Louis Riel. Long weekends mess things up, but I love them. Especially this one since it was cold enough to talk myself out of doing anything outside.
Valentine’s Day was the highlight. My nieces Bailey, Tia, Bella and Lexie (it was her first year) all spent the night on Friday so we could wake up and have our annual chocolate cake breakfast the next morning. I love it so much that they make the effort to come every year, especially the one who squeezed it in between volunteering with youth and heading to two different jobs the next day. Luckily she didn’t have to start too early so we didn’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn, wolf down our cake and rush off to school or work like we usually do. Everyone could take their time to sugar up nicely.
Side story: I was humming a song while helping Lexie in the bathroom and she looked at me sourly and said, “I don’t like buttabiss.” I had to ask her to repeat that a few times before I realized I had been humming the song “All About the Bass.” Turns out she really hates that song. I do too but I guess it was stuck in my head and I was humming it subconsciously. Of course after that I kept singing it because hearing her call it “buttabiss” was so funny.


In the evening, Dale and I went out for dinner. Valentine’s Day + gift card = Homer’s. I’d always wanted to go there and was not disappointed. I felt like I was in Greece. At least until we felt the icy air when we opened the door. Maybe it gets cold in Greece too; I’ve never been there either.
Other things we did this weekend:
  • Went to the art gallery with Chloe and Spencer. The kids wanted to see the Salvador Dali exhibit. So did a lot of other people. We tagged along on a guided tour and found it pretty interesting. I’m embarrassed to say it was the kids’ first visit to the art gallery.
  • Bought a van. I will expand on that another day.
  • Went shopping with the girls. Neve turns ten in four days and I’m lamenting the passing of her childhood. Overall, I’m grateful that my children are growing older because it means they are alive and healthy and progressing to the point where I don’t have to do their laundry or help with homework. But every time the littlest one has a birthday, those baby years drift that much further to the land of distant memories. I know we baby Neve a thousand times more than we did the other kids at her age; when Chloe was her age, she was basically raising her two younger siblings on her own. I guess that’s how it goes. Anyway, due to her upcoming birthday and the realization that she won’t want little fancy party dresses forever, the girls and I went shopping for a new dress for Neve. We went to a lot of stores; she did more comparison shopping than we did for the van. In the end, she chose one from Sears, and once we finally tracked down the lone employee on duty – in the garden tractor department – we were on our way.
I thought I had more to say but if I don’t post this now, it will be outdated by the time I remember. Things are getting a little crazy around here. Spencer had to dress up like a character from the book The Outsiders today and bring a relevant snack. Next, he has to make an Egyptian mask. Chloe had science fair today (except they call it something else). She had three partners but somehow she ended up being responsible for a large part of it. I believe the devil delights in group projects. Neve has to dress like a storybook character next week and go to gymnastic competitions every other weekend, and of course turn ten in four days. I'll try to do small little one-topic blog updates to keep on top of things.

Me and my valentine

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Spelling night in Canada

The picture is fuzzy because even after taking a photography class from a reputable school, I still suck at taking pictures. Getting out of my seat and moving closer to the stage wouldn’t have hurt, but I guess I thought my course would teach me how to take stunning photos while staying seated in my comfort zone. I should ask for my money back.
 
I’m not a huge fan of boasting about my children online. I don’t want to come across sounding like my children are better than anyone else’s (although of course as their mother, I do have some biases) because nobody likes that person. Every child has strengths and weaknesses and different skills and talents. I found out recently that spelling is one of Spencer’s strengths. I did not see that coming. I would have voted him the least likely of my kids to win a spelling contest. But somehow he won one of the titles of class champ (there were two from each class) and moved on to the Grade 5 to 8 school spelling bee.
 
The school spelling bee is a big deal. They choose a theme every year; this year’s was Hockey Night in Canada, and go all out. All the participants had to wear hockey jerseys and have a hockey stick, which was worrisome for this non-hockey family. Through a magical coincidence, my sister scored Spencer an awesome Oilers Gretzy jersey.  We searched our property until we eventually found a hockey stick in the corner of our garage and Dale taught Spencer how to hold it properly. Fake it til you make it! Anyway, long story short, it was pretty impressive with the ref, announcers, and official looking logos and player pictures on the screen. If I may be a Negative Nelly for just one second, there was only one thing I would have changed. When a speller spelled a word incorrectly, they played the song “Another One Bites the Dust” and a clip was shown on the screen showing bad hits and falls and other hockey screw-ups that always caused laughter (because nothing is as funny as someone getting a concussion). So it always seemed like people were laughing at the child who trudged defeatedly off the stage. I guess they kids are old enough that it wouldn’t be too devastating, and hopefully they all figured out the reason for the laughter eventually. Spencer performed respectably and lost in the third round (there were 26 to start with and maybe 10 left after him). He misspelled “millennium.” He was only mildly disappointed though; he achieved his main goal of making it to the spelling bee and the rest was just icing on the cake.
 
That’s the most exciting thing that happened around here this week. I'm still craving sweets. Someone gave me a jar with cookie ingredients for Christmas - the kind where you just have to add butter and eggs. I made them this week and they were very delicious. Somehow, I have no recollection whatsoever of who I received this from. The tag called them Butter Pecan Delights, which normally I wouldn't be drawn to since it doesn't contain the word chocolate. But they were a big hit and I'd make them again if I had the recipe. So if you are the person who gave me that lovely gift, let me know. I would have thought lots of happy thoughts about you if only I remembered who you were. 
 
Neve was sick with a cold and missed one and a half days of school. She loves school and was in a sour mood after her first afternoon back because of all the things she had missed out on. And I was in a sour mood after listening to her talk endlessly about all the things she had missed out on. There’s a limit to how long I can pretend to care about who sits where in the new seating arrangement.
 
Here's some bonus spelling bee footage. (I held my breath when he asked if he could start over.) Okay, now I'll stop with the child-bragging.

 
 


Tuesday, February 03, 2015

It's February ...

We somehow sailed through January, my least favourite month,  and it’s now Groundhog Day. At least it was when I started writing this. We got mixed messages from the groundhogs this year so I’m not sure what to think. It’s such an unintelligent tradition – I know Groundhog Day is just for fun but if aliens are observing Earthlings, they’ll think we’re all idiots. I’m not sure why I care what aliens think of us, but maybe the world would be a better place if we all did. WWAT. I think that could catch on.

I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately for no good reason. I find my evenings have been less busy since Christmas. The children are still busy with their activities, but between carpooling and Chloe driving herself – and often the other kids – around, it’s very manageable. There are busier times coming – gymnastics competitions, birthdays, a wedding, work-related photo shoots and events, and preparing to go on a spring break holiday, but there are lots of free days too. So I’m not sure why I feel so anxious. I can hardly focus on the few things I have to do now because I’m stressed about things coming up in the future. It doesn’t make sense, especially because I like being busy (within reason). I guess I’ll just blame it on winter or a vitamin deficiency or hormonal imbalance. I do a workout video most days but my lack of outdoor exercise may also be to blame.

Two things I’ve been consumed with lately:
  • I just finished reading the book Darla gave me for my birthday called A House in the Sky. It’s about a woman from Alberta who was kidnapped and held for ransom in Somalia for 15 months. It’s an incredible, well-written story that totally captivated me. I couldn’t put it down all weekend and I still can’t stop thinking about it. You should read it and then we can all discuss it. Except now I’ve played it up too much and you’ll be disappointed. No, you won’t.

  • Carbs. I am hungry and think about food all day long. Between my unexplained anxiety and my cravings, you’d think I was pregnant. You would be wrong. Maybe I have a tape worm. I’d google my symptoms, but that’s never a good idea. I try to eat carrots and fruit and nuts, but what I really want are warm fudgy brownies and flaky croissants and cinnamon buns dripping with cream cheese icing. I make cookies or brownies almost every day.  I eat huge handfuls of chocolate chips. I discovered our IKEA now carries the rolls of chocolates that we used to buy when we lived in Toronto. I hide them from the children and sneak them when no one’s looking.
So that’s what’s going on over here. If you have leftover Christmas chocolate, you know where to send it.