Sunday, June 28, 2015

Au revoir, Chloe!

We drove Chloe to the airport this morning and sent her off to Quebec for a month. We are somewhat used to her being away, but five weeks is a long time. We had breakfast at Stella's in the airport after checking in, but service was slow and then suddenly we saw there was a super-long line to get through security. None of us except Spencer were that hungry in the first place since we all had little knots in our stomachs, but we wolfed down our breakfast and after a quick photo and hugs, Chloe rushed over to get in line. Ten minutes later, she texted that she was already seated in the plane. The plane left the gate 11 minutes early, so we cut it pretty close. It was Dale's worst nightmare, but it all worked out in the end.

The four of us that were left behind headed north for a little drive instead of going home to a Chloe-less house. I've always been curious about St. Ambroise Beach, so we went for a little picnic on the beach even though no one except Spencer was hungry yet. It was an interesting place in the middle of nowhere. There were only two other cars when we got there, but soon more people came. I wouldn't call the beach beautiful, but it's very natural and un-commercial, which was nice. Although if there had been a Starbucks nearby, I probably would've bought a frappucino. The line between natural beauty and luxury is a little blurry. But if you're looking for a place to have a private midnight bonfire on the beach or illegal activities that require a lake, this is your spot.

Without Chloe around, the scales tip in the favour of the non-beach-loving family members (sigh … it's going to be a bad summer), so we only stayed for about two hours before heading home. But luckily, Rob & Gab invited us to their pool that is loved by all of us. Jim and Sabrina were there too, which makes three days in a row of seeing their little munchkins. I'll have withdrawals tomorrow. It felt like summer vacation, swimming and eating and drinking and talking and laughing. It seems weird that there's school tomorrow. But it's only June so we have a whole long summer ahead!! Bring it on!

Look at those muscular dads. Not sure why Jim is hiding underwater.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Last weekend

I'm slowly catching up on life, starting with the blog. You may have noticed the new design … it's a work in progress, but it's something different to look at for now. I think I always say that and then it ends up being three years before I change it again. I've made the photos and font larger; please let me know if it looks funny in your browser.

Anyway, here are some pictures from Bob & Jan's cottage last weekend. The weather forecast wasn't great, so it was an unexpected treat to have such nice weather. My parents were there as well, but the rest of the family couldn't make it. 

Some people tried surfing. Some were more successful than others. And some "forgot" to put their swimsuit on and couldn't try.

Chloe wasn't able to stay up but she's smiling anyway!

Other activities included badminton and water balloon tosses.

I love this one … Mom looks like a star quarterback determined to catch the winning field goal.

and big sweaty hugs

and card games

and catching minnows

and celebrating my nieces' new VW bug with a car-shaped collage of fudge, Oreos and Livewires. (Despite appearances, Spencer has no share in the car)

And then there was tubing. I took … let's just say a lot ... of tubing pictures. Here are but a few.

In my old age, I've discovered that tube rides with Neve are the way to go. She's on the cautious side so Bob is gentle with her.

And this last picture sums up the way Dale, the kids and I feel about my sister's cottage. (actually I thought Spencer was giving a thumbs-up until I looked more closely, but whatever - he looks happy)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

June Update

I took way too many pictures last weekend at the lake and haven’t had a chance to go through them yet. I still struggle with digital photography. Sometimes I miss the days of dropping off film and picking up the envelope with your 24 or 36 pictures (and a couple extra if you were lucky). Now I take that many pictures in a minute and am drowning in digital images that I don’t know how to manage or store safely. But that’s a post for another day. And apparently so are the lake pictures.

There is always a lot going on this time of year. I finally finished my big annual work project; it is being printed as we speak. I’m relieved it’s done but I always worry I will find a huge mistake when it comes back from the printers. So that burden is never fully lifted off me, which is awesome.   

Chloe finished her last exam over a week ago so she’s living the dream. Or dreaming the life. She sleeps til noon and bakes squares in the afternoon. She’s also been babysitting and getting ready to go to Quebec, where she’s doing a month-long French immersion program. I wouldn’t say she’s super excited about it, but she doesn’t seem nervous about it either. After her Churchill and youth trips, she’s used to being away from home but this will be the longest stretch yet. It’s been nice having her off early; she’s been helping out with cleaning and driving and we’ve done a couple of things together like going to Olive Garden for lunch (she’d never been), shopping, and eating Bronuts (a trendy new doughnut place) in Old Market Square.

Spencer’s last day of school is today. His last day of classes was actually Tuesday, but today they have a “fun” day at the park. He was off yesterday and I had good intentions of doing something fun with him and Chloe but I had a very work-heavy day and barely left my desk. He didn’t seem to mind. He is a home-body who is very happy to spend his day on a perpetual cycle of listening to his Bob Dylan records, playing Minecraft and playing piano. Sometimes he’ll mix things up with an episode of The Simpsons or reading some pages of a U2 biography. Fresh air and social interaction are the weak spots in his day. There are some fresh air prospects though: he’s got a lawn-mowing job for a neighbour today after school that could potentially turn into a regular gig, and he wants to go help my parents on their yard. Not out of the goodness of his heart unfortunately; he wants to earn money for a drum set. That’s also a post for another day.

And Neve is buzzing about, excited about all the June activities. She loves school, she loves her teachers, she loves her classmates. She said the other day that she wished school wouldn’t stop for summer, but I think that is because of her anxiety issues. She always gets stressed at the end of summer about the new school year; she would just prefer to stay in a routine all the time. This week she started training to be a patrol/crossing guard for the fall. This has been her dream for years and I believe it is fully living up to her high expectations. Her school doesn’t end until June 30 and since they’ve already received their report cards, there is nothing but fun ahead. Oh, and Family Life. This is the health unit about their changing bodies, which is something their shy male teacher has left until the very end of the year. No doubt he was hoping for a heatwave or a burst water pipe or a natural disaster that would have closed school early and saved him from teaching this unit. No such luck; maybe next year.
I’m always kind of sad when the school year comes to an end. I guess I kind of like routines as well. Chloe will be in her last year of high school this fall which I don’t even want to think about. Spencer will switch schools in fall so there are definitely some sad feelings about leaving LCS and friends that’s he been with since kindergarten. But he’s also excited about the new options ahead and being at the same school as his sister. I’m excited about no tuition fees and an extra half hour of sleep every morning instead of driving him to school. The children grow up and life goes on (if you’re lucky) and there’s nothing you can do about it. May as well relax and make the best of it! (constant pep talk to myself …)

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day at the lake

For the first time in many years, none of us participated in the Manitoba Marathon. We just weren't feeling it this year, so we didn't sign up for anything. Which was perfect, because my sister invited us to their cottage for the weekend. I gotta say, it was a lot more fun than running (shout-out to my neighbour-friend Karen who ran the full marathon for the second time!!).  

I'll post some more pics another day, but I just wanted to spread some Father's Day love … first to Dale, who I can't imagine not raising my kids with (most awkward wording ever). He would do anything for the kids and they love him to pieces.


Then to my dad, who has been a solid support in so many ways for all of my 45 years. He makes life fun  for the whole family, especially the grandchildren. 

And I also need to recognize this dad - my brother-in-law Bob - for cheerfully pulling my kids on tubes and skis and surfboards for hours on end every summer! 

It was such a great weekend with (part of) my family - I'm feeling very lucky and thankful tonight. Happy Father's Day to all the other awesome dads out there.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Red River Ex-cursion 2015

After missing a year, we got back on track with our annual Red River Ex tradition last night. The crowds were smaller than we’ve ever seen them before (due to the cooler weather?  A Tuesday night?), which meant no line-ups for rides (except Crazy Mouse – for reasons I can’t quite figure out, that ride always has long line-ups). The biggest surprise of the day was Chloe and Spencer coming out of their ride shells and saying yes to all kinds of craziness. They’ve always been cautious when it comes to scary rides, especially Chloe. In the past, we couldn’t even convince her to come on the ship or the Polar Express. But this year, not only did she do both of those rides, she also did Crazy Mouse and the Starship … and the Mega Drop! Tia and I did the Mega Drop first and then Dale and Chloe joined us the second time (in case my wording was too vague, let me clarify: yes, I did it TWICE. When you’re 45 you have to seize the opportunity to boast about things that make you seem young and adventurous). It took a while longer for Spencer to work up his nerve, so he and Dale did it a little later. It makes me happy that the kids are getting more into rides. Next year … the slingshot?! Neve still has a ways to go, but she’ll get there. The workers at the rides often didn’t take our tickets, so we ended up with way more rides than we paid for. I realized later that Spencer kept his ticket in his pocket and never held it out when he boarded a ride. Most ride attendants didn’t bother asking for it, so he averaged about five rides per ticket. The Ex is not known for its bargains, so that was a bonus. Except at the end we had lots of tickets left and of course we had to use every one before we could finally go home.
Besides the rides, we watched a Sinbad/high dive show. I believe there was some sort of story line because the divers were wearing costumes and had swords but the diving distracted me from any plot there may have been. It was actually pretty cool (literally – they must have been freezing) because they jumped from crazy heights and did all kinds of diving tricks. The divers came out afterward for a meet and greet, where we just stood and stared awkwardly at each other except when one of them pretended to steal my phone with his wet hands. Thankfully I had the foresight to put my phone in a plastic baggie. That actually also came in handy when my water bottle started leaking – pouring, actually – into my bag right when we arrived at the Ex. My bag was so wet that it had to be wrung out. Carrying a wet bag next to my skin for five hours did not make me warmer. And then we went on Niagara Falls and got even wetter. But the temperature really wasn’t too bad until later in the evening when we all wished we were wearing another layer. The people-watching wasn’t quite as interesting this year because the cooler weather made everyone cover up more than usual (or in some cases, put half of their sweater on in a skanky way. Too bad I didn't get a picture). Oh well, less skin showing is a good thing at the Ex.
New this year: my sister joined us for the first time. She hadn’t been to the Ex for over 20 years so that was fun. Unfortunately she’s had some back issues recently and any jolting or jarring rides were not recommended. Although maybe they would have jolted her vertebrae back into place. I’m pretty sure it works like that. She came on the big ferris wheel but they wouldn’t let all eight of us ride together in one car so I don’t have a picture. My niece Bailey’s boyfriend also came for a bit, so it was nice to have some new blood. Not that there’s anything wrong with the old blood.
Here's my annual picture of the slide guy (I don't actually know if it's always the same one, but he looks familiar). He is super vigilant about not letting anyone under a certain height ride without an adult. Yet again, Neve was not yet tall enough but he showed some flexibility by allowing her to ride with Tia instead of a parent.

Chloe all proud of herself for going on the Mega Drop

This is in the farm section. It's not like I don't know where chicken comes from but it seems cruel to point that out so blatantly (the picture isn't very clear but those are cute fluffy baby chicks in there). Apparently Neve is craving chicken fingers. 

"Do you wanna go faster?!"

Seriously, where are you going to put a giant Homer Simpson in an astronaut suit??
And here's all of  us, except Dale who took the picture (even though it looks like I'm taking a selfie). I didn't bring my good camera this year, so these are questionable cell phone pics. If you want better pictures, just look at past years (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013) because I take the same pictures every year.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Big sigh of relief

What better way to start a blog post than with a cute puppy? Meet Izzy, our neighbours' newest family member. She is so cute and curious and entertaining to watch.
She loves our sandbox

And our flowers ... real or metal, it doesn't matter. They're all delicious.

I took a bunch of pictures but Izzy was not interested in sitting still and posing for the camera, so most of them were blurry.  Neve has been over there a lot this last week; it's pretty exciting.

For the last couple of weeks, I've been consumed by a work project that I do every year around this time. By the amount of time I spend on it, you'd think I'd be producing another book of the Bible or curing cancer, but no. It's merely a directory of  all our member organizations. It sounds like it should take a lot less time than it does but no matter how prepared I try to be, it always involves a stretch of long hours and late nights. I barely left my desk all week and Dale took care of everything involving the children and the house. I finished the majority of it this weekend although there will be minor (I hope) changes after the proofing process, I feel like I'm slowly floating back up to the surface of life. So deep for a Sunday evening.

One of the few times I left the house this week was for Neve's school carnival. It's always a good time and the weather was perfect this year. Neve had such a blast. Her and her friends decorated a Cozy Coupe for the bike/anything-with-wheels parade.

And lots of time was spent in the foam pit. This was a new thing this year and it was a huge hit. It was kind of gross if you thought about it too much, but I secretly wanted to try it. There were also hamster balls this year, which is the latest craze (bubble soccer, anyone?)

We also went to the Jazz Festival last night at Old Market Square. The music was meh but the food stands were amazing. We had just eaten dinner at home, but suddenly we were all starving. So we had butter chicken, pizza and a round of crepes. It was awesome. Equally awesome was watching a caterpillar climb up the back and neck of the guy sitting in front of us. He was physically all over his date in a super annoying way so we didn't tell him about the caterpillar. We enjoyed that a lot.

Now that the height of my busyness has passed, I'm hoping to get on here a little more often. I know, I've said that before. My intentions are pure.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Another sad blog post

A week ago today, a boy was stabbed to death at Chloe’s high school during lunch hour. Today is his funeral. I promise this blog won’t become The Blog of Sadness and Grief, but I felt like I should mention this boy. Brett Bourne was Chloe’s age and used to go to Kelvin until last year. (Chloe knew who he was, but didn’t know him personally.) I cut out his obituary from the Free Press and put it on my fridge.  There are so many rumours floating around that it’s impossible to know what really happened. All I know for sure is that Brett is dead and another teenage boy has been charged with second degree murder. It’s such a sad, tragic situation for all involved and my heart breaks for his family and friends, especially his mother. Whatever path his life was on right now, he was once a sweet little boy who loved trains and he didn’t deserve to bleed to death on a school yard in front of his peers. Read his obituary here.

I know nothing except rumours about the accused, but he was also someone’s innocent little boy. I can’t imagine what his family is going through right now. It's just all such a nightmare.

Chloe was in a lunch hour math review class when the school went into lockdown. There was no teacher in the class at the time, which made it a little traumatic.* Just before the lockdown started, one of her friends came into the class all freaked out because she’d seen part of the fight and called 911. So at least they knew what the situation was and didn’t have to worry that they were in danger. When the lockdown was lifted, Chloe had to go straight to the gym to write her provincial English exam. Never mind sending the children home after being at school during the first Winnipeg high school murder in 27 years. Let’s make them write an exam! But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, kids are strange, amazing creatures. If people around them – i.e., the teachers – are acting like things are normal, the kids just trust that things are okay and carry on. That’s probably not the greatest way to deal with things long-term, but sometimes you just have to focus on the present. Obviously some kids are having a tougher time coming to terms with it than others, but it’s a tough ending to the school year for everyone.

So today I’m thinking of Brett's family as they bury their boy. I'm praying that they will have peace and comfort and faith that they’ll see him again one day.

*I’d like to point out that despite the tense and uncertain situation, Chloe made no attempt to call her mother. I didn’t even know about the situation until Chloe got home from school at 3:45. (She’s very practical: she said she had to write her exam and then she thought it would just make more sense to tell me in person when she got home.)

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Reflections of a year without Joan

One year ago today, my sister in-law Joan took her last breath. Even though a year has passed, I still find myself thinking more of her last rough month or two rather than her 58 healthy years. I would have thought that by now the memories of her being sick would have faded and I’d only remember her as her usual healthy vibrant self. But maybe seeing her in the hospital was such a stark contrast to the way I’d always known her that it affected me more than I realized.

But when I do look beyond that, I miss the extra spark of energy that she added to any family get-together. You always knew when she had arrived. I miss her stories and her laughter and her talking proudly (also known as bragging, but ‘talking proudly’ sound nicer) about her kids and grandchildren. I wish she could have held her new granddaughter and been here to see her younger son start building his house. I wish she could be working in her garden and planning motorcycle trips. Even though I don’t understand how it all works, I know she’s now in a place where there’s nothing but happiness so we don’t need to feel sorry for her that she’s missing out on anything. We can feel sorry for ourselves but it doesn’t help much.

I hope Joan's first year in heaven has been amazing. I can only imagine all the laughing and partying she's been doing with her friends and family who have gone before her. I guess it’s their turn to hear her laughter again.

I'll end with
the words that Spencer shared at Joan’s funeral.
My Auntie Joan was one of those few people that everyone loves.  And not just because she often brought giant tubs of gummy bears to family events. She had a great sense of humour and laughed a lot.  I have happy memories of sitting around the fire pit at Grandma & Grandpa’s and hearing her laugh and laugh at Jordan’s crazy stories and jokes.  She made us all feel special.
The other nieces and nephews probably feel the same way I do, but Auntie Joan made ME feel like her favourite.  She laughed at my jokes and always humoured me. I would wear ridiculous T-shirts and she would always laugh, even when she was in the hospital.  Auntie Joan was the queen of laughter.
She gave the best gifts and musical cards.  Whenever we received cards from her, you wondered what song would spill out when you opened it.  We savour all the cards and my smaller sister Neve always makes up adorable dances to go along with the music.  She plays with them until the battery dies, but she’s trying to save the card she got this year because she knows there won’t be any more from Auntie Joan.
Uncle Greg and I like to bug each other.  My Auntie Joan would always take my side.  She was the one urging me to get him back.  I have lost my ally.
I love you Auntie Joan, and will never forget you.