Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Baby / Caddy / Moon

As you probably deduced from the title, this shall be a post of randomness beginning with a little deer that greeted me as I opened the front door the other morning. It was cute and all, but he/she has been eating my hosta and I resent that. Nor do I appreciate the hoof holes it makes in my mulched area under the trees. The deer around here are getting as pesky as the squirrels.

Speaking of little creatures, we took care of a friend's tiny baby on the weekend. Chloe was in her glory. That baby spent hours in Chloe's arms.

And about 30 seconds in Neve's. Neve prefers being the baby around here but she warmed up to her eventually.

It was impossible not too; the baby was so sweet and content and only cried when necessary. She woke up several times during the night to eat and then fell back to sleep. But then she'd wake up in between feedings too; I think she was so used to being held during the day that she thought it should extend into the night. I'd forgotten how exhausting it is to have an interrupted night. It doesn't help that I'm ten years older than I was the last time I had a newborn. But it was only one night and it was Worth It. Next time she's sleeping in Chloe's room.

We still do the half-birthday thing around here. I know, it's kind of ridiculous but all we do is let the kids pick what they want for dinner. To mark Chloe's 17.5 year mark, she chose portobello mushroom burgers with a chick pea sauce and yam fries. It was SO good. The recipe was from the Looneyspoons Collection cookbook which is the best cookbook ever (not counting the Mennonite Treasury). There are pictures of every dish and literally everything we've tried is delicious. I should have asked them to sponsor this post. For dessert I made Nutella brownies which were pretty awesome as well. I didn't get a chance to take a picture of those because we wolfed them down so fast.

We went to my parents' on Sunday. It was the perfect opportunity to watch the lunar eclipse since we can barely ever see the moon from our yard. Who planted all those trees anyway?

I think I take a picture of this every year

I believe I've mentioned my brother's beloved Cadillac before. He painstakingly restored it in a labour of love that lasted longer than a lot of marriages. In fact, it's impressive that his marriage outlasted it. Let me just say that Sabrina is a hero and an icon of patience and understanding. But the finished product is pretty sweet. The work that's gone into it and the attention to every perfect little detail has paid off - probably not financially, but definitely in pride and satisfaction. See how happy Jimmy looks!
Piling in for a ride in the Caddy

The caddy by the bins

The Caddy from a different angle

Riding in the Caddy

The Caddy at sunset

Then the moon rose.

And started eclipsing...


I really like the moon even when it's not doing something fancy. I find it mysterious and intriguing, imagining what goes on up there with the craters and the mountains and the US flag and Neil Armstrong's footprints. So I was pretty captivated by the lunar eclipse. I even made Dale stop the van on the way home so I could take more pictures on the side of the 75 hwy. I'm sure I will never look back on those pictures so it was probably pointless in the long run, but I sure do love that moon.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Every day ... ?

This perfectly sums up my life these days.

The mornings are dark and cool, all the responsibilities and pressure of work and school and life are in full swing and my bed is so cozy and warm. It's a struggle every morning. EVERY single morning. I would like to put periods after each of those words to show how emphatic I am, but I'm not into that kind of punctuation. So just believe me when I say I am not a morning person at the best of times and at this time of year, it's off the charts. I hate fall. I hate September. I hate October (sorry, Maddie Forbes). Don't even get me started on November.

Hopefully you haven't come to my blog looking for positivity and cheer today. If that's exactly what you came here for, click here or here.

No hugs here. Just lots of whining about how I wish it was summer. I just can't let go.

Neve has been on edge lately. Her moods are volatile and she's cranky and argumentative and relentless. You can actually see the dark cloud above her head. Maybe that's just dust; my house is a mess. Or a swarm of bees. If I was a bee, I'd attack her. Well actually I'd be kind of scared; she is a force to be reckoned with these days. We all try to avoid her as much as possible. Dale and I argue about who has to tuck her in at night. This probably doesn't help her mood. (Have you seen this? I find 90% of viral videos are stupid but I love this girl so much!). I attribute Neve's dark mood to anxiety about her school work. She puts pressure on herself that her work must be perfect and she greatly overthinks things. I'm all for doing your best and all that but sometimes if your best causes too much stress and takes too long, just do a mediocre job and it will still be pretty good. And your mother will not have gone insane. Oh well, I guess it's my cross to bear right now. My goal is to sit down with her and give her 20 minutes of my undivided attention every day so she can talk out her crazies. That doesn't sound unreasonable, but 20 minutes is a huge commodity these days and being patient and understanding and attentive are not things that come easy to me. Maybe I'll start with two minutes.

School seems to be moving along okay. Spencer was unhappy with some of his second semester electives, but was warned that they are difficult to change. He wrote a letter to the vice principal with persuasive arguments including "my gifts will be wasted in Electronics class" and it appears to have worked. They let him change both electives and one of the new classes was his top choice. Sometimes you just have to ask. Or beg.

I've been wanting to freshen up our bedroom with a new coat of paint for quite some time. I was suddenly inspired by Rob & Gab painting their entire house, and Jim & Sabrina painting their living room (3 times before they were happy with the paint colour!) and having it all back to normal in one weekend. Our bedroom is not big, so I gathered my energy and my supplies and tackled it on the weekend. I haven't painted for a while and I'd forgotten how long all the patching and sanding and priming takes. We painted the ceiling because it had been done badly the last time and had bugged me for years. It's still not perfect and there are some unexplained streaks that still bother me. I may try to fix it but sometimes that makes it worse.

One wall in our room is plaster and was covered with wallpaper when we moved in. I eventually stripped it off and realized the wallpaper was there for a reason. I tried to smooth out the bumps and gouges and painted over it, but I've never been happy with it. When the light shines on it a certain way, it looks like the surface of the moon. So I decided to cover it with a paintable wall liner. It goes on like wallpaper and since we'd done one little wall in our dining room, I thought we were pros. We're not. The paper wasn't pre-pasted like our dining room wall, so we had to apply paste to the back. Working with that made everything sticky and messy. We got two strips up before we ran out of paste. The seams did not match up well. I have to go buy more paste, finish covering the wall, then prime and paint. It's a good lesson that some things are worth paying people for.

Besides working on that, the weekend ahead looks promising. Tonight's dinner is cooking in my crockpot as we speak (yay me for staggering out of bed at 6:40 this morning to get that going), the weather is supposed to be warm and sunny, and obligations and plans are at a minimum. I may even have a day off from getting out of bed. Now if only someone would offer to take Neve for the weekend ... just kidding (sort of) - we are actually very fond of her, and I'm sure she's looking forward to the end of this phase as much as we are.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Settling in

Comparison Week seems to have gone off the rails. It was weak at the best of times, so we’ll just let it lie.

We’re settling into the fall routine and I’m remembering all the things I dislike about non-summer. Early mornings, forms, cheques, busy evenings, not to mention cooler weather. Sigh. Even the novelty of having the house to myself has worn off. It’s definitely easier to concentrate on work, but the days are long and quiet. Sometimes I consider going into the office more instead of working from home, but the advantages of being at home by myself still far outweigh the disadvantages.

But it was a great weekend. The weather was warm and sunny and beautiful. There was a big festival called Manyfest on Broadway this weekend, so the kids and I biked down there on Saturday to walk around and get some food-truck food.
Found ourselves a quiet spot away from the crowds to eat our Red Ember pizzas.
The girls biked home after that and Spencer and I continued on to the Exchange. We went to a few record stores and Red River Books, which has got to be one of the most crazy/awesome stores in this city. There is shelf after caving shelf of books, magazines, movies, music and random objects including toys, weird clothes and vintage suitcases. Some bookcases are held up by boards. It's a wonder no one has been crushed to death by a falling bookcase. Or maybe they have; it's so chaotic in there that it could take years for anyone to notice. I remember coming here with Spencer a few years ago when he was at the height of his germ phobia. He kept his hands in his pocket the entire time and couldn't wait to leave. Now he not only touches the books and records, he actually buys them. People do change. Next thing you know, he'll be eating strawberries (after washing his hands).
On Sunday night we went back again with a bunch of friends and family to watch “Inside Out” on a big outdoor screen. We had food and blankets and were all having fun waiting for it to get dark enough for the movie. Alas, it was windy and the inflatable screen was apparently designed to work only in perfectly calm situations, so it fell over while they were inflating it. After that one attempt, one of the workers told the large expectant crowd (unapologetically, I thought, and without even a microphone), “Sorry. The screen’s not going to stay up so we can’t show the movie. Thank you for coming to Manyfest.” Then the crowd nicely dispersed in a calm, orderly manner.
Winnipeggers are awesome.


Then it was Monday again.
Neve struggled through the first couple of days of school coming to terms with the fact her best friend isn’t there anymore. She was also stressed about having homework (mostly reading). But when she came home yesterday, she said it had been the best day yet. She loves her school and has other good friends to play with, so I know she’ll be fine.

Spencer is still adjusting to high school. He has never loved school and this year is no exception so far. It’s a big school; intimidating and overwhelming for someone who’s gone to the same familiar school all his life. He’s known most of his friends since kindergarten but here he’s on his own. I keep giving him instructions on how to strike up a conversation and make friends but he does not welcome my advice. I have so much wisdom to impart, but I’ve narrowed it down to: “Put your head up. Smile sometimes.” That’s all I can get in before he runs away from me. I’m thinking of recording the rest of my advice, including such gems as “Ask a classmate if they understood the homework!”, and playing it as he sleeps so it will subconsciously penetrate his brain. That’s one of my better ideas; I could add things like “Hug your mother” and “Don’t forget to turn on the dehumidifier in the basement when you’re done watching TV.” But I feel confident that Spencer will get more comfortable in his surroundings and make a friend or two in the near future. He’s interested in a few extra-curricular activities, so that should help him get to know like-minded kids.
Chloe is an old pro at high school by now. Most of her classes are with the same IB group of kids, so it’s like a little school-within-a-school. She’s got a pretty heavy workload this year and has commitments every weekday evening so it’s going to be intense. One of those commitments is … a job! Baby’s first job (not counting babysitting)! She will be teaching swimming lessons two nights a week starting in October. We’re all pretty excited about that; it’s just the right number of hours and it’s close to home.

Dale and I are starting to think about next month’s trip to Vietnam. We’re not actually doing anything yet, but we’re thinking about what we should be doing. That’s the first step. Knowing that we have tropical-climate days ahead helps me deal with the cooler September temperatures.
So that’s what’s going on over here. Hope you’re all transitioning smoothly into your September routines.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Comparison Week - window boxes

Oops, I forgot to post yesterday. Hopefully no one cried themselves to sleep.

One of my window boxes last year:

My window box this year:

In spite of the quality of the photo, the window box looks fuller and lusher (?) in the photo than it is in real. The plants look sad and scraggly. My plan to have only white flowers in the boxes was a bust. My white geraniums did not perform nor did the bacopa or anything else except the green fillers. My mom saved some of my sister-in-law Joan's plants over the winter and those did the best. They're the hanging ones on the left. 

Looks like I'll be reintroducing colour next year.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Comparison Week - Road trip maps

I saw these maps laying around the other day decided to include it in Comparison Week. And to think that I said this week wouldn’t be as exciting as Shark Week! You must be pleasantly surprised for this is riveting.

Whenever we go on a road trip, I print out a map of North America will all the states and provinces outlined. Then we keep our eyes peeled for license plates and colour in the corresponding state or province. Dale and the children greatly enjoy this and it becomes a bit of an obsession. When Spencer spotted a Costa Rica license plate on a freeway in Miami, you’d think we had successfully negotiated world peace based on our joyous exclamations. Unfortunately, Costa Rica doesn’t appear on my map but it has won a place as the greatest triumph of our license plate game.
This was from our spring break trip to Florida. We saw every state in mainland USA except New Mexico and Rhode Island. 
This is from our summer trip to Quebec. We were less successful, but we weren't gone as long or as far. Newfoundland and PEI remained elusive on both trips.

I bet you can only imagine what I will compare tomorrow.

That makes two of us.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Comparison Week - Another Brick in the Wall Day

Grade 12, Grade 5, Grade 9
We did the back-to-school shopping two weeks ago and I felt pretty organized. I was hoping for a relaxed low-key evening last night, but at 8:15 when Spencer tried to put his binder in his new backpack, he discovered it didn’t fit. So I had to zip out to exchange it, while Chloe baked cookies to bring to school for the grade 9 kids she’s mentoring. Then I noticed everyone’s school runners were dirty so I threw them into the washer while trying to find a bag Neve could use for her gym clothes and trying to finish up some of my own work in the meantime. But it all worked out in the end and we even fit in a family card game or two before herding the children to bed.
This morning, everyone was out the door by 8:30. Chloe got picked up by a friend, Spencer biked to school with a friend, and I walked Neve to school early since she was on patrol duty. It was strange; I just walked her to the corner and left. Usually I stay to visit with other parents, but it seemed odd to wait around while Neve was patrolling. Neve’s best school friend switched schools this year and the absence of her and her mother makes me sad. So it appears to be a different school year from day one. But it’s a good thing I headed straight home because I forgot I had a pan of muffins in the oven and the timer must have been ringing for some time.
This fall, both my niece and our next door neighbour girl left home to go to university in another city. I know I’ve got many more years of having children at home, but it’s given me a new appreciation for having my kids home with me and a good reminder to enjoy it while I can. There are many minutes when it’s very hard to enjoy everything, but I’m giving it my best shot. I can, however, enjoy them being at school all day. School is a blessing for the work-from-home parent. We had a good summer and now it’s time to move on. The kids are ready to get back into a routine and tackle new challenges. But I’ll be watching the clock this afternoon, waiting for them to get home. So I can hide the wine and chocolate and turn off Netflix. Haha, not really. Well, maybe just a little.
Today's comparison is, of course, school related. Here are my babies five years ago when they were entering grade 4, grade 7, and Kindergarten.

And this is today.

I'd just like to note that I bought Spencer new shoes, jeans, t-shirts, and a hoodie, none of which he chose to wear today. At least he's using his new backpack.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Comparison Week

This week is Comparison Week on the blog. Think of it as the less-exhilarating version of Shark Week. 

Today we compare the boundary between our yard and the neighbour's. 

This is what it looked like last fall:

A couple of weeks ago:


Dale and the neighbour whipped up this fence in just a few evenings (the posts were dug earlier). Our neighbour does construction for a living and had a bunch of supplies and tools on hand so it all went pretty smoothly. They just need to build the gate yet. The fence was a long time coming and I'm happy it's finally (almost) done. 


'Twas the day before school starts. We went to Bronuts with friends this morning and since then, we've been stumbling around regretting the things we didn't get to this summer and worrying that we're not making the most of the final hours. The kids don't really want to go back to school (why would they?! Sitting in class all day can't compete with sleeping and slurpees and watching Netflix) but no one seems overly stressed about it. Spencer is the only one starting a new school but he has become excellent at hiding his emotions so I think it's all good.

Prepare for a wave of pics of kids in backpacks standing by their front door on social media tomorrow. Mine included, of course.  

Sunday, September 06, 2015


I'm going to skip the usual whining about summer ending and just try to be mature and thankful for the great summer that it has been and continues to be. Remember #septemberisstillsummer. My moment of maturity will probably pass and then I'll complain bitterly so enjoy it while you can.

In the meantime, here is yet another batch of random summer pics.

This was at my parents' house the last week Dan was here. My dad had rented this equipment for trimming trees so Dan took the kids up in it. Because why wouldn't you? He took the giant-bubble-solution up with them and soon lovely bubbles were floating through the yard. After they came back down, the bubbles continued in the yard.

Since there was still bubble solution remaining, Dan also brought it to the park the afternoon before he went back to Vancouver. It sounds like we're obsessed with bubbles, but they really were pretty amazing. I took many many pictures, which I'm sure I will look back on some day and wonder why. Or maybe not. Maybe I'll wish I had taken more. At the park, there was a day care group who was so captivated with the bubbles that we had to put them away so they could listen to their leaders.

After our KFC lunch, we wandered around the English Gardens and had ice cream. It was a nice end to Dan's visit even though it's always sad to see him leave.

This past week was nice and hot, so I went to the Quarry on Wednesday with Karen and the kids. It was Sept. 2 and one of the hottest days of the summer. It's so hard to believe that was probably our last beach day of the season. Every year it's mind-blowing to think how quickly the weather can change. Oh right, I'm not going down that road! 

Friends of ours from church have invited a bunch of people over every Wednesday evening to swim in their pool and then watch The Amazing Race Canada. We have gone as often as we could and it's been one of the highlights of Neve's summer. Well, for all of us, but especially Neve. They have a gorgeous backyard and home and we feel so lucky that they've shared it with us. They are continuing to do this until Amazing Race ends in a few weeks so it's nice to have that piece of summer extend into the school year.

We're enjoying a very laid-back Labour Day weekend. Following the first Happy Hour in a month or so, Mike and Darla came for dinner on Friday night. It was fun to catch up and hear all about their summer adventure to the east coast (and make them listen to ours). And of course, to play Rook.

Saturday we had our sort-of annual (sometimes we skip a year) Labour Day girls/boys day. Chloe, Neve and I spent all afternoon shopping. We all got some new clothes, treated ourselves to pretzels and lattes and smoothies, and just generally shopped til we pretty much dropped. Then we came home to dump our bags and change our clothes and headed to Moxie's for dinner. We ended the day by coming home and watching a movie (Sister Act). Even though shopping isn't my favourite - never mind on a crowded crazy Saturday - my lack of specific goals helped a lot. There were some great sales and we ended up being very productive and had a lot of fun.

And yes, Chloe got her hair coloured on Friday. It's hard to see on the pictures, but it's a dark purply-red colour and she's very happy with it. Baby's first hair dye … welcome to the rest of your life.

Meanwhile, Dale and Spencer went to see the Greek exhibit at the art gallery, went to Five Guys for burgers, hung out at the bookstore, and went to see a movie. They seemed pretty happy at the end so I declare it all a rousing success.

The rest of the weekend will be spent relaxing and getting organized for the start of the s-word. I have mixed feelings about getting back into routine but since there's nothing I can do about it, I chose to embrace it. Ask me again on Wednesday.