Sunday, January 31, 2016

Day 11 - ETM

I'm mixing things up today with a child-free photo. Free of my children, at least. Dale and I went to the river trail at the Forks today with no children of our own. The times they are a-changing. Chloe is often busy with her own life and Spencer prefers to spend time on his own. Neve is still our regular sidekick, but she was at a birthday party this afternoon. So it was just Dale and I (and Bob, Janet, Tia, Jim, Sabrina, Bella & Lexie). It was a beautiful, mild day and the Forks was oozing with people. We really need to go more often... hopefully with the kids next time.

Day 10 - ETM

I've fallen behind. On Friday I was out and about all day and didn't get a chance to record a Precious Moment (remember these? My friend collected them back in the day and I was in awe of their whimsical cuteness). I was back on track Saturday but when I tried to post late last night, my computer was being glitchy and I gave up and went to bed. So pretend you're reading this yesterday.

Rob & Gabrielle invited us over for dinner on short notice, which worked out great since our entire January has been pretty much wide open. Jim & Sabrina came too and we had a really fun night. Rob, Jim and I hung out together pretty much every day of our childhood and I feel lucky that we all still like each other and that we live in close enough proximity to still get together (every day might be a bit much now). This is going totally off topic, but a friend at work directed me to this blog called Wait But Why, and this post called The Tail End. The author is 34 and based on his estimate of living to be 90, he provides visuals of how many times he has left to do certain things, like watching the Superbowl or swimming in the ocean or eating pizza. It's an interesting way of seeing things. Then he talk about relationships: 

"In high school, I sat around playing hearts with the same four guys about five days a week. In four years, we probably racked up 700 group hangouts. Now, scattered around the country with totally different lives and schedules, the five of us are in the same room at the same time probably 10 days each decade. The group is in its final 7%."

I can't explain it very well - you should check it out for yourself but one of the points he makes is this: 

"1) Living in the same place as the people you love matters. I probably have 10X the time left with the people who live in my city as I do with the people who live somewhere else."

Dale and I lived away from Winnipeg for five years and I loved it and wouldn't trade those experiences.  But I'm also very happy that we moved back home. To have my kids grow up around family is something I'll always be thankful for. I know that's not possible for everyone and I realize more and more it's something I shouldn't take for granted.

End of inspirational but slightly depressing concept/epiphany/revelation.

Anyway, we have many years worth of memories to laugh about and hopefully many more ahead, starting with Mexico 2017 (right?!). Rob & Gab's gorgeous new house is the perfect party house. The only thing that's missing is a pool, or so they say. I've only seen their backyard when it's been covered in snow so I'm holding out hope that they've been tricking us and there actually is a pool underneath. 

Doesn't this look like something out of a magazine?! A magazine with a low-budget photographer, but still. 

Everyone except us recently returned from Mexico. They were all tanned and relaxed so mine and Dale's pale skin and pinched, stressed faces stood out like dandelions in a rose bush or whatever the saying is. I don't think that's even a saying. 

I have several "moments" to share today:

One dessert, three forks… so manly! Real men don't care how it looks.

Three girls doing a poetry reading, accompanied by music and dancing. That's a lot of arts and culture all in one picture.

And this little girl slept right through the poetry/music/dance show and everything else. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Day 9 - ETM

After two Neve-free days, she's back! This time she's painting a blue morpho butterfly for a science project due tomorrow. She gets anxious about homework and usually finishes all her work far in advance without any reminders from me so I'm not sure what happened this time. Here she was at 9:45 p.m. tonight. Fortunately, her Type A perfection tendencies were much less pronounced than usual so she finished in record time with no meltdown. 

Oh man, how is this only Day 9?! Seriously?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Day 8 - ETM

Chloe was not in a photogenic mood today. Exam week is next week but she'll be gone to her cheer competition in Orlando so she 's writing some exams this week and some when she gets back. That means things are crazy right now with studying and end-of-semester papers due and extra cheer practices.

She brought a bunch of friends home for lunch today and I really wanted to take pictures of them for today's Moment but I also wanted to come across as the cool mom who would never do embarrassing things like that. It's a sacrifice, I tell you.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Day 7 - ETM

This is the best picture I've taken of Spencer in a while. He doesn't love having his picture taken and when he can't avoid it, he takes great effort not to smile. But I saw him walking up the sidewalk after doing his shoveling job today and ran to the side door with my camera and waited for him to appear around the corner. The element of surprise worked in my favour.
After very little snow in December, Spencer has been busy the last few weeks. It's not that we've had that much snow, but it comes in thin layers that each require shoveling. He's got two regular customers now and takes his job seriously. He usually heads out as soon as he gets home from school.   
Besides Spencer's uncharacteristically cheery smile, it hasn't been the greatest day. I woke up tired and sore and headache-y and have been in a sour mood all day. I feel blah and unmotivated and slightly overwhelmed by everything. Then I got a sad email from an acquaintance who was recently diagnosed with not one, not two, but three types of cancer within two months. He's not someone I'm very close to but he's one of the funniest people I know and I really like him.
I thought I was doing so well at not just surviving January, but in fact thriving! The weather's been super mild this week. I've been going to yoga five or six times a week as well as doing the occasional workout video and run. Maybe that's why I'm tired and grouchy. Or maybe I'd be even more tired and grumpy if I wasn't exercising. I'm off to a hot yoga class now so I'll see if I feel better or worse afterward.
I guess they can't all be good days. Oh, but Dale made me a lemon pie for me today which was pretty delicious. There's always some good even in the bad days. Look at me being all positive. I must have learned that in yoga.  Right, Siobhan? By the way, Siobhan is coming to Winnipeg and teaching a yoga class on Sunday, Feb. 7. You can check it out on her Facebook (I was trying to find the event link but I can't at the moment). You could probably comment if you're interested and I'll let her know. It's going to be a good time!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Day 6 - ETM

Neve has piano lesson on Mondays. Her teacher is none other than her kind, smart, hard-working, beautiful cousin Tia. Tia is an awesome teacher; I can't believe how much Neve has learned over the last year and a half. And she comes to our house! It's a pretty sweet set-up. We're especially grateful that Tia comes every week because she's in a very intense design/architecture program at university and if it wasn't for piano lessons, we'd never see her.

These daily moments seem to be mostly about Neve. While re-reading my 2008 "moments," I noticed that was the case back then too. She seems to dominate our home. Or maybe she's the one who's around most, so she's easiest to snap a photo of (bad grammar, I know).

I also noticed that I vowed never to do another "moments" series in winter. I guess I should have read that before starting this round. My life was a lot busier back then though, so it's less of a burden now.

I was struck by all the comments on each post too. We had ourselves a little community and almost everyone had their own blog that we all checked and commented on. Those were the days, before Facebook and Instagram and Twitter (Facebook may have already existed but it didn't take long to catch up on the lives of our 14 friends). Feel free to return to those simpler times and comment away - I'm not always great about acknowledging or replying to them but I love reading them.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Day 5 - ETM

We played a card game tonight called 6 Nimmt. It's a German game my sister got from one of their exchange students and it's pretty fun.

Neve is wearing her gymnastics bodysuit because she had a competition this afternoon. She just learned how to do a roundoff back handspring in the last week or two, so she was pretty happy to be able to perform it at her first competition of the year (besides their in-house one two weeks ago). She does gymnastics three times a week - which I think is a lot - but she loves her team and always looks forward to going. The competitions are by far her favourite part though, so today was a good day.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Day 4 - ETM

The kids share the job of emptying the dishwasher. Chloe does glass plates and cups, Spencer does most of the cutlery and Neve does non-glass dishes and some cutlery. Chloe's often not home so her part falls to the others, Neve does her part reluctantly after being reminded several times, and Spencer is usually on top of it right away.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Day 3 - ETM

Chloe will be a high school student for only about 4 more months. She had to go straight to work after school but I needed the van in the morning so I picked her up at lunch and she drove back to school for the afternoon. I tried to get a picture of her walking from the school to the van but I wasn't quick enough. And I was intimidated by the boys smoking on the front steps (why do they allow that at school??) watching me watch her. Why she's not wearing a coat on this cold blustery day I do not know.  But I cherish these last months of having two kids at the same school in our own neighbourhood. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Day 2 - ETM (Enjoy the moment)

This is a daily sight in our living room. Sometimes he mixes it up and sits on the other couch. He usually has several books on the go at any given time but at this moment, he was reading an Uncle John's Bathroom Reader.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Day 1 - Enjoy the moment

I’ve read a couple of sappy articles on Facebook recently by mothers lamenting their children growing up and becoming independent. Something like “if I’d know it would be the last time I washed my daughter’s hair, I would have massaged her head longer “and “I used to know where my kids were at all times, now I don’t.” In both cases, their children were still alive and healthy, so part of me was thinking “Seriously?! Just be happy they’re growing as they’re supposed to. Think of the parents whose children have died or those people who always wanted children, but never could/did. Suck it up!”

But that wasn’t their point (for the record, the articles were not written by any of my Facebook friends, just articles that someone ‘liked.’ And yes, despite my constant vow to quit or decrease Facebook, I am obviously guilty of wasting more time on it than I should.). Their point was that children grow up fast so enjoy it while you can. That’s not exactly an epiphany or anything, but somehow you can never have enough reminders. Now that Chloe is only months away from becoming an adult and finishing high school, I'm feeling like it's going to be a short, slippery slope straight to the assisted living centre (kids, come visit!).

With that in mind, I’m going to start a new blog challenge today.* I’m going to try to post a daily photo of the children doing a regular, everyday activity while they’re all still living at home, all in school, and all under our control (for the most part). That way I can look back when I’m all sad and alone and missing the sound of drums and doors slamming and Bob Dylan records and tell myself, “I DID enjoythe little moments.” (Ironically, I’m probably not enjoying the moment if I’m busy with trying to get the perfect shot, but we’ll ignore all logical thoughts.) I’m pretty good about taking pictures of special occasions and happy times, but I don’t pull out my camera nearly as much as I used to when it comes to regular life. So I’m going to try to record the details, un-staged and un-posed. Thirty days is my goal, but they probably won’t all be consecutive days.

If anyone else wants to join the challenge on their blog or Instagram, let us know in the comments section. We should make up our own hashtag! Maybe #30savour or #putdownyourcamera
*As I was writing this, I remembered doing a similar series back in 2008. Look how little those kids were - good thing I took pictures.

Monday, January 18, 2016

You won't believe what I'm about to say

Does that sound like a Buzzfeed teaser? If so, I succeeded. Here it is:

I’m starting to like January.

There. I said it. Now I can’t take it back. I guess I could delete this post and deny it ever existed. And I might.
Anyone who knows me at all and even many who don’t (they can tell just by looking at me) know I hate winter. I am disappointed in fall, I tolerate spring because I know what lies ahead, but summer has my heart.
So January … it’s the dead of winter, the Christmas excitement is over, and summer is many calendar pages away. And yet … I’m kind of enjoying this month. The beginning of the month was unseasonably mild, but now it’s regular January weather and I still don’t hate it.
December somehow gets crazier every year. Between all the shopping and parties and Christmas concerts and wrapping and baking, free evenings are hard to come by. I’m not complaining – I’m a big fan of Christmas and every year I feel so lucky and thankful for all the friends and family we’re able to celebrate with. But when it’s all over and not every free minute is taken up with running out to pick up “one more thing” or to quickly wrap a few gifts, I suddenly have spare time on my hands. It’s not like there isn’t always a list of house things and other projects to do, but nothing is that urgent. I don’t have many obligations that I have to leave the house for, so I have time to read, play games with the kids, and watch episodes of The Office every night after Neve goes to bed. It’s a pretty good life.
I also signed up for an intro month of hot yoga at Awesome Hot Yoga. I’ve gone nine times in the last 12 days and I’m really enjoying it. I probably won’t do it after the intro month because I really need to start running again, but it feels so good to be all hot and sweaty when it’s so cold outside. I still feel warm long after the class is over. The only problem is that by the time I’m there and back and showered, it’s about a 2-hour commitment. I wish I could just crank up the heat in my basement and do it at home. Maybe not.
The kids are not enjoying January as much as I am. Exams are coming up for the older two. Chloe is stressed about major papers and assignments that are due before then, on top of getting ready for her cheer trip to Florida and her already busy schedule. Spencer hates school and would like to self-school. I can’t even imagine what that would look like. Actually I can. It would involve listening to old records, drumming, and reading. Who needs math and science? He is involved in a couple of clubs at school but he hasn’t found his people yet. He says everyone in his classes know who he is (for reasons that remain unclear) but so far he calls them all acquaintances rather than friends. I’m confident that he will find his place and I’m also confident that a haircut would help.
Neve’s teacher just went on maternity leave and Neve’s not sure how she feels about the replacement. Apparently she is a yeller. If she keeps that up, maybe one day I will go in and yell at her and see how she likes that. I can’t really blame her. If I was a teacher, I would yell all day long except when I was crying, but fortunately for everyone, I’m not a teacher. Neve’s been lucky with seven years of non-yelling teachers, so she’s not used to it and it makes her anxious. And then she was mortified when her patrol crew got in trouble but that’s a story she wouldn’t want me to tell.
So it hasn’t been the greatest January for any of the kids. But I’m happy, and that’s pretty important to them, even if they don’t know it.
I hope your January is more like mine than theirs.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Project #3 - The Dining Room

Our dining room is small and basic and has the least amount of furniture of any room in the house. Yet it has been an ongoing project for the last 18 months. It started off as this:

Somewhere along the way we added wallpaper (filling the panelling lines first).

That was followed by a mirror and a new light fixture.
We bought the old white melamine table second-hand when we lived in Toronto and we got every single penny’s worth out of it. It was chipped and marked and ugly. We ditched the matching chairs a few years ago when the upholstered seats were so stained and disgusting that I refused to invite anyone over for dinner. Kristin’s parents were getting rid of their farmhouse-style chairs and even though it wasn’t the look I was after, the solid wood seats were a big step up. With a table cloth covering the table, we managed just fine in this state until the motivation to go buy a new table and chairs kicked in.
That finally happened in December. I had vowed to get rid of the existing set in January which would force us to take action. And then Christmas happened ... to my surprise and delight, Dale had squirrelled away money to put towards a new table and chairs.
I wavered between investing in an expensive “forever” set and just snapping up a cheaper one at IKEA. IKEA won. The problem with buying an expensive set is that I don’t like being all careful and anxious about any scratch or mark (which is why we kept the old table so long). Also, small decisions aren’t super easy for me, never mind a big expensive dining room suite. It would have taken me months to decide and if I ended up not loving it, I would have been very sad. But if we really feel the IKEA one is not working for us, at least we didn’t invest two months’ salary in it.
But so far, we love it! I blatantly stole the look from Mike and Darla, who took Shannon’s advice on it. Shannon helped me along the way with decisions and ideas. It must have driven her crazy to see how slowly I made this happen. But as always, she was patient and supportive! My friend Rachel also gave me advice and a kick in the butt when I needed it.
Here it is:

The table expands to seat 12 very comfortably. The extra leaves have a nice little spot under the table top when they're not in use. We bought two more chairs, which are put to use in different parts of the house when not needed at the table.
To go along with our new table, we bought new dishes. Our cheap IKEA ones were scratched up and looked terrible, despite not being very old. I hope IKEA tested the quality of the table and chairs a lot more thoroughly than they did those dishes (which they still sell - DON'T BUY THEM).
So now we're set! We served brunch for 9 people on Sunday and it was a success. Now I have no excuse not to have people over. Except the cooking part.
Here's one last before and after photo.  

As I look at these pictures, I think I'm going to put up lighter-coloured curtains, right after I check with Shannon! And my plant needs a pot. And my mirror needs cleaning. And my light fixture needs centre-ing. It never ends! But I'm loving it so far!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Project #2 - Chloe's room

Chloe is not going to be thrilled when she sees this picture on here. Then we're even, because I was not thrilled to see this in real life. I could show you even more shocking photos of other parts of her room, but we'll focus on this one wall.
The goal was to fit a bigger desk into her room. If you look under that pile of books and paper between the bookshelves, there is a little computer desk which was not nearly big enough for her to spread out her stuff and do serious work. So she did her homework sitting awkwardly on her bed, usually while watching Supernatural. I’m trying to shut down that habit; a new, proper workstation was the first step. Actually that’s the only step … I guess step 2 would involve taking away her iPad, phone, net book and laptop. And her Nintendo DS while we’re at it.
Chloe’s room was set up so nice, but this is the last time it looked this good. Chloe is super organized in many ways but for reason that are not clear (hmm ... maybe she doesn't have the greatest example to follow...), she cannot keep her room neat. Between school and work and cheer and babysitting, she has a very busy life. It could be argued that’s all the more reason to keep her room clean and organized, but it just doesn’t seem to work that way.
As is the case in 100% of my projects, there is still work to be done. Her dresser drawers are always jam-packed, so we need to go through them and reduce the amount of stuff in them. Then maaaaaybe she will have room to put her clothes away. Or more likely, she will just keep throwing them on the floor. My organizing friend Shannon came over and offered some suggestions to at least keep the mess out of sight, like baskets to throw clothes in, etc.
For now, we stayed focused on the desk situation. Shannon also gave her advice on the best place to put the desk. I was prepared to rearrange the room completely, but she didn’t think it was necessary. Thank goodness; at the pace things happen around here, Chloe would have been long gone with three children of her own by the time we finished that.
So, on Shannon’s advice, Chloe combined the contents of two bookshelves into one. We moved the other one to the playroom for now, where it is nicely resting on its side until we decide its fate. Then we went to IKEA and bought a desk. Well technically, a table top, two legs and a side unit. We opted for a door unit instead of a drawer unit so she could put her backpack inside. She has enough junk drawers already. We bought a desk lamp (which cost more than the desk) … it’s not beautiful but it’s very functional and bright. That little corner is pretty dark without it because apparently a cute chandelier does not equal good lighting.
The clip-on light situation on the left needs some attention but it's such a dark corner that she needs all the light she can get.
The desk has been up for a few days and the reaction has been positive. Chloe says she feels more organized and less overwhelmed with less clutter around.
A big thank you to Shannon for her help and advice! If your new year’s resolutions involve being more organized, you know who to call!  (not Chloe).

I should take a picture in a week to see if things stay this way ...

While scrolling through year after year of blog entries for the pictures of Chloe's original room, I imagined how nice it would be if I had tagged my posts to categorize them. It's never too late to start, I guess!

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Spencer's room - Phase 1

We undertook a few projects around the house during the holidays, which I will now proceed to tell you about one at a time. Today we'll discuss Spencer's room.

This still a work in progress, but we got a good start. Since this spring, Spencer had been talking about buying drums. We tried to ignore him or change the subject, but it kept coming up. Eventually we said fine, as long as you buy them yourself (thinking that probably wouldn't happen). But this past summer, he was on a mission to save up money. He mowed lawns and helped my parents (which he should have done for free, but still) and didn't spend a cent of his allowance until he had enough money to buy a used set. He kept checking Kijiji but whenever he found a possible option, Dale or I never had time to take him to check it out. Finally one day in mid-December, we drove out to Carman (on the way to Dan's surprise birthday party) and snagged some used drums at a great price. Or so the seller told us. The drum set was much more substantial than I had pictured, which frightened and alarmed me as we loaded up the van.

We were planning to put them in the basement but to make space, we first had to return the foosball table that we had been borrowing from Jim & Sabrina for the past decade. In the meantime, we pushed the drums into Spencer's small bedroom and quickly shut the door so they wouldn't fall out. For two weeks he lived in squishy chaos, unable to open his dresser drawers or climb up his loft bed ladder. The amount of stuff in these pictures is overwhelming and I don't even think they fully capture the realty.

yes, the boy needs a haircut but he's got a look he's trying to achieve now that he's a drummer

an aerial view from the loft bed

the closet

I don't know exactly what he wore or where he slept during that period, but he was able to bang on his drums quite well. Within a couple of days, my neighbour asked me if someone had gotten drums at our house. Just wait until summer when we all have our windows open. I bet they're hanging on to all the realtor flyers that come in the mail.

Once the foosball table was gone, we realized that no one would be able to watch TV downstairs while Spencer played drums, and since there's no solid door between the basement and the main floor, it would be loud on the main floor as well. So the drums are staying upstairs in Spencer's room for now, which meant we had to rearrange things. First, we emptied out his closet. Sadly, the Lego phase is mostly finished over here so all of Spencer's precious, organized Lego was dumped into two big Rubbermaids. It was tough for both of us to see all the work we did in setting up his organizational system reduced to a giant mess of pieces. He doesn't want to part with it yet (and we'll always keep some of it) so off it goes to the storage room.

Once the closet was empty, we moved his dresser in. He's got a good closet with big doors and a light, so it works pretty well.

Next we sold his loft bed on kijiji. This was probably not the best move when it comes to floor space, but climbing up and down the ladder was getting cumbersome as he's grown bigger and he didn't properly utilize the space underneath the loft anyway. For now, he's sleeping on a mattress on the floor.

I know these pictures aren't very impressive yet ... they're more "during" pictures than "after" pictures. So I didn't utilize my full staging skills. Like I said, this project still has a ways to go. A bed, bookshelves and painting over the wall mural are next on the list. But at least we can see the floor in some spots now.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Christmas recap

The much-anticipated holidays are almost over. We had a great Christmas: celebrating with family and friends, time spent hanging out at home, and getting a few house projects done. It was only a one-puzzle holiday, I didn’t read much, and we didn’t get outside as much as I would have liked. Part of me is disappointed about that, but the realistic part of me knows that there are only so many hours in the day. When I think about what we’ve all done around the house in the last week or so, it’s not surprising that I didn’t read three books like I normally do on holidays. I’ll save the list for another day and stick to a quick Christmas recap.

As stated in my last blog post, we spent a happy quiet day at home on Christmas Day. Chloe and her cousin Sarah went sliding in the afternoon, and later Dale and I went to Rob & Gab’s to see their lovely new house, popping in at Bob & Jan’s on our way home.  At home, we all watched Christmas Vacation and ate garbage. Mmmm.

The next day we went to Dale’s mom’s for the day. Dale’s sister from Miami and her family were here for Christmas, so it made it extra-special to have the entire family there. We had a great day of eating and relaxing and singing and playing games and ping pong. Who is the Kornelsen table tennis champion, you ask? I don’t want to brag or anything but that would be me. I’m enjoying it while I can because everyone is just out of practice and could all beat me if they weren’t rusty. I’m also enjoying it because my side of the family is not out of practice and I’m the worst player there. I think my mom could beat me and my four-year-old niece isn’t far behind. I realize that makes it sound like the Kornelsen side is really bad, but that’s not true. My family just takes it really seriously: Jim hasn’t been able to play lately because of a ping pong injury. I’m not making that up. He has to go to physio and everything.

The next day, we headed to my parents’ for another day of playing and laughing and eating excessively. Except for Dan & Jenn, my entire family was there most of the day so it was loud and fun. We stayed for night and played games, did a puzzle and went outside a bit the next day. Then we headed home to try to get our house in order. We’re still working on that a week later.

Other things we did during the holidays included going to see the movie Sisters with my sisters Janet & Sabrina (and coincidentally sat right beside another one of my sister-in-laws and her sister), going out for Thai food with Mike & Darla, Blake & Kristin came over for a rockin’ New Years Eve, the kids went to play laser tag with their cousins, Chloe got strep throat again, an old work friend came for a visit, watched lots of shows and movies, and my neighbour and I had a successful New Years Day happy hour. I’m sure there are other things I’m forgetting, but a lot of it was consumed by the projects I’ll talk about next time.

Now we’re down to the last few hours of our holiday. We’re heading to Rosenort to say goodbye to my parents before they head for their annual Florida life. And then we’ll come home and the kids will have meltdowns at the thought of homework and waking up early and making their lunch tomorrow. I’ll try to be strong and brave but I feel the same way about going back to work. As if that’s not bad enough, I have a dentist appointment first thing in the morning. What was I thinking? 

My hope for us and for all of you is that the transition will be smoother than we expect. Wishing you a happy New Year! I'm excited to see what this year brings … thanks for reading the blog!