Monday, October 31, 2011

A before and after story

There was a woman in the school district where I grew up who subbed in my classes occasionally, Mrs. Hocking-Grant.  She had crazy long hair.  Like past her bum.  She often wore it in a long braid down her back that swished and flicked and made me think of a horse's tail when she walked up and down the rows of desks.  Sometimes she wore it down and when she'd bend over to help a student at their desk a curtain of thick blonde hair would swing to one side and fall in rippling waves over her shoulder till it was almost touching the floor.  My 13 year old self found it repellant, gross even, that a grown woman could have hair that long.  In the 90's long hair hair was the providence of the young.  (And to 13, 30 is positively decrepit.)  None of the adult women I knew had hair past their shoulders, nevermind past their bum.  Adding to my disgust was the fact the last few feet of her hair was completely dead and hung in lifeless, uneven, wispy scraggles.  Even now I shudder remembering the look of those multiple feet of dead hair.  Whenever she was in my class I alternated between watching her hair in fascination and watching it in a sort of sick horror.  I remember being especially afraid that it would touch me as she walked by.

What does this have to do with anything?  Well about a month ago I blow-dried my hair for the first time since before last summer.  

I opened my little compact mirror and turned so I could see the back of my head to make sure it had all been blown in the same direction.  My stomach turned in revulsion.  All I could think was "Mrs. Hocking-Grant! Mrs. Hocking-Grant! Mrs. Hocking-Grant!" I had no idea my hair had gotten that long at the back.  I'd never looked!  It literally grossed me out.

So last Thursday night I cut it.

And I don't miss it at all!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Part 2: A tale of high finances, high stakes, sister adventures and kitchen appliances

It’s still surreal to me that I even have a Vita-mix to experiment with while my whole food, natural-everything-eating, domestic goddess of a sister returned hers.  Jane made a shift to cleaner eating about five years ago and has been a huge source of inspiration for me as I’ve started making the same shift.  It seems wrong to me that she doesn’t have this miracle of green goodness machine and I do.  But have it I do, at least for now, so let me tell you about my Monday Prep Day/Vita-mix Experiment Day.

For breakfast I made the kids a piece of toast (not in my Vita-mix) and a smoothie (in my Vita-mix).  The smoothie had hemp protein, spinach, greek yoghurt, banana and frozen berries.  It was delish!  The kids loved it.  Well, Sebastian loved it until he found out there was a vegetable in it because Tristan asked me point blank and I didn’t want to lie.  On hearing the word vegetable Sebastian suddenly decided the smoothie was gross and he wouldn’t drink another sip even though it basically tasted like blueberries.  So I told him the same thing I tell him every night at dinner while he’s gagging on (and sometimes puking up) his veggies, “It’s all in your head!  Mind over matter kid!”

The smoothie was yummy but I was still chewing on berry seeds which did not happen for Vita-mix demo guy who assured me, and proved to me, that the Vita-mix pulverizes the berry seeds down to nothing.  I can chew on berry seeds from my own blender thank you very much!  Check in the “take it back, not worth the money” column.

I drove the kids to school and then came home to really get my Vita-mix on!  To get it ready for the next usage I cleaned out the dried smoothie gunk by adding a drop of dish soap, filling it with warm water and blending it on high for about 30 seconds.  Rinse away the suds and presto super cleano!  Check in the “keep! keep! keep! this thing is awesome” column.

Now that my container was clean I was ready to get started on a recipe I found a while ago but couldn’t use because I didn’t have a food processor or equivalent.  These Autumn Cookies are made with the teensiest bit of flour, no sugar, no dairy, no eggs, no oils.  First I had to mix two grated carrots, one grated apple and one mashed banana with 1/2 cup of brown rice flour, a tsp of baking powder, a heaping tsp of cinnamon and a 1/2 tsp of ginger.  I threw 1/2 cup of regular old brown rice into my dry blend container and watched the little grains become soft powdery flour.  It was beautiful!  Another check for the “keep! keep! keep! this thing is awesome” column. 

Into that lovely fruit and veggie mash I needed to add a walnut paste.  Into my wet mix container went 1 cup of walnuts, 1 combo cup of raisins and dried cranberries, 1 cup of oatmeal and 1/4 cup of water.  Blend, blend, blend.  This was more difficult.  There wasn’t really much in the way of liquid and the Vita-mix likes a bit more liquid to work optimally.  I did finally get it into a smooth paste but it had been heated to the point of warm by the time I was done.  (Remember this thing can make soup too!)  The paste was delicious but very sticky and trying to get it out from underneath the blades was an exercise in patience.  I couldn’t help thinking that making that paste in a food processor would have been much easier.  Also it was really, really hard to clean out.  The dish soap and water trick didn’t work entirely for the gunk stuck under the blades.  I tried getting a toothpick down there but it just broke.  One of the selling features of the Vita-mix is that it’s all one container, you don’t remove the blades so you don’t have to wash a ton of little pieces.  I wished I could remove the blades to get at the that gunk.  Another check for the “take it back, not worth the money” column.

Once I combined the paste with the mash I rolled the wet dough into balls and baked them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet for 25 minutes at 350.  Also into the oven I threw two foil-wrapped potatoes so I could try making soup in the Vita-mix at lunch (recipe from the Vita-mix cookbook you get with the machine).  An hour later all the dough had been turned into cookies (which were delish by the way) and my potatoes were baked and it was lunch time.
At this point Sebastian started crying and asking for a nap.  Itty-bitty, underweight child of mine, no lunch for you is not an option.  “But Moooooooom, I’m so tiiiiiiiiiired.  I just need a naaaaaaap.”  Give me five minutes darling boy.  I quickly threw chicken stock, white wine, a celery rib cut in two pieces, 2 whole apples (not chopped, cores, seeds, stems), my two baked potatoes, nutmeg and thyme into the Vita-mix (it was full to the very top) and turned it on and blended away.  It demolished the ingredients and literally five minutes later the vented lid was letting off heavy steam.  I turned the speed down, took out the center plastic thingy, and dropped in a large handful of grated cheddar and continued to blend for maybe 20 more seconds.  I’m not sure which column gets a check for this adventure.
Pluses: 1) Hot, homemade soup ready in a short amount of time with hardly any effort.  2) It made a ton.  I could have easily fed my whole family. 3) The soup was pureed to perfection.  It was smooth as silk.  4) It got rid of the last little bit of walnut paste under the blades without affecting the taste of the soup.
Minuses: It tasted AWFUL!!!!!  I used two Honeycrisp apples instead of the recommended Granny Smiths because that’s what I had on hand.  Honeycrisps are so much sweeter that the soup basically ended up tasting like rotten apples.  I found it completely inedible.  PB and honey it was!  Sebastian instantly stopped crying.  Funny how that works...

Since the soup was inedible and I’m not much for PB and honey I made myself a greenish smoothie for lunch.  Cranberry juice, carrot, celery, spinach, banana, frozen strawberries and hemp protein.  This time I processed it a bit longer in the blender and it came out smooth and lovely and exactly as demo-man promised me it would.  Check in the “keep! keep! keep! this thing is awesome” column. 

Dish, soap, water, zip, zip and I was ready for some more Vita-mix action.  This time I threw in 1/2 cup of raw almonds, 1 1/2 cups of water and a squirt of honey and blended on high for about a minute and made my very own almond milk.  Hello!  It was awesome!  And I didn’t have to soak the almonds overnight like you have to for a food processor.  You want almond milk on a whim?  I can make it for you!  Check for the “keep! keep! keep! this thing is awesome” column.

 I used the almond milk in a cherry almond muffin recipe.  For that recipe I also used my dry blade Vita-mix container to grind my own brown rice and quinoa into flour which I  combined with my whole wheat flour.  I have discovered I LOVE being able to grind my own flours.  Definite check in the “keep! keep! keep! this thing is awesome” column.  Later that evening I used the rest of the almond milk to make a cold cook oatmeal for Hugh and I to have for breakfast the next morning.  You put some oatmeal in a bowl cover it with milk of your choice, mash a banana into it and then I added a bit of vanilla extract (I ran out of almond extract making the muffins), a small spoonful of unsweetened cocoa and some rinsed cherries from my stash of frozen Okanagan cherries from this past summer.  Stir, cover, refrigerate overnight.  ENJOY!!!  The possibilities of variations are endless.
My next Vita-mix foray was going to be into the world of nut butters but there I ran into a snag.  The Vita-mix recipe book calls for oil to be added to the roasted almonds before you process it.  Uh... that sort of defeats the purpose in my opinion.  I googled it.  Turns out in general nut butters are extremely difficult to make in the Vita-mix - that whole needing liquid to work optimally thing.  A food processor works so much better and you have the option of making raw and roasted nut butters.  Check in the “take it back, not worth the money” column. 

So where did my columns stand at the end of the day? If I counted correctly I ended up at 5 to 3 for the “keep, keep, keep! this thing is awesome” column.  However, that being said, I’m still not totally convinced.  I don’t think I would make pestos and hummus and paste-y things like that in my Vita-mix.  I think a food processor would work better and it would be easier to get the stuff out of the bowl.  Although I can make Almond milk in my Vita-mix on a whim I can technically make it in a food processor too.  It just takes some advance thought.  Is not having to think about it in advance worth $600?  I don’t know.  The food processor I was eyeing up before the Vita-mix came into my world is 50% off on until Monday. 

Besides being a super-duper-rocket-booster blender the thing I love most about the Vita-mix is the ability to grind my own grains.  It’s so much healthier to grind your own and so so easy in the Vita-mix.  However, it would be equally easy to grind them in a good grain mill which you can get for about $250.  At the end of yesterday, after obsessively googling food processor vs. Vita-mix all evening, I had all but decided to take back the Vita-mix and get a food processor and grain mill instead.  But then today when I made a smoothie with spinach and hemp protein and berries - in seconds - that my kids slurped up for their afterschool snack and which prevented Ava’s usual afterschool crash, and which was a snap to clean up, I felt like I was back to square one.  I really, really, really like this blender.  Adding it’s two cents into my “Vita-mix or not to Vita-mix” debate was a homemade butterscotch pudding recipe I came across today that blended a can of butternut squash, a splash of almond milk and a melted banana in the Vita-mix until warm and thick and wonderful.  Ummm... yes please!

Final verdict?  I DON’T KNOW!!!!!!!  I don’t have one.  I don’t want it to be food processor OR Vita-mix.  I want to employ the genius of the and.  I just don’t know how wise that would be on the old pocketbook. You know?  I’m in indecisive hell right now.  What would you do?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A tale of high finances, high stakes, sister adventures and kitchen appliances. Part 1.

My sister Jane and my nephew Felix came to visit last week.
 Isn’t that the sweetest little face you have EVER seen????  I die a little every time I look at him.  His cuteness is killing me!

Anyway, one of the many adventures my sister and I had was at Costco.  Jane was looking for a specific carseat, Sebastian was looking for samples and Felix was looking for kisses from Sebastian.  I was just along for the ride.  And ohhhhh what a ride!  The first sample we came across happened to be at the Vitamix Blender demo booth.  While Jane and I were firmly becoming convinced the Vitamix would be the answer to a brand-new lifestyle Sebastian was getting more veggies in all the Vitamix samples - juice, smoothie, ice cream, and hot soup  - than he has had in the entire last year of his life.  (Seriously, the kid would eat peanut butter for every single meal if I let him.  Dinner time is F-U-N!)  Seeing Sebastian down all those hidden veggies was enough to convince me.  Nevermind watching demo-man make all those things in under 15 minutes.  By the time he was turning rice into flour I was SOLD.  Until I looked at the very hefty price tag.

Jane and her husband, Nathan, had been talking about getting a Vitamix for a while so she seized the opportunity and bought one.  And then after sleeping on it she returned it the next day unable to justify the price no matter how amazing the blender is.  I didn’t even entertain the idea of getting one.  Until I described it all to Hugh and he said we should get one if I wanted one, if it would help me on my quest to get our family to eat better, healthier, cleaner.  When I got back off the floor I had to ask him to repeat himself because I was in such stunned disbelief.  Since who has an extra $600 on hand for a blender we decided it would have to be bought under "investments in the health of our family”.  Even with Hugh’s green light I didn’t want to buy it.  $600 for a blender on steroids just seemed ridiculous.  And then suddenly, two days later, on the last day the Vitamix was going to be in Costco at a price cheaper than the Vitamix website, it didn’t seem so ridiculous.  I made it to Costco with minutes to spare, and came home the proud new owner of a miracle machine.  I mean how do you put a price on your family’s health?  (I said that very sarcastically in my head.  Did I really just spend $600 on a blender?)

Once I got home I did some happy jumps in my kitchen (literally) and then prepared to awe and amaze my family with homemade coconut ice cream.  No recipe?  No problem!  How hard could it be?  I watched the demo guy throw a carrot, a stick of celery, a whole apple - seeds, stem and core included, and frozen berries into his ice cream concoction.  It was amazing!  (The Vitamix even pulverizes berry seeds so your blends are smooooooooth.)  My concoction of coconut milk, shredded coconut and ice was horrible.  Didn’t work at all.  Didn’t blend properly and we ended up dumping the whole thing.  Fine, I thought.  I’m a Vitamix newbie.  I don’t know the machine well enough yet to be able to make things up as I go along.  I’ll follow a recipe.  I followed Vitamix’ recipe for vanilla ice cream to the letter.  Total bust.  It froze and formed itself properly but was full of ice chunks.  I wanted to take it back right then and there.  Which I actually can do according to Vitamix’ 30 day trial guarantee.  I didn’t take it back though. Costco was already closed.  And Monday Prep Day was coming up and I wanted to test it out.

And that is my really long intro into Monday Prep Day.  More details to come!

Here's a bit more gratuitous cuteness to leave you with.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend in Pictures

I wish I had pictures of our actual dinner but after 6 hours of cooking it only took 10 minutes to devour so... there wasn't really a whole lot of time to take pictures!

Thanksgiving Monday was a glorious day.  I grabbed my camera and we picked up coffee and took Wayne and Laura for a walk in Strathcona Park along the river.  It was a glorious Fall day. 

Wayne & Laura.  You'll notice Laura is holding a Tim Horton's cup.  We love her anyway.

Wayne and Hugh: Don't you like Hugh's bike?

 The last day of Ava's cast.  She got it off yesterday.  Those 5 weeks flew by! (At least for me, Ava thinks differently.)

Boys, sticks, rocks, and river.  Can you say dream day?

Laura and me:

Lesson 1: Find a smooth flat rock...

The girls:

Hoods are a handy handle when you're going down your first hill on your first bike.

I hope you all had a great weekend.  We sure did!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Desperate times...

These last few weeks have been hectic.  I have often felt like I’m on the edge of spinning out of control as I navigate school and preschool drop-offs and newsletters, home reading, spelling words, Ava’s cast appointments and the myriad other things that make up my life right now.  In fact I just got a note home saying we missed Tristan’s sharing conference at school on Tuesday night.  How?  How, did I miss that?  It was on my calendar!  A few weeks ago, in desperation, I asked my highly organized, scarily efficient best friend, Michelle some of her secrets. 

Thanks to the conversation I had with her I have now implemented a “Monday Prep Day”. This is now the day I do any baking that needs to be done and as much advance cooking or prep as I can do for dinners for the rest of the week.  I started two weeks ago.  How’s it been going you ask?  Remember how in my last post I said if everything always went according to plan I wouldn’t have anything to write about?  We-eee-lllll, let’s just say after two weeks the kinks are not entirely worked out.

Week 1: I woke up in the morning with my game face on ready to tackle my kitchen and bring a whole new level of peace into my life.  I made a pot of tea, I cleared off counters, I got out recipe books, I started lining my island with ingredients.... and realized I had left all my meat in the freezer.  So I made a batch of clean eating Pumpkin Applesauce Muffins and called it a day.  I spent the next few hours drinking tea on my deck, reading and talking to my sister. 

Actually now that I think about it.  It was kind of an awesome day.  Except I still had to make every part of dinner every night that week.

Week 2: This past Monday I woke up at 6:00am so excited about having a day to putter in my kitchen I couldn’t fall back to sleep.  I decided then was as good a time as any to do a workout video so I actually got up and did one.  I’m still in shock.  After I dropped the kids off at school I made a pot of tea, cleared off counters, got out recipe books and lined my island with ingredients and cranked Harry Chapin Live.  The meat was even defrosted in my fridge! I was all set.  I was ready to OWN Monday Prep Day.  I got my bread machine going to make dough which I was later going to turn into Cheddar Dill Onion Buns.  I mixed up a double batch of Ginger Molasses Cookies and rolled them all into balls and then rolled the balls in sugar.  While the first tray of cookies were baking I mixed the batter for some healthy Cherry Almond Muffins.  (Which psychologically counteracts the unhealthy cookies.) As I opened a new box of baking soda to use in the muffin batter I was thinking about the cookies.  They always bake consistently for 9 minutes in my oven - just until the tops crackle.  20 minutes in they still hadn't crackled.  I took them out anyway because 20 minutes is a ridiculously long time to bake any cookie, but I was perplexed.  I make these cookies so often throughout the fall and winter months I almost have the recipe memorized.  They always turn out. What on earth had I done?  It was as I glanced back over the recipe it registered. If I had had to open a box of baking soda for the muffins I certainly hadn’t used 2 tsp of it in the cookies!  Ergo, really, really nice-smelling hockey pucks.  Yeah... So... That was a do-over.

The other thing that didn’t go quite right was the Cheddar Dill Onion Buns.  I made these all last winter with soups and stews but I hadn’t made them yet this year so when I pulled the lovely, yeasty, onion-y smelling dough out of my bread machine I couldn’t for the life of me remember whether I used my 9x11 or my 9x13 last year.  You wouldn’t think those two inches could make so much of a difference.  The first batch I made was to go into the freezer to be pulled out over this Thanksgiving weekend along with some Sausage Lentil  Soup which I made and froze Monday afternoon.  I closed and my eyes and picked my 9x11.  I rolled my lump of dough into 6 balls and let them rise.   The buns ended up enormous.  Like elephantitisly (if I can make up a word) enormous.  Seriously.  I almost could have hollowed them out and used them as soup bowls.  I was making two batches anyway so we could also have buns with our chilli Monday night. I decided batch #1 would be for dinner and batch #2 would be made with significantly smaller balls in my bigger baking dish and be saved for my Thanksgiving company.  Batch #2 turned out fantastic.  I took ten beautifully golden, perfectly-sized buns out of the oven and turned it off.  I set them on the stove to admire them. They were perfect. 


The chili suddenly started to bubble over while I was trying to spice it up and I totally forgot about the buns.  By the time I remembered them, the golden crusty tops had started sinking into the now-spongy bottoms.  I immediately took them out of the pan and put them on a cooling rack to try to salvage them.  And then I cried a little and seriously considered making a third batch after the kids went to bed. Because I’m really a perfectionist at heart.  Though you wouldn’t know it by Monday’s little shenanigans (or the state of my kitchen floors on any given day)!  I didn't end up making a third batch.  It was already 5:00 and I was exhausted.  I had been in the kitchen since 8:45am.

On the plus side, it was so great to have chili made and then have leftovers and so nice to have all my veggies chopped and my peanut sauce already made for my stirfry.  I think I’m going to love this system once I get all the kinks worked out.  So, last week I learned to take the meat out the night before.  This week I learned to read recipes thoroughly and take myself a little less seriously.  Those shrunken buns may not look quite as picture perfect as usual but they won’t taste any different.  And when we’re sitting around the table this Thanksgiving weekend with our good friends Wayne and Laura, who we rarely get to see, dunking those buns into steaming hot soup, I really don’t think it'll be the shape of the buns we’ll be focusing on.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Happy visiting, happy prepping and happy decorating (if you do that kind of thing). I have a handmade cornucopia on my table from Ava and that will be the extent of my decor.  Did I mention it’s Sebastian’s birthday tomorrow and the kids don’t have school we’re having his birthday party tomorrow night?  What was it I was saying before... oh yes, “I am slowly going crazy 1-2-3-4-5-6 switch.”

Monday, October 3, 2011

What's your problem?

So I wrote a blog a few weeks ago.  Three to be exact.  All I needed to do to post it was send the picture via bluetooth from my phone to my computer.  But I couldn't remember how and I kept forgetting to ask Hugh about it.  And then I lost the post on my computer.  It just disappeared from the desktop.  After searching all my folders and not finding it and finally googling how to find lost documents I found it in one of Hugh's folders.  His sheet music folder actually.  I just reread that last sentence.  If you could see me right now I'm shaking my head, holding my hands palms up above my keyboard and making an "I don't know" sound without using actual words.  Some things are beyond my understanding.

However, the good news is I found it.  And since I found it I'm going to post it.  But since I'm also lazy I'm not going to go back in and change all the tense's and yesterday's and things like that to make it chronologically make sense.  Just know that when I say the first "Last Tuesday" I'm actually referring to the Tuesday after Labour Day. 

And now without further ado I give you... A NEW BLOG!  Finally!  (Sort of...)  Anyway, here it is in all it's unvarnished glory:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
If life always went according to plan I really wouldn't have much to write about.  Good thing it doesn't then, right!  Right?

Last Tuesday after lunch I put Sebastian down for a nap and tidied the kitchen so I could spend a lovely quiet afternoon in the sunshine with my book, guilt-free.  I had just filled my water glass and picked up my book when the phone rang.  It was Ava’s teacher saying she had fallen off the monkey bars at lunch and could I come down to the school and take a look at her arm.  I woke Sebastian up went to the school and sure enough Ava’s wrist was oddly swollen and definitely needed an xray.

After a return trip home, (to get my phone which I’d forgotten and some snacks and books to survive the long hospital wait) several phone calls (one to Hugh and one to a friend), a return trip back to school to drop off Tristan’s booster seat (so said friend could pick him up after school) I finally headed to emerg with Ava and Sebastian. 

Three hours later Ava’s arm was being wrapped in hot pink cast material which we were told would need to stay on for at least six weeks while Ava kept saying to me, “Why? Why? Why did this happen?  Why did I do those monkey bars?” 

There is a a Bible verse that says, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” I truly believe that the trouble that comes into our lives builds our character in ways that it’s not possible for us to grow in when everything is going according to plan.  In what other circumstances can you really learn to appreciate as truth what the great Chuck Swindoll says about attitude? Life is only 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.

I’ve had many many conversations with Ava since last Tuesday about attitude and perspective.  We’ve been talking about focusing on all the things she still can do (colour, play toys, go to school, cuddle with mom and dad) instead of what she can’t do (run, ride bikes, do the monkey bars).  “I know Mom,” she’d say.  “It’s just that I wish it had never happened!”  Don’t we all wish that when life gets derailed? But that statement has opened up opportunities for conversations about how when we change our words we change our world.  What we think and what we hear ourselves say has direct power over our feelings.  Our feelings then dictate our attitude.  If we actively change what we’re thinking or saying we can completely transform the level of joy we live out of - no matter what our physical circumstances are.  I’ve been encouraging Ava to look on the bright side and speak out loud the still-innumerable blessings in her life whenever she’s feeling down about her situation.  And I’ve seen a shift in her. 

I can honestly say that I have seen such tremendous personal growth in Ava over the last week that I wouldn’t trade this experience.  If she can learn to shift her attitude and see the blessings in the middle of hard times now as a child she will have the tools to thrive as an adult when faced with much more difficult challenges.

And now I need to tell you about the other thing that did not go quite as planned last week.  Ava’s birthday present from us (Tristan and Ava turned 7 last Friday which I canNOT believe) was to get her ears pierced.  She’s been asking to do it for almost a year so we thought it would be the perfect birthday gift.  Hugh got off work just after school let out so the kids opened their presents and then we piled in the van and headed to the Mall for Ava’s appointment.  I figured the best thing was to get it over with before she had too much time to think about the potential pain.  I learned this is not a good approach with Ava.  She needs time to process.  She got to Merle Norman, picked the studs she wanted and then chickened out.  So we went to the pharmacy got some numbing cream, waited 40 minutes for it to kick in and went back.  She was so thrilled after it was done saying over and over, “This is the best birthday present ever!” and stopping to look at her ears in every store window we passed.  The only thing she was worried about was whether or not the studs would poke into her and hurt her when she laid her head down on her pillow later that night. 

It was during our birthday celebration dinner at a restaurant near the Mall when Hugh and I both noticed that one earring was significantly higher than the other.  When we pushed the studs forward we could see that the girl who did the right ear had done it exactly through the mark and the girl who had done the left had completely missed it, going entirely above it.  With dread in our hearts we told her we had to take her back to get it re-pierced.

That was my turn to say, “Why? Why? Why did that happen?  Why did they get it wrong?”  First the cast and now this????  Are you kidding me?  She absolutely did NOT want to get it redone.  And though it went against every parenting instinct we have to protect our children and shield them from pain Hugh and I insisted she get it done.  Hugh has a small bald spot low on the back of his head from when his brother threw something at him when they were kids.  It needed stitches but Hugh was scared and threw such a fit his mom let him have his way.  He has regretted not getting those stitches all his adult life.  I knew this would be one of those things, that it was momentary pain and then it would be done and fixed and that later on she’d be so glad she did it.  But I actually couldn’t go in with her.  After already doing the broken arm thing with her earlier that week I just couldn’t stand to see her in any more pain. So I chickened out and Hugh took her in while I waited in the van with the boys.  She came back out 30 minutes later with red-rimmed eyes, a red left ear sporting a new - and different - stud because they didn’t have another pair of the flowers she’d originally picked, and a Strawberry Shortcake doll.  “Because,” Hugh said, “her birthday present was supposed to be fun and that was torture!”  He’d ended up having to literally hold her down so they could re-pierce the ear.

After hugging her and kissing her and oooohing and ahhhhing over her new doll I asked her rather tentatively how she was feeling about the whole thing.  “Well, Mom,” Ava said to me.  “The good news is at least it’s the ear that’s on the same side as my cast so I won’t have to lie on it tonight when I go to bed!  And now I get to have two pairs of earrings instead of just one!”  

Life really isn't about the 10%.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life...

There is a line.  On one side of the line is the way things were.  On the other side of the line is the way things are now.  Sometimes we can see the line a long ways off and we eagerly anticipate it - the moment we get to throw our caps in the air, the moment we get to say I do, the moment we get to here it’s a ....!  Other times we don’t see the line coming at all, slipping from one unchanged moment to the next, until suddenly there it is and we’re caught with our arms wind-milling, teetering precariously between what was and what is. Sometimes the “lasts” come and we don’t realize it was the last until it’s too late to mark it, too late to make it significant and meaningful. 

Tristan and Ava started Grade 1 yesterday and today I bought myself my own alarm clock.  I feel both like I’m teetering between what was and now is, and a kind of grief for the lasts I didn’t notice.  Monday was the last weekday morning Sebastian would crawl into bed with me and the last time I didn’t have to set a regular alarm.  And I didn’t even realize it.  I knew school was coming.  I knew the kids would be going everyday but for some reason that fact didn’t hit me until this morning when I woke up to Hugh’s alarm for the second day in a row and then reset it for tomorrow morning.  For 7 years - since I went on maternity leave with Tristan and Ava - I have woken up to my kids and not an alarm.  This morning after resetting Hugh’s alarm I realized with somewhat of a shock that I have forever left behind that world of babies and slow days and weekday morning snuggles and staying in my pj’s for as long as possible.  Just that quickly I am entrenched in a new phase in our family’s life.  School. 

This year at school has brought another separation besides just mine from the majority of the kids waking hours - which feels huge enough.  This year Tristan and Ava decided they wanted to have their own stories to tell at the end of the day and chose to be in separate Grade 1 classes.  It was so strange dropping them off in different rooms.  Tristan walked in as confident as anything but Ava walked in to her class and there were no girls from her Kindergarten class last year.  She had a white knuckle grip on my hands as I walked her over to a table of girls and introduced her.  Her good-bye hug was desperately fierce and her little face as I turned for a last look just about broke my heart.  Even as I walked away fighting tears I knew Ava would be okay.  I knew she would make new friends in this class.  I knew God’s perfect plan for her was being worked out in this strange new situation she found herself in.  But she wasn’t okay when I left her so I wasn’t okay.  And I knew I wouldn’t be okay until I could hear from her that she was okay.  Sure enough when I picked up the kids at the end of the day Ava was bubbling over with information about her new friends and her new class and her new teacher.  Just like that she was walking confidently on the other side of the line she had been teetering over only that morning.

As for me I’m still teetering trying to navigate my way through agendas, homework, class notes, reading programs, making lunches every single day without peanut butter.  I’m sure by the end of the week I will be firmly and confidently in “what is” but today I can’t help missing what was.   Oh what I would give right this minute while I’m trying to find my balance on that line for one more Wednesday morning snuggle in my bed, one more moment of being able to make it all better with a kiss.  And yet, I think I lived those moments of babyhood, toddlerhood and early kidhood as fully as possible.  I can honestly say I have no major regrets about the last six years.  Minor ones like why didn’t I let Ava cut her hair sooner?  Or why did I waste so much energy being frustrated with pee accidents?  But those are all par for the motherhood course.  That thing they say about hindsight is so true.  Do I wonder if I’ve done enough?  Absolutely.  I don’t think you can help wondering that as you send your kids off into the next phase of their life  equipped with only a backpack, a Hello Kitty or Spiderman water bottle and a pair of indoor shoes.  But, as Hugh said to me last night, it’s not about parenting so that your kids don’t make mistakes or never get hurt.  It’s about teaching them what to do, how to handle it, when they do make them or it does happen.

Wise words.  Freeing words.  Words I totally agree with and will live by as soon as I get sorted who needs what for which class, where the kids are supposed to put their indoor shoes since they don’t have cubbies  like Kindergarten, and what exactly I’m supposed to be writing or signing in each agenda.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Parenting in our head vs Parenting in real life

I have a friend who runs the art camp at our local arts and heritage centre.  Last week she told me that the centre has been running "tunes at noon" every Thursday throughout the summer.  Come, she said.  Bring a lunch, bring the kids.  Today while packing up our lunch I told the kids we were going to have an adventure.  We were going to take our lunch down to the Esplanade and listen to a concert and it was going to be so much fuuuun!  Tristan promptly threw himself on the floor kicking and screaming, "I hate concerts!  I hate concerts!  I hate concerts!"  Naturally. 

"How can you hate something you've never done!" I yelled back.  Yelling to be heard over his screaming of course.  Not because I was mad that Tristan's Mr. Hyde - Mr. Contrary - had reared his ugly head again.  Of course not.  I am calm, I am zen, I am supreme motherhood.


On that auspicious note we headed off for our grand adventure.  The performer today was a guy and his guitar.  He had a wiry grey beard that dusted the top button of his Hawaiian shirt and he sang everything from The Hokey Pokey to This Old Man to The Twist to Blowin' In The Wind with his head tipped back to see out from underneath the brim of his old straw hat.  Thankfully Mr. Contrary let us have Tristan back and we had a great time singing along to the songs we knew and dancing to The Hokey Pokey and The Twist.  The guitar man started to lose all the kids - and the crowd was mostly kids - during "Blowin' in the Wind so he gave them all a 10 second waltz lesson and the next thing I knew Tristan and Ava were "waltzing" around the little dance floor giggling like crazy. It was adorable.  At the end Tristan even admitted he like concerts after all.

Another thing I learned about Thursdays at the Esplanade is it is also free admission into the gallery and their current exhibit is all about glass.  I love glass so I really wanted to take a look.  I'm not one of those moms who does a lot of museums and galleries with my kids.  In fact I've barely done any.  My kids are exuberant and curious which is my euphemistic way of saying they never walk if they can run, they talk at a yell and they want to touch everything they see. I've always wanted to be one of those moms who were exposing their kids to culture and art from a young age, instilling in them the importance of history and a love of creative expression but the reality of walking slowly and talking quietly and and looking without touching was always just way too stressful to contemplate. 

On the heels of the concert success I was feeling brave.  So I took a deep breath and we entered the double glass doors of the gallery.  We wandered by display cases of original AltaGlass and a reproduction of a glassworks forge/studio and then watched a whole bunch of videos of artists blowing glass into vases, goblets, tumblers and pitchers.  The kids were as fascinated by it as I was.  We wandered into another room which held two sections of glass art installations and free form glass pieces like vases and towers - none of which were behind protective glass.  Gulp. I felt a lot safer when all the glass was behind glass!  I reminded the kids to look with their eyes not their hands but still had a moment of total terror as we approached an enormous tower of glass discs.  My shout not to touch died in my throat as I watched my kids stop a respectful distance away.  I decided I could trust my big kids but that for my own sanity I would hang onto Sebastian's hand.  We were all amazed by the incredible glass creations and we talked about which ones we liked and why.  It was so interesting to hear the kids perspectives and I felt like we were being so artsy.  Sebastian did have a moment when he decided he didn't want to hold my hand anymore.  He tried to pull away but I managed to catch him a split second before he hit a stand that had a glass treehouse on top of it.  Other than that I was amazed at how well behaved the kids were.  They didn't run - or even make any sudden movements!  I didn't have to remind them not to yell even once.  And they didn't try to touch a thing.  They were so in awe of what they were seeing they forgot to be their normal exuberant selves.   As we were walking back toward the exit a gentleman wandering through the same exhibit said, "I can't believe you have your young children in a glass exhibit, I'm impressed."  Thanks I said proudly.  I was suddenly imagining a whole new life with my artistically inclined, historically knowledgeable kids who might say to people things like, "Isn't it interesting how glassworks has evolved over the centuries and yet how much of it remains the same?"  Which is the moment Tristan decided he couldn't go one more minute without doing a handstand.  In the middle of two glass installations.

Nothing happened, thankfully.  Note to self:  In a museum or gallery short = sweet. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

When love turns to hate

At 10:00 this morning my next door neighbour knocked on my door.  I wished frantically for a sweater that was handier than one floor above me and then opened the door in all my schlumpy pajama'd glory.  Hey, she said. Did you notice you have a police sticker on the window of your truck and camper?  Uh no.  No I didn't notice that.  Which then required me to walk outside in all my schlumpy pajama'd glory.  Sure enough there was a bright yellow sticker letting me know that if the vehicle wasn't moved in 24 hours it would be towed.  It was time stamped at 1:16 yesterday.  We had 3 hours to move it.  No problem right?  Did I mention that the last time we tried to move it the wiring caught on fire and it hasn't run since?

Here she is parked at our duplex a couple of years ago. The truck was brand new in 1979.  It runs on propane.  Have you ever heard of such a thing before?  The camper has avocado green and mustard yellow lino so I'm guessing it was new in the 70's sometime too.  I love it.  I love everything about it from the musty smell of the drawers to the ugly curtain fabric that I never wanted to change.  My parents and me and my two sisters drove this baby from Northern BC to California one summer.  Cray-zay! The truck and camper hold a lot of great memories for me and I was thrilled beyond thrilled when my parents gave it to us. (They upgraded to a motorhome.)  We used it twice the first summer we had it when our twins were 10 months old.  We then decided twice was plenty of times to camp with two crawling babies.  It then came with us to Alberta where Hugh used it as his commuter vehicle for the first bit we lived here.  Imagine driving that to work on the first day of a new job in a new career!  After retiring from active service it sat variously in the driveway of our duplex, in the yard at Hugh's shop and then back in our driveway before being moved to the curb of our new house after great effort was expended getting it to start.  Over the first four years we owned the truck and camper we spent a lot of time talking about it, moving it, and fixing it but not actually camping in it.  

Then last year we had a brilliant idea to meet my parents and Hugh's parents in Banff over the May long weekend.  Which meant we had to get the truck going for real.  We drove it with fear and trembling all the way to Banff willing it to run until we got there.  It did.  We even made it home again.  And then it died.  And it has sat on our curb out front for the last year and a half.  After our Banff drive Hugh decided he didn't trust the truck enough to really take it any distance and that it was time to sell it.  I have great love for this battered old truck and camper and was trying to think of anyway we could salvage it.  Until the wiring caught on fire when Hugh turned the key in the ignition last Fall.  A few weeks ago Hugh got serious about wanting to put it on Kijiji so he replaced the burnt out wiring and got it to the point where all he had to do was charge the battery and we could move it/sell it.  It's been sitting on our curb for almost two years and now, when it's days away from running, and we actually intend to move it we get this stupid notice.

Is anyone else suddenly singing Alanis Morissette?

Accompanying that lovely little notice was a fine for $280.  I called Hugh at work and told him the good news and then I went to my chiro appointment and did a desperately needed grocery shop.  When I got home at 1:30 the truck and camper were gone.  Hugh called me a little later and told me that he had rushed home with a battery charger from work and tried to get it started when, wouldn't you know, it was out of propane.  He ended up having to pay $80 to get it towed to the yard at his shop.  So now this whole adventure has cost us $360.  We should be able to recover that cost when we sell the blasted thing but seriously!  There is so much I would rather spend $360 on!

Like this:
It calls my name.  And it's been calling for a ridiculously long time.  sigh.  Someday this pretty lil' thing will be mine.  Just...not right now I guess! 

What would you do with $360?

Friday, July 22, 2011

U8 Soccer: Blood, Sweat, Tears, Glory

Two weeks ago Tristan and Ava had the privilege of playing soccer in the under 8 category in the Southern Alberta Summer Games which were held in our home city.  I had two “games” experiences myself - one as a dancer in the Opening Ceremonies of the Northern BC Winter Games and one as an athlete, (I skied) in the BC Winter Games.  Oh wait, I also have a vague memory of doing something with ribbons and glow sticks in the Yukon Winter Games when I was in Grade 4.  Which makes me think of Cherry Pie.  Not sure why...  Anyway, I was super excited that my kids were getting to have their own Games experience.

Day One they played two games.  Both games their team got absolutely smoked.  Like 8-0 smoked in the first game and some other high number - 0 in the second.  When the first team ran onto the field in their proper jerseys I looked at our little peeps in their matching t-shirts and thought, “uh-oh.”  At the beginning of the second game the ref said our goalie had to wear a different colour shirt than the rest of the team.  No one had anything extra so Sebastian sacrificed his size 3 shirt to a very slight seven year old girl.  It was obvious the other teams had practiced quite a bit more than our once but each half saw our team play better and better.  It was so much fun watching the team come together and improve so dramatically each game.  I cheered till my throat hurt.

That evening was a community bbq and the Opening Ceremonies.  Tristan and Ava marched in the parade of athletes and Tristan got to carry the Redcliff/Cypress County sign.  (Which I realize is not technically we live, long story.)  

On the way home after all the speeches and a couple of Bollywood numbers I asked the kids what they thought of being part of it all.  “Oh, Mom!” Ava said, “I felt so proud!”

Day 2 of soccer began with a warm up at 7:45am.  Their team lost again that morning 1-0, the goal coming late in the second half.  It was such an exciting game to watch and though it was a bit of a heartbreaker for us parents the kids were thrilled that the game had been so close. 

On their second and final game on Day two our team scored a goal.  All the parents on the sidelines went nuts.  I was literally jumping up and down cheering.  And I was not alone.  Three goals later I said to one of the other moms jumping beside me, “The other team probably thinks we are so obnoxious!”  But they didn’t know the journey our kids had gone through in the tournament.  These kids never got down that they were losing, they didn't get upset they hadn't scored a single goal in three games, and they never gave up - even if they were down 4-0 in the first half.   They played as hard in the last five minutes of a game when they were were losing by eight goals as they did in the first five minutes when anything was still possible.  (Canucks?  Are you paying attention?) It was not the goals that made me jump up and down on the sidelines - it was the indomitable spirit of these six- and seven-year-olds who played with such determination and perseverance and joy no matter what the numbers were - and then saw it pay off.

At half-time of that game Ava came to me with a tomato-red face and said, “Mom, I don’t feel very good.”  Did I mention that the kids were playing in 38 degrees weather both days?  I doused her head and face in water and pumped her full of a combo of water, gatorade and orange slices but she was still falling apart as the second half began.  The rule for co-ed soccer is that every team needs to have at least two girls on the field at all times.  Our team only had three girls and, as I said, it was 38 degrees.  Ava had no choice.  She had to play.  The coach let her sit out the first shift while I talked to her about how sometimes when we think we can’t do something if we try really hard we find out we can.  And also she didn’t have to really run she just had to be on the field. 

Ava was still teary when the coach called for subs but he gave her a little pep talk and managed to get a slightly-more-than-half-hearted high five from her.  I and the other parents were cheering her on as she took to the field but I was biting my nails on the inside hoping she wasn’t going to run off the field crying.  Was I in for a surprise.  She didn’t just stand around on the field being the token girl.  She didn’t even play half-heartedly.  She ran her heart out, got right into every play and in fact, played the best soccer she had played all tournament.  She ended up playing the rest of the half and when the final whistle blew she ran off the field, threw her arms around my waist and shouted, “I did it!  I did it, Mom! I dug deep and I did it!”

I could stand to take a few notes from this girl.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lessons from the Calgary Zoo

One summer I was an intern at my home church.  One of my “duties” was to take a turn in the dunk tank during a particular summer event.  Which is how I found myself sitting on a little wooden platform, on an unfortunately cool summer day, suspended over a tank of cold water basically waiting to fall in.  Every time someone new stepped up to the throwing line I would tense in expectation.  Sometimes the throw went wide and I’d exhale, shoulders slumping forward in relief.  Sometimes the throw would hit the target but without much force and I’d turn to look at the bulls-eye out of half-closed eyes, holding my breath, waiting to see if the balance had been tipped.  And then there were times the throw was straight and true and forceful and the floor was yanked out from underneath me.  Even though I was braced for it, even though I knew sitting on that platform meant I’d be dunked, somehow, as my stomach flew up into the back of my throat, it still came as a surprise to me.  Every time. 

Life is a little like that I think.  We know trouble is going to come.  The Bible says we are guaranteed it.  Sometimes we tense in expectation of it and sometimes the floor just drops with no warning at all.  Either way we are always surprised, every time, that it has happened to us. 

Which is exactly how I felt when we lost Tristan at the Calgary Zoo over the Canada Day weekend.  In some ways I was tensed in expectation of trouble.  It’s a huge place, height of the tourist season and we were a large group.  Plus when you’re with young kids in a crowded place I think as parents you’re always a little bit tense, you always have an eye out for the wanderer.   On the other hand we were six adults to eight kids and the rest of the kids were all older than mine so I didn’t expect anything to really happen. 

A short way into the Zoo, nearish one of the entrances, are the elephants.  We got to them just as a woman began an informational session.  We stopped to listen for a bit but it was actually quite boring so the adults turned into a circle to discuss where to go next while the kids kept watching the elephants from the fence.  We broke to gather everyone up and when I did a quick head count I realized Tristan wasn’t standing with the rest of the kids.  A little alarmed, but not really panicking, the adults dispersed with strict instructions to the rest of the kids not to move.  After a quick walkabout didn’t turn Tristan up I scanned the crowd sitting in the bleachers watching the elephant demo.  I was getting shakier but still not fully panicking.  I felt more like I was holding my breath, eyes half-closed, watching the bulls-eye, waiting to see if there was anything to truly panic about. 

When I couldn’t see him in the bleachers my panic climbed to reach my tear ducts.  The other adults in our group were still combing the walkways near us without result so I interrupted the elephant lady and asked her to call Tristan’s name over her speaker system in case I just wasn’t seeing him in the see of people in the bleachers.  She called.  And the floor dropped out beneath me.  No Tristan.  The elephant lady stopped her demo and called security while I tried to keep breathing in and out.  The time spent waiting for security to come felt interminable.  Every minute that passed made Tristan feel farther and farther away.  I was choking on my fear, drowning in it.  Hugh decided to run back to the entrance in case someone had taken Tristan and was trying to leave the Zoo with him.  I couldn’t even process that thought.  Couldn’t even begin to imagine what might be involved in trying to find him if he wasn’t even in the Zoo any longer.  I was just describing Tristan’s striped shorts and blue t-shirt to security when I saw them come towards me slumped in Hugh’s arms.  Hugh had found him crying and terrified wandering around the entrance looking for us.  Somehow, when Tristan looked up from the elephant demo he didn't see us and had gone looking.

I can’t begin to describe the look on Hugh’s face as he carried our lost boy back to us.  There are no words for how I felt looking at the back of Tristan’s tousled head, seeing the curve of his cheek as he pressed his face against his dad’s chest.  As I watched Hugh carry Tristan towards me I lost all feeling in my limbs and could only stand and wait for them to reach me.  When they did I fell against Tristan’s back, wrapped my arms around him and Hugh and started sobbing - great big heaving convulsive gasps of relief that left no room to be embarrassed about making such a display in public.  I felt Ava collapse against my legs and I reached a hand down to smooth her hair as she sobbed out her own relief that her brother had come back to us. 

Losing Tristan reminded me again that life is fragile, uncertain, tenuous. 
Losing Tristan reminded me of an author I’ve read who writes a little blurb about each member of her family in the dedication then adds “and to God who has, for now, blessed me with these.”
Losing Tristan reminded me that life is fragile, uncertain, precious. 
Trouble is going to come but I choose not to live constantly holding my breath bracing for the ball that will hit the bulls-eye with enough force to dump me into the freezing water.  I choose arms wide open, twirling in the sun, wiping up the third spill of milk at dinner without yelling, kind of living.  I choose, consciously, to enjoy all the moments, ordinary or extra, with these precious gifts God has, for now, blessed me with.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Calaway Adventures

During the Canada Day weekend we met some good friends in Calgary and spent the weekend camping at Calaway Park which is a permanent amusement park with a campground attached.  My kids had never been on rides before and I couldn't believe how much Tristan and Ava loved them.

Even big rides.  Scary rides.  Rides that I, um... cried on.  Like the swings.  True story, I cried on the swings.  It was the first ride we did and I thought Ava was going to freak out.  She doesn't even like an underduck at home.  I knew she was going to freak out.  And then it was me who cried - seriously those swings are really high! - and she loved it and wanted to do it again.

They even liked this big boat thing that swung back and forth like an enormous terrifying pendulum.  This picture does not do justice to how big the pendulum arc is.

Tristan and Ava really wanted me to do this one with them.  As the pendulum swung higher and higher I could hear a woman screaming and screaming near me and thought yep, that's how I feel too.  And then I realized the sound was coming from me!  As the day progressed I got much braver, pat on the back for me.  I still can't get over how brave Tristan and Ava were!  Sebastian on the other hand...

This little balloon ride started out so well.  We went up, we went down, we were very happy.  All was well.  And then the balloon started to spin... And I spent the rest of the ride trying to calm Sebastian down while strong-arming the little disc in the centre in an effort to keep the balloon from spinning.  It's incredibly difficult to be soothing when you're gritting your teeth.  I think the only ride that didn't end it tears was this one: 

Along its track is a speed sign that says Alberta 1 1/2.  As in Kilometres per hour.  So much more his speed than say, the kiddie roller coaster.   After which he refused to go on anymore rides.  This is him and Tristan before it started.

I so wish I had gotten a picture of his face after the ride was over... Is it bad that Hugh and I laughed?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dog Days of Summer

The past two weeks were as busy as the two weeks before that.  So busy in fact that I managed to get myself not one, not two but three, that's right three! coldsores.  I only ever get coldsores when I am worn out and/or stressed.  I have never ever in my whole life had more than one coldsore at a time and I have been plenty worn out and/or stressed lots of other times in my life.  The time I brought twin babies home from the hospital sort of comes to mind...

Anyway, we were supposed to go away this past weekend but I decided to listen to what my body was saying and we stayed home so I could catch up and try to prevent another three month crash.  The nonstop-crying?  That was also hard to ignore. 

We had a great weekend at home and after days spent in the sun and the water and evenings curled up on the couch I feel incredibly refreshed and ready to face the world again.  And I feel like summer in all its glory is finally here and I have time to enjoy it.  Is there anything better than sweating glasses of Italian soda and fingers and faces sticky with the memory of sun-warmed cherries?

I'm also ready to tell you some stories of our past couple of weeks. Rather than try to cram it all into one post I'm going to tell you over the course of this week.   For now I will leave you with the conversation we had in the van on the way home from dinner at a friends last night when Ava said, "Mom, guess what?  I know the "s" word and the "c" word."
Hugh and I exchanged shocked glances before I cautiously said, "You do?"
"Yep!  Snow and cold."
And then my heart started beating again.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

An evil mastermind in the making

Sebastian: Tristan I want you call me stupid.

Tristan: No.

Sebastian: Tristan, pleeeeeease call me stupid.

Tristan:  No.

Sebastian:  Triiiiiistan! I said, I want to you to call me stupid!

Tristan: Sebastian! NO! No, no, no.  I won't.

Sebastian: Awwwwwwwww!  But I want you to call me stupid so you will get in trouble.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Why I'm so glad summer holidays start soon

Last week.  Ready?  Go!


Wake up at 4:45am jittery with nervous anticipation.  Drink first cup of tea at 5:20am.  Do make-up for a very special bride and two of her bridesmaids.  Wedding.  Buy gift (classy right?). Reception.  Fall into bed.

Wake up at 5:15am to catch a 7:00am flight out of Kelowna back to Calgary.  Drive home.  Reunion with our sweet babies.  Make school lunches and dinner (scrambled eggs.  Did I mention I was up at 5:15am?), get ready for a crazy week.  Fall into bed.

AM: Staff meeting at the Dream Centre Church while all my peeps are in school.  Sebastian naps in the afternoon. Wrap teacher gifts.  Make list of supplies to get for Ava’s tea party on Saturday.  

PM: Sebastian’s Preschool Grad-Which-Is-Not-A-Grad as he’s returning next year.

Also the return of the hellish event I call “let’s take a family picture!”.  Here's a tip: If you spend less time whining and more time looking at the camera it will go SO MUCH FASTER!  

Don't do a photo shoot for Sebastian like we did for Tristan and Ava's preschool "grad".  Be the stereotypical parent of a third child.  Take a post-event-everyone's-miserable self-portrait with Mom instead and tell yourself at least it's documented.  Put cranky kids to bed.  Put cranky self to bed.

AM: Big kids go to school for the morning.  Take Sebastian to his Penny Carnival Preschool Wind-up.  Quickly drive across town to get lollipop sticks and melting wafers for cake pops for Ava’s tea party.  Hit the dollar store to get tea party craft supplies.  The problem with planning something in January that won't happen until June is it starts to get a bit out of control. The original "tea and scones" tea party became, over many conversations during our cold, grey winter and our wet, grey spring, cake pops and crafts and tea dresses and a treasure hunt. 

AFTERNOON: Bake mini lemon tea cakes and the cake for the cake pops. Make the sugar cookie dough and refrigerate it.  Make another dessert (orange marsala frozen cheesecake with gingerbread crumbs) for my Thursday night small group which is my turn to host. 

PM: Make and eat dinner in record time.  Run out the door to Tristan and Ava’s last soccer game of the regular season.  Come home.  Wipe the kids down with facecloths because bathing takes too long and too much parental energy.  Fall into bed.


Make a cup of tea.  Watch it get cold on the counter.  Eat breakfast standing up.  Reheat tea.  Make little cake balls and freeze them. Reheat untouched tea.  Roll out sugar cookie dough and cut out little hearts, tea pots and tea cups which go on a never-ending rotation through the oven.  Dump out cold, still-untouched tea.  Melt chocolate wafers, take cake balls out of the freezer, stick lollipop sticks in them and spoon chocolate over them until covered.  Pass them off to the kids for sprinkles.  Make pink icing and set the kids up at the table to smear the heart cookies with icing and dust with white sugar sprinkles.  Make dinner.  Leave the teapots and teacups to cool. 


PM: Do a quick clean and tidy.  Throw a bottle of wine into the fridge to chill before my twisted sisters small group arrives.  With their help, ice, outline and decorate the teacups and teapots while talking about our personal declarations and areas we want to grow in.  Watch the storm roll in.  Take a quick moment to dance in the warm rain.  Say goodnight.  Fall into bed.

Tristan and Ava’s class “family welcome” water park day (which is why I needed to get all the tea party things made by the end of Thursday).  Drop Tristan off at school.  Take Ava to the doctor to check out the sores in her mouth she's been complaining about for two days.  Turns out it's Hand Foot and Mouth.  Doctor assures me she’s not contagious and prescribes tylenol and slurpees as she can barely swallow it hurts so much.  Stop at Macs for slurpees, meet class at water park at her insistence that she feels “fine, Mom!  I feel fine!  I promise!”.  Play with friends for a bit until I see her sitting listlessly by herself in sweatpants and a hoody shivering in the hot sun and take her home to sleep. 

PM: Soccer wind-up barbeque.  Ava insists on coming to see her soccer friends.  Stay just long enough for the rest of us to eat a hamburger while she lays limply against my arm.  Tell ourselves we're still sane.  Take a picture to prove it.  Bath the kids.  Make a stiff martini.  Make up the tea party treasure hunt clues.  Watch a movie with Hugh.  Stay up way too late for how tired I am.  Fall into bed.

Tea Party

The tea party Ava has been looking forward to since January, the tea party that we have been collecting tea cups for months for, the tea party that all week has had Ava exclaiming “I can’t believe it’s finally here!  I can’t believe it’s finally happening!”.... is cancelled.  Her poor little mouth in so much pain she can't even try to pretend she feels okay enough to have the party. 

Call all the moms and let them know we have to reschedule.  One mom drops off a slurpee for Ava.  Grieve for my girl.  Grieve that she’s sad and hurting and I can’t fix it with a kiss.  Or even a slurpee for breakfast. 

On the plus side Hugh's "boys only" fishing trip gets put on hold until the tea party is rescheduled and he finishes the playhouse instead.

How was your week?  Come for tea and tell me all about it.  I have cake pops and lemon tea cakes and sugar cookies....

Friday, June 17, 2011

Blog Material

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but I haven’t been blogging very much lately.  Yes, I’ve been busy.  Yes, I’ve been tired.  Yes, it seems like the minute I sit down to put my fingers to keyboard I’m jumping right back up again.  But mostly?  Mostly I just feel too boring to post anything.  I’ve been approaching everything in my life as potential blog material and nothing seems interesting enough to say.  It’s just same old, same old.  This is not to say that I’m bored with my life.  I find my own life quite enjoyable and interesting.  I just haven’t had anything to say I think anyone else would be interested in.    The last blog I posted felt dry and dull and I was bored and thinking who cares? (except me) even as I was posting it!

Shortly after posting that last post an old friend I haven’t talked to in eons called.  “I read your blog this morning,” she said.  “I could so relate.”  She was in the middle of a situation where she desperately needed groceries but her youngest had just gone through a few days of diarrhea and she didn’t trust that he was really over it and was sure that at the most inconvenient moment possible (and don’t we know moms, it’s always at the most inconvenient moment possible) he’d have a relapse.  While we were discussing how glamorous it is to be a mom, two of her kids were decorating the peanut butter jar with Canuck logos in anticipation of Game 7.  Fifteen or so minutes later Jaime interrupted me with a gasp.  Unbeknownst to her, those two darling little boys had wandered away and managed to cover themselves and their entire bathroom in Canuck peanut butter.  Jaime walked in to a peanut butter-crusted sink one inch from overflow.  “Uh..... can I call you back later?” she asked.

As we hung up the phone I thought, oh wow.  Poor Jaime.  That would really suck.  Jesus please give her strength and grace to get through this.  My next thought was, that would be a seriously good blog. And I’m not kidding, for a moment, I wished my kids would do something like that so I’d finally have something good to write about.  And then I remembered that when it’s your own kids you don’t just get to write about it you actually have to clean it up.  And do you know how hard it is to get peanut butter out of hair?  Or out of sink drains?  The only reason it would be a good story to write about is because it absolutely SUCKED to live! 

I talked to another friend today whose husband is breeding his German Shepherd.  I told Heidi that she needs to write a book or a blog or something.  You would not BELIEVE how expensive it is and all the crazy things that have gone down in this process.  One of the least crazy things was having to pay to get the dogs sperm counted... which... umm.... you have to get the sperm before it can be counted.  So many times through this process Heidi or I have said, “Seriously!  This is real life. You couldn’t write stuff like this!”  It would be great blog material but again, it’s stuff that SUCKS to live through.

So instead of feeling like I have nothing interesting to say because I don’t have a lot of crazy drama in my life right now, I’m taking a moment to say a heartfelt thank you to God that I don’t have any crazy drama in my life right now.  There is nothing going on that is SUCKING to live through.  Do I think we will never have crazy drama in our house again?  No.  But I’m not living in fear wondering when it will come.   Instead, I’m doing laundry, going grocery shopping, refereeing kid arguments, washing dishes, making meals, cuddling my babies, cheering at soccer games, laughing with friends, and catching up on all the So You Think You Can Dances I missed because they got trumped by basketball and hockey play-offs, and you know what?  I’m LOVING my life.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A list of random things

1.  It is 8:44am.  I haven't had breakfast yet but I have stripped the beds and thrown in my first load of sheets and put away a load of laundry that has been sitting on the floor for two days.  I haven't had my first cup of tea yet but I've written my to-do list for today.

2.  As the school year is winding down we're in the middle of a last gasp of busyness.  It's like they just want you to be really, super-duper, extra-glad it's finally summer holidays.  I'm glad! I'm glad! 

3.  My vow to watch every Canucks game of the finals has been a bust.  Life has just been too busy.  So far I've only sat down and watched one game start to finish.  Tonight will make it two.  I'm nervous already.  They have to win.  They just have to.  And it can't go into overtime or I will lose my sanity.

4.  Watching the kids play soccer this year has been so much fun.  This is their second year and I can't get over how much better they are this year than last.  Last year Ava was totally the girl who sat in the goal picking flowers until the ball came her way.  She was the girl who twirled and sang on the field until the combined shouting of her team and parents broke through her consciousness and she'd realize the ball was pretty much at her feet and she'd run it toward the goal and kick and score.... on her own team.  This year she is a fireball!  She is right in the middle of all the action and consistently gets the break-away.  She hasn't quite figured out her timing once she's within striking distance but has still managed to score 4 goals this season.  Tristan last year was just average.  This year he is unbelievable.  He is ridiculously fast, can outrun anyone on the field, has incredible ball control for a six year old and is a goal-scoring machine (also a ball hog which we're working on).  A few games ago our team won 7-1.  Tristan scored 4 goals, Ava 2.  On Monday night they won 5-1.  Tristan scored all our goals.  It is so much fun to watch your kids excel at something you didn't know they were good at.  They're both playing soccer in the Southern Alberta Summer Games in July. 

5.  A friend gave me an Amish Friendship Bread Starter.  It's a 10-day process!  I'm on Day 8 today.  After looking at this bag of mush sitting on my counter for a week Hugh thought I had forgotten about it and was about to throw it out until I very vocally rescued it. 

6. Hugh and I are flying into Kelowna on Saturday at 5:00pm, going to a wedding on Sunday where I'm doing the make-up for the bride and bridesmaids and flying home at 7:00am Monday morning.  So much to do/arrange for 38 hours of being away but I'm so looking forward to this wedding.  It's going to be a great chance to catch up with a lot people I haven't seen in about 5 years.

7.  I need to make my kids breakfast.  I need to eat breakfast. My washing machine just beeped so I need to throw another load in.  And then I can tackle the rest of my to-do list.  At least the sun isn't shining and calling for me to come out to play.  I always believe her when she says there will be time "tomorrow, tomorrow".  She lies.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Heal the Past. Live the Present. Dream the Future.

I head up an incredible team of women at the Dream Centre Church and together we plan events and dream for and pray for the women of our church.  Last Saturday we had a ladies breakfast where one of the girls on my leadership team spoke about freedom.  I wrote a blog about the event and my own personal revelations about spiritual/emotional freedom on the Dream Centre website.

If you're interested you can check it out here.

Happy Friday everyone! It's a glorious sunny day, my big kids are in school, my not-such-a-baby baby boy is asking for a cuddle and there is a deck chair calling my name.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A picture may be worth a thousand words but I still had to write a few

I finally got my vacation pictures off my camera.  In the process I got distracted looking through the folder of photos taken in the month before our holidays.  Want know how to make your baby grow up overnight and make yourself wonder if that vasectomy your husband got three years ago was such a good idea after all?

Give him a haircut.

And then go cry yourself to sleep because your baby's babyhood is gone forever and the baby era in your family is gone forever and then torture yourself wondering why-oh-why you didn't have another baby when babies are so delicious and wonderful and perfect in every way...

And then after a good nights sleep, when peace of mind and perspective has returned, remind yourself how awesome it is that you get to have a good nights sleep because you don't have any babies anymore, that you don't miss diapers or strollers or diaper bags, and then have your little man wrap his arms around your neck and say, "Oh mom, you're my best friend."

The end.