Back to School

January 4, 2010

I always feel a sense of let down on the first day back to school after a break.  I’m one of those people who loves to have my flock around me, and this break was better than most.  I We didn’t over commit ourselves for a change, and with the kids all getting older and less dependent, life seemed to roll along smoothly.

We spent most of the two weeks off together as a family.  The boys each were able to have friends here for sleepovers on two different nights and Chloe had a sleepover with Sarah on New Year’s Eve.  One of the biggest treats for all of them was that all four slept in guest rooms on January 2nd – Evan in one, Alex in another, and Sarah & Olivia in the third.  They love to play “guest” and cart their keys around!

We were lucky to get in some visits with some of our very dearest friends, as well.  Sandy, Dave & Nate were home from NL; Kim, JC & boys were home from Montreal; Theresa, Jeff and the boys stopped in from NB; Cynthia, Ken & the boys made it here from the Valley; and we had visits with the cousins down the street.

Making Christmas ornaments

Finally - a photo with the four 5 year olds!

Rock & Roll - watch out in another few years!!

Olivia & Nate playing "spaceship" in Grammie's pantry - just like their mothers used to do!

The kids LOVE this train!

A half-hearted hug from Jacob for his godmother

BINGO!

All this entertaining wears a girl out!

First skate on the rink - New Year's Day

Olivia, with a little help from Dad

A couple of falls and they were done!

This year, we were lucky enough to be able to celebrate Nate’s 3rd birthday with him and his family.  Back when we found out what dates they would be here, I offered to bake his cake.  Sandy & Dave asked him what kind of cake he’d like and he replied, “my head”.

Okay.

As cakes go, it was actually not that difficult to accomplish and we were all pleased with the final result.  The whole family came down to our place for his party and Sandy & Dave ordered pizzas for all of us.  It was a wonderful afternoon!

"Nate"

Seeing his cake for the first time - I think he liked it!

"I'm Three!"

Beth & Clara

Sarah, drawing yet another picture for Dave

Sandy & Olivia

Aidan & Alex play Rock Band

Groupies?!

Olivia, Nate & Quinn - the three 3-year-olds!

Happy Birthday to You!

Make a wish!

Let's play wii "airplane crash"

Olivia gets pretty competitive!

Dave makes himself at home amid the chaos!

Now everyone has gone home, and we’re back to our regular routine.

I don’t like it one bit!

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It’s a Wonderful Life!

December 27, 2009

We commented many times that this was our most pleasant Christmas in a very long time!  It got off to a bit of a rocky start though!

I had taken the girls up to bed the night before, when everyone had left, and as I often do – fell asleep!  At five am, D’Arcy came into our bedroom and told me I needed to get up because Alex had woken up and come downstairs to find him asleep on the couch.  I asked Alex if Santa had been there yet and he told me no, because Dad hadn’t gone to bed!  We sent him back upstairs and went to work “shutting the house down” so that Santa could come.

Everyone went back to sleep and Alex & Sarah were the first ones up at 8:05.  They woke Evan easily, but it took many kisses & tickling to wake Olivia.  They went downstairs and discovered that Santa had come!  They were excited to discover that Santa brought what everyone wanted:  a high hat for Evan’s drumset, a video camera for Alex, and dolls for Sarah & Olivia.

The dresses are not new, they're same ones that we brought back from Disney two years ago, but I guess they wanted to be princesses and wear their new jewellery!

After they opened their gifts from Santa, we scurried to have our traditional Christmas morning breakfast of waffles with strawberry butter and sausages wrapped in pastry and cranberry sauce.  We had agreed to be the “greeters” at 10:00 Mass, so it was a bit of a rush to get there early!  We enjoy Christmas morning Mass since it’s not crowded at all and it makes Christmas Eve less rushed.  The kids were pretty good during the service, except when Sarah & Olivia had a squabble just before the Sign of Peace and D’Arcy ended up taking her out at that time.  Since we were at the front, I rolled my eyes at the priest and mouthed the words “Peace” to which he giggled.

We came home and got the breakfast dishes cleaned up and were organized by the time my parents, Jonathan & Moushka arrived to open gifts.  Evan was acting as Santa, passing out gifts and did a good job of spreading them around.  We had many thoughtful & meaningful gifts, including new napkins for the muffin baskets sewn beautifully by Evan, pictures, home made cards & ornaments…  The girls got homemade doll clothes for their new babies from my parents, while Alex got a Meccano Remote Control Car and Evan got a unicycle!  There were sleds for the girls from Uncle Jon and a hard drive for each of them containing 33,000 songs now that they’re getting into music.  The kids had really wanted Rock band for the wii and we were able to get it for them second hand from a friend.  Can you say spoiled?!

Olivia with Ginna and the new babies - "Snow White" and "Chloe"

Alex, about to videotape the festivities

A new coat and hat from her godparents

Sarah got new bathing suits from her godparents

Ginna & Beanah

Opening my napkins from Evan

Sarah monopolized Moushka's attention

Sarah took over the camera so Alex could open his gift. I think Uncle Jon is going to hire her soon...

Opening my "Snuggie" from Grandpa - a blanket with sleeves, otherwise known as a long sweater!

These snow people sing and Sarah loves them!

A pillow my mom made using my Junior High & High School sweatshirts. I'll have to put it out at the wine & cheese for my 20th Reunion this summer!

Evan, realizing there is a unicycle in his box!

The girls getting their sleds from Uncle Jon

Now to wait for the snow...

Grandfather & Grandson

Uncle Jon & his nephews

The last gift of the day, realizing they got "Rock Band"

Because we got it from a friend, we also got "Guitar Hero" along with some other games. I think Dad was as excited as the boys!

When we were finished opening the gifts, D’Arcy & I moved into the kitchen to get things ready for Christmas Dinner, while my mother, Jonathan & Mouska played with the kids.  They hooked up the wii and Evan tried to conquer his unicycle while Beanah had a nap.

Ginna has different babies to play with now

Alex quickly gave up on the Meccano, leaving Uncle Jon to figure it out

It was just the ten of us for dinner, so we moved on our own schedule.  We had ginger squash soup followed by turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, the carrots Sarah grew in our garden, broccoli, cauliflower an orange salad & a blueberry salad, cranberry sauce, rolls & gravy – all homemade.  Dessert was chocolate cheesecake (brought by Uncle Jon), an egg-free pumpkin pie & Christmas sweets.

After supper while Beanah & D’Arcy cleaned up all the dishes, Ginna, Moushka & I sat at the table and chatted while the kids played some more and Uncle Jon suffered from turkey-lepsy.  They headed back up to my parents house when everything was cleaned up, so we all got into our pyjamas and rocked out before heading to bed.

This was our first year (other than the year we moved in) that we didn’t have any guests and it certainly gave a different feel to the day!  We did have one call for drop-ins just as we sat down to eat dinner, but they didn’t show up and we were just as happy…

Forget about looking like Christmas – it’s now starting to sound like Christmas!  It has been a week of concerts, recitals & plays.  I was feeling somewhat bah humbug about all the extra events this week, but when sitting through Alex’s Boys’ Choir concert on Saturday night, I realized that this is what Christmas is all about.  I sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed the music.

Sunday, the boys performed in “The Drowsy Shepherd” at the United Church.  They were great!  The play was clever & funny, nobody forgot their lines and Alex did a wonderful job on his solo.  He was a shepherd and Evan was a sheep!  I thought he would be embarrassed to wear the sheep “mask”, but he just pretended he was a cloud…

When the play was over, we had just under an hour to get Sarah to her highland dance recital.  My parents took Olivia home with them for lunch so that we could feed the others a quick lunch at Subway.  They met us at the Recital.  I love watching the little ones when they are just starting out; we were pretty proud when people approached us afterwards to say that we have to make sure to keep Sarah dancing because she’s a natural!  She loved it – everything except getting her hair into a bun!

The Dancers

We rushed home from that to get ready for our last B&B dinner of the Christmas Season, a group of hairdressers who have been coming here for the past four years.  Oh my, do they have fun!!  Oh, and D’Arcy also got the rink set up in that time too as it’s supposed to get cold this week…  (Heaven forbid we take a moment to relax in a clean house!)

Yesterday, I went to Halifax for a beautiful luncheon/Tourism Conference wrap-up meeting at the Prince George hotel and then managed to get a Costco run in while in the city.  I got home in time to throw some pancakes on to feed the kids for supper between band, dance & choir and Evan’s band concert.  He did a great job and we were really proud of him.  We were all really tired by this point.  I had to laugh when I told Sarah to stop staring at the people sitting in the row behind us and she replied, “but he’s just like my dad – sleeping!”

I didn't notice my dad reading the e-book before I saw this photo!

Unfortunately, the only photo we got of Evan as the lighting in the gym was tricking Alex's camera.

We took the long way home to see some of the Christmas lights.  Tonight we have the boys’ elementary school concert and Friday is Sarah’s preschool concert which ends with a visit from Santa.

If we’re not into the Christmas Spirit by then, we never will be!

Christmas at our house

January 1, 2009

The boys woke up around 6:30 Christmas morning.  We have a rule that everyone has to be awake before they are allowed in to open their stockings. It was driving Alex crazy that the girls were still sleeping, but he sat at the table as patiently as possible while we got breakfast ready.  The girls woke up at around 7:30 when D’Arcy got into the shower.  They got dressed and raced down to see what Santa had brought – Nerf Cosmic Catch & Nerf Cosmic Keepaway for the boys and Hungry Hungry Hippos and Elefun for the girls – just what they asked for!!  The whole family received tickets to go see the Doodlebops in February.
Olivia with her Skittles - a totally safe candy!

Olivia with her Skittles - a totally safe candy!

 

Alex's slinky from Santa

Alex's slinky from Santa

I called my parents at 7:55 to ask if we could borrow their colored Advent Candles and woke them up!  (They were due at our place for breakfast, along with Jonathan & Moushka at 8:00!!)  Luckily, the kids could amuse themselves with their new games while we waited and made our traditional Christmas morning breakfast – pancakes with strawberry butter, fruit, yogurt, turkey bacon, muffins, and sausages with cranberry sauce, wrapped in puffed pastry.

Playing Elefun

Playing Elefun

Hungry Hippos - not a quiet game!!

Hungry Hippos - not a quiet game!!

It turned out to be just us and my parents for breakfast – Jonathan & Moushka decided to sleep in and “Danny” our Korean guest didn’t surface until we were cleaning up.  We kept a plate out for him, but we were on a schedule and had to head out early to ten o’clock Mass as we were booked to be the greeters.  The kids took up the gifts and Olivia was very serious about taking up her basket with the offering in it!  They were very well behaved at Mass, especially considering there was a tree full of untouched gifts waiting at home! 

We tidied up a bit while we waited for my parents & Uncle Jon & Moushka to arrive.  The turducken had gone into the oven at 9:00, so the house was starting to smell really good.  We started opening gifts shortly after noon and the kids were spoiled.  We try not to go overboard at Christmas so they receive a family gift and that’s it from us.  This year it was the news that we have rented an RV and will go on vacation – somewhere – again this summer!  We all received tickets to go see High School Musical at Neptune Theatre in May.  Our kids are huge HSM fans, so those were a huge hit!  The boys also received the old-fashioned kind of alarm clocks for when they have to start waking up early for the bus next week. 

Sarah eyes her new shirt from her "Fairly Odd Mother"

Sarah eyes her new shirt from her "Fairly Odd Mother"

 

Dad's new shirt from the boys

Dad's new shirt from the boys

Evan opens his new-to-him alarm clock

Evan opens his new-to-him alarm clock

Olivia was spoiled by her godparents!  The quilt on Ginna's lap was from them too!

Olivia was spoiled by her godparents! The quilt on Ginna's lap was from them too!

We spent a quiet afternoon, the kids playing with Uncle Jon & Moushka while we set the table and prepared for Dinner. 

Sarah and Moushka coloring

Sarah and Moushka coloring

Uncle Jon jamming with the boys

Uncle Jon jamming with the boys

 We expected 18 for Christmas Dinner and told people to arrive at five.  Sarah decided she was ready for bed so ended up missing Dinner.  My parents were late and arrived with the news that my grandmother had died Christmas Morning.  She was 90 and had a cold she just couldn’t fight.  I was sad, but so glad that I had gone to see her in October and had that wonderful visit with her when she knew whom I was.  As sad as it was that she died and we found out at Christmas, it was actually good timing because we were all together and my cousins were home from Ontario. 

Dinner was slightly later than I had hoped, but everything was hot and D’Arcy said a lovely grace:

“For food in a world where many walk in hunger, for faith in a world where many walk in fear, for friends in a world where many walk alone and for our family gathered here, we give thanks.  Amen.”

followed by a toast to my grandmother.

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After dinner, we lit the German carousel and retired to the living room where we ended up talking and playing Family Feud, the DVD game that the boys had received.  Claire, my cousin’s new (to us!) baby got passed around and D’Arcy did LOTS of dishes.  I managed to stay awake after supper and it turned out to be one of the nicest Christmases we’ve had in a long time!

My cousin Troy with Olivia

My sweet Alex

My sweet Alex

Evan with Olivia and Claire

Evan with Olivia and Claire

Alex and Beanah light the Carousel

Alex and Beanah light the Carousel

Alex loves this!

Alex loves this!

There’s a winter storm warning advisory issued for tonight and from the sounds of things, we’re supposed to get up to 45cm of snow between now & tomorrow noon.  I’m hoping that being warm & cozy inside while the storm rages outside will put me into the Christmas Spirit.  We’re decorating our guest areas for Christmas this weekend because our Christmas Parties start next week.  It seems early to me…

D’Arcy will put up the trees in the living & dining rooms tonight and I have my mother booked to come and help me decorate tomorrow all day.  We’ll put the garland on the banister, decorate the mantles and unwrap the treasures.  We will wait until advent starts to put out the nativity, and won’t put up the tree in our own living room until mid-December. 

I made our major family purchase today – tickets to see the Doodlebops in concert this February in Halifax.  We have never gone overboard with Christmas gifts, usually getting a game for the whole family to share.  Santa is usually very kind, but they know not to expect (or even ask for) anything too extravagant.  Last year’s Christmas (for the boys at least) centered around our trip to Disney.  Their grandparents gave them their passports, their godparents gave them luggage, and Santa brought Alex a digital camera.  We made it clear that the trip was NOT a Christmas gift, but we told them that day that we were going.

We were approached by Publishing Company Morgan & Chase in the summer to be a part of their “Treasures of…” series.  I was told that the book would be out in the Fall and along with the fee to be on their website, etc., paid for some books up front to be Christmas gifts for our families.  I hadn’t heard anything about the books lately, so have been trying to contact the company to see when we could expect to receive them.  Guess what?  It would appear that they went under when the economy went bust.  I found the following newspaper article: 

October 03, 2008.Mail Tribune. By Greg Stiles. . Morgan and Chase Publishing, which produced coffee table travel guidebooks, has closed. The four-year-old west Medford publishing company had its 6,000-square-foot production plant on Parsons Drive and had as many as 40 employees and private contractors. ‘We sold to small business, they were hurting and we were hurting,’ said President Damon Neal. ‘We’ve become insolvent.’

The company opened amid burgeoning economic times when rapidly escalating home values and relatively inexpensive gas prices allowed Americans to travel widely. Some 30 titles were published about communities from California to Ontario, Canada. But after a two-year growth cycle, the tide turned. ‘The small businesses we dealt with were mainly in the hospitality industry, restaurants and attractions,’ Neal said. ‘They were all struggling and still are. Their business is down 30, 40, 50 percent. They are desperately hanging on and didn’t have money to spend on anything else. We heard that over and over.

In the middle of 2007, Morgan and Chase saw trouble on the horizon and by January the decline was rapid. ‘It was getting pretty serious,’ Neal said. ‘We tried other methods of marketing, but we kept running into problems. The final nail was gas. When gas prices began to skyrocket, people were putting their money in the tank and weren’t going out to eat and doing the kinds of things we were writing about. Neal said the company’s board went to an attorney to review financial statements as it searched for a way to pull back from the brink. ‘The short answer was that we had no reorganization plan and tremendous overhead,’ Neal said. ‘We had already cut costs as close as we could and there was no way to get from under it.’ Employees were laid off two weeks ago.

Crap!  Not only am I out a lot of money, but now I have to come up with some new gift ideas.

My mother came down this morning and we dug out all the snowsuits & boots from the attic ahead of the snow.  Too bad we don’t have the snow tires on the van yet…  Alex needed new boots because he’s grown so much.  He wore a new jacket to school yesterday and his former best friend told him it made him look like a dweeb.  Alex replied, “That’s a putdown and we don’t do that at this school!”  I’m proud of him, but he was upset nonetheless.  I told him if anyone else says something like that he should tell them that Maddie (a girl in his class he’s friends with but the rest of the boys like) says he looks great in it!  That made him smile…

Cub camp, planned for this weekend, has been cancelled because of the storm, so we’ll all settle in with some movies in front of the trees & the fireplace and be thankful for what we have.

Last week in a nutshell

November 17, 2008

Last week wasn’t conducive to keeping up with the news.  It took me most of the week to recover from the weekend which had been so stressful.  We had gone to an Association meeting where I was involved with three presentations, one of which was to debate why I feel the two Associations of which I sit on each Board should remain aligned with one another.  The President of the Meeting which we were attending (who was the catalyst behind the idea of severing the Alliance due to a personal grudge – he was not asked to renew his term as Director and feels that had I withdrawn my name from the Nomination, they would have come grovelling to him to reinstate him.  Not true!) has been taking out his frustrations on me and ended up personally attacking me at the beginning of the Director’s meeting on Friday night.  I had fully intended to maintain my composure, but ended up getting into a heated argument with him.  Luckily, some of my colleagues backed me up, and very-long-story-short, my presentation on Saturday to the membership went very well and the two Associations will remain in an alliance.  In fact, in the end, only ONE property voted to sever the relationship! I found it interesting that one of the Directors who is leaving the Board came up to me at the end of the AGM and gave me the “It wasn’t personal…” speech.  Funny, the President didn’t do the same thing.  There is no love lost there.

It took a few days to get my blood pressure back to normal and by Thursday, I realized just how much the stress had been spilling over into our lives.  Evan had been spoken to a few weeks back at Cubs by the “Akela”.  Evan is a sixer and after they had been fooling around at their Hallowe’en party, Evan didn’t tuck his uniform back in before the start of the Closing Ceremony.  The Akela spoke to Evan about this, something along the lines of “you need to set an example for your six… responsibility…” Evan, normally being very responsible and conscientious, was crushed and shut down.  Cubs was no longer fun and he tried to say he hadn’t wanted to go this year in the first place.  (So why did you spend the summer working on badges, Evan?!)

He went to Cubs on Thursday and didn’t respond whenever Akela tried to speak with him.  After he finally shut himself in the bathroom, D’Arcy said enough is enough.  When the meeting was over, D’Arcy mediated while Evan & Akela talked.  Evan suggested some games they could play and since he already has his knot specialty badge, perhaps he could help the other Cubs with their knots on the night they learn the knot-of-the-month.

When I was tucking the boys into bed that night, I asked Evan if he felt better after talking to Akela and getting his feelings out.  He said that he did.  I tried to compare it to my meeting last week and we had the following conversation:

Mom:  I’m glad that you talked to Akela about what you thought wasn’t fair and what was bothering you.  It’s hard to do, but you feel better in the end.  It’s just like my meeting last weekend.  I didn’t want to go because there was a person there who I knew wasn’t going to be fair to me and would be mean to me, but I went and stood up for myself and what I believe and everything worked out.  It wasn’t fun to go through, but I’m glad I did.

Alex:  Are you talking about the bully?

Evan:  You mean Mr. M?

Mom:  Yes, he’s like the Akela of my association.

Evan:  But I thought that under the current By-laws, his term as President was up at this AGM?!

Oh my!!  They do listen to everything, don’t they?!

In other news, Olivia had a shrimp challenge scheduled for Wednesday, but the allergist’s office called on Monday and cancelled it.  I was disappointed there wasn’t another appointment available before Christmas, but she’s rescheduled for January.  I was hoping to know if she’s anaphylactic to shrimp before Christmas since there will be so many people around and events to take her to, however, we’ll just keep her away from it as best we can and always make sure her epi-pen is close by.

Speaking of her allergies, my sister-in-law was telling me that at the major grocery store in town, there is a huge peanut man made out of REAL peanuts as soon as you walk in the door.  Ugh.  It’s already hard enough to take her to the store, but come on – a PEANUT MAN??!!  I’m going to have to write to the store.  With Christmas approaching, there are more nuts out in the produce department, so I’m back to feeding her mostly frozen or canned vegetables due to the risk of cross-contamination.

The Volunteer Tea went well; so well in fact, that I felt badly for complaining about the work involved in setting it up.  The organizers were most appreciative and the comments were all very positive.  They had confirmed for 30, but in the end, 36 showed up.  The organizers said it was the best one they’d had so far and a HUGE pointsettia arrived at the door this morning as a thank you.

Alex’s eye appointment on Friday went well – he’s still stalled with one letter to go to reach legal driving vision, so will still get the Atropine drop at least four more weeks.  I was starting to worry because of how late it was when they got back from the city, but Ginna had given Alex Tim Horton’s as a treat so they stopped at her house to get him all cleaned up before coming home and being around Olivia.  I was so tired that we skipped the Christmas Tree Lighting, but Alex went along with my mother, just the two of them.  We went to the Santa Claus Parade on Saturday night (in the warm rain) which was fun.  The boys decided not to go on the Scout Float (much to D’Arcy’s relief) but Alex really wanted to be in the parade, so sat with Ginna & the choir on the United Church float.  We walked home when it was over and put the girls to bed. D’Arcy & the boys & I lit a fire and watched “Hairspray”.  We hadn’t watched a movie together in months!

I also found out this week that my dear friend has been laid off from her job, and another friend and her husband have separated.   She finally had the strength to tell him to leave.

D’Arcy was supposed to defend the first part of his Thesis tomorrow, but we haven’t heard from his advisor, so assume it is not happening as planned.  We are praying that this does not affect his graduation date.

Phew.  What a lot of news for one post.  This week looks like it will be busy again –  I’m beginning to sound like a broken record…