Tomorrow is June and I can’t wait to turn the page.  The past couple of weeks we have been busy running from one activity to the next, wrapping things up for the end of the school year and marking special occasions.  The June calendar page has far less on it than the past few months!

To-do lists have been long and sleep has been short.

I was in Digby at a tourism conference on Thursday & Friday.  It was beautiful & fun.  I was interviewed on camera about how the proposed new convention centre in Halifax would be beneficial for our business.  (1/3 of rooms in May were people traveling either pre or post convention!)  With many people feeling the outlook for tourism this year is going to be bleak, it was energizing to network and share ideas.

On Friday morning, I met up with the incoming Chair of the Board and we went for a morning run from the Digby Pines to the Ferry Terminal.  There was a beautiful rainbow over the water  and the sun had just come up.  What a way to start the day!

Morning Run from the Digby Pines to the Digby - Saint John Ferry Terminal

I arrived home just in time for D’Arcy to pull some reuben sandwiches out of the oven to go with a salad he & the boys had made for a late supper. (The girls were having a sleepover with my parents!) I immediately got started on the preparations for Alex’s First Communion Dinner. He had asked for spare ribs and I was making him a cake. I also had to make some cookies for Sarah’s dance recital celebration. Her grandmother let me know that she was wondering what her cookies would look like this year.  Apparently, I unknowingly started a new “tradition” last year after her first recital.

This year's ballerina cookies, to match Sarah's costume

Olivia came home first thing in the morning while Ginna took Sarah to her dress rehearsal in full costume and hair. We took Evan to his pick-up baseball game at the park, where there weren’t enough kids, so both D’Arcy & Alex ended up playing as well. Olivia & I ran errands and every time we went back to the park to check if they were finished, Olivia wanted to play on the playground. Evan was very pleased that he got three hits and Alex got two. Hopefully that’s a good sign that this season will go better than last!

We were expecting our guests to arrive for Alex’s First Communion Dinner at 3:30, so we got home and rushed around to get ready. D’Arcy was just finishing mopping the floors when my parents arrived with Auntie Ruth. Shortly afterwards, Theresa, Jeff (Alex’s godparents) and the boys arrived. We were a little bit rushed because we were trying to eat before Alex had to be at Mass at 5:30. Just as we sat down to supper, Grandma, Grandpa & Aunt Shannon arrived. We were happy to pull up a few more places and we all had a nice meal.

At one point, Sarah told me that she was kind of “scared” of Alex having his First Communion.  I reassured her that there was nothing to be afraid of when Evan interjected, “Unless Olivia goes into anaphylaxis and starts throwing up at Mass like she did at my First Communion!”

Um, right…

Luckily that didn’t happen this time!

The food and conversation were plentiful and the kids were all well-behaved at Mass.  We came back to the house afterwards for cake, cookies and photos.  Theresa, Jeff & the boys stayed overnight and we sat around watching the hockey game & talking (& laughing!) until after midnight.

Relaxing on the deck while the ribs were on the barbeque

All the Grade 3's after their First Communion

Alex with his godparents, Theresa & Jeff

Tyler, Aidan, Alex, Sarah, Olivia, Evan, Brendan

Our family

Alex with Aunt Shannon

Alex with both sets of grandparents & Auntie Ruth

Time for cake!

Sarah sees her ballerina cookies

Alex with his first watch - a gift from Theresa & Jeff!

On Sunday, we were all up shortly after seven and had breakfast before Theresa, Jeff & the boys had to hit the road for home and we had to get Sarah ready for her recital.

She had her make-up done at home, but then went to her grandparents’ to get her costume on and her hair done.  They took her to the auditorium so that we didn’t have to get there with the other kids too early.

Getting her make-up done for her dance recital. Sarah will rarely take her glasses off (even when she sleeps!) because she sees double and everything is blurry. It is amazing how straight her glasses keep her eyes!

Our beautiful ballerina!

With Katerina, her best friend

Visiting with her godparents at intermission

On the stage!

Chloe's group at the finale. Chloe is on the far left.

I love this one - Katerina is turned around talking to Sarah during the finale!

Sarah & Chloe

When we got home, Sarah carefully arranged her flowers in a vase and commented that her dinner guests would love her flowers.  When I told her we weren’t having any dinner guests this year because of Alex’s party the night before, her face fell.  A quick phone call later with her godparents and to the pizza place, a party was born!  It’s amazing what a pink table-cloth, candles, wine glasses and flowers can do to make a party!

This year's less-fancy-but-still-special-last-minute-ballet-dinner

And of course, the leftover ballerina cookies topped off the celebration!  I love these photos as she looks so pleased to be handing them out to Martha & Stephane!

I’m exhausted.  I just hope I don’t have to make dancers with kilts for her highland dance recital in two weeks!

Advertisements

Privileged

February 23, 2010

We collect Delta Privilege points.  Between Chris & Lisa’s wedding & the Tourism Conference among other events, we were eligible for Platinum status this year.  As a Platinum member, we get free room upgrades, free internet, turn-down service, etc. at each stay.  The best bonus is that we “earned” $300 which could be used toward room and/or dining charges.  The only catch is that status in the program may vary from year to year, depending on how often you stay and the year expires on February 28th.  We love the atmosphere & the staff at the Delta Barrington, as well as its convenient location downtown.  We’ve not been disappointed any time we have stayed, and even wrote a glowing review on Trip Advisor for them after our summertime stay.

We got a letter in the mail last month, explaining that the expiry date was coming up, so we looked at the calendar, chose a date, and booked two rooms for Saturday night.  (As a family of six, we no longer fit into one regular hotel room.)  We just put “Surprise” on the calendar for the kids, in case it fell-through, and booked out on Saturday night.  The kids had a wonderful time trying to guess what the surprise would be.

On Friday at suppertime, my parents took the girls to their house for a sleepover so that we could watch the Olympics and get ready in peace.  We lit a fire in the tv room, ate store-bought pizza (a novelty with Olivia out-of-the-house) and pulled out the couch.  D’Arcy marked and we all watched the curling & the skeleton races.  We told the boys what we would be doing the next day and they were happy to hear that we’d decided to dedicate the weekend to our family.  We turned off our computers and just hung out.

Both boys play basketball on Saturday mornings and usually D’Arcy takes them while I stay home with the girls.  Since the girls were with my parents, I planned to go watch the games.  On our way to Evan’s game, we dropped some clothes & snowpants off so that they could go outside & play while they waited.  As I rushed in the door, I discovered a pale-looking Sarah, wrapped up in a blanket on the couch.  My mother informed me that she had been throwing up in the night, but she wasn’t sure if Sarah was sick or had just eaten too much too fast.  I told them I would be back to pick them up in an hour when the game was over and we would decide what to do from there.

Evan’s game was great and he scored a couple of really nice baskets.  Alex was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to watch his game, but I explained that by going home, it would give me time to make lunch and be sure that everything was ready to go.

We got on the road close to 2:00, packed up with more than enough “stuff” for overnight!

Belongings for six of us for 24 hours! It may be the first time in 11.5 years that we've traveled without a stroller!

We had to stop at Canadian Tire along the way to buy water-wings for the girls, the only thing I forgot to pack.  We got to the hotel right at three and got checked in to adjoining rooms.  The concierge remembered us from our stay when Chris & Lisa got married, but I suspect we’re not an easy group to forget!

We got settled in and the girls immediately put their bathing suits on!  We tried to hold them back for a few minutes while we waited for our “welcome tray” of cheese, crackers & fruit.  (Another perk!)

After what seemed like FOREVER, I'm sure, to them, we were ready to head to the pool!

We were too busy having fun to take any photos while at the pool.  We decided that it was the perfect time-of-year to have an overnight (as opposed to March Break) because there were only two other families with similar age children, rather than the teenagers who seem to over-run the place during school holidays.  One family was from here – their little boy had on the same t-shirt from last summer’s basketball camp that our boys did!

After swimming, we all had baths & showers and got ready for dinner.  We peeked into the bar hoping to be able to watch Olympics while we ate, but there were so many reserved tables we headed to the restaurant downstairs instead.  As it turned out, they were expecting a large group, so the dining manager got us a table in the bar afterall!

We had taken the game “Science Diction” with us to play while we waited and all went smoothly.  We had one blip when our kids ordered “Shirley Temples” and I didn’t think to ask what was in them.  Just as Olivia started to sip, I thought to ask if there was pineapple juice in them and of course, there was!  Olivia wasn’t too impressed when we took it away from her, but the server came right back with a safe one and there was no harm done.

It is nerve-wracking to eat out when your child has food allergies, especially at a new place.  We explained her allergies to the server who was very understanding and cautious.  We didn’t ever feel like we were putting her out.  She discussed with the chef what Olivia is allergic to and they sent her a “safe” plate with cheese pizza & cut veggies.  It turned out the dip for the veggies was ranch dressing (egg) – eek! Luckily, it was in a ramekin, so we took it off her plate.  Evan was quick to share the ketchup from his fish & chips and all went well.

The boys, snazzed up for dinner

All four, ready for dinner

The three boys, waiting for our food

The girls weren't quite as co-operative about posing...

Olivia's pizza & veggies

We went back up to the room after supper and got into our pyjamas.  We all piled into our room and watched Olympics while playing “Lotto” (a bingo-type game the girls love).  Although we didn’t take many pictures, Alex got most of the action on his video camera!

Sarah put herself in charge of handing out game pieces, thus rigging the game!

When the time came for Olivia to go to sleep (about 9:15), she wanted me to lie down with her.  I took her into the kids room and we cuddled.  Of course, I fell asleep.  D’Arcy woke me a couple of hours later when he was bringing the rest of our sleeping children into bed!

They were all up bright & early on Sunday morning and were raring to go for a swim.  We swam, got cleaned up & packed up and went downstairs for breakfast (also included as a Delta Privilege members) .  I had taken a safe muffin, some oatmeal & some grapes for Olivia because breakfast is especially nerve-wracking for us.  (Peanut butter & eggs everywhere!)  While the rest of us ate from the buffet, she insisted on Froot Loops (like her sister) and yogurt with apple juice to drink; she had half her muffin from home.

It was about 11:30 by this time, so we checked out and headed to Costco for a few things.  The boys really wanted to use some money they’d saved to buy the Winter Olympics game for their wii, so we thought we’d look there first.  The girls were asleep by the time we pulled away from the hotel, so D’Arcy stayed in the van with them, marking while the boys & I went shopping.

We didn’t have luck with the game at Costco, but did at the second store we tried.  We then went in to see Grandma & Grandpa to have a visit there.  When we arrived, the girls were cranky from just waking up and the boys (Alex) were cranky from being overtired.  They whined & bickered until D’Arcy & I laid down the law and got them set up playing monopoly.  They all came around and we had a good visit, with a delicious ham dinner.  We ate until we were stuffed, with Erin, Brian & Morag all arriving before we left.

A little reading with Dad

While Grandpa gets his first look at the Thesis (well, the first part of it!)

He insisted he was "NOT TIRED"!!!!

Monopoly got them all cooperating again - eventually...

D'Arcy "wasn't tired" either...

We got home about 7:30, unpacked the van and got everybody tucked into bed.  I went to sleep while D’Arcy tackled the laundry and watched the hockey game.  He woke me at midnight to watch the ice dancers…

The kids were still reveling in the weekend yesterday morning and the boys thanked us profusely before heading to the bus stop.

When the mail came yesterday afternoon, I discovered a letter from Delta.  Inside, was a note saying that because of our loyalty, we’ve automatically been reaffirmed as Platinum members for next year!  Thank you Delta – we feel very privileged indeed!

Valentine’s Day

February 10, 2010

What are your plans for Valentine’s Day?

Years ago, when I was in elementary school, my mother made hot milk cake in individual heart-shaped cake molds for my brother & I, topped with cream cheese icing and cinnamon hearts.   This is a tradition I’ve kept up with my own kids, although since Olivia’s food allergy diagnosis a couple of years ago, it’s been individual heart-shaped peanut-treenut-egg-soy-and-dairy-free cake with icing made from palm oil, icing sugar & rice milk.  She is allergic to cinnamon and you can’t find those cinnamon hearts that aren’t packaged in a factory without peanuts & treenuts, so decorations have been Enjoy Life’s peanut-treenut-egg-soy-dairy-free chocolate chips.  (AKA the “golden chocolate chips” because of their cost!)

You do what you have to do.

This year is Olivia’s first since passing her dairy challenge, so I’ll make peanut-treenut-egg-soy-free yogurt cakes in a heart shape, topped with cream cheese icing.  I might even go wild and decorate them with pink & red Smarties, made in a peanut-free factory!

I got an idea from Chris & Gwen’s blog for exchanging Valentines among the family.  They give out five color-coded post-it notes per person.  Each member of the family has to write an array of “I love you because…” messages for their family members on the color-coded notes and they get hidden around the house to find.  I’m totally stealing this idea this year!  (this is a step up from my normal cut-out construction paper hearts with loving sentiments…)

We’ll celebrate Valentine’s Day here on the 15th because the kids will be at my parents’ for a sleepover while we host our annual Chef’s Dinner at the B&B.  One of the things we learned early on when working in the hospitality industry is that you have to make your own holidays!  After all, shouldn’t we appreciate our Valentines each day of the year?!

“I ‘llergic to that”

January 12, 2010

Olivia seems to be getting a handle on her allergies.  She understands that some things will make her sick and she will rhyme off the list on her medic alert bracelet.  Lately, she has brought this up in different situations that make us giggle, such as:

  • When playing “wii sword slice”, whenever the master throws out the egg, she will announce, “I ‘llergic to that!”
  • When playing with the new toy microwave at my parents’ house, my mother says that the egg has been put on top of the piano, not to be touched because Olivia has told her she’s allergic!
  • While watching Disney’s “Planet Earth” this weekend, when she saw the pack of lions, she looked up at me very seriously and announced, “I ‘llergic to tigers!” (cats!)

Life has become much easier since she seems to comprehend that if she’s in contact with something she is allergic to, she will become sick.  When she would fuss over Christmas because I wasn’t including her in a trip to the grocery store, I would just tell her that there were too many nuts out at the store and she would accept that.  The same went for all the treats that were out before Christmas.  She’s very conscientious about asking “Is that safe for me” when we give her something new.

I hope that she continues to be vigilant and self-monitor.

In the meantime, we’ll be sure to keep her away from any & all tigers!

On High Alert

November 20, 2009

Earlier this week, I was talking with our pharmacist, who is also our friend, about Olivia’s epi-pens.  One of the ones we keep in her epi-pen bag had expired at the end of September and she wanted to know if I wanted a new one now, or did I want to wait until January when our health plan will cover them again. (We’re covered for two per calendar year and any additional ones we pay $120 for.)   I actually paused and thought about it then told her that it is only six weeks until the new year…  When it’s been so long since she’s had an anaphylactic reaction, it’s easy to become complacent.

Yesterday, I had a wake up call.

On the weekend when I got groceries, Evan asked for a box of “S’more” pop tarts as a treat.  Since fruit pop tarts are one of the “safe” commercial treats that Olivia can have, I said “sure” then came home,  put them away and didn’t think about them again.

Late in the afternoon yesterday, Olivia came into the living room where I was with one of the new pop tarts in hand; Sarah had climbed up and gotten one down for each of them.  Olivia had about two bites and something made me go check the ingredients on the box.  Fourth ingredient from the end – dried egg white!!

I panicked.  I grabbed the epi-pen bag and made Olivia sit on my lap so I could watch her.  I called my mother and told her I needed her to come over because if I was going to have to give her the epi-pen, I wanted someone to be with me.  She reminded me that Olivia had eaten 1/16 of an egg baked in cookies before she started to react during her baked-in egg challenge and she felt Olivia would be fine.  After all, how much egg would there be in just two bites?

As it turns out, she was fine.  She developed a few hives around her collarbone, by her ears and her cheeks got red, but I gave her some Reactine and other than some eczema she’s fine this morning.

As for the epi-pens, Deborah brought us a brand new un-expired one last night!

Her bubble has burst!

November 13, 2009

Yesterday, we all passed a new milestone – Olivia went to her library program which includes stories & crafts without any of her regular caregivers with her.  Since her birthday, she is now eligible to go to the 3-5 year old programs, which parents (or grandmothers in our case) do not attend.  We asked Sarah if she was ready to help Olivia out and to remind her not to put anything – including her hands – in her mouth!  Sarah said she was.  My mother took her downstairs at the Library and asked the librarian, in front of the other parents, if she was comfortable with the epi-pens and when she said she was, she said good-bye and went upstairs.

It was somewhat nerve-wracking for both Ginna & Mom, who was at home.

It was fun for Sarah to have her sister in her program.

I can only imagine that it was liberating & exciting for Olivia to have some independence.

My mother told me that she did peek in and Olivia was watching Sarah and doing everything that she did.  She was listening nicely and made a whimsical paper mask that the girls had a great time with when they were finished.

Two years ago, we were so afraid to take Olivia anywhere because she was having allergic reactions to so much.  The library was especially scary because who knows what kids are eating or have on their hands while they read library books!!  When I expressed this concern to the allergist when she was a baby, he said, “Yes, you’re right.  She does have a chance of having an anaphylactic reaction when you take her places like the library, but she can’t live in a bubble either.”

I’m so glad that in only two years, with the exception of having to wear a medic-alert bracelet, take a bag full of epi-pens and antihistamines with her everywhere, and ask “is this safe for me” before she puts anything in her mouth, she is now living as normal a life as her siblings did which includes weekly trips to the library!

That’s one bubble I’m glad has burst!

Number Three

November 2, 2009

Yesterday was Olivia’s third birthday.  There are no babies here anymore!

Olivia names all of her babies “Hot Chocolate”, except for one she has named “Marshmallow”.  She has been asking for a “mug” cake for weeks now, and has specified that it should be orange.  We’ve talked it over, trying to make sure she knew what she was asking for; she never wavered!  I, of course, acquiesced, and made her cake a mug of “hot chocolate”, complete with marshmallows!  I had made an egg-free vanilla cake which I frosted with a chambord butter-cream icing and topped with fondant.  I added some peanut/nut/egg/soy free cocoa to the butter cream to make the “hot chocolate”.  It was YUMMY!

We went to church in the morning to see Alex perform with his boys’ choir for the first time and they were wonderful!  We sat with Martha, her mom & Tom, in the balcony.  That was a bit nerve-wracking, to say the least!  Olivia was enjoying jumping off the step towards the railing; at one point I was wondering if she’d make it to her fourth birthday!  Eventually, when the boys’ choir started singing, she did sit nicely in my lap and then we looked at books through the rest of the service.  The sermon was pretty heavy for little ones and made me appreciate our own church(s).  (If you want to know more about the sermon, just as D’Arcy what I’ll do if something ever happens to him…)

Olivia & Evan went home with my parents and we stopped to get some veggies before coming home.  When we got here, we frantically cleaned & cooked until D’Arcy had to go to a “half-hour” cub meeting that lasted close to two hours.  I was in quite a state by the time he got home, just before our guests were supposed to arrive!

We celebrated Olivia’s big day by inviting my parents, Bert & Lugene & Fernando for supper.  (We invited Auntie Ruth too, but she’s sick with a cold and didn’t want to pass it along.)  We had a pork roast, roasted potatoes, squash, and broccoli & cauliflower.  I had also made rolls, and the pork was marinated in a cranberry balsamic vinegar with rosemary sauce.    I was thrilled when Theresa surprised us by showing  up at the door in time for cake! I tried to convince her to stay the night, but she had to continue on to the city.

Olivia ended up falling asleep in my lap after she’d had her cake and opened her gifts and the other three went up to bed while we were still sitting at the table.  Evan’s belly was sore and he was stressed out about the thought of going to school this week.  Many hands made light work and we ended up getting the food & dishes cleaned up in no time.

D’Arcy’s birthday is the end of this month and then birthday season will be over again until next summer – phew!

HPIM1871

The orange mug of hot chocolate...

HPIM1875

The birthday girl with Ginna

HPIM1879

Alex, playing host

HPIM1884_1

Three years old!

HPIM1885_1

D'Arcy & Fernando

HPIM1887_1

HPIM1891_1

Cake Time!

HPIM1894

Olivia with her godparents

HPIM1898_1

Olivia with Theresa

HPIM1901_1

Presents!!