Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Off on an Adventure

Tomorrow will be a day of firsts:
  1. First time I've driven through the border by myself.
  2. First time I've landed in Washington D.C.
  3. First time I've rented a car on my own.
  4. First time I've driven in Boston.
  5. First time I've met my sister for a getaway weekend in the States.
  6. First time I've left Chris alone with the kids in London.
There will be a number of other firsts before I arrive home in the wee hours of Sunday morning. First time I've seen Beth Moore speak live and in person. First time I've waved goodbye to a bus full of all the people I know in a particular place. First time I've driven back to the Boston airport in my rental car to head home. And first time I've landed in Buffalo at 10 o'clock at night to begin the long drive home. It will be an adventure! I promise to tell you all about it when I get home!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mrs. Fix-It

I am pretty proud of myself. So I'm going to brag. Just a little. I am so not a Mrs. Fix-It. But my hubby has been away since Saturday, and on Sunday the kids noticed that the handle on their toilet was loose. I tried it and they were right. Every time I tried to flush it felt like it was going to fall off. I panicked a little bit. I tried to figure out how I was going to wait until Chris got home to get it fixed. Two whole days. We do have two other bathrooms. It's not a big deal for the kids to have to use them. But yesterday I finally broke down and lifted the cover off the tank. After close investigation I discovered that the rubber knob that holds the handle onto the tank had come unscrewed. I carefully screwed it back on, and, voila! The toilet was fixed. One whole day before Chris came home. And I did it all by myself.

An odd subject for a blog post, I know. But I'm pretty proud of myself. And I just thought I'd share it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Maybe not EVERY day!

So you may have noticed that this fall I'm not making a huge effort to write every single school day. That's because I actually do have some days that are kind of busy, believe it or not. Like yesterday when I had Jocelyn and Tina and their babies over for a visit. Or today, when Chris stayed home from work to get some things done before he heads to Halifax for a conference. Life happens, and sometimes my blog gets ignored. And that's okay.

For me the problem is that I'm sometimes kind of an "all or nothing" kind of girl. I'm a little bit afraid that if I don't make it imperitive that I write every day, I won't write at all. So, for that reason, in my head, it's still an every day challenge, with a few misses forgiven now and then. I remember last year, when I first started the blog, Denise asked me to make three posts a week my goal. I almost never succeeded, and three posts a months was a pretty big deal. Part of me wants to say I'm scaling back to the goal of three posts a week, but I think if I do that I might just get out of the habit of sitting down every day and letting my juices flow. So the goal is still five posts a week. I'll keep trying....

But maybe not every day...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Sad True Story

I just finished reading a short biography of Lucy Maud Montgomery, written by Jane Urquhart, as part of the "Extraordinary Canadians" series. When I turned the final page I was heartbroken. This woman who possessed such an amazing imagination and talent as to be able to create such fascinating characters and stories was miserable most of her life. She spent her childhood as an orphan starved for love. Her professional career was overtaken by law suits against her publisher (which, after many agonizing years, she won in the end). She married a mentally ill man whom she did not love, and gave birth to two sons whose adolescent and young adult behaviour provided her with nothing but heartache. How did someone whose life was characterized by such misery invent the luminescent Anne Shirley? How did she dream up all her happy endings, when they consistently eluded her in her own life?

As an 11-year-old girl living in PEI, I considered myself quite an authority on all things Anne Shirley. I read all the books in a span of a couple of years. I lived for visits to Cavendish, where I could visit her home and play in her "Rainbow Valley". When Anne cried, I cried. When she rejoiced, I rejoiced. When I was lonely, she became my kindred spirit. In all the hundreds (thousands?) of books I've read, I can't think of a character whom I've loved more than Anne. To this day, there has never been a theatre production that I have loved more than "Anne of Green Gables: The Musical". I could watch it a thousand times! I can't wait until the day when I take my own children to see it. I watched the premier of the "Anne of Green Gables Miniseries" in awe, loving every minute. And I picked out all the "editorial changes" in the sequels, and declared them "not really Anne stories". I knew Anne thoroughly. But it seems I did not know Maud at all.

As an avid fan and amateur writer, I think I've always believed that Montgomery's crowning achievement was to write a book, to create a character, who is so loved around the world that people flock by the thousands to see "Avonlea" every year. And such success must lead to endless happiness, right? Not true. I'm sure that Maud rejoiced when she held in her hands each precious published work, but they did not make up for what was lacking in her personal life. Anne must be a part of Maud, to a certain extent, but she must have been the very happiest part of her. I think Anne was the hope in Maud. Anne and Emily and Sarah and Pat and Kilmeny and all her other much loved characters. It would seem that she left us with the very best part of her life. And I am grateful.

And I'm adding all the L. M. Montgomery books that I haven't read to my reading list for this fall. So I can learn a little bit more about the very best parts of my favourite author.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

With a Little Bit of Fairy Dust...

There are some things, well many things really, that we are able to do because we live in London that we wouldn't have been able to do a year ago. This weekend we experienced on of them: we took our children to the Stratford Festival.

I've always wanted to see a play at Stratford, and this summer I had heard wonderful reviews (both published and spoken) of this year's production of Peter Pan. Chris and I started talking about it on the way home from NB, after we picked up a brochure at a tourist info centre just inside the Ontario border.  Stratford is only an hour from our home, so it would certainly be easy to take the kids to an afternoon or evening performance. That night I started looking online for tickets, and was able to get us some fairly good seats for the Sunday matinee. We decided not to tell the kids for a while, but I was convinced they would be excited.

Just a few weeks ago, one of the neighborhood boys told Connor and Janelle that he was going to see a play about Peter Pan. Connor came in and excitedly told me all about it. Connor and I had read Peter Pan and Wendy together a few years ago, and both of the kids have seen the movie Hook, so they are familiar with the story. It really is a story with something for everyone. Boys love the pirates and the lost boys, and girls are fascinated by Wendy and the mermaids and the fairies (although Mariana will be happy to know that both of my kids remind me often that Tinkerbell is a bad fairy!) Connor and Janelle immediately started asking if they could go see the play, too. I didn't tell them the good news until just a few days before we went. I couldn't contain my excitement any longer!

We weren't disappointed. Everything about the play was magical, and watching my children's faces as they took it all in was the best part! When Peter first taught Wendy, John and Michael to fly, I could tell that Janelle wanted to join them and fly right off to Neverland. An in the second act, when the pirate ship appeared out of the mist and seemed like it would keep floating right out into the audience, I thought Connor would turn inside out. Chris and I both love professional theatre productions, and we enjoyed it as much as the kids did. It was worth every penny of the ticket price.

It truly was a magical day.

Friday, September 17, 2010

My Favourite Faces

I was originally going to add this picture to my blog to show off my new kitchen island. I love it and it makes my kitchen far more functional. But when I really looked at this picture, I realized that the island is not the focal point. The three precious faces who eat, do homework, and cook at the island are the best part of this picture. Just looking at it fills me with love and satisfaction. I'm alone in the house today, enjoying the peace and quiet with a good book, and soon noisy voices will fill the halls of our house. But I can't forget how blessed I am. These are my three favourite faces. They make my life awesome.

Thanks to my sweet sister-in-law Lori for the use of this great picture!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Field Trip Mom

Yesterday was Connor's first field trip of the year. It was to Western Fair, which is London's (larger) equivalent of the ANE or the Fredericton Exhibition. No, the kids didn't get to ride the rides, but they did do some pretty cool stuff. They saw an ultrasound of a pregnant goat, they watched a milking machine working, they saw an awesome "Birds of Prey" show, they touched a crocodile, and (Connor's favourite) they saw a demonstration of how manure is used to generate electricity — among other things. It was very interesting, and showed the kids why Western Fair actually exists (ie. not for rides), and I'm glad I got to experience it with Connor. However, I began to wonder when the teachers are going to get sick of seeing my face every time they go on a field trip.

Since we've moved, Connor has gone on four or five field trips, and I have accompanied him on each one as a parent volunteer. When he asked me to go this time, my response was "Connor, do you really think I should go on all the field trips?" He assured me that he really wanted me to go, so I did. And while I was there I noticed something.

All the same moms go on all the field trips! These faces are beginning to become very familiar to me. Sure, there are occasionally a few dads sprinkled in among the moms, but in general it is the same women that volunteer for every field trip. I'm not alone. I realized that this is how I'm going to get to know people. These are the parents of my children's friends and the people whose concerns are the same as mine. We share a lot in common, and we will be thrown together often, so we might as well get to know each other!

We arrived back at the school an hour before dismissal time. As I was driving out of the parking lot, I invited one of the other moms to join me for coffee. She immediately accepted and hopped into my van. We had a lovely conversation over cappuccinos at Tim Hortons. As we drove back to the school to collect our children she promised to return the favour soon.

Maybe field trips are as good for me as they are for my kids...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Community Spirit

We live in a great little part of our city. Until an amalgamation several years ago, Lambeth was a small town outside London. I love that! London isn't a huge city, but it is so much bigger than anywhere that I have ever lived. I feel far more at home in a small town than a big city. The people here have known each other forever. I met a woman last spring whose entire family of five brothers and sisters still live in Lambeth. Natives of this area would tell you they are from Lambeth, NOT from London. It reminds me very much of Marysville, our adopted neighbourhood in Fredericton, and I think that's one of the reasons I was so happy that we found this community. We have our own grocery store, banks, pharmacy, dentists, diner, candy store, soccer fields, ball fields, library, arena and community centre, all a quick walk from our house. Within a five minute drive I can get to all kinds of U-Pick farms and orchards. I really never need to leave my little corner of the city, and I can fool myself into thinking that I don't live in a big city at all.

Until last week, there were two public schools in Lambeth: A.E. Duffield and M.B. McEachern. Now there is one school that all students from JK to Grade 8 attend: Lambeth Public School. On Friday, the "Lambeth Flyers" hockey team provided lunch and school t-shirts to every student in the school. It was quite a celebration, and just in time for the Lambeth Harvest Festival, which was held all weekend. Students were all encouraged to wear their school t-shirts to the Festival Parade on Saturday, and Connor and Janelle did so with pride!

We really didn't participate in the Harvest Festival a whole lot. We went to the parade and the hot dog lunch and the yard sale and the craft sale. I was a bit distracted by the new furniture I wanted to buy (more about that later), and we were happy to have Aunt Lori visiting on Saturday, and yesterday we were busy with church and the church barbecue in the afternoon. We didn't check out the fun fair or the adult dance or the baked bean dinner, or countless other Lambeth Harvest Festival traditions. But we did get a taste of what it means to be a part of this great little community. Last night as we watched the fireworks over the soccer field, with most of our neighbours sitting on lawn chairs in front of us, I was filled with a sense of gratitude and peace. I am so thankful that this is where we have found ourselves, where God has led us, and that our family can be part of this close-knit community, even though we are far from home.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Furniture Addiction

Is it possible to have an addiction to new furniture? If so, I think I have it. I've never bought so much new furniture in my life, and I'm not sure I know how to stop. Right now I'm waiting for the arrival of my new sofa and love seat. Oh, look at that -- the delivery truck just pulled up in front of my house!

To Be Continued....

It's beautiful! Dark brown leather, and soooo much more comfortable than the old couch and love seat we bought in Kingston when Chris was a student. At that time our primary concern was that we get the cheapest set in the store. It was really our first time buying furniture of any kind. Now the price is still very much a factor, but now we are so much more aware of what we really want and need in furnishings. We decided we wanted leather this time because of its durability, since it is in the main living area of our home. It took quite a while for us to find exactly the set we wanted, but when we found it, we knew it was right for us.

Unfortunately, it looks terrible with our hideous coffee table and end tables. So I've been shopping for new complementary pieces for a couple of weeks now, without much luck. Until today. Today I found the perfect coffee table and end tables and I won't rest until they are cozied right up to my new furniture.

It is an addiction. But it is one that will be easily broken. It is only because of an inheritance from Aunt Sadie that I'm able to do all this mad redecorating. And the money is going to run out. And Chris is going to stop sending me out on spending sprees.

But for now I'm going to enjoy every minute of it!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

September Resolutions

I've never been much of a "New Years Resolutions" kind of girl. Oh, of course I've made resolutions! But I've never been good at keeping them. I'm much more of a "September Resolutions" keeper. It makes more sense to me. New school year, new routines, new habits. So here is a quick list of this year's September Resolutions.
  1. Fitness—This one is mandatory. I am going to spend some serious time on my new bike and my Wii Fit. When I got the Wii Fit for Christmas last year my brother's comment was "I hope you're ready to start hearing your Wii insult you." Well, I'm not really ready, and I know it's coming, but I'm going to do it anyway! Starting today!
  2. Breakfast—I never have time to eat breakfast before the kids go to school, but I've decided that I do have time for a glass of water and an apple. That way, I get my metabolism going before I finish the morning routine and get the kids to school. Then I can come home to a piece of toast or a bowl of cereal or a bagel.
  3. Reading more—Okay, if you know me you probably don't think I need to be reading more. But honestly, I have a bookcase full of books that I want to read! And I waste way too much time watching tv or browsing on the computer. So I'm going to seriously cut that wasted time down and spend some time getting through all those books I've been longing to read. AND I resolve to NOT read books I don't want to read. Even for my book club! If I've read 50 pages and I really don't like the book, I'm donating it to the library. Maybe someone else will enjoy it, but there are far too many great books in the world. I'm not wasting my time!
  4. Dinner Recipes—Despite the fact that I am going to be cutting down my computer time, I am going to get more familiar with Like all families, we tend to cycle through about a dozen usual dinner meals, and I think we need to switch it up a bit. I'm going to find at least one new dinner recipe each week to feed my family. Hopefully we'll find some new favourites.
  5. Make some friends—Still not sure how I'm going to do this, but I think getting involved at our new church and volunteering regularly at the kids' school will help. This one is pretty important. I probably should have put it at the top of the list!
So those are the top five resolutions for this September. Feel free to check up on me and make sure that I'm doing all I can to keep them! Accountability always helps!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mom's Room

Since we moved into this house, the front room has been a bit of a puzzle for me. First it was going to be an office. That worked for a while, but in the end we mutually decided that the mess that our office inevitably becomes is not the first thing we want people to see when they come in our front door. Then, through months of indecision, the room organically became the junk room, the place where everything that didn't have a home yet fell in piles all over the room. I knew that wouldn't last forever, but wasn't sure how to move forward. Was it a dining room? Seemed like a waste considering how infrequently we would use a formal dining room. But we do have Chris's grandmother's table that needs a home. Was it a living room? I liked the idea, but we already have a family room off the kitchen and are building another in the basement. Do we really need three living spaces? Then I started thinking, what about a hybrid of the two? The table folds down and doesn't take up much space. I've always wanted a cabinet to display my beautiful but rarely used china. Both of those would work in a dining area. But I would also love to have a sitting room that is free of technology: no tv, no video games, not even a stereo. I decided that with a little work, and a little furniture, I could combine the two.

I started with a china cabinet that I found on Kijiji. I really wasn't even looking for one, but rather researching what to charge if I decide to sell my family room furniture. But when I saw it I knew we were made for each other. We headed out to look at it an hour after it had been posted. Chris did a bit of work to fix it up like new before we even took it out of the van. Once I had it in the room and filled, it looked like it had been destined to house my china. I loved it. And I was hooked.

The same day we went shopping for a couple of chairs for that room. I walked into one store and fell in love with the first piece I saw. But my heart broke when I saw the price. I spent the next few hours trying to get over my love affair with that chair and fall for something else. No deal. Then I started bargaining with myself. If I found a second chair really cheap, I could afford to buy the first chair. The hunt was on!

It took two days, but I found it. A floor model, going out of stock, just the right colour, about half the price that I was even hoping for! I took it home the same day, and went back to the original store to order the chair that was my true love. It arrived on Friday, just in time for the Moores' visit. Ellen and I enjoyed many cozy chats in my new sitting room. She also helped me find the large print for the wall that really finished the room beautifully. For now... A second hand piano and a print of the Fredericton waterfront are two items that are still on my wish list.

So now I have a sunny living room/dining room. We've used it for both already. Sunday the Moores were here and the Lambiers stopped in on their way home from church. We had plenty of food so we convinced them to stay. The kids ate in the kitchen, at what became the buffet table, and the adults (and baby Ellie) enjoyed Chris's grandmother's table in the "dining room". It was perfect! And it served a double purpose that night when it housed a rousing game of Wizard (which I won easily, of course!)

I love my "new room". I love its many purposes. But now that the kids are in school, my favourite thing about it is the way the morning sun streams through the picture window over my shoulder as I sit in my beautiful new recliner and read. I don't think anyone would dispute that it is "Mom's special spot".

And most importantly, it's leading me to finally begin to fall in love with my London house.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

First Day of School

Starting the day with a good breakfast!

A bright shiny morning to start off the school year.

Time to go find out who our new teachers are.

The first day of school has come and gone and we all survived. Connor is in Grade 5 and Janelle is in Grade 2 and I still can't believe it. I find myself writing Grade 4 and Grade 1 on all their paperwork because it just doesn't seem right for them to be so grown up!

Connor protested any mention of school starting right up until today, but in the end I think he was excited to see his friends and the renovations to his school. Janelle was unashamedly excited about starting Grade 2, and this morning she was thrilled to find she was in the same class as her friend Avery, and has the same teacher that she had last year, Ms. Butler. Both of them were smiling at the end of the day when I arrived to collect them.

And as for Mom.... Well, my wonderful husband took me out to breakfast at Cora's to keep my spirits high. The strawberry crepe was just what I needed! The rest of my day flew by, and before I knew it 3:30 had come and I hadn't posted on my blog. So here I am, with my little scholars asleep in their beds, composing my first blog post of the 2010/11 school year. Chris hasn't issued a challenge this year. But I've decided to challenge myself! See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Home Again, Home Again!

I have had two complaints today about the fact that I haven't posted in over a month. At least I know my mother loves me! So Mom and Lynn, this one is dedicated to you!!!

"The best part of vacation is coming home". I've heard that quoted so many times, but I've never quite believed it. I cherished our vacation this summer, especially. It was so good to see family and friends and fall back into the routines and friendships that we've nurtured for so many years. There really wasn't time to see everyone! A month for vacation sounds like a lot, but it honestly wasn't enough. Summer in the Maritimes is truly the best time of year, and I am grateful to have been able to experience it once again. This post is primarily pictures (a lot of them), but they really don't represent all that we did in NB this year. We had a wonderful time, and made so many memories. Can't wait to go back next summer!

Cousins -- so happy to be back together!

The Birthday Kids!


Connor loving the kayak!

Fun and friends at the cottage.

Janelle tried her hand at fishing while the other kids swam. She certainly made the best of her situation!

Buddies enjoying the lake.

As far into the water as I'd let Janelle go.

The view from the cottage veranda.

Ready to go for a ride!
The MacPhees' beautiful cottage.

Swinging from a buoy!

My beautiful sister and her gorgeous daughter!

Connor having the time of his life!

The Queen of the World!!!

What could be better?

August 5 -- Janelle's 7th Birthday

We tried to think of a place to celebrate that didn't involve water.
Crystal Palace!!! She loved it!

She even got Grandma on the roller coaster. I think SHE loved it, too!

Birthday cake (courtesy of Grandma) at Nurnie's house.

Happy birthday, Seven-year-old!

We celebrated at Taylor D's house in Fredericton with Janelle's favourite friends that she's been missing. Both Taylors' birthdays were that week, too, and Avery came to share the fun!

BFFs -- Taylor and Janelle!

A special treat for Connor -- a long bike ride with Nana! Look at those big smiles!

And the cast is finally off -- "I'm free!"

So happy to see Hailey! She's growing so much! She gave me an art lesson at her house! My niece has talent!

Back to the cottage one more time so Janelle could finally get a dip in the lake.

An extra day in Montreal on the way home. Janelle loved playing with little cousin Madeleine!

One last picture in Montreal before my second battery died. Good timing! Vacation is officially over!

Now we're home and settling in pretty well. I was so lonely the first week that I couldn't even think of writing a blog post. Now I've cheered myself up with some new furniture and preparations for a visit from the Moores. Busy, busy, busy! Can't believe school starts next week! Then I'll officially be back into blogging mode. I promise!!!