Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Why I Love to Scrapbook

Tomorrow I'm planning to do something I haven't done in over a year. I'm going to pack up my van with scrapbook stuff and spend the day scrapping with a friend. I'm so excited! It's been sooooooo long. I've scrapped exactly two times since I moved to London, both times making a gift for my mother. This time I'll be preserving memories for myself. It is definitely one of my favourite hobbies, but it's something that I've let go because the best part of it is sharing it with friends. I'm already excited about tomorrow, but to gear myself up even more, I thought I'd think about the reasons why I love scrapbooking so much and make a list. Here goes:
  1. It's a wonderful creative outlet. There is something about creating something beautiful that brings such a thrill to my heart. I think I've replaced the joy I get from scrapbooking this year with my blog. It's why I love to add pictures to as many blog posts as I can. I have such beautiful subjects, of course I want to share them!
  2. It captures memories and preserves them. When I was younger I faithfully kept journals, but now I want to chronicle my children's childhood with words and pictures. I love looking back at my scrapbooks years down the road, remembering special moments. I never want to forget the first time Connor crawled (to the remote control) or the way Janelle was obsessed with wearing shoes on her hands before she could walk. And I don't have to, ever, because those precious memories are safely preserved, in scrapbooks.
  3. I love the sensory aspect of scrapbooking. It's why I don't think I'll ever become a digital scrapbooker. I love the sight of the beautiful embellishments, the feel of the tools in my hands, the smell of the paper, the sound of friends chattering around me. It completely satisfying in every way. There is not much I get more excited about than the prospect of a full day of scrapbooking.
  4. I love to share it with friends. I left a bunch of amazing scrapbookers back in Fredericton. Scrapbooking was not the only thing, or even the most important thing, that we had in common, but it was something that drew us closer over the years. Once a month we would meet in the church gym and spend 5 or 6 hours working on our albums, sharing our lives, and encouraging each other. We helped each other when we got stuck and we told each other when we knew a page wasn't quite right. We knew how to be brutally honest with each other, we had earned that right, and we appreciated it of each other. The idea of scrapping with anyone other than "my girls" is a little daunting. It's why I haven't run out to the neighbourhood scrapbooking store and signed up for a crop. I don't know if I can let someone I hardly know critique my pages. But I'll let Jocelyn. She's known me longer than any of my scrapbooking buddies back home. She's earned the right, too.
There are probably plenty of other reasons that I love to scrapbook. But that is enough for now. I'm excited. Time to go pack up my stuff!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Girls Night In

The boys are out at a London Knights hockey game with our neighbour and his son, so Janelle and I had a "Girls Night In" tonight. I let her choose our activities for the evening. She decided to start with two games of "Go Fish" (the Finding Nemo version). Chris teases me about not being able to let the kids win, and I must admit, it is difficult. I won both games, but Janelle didn't care. She celebrated my victories right along with me. But she was ready to stop at two games. Then she decided we'd watch Flicka, one of the movies she got for Christmas (a $1.99 Black Friday bargain!). So we turned on the fire and turned out the lights and cuddled up together on the couch. She was engrossed in the movie, but every once in a while she'd come out with some profound and adorable comment. It was precious! The movie was okay, but the company was awesome. Now Janelle is sound asleep and I'm basking in the glow of her snuggles. I can't think of a better way to spend an evening with my girl.

We'll have to send the boys out more often.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Things I Learned on my Christmas Trip to NB

Number One — It is possible to drive ALL the way to Fredericton from London in one day. We usually stop in Montreal at Kate and Pierre's house, but this time we knew they had Christmas company and we wanted to make it as far as we could so the second day's drive would be a shorter one. Our goal was Levis, PQ, just beyond Quebec City, but on Christmas night we found out there was a whopper of a storm heading up the east coast. We decided the best thing to do was to drive until we hit snow. This worked out great for the most of the day. Boxing Day = no traffic. Driving conditions were perfect. The kids were happy. We had a total of about 2.5 hours of stops for meals and bathroom breaks. So we soldiered on. We didn't encounter snow until Woodstock, NB (which, ironically, is about the same distance from Fredericton as Woodstock, ON is from London — we drove through Woodstock twice in one day!) We briefly flirted with the idea of stopping in Woodstock. It was 1:00 a.m. in NB, but only midnight according to our internal Eastern Time Zone clocks. The kids were both sleeping soundly behind us. We only had an hour to travel, and if we were to stop in Woodstock we would have that much further to go to Quispamsis the next day, and we may even be stuck in a hotel an extra night. We quickly cast aside the notion of stopping and headed down the Trans Canada Highway. It was awful. So many times we said to ourselves "We should have stopped in Woodstock". We could barely see the sides of the road, and I had visions of the travellers airlifted from Highway 402 just a few weeks before. But Chris is a wise and seasoned Maritime driver, and he knows how to drive in a snowstorm. He got us to our destination (Bliss and Doreen's house) safely at 2:30 a.m., a mere seventeen hours after setting out the previous morning.

Number Two — Christmas is not the best time for a quality visit to New Brunswick. Don't misunderstand me — I loved every minute of it, and I was so grateful for the opportunity to celebrate Christmas with my family and dear friends. But time is just too short. We only had a week to visit, and since my family and Chris's family live in different cities, that time had to be divided into two 3.5 day visits. It wasn't enough. When I see my family and my friends in New Brunswick I want to settle in and enjoy some quality time.

We did manage to fit some quality visiting into that short few days. Tracy had the Finlay clan over for a visit. Nurnie was staying with Mom and Dad, so I got to spend some time with her. The kids had plenty of play time and four sleepovers with their cousins, Jill and Charlie (their all-time favourite people on earth!) They went swimming at the Aquatic Centre and went sliding at the awesome Quispamsis Rec Centre hill. We had a late Christmas dinner at my Mom and Dad's, which I appreciated so much. No turkey dinner tastes like Mom's turkey dinner! I had lunch with Shari and Julie and got caught up with them. We got a babysitter for the four kids and went out to dinner with Tracy and Blair and Mom and Dad. We saw Brad and Jody's newly finished basement, and got reaquainted with Hailey, who hasn't forgotten us after all! We managed to crash two New Year's Eve parties in Fredericton, at the Hansons and the Inmans, and shared some laughter with old friends. We had New Year's Day dinner with Bliss, Doreen, Justin, Natalie and Mariana, and learned a new favourite game while we were together (Ticket to Ride — it's awesome!). We went to FWC on Sunday morning and saw many dear friends there. We shared another turkey dinner with Nana on Sunday afternoon, and Chris hooked up a webcam for her so we can easily visit often face to face (We did this for my Mom and Dad, too. It has been wonderful to be able to visit this way from London!) Mark and Krista invited a whole gang of our friends over for an evening visit, so we had the opportunity to spend some time with many dearly loved friends. Monday was a bonus day, when we had planned to be travelling home but had learned that the weather would be better the next two days. So, Janelle spent the day with her BFF, Taylor, and Connor had an afternoon on Crocket Street with Joshua, Jordan and Seldon. I went to Heidi's for coffee and a cozy visit in her new home. On the way home, we stayed overnight with Kate and Pierre and Maddie and Remi, which is always a treat in the middle of a long trip.

We did pack a LOT into a week. But it wasn't enough. And by the end of it, we were pretty exhausted. We've decided that next year we'll probably stay in London for the Christmas holidays. After that we'll know which is worse: the mad rush of travelling at the holidays, or the loneliness of not travelling.

Number Three — Living this far away does not seriously alter close friendships and relationships with family. When we moved, one of my biggest worries was that my niece Hailey, who is two years old now, wouldn't know who I was, or who my kids were. When I went home this summer, she didn't know who I was, but over the course of our month long visit, we got to know each other. This time, it didn't take more than an evening to get reaquainted, and she was calling Connor and Janelle by name when we arrived. She has stayed aware of us through pictures. She is the same age Connor was when we moved to Kingston, and he never forgot his grandparents or aunts and uncles. Now that we have a webcam, we can have regular visits with Hailey, so hopefully next visit she'll be as comfortable with us as any other members of her family.

The night of the party at Mark and Krista's, my friend Amanda was one of the first ones I hugged, since I hadn't seen her yet on this trip. After we pulled out of our hug she said "I feel like I just saw you the other day!" It's true! My friendships with all those friends to whom I was closest have not changed. We can't get together as often as we used to, but with our lives as busy as they were, that was always an issue. I know eventually my friends will come visit me in London, and I will always get down for a summer visit, and with Facebook and email and telephones and this blog, staying in touch is easier than it has ever been before. I have moved away, but my friends are still there, and they are still my friends. And that made coming back to London much easier this time than it was in August.

Which brings me to Number Four — I am richly blessed with wonderful friendships, in New Brunswick and in London. Seeing my friends in Fredericton was wonderful, but for the first time I came back to London excited to see my new friends here! We have found a wonderful church and have met some great people there, and Jocelyn (who has been bringing me out of my shell since I was 14) is here and has connected me with a wonderful new friend, Tina. The three of us spent the morning together today, and I always feel so blessed by my visits with them. They make me feel truly loved and appreciated, and they are happy to share their precious babies with me once or twice a week, so I get my "baby fix". No one will ever replace my friends "back home", but I wouldn't trade these new friendships for anything either. I'm a lucky girl.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Kobo versus the Good Old-Fashioned Book

I got a Kobo for Christmas. For those of you who may not know, it is an electronic reader that comes loaded with 100 books and that I can add books to for a fraction of the price of buying paper ones at the bookstore. I can also borrow ebooks from the library to read on it. Some say this is the "wave of the future" in books, and it may be true. I'm getting on board, but still not 100% sure I'm convinced.

It was a complete surprise. I had never asked for one because I just wasn't sure whether or not an e-reader was for me. Chris was tentative about buying it for me (I think his primary reason was not wanting to build more bookcases!), and before I opened the package he warned be that I would need to be honest about whether or not I liked it. When I did open it, I was actually surprised by how excited I got over it. I think it was the opportunity to really investigate how I feel about ebooks that got me excited. I mean, I'm the kind of person that walks into a bookstore just to take a deep breath. I love the smell of books. I love the feel of books. I love the experience of books. But now I would have a chance to discover exactly what it is that I love the most about that experience.

As I said, the Kobo came loaded with 100 books, primarily classics, that I am thrilled to have at my fingertips. I read a chapter or two of Anne of Green Gables (my favourite) and Little Women (which I am ashamed to say I've never read). But I decided for my first ebook read I would choose something easy and fun, something I knew wouldn't take long and would provide some mindless entertainment. I picked Sophie Kinsella's Mini Shopaholic. I had picked it up at bookstores and Costco before, but since it is still in hardcover it is a bit too pricey for me. The $9.99 ebook price seduced me! I started it in the car and at rest stops on the way home from NB, and I really flew through it, considering I'm not a particularly quick reader. When I finished I realized I really only had one complaint: I couldn't read it in the bathtub!

Yes, of course, I still love the smell of a book. But I honestly didn't miss it while I was reading my ebook. I enjoyed it every bit as much as I've enjoyed all the other Shopaholic books. And the fact is, I don't have to choose. I will always have paper books to read. I have so many good old-fashioned books that I haven't read that I know I'll still be primarily reading paper books for a while. However, the tiny environmentalist in me, the one who reprimands my husband about putting plastic in the trash and remembers to always take my reusable bags shopping, that earth conscious girl knows that if even half the hard core readers in this world bought an e-reader and stopped buying books, newpapers and magazines made of paper we would save a lot of trees. So I'll keep reading paper books. But I am determined not to buy another paper book if it is available as an ebook. And most books are available as ebooks now. I've only found a few that aren't.

I'm sure I'll find other things about the Kobo that frustrate me. Remembering to keep it charged might be a challenge. I will have to be careful not to leave it lying around on the beach. And I will always have to keep a paperback on hand for the bathtub ;). But I think I can live with those minor details. And as for the smell and the feel of a book? Well, Chris told me about a comment he read while researching ebooks before he bought mine. He had read a comment from someone who talked about how important the smell and feel of paper is to the experience of reading a book, and an author responded to the comment by saying something like "I understand what you're saying, but as a book lover I hope you'll acknowledge that the most important component of the experience of reading a book is the actual written word." Can't argue with that.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Striving for January Clean

Back to reality. The kids have returned to school, Chris is back to work, and I find myself buried under a mountain of Christmas. The dry, nearly bare tree has been stripped and carried outside, but there is still so much more to do to reach that lofty goal of "January clean". That is a term that Chris and I coined early in our marriage, referring to the kind of clean and spare feeling a house has when all the the decorations and gifts have been safely stored away, and we are left with an uncluttered home. Chris loves January clean. Honestly, so do I. It seems that is practically the only time of year that we actually achieve that level of tidiness in our house, and in the years since we've had children it has been harder and harder to hit that goal. It feels like the 7th of January is a very late start, but that's what happens when you travel at Christmas. Today I'm trying.

I've been bringing gifts upstairs to be put away, and packing away tree decorations left on the table when I took the tree down yesterday. I still have to drag out the home decorations boxes and gather the remaining gifts that need to be returned this afternoon, along with their receipts. This is on top of unpacking that still hasn't happened, and much laundry to do!

All this to say I am checking in with my blog, but I can't stay. I have a number of blog posts already composed in my mind during the seemingly endless hours of driving home from New Brunswick, but I can't write them now. Not until I reach January clean. I'll let you know when I do.