Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer Reading

This is a post I've been planning for quite a while, but just haven't made myself sit down and write. It's my summer reading list. To me, reading is one of the best parts of summer: sitting on a deck chair with a cool drink and a good book, listening to the wind in the trees and feeling the cool breeze, all the better if it happens to be near a lake, river or ocean. Heaven!!! But what I'm reading is always an important part of that picture, so it is important that I choose just the right book. I have quite a long list this year.

I'm leaving for New Brunswick next week, and this year I'm determined to only take my Kobo. Last year, I think I needed to take an extra suitcase for all the books I carted along with me. Not again. Oh, yes, I do have plenty of books lining my shelves that I plan to read, but there are certainly more than enough on my Kobo to keep me occupied for a few weeks in NB. Here's my planned ebook list, order yet to be determined:

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova    I loved her first novel, Still Alice, which I read for book club last year, so as soon as this one came out I downloaded it. But have I managed to read it yet? Nope. Definitely one for vacation.

Learning by Karen Kingsbury    I'm a Karen Kingsbury addict. Even though I swear each time I read another one of her books that they become more and more predictable, and that I'm getting tired of reading about the same people now that she is on the 207th Baxter Family book (perhaps a slight exaggeration), I can't help myself. It's kind of like the way company can begin to get on your nerves before the end of a visit — You still can't wait to see them the next time! (Anyone reading this who has come to stay with me before, I'm of course NOT talking about you!) The book came out June 21, and I downloaded it that day. I can't wait to see if Bailey and Cody are finally going to get together! (As if there is any doubt... I know... I'm an addict, I tell you...)

The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis    I'm told by very reliable sources that this work of Canadian political fiction is absolutely hilarious, and a definite "must read". I planned to read it in Mexico, but never got to it, so it has moved down the list to the NB vacation. I'm really looking forward to this one.

Ape House by Sara Gruen    I read Water for Elephants a couple of months ago, wanting to read it before the movie came out. I still haven't seen the movie, but that's okay — It's never as good as the book. And the book was very good. I really enjoyed it. And I like that the author has a connection to London, so I thought I'd try this one. May not get to it before I head back to Ontario, though.

I also have Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult, 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper, and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley on my Kobo waiting to be read. Plus one hundred classics that came preloaded on the device. I don't have to worry about running out of things to read on vacation.

At the beginning of August I'll be back in London, and back to my loaded bookcases. And my library card. Today I took two books back to the library unread, resigned to the fact that I won't have time to finish them before I leave for NB. They were The Centurian's Wife by T. Davis Bunn and Janette Oke and The Mermaid's Chair by Sue Monk Kidd. They'll have to wait, but they'll still be there when I get back. If I have time for them. This is the stack of books I have waiting at home:

I know — There's NO WAY I'll read all of these before September!
To Kill a Mockingbird is for my book club, and I may not even be home for the meeting, but since it was my suggestion, I feel like I should read it. I suggested it because I haven't read it since high school, when it didn't mean nearly as much to me as I'm sure it would now, and after our club read The Help, I really wanted to go back and read something authentically from that time.

The rest are books that have been highly recommended to me, by one book lover or another, which is how I usually formulate my reading list. I'm really looking forward to reading all of them, and I'm determined to get to each and every one before Christmas. Some of them will get read in the summer, though. I would ask for further suggestions, but as you can see, I really don't need any. Unless, of course, anyone sees any glaring omissions... No, those can wait until next year. Meanwhile, which one should I start with? There's where I need help!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Last Day of School

Wow. It sneaks up on me every year. I am continually amazed at how quickly a school year flies by. I'm afraid I'm going to wake up one June morning not far off and find that I have a child graduating from high school. Connor is nearly halfway through his school years. His former classmates in New Brunswick graduated from elementary school last week. Because the public schools here include classes from JK to Grade 8, I get to ignore that milestone and pretend I don't have a middle school kid yet. But I do. Grade 6 next fall. How did that happen? And my baby in Grade 3? Grade 3 kids are big kids! She isn't a big kid! Although her monster crush on Justin Bieber would lead me to believe that she is growing up much faster than I am ready for. School years fly by way too fast. Kids grow up way too fast. But we are enjoying the ride as they grow!

Connor and Janelle both had a great school year. Connor loved his teacher, Ms. Beaulac. She is a wonderful Grade 5 teacher. She calls her class "The Grade Five Hive", and they have their bee mascot decorating most surfaces of the classroom. Monday I joined the class for absolutely the coolest field trip I've been on. We started at the John Labatt Centre, and had a tour that included the London Knights' dressing room. You can imagine how pumped all those 11-year-old boys were about that! After the JLC, we began the "Mystery Tour", which was an "Amazing Race" type scavenger hunt through downtown London. We were divided into teams and had to complete 100 tasks before meeting for lunch at a park by the Thames River. We even had team t-shirts. We were the red team, and I had four very excited boys, who narrowly missed coming in first (I still maintain that we won -- those pink team girls stole the victory from us!). After lunch we headed to Labatt Memorial Park, which is the oldest active ball park in North America, and three members of the London Majors baseball team met us at the gate for a tour and a catch on the field. So cool! Connor was in his element. He loved every minute, and I loved Ms. Beaulac all the more for all the work she put into creating such a special memory for my son.

The Red Team, in the London Knights' dressing room, in front of former Knight Corey Perry's jersey. Soooooooo coooooool!!!!

One of our Scavenger Hunt pics, in front of the Thames River fountain, not spraying this day.
The Red Team at Labatt Park.

Cleveland Brownlee signing Connor's ball glove.

Janelle loved her teacher, too, and she loved that I was able to become part of her class by volunteering with Ms. Butler two mornings a week. Two weeks ago, the parents were invited to attend "Japan Day", the culmination of a unit on Japan the class had been studying for several weeks. We started with an authentic Japanese lunch, and then moved on to a program presented by the students. There were songs and dances, and each student spoke about an aspect of Japanese life. Janelle talked about Japanese gardens. She was so proud, and she happily proclaimed it the "best day of the whole year". Once again, I was enormously grateful to Ms. Butler for the tremendous amount of work she put into making a memory that Chris and I were able to share with Janelle.
At home, all ready for Japan Day!!!
Soooooo Excited!!!!
The girls all wore chopsticks in their hair.
Not so excited about eating the Japanese food (it was really yummy though!)
I am truly thankful that my kids have been blessed with such awesome teachers; teachers who understand that kids learn best while they are having fun. Connor and Janelle learned so much this year, and they really enjoyed school. In the van this morning, I asked them and their friends who was sad that it was the last day of school. First there was a loud chorus of "Nobody!!!!" And then Connor followed up with "Well, a little bit, because I am going to miss my friends, and my teacher". My heart swelled a little bit. Less than ten weeks, Connor, and it starts all over again!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Second Honeymoon

My husband and I got married fifteen years ago. We were fairly young, hadn't been working long, and our main concern when planning our honeymoon was "What can we do that will be memorable and CHEAP?" I was primarily occupied with planning the wedding, so Chris took over the responsibility of planning the honeymoon. Hopping on a plane and flying overseas was really out of the question, so he came up with the next best thing: a honeymoon in Old Quebec. A little piece of Europe just a five hour drive from home. We both loved the history of the city, so we took an old city tour. Every day we tried a new quaint little restaurant along the cobblestone streets of Old Quebec. We took a romantic carriage ride. And for two nights we stayed at Chateau Frontenac. It was a wonderful honeymoon. I would not trade that week for anything, although we agree that we should have splurged and spent a couple of extra nights at the chateau instead of moving to the cheap hotel on the third night! It was a wonderful, romantic vacation. But after fifteen years and two children, I was ready for another one.

At Tulum on our 15th anniversary, May 11, 2011.
We have had the occassional weekend away together since we've had children. We even went to Vancouver for a week in 2009, but Chris was at a conference, so that really doesn't count. We have never taken a week just to completely focus on relaxing together. After a stressful couple of years of deciding whether or not to move, selling a house, buying a house, moving and settling into a new city, we needed a vacation! Before we even decided to move I made it part of the deal. I booked the sitters before our house went on the market! We hadn't decided when or where we would go, but we knew that when the time was right, we were going. So when we realized that our 15th anniversary would be happening this spring and that my parents would be able to come and stay with the kids, we agreed it was the perfect time. We talked about various tropical destinations, but we were trying to be somewhat frugal, so that narrowed our list of options. Should we go to Cuba? The Dominican Republic? Jamaica? Should we be boring and predictable and go back to Mexico? We had already been to there four years ago for my brother's wedding, but with two kids with us, it was not the same kind of vacation we would have if we went alone. We didn't do any tours of Mayan ruins or try various restaurants at the resort. We really felt like we missed out on a lot of Mexico, so in the end we decided to go back. We are so glad that we did!

Grand Sunset Princess
We found a five star resort with a sale the week we wanted to go. Perfect! Mom and Dad came the week before, I suffered through some drama with a painfully plugged ear that was finally relieved the day we were leaving, and at 1:00 a.m. on Monday, May 9, we got in our car to drive to Toronto to depart on our 6:20 a.m. flight to Mexico.

Snorkeling at Xel Ha
It was a perfect week. We truly felt pampered the entire time. The room was beautiful. The resort was beautiful. We went on two excursions, Xel Ha and Tulum on our anniversary, and Coba two days later. We went snorkling at Xel Ha and toured the ruins at Tulum. We climbed the pyramid at Coba (okay, Chris climbed the pyramid at Coba), swam in a cenote (a sink hole), and even visited an authentic Mayan home. We ate at a different restaurant every night. We took a catamaran out for a sail. And we spent lots of time reading on the beach. And we didn't even once get tired of being each other's only company. In fact, we loved it! We thoroughly enjoyed not having to think about anyone but each other. We knew the kids were fine and loving being with their grandparents, so there were no worries there. I've always thought the term "second honeymoon" was a little cheesy, but that's really what it was. I loved every minute.

The beach at our resort. We took the catamaran out on our last full day.


Tulum — Beautiful!
This woman is making us tortillas in her home.
The children played Mayan music for us. The things hanging around the home are for sale. I bought Janelle one of the black purses. The family who lives here has ELEVEN children! They all sleep in hammocks that they hang up every night.
The pyramid at Coba — the tallest in Mexico, 130 steps. The guy in the orange shirt with arms raised in victory is my handsome husband.

Now I wonder how long I have to wait for the "Third Honeymoon"?

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Long Break

I was ready to sit down and finally write a blog post today about the most exciting thing that has happened since I last posted — our trip to Mexico. I even had a good deal of it composed in my head already. But when my fingers hit the keyboard, I couldn't stop thinking about the fact that it has been a whole month and a half since I last added anything to my blog. Six weeks! And no blogging at all!

First I thought about how sad that is. This blog is supposed to be pretty important to me, and I've just IGNORED it for 6 weeks! I supposedly love writing and recording thoughts, sharing my life with my readers, and I haven't even once sat down at my computer with the intention of blogging. Shameful! It wasn't that I didn't have plenty to say. Mexico alone could fill several posts if I allowed it! There was also the visit from my parents, the suspenseful story of my ear problems prior to our trip, our lawn woes, new trees we bought for our property, finally ordering a shed, Connor's first tooth extraction, the progress we've made on our basement, and plans for our summer vacation. I've had plenty of ideas. What I have lacked is time.

I am volunteering at the school at least three mornings a week now: two mornings in Janelle's class and one in a Kindergarten class. I love being there. It fills something in me that I just don't get anywhere else. It is building a longing in me to go back to work that I haven't felt in years. I am so ready to be teaching again! I just hope I am doing the right things to make that happen! Volunteering, watching job postings, and spending significant time in prayer over the matter — I guess that's really all I can do.

I also try to spend at least one day a week with a friend. Shopping, going for a walk, having lunch, whatever. It is so nice to be able to say that I can do that again! I have friends here! A year ago I was despairing that it would ever happen! And as always, I have a home and a family to take care of, and that does take a good portion of my time. So blogging has fallen by the wayside, but only temporarily. I am determined to make it a priority once again.

The difference between now and a year ago, however, is that now my blog is only one of many priorities. A year ago I sent my husband to work and my children to school and looked forward to a long, empty day ahead, seeing my blog as a joyful refuge in an otherwise lonely day. Now I have to find time to fit it into my fairly busy schedule. That is a good thing! It means I have a life here, and that is something to shout about!

So I've taken a long break, but I'm back. I'll be here to write about our trip to Mexico tomorrow, and how a second honeymoon can in some ways be even better than the first. I'll post pictures of the improvements to our yard, and I'll share about my children's daily adventures. But if I do disappear for a bit, don't give up on me. I'm a busy mom, and sometimes life gets in the way of simple pleasures like writing, but I'll always be back.

See you tomorrow!