Monday, September 26, 2011

Getting All Our Ducts in a Row!

Finishing a basement is a major undertaking. Especially when you plan to do the bulk of the work yourself, on top of your extremely demanding job. But this is what my husband has chosen to do, and despite the inconvenience and the extended timeline, I'm thankful.

Contrary to popular opinion, things are getting done down there. Chris spends most of every weekend in the basement, doing a lot of head scratching and a fair amount of banging, and by Monday morning he has a head full of steam and is ready to take a vacation day and press on. Such is the case today.

The only problem with Chris doing the job on his own is also the biggest blessing of him doing it on his own. He has an obsession with doing things right. This takes time. A lot more time than it would take someone that we could hire to do the work, who really doesn't care whether or not the bones of the job are sound, as long as it looks good. For the last week Chris has been working on bulkheads, and the other night he had an epiphany. If he just rerouted some of the ductwork, we wouldn't have nearly as many unsightly bulkheads in our family room. No big deal, he thought. I'll just move this over there, and then connect this to that, and Voila! Unfortunately, getting to "Voila!" invariably involves one step forward and two steps back, several minor injuries, and a fair amount of language that I don't usually hear coming out of my sweet husband's mouth. This time he found something done wrong by the original builder that would have inevitably caused us problems down the road, and I can hear him down there now, banging away, making things right. In fact, I'm typing quickly because I know that any minute now, he'll call my name and I'll need to go play assistant.

When all is said and done, I'm so glad Chris is doing this basement the way he wants it done, because I know he is obsessed with getting it right. At least once a day he declares he just doesn't know how to do something, but he always figures it out, and it is always well done. We are going to have an awesome space down there when it is finished, thanks to my obsessive hubby.

As a quick post script, I'm adding a picture of a job we had done last week that Chris did not do himself (although he did have to jump in once and fix something the workers screwed up). We had drainage put in along the side of the house and a stone walkway installed. I'm so happy with it! It really dresses up the house, and I don't have to mow the weeds that grow along that wall anymore, or tramp through the muck that collects by the gate! Love it!

Correction: Chris read this post and his only criticism was with my vocabulary. He thought I may have used the word "obsessed" too often, and suggested I substitute the words "committed" or "persistent".  That's my husband — always obsessed with the details! (wink wink!)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Crazy Calendar!

I'm struggling a bit with getting used to our new evening schedule. From Monday to Thursday every week there is some activity, usually two, on my calendar. This is the first year that I truly understand the meaning of the moniker "Mom's Taxi". Not that I would trade anything we have going on this year. If anything, I feel there are a few things we've neglected, like swimming lessons, but those are just going to have to wait a while, at least until we've settled into our routine. Last year I declared Tuesday "Crazy Day", and usually by the end of Tuesday evening I fell into bed, exhausted. This year I feel like every day is Tuesday.

It isn't really the driving that is the biggest challenge to me. Most of the activities aren't far away at all. Janelle's dance studio is less than one kilometre away. Our church is about two kilometres away. The home where we attend our community group is also about a three to five minute drive (depending on the traffic light between our house and theirs). And I usually don't mind ferrying the kids around. No, to me the issue is more the time we don't spend together at home. I am realizing that I really cherish our family dinners, the time that we connect around the table and recharge. I'm afraid those dinners will be at a premium this year. Chris struggles to get home from work before 6:00, and the kids' activities begin between 5:00 and 6:30. I'm going to have to be creative, but I'm determined to be able to find a way for us to have dinner together at least two of the four crazy days of our week.

Here's a quick run-down of our week:

Monday — Connor tried out for a competitive basketball team last week, and he made the team! We're so happy for him and we both think this will be a great experience for him. Connor has basketball practice 6:30 to 8:30 Monday nights, about a 15 minute drive from home. We'll probably alternate taking him, depending on Chris's work schedule. Chris and I have our Community Group, 8:00 to 9:30, not far from here, but for now we'll be taking turns since someone will be picking Connor up in the middle of that time.

Tuesday — Janelle's piano lesson, 5:00 to 5:30, about ten minutes away. I usually take her and Chris tries to pick her up since it is on his way home. That means I can probably manage to prepare us a family dinner that night. At 6:30 Janelle goes to Kids Night Out at Church, until 7:30. This is her busy night — homework has to get done right after school.

Wednesday — Busy last night because we had "Meet the Teacher Night" at 6:00, but usually Wednesday is just Connor's Jr. High Youth Group at the church, 7:00 to 9:00. That means we definitely get to have dinner together that night. Yay!

Thursday — Crazy night! Janelle has dance, just down the road, 5:00 - 6:00. Connor has basketball, about 15 minutes away, 6:30 - 8:00. Homework has to happen right after school, and who knows how we'll manage supper, but I'm sure we'll figure it out eventually. Today is our first day of the Thursday rush, so I'm planning to make homemade pizza (I'll try to remember to add the yeast to the dough that I forgot when I attempted this dinner on Monday!)

Weekends — For now our weekends are pretty easy. We are mostly focused on finishing the basement. The priority this weekend is to get to the half price paint sale that our colour consultant told us about when she came on Monday evening (yeah, somehow that got thrown into the schedule!) I may sign the kids up for a Saturday swimming lesson later in the year, but we'll see how things go before I do that. Connor starts weekend tournaments and exhibition games in November, with a tournament about once month. A couple of these will be in London, but others will be in Toronto, Niagara Falls, and Brantford, so we'll be travelling. Hopefully the basement will be finished by then!

I always swore I would have my kids involved in only one extra-curricular activity, aside from their church programs, and I'm still pretty convinced that is a good rule of thumb. Connor is only doing basketball and youth group, except for this month when he also has cross-country. He'll run a two kilometre race this afternoon, and then have a 90 minute basketball practice tonight. I'm glad it's him and not me! Janelle does have piano and dance, so I've strayed from my resolution a bit, but she so desperately wanted to try dance that we decided this year we'd make an exception. I'm not willing to let her quit piano, so it was really the only solution. I don't know how all those "Tiger Moms" do it, whose children are involved in and excelling at everything. I think this is as much as my kids and I can handle.

So I guess it's a good thing I'm not working right now. I'm far more able to cope with my evenings because my days are somewhat relaxed. The Lord knows how many balls I'm able to juggle. But I did apply for two more teaching jobs today. Still holding out hope...
My Calendar — The stickers help me remember things with just a glance. You can see how the craziness kind of snuck up on us in September!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ten Years Later

It was a weekend filled with memorials, news specials, and I'm sure many tears on the part of thousands of people who lost loved ones ten years ago. September 11. No one has to ask what significance that date has. It will forever be etched in the minds and memories of all of us who were living on that day. "Where were you when you heard...?" Everyone has a 9/11 story. I know several people who have birthdays on that day, but their special day is not the first thing I think of when the date is mentioned. My neice was born on September 7, 2001, four days before that tragic day. I remember speaking to my sister on the phone the afternoon of the 11th when she said "I am just so glad she wasn't born today". My TV was filled with images of horror all day that day, and this weekend they were repeated for all the world to see and remember.

We weren't glued to the TV this weekend. We did watch Tom Brokaw's special on Friday evening that recounted the events and retold stories of heartache and survival. Connor was especially interested, although I'm not sure whether his interest stems more from curiosity about what actually happened that day and why, or from an eleven-year-old boy's innate excitement at seeing things blow up. He did have lots of questions that Chris and I tried to answer as best we could, honestly yet sensitively. We want him to have a healthy understanding of the events of that day, events that he can't remember, events that changed our world. When we went to bed Sunday night Chris turned off the television and said "Enough 9/11 already!" I agreed with him to a point, but my response was "Better too much than not enough". I think it is important that people remember what happened that day for many reasons, but I believe it is critical that remembering does not cultivate a culture of fear or sadness. There are wonderful stories of hope and survival that began that day, and I think that is what we should focus on when memorializing September 11.

I do, of course, remember where I was when I first heard about planes flying into the World Trade Center. I was booked to supply teach that afternoon, but was spending my morning visiting other schools to inform them of my availability the first week of school, as I did every year. I had taken Chris to work and Connor to Merry-Lynne's first thing in the morning. I remember it was a beautiful day. Mid-morning I stopped at home for some reason and called my friend Krista. She told me that a plane had flown into "one of those tall buildings in New York City". "The World Trade Center?" I asked. I had been to New York on a bus trip six years before and remembered being amazed as I stood in Battery Park and craned my head back to gaze up at these monstrous buildings. Chris had focused part of his senior thesis on how the concrete foundation of the World Trade Center had withstood the bombing in 1993. I knew about the World Trade Center. "Was it an accident?" I asked, at about the same time as the second plane flew into the South Tower. I scrambled for the remote and turned on my television. The images filled every channel. We watched together in awe for a few minutes before I somehow managed to get off the phone and continue my day. I called Chris, who told me that he and his fellow structural engineers predicted the buildings could not remain standing. I visited a few other schools, and heard on the car radio that the South Tower had fallen, that another plane had flown into the Pentagon, and rumours that the Sears Tower in Chicago and the White House had also been hit. What was happening to the world? More than anything, I wanted to go get Chris and Connor and have my little family all together, but it was time to head to work myself. When I arrived at the school where I was to teach that afternoon I was met at the door by the vice-principal who told me I was not to mention anything to the children about what was going on in the world. I remember thinking that I wouldn't have a clue what to say. I didn't know what was going on in the world, but I had a feeling it would never be the same.

On Sunday, as images from ten years ago flashed across my tv screen, I found myself amazed that it has been 10 years already. So much has happened in my life since then. We've moved three times. Had another baby. Started new jobs and finished them. Lived through diapers, toddlerhood, preschool and much of elementary school. But I can still feel how it felt to be in North America on 9/11. I was lucky — I was hardly touched that day. But I was afraid then, and it all came flooding back at odd moments during this memorial weekend. It almost seemed like everything was cast under the shadow of 9/11.

This weekend was also the Lambeth Harvestfest weekend. The atmosphere of celebration in our community was in stark contrast to the scenes that met our eyes each time we turned on the television. There was a parade, ball games, a party tent, dances, and many other festival activities running constantly, all just a short walk from our house. It crossed my mind a few times that this celebration was not very well timed. What is there to celebrate if such horrific things can happen in the world? By Sunday evening, Chris and I were both quite exhausted from our busy weekend and anxious to get our kids tucked in bed. Connor came in from playing with the neighbour kids at 8 o'clock, excited about going to see the fireworks. "No way", I immediately declared, in my mean-mommy voice, "Way too late on a school night." Heartbreak and tears ensued, and despite my resolve not to let that wear me down, I began to weaken. It might be nice to end this busy weekend with fireworks. It might be nice to do some celebrating. Here we are, ten years after the day that felt like the world was ending, living in a beautiful home, raising two beautiful kids, sharing a pretty great life. Yeah, I thought, fireworks might not be so bad. So, against our better judgement, we loaded up the van with our lawn chairs and headed down to the community center, to sit among our neighbours and enjoy a pretty awesome fireworks display. Just after they began, Chris grabbed my hand and leaned over to whisper in my ear "Are you glad we came?" Absolutely.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Happy Belated Birthday, Janelle!

For the past two years at the beginning of February I have written a blog post dedicated to Connor, in honour of his birthday. My kids don't mind being regular subjects of my blog. I don't know how long it will last, but for now they really love being highlighted here. But it occurred to me the other day that I've never written a birthday post for Janelle. Her birthday is August 5, which is usually a pretty busy time of year for us. Last year we were still travelling in NB, and this year we had just returned and were still unpacking and entertaining company from away. So I've decided it's never too late to focus my spotlight on my little girl for a day.

Janelle turned eight years old last month, which amazes me as every one of my children's birthdays have all their lives. It seriously feels like yesterday that I found out I was finally the mother of a little girl. Not long after that she and I were heading off to preschool together, which was a wonderful experience not every mom gets to have. Two short years later, when she skipped off to kindergarten without me, I felt a little lost. And now she's an eight-year-old, in grade three, who is getting braces this month and has a monster crush on Justin Bieber. That's the thing about babies. They grow up. And it still leaves me stunned at every birthday.
A very happy girl, right from the start! October 2003, two months old.

July 2007, surprising me with how she taught herself to swim!

June 2008 — Our preschool graduation day.
First day of Kindergarten — September 2008

Janelle is a ray of sunshine in our house. She loves to sing and dance and make up stories. She adores playdates and parties, but is also perfectly happy playing on her own. She prefers her nickname, and is very determined about her fashion choices. She is learning to play the piano and can't wait to start dance classes next week. She is the most easy going child I've ever met, but when her heart is broken her tears will break yours. She does everything on her own timeline, and always has, as far back as starting to walk at seventeen months. Her teachers have affectionately nicknamed her "Pokey Little Puppy" and "Turtle", and sometimes I think they'd love to light a fire under her, as would I, but it's just her nature. She does things when she is good and ready, and when she does them, she does them well. She is fiercely independent, but still loves her bedtime snuggles. Sometimes I look at her and wonder where she came from, but then I realize she is a perfect combination of her dad and me. She has his courage and independence, and she is a bit of a drama queen like her mama. I pray she always feels the self-confidence that is so evident in her demeanor now. She is a beautiful, kind and creative girl, and I'm so proud to be her mom.

Happy belated birthday, Nellie! I love you!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Few of My Favourite Things

I'll admit it right up front. I stole this blog post. Outright copied it from a dear friend who writes a wonderful blog, Where in the World Are Our Kids?, and who penned this very post just a few days ago. She has had a difficult year. Compared to the challenges to optimism she has faced this year, I've been on a picnic! But this week she decided to direct her focus to some favourites, and I decided that would be a good idea for me, too. I've been bogged down in the idea that I may never teach again, and can't imagine anything else I would really love to do. But there are other things I really love. So I copied Robin's list (I hope you don't mind, my friend!), and I'm going to customize it for myself (including changing the spelling of "favourite" since I am truly Canadian) and focus on all those things that are my favourites. Here goes:

My favourite . . .
  • Person: Chris (with Connor and Janelle a close second)
  • Ice cream: Anything with chocolate and caramel
  • Musical: Anne of Green Gables the Musical if we're talking about a play, but for movies it's got to be The Sound of Music. I'm right there with you, Robin!
  • Movie: Sleepless in Seattle, partly for sentimental reasons, since it was our first date movie, but I do really and truly love it.
  • Restaurant: Brewbakers in Fredericton
  • Food truck: I'm afraid I haven't jumped on that bandwagon yet — Food trucks obviously aren't as plentiful in London as in Nashville!
  • TV Comedy: Big Bang Theory
  • TV reality show: American Idol or Dancing with the Stars. I don't think I can choose.
  • Music: Steven Curtis Chapman, Jeremy Camp, Harry Connick Jr., Carrie Underwood, Michael Buble, Taylor Swift... I could go on, but if we're talking about what I listen to most, that would have to be Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. Yes, I am a mom of an eight-year-old girl!
  • Color: pink, yellow, lime green.
  • Cheese: cheese? Do I really have to pick my favourite cheese? Okay, how about cheesecake!
  • Pasttime: writing, reading, scrapbooking
  • Song: What is my favourite song right now? I really don't know. Let's go with a couple of timeless favourites: Amazing Grace and Great is Thy Faithfulness
  • Fruit: Strawberries, golden delicious apples
  • Drink at Starbucks: grande caramel macchiato
  • Thing to do: Fun stuff with Chris and the kids
  • Food Network stars: I have honestly never watched the Food Network. Except for maybe Iron Chef. Twice.
  • City: Fredericton, New Brunswick
  • Beach: Cavendish Beach. Okay, I know it's freezing but I love it. Unless of course I can choose the Mayan Riviera. Mmmmm.... yeah!
  • Book: I can't. It would be like choosing one of my children.
  • Sandwich: Meh... Not a big sandwich fan, but I guess anything with chicken and bbq sauce would make me happy.
  • Outfit: Anything slimming!
  • Olympic sport: ladies figure skating
  • Board game: Balderdash
So, clearly this list was tailored more to Robin's favourites than mine, but it was fun to "fill in the blanks" for once. What do you think? What are a few of your favourite things?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Snapshots of Summer 2011

Fall has struck with a vengeance in Southern Ontario. Yesterday, the first day of school, my poor babies nearly froze in their summer-y "first day" outfits. Today dawned cold, gloomy and rainy. I think the weather-man has forgotten that the calendar says it's still summer! So today I've decided it's time for a pictoral retrospective of summer 2011, if only to bring a little sunshine to my mood.
The summer started with just a few days hanging out at home in London, before we were on our way to NB!

Grandma had a feast and all the cousins waiting for us when we arrived after two long days of driving.

We spent some time at the new Q-plex with Jill and Charlie and friends.

Connor was happy to see his buddy Aidan again this summer.

Movie night — while Moms and Dads and grandparents played Wizard upstairs.

Papa put Connor to work.

And started Janelle's training!

Ahhhh... Water fun at the cottage!

Janelle was happy to be part of it all this year — no broken arm this time!

Craziness at Grandma's house!

Sweet little Hailey — She loves those berries!

Janelle and Jillian had a great time at camp at Caton's Island!

Heading home on the barge!

Ready for Grandma's 70th birthday bash!

Time to celebrate the other two birthdays — Charlie and Janelle!

Jill made Janelle a special card!

Charlie caught a tiny fish, but with some creative camera tricks...

We made it look like quite a catch!

Hanging out with Nana in Freddy Beach!

Nana brought a cake for Janelle to the cottage.

We had family pictures taken for Grandma's birthday.

We took a trip to Hopewell Rocks, since our New Brunswick born kids had never been there.

On the way home we visited the Hartland Bridge, which the kids had also never seen — shameful!

We were home to celebrate Janelle's "real" birthday!

And in time for a visit from Grampie and Grammie and the Labelles.

After that our vacation flew by! Connor and Janelle went to Kids Camp at our church. Connor spent a week at basketball camp. And we had a couple of weeks mostly hanging out at home. The summer flew by, school has begun, and fall is just around the corner. But I'm still not ready for this fall weather!