Saturday, February 1, 2020

Happy Birthday in Heaven

Today my dad would be 78 years old. A year ago today I called and sang happy birthday to him. We were eagerly looking forward to this year of healing that would follow his hip replacement, scheduled for a week later, and hopefully lead to a restoring of his mobility and his ability to resume all the things he loved to do. We fully believed that on his 78th birthday he would be back to his old self, healed and able, ready to embrace the next stage of his life.

It was not to be. Dad had the surgery, but that experience, along with the recovery to follow, was so much more difficult that we could have imagined it would be. And nine months later, two months and 17 days ago, he left us. We were devastated, every single one of his children, grandchildren, children-in-law, and especially my precious mother. Our only consolation is that now he is truly healed, truly himself again, truly able to embrace this next stage of his Eternal Life.

I was privileged to have been able to speak at my dad's funeral. It was a well-attended celebration, and we were overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and admiration that was expressed there for my father, who had touched far more lives than he ever could have known. As I stood to speak, following my three adorable nieces who wanted to share words of love for Papa, I had no idea how I would proceed without losing my composure. But somehow I did (mostly), and afterward so many kind friends, family members, and even strangers expressed their appreciation for my words. Since then, I've been asked by a number of folks who couldn't attend the funeral if I could send a copy of my eulogy. At Christmastime, I overheard my sister-in-law tell my mother she was so sorry she never had the opportunity to meet my dad. My mum's response was, "Just read Leanne's eulogy and you'll know him".

For that reason, because so many more people should have had the chance to know my dad, I am posting that eulogy here, on his birthday. It is not a work of art. It is unpolished and barely edited. But it does paint a picture of who my dad was to the ones who loved him most.

"My dad would love this so much. He would be smiling the biggest smile and ready to share a big welcoming hug with every one of you. My dad knew how to work the room at a funeral. He knew how to make a connection with every person there. And that is why there are so many faces here today, to honour a man who spent every day nurturing connections with people.
I thought I would spend some time talking about the things my dad loved.
He loved being Daddy - He had two little princesses before the long awaited prince arrived, and I always knew my dad loved being a dad. He is part of almost all my early memories. He always worked a lot, and he traveled, but he made a point from day one to be a very involved dad. He built rinks in the backyard and took us skating. He taught me to swim at Parlee Beach. I remember I loved it when it would be just him and me out in the water and I would beg him to take me out over my head. He taught me to ride a bike and he drove me to school. I’d get up in the middle of the night and find him making a snack in the kitchen. I loved the times when I had him to myself. For much of my life I really believed my dad was the smartest man on earth. He knew everything and he could do anything. I think that is exactly how a little girl is supposed to feel about her dad.
Hockey - If it was the hockey season, hockey was on TV. He played when he was younger, and when Brad was born, finally getting his boy meant finally getting his hockey player. I don’t really remember Dad playing hockey, although I hear there is an infamous green helmet still hanging in Brad’s shed that looked ridiculous on him. He truly loved the game, except when his team was losing. And then he went to bed. He could be a bit TOO passionate about live hockey, as anyone who found themselves sitting near him at a game knew all too well. If a call was made that he didn’t agree with, his temper would flare and everyone would know it. I hope all those refs understand it was nothing personal. He was just passionate about hockey.
Cars - As most of you know, Dad spent his career in the car business. I grew up thinking that was because he loved cars so much, and he did. He loved everything about the car business. But I know now that Dad was a car salesman because he loved people. He loved the connections he made with people and he loved matching people together with the right car. He was successful at his job because of his endlessly welcoming personality, and the way that he made everyone feel like their needs were his top priority.
Babies - I’ve never met a man more content to sit and hold a baby. If there was a baby in the room, it was probably in my dad’s arms.
Crossword puzzles - Dad was always content, especially the last few years, if he had a crossword puzzle or word search to work on. He was often our shopping chauffeur, dropping Mom, Tracy and I at the mall doors and sitting happily with his puzzles until we were finished.
Sweets - No one had a bigger sweet tooth than my dad. He earned his diabetes. Cakes, cookies, ice cream, war cake. He was always happy to take the Halloween treats we didn’t like (and I suspect he dipped in when we weren’t looking, too). Dessert was easily my dad’s favourite meal.
Mardens and Princess Auto - Dad could spend literally hours wandering the aisles, just browsing. He loved those stores. He loved to find a deal. Mom says every time he went to Mardens he picked up about four tarps, just in case. Or the latest gadget. Oh, how my dad loved gadgets! And he loved showing them off! He was so proud of his finds.

Puttering - Dad loved taking care of his house, and that was one of the things that became so frustrating to him when his mobility decreased. I have no idea what he did all those hours that he spent in the garage or the shed or the yard. I’d find him there and ask what he was doing. “Just puttering”, he’d say, happy as could be. Whenever he came to visit he’d ask for a list of things he could do while he was there, jobs he could take care of for me. He loved to be a handyman.
The Cottage - Ten years ago Tracy and Blair were kind enough to buy Dad a cottage, and it became his happy place. Sitting on the porch swing, or the dock, or the riding mower was his favourite place to be. I am so thankful that he made so many memories there with us over the past decade. 
Family - My dad loved a good family reunion. Birthdays and Boxing Day gatherings with family, my dad was in his element. He loved making those connections, and he always had a way of making people feel like he was most interested in what they had to say. Often our family gatherings involved a game of cards, which he also loved, unless he was losing. He did have a fierce competitive streak, and Wizard was the game our family loved but it wasn’t Dad’s best game, so it became his nemesis in the last few years. We would beg him to play and he would agree, but he would let us know he wasn’t happy about it.
His Church - Dad loved his church. He was a tireless volunteer, who served on many boards and committees within Kings Church over its lifetime. The first time we walked through the doors of Kings Valley Wesleyan, as it was called in those days, it was still meeting in the music room at Lakefield Elementary. A month later the original building opened for the first time, and from that point on, Dad’s smiling face was there nearly every Sunday. For many years, he was in charge of the parking crew, and his smiling face welcomed just about every car into the parking lot on Sunday mornings. If the mission of the church is loving people, my dad spent his life as a faithful missionary. We were never in doubt about what our dad believed, either. He was vocal about his faith, he loved his Saviour and he believed that our lives were in God’s hands and it was our responsibility to trust Him and to live our lives serving Him and His people. Most of all, my dad lived out his faith. I never doubted that I was loved by my Heavenly Father because my earthly father’s love was so very tangible in my life.

My Mum - More than any of these things, my dad loved my mum. I love hearing about my parents love story. Mum’s first memories of him were from when he was about seven, just after his own dad had passed away. She saw him with my grandmother at some kind of church function, and he made an impression on her. A few years later they rode the bus to school together, and one day he decided to sit with her. She was mortified. That night at dinner her brother announced that she had sat with a boy on the bus. My grandfather made her walk to school the next day. I’m glad that didn’t end the relationship. They were high school sweethearts, and they married when they were twenty-two. They had fifty-five years of ups and downs and lots of love. My parents’ love for each other has been a beautiful example to Tracy, Brad and me and our spouses. So many times dad has told me, very matter-of-factly, that he just couldn’t live without Mum, and I’m glad he never had to. She wasn’t feeling well Thursday night, and went to bed early. In the wee hours of Friday morning Dad checked on her, asked if she was okay, and she assured him she was fine. I like to think he was checking to make sure she’ll be okay without him, and that he knows she’ll be just fine. A beautiful ending to a beautiful love story. 

Growing up with Dad, we always knew we were loved and fully supported. He told me countless times that I could do whatever I wanted to do. He was endlessly positive. I never doubted his belief in me. When I was 16 and just learning to drive, Dad told me I had to take one driving lesson with my instructor before he would take me driving. I agreed and had my lesson, and Dad kept his end of the bargain. My Drivers Ed class was held in town, and Dad said I could drive the car on the way in. I was pretty confident, but I had only had one lesson, and we were taking the highway to town. Dad was heading back to work for the evening, as he did twice a week every week, and he had already had a long day, so when we got to the onramp to the highway he turned to me and said, “You know how to do this, right?” I replied that, yes, I was pretty sure I knew what I was doing. He said, “Great! I’m gonna take a nap!” And he did. Miraculously, we both survived the trip.

During university, I had the privilege of working at the dealership where Dad was the general sales manager, so I got to see him in his element, working the showroom floor, meeting people and matching them up with just the right vehicle. I learned a lot about my dad working there. Much of the time I worked out back, cleaning vehicles, and I would walk through the service department, whistling a tune, and invariably someone would call out “Sure isn’t hard to tell whose daughter that is”. I soon knew why. We could always tell when my dad was nearby when we’d hear him whistling that happy tune. He loved to sing, too. We grew up listening to him and Mum harmonizing together on old hymns and gospel tunes in the car, or at the organ in the living room. I can remember hearing them sing together in church, and for a while he even sang in the church choir. He loved music, and when he listened to songs he loved they bubbled out of him as he sang along.

We all considered Dad the eternal optimist. There was nothing we couldn’t do, in his opinion. No obstacle was insurmountable. This was great when it came to encouraging us to reach for our goals, and cheering us on when we were trying something new. Sometimes his optimism was a little over the top. Back in the days that I worked at the dealership, Dad would often need someone to deliver a car or pick up a car in Fredericton or Moncton, and Dad knew I loved the chance to get out of the shop and spend the afternoon driving. More than once he came to me and said “I need you to pick up a car in Fredericton. The only problem is it’s a manual transmission”. I did NOT know how to drive a standard, but to Dad that was just a minor complication. “No problem”, he would say. “We’ll just go over to the Superstore parking lot for 10 minutes and I’ll teach you”. Oh, Dad. It would take about 20 minutes for him to admit that he needed to find someone else to pick up that car in Fredericton.

Having spent the last three days reading comments about Dad on Facebook, and talking to so many people about him yesterday, there is certainly a common thread running through every comment. Everyone pictures Dad with a smile and open arms or a high five. He has always been a welcoming presence in our home. Growing up, our house was the one all our friends wanted to come to. Our parents were the ones that all our friends felt the most comfortable with, and Dad was a huge part of that. He just poured out love on every friend who walked through the door, and I’m not sure, as a teenager, if I really understood or fully appreciated that. He was still pouring out love on his grandchildren's friends right up until last week. My dad was a favourite uncle of all of my cousins. They are feeling his loss keenly today. One of my friend’s comments was “I can only remember your dad laughing. Probably usually at us”. From one of Tracy’s university friends “Stan’s laugh and big hugs always made a homesick girl feel welcome in the Constantine home”, and one of my favourites “I loved the joy and positivity Stan brought to my life. He makes Heaven a better place to want to go”. So many others just said “I loved your dad so much”. And I know so many of you did. Often reading those thoughts made me wish I could share them with Dad. I hope he is feeling all the love being poured out on him today.

It is nearly impossible for me to remember who my dad was before he was a grandfather. You only need to glance at the countless photos of Dad with his grandchildren to know that Papa was the role he was born to play. I knew the day Connor, his first grandchild, was born that my dad was going to be his biggest fan, and moving my kids to Ontario was the hardest thing I ever did, in large part because it would mean separating them from him. But he never let that distance become an obstacle to nurturing a great relationship with our kids. No one has relished the job of grandfather more than Stan Constantine. Whether he was snuggling with them as babies, cheering them on in sports, or watching them play together at the cottage, Dad loved every single minute of being their Papa. He has been endlessly loving and full of pride in his grandchildren. I never spoke to him on the phone without him saying “How’s the kids? Give them hugs for Papa”. Seeing Connor, Janelle, Jillian, Charlie, Hailey and Molly standing by his casket last night, struggling to say their final goodbye, I realized that they fully understand how very blessed they have been to have known and been loved by their one-of-a-kind grandfather. I am so very grateful that they will carry memories of their time with him in their hearts forever.

We did not expect to be saying goodbye to Dad today. Losing him was sudden, but we had been losing him by inches for the past few years. Mum has tirelessly and without regret cared for him in every way these last months. She fulfilled the “in sickness and in health” vow she made 55 years ago a hundredfold, but she did not begrudge a minute. Brad and Tracy have been by Mum’s side through it all, at their home in minutes whenever he would fall or experience a setback, accompanying Dad to doctor’s appointments and making daily visits to the hospital when he was there. I am so very grateful that they were here when I couldn’t be. Janelle and I came home in March to visit and I took over the role of coach, encouraging Dad to do the daily exercises that were so painful and tedious and frustrating. We went for walks to the mailbox or the stop sign at the end of the street, taking shuffling baby steps the whole way. It was so frustrating to him when his body just wouldn’t do what he needed it to do. Nothing was easy for him anymore. His ever ready smile wasn’t quite so available. Until a neighbour or friend walked in the door and he would brighten and say “I’m doing just great!” Although he was discouraged, Dad never lost his optimism. He often said to Mum “When I get better, we should take a trip to Florida or Mexico”. She doubted he would ever get to that point, but he always saw the glass half full. Before I left to return to Ontario in August I said “Dad, keep doing those exercises so next summer we can walk all the way to Marr Road together.” He grinned and said, “Yes, we will”. I plan to take that walk, Dad, and I know you’ll be by my side, every step of the way.

To everyone who is here, thank you so much for showering our family with love this week. For bringing food, or travelling to be here, or just taking the time to share with us your memories of my dad, who was and will continue to be such an enormous presence in our lives. Thank you for holding us up in prayer in the days to come, when we kids go back to work, the grandkids go back to school, and Mum is alone with her thoughts and her memories. And please know how very much Dad would have appreciated you being here, and how he would have smiled and hugged or high-fived every single one of you on your way out the door."

In the past two months and 17 days there have been so many times when I thought of something I couldn't wait to tell my dad. Like when I went to my first Raptors game and saw the reigning NBA champions pull off their biggest comeback in franchise history. On the way home in the car I thought "Oh, wait until I tell Dad about this!" And I was overtaken by a fresh wave of grief. He would have loved hearing all about it! Over the past few weeks of union negotiations I've wanted to call Dad and complain, especially after spending a day on the picket line. So now I've decided that when those moments come, I should just tell him all about it, just as if he could hear me and revel in the joy or the misery.

Twenty years ago today, I called my dad and told him I was working on a great birthday present for him. One day later I placed his first grandchild in his arms for the first time. I never saw him smile wider. The combination today of missing that smile and realizing that my son is twenty -- TWENTY!!! -- has me a bit of a mess. But it helps to know that this year my dad is not spending his birthday using a walker and a cane. He is spending his birthday able to run and play hockey and golf and fish and do whatever he wants to do. And someday I'll be able to do those things right along with him.

Happy birthday in Heaven, Dad. I love you and miss you so, so much.

Monday, January 4, 2016

10 000 Steps

I got a Fitbit for Christmas. Well, sort of… I asked for a Fitbit for Christmas, and I didn’t get one, but I did get an outrageously overpriced gold chain that my sweet husband bought because I asked for a chain for an “L” charm I have. I did not mean for him to spend much money on it, and he didn’t want to spend much money on it. However, the poor man is not particularly comfortable buying jewellery, and so he is easy prey for salespeople when he walks into a jewellery store. He chose a lovely, very delicate chain that I probably would have broken in a week. I took it back and bought a Fitbit.

Initially, I wanted a Fitbit because I thought it would be a good way for me to keep track of my steps and improve my fitness on my own. Chris didn’t agree. He believed my motivation should be intrinsic (coming from within myself), rather than extrinsic (coming from a form of technology). What neither of us understood was that the Fitbit app provides an opportunity to develop a community of friends working toward a common goal and encouraging each other. Several of my friends had gotten this little gadget for Christmas, and a couple of them encouraged me to go for it. The most basic goal is to reach 10 000 steps a day, but it also keeps track of things like stair climbing, sleep, and heart rate. I’ve had it a week now, and today I hit that 10 000 step goal for the first time.

Connor accused me of cheating to reach my goal, but I didn’t. I went back to work today, and I know that I am on my feet a lot at work, depending on the class that I am teaching. Today I had about twenty minutes of down time with no one else in my classroom, so I started doing laps. I racked up about 1000 steps in no time, just cruising around my classroom. This was not cheating. No, this was doing exactly what the little gadget is supposed to do – spurring me on to better fitness by providing a daily goal. Not only this, but I have entered into a workweek challenge with a couple of friends and I was determined to end the day in first place. Would I ever have considered doing laps around my classroom if I were not wearing my new little tracking buddy? Not likely. Now, I will admit the few arm pumps I did at the dinner table to try to trick it into adding some steps, that was probably cheating. But laps in the classroom? Nope, that was just proving that the technology does what it’s supposed to do.

Am I a fan of every feature of the Fitbit? The jury is still out. I’m not convinced that the sleep tracker improves the quality or quantity of my sleep. On the contrary, I wonder if knowing I will find out in the morning exactly how long and how well I slept actually keeps me from achieving good sleep at times. I also question the accuracy of the heart rate monitor, but I appreciate having some measure of when my heart rate increases and why. I haven’t used the eating plan or kept track of my water intake yet, but I may try those features in time. Meanwhile, I am going to just keep trying to hit 10 000 steps every day, and at least 10 flights of stairs. And I am going to enjoy having a community of friends to spur on and encourage while we work toward the goal of better fitness in 2016. So far, I am liking my new toy.

Friday, January 1, 2016


My resolution this year is to write. Every day. At least 500 words. It won’t always be a blog post. It won’t always be profound, or well-structured, or even intelligent. But to write is a beginning. And maybe someday it will turn into something more than musings… Something someone other than my mother will be interested in reading.

The problem is, I have made this resolution before. Perhaps not this specifically, and maybe not as intentionally, but I am still afraid that this one will fall to the wayside as other resolutions have before. How do I make this one different? How do I make it matter enough to follow through? I want to be purposeful about this. I want to make it a habit. I guess that’s why I haven’t made many rules that I have to stick to. That’s why I’m not just writing for my blog. I don’t want the pressure of having to write for others every single day. Many times this will just be for me, gathering my thoughts or preserving memories. I don’t know what I will write about. I have some ideas, but sometimes I’ll just pull a random writing exercise from a book or the web and I’ll see what happens. I really don’t know what this is going to become. But I know I am going to write. Every day. At least 500 words. No rules, just writing.

My lovely sister-in-law and her family were here for New Years Eve yesterday and into this afternoon. She and I connect on so many levels that our conversation feels like a tennis match to anyone else in the room – constant volleying of ideas back and forth about a hundred different topics in a matter of minutes. Our husbands and our children try to interject occasionally, but it is a challenge. She said she is going to try “bullet journaling” this year. I had never heard the term before, but it is basically what it sounds like, getting thoughts down in bullet points. This might be something I incorporate into my writing, but I have far too many words to say to fit it all into quick bullet points. I have far too many words to say… period. But once in a while, my writing might take that form. Like I said, no rules, just writing.

We rang in the New Year beautifully, with my husband’s sister and her husband and his brother, and with his step-sister and her sweet family, and with our two fantastic kids. I wonder how many more New Year’s Eve celebrations our children will want to spend with us? My son will be 16 in a month. Next year there might be a girlfriend in the picture. Maybe she’ll join our party, or maybe they’ll have a celebration to attend of their own. It has not been easy for me to let him grow up, even though he is mostly still a homebody who wants to hang out with his mom and dad. But I have to realize that there are some milestones coming that I am going to have to just let happen, knowing that I have taught him well and he is wise and good on his own. And one of those will include ringing in the New Year without his mom to hug at midnight. Time flies way too quickly. Luckily we have made beautiful memories to hold on to over the years, and new ones just last night as we hugged and kissed each other and cousins and aunts and uncles and toasted the arrival of 2016.

I resolve to preserve these memories with words. For my son, for my daughter, for myself. And sometimes for my mom to read since she’s too far away to be a part of them all. And maybe even for others who might be interested in sharing our journey from time to time.

Welcome 2016! Let the ride begin!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

To Gym or Not to Gym?

I have had a gym membership for about eight months. This is a good thing. I need to be getting regular exercise, maintaining good heart health, and taking off some excess baggage. I started out very scheduled. Last spring I went to the gym faithfully every day that I didn't work. Then summer came along and I have been sporadic about my workout every since. I will be really good for a couple of weeks, and then I fall off the wagon and can't get back on for a few more weeks. I can almost always find a reason NOT to go to the gym. Perfect example: right now I have chosen to write a blog post instead of going to the gym. I have a few other reasons. I could be cleaning. I could be calling my mom. I could be putting chicken wings in the crock pot for dinner. All pretty good reasons. But none really preclude a trip to the gym. It's just around the corner. It takes about two minutes to get there by car. My car is in good working order. I'm not sick. I really have no reason not to go. Yet here I sit.

But I think I have identified the problem. I don't actually like going to the gym. I have found nothing that makes me look forward to returning. It's all just hard work. If it were fun, it would be different, but it's not. It's pushing myself it a way that I'm just not good at. It isn't the gym's fault. It's a nice gym. Great atmosphere, nice equipment, friendly people, good classes, even a pool and a hot tub. I have just never been a person who gets excited about physical activity. At least not solitary physical activity. So maybe I would be better at this if I had a gym buddy, but the fact is, I don't. My only choice right now is to go alone. And so I must choose to go. And herein lies the problem.

I am far too skilled at procrastination. "I'll do it later" falls too easily off my tongue. Really, I think that is what blogging this morning is all about. Sure, I'm glad I added a blog post. Two posts in one week is a record for 2013. I hope to achieve my goal of three posts a week quite regularly this year. But going to the gym three times a week is at least as important as adding to my blog. So here I go. Getting off the couch. Grabbing my gym bag. Heading out the door. The cleaning and the chicken wings can wait until later. But I do have to get groceries...

Oh! And Connor just called to say he needs to come home from school -- He's sick! So I guess I should stay home and be nurse-mom. Too bad! Off to the gym tomorrow!

Sunday, February 3, 2013


As of yesterday, I am officially the mother of a teenager. I feel like I should be afraid. Like I should be bracing myself. These are the scary years, right? The years filled with push/pull and testing boundaries and rebellion. Important years that must be navigated carefully. Years that will define my future relationship with my son.

But strangely, I don't feel afraid. I feel blessed. I realize that there will be push and pull, and boundary testing, and maybe a bit of rebellion. But Connor is an awesome kid. He is honest and trustworthy and really wants to do the right thing. I am not naive enough to think there will never be issues we'll have to struggle through together. We already have, and he and I are far too much alike to go through life without butting heads. Homework time this afternoon was a perfect example. His stress level and mine rose to the breaking point, and we both needed a cooling off period before we could accomplish what needed to get done. But it did get done. We survived. Sometimes Chris looks at Connor and I and shakes his head. We are two sides of the same coin, and we drive each other crazy, but we always come out the other side ready to share a hug. I hope that doesn't change as my teenager grows older and "cooler". I don't think it will.

Connor has always been a homebody. He never wanted to go to camp (much to his dad's dismay), and until the last year or so he hasn't even been big on sleepovers. He likes to be in his own bed and night, with Mom and Dad not too far away. Two weeks ago he went to his first youth retreat, a winter weekend in Muskoka with the church youth group. He was super-excited, and a little nervous, but only someone who knows him as well as I do would realize it. I was really nervous. I was more worried about a fiery bus crash on snowy roads than anything else. I just wanted my boy safe at home, and by 6:00 Sunday night he was, with a big smile on his face. I am so glad his first "away from home" was a good experience, a great experience. It was good for both of us, good for him to get away, and good for me to let him go. I know it will be happening more and more.

This weekend, however, on his birthday, Connor was content to spend the day hanging out at home with his family. We had a big family breakfast, opened some presents, had Connor's favourite (tacos) for dinner, and then he stayed home and babysat his sister while Chris and I went out in the evening. His biggest event of the day was joining Facebook. He's still a homebody at heart.

Connor is a teenager. He is three inches taller than I am, and is quickly gaining on his dad. The years of driving and dating and leaving home are not that far away. We are entering a new stage of life together, and there will be challenges for our family. But in general, I couldn't be more grateful for the kid that Connor is. He has a generous heart and a great attitude. He is compassionate and kind, a good friend and wonderful brother. He is a teenager, but deep inside he's still my little boy. I hope part of him always will be.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Look Mom -- No Braces!!!!

This was my girl when I got home from work today -- A big smile and a big bowl of popcorn.
Love those beautiful braces-free teeth!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Movie Madness

Christmas vacation was very uneventful at the Haines household this holiday season. We didn't go anywhere — and I mean anywhere. We didn't entertain, except for a small afternoon get-together with our close friends from church on the 16th, and Chris's sisters and their families on the 30th. I didn't do any Boxing Week shopping, although Chris did on Boxing Day, but that is a story for a whole other blog. We did, however, enjoy time together in our own home, among our own things, especially in our newly finished basement.

For two years we had been promising our kids (and ourselves) a cool basement, with an awesome TV with surround sound, and an Xbox 360 with Kinect. This was in great measure a reward for Chris finishing the work mostly on his own. His framing and my painting, along with hiring a very reasonable worker to fill in our gaps, basically paid for the extra large TV, furniture and accessories that adorn our cozy family room.

So the past two weeks we have enjoyed them together. And although Chris and I do enjoy watching the kids exploring their new Xbox games (and joining in now and then), this has primarily meant family movie nights. And as a family we have watched a bunch, together and separately. I'll give a short list, although at this late hour, as I'm watching the end of The Amazing Spider Man with my boys, I won't promise it is exhaustive.

  1. The Avengers — Chris and Connor and I had already seen it in the theatre, and we had to twist Janelle's arm to join us. But she LOVED it! She giggled and cheered and remained wide awake until the movie ended at midnight. We got to experience the 3D feature of our TV, which we had previously only tried with Hugo. We hadn't set out to buy a 3D TV, but were seduced by a deal when we bought it, and I have to say, the 3D is excellent, far better than any we've seen in a theatre. So the kids each got a few 3D movies for Christmas, and it has been fun to check them out. The Avengers was a great way to start. We all loved it, and I know it is one that will remain in our movie library to be enjoyed many times and for many years to come.
  2. Madagascar 3 — Janelle got this one for Christmas, and it was also in 3D. She loves all the Madagascar movies. I remember her as a tiny little girl dancing around in front of the TV in our basement on Crocket Street singing "I like to move it, move it!" We don't all get the same pleasure from the movie that she does, but her enthusiasm for it is contagious, and that makes it a family favourite.
  3. Brave — The kids and I saw this one in the theatre this summer, and I picked it up for Janelle on Black Friday for next to nothing. Connor was at his buddy's house for a post-Christmas sleepover, so Chris and Janelle and I settled in to watch her movie. Janelle and I enjoyed it as much as the first time. I love that it is a love story between a princess and her mom. Chris wasn't overly impressed with the movie, but he did love that Janelle held his hand all through it. She is Daddy's girl.
  4. Whales and Dolphins 3D — We all watched this one the afternoon of New Year's Eve. This was the only disappointment we've had with the 3D on our TV. The movie is really interesting, but the transitions were very disorienting. I kept wanting to take off the glasses. Like all of our 3D movies, it comes with both a 3D disk and a 2D disk. I look forward to viewing it again in 2D.
  5. The Lorax — Janelle had been dying to see this one. Connor saw it on a rainy day at camp in August, but she had only seen it in French at school. I missed this one, which the rest watched while I cleaned the house for our Haines family party. I can only share the kids' reviews: "So cute!" (Janelle) and "Sooooooo boring!" (Connor). Shocking.
  6. Moneyball — I brought this one home from my Black Friday shopping spree in Indiana and put it Chris's stocking. He picked it one night last week. We both enjoyed it. Really interesting subject matter, and Brad Pitt not looking like a homeless man. Highly recommended.
  7. Secret of the Wings — Janelle's movie. She watched it and loved it. Connor endured it while putting together some of Janelle's Lego. I skipped it.
  8. Raiders of the Lost Ark — Chris, Connor and I watched this perennial favourite on New Year's Day. I can't say a bad thing about that movie. We all love it. Doesn't everyone?
  9. Say Anything — There is a second hand CD/DVD/Video game store nearby where we often trade in our movies and video games. They have a 2 for $6 rack, and we've picked up quite a few previously missed movies there. We figure $3 is cheaper than renting or OnDemand, and we can watch it on our own timeline. A few months ago Chris came home with this throwback to the eighties that neither of us had seen, and we pulled it out two nights ago. It wasn't bad. It was fun to check out the clothes and hairstyles that we can hardly believe we had any part of, and John Cusack gave a really good performance. The lead actress was terrible though. I can understand why I've never seen her in anything else. Glad I saw it, but I'll be happy to trade it back in at the video store.
  10. Tin-Tin — Connor found Tin-Tin on Netflix one day last week. I only saw a few minutes of it, but Connor was very impressed. He said the graphics were "Crazy", and insists we need to make it our next family movie night. Today he even spent a Christmas gift card on the Tin-Tin Xbox game.
  11. Prometheus — Before we went to Indiana for Thanksgiving in November, Chris had been complaining that he missed this movie and that he was sure I'd never watch it with him. I found it in one of the super-cheap bins at Walmart in the middle of the night on Black Friday, so I knew I had to bring it back to him. I kept it for Christmas and he pulled it out on New Years Day morning. I stayed in bed and watched a couple of episodes of  The Gilmore Girls (my latest obsession). As he had predicted, there was no way I was going near that movie. I asked later if there was anything about it I would have liked. Chris very honestly said no.
  12. Crazy Stupid Love — This is another one I picked up in a cheap bin on Black Friday. Last night was my turn to pick, so I pulled it out. We both thought it was a very cute movie. Definitely worth the $3 I paid for it.
  13. The Amazing Spider Man — Tonight's pick. This time we could not persuade Janelle to join us, and I skipped the sad parts while I talked to my parents on the phone and put my girl to bed. The boys seemed to enjoy it, and I know this one won't be making a trip to the second hand store. However, Chris said after it was over "It has good bones, but I still think I prefer the first Spider Man series".
  14. Star Trek the Motion Picture — In the time it took for me to write this blog post, the Spider Man movie ended and Chris pulled out his well-used copy of the first Star Trek movie, just to see how it looks on his new big screen. He fast forwarded through and saw his favourite parts, and then moved on. I only included it because it provided the soundtrack to the writing of this post.
  15. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade — Connor has finally found his way to bed and Chris has popped in this last (and my favourite) movie in the Indiana Jones trilogy (I know there is a fourth, but does it really count?) We won't watch the whole thing, only the first few minutes, but it is fun to see old favourites, as well as new favourites, in our cozy new family room.
As you can see, there has been movie madness at the Haines household this Christmas break. In part it is because we all enjoy watching movies together, but in part it has been making this new part of our house feel like home. We're making memories together here, not just in watching movies. We opened Christmas stockings here. We played a rousing game of Charades the other day (Connor and I won!) It has become a favourite room of our house. And it has made all the sweat and tears over this project worthwhile.
We still have a cabinet full of unwatched movies that we've picked up either at the second hand store or Black Friday sales. Lawrence of Arabia, Crash, Avatar, The Ides of March, Funny Girl, Mean Streets, an entire boxed set of Clint Eastwood movies, plus many more, all waiting to be watched at our house. And those are only the DVDs! The choices on Netflix are practically endless. We plan to scale it back to one movie a week, though. Anyone care to join us?