Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Eat, drink and be merry

'Tis the season to have a lot of tasty treats in the house. We baked this year (and yes, even I baked) and several friends have given us plates of their holiday baking.

And I just keep snacking on them. Several times a day, I find myself wandering by the kitchen and grabbing a quick 'snack'. There's a reason I don't keep such things in my house most of the year -- because it's way too easy to simply walk by the kitchen and pick up a cookie/brownie/chocolate on my way to the rest of the house.

Pair that with the Egg Nog in the fridge, the bottles of wine, etc. in the bar and it looks like we have the makings of a yummy holiday season.

So, I've decided that instead of worrying about how much I eat and drink, my goal for this holiday season is to eat, drink and be merry. Or as the hubby says, eat, drink and get fat.

And then I'll start running again in January.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Computer woes

Our computer is old. Six years old, which is definitly approaching the age of retirement in computer years. It's been slowing down and acting up for awhile now -- probably the better part of a year -- and every now and then I'd complain about it.

But do nothing about it.

Then, on Thursday, it skipped the retirement stage -- where it was going to be considered suitable for kid-use only -- and went right to the life support stage. It caught a virus.

I don't know how because I wasn't even downloading anything at the time it started to throw error messages. But I knew things were bad when it wouldn't even let me run the virus software. Ryan knew things were really bad when he tried to start Windows up in Safe Mode and just got the blue screen of death.

So, on Friday, we took it to the much-smarter-about-computers-than-us people at Geek Squad. And Merry Christmas to us, it was going to cost a lot of money to retrive our data and then fix it. And they had us in a Catch-22. We couldn't just walk away from it and buy a new computer like we had been talking about for awhile because we needed Geek Squad to retrieve all our files for us. And that costs money. And once you're paying them to do that, it almost seems worth it to pay them a little bit more to wipe the virus off the machine and send it home.

So we went with that. Until they called and told us there were other problems with the machine -- like we needed a new hard drive because this one was done. One problem and upgrade led to another and we suddenly realized that we'd be spending more money to fix the thing than to buy a new one.

So last night, I picked up our new external hard drive with (almost) all our retrived files (yup, some were lost on our dead hard drive) and our useless desktop computer.

So, how am I writing this then, if my computer is nothing more than a really big paperweight at the moment? Well, we've had an extra computer sitting in a box for the last month because a relative gave it to us for use as a kids computer. We just hadn't had a chance to buy a desk or table to put it on, clean up the hard drive and set it up for the kids. So now it's set up for me to use.

There's a reason why it's meant to be a kids computer. I feel like I'm puttering along on my old 486. But I won't complain, because it's either that or have nothing.

But you don't realize how much of your life is tied to your computer until you don't have it. I can't count the number of times, I've gone to pull up a file or picture while sitting here, only to remember that there's nothing on it -- that until 9 p.m. last night, my entire computer life was in the hands of someone else. My work files, six years worth of pictures (although many have been backed up to DVD at some point), videos and my music library were all in his hands. Heck, I wanted to mail something to someone and then realized I couldn't because my address book is a file on my computer as well. All I had was the hope that he'd be able to retrieve it all. Let me tell you, this has definitely been a lesson in the need to properly backup my files on a regular basis.

And hey, Merry Christmas to us -- we get a new computer! And if we're lucky, the Boxing Day deals will be good this year.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Catching a glimpse of the Olympic torch

For a week now, I've had it on my calendar that today was the day that the Olympic torch route would run by less than one block from my house. And I just had to see it.

I've always been fascinated by the Olympics and find myself glued to the TV when they're on -- regardless of whether it's summer or winter. The Summer Olympics were on last year while we were at the cottage -- and CBC was the only channel we picked up. So we spent a lot of time watching it. And four years ago, when the Winter Olympics were on, I sat at home watching them, day after overdue day of my seemingly never-ending pregnancy.

So, when I heard that the torch would pass through my neighbourhood around 3:45 p.m., I bundled the kids up in their snowsuits (it was cold out today afterall), packed them in the wagon and headed out up the street with my mom (who was visiting for the day).

Well, it was running (no pun intended) ahead of schedule and as we rounded the corner, the advance parade was already going through. And so we ran up the street -- me pulling the wagon behind me -- zipped between the stopped police cars holding off the traffic and stationed ourselves on the corner just as I caught a glimpse of the runner coming along the street.

And that's when I noticed that the next relay runner was standing about five feet from us holding her torch.

Needless to say, it was a pretty neat experience to see -- even the kids seemed to be caught up in the excitment, even if they didn't fully understand what was going on --and one I won't soon forget. Afterall, it's not very often that the world comes to Canada, and the torch is something I might never see again.

Now bring on my 16 days of Olympic couch surfing.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sleepless nights

When Austin was Alex's age, he was a champion sleeper. He was a terrible napper, but almost without fail, he would go to bed at 8:30 p.m. and sleep straight through until 7 or 7:30 a.m. the next day.

I say almost because around 18 months he started having nightmares from time to time. These resulted in long, sleepless nights for all of us and usually ended with me sleeping in his rocking chair or on his floor until he fell asleep again.

But (thankfully) nightmares didn't happen often and we all had good night sleeps.

Then baby number 2 (Alex, of course) came along. And along with that came the expected sleepless nights. Things were no better or no worse than most new parents go through and as she got older, she slowly cut down the number of times she woke until she was sleeping through the night just as Austin had.

But somehow in the last few months, that stopped. I don't even know when it all fell apart; because it feels like forever. She's 20 months old and I don't remember the last time Ryan and I both slept through the night.

Because, you see, there are the odd mornings that I wake up and realize that I hadn't woken up once all night and that leads me to ask Ryan if he'd been up at all. Sure enough, the answer is almost always yes -- I had just been so tired that I didn't hear her cry.

The problem is, is that I honestly don't know how to fix this non-sleeping problem. Because she wakes for a variety of reasons. Sometimes she's cold because she's kicked off all her blankets (even though she now sleeps in fleece sleepers, she still gets cold); sometimes she's moved around so much in her sleep that she's stuck in a corner of the crib; sometimes she's sitting up and confused as to why it's still dark in her room (thankfully, all she needs to be told is that it's still night time and she lies back down); sometimes she wants her soother and can't find it; sometimes she wants her soother and can't be bothered to open her eyes to find it; sometimes there's no reason at all that I can figure out; and sometimes she has nightmares.

Aside from the nightmares, all of the reasons for her waking and needing assistance mean that I'm out of bed for no more than 2 minutes -- and that includes the time I take to stop at the bathroom. So it's not like the old baby days where getting up means a 30 to 45 minute chunk of your night is gone. But it's still a sleep distruption. And it's not uncommon for the get up, see Alex, go to the bathroom, go back to bed routine to happen two or three times a night.

That means some nights, I'm only sleeping in two to three hour blocks. And after months of this, it's taking a toll.

The nightmares are a completely different story. I can deal with this -- although they mean I'm up for a much longer chunk of time. The other night, she woke up screaming bloody murder, and although I don't know what she dreamed about (because she can't tell me yet), she was terrified to go back to sleep and would get very upset every time I went to leave the room. So I stayed there on her floor while she lay awake for about an hour and a half. When she finally passed out, I tiptoed back to bed.

It sucks. And I was tired the next day. But that's part of parenthood -- sitting with your sick or scared child.

Getting up because your 20 month old can't sleep through the night shouldn't be. Should it?

But how do I get her to stop waking up and crying out? The old let her cry it out routine doesn't seem appropriate here, because if she needs help -- like if she's stuck or cold -- then she doesn't need to learn the lesson that crying it out teaches, she needs help moving or another blanket. Yes, she does need to learn to find her own damn soother, but I don't know that's the problem until I get there. And, to be honest, needing a soother often goes hand in hand with cold or stuck.

So what do we do? Because I really, really, really would like to start getting some sleep again.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Playing Santa Claus

At 7:50 a.m. this morning, I found myself doing something I hoped I would never have to do. I was the 12th person in line outside Toys 'R Us waiting for it to open.

It was (thankfully) no Tickle me Elmo frenzy, but it was still standing outside a store, in the cold, cup of coffee in hand, in hopes of being one of the lucky ones to get 'that' toy. And the odd thing is is, I willingly did this as my kids haven't asked for anything from Santa because they still don't truly 'get' that concept. (In fact, Austin has asked Santa for presents...nothing specific, just presents.)

But Ryan and I decided awhile ago that Santa would bring Alex a kitchen and Austin another train set to add to his existing tracks; so we've been waiting, watching and hoping for sales.

Hence the standing outside Toys 'R Us at 7:50 a.m. Today only, a kitchen (that looked good -- there's a lot of crappy ones out there) was on sale for $50. And a train set was also on sale for $50. Both items usually retail for $100. And at prices like that, you know they won't be hanging around on the shelf for long -- especially the kitchen.

It was worth it. Twenty minutes after I walked into the store, I walked out with a kitchen, a train set and a set of play food (because what's the point of having a kitchen without play food?) having spent a grand total of $107 after tax thanks to the added promotion that the first 300 people in the store received $20 off with a $100 purchase.

I felt like Santa -- well minus the exta weight and the big red suit, of course. And I know we'll both be playing Santa on Christmas Eve, but this morning, I felt as if I was the one getting the gift I really wanted, instead of the kids.

Friday, November 20, 2009

How to quadruple dip on refunds

The main reason we had a home energy audit done last month was so that we could qualify for government rebates when we bought a new furnace. Because, as I mentioned before, the furnace is long overdue to be replaced. It's so overdue in fact, that when the first guy came to give us a quote last week, he opened up our existing furnace only to discover that the manufacturer date on it was 1977. That's as old as Ryan.

And a furnace ain't supposed to live that long.

And, to top it off, because it's so old -- it's a 60% efficient one (that's what they built back then) but I was told it likely isn't working at 60% anymore. Today's modern furnaces are 95% efficient.

So, last week, we had two different companies come in and give us an all-in quote (cost of the unit, parts and installation) and here's what it came down to -- buying a new furnace is without a doubt the most expensive thing we've purchased for this house. Recarpeting the basement or buying a 50-inch TV was chump change compared to this.

The good news is that our purchase will qualify for about a $1,500 government rebate after we have a second energy audit done.

But, it doesn't end there and that's how this purchase will eventually turn into a quadruple dip of rebates. The furnace purchase and installation also qualifies for the 2009 home renovation tax credit and an Ontario Power Association (OPA) credit (of $125). And, because we're buying the unit through Costco -- the promotion at the moment is a $500 Costco gift card with every purchase. And finally, because we're Costco Executive members, we get 2% cash back on all our purchases.

At the end of the day, the grand total will be cut almost in half. And, because the new one is far more efficient than the current one, our heating bills should be $400 to $500 less per year.

So now tell me, why did we keep squeezing 'just one more year' out of that old clunker of a furnace?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

An update and a thanks

I've been busy lately...doing...well...I have no idea what I've been doing actually. But somehow, I've been busy. The days are just kind of floating by right now, which means I really should get on that Christmas shopping and Christmas card thing.

But this morning's post is really just an update to last week's post. My do-I-start-running-a-daycare-service post. I've decided not to take my friend's child in. I put a lot of thought into it. A lot. Maybe too much. But what it came down to is that I'm a mom, not a childcare provider. And by that I mean, since it's my kids I hang out with all day, some days the fun-filled activity is to go do the groceries. And it's ok for me to say to them, 'play nicely for 10 minutes, mommy just needs to sit' because they're my kids. But somehow, it doesn't seem right to do that and say that when I'm being paid to care for, stimulate and educate someone else's kid.

I told my friend all this and more and she was pretty understanding about it. I did tell her, however, that I'd be willing to consider part-time if she needed. Having a part-time kid would mean I could totally focus on the kids the days she's here, get errands or whatever done on the days she's not, still have enough energy (I hope) to take on freelance gigs for evening work and manage to keep a small portion of my sanity intact.

I'll keep you posted on whether or not that comes about.

This post is also just to say thanks to all who commented -- either on my post, by e-mail to me or in person -- to my post about Austin's major meltdown. You have no idea how much better that made me feel to hear how many other moms have been there, are still there, and/or are dreading the day they get there.

When your child is screaming at you like that, and completely defying everything you say or tell them to do, you feel like you're alone in the battle and that your kid is the only one that behaves this badly. It's nice to know that everyone elses kids can also look like a devil child from time to time.

Monday, November 09, 2009

An interesting suggestion or a crazy notion?

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine approached me for a favour. When asking, she assured me there would be no hard feelings if I said no.

This favour? Would I be interested in providing child care for her child when she goes back to work in February for a short, five-month period. (That is, until the end of June when she has more permanent arrangments already in place.) She has offered to pay me the going home daycare rate for this five-month period.

My gut instinct was 'hell no, then I'd be wanting to sell three kids on my front porch instead of two' but then I started to put some thought into it and wondered if it may be kind of fun.

Or it may just be a crazy idea and that I'm crazy to even consider. I mean let me honest, there are many a days that I'm pulling my hair out from dealing with my own two kids.

I have to give her an answer soon, so here we go:

  • I'm home all day with two kids anyway, so if I take on a third, I can be paid to be home all day with kids.
  • In a weird way, it may actually be fun and would give my kids someone else to play with during the day (although I'm sure the novelty of having her around would wear off after a short time).
  • I like thinking up (or researching) new things to do or teach my kids, so it wouldn't be a stretch to add a third child to that mix.
  • My day with her wouldn't be as long as my day with my own kids. She'd get dropped off just before 8 a.m. and picked up around 4 p.m. (and she'd nap for 2 to 3 hours in the afternoon). My day with my kids is from 7 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. and the most difficult part of the day is the after 4 p.m. time when they're cranky/wired/bored and I need to make dinner. My friend's daughter would be gone by this time of day.
  • Taking her in might be enough to turn me off the idea of wanting a third kid ;-).
  • It's not actually all that much money. Paying daycare is a lot of money when you're deducting it from the salary you make by going to work, but when you're the one staying home and making that money, you realize how little daycare workers really make.
  • She's almost a full year younger than Alex (and therefore 3 years younger than Austin) which means many of the activities I do with my kids now wouldn't be easily transferable to a younger child (i.e. crafts -- Alex is 19 months and she's just starting to be able to do these things whereas at 12 months she wasn't interested).
  • She may not even be walking yet, which presents a whole other set of challenges.
  • It would be just me, all the time. Right now with my two, it's just me about 90 per cent of the time. But from time to time, my sister, sister-in-law, or parents come over and hang out with the kids while I get a few other things done. It's a godsend having them do that; it helps keep me sane. I wouldn't be able to do this if I take on another kid, because I couldn't expect them to do what I'm being paid to do. (Although as a side note, my friend said she would easily be able to make alternate arrangements for her daughter with advance notice if I needed a 'day off'.)

The biggest con right now, and the one that is the sticking point and would be the main reason to say no above and beyond all my other thoughts is the car issue. A big part of what keeps me sane during the day, and keeps the kids engaged, is having the ability to take them places. Whether it be to the zoo, a playgroup, the mall to run errands or a city program, we go places. A lot.

And as it stands right now, I can't get a third car seat in my back seat. And if I can't add a car seat, I can't go anywhere. I can't even take Austin to school two mornings a week without walking (and it's a 30 minute walk at my pace, each way and he's only in school for 2 hours). And if I can't go anywhere, I'm adding to my level of insanity while limiting myself to walking distance only locations. And that I can't do.

Apparently there are thinner models of carseats you can buy specifically to be able to put three across in a back seat -- and we have the option as well, that by the time this girl would start coming to me, Austin will be old enough to sit in a booster seat. But will he be heavy enough?

All these options are great, and I can look into them. But before I bother, I need to figure out if I want to even bother. Or if I prefer to keep what little bit of sanity I left.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

He sure is a stubborn one, isn't he?

I remember when Austin was about 8 or 9 months old, and in order to get him to take a nap when he didn't want to but I knew he was tired, I'd have to let him scream in his bed. Some days, he would scream for upwards of 45 minutes, just to sleep for 30 minutes.

In fact, one day I was using this practice when my mother-in-law was over and her only comment on this practice was 'he sure is a stubborn one, isn't he?'.

Well, it's three years later and nothing's changed.

As I write this (as a theraputic way to reduce my anger), Austin is in his room screaming his head off. And it's been going on for 90 minutes now.

For the record, the complete and total meltdown didn't start over the need to take a nap (even though he's tired today) it started over me telling him no. As in, stop throwing that blanket over your sister's head because she doesn't like it. Somehow, that reprimand resulted in the creation of a monster.

He's screamed, he yelled, he threw things at me. So, I picked him up and told him enough was enough (because he's been in meltdown city for two days now), he was going to bed. And I put him to bed.

Then I put Alex down for her nap at 1:15 -- where she promptly fell asleep amid the noise coming from her brother's room.

Eventually, I went back into his room to 'talk' to him about his behaviour and then to even offer an olive branch and tell him he could play for five more minutes before rest time. Well that wasn't good enough and he told me so. And so the fight began again.

I don't need to bore you with the details of power struggling with a three-year-old. Because anyone who has a toddler or preschooler knows how fruitless these power-struggles are. But now, 90 minutes later, he's screaming in his room (in the dark, by the way) and I'm sitting downstairs at the computer with the music turned up loud enough so that I don't have to hear him anymore Yes, I know, real mature of me. But I can't stand to listen to him anymore. And for fear of doing something I'll later regret, I'm instead choosing to calm down by listening to music and drinking a cup of tea. Which was hot an hour ago, but hey, you can't have everything.

He's stubborn enough to sit there and keep screaming for hours if I let him. Without ever falling asleep or ending this behaviour. So sooner or later, one of us will have to give -- and it'll likely be me, because I can't let him scream there for hours on end, can I? I mean, he's just that stubborn.

And I hate to admit it, but he got that trait from me.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Four and a half hours of organized chaos

After much debate between us on Wednesday and Thursday evening, we decided that, at the very least, the three of us (me and the kids) would get the shot. Ryan was undecided on whether he would get it, and since he doesn't classify as high priority, he could decide later.

We also decided that we would wait a few days until the lineups dwindled.

But somehow, that whole plan got thrown out the window this morning. And I'm not really sure why. After we heard that there'd be a vaccine shortage next week, we drove over to the nearby clinic at 9:45 (15 minutes before it opened) to check it out. And joined the end of the line. And then 30 minutes went by and then 60 minutes and then 90 minutes. And suddenly, we'd commited so much time already, that the thought of leaving just to come back and do it again another day seemed foolish.

So we stayed out in the cold, in the never ending line. At one point, Ryan took Austin for a walk to Tim Horton's for coffee and Timbits. At another point, I packed the kids in the car and drove to the nearest McDonald's to feed them lunch.

At 2:15 -- 4 hours and 30 minutes after we arrived, it was our turn to get shot in the arm. The kids hated us for it and will probably never trust us again when we tell them we have to go somewhere and wait in line.

The lineup was organized chaos -- in the sense that although everyone in line was orderly and friendly -- the information being passed around was chaotic. Early on, a security guard said that health officials would be coming through the line and handing out cards with a timeslot to return. These cards never materialized, instead the line just inched forward.

And the more it inched forward, the more you felt as if you were getting somewhere and therefore didn't want to give up all that you'd already been standing for. So we kept standing there.

But it's done now. All four of us got the shot -- even though, technically, Ryan wasn't eligible to get it yet because he doesn't classify as high priority. But after standing in line for that long -- he opted not to be socially responsible and stand aside as the three of us got our shot for fear that when the time comes for the general population to get their shot he'd have to stand in line all over again.

But of course, 21 days from now we'll have to do it all over again so that the kids can get the second half of their shot. Hopefully by then, a better system will be in place.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

To get the shot or not get the shot

I was halfway through this post this morning when I had to pause and get the kids. When I returned this afternoon, my friend over here had posted about the same thing. So read her views too, while you're at it.

The H1N1 vaccine is the big debate these days. Do we get the shot or not?

For weeks I've been sitting on the fence about whether the four of us should get it. And I'm not really sure why. Being in a high-risk category (asthma) for the regular, seasonal flu, I qualified for the free flu shot before it was available to all Ontarians for free. And I got. And I stayed healthy.

In fact, in the last 10 years, I've got the flu shot 7 times. The three years I didn't, I fell ill with influenza two of them. And let me tell you -- it was wicked. The word the flu is a catch-all for all winter illnesses, but when you actually have influenza, holy crap, you can tell the difference, and it knocks you on your ass for a week or more.

So, with that kind of record, why am I hesitant to get the H1N1 shot? Well, for starters the adjuvant version makes me a little nervous -- especially for the kids. But also, the fact that although the kids are considered high risk as well (under the age of 5), there is also very little data on its safety for kids -- especially the adjuvant version.

I asked my doctor earlier this week what she thought, and her response was that we should all get it and that it was safe and recommended for everyone. Although, she did add if we really felt strongly against having the kids vaccinated then Ryan and I should definitely get it so as to avoid bringing the germs home to them.

But when Ryan and I chatted about it, he was ambivalent about the whole issue. Not that he doesn't care, but instead, he goes by the theory that he's never had the flu shot and in all those years, he only caught the flu once (from me). So, if the practice ain't broke, don't fix it.

But why shouldn't we get it? The kids have been vaccinated against everything else -- even diseases that I wasn't vaccinated against (Chicken Pox) and we never questioned whether it was right or wrong to do so. In fact, to me, it was wrong not to get them vaccinated against all of those diseases.

Regardless of whether we all get the shot, regular handwashing and hand santizer use will be top of the list of things to do this winter. But let's face it -- my kids are, well, kids. Hands and toys just seem to belong in their mouth no matter how many times I tell them not to.

This post is really just me writing in circles. I don't have any more answers than when I started. I fairly sure that we should all get the H1N1 shot, but yet I'm hesitant to and can't quite put my finger on why. So here's the million dollar question, what do you think?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The 'Austin show'

It's pretty weird to see yourself and your house on TV. I actually had to watch the piece three times before I heard what the reporter was saying because the first two times I was too busy looking to see a) where in my house each shot was and b) how much of a freak I looked like.

I don't think I did too badly, or at least I should say, I didn't feel embarassed at watching myself. And the kids looked pretty damn cute on camera (but to be honest, I'm a little biased in that respect). And although I know that a big part of the story was on my clunky old furnace, I do wish that there had been a little less focus on my empty-beer-bottle filled furnace room. Or, at the very least, I wish I had thought to stash those boxes somewhere else beforehand.

Austin, as I expected was thrilled to see himself on TV. We caught it live, and he was so thrilled that when it was over, he asked to see "the Austin show again".

And thanks to the the fact that anything that appears on TV can be found on the Internet somewhere, and just because it's my blog and I can, below is the video -- for anyone who wanted to see it but missed it. And for me, because now I have a copy of it.

(If the video doesn't work, try this link:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My 15 minutes of fame

Ryan and I are not good at making decisions. Even easy ones. Part of it is laziness, part of it is just plain being too busy to get around to talk about, or do the research on, whatever it is we need to make a decision about.

So deciding on anything, whether it's when to go on vacation, whether to change phone companies or when to buy a new furnace, takes forever.

So it was a rather rare occurence when on Sunday, a friend of ours mentioned she was getting a home energy audit done this week so that when she gets her new windows, she can get the government rebate. With that tidbit of information, it was Monday when I looked up the information online as to how to get an audit; Monday night when I mentioned it to Ryan and Tuesday afternoon when I called to book an appointment.

Because, you see, we need a new furnace -- desperately. So desperately in fact, that the need is about 10 years overdue. So I figured, if we can get a substantial rebate on a new one, just by getting someone to audit our house, then why not.

So what does a boring old energy audit and a new furnace have to do with me getting my 15 mintues?

Easy. When I called up a company on Tuesday afternoon, they were able to offer me an appointment on Wednesday morning. Yes, this morning. With one hitch -- a CITY TV news crew wanted to follow the auditor around my house for a story on energy audits.

Oh yeah, and they'd want to interview me.

I hoed and I hummed about whether to do it or ask for another appointment. But in the end, I figured what the hell -- how bad could it be? And then my audit would be done and I would not be able to blame laziness or any other factor for not getting a new furnace before this one dies just as the outside temperature dips below 0C.

So, this morning, CITY came and did their thing. They followed the auditor around, they interviewed me, they filmed me reading to my kids and sitting with my kids and walking around my house being explained things by the auditor that didn't make any sense to me in the first place.

They were here for two hours. And because of them, the audit took three. The kids thought the whole thing was pretty cool at first -- well until the cameraman had to negotiate with Austin that in order for him to be on TV tomorrow, he had to turn the TV off today so that he could be filmed. That was an interesting conversation -- and one my three-year-old didn't quite get. To him, TV is something you watch, not something you film.

But I'm sure when he sees himself on the news Thursday evening, he'll be excited.

As for me, well I'm sure they'll make me look like an idiot. But whatever. As someone who has always been the interviewer, it was kind of fun to sit in the other chair for a change.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

10K in 1:15:31.6

I did it!

Racing day was this morning -- 10 km in and around the Toronto Zoo. It was cold, I was nervous and even though in training I never managed to actually run a full 10K, I figured I could do it in about 80 minutes.

I did in 75.

The first kilometre felt pretty good and just flew by. I was amongst the huge pack of runners still and in all honestly, I was still a) nervous and b) wondering why the hell I wanted to do this in the first place. I mean, did I mention it was only 1C at start time?
After that, it got a little easier and a little harder. The runners thinned out and I felt like I was tiring out already. So, I had to switch my mindset from 'why the hell am I doing this' to 'I can do this'. And the next thing I knew, I was rounding the 3K marker and feeling a lot better about the whole thing.

The next few kilometres were fairly easy, and fairly downhill, which is what made it easy. Because anyone who knows the zoo even a little bit knows it ain't flat.

It was at the halfway point that Ryan and the kids went into cheering squad mode. And it was well-timed, as I really needed it then.
At the 5K mark
And then, before I knew it, I was running up the big hill just after the halfway point and flying past the 6, 7 and 8 kilometre mark before forcing myself to take a short walking break for fear of burning out and not being able to finish standing up.

Suddenly, at the 9K, it became easy. A renewed sense of energy hit me and I actually sped up and started passing other runners. As I rounded the final corner towards the finish line, my cheering squad was waiting for me. And with the finish line in sight, Austin ran by my side (or more like several feet behind me) to cross the line with me.

I was near the back of the pack -- with only 152 runners behind me. But I don't care. I finished. And I finished in 1:15:31.6.
Me and Austin coming up at the finish line
It's been 10 months since I had the crazy notion to run a 10K race, and it was a day I won't soon forget. My legs are sore, my brain is tired and I'm already getting the crazy notion of running another one next May.

Monday, October 05, 2009

This afternoon's not-so-fun activity

I'm so not looking forward to this afternoon. Because for the first time in my life, I'm going to the dentist to have some cavities filled.

Yup. First time.

And my dentist figured it would be so much fun that she's going to do it again on Wednesday morning.

Last month, when I went for my regular twice-annual checkup and cleaning, my dentist found not one, not two but five freakin' cavities in my mouth. So, I've gone from having absolutely no cavities and perfect teeth for the last 30 some-0dd years to suddenly having five cavities at the same time.

How did this happen, you ask? Well, my dentist explained that it was likely a combination of a few factors. The first thing to note is they're very, very small cavities. So small in fact, that I do not know they're there, I do not feel any pain and they are only visible on an x-ray.

Which is how they were found. They may have even been found earlier -- or some of them anyway -- had it not been almost three years since I had dental X-rays (damn being pregnant and then extra-cautious because I was breast feeding, then pregnant, then extra cautious because I was breast feeding for the last three years).

And the vicious cycle of the last three years, is exactly how my dentist said I likely developed them after not having had any for the first 30 years of my life. She said she's seen it in many moms who once had perfect teeth. Their lives just get so busy and change so drastically, that taking care of themselves, and their teeth, is one of the farthest thing from their mind.

And let's face it, she's right. After having a baby and not sleeping for months on end, when you finally start getting your life back in order, the only thing on your mind is figuring out how to get your body from looking like it had a baby. The "oh yeah, I'm supposed to floss daily" routine doesn't necessarily leap to mind. Instead it's the "let's just try to remember to brush my teeth after I've finished snacking for the evening, because goodness knows this breast feeding business leaves me starving 24 hours a day".

So off to the dentist I go. And then again on Wednesday morning. I'm not looking forward to it, but I'm not scared of it either. I had a root canal once, years ago -- it can't be any worse than that. But is it sad that by knowing I have two dentist appoitments this week, I know that I get two outings out with the kids?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

27 kid-free hours

On Friday morning, I took the kids up to my parents house for a sleepover. I hung around for lunch and left them at about 2 p.m.

And didn't have to pick them up until 5 p.m. the next day.

That was 27 whole hours without kids. And let me tell you, it was pure bliss.

The reason for this blissful 27 hours was that Ryan and I were going to a concert on Friday night with friends for a friend's birthday and we knew it would be a late night. (And it was. It was 2 a.m. by the time we rolled in -- having had just one, two...or maybe it was six drinks.) So rather than hiring a sitter, we asked my parents if they were interested in taking the kids.

They jumped at the idea -- and so did we.

Because in the three and a half years since Austin was born, we've had several nights out -- whether it be a date night (which we don't do nearly often enough) or a concert or even a meeting at the bank -- without the kids. Nights out are great and, as a parent, are very-much needed to maintain some sense of sanity.

But by sending the kids for a sleepover instead of getting a sitter, not only didn't we have a curfew on Friday night but we also didn't have a wake-up call on Saturday morning.

So, for only the second time since Austin was born, we woke up in our own bed on our own accord. So, yes, we slept until 10:30 a.m. And the only reason I got out of bed at that time and didn't roll over and go back to sleep was because I really wanted McDonald's breakfast -- and it ends at 11 a.m.

This isn't the first time the kids have gone for sleepovers -- but with the exception of that one other time three years ago, the sleepovers have always been because we wanted to go out of town. And yes, it's nice to go somewhere fun and sleep in a hotel -- and we've been on a few really nice mini-vacations since the kids were born --but when peace and quiet don't normally reside in your home, there's something really awesome about waking up in your own bed to a quiet house. And then taking full advantage of the peace and quiet by enjoying a cup of coffee while reading the paper and watching TV.

Which is exactly what we did when I got home with our greasy McDonald's breakfast.

After a couple of hours of that, we figured that we should use the kid-free zone to our full advantage and, as much as lounging around all day is nice, we got some stuff done around the house without interuption. We moved some furniture, cleared out some clutter and then, just because we could, we lounged around and watched some more TV before it was time to pick up the kids and return the house to its normal state.

I love the normal state of this house and I wouldn't change it for the world. But stay-cation sleepovers are definitely going to be booked into the calendar again from time to time.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bye bye nap time

It's official. Austin has given up his naps.

I was quite surprised when it happened actually, which is odd because I should've been expecting it. He started fighting nap time over a year ago but I persevered and managed to get him to start napping almost daily again. I had to, I couldn't fathom the idea of having an infant and a two-year-old non-napper all day, every day.

So I fought with him and I was more stubborn than he was. And I won. For the last year, he slept most afternoons for one and a half to two and a half hours. It meant later bedtimes, but that didn't bother me, because it meant that both kids slept every afternoon and I could get stuff done. Whether it was laundry, cleaning, cutting the grass or working on my latest writing project -- I could get stuff done.

Not anymore.

Three weeks ago, Austin stopped napping. Just like that. In fact, in the last three weeks, he has slept only one afternoon. It doesn't matter what we do in the morning -- play at the park, go to the pool and even walk (not ride in the stroller but walk) around the zoo -- he does not nap in the afternoon. Instead, he goes into his room soon after Alex goes down for her nap. We read a book, he gets under the covers and I turn out the lights. And he lies there, sometimes quietly, sometimes not, for about 20 minutes.

And then he calls me to come back. And I tell him he can't come out of his room yet and give him a pile of books to read. When he's done those, after anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes, he comes and finds me.

So I sort of get 30 to 45 minutes to myself to get stuff done. But I have to run up and see him half way through that time. And, let's face it, 30 to 45 minutes isn't really a lot of time in the grand scheme of the number of things I'm trying to accomplish. Some days, if I still have a lot I need to do -- or I just need some more kid-free time to myself -- I pop in a show or part of a movie for him. (Which is what he's doing right now while I spent a few kid-free moments with my computer. Although, for the record, he's watching a movie because I'm waiting for a response to the work-related e-mail I just sent.)

I realize I'm going to have to re-think the way I do things. Letting Austin sit and watch a movie some afternoons is great -- because I need time away from him and to work on my freelance writing and he does need some down time -- but other afternoons, I need to focus on spending some quality time with him. We could do preschool crafts or play board games or bake or any other quiet, yet productive, activity.

All fun things, yes, but unfortunatley, none of those fun activities get my laundry done or my freelance work written.

One thing's for sure. I'm going to miss nap time. A lot.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Flashback finds

Apparently at some point in my life, I had a bad habit of putting pictures on top of pictures in frames. By this I mean that when I wanted to change or update a picture in a frame, I would leave the old one behind it instead of removing it.

I don't know why I did this. I don't even remember doing this. But I obviously used to because in the last few months I've found not one but two old pictures of me and Ryan behind the picture that was old enough to need replacing in the first place.

The first one of the two of us was taken after my commencement ceremony -- so 10 years ago. We both looked so young and it made me laugh so I tacked it to the wall by my computer.

Then last night, I found an even older picture of the two of us. I was actually moving a wedding photo to a new frame when I discovered that behind this wedding picture was a picture of us from what I think might be a rez semi-formal. But I'm not sure. We looked young. Really young. And the photo really made me laugh.

This happened to me a few years ago too but that time it was a high school photo I found. And once, awhile ago, I opened up a frame and found a picture from a friend's wedding in the back. This friend is now divorced and has been for quite a few years. In fact, she's remarried, so I have no idea what possessed me to keep the photo (although, to my defense, I may have hidden the photo in the back before she remarried).

I don't know if this habit is because I was being sentimental when changing the pictures or because I just didn't know what to do with the old ones when I put a new ones in. But I am pretty sure that I have now checked all my frames for any old finds.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The countdown to race day is on

...and I'm getting nervous. Really nervous.

What was I thinking signing up for a 10k race? What would possess me to want to do something like this? Ten kilometres is really damn far.

Especially when, with a little over a month to go until race day, I'm still 2.2 kilometres shy of being able to run that far. (So, yes, that means that my personal best is 7.8 kilometres. Although a typical run for me isn't quite that far.)

Not only am I getting nervous -- but I don't seem to have a lot of time these days to get out and train. Between baseball for the two of us (although at least mine is done now) and me being so busy with two projects on the go right now that I've been working almost every evening for the last week or so, there's few hours left in the day to sleep, let alone go running. Yesterday morning, when I went out, it was the first time I'd been out running in 11 days. 11 days! I'll never be able to push past 7.8 if I only go running once every 11 days!

I just need to keep thinking positive, keep reminding myself that I can do it and tell myself that I will run, not walk, over the finish line. Because if I'm nervous even though I have the will to do it, goodness knows that it's not will that will get me to finish the raise, but sheer stubbornness.

Monday, September 07, 2009

From relish to salsa

The relish project went so well and tasted so good that this weekend I made salsa. Now that I've used up all my cucumbers (except for the three more that are growing out back), I now had to use up some of my tomatoes.

The relish was easy -- all I had to do was chop up the veggies, let them sit for an hour in pickling salt and then cook it all up for 20 minutes in a pot with some spices. And, even though I stressed about the canning process beforehand -- thinking it was going to be difficult -- it was pretty simple and straightforward. Really, I just followed step-by-step directions.

So, I made salsa on Friday night while Ryan was out for a boys night. For starters, it was a lot more work. From the time I started chopping vegetables to the time I finished canning the last jars, a little over three hours had gone by.

I now have 12 cups of salsa in my basement and unfortunately, it's not that tasty. In fact, it's not really all that edible with chips. It's too vinegar-y. But it's not my fault, I followed the recipe and the directions to the letter, it's just not to our liking.

Oh well, I'll use it up over time for cooking with -- it'll probably be tasty when cooked up with chicken.

But one bad recipe won't deter me. In another week I should have enough red tomatoes again to make salsa all over again (and then a week after that there should be enough tomatoes to make spaghetti sauce -- yes I have a lot of tomatoes). And this time I'll use my friend's recipe -- I know it's good. If it doens't turn out then I'll give up and no it's me.

Friday, August 28, 2009

From uncooked chicken to canning my own relish

For years, I didn't have a lot of confidence in the kitchen. This probably stems from the time in university when I attempted to cook dinner for Ryan and ended up serving him half-cooked breaded chicken. Amazingly, he not only still married me a few years later, but even has enough blind faith in me to allow me to be the primary family chef.

So for years, I dilligently followed recipes in books (and always double and triple checked that yes, indeed the chicken was ready to be served). I was always too scared to stray, even ever so slightly, from a recipe for fear that I would screw it up and it would taste awful.

And, I stuck with the same rotation of about a dozen or so recipes, because hey, they worked for me.

And don't even get me started on my fear of baking.

But things are different now. I don't know if it's because I now feel more confident in the kitchen or if cooking for a family of four means I've had to get a little more creative so that everyone, in theory, likes the meal that's being served for dinner. Or maybe it's because cooking is no longer a solitary activity, but something that is almost always done as a threesome.

This is the three of us cooking dinner the other night. Austin bangs spoons and sometimes helps stir or measure things and Alex bangs spoons and taste tests whatever she can get her hands on.

But somehow, this doesn't stress me out -- well most of the time. In fact, the three of us have even tried out new recipes -- ones that weren't in my cooking repetoire. And, gasp, I've even sort of made up a pasta recipe. (I mean, it's pasta, it's not really that hard to toss a bunch of stuff in a pan and then toss it over the cooked noodles.) But I actually made up a recipe that was not only good, but that my kids were willing to eat as well.

Maybe it's because of the kids, that my fear has slowly lifted. So much so, that last weekend, I made not one new dish, but two. And for company nonetheless. And both dishes were good -- and both will now make appearances in my meal planning from time to time.

And this weekend, I'm about to get really brave in the kitchen. Braver than learning to bake (which I've been doing a lot of with the kids lately) and braver than trying out new recipes while the kids bang spoons on the counter. This weekend, I'm going to try making and canning relish. Afterall, I've got to do something with all those cucumbers growing in my backyard.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Park snob

Being a stay-at-home mom with two kids, I tend to go to the park -- a lot. And I'm lucky that there are quite a few parks in my neighbourhood that I can walk to.

One is just five minutes away and another is less than 10 minutes away (well walking at my pace anyway, when Austin decides to walk, it takes a lot longer). Then there are four others that I can walk to into about 15 to 20 minutes.

So needless to say, since we visit the park about twice a week -- at least -- I try to mix it up, so that both me and the kids get a change of scenery. But of these six parks we go to, there are definitely some that are better than others.

But in all honesty, none of them are great. They're either too small or too old or the equipment is too wimpy or the sand is really just dirt or the play structure isn't that much fun or, or, or.

Yes, I've become a park snob.

Some women are coffee snobs or clothes snobs, but me, I'm a park snob (what can I say, it fits well with my stay-at-home mom title). And I'm frustrated by the fact, that although there are a lot of parks near me, there aren't really any good parks.

Like the one at Kew Gardens where I took the kids last weekend while Ryan was playing baseball. Or the one at Withrow Park where I met my cousin and her daughter one morning. Or the random one at a not-so-well-known point of interest in Toronto that I met a friend and her kids at yesterday.

All three of these parks were big with huge play structures -- and in most cases more than one or two of said play structures, -- were gated in so kids couldn't easily run away, and were packed with kids and moms. In each case there were probably 25 or 30 kids -- at least.

And that's another thing. I can't tell you the number of times I've taken the kids to the park and we end up being the only ones there. And let's face it, it's boring for me to have no one to talk to and it's boring for the kids to have only me to play with. Isn't that part of the reason for going to the park -- so they don't have to play with me all day?

So not only does my neighbourhood have wimpy parks but it is also apparently kid-free.

Ok, I'm exaggerating a little bit here -- we do see kids from time to time but unfortunately for me, there is either a language barrier when us parents try to chat or people just keep to themselves. And I'm not very good at starting up a conversation with someone who seems to want to stand off to the side and watch the grass grow.

It's too bad really, because when I was at those other cool parks, there was a real sense of community amongst the parents. People actually talked to each other. And my kids -- well they ran around like crazy fools with all the other kids and barely noticed their mom off to the side yelling that it was almost time to go home.

So maybe, once a week or so, I'm going to have to start being a snob and drive us all to a better park -- either that or I have to stop being such a snob. After all, now that I think about it, the kids probably don't care all that much.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I'm definitely growing zucchini now

I tended to my vegetable garden as best I could before we left for the cottage last Saturday. I attempted to tie up the grape tomato plants (Have I mentioned that I think grape tomatoes plants are really just weeds? Because they sure grow like one.) , trimmed back the zucchini plant and picked the one zucchini, two cucumbers and one jalapeno that were ready to eat.

Then we left for a week.

And we came back to a real jungle. Not that wannabe jungle that I wrote about a few weeks ago.

But hidden amongst the jungle were vegetables. And so, we harvested three pretty big cucumbers, about a pint worth of ruby red grape tomatoes (well a few could have used another day or so in the sun but we picked them anyway) and three zucchinis.

Although, these weren't like any zucchinis I've ever seen before. The ones you see in the store, are short and narrow -- small enough, that if you like zucchini (like I do), you can eat a whole one in one sitting. These three zucchinis are huge. Seriously, I mean monster huge.

In fact, remember the club that Bam Bam used to carry around with him on the Flintstones? That's what I think of every time I see the biggest one.

My biggest zucchini, just before it was picked.

Austin's arm in comparison to the smallest zucchini (the other two items on top are cucumbers).

So now I need to find some good zucchini recipes, and fast. Because there's only so much zucchini bread and muffins one can eat.

Monday, July 27, 2009

It's a jungle out there

So, nine weeks after planting those minuscule tomato, cucumber, zucchini, pepper and onion plants; my garden looks like this:
It's simply a jungle of vegetables growing one on top of each other. (And this photo was actually taken two weeks ago -- it's even more jungle-like now) Maybe I should've read the directions a little closer on how far apart each plant is supposed to be. Because, in one corner, we have the grape tomato plants which are very quickly overtaking everything around it. And in the other corner, we have the massive zucchini plant that has completely choked out the peas and is threatening to bury the raspberry bush. And sadly, it has yet to produce a single zucchini.

But I don't care how overgrown it is -- it's pretty damn cool to see vegetables growing in your backyard!

Almost every morning, as I open the blinds in the bedrooms, I'm curious to see how much the plants have grown overnight. And almost every day, Austin asks me, "how are our vegetables doing today?".

We've already picked two vegetables -- a jalapeno pepper and a cucumber -- and hopefully soon, we'll be picking tomatoes. Lots and lots and lots (and did I say lots) of tomatoes. I see salsa and spaghetti sauce in my future!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

No time to write...I'm too busy writing

My freelance gig is picking up. I'm pretty amazed at myself, really, that I've managed to pick up as much work as I have. I'm signed up with an agency and they've found me one project to date and my former employer has come to me with projects as well. (Ironic, isn't it? Lay off your staff writer only to hire her to write the same stuff she used to write while on staff but now you have to pay her by the hour.)

So, right now, I have a few projects on the go -- one of which is taking way more time out of every day than I would like -- and that means that every nap time and every evening I'm sitting at my computer writing and editing instead of doing fun things like watch TV (it's a good thing it's summer-rerun season) or write on this blog (or get the laundry done, or tidy the house, or actually plan what I'm going to make for dinner more than 5 minutes in advance...oh wait, none of those are actually 'fun' things, but regardless, I've been too busy to get those things done either).

But, aside from the one annoying project which is dragging on and on, I'm enjoying the freelance work. And the freelance money. It's nice to know that I can bring in a little bit of spending cash while I stay at home with the kids.

Although I'm still working on finding the right balance between being a mom and being a freelance writer. There have been a few occasions when I've needed to make or take a phone call while the kids are around and each one has resulted in Austin screaming "I want to say hi" or Alex insisting that I pick her up and walk her around rather than cradle the phone and take notes.

A quick move to turn on the TV often solves Austin's problem, but since Alex doesn't like watching TV, I need to figure out how to balance a phone, a pen, a paper and a toddler at the same time.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Toddler: 1, work-from-home mom: 0

Have you ever tried to work on a computer while a 15-month-old insisted on sitting on your lap?

And I don't mean, the checking-your-e-mail or writing-a-blog-post kind of work. That's not work, that's the modern day mom's concept of multi-tasking.

By work, I mean actually trying to read the highlighted sections on the papers you've carefully spread out on the desk (that your 15-month-old is now drawing colourful squiggles on with the pretty yellow and pink highlighers you stupidily left beside them) and typing up a report while the same 15-month-old pounds the keyboard to add letters to each word, grabs and clicks on the mouse and then tries to climb right up on the desk and grab the phone/pens/scissors. And in a final trump move, the same 15-month-old decides that, although she still must sit on your lap and now sort her crayons, you may also not have your hands anywhere near the keyboard -- because they are in HER way.

Needless to say, she won the pay-attention-to-me-not-the-computer war and I closed my files and went back to them after dinner when Ryan was home to watch the kids.

Being in the freelance business is working out great so far, but I need to learn to either a) work faster during nap time, b) not try to finish up "just for a few minutes" once nap time is over or c) learn not to let her sit on my lap.

Yeah right, she's trying to draw on the computer screen with crayons as I type this.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Anyone know a weather god I can pray to?

On Wednesday morning, we're leaving for the annual Canada Day weekend camping trip (although Canada Day is not over a weekend this year, we've turned it into one).

We leave on Wednesday, spend three nights in tents and return home on Saturday night.

The first year, at Arrowhead Provincial Park, it rained. And rained. And rained.

The second year, at Arrowhead Provincial Park, it stormed. And rained. And was cloudy and cool.

This year, we're moving to Balsam Lake Provincial Park. And here's this week's forecast:
I think it's time to start praying to the weather god. Either that, or invest in some good quality rubber boots and rain jackets for all four of us.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

It's not easy wanting to be green

I want our house to be greener than it is. I really do. But I just can't figure out how to manage it.

On paper, it sounds like a simple concept -- reduce, reuse, recycle; use green products; and cut down on hydro.

But in practice, those simple concepts are a lot harder than it would appear.

For starters, we do reduce, reuse and recyle. There are three bins under my kitchen sink for sorting trash, green and recycle and there's two bins in my bathroom for the same purpose. Everything (almost always) goes in the correct bin. And thankfully, we live in a municipality where diapers are green bin-able. Because I've been using disposable diapers for over three years now and had they not been green bin-able, I probably would have seriously reconsidered the decision to go disposable.

But have you ever seen how over-packaged kids toys are? You try your damnest to be green, and then you end up with a house-full of non-recyclable packaging after a birthday party. The worst packaging fiasco I ever saw was when Austin got his tool bench. Each tool was sealed in its own plastic bag. And the toy came with about a dozen tools! That was 11 plastic bags more than I needed.

And kids toys aren't the only thing that's over-packaged; a lot of Costco products are as well.

I shop at Costco. A lot. With a family of four, we go through a lot of stuff, and the cheapest way to go about it is to buy it in bulk. But somone please explain to me why the extra-large pack of paper towels I bought last week had to have 12 individual rolls of paper towel wrapped in plastic? (I wouldn't have bought it if I'd realized that.) And why does a three-pack of bread have to be wrapped together? (So that means there are four plastic bags for three loaves of bread.)

Being a Costco shopper, and a thrifty shopper, makes it hard in general, to shop green. Because at Costco, for example, a 150-load box of Tide costs $20. A similar size green product isn't even available, but if it were, it would costs me three or four times as much money.

And that's the biggest stumbling block I have to having a green household -- detergents and cleaners. I want to buy the green ones, I really do. But everything from the Tide green equivalent to the toilet bowl cleaner green equivalent costs too much money. And I can't justify spending more money when I a) don't have job in the first place and b) do about 8 loads of laundry a week.

But, since I'm on the subject of laundry, this non-green activity is all my fault. I tend to throw a load of laundry on while the kids are napping because it's the most convenient time for me -- but that's the most expensive hydro time of day. And the time of day when Toronto Hydro is always telling us to turn down our a/c and not run the washing machine or dishwasher to conserve energey. But I do.

Lately, I've been trying to remember to leave the load in the washer when it's done and then moving it to the dryer when I go to bed. But that doesn't always work. And I'd love to be able to say I'd hang it on my clothes line, but I don't have one. I'd love to, but in my backyard, there's nowhere to put one.

So I use the dryer 12 months a year.

And being at home all day with the kids, I have no intention of turning off my a/c during the day -- I love the summer and the heat, but I was not too pleased the day my a/c wasn't working earlier this week (thankfully it's working now).

But, my new dishwasher has a timer on it, so I am always setting it to run around 1 a.m. So that's a start I guess.

And we all have to start somewhere.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Still lying around in bed

I was thinking this morning that it's been over a week since I posted about my sister and since I've had a few phone calls from blog readers asking how she's doing, I figured it was time for an update.

The good news: she's still pregnant. The even better news: the doctors are pleased with her progress, or more importantly in this case, her lack there of and are easing up on the conditions of her bedrest. She's now allowed out of bed for a (very) short period of time once a day but other than that she continues to lie around all day, reading books, surfing the web on her phone and entertaining visitors.

She's probably getting pretty bored by now, but she hasn't complained once -- at least not to me. I'm sure if it was me in that bed, I'd be losing my mind by now.

Today she is 25 weeks, 6 days pregnant -- a unimportant day to anyone having a normal pregnancy but a monumental achievement in this case, considering the last few weeks. Someone, somewhere was listening -- now let's hope they keep listening.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Finally entering the txt age

When I was in Ottawa with my sister last weekend, the topic of texting came up. And I had to hang my head and admit that I couldn't text.

But it wasn't entirely my fault. Because I've tried to text and given up. It's my phone's fault.


My phone is five years old, and although five years isn't a lot for many things -- for cellphones, it's ancient. So ancient, in fact that although it technically has the capability to text, it is not user-friendly. My youngest sister (the one who thought it was so funny that I couldn't text) tried awhile ago, and even she couldn't figure out how to do it.

So I never used it. And to be quite honest, I rarely used my cellphone either. I have it on a bare-bones plan that costs me practically nothing and means I have it if I absolutely need it but for the most part, it's just at the bottom of my purse.

When I remember to charge it, I don't remember to hear it when it rings.

Then, a few weeks ago, when I decided to use my cellphone number as my business line, I went and looked at phones and phone plans. And I talked myself out of getting one for the time being (with the justification that maybe I should see how much business I get before I go spending all this money on a new phone and plan that I may not even need). But, just looking at all the phones gave me phone-envy.

I wanted a cool new phone and I wanted to be able to text. And well, I just wanted one.

So, it was rather timely, that last weekend, as they were all making fun of me for not being able to text (because did I mention that even my mother can use her phone for texting) that my sister said, from her hospital bed, that she had an extra phone at home.

Last summer, she had bought a Crazer, only to get a free Google phone from my brother-in-law's work a few months later. So her brand new phone has been collecting dust ever since.

So, when my brother-in-law left the hospital for a few hours that afternoon, he tracked it down, charged it and gave it to me. Before I could say anything, he switched my SIM card into it and handed it to me. It even came pre-loaded with a wallpaper picture of Austin.

I love it. It's fun, it's user-friendly and it even has a camera!

Now, I just have to figure out how to use it to text.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Hoping for the days to pass uneventfully

My sister is 24 weeks, 5 days pregnant with her first baby. I'd tell you how many hours as well if I could.

It's not because I'm excited to become an aunt (which I am), it's because right now, she's lying in a hospital bed doing everything she can to keep that baby from coming into the world just yet.

Two weeks ago she started having contractions and was put on home bed rest. She had to lie on the couch all day and was only allowed up to go to the bathroom, eat her meals and to go back upstairs to bed at night.

The contractions stopped and life went on as normal -- except for the fact that she had to lie around all day.

On Thursday she walked into the hospital for a routine ultrasound and the doctors didn't like what they saw. She wasn't allowed to walk out. They put her on a stretcher in the ultrasound clinic and rolled her down the hall to the mother and baby ward. At 24 weeks 2 days pregnant.

Now she's not allowed out of the hospital bed. She's not even allowed to sit up for any reason at all. And she's being watched around the clock by the high risk team.

For someone who is going through so much right now, my sister (and brother-in-law) is amazing. She is putting on such a brave face and doing her best to stay calm -- something that is keeping the rest of us calm. Because the rest of us can't do a damn thing but sit by her bedside, bring her the newspaper to read, talk to her about life in the outside world and hope like hell that that little one hangs on for a while longer.

Every day that baby stays put is another day my sister is pregnant, and that's a good thing. A very good thing.

I'm not religious, I don't believe in a god and I don't pray but if anyone, anything or anywhat is listening, please let many more days pass by.

Friday, June 05, 2009

The new vegetable garden

On Sunday, the three-year long backyard project officially came to an end. That's when I planted the vegetables in the newly-built garden Ryan did on Victoria Day weekend.
It took him all day. But when he was done, the empty space of dirt and weeds at the end of the patio was bordered by a shiny new brick wall and filled with dirt. Bye bye weeds, hello vegetables!
I hope.

I can do flowers -- in fact, I cut out a new flower garden around the lilac tree (and took down the dead half of the tree) the weekend after Victoria Day. I love flower gardening. I have perennials in the back (in the new garden), annuals and perennials in the front and three flower boxes, hand-picked and planted by me, on my deck.

But vegetables -- yikes, who knows if I can keep them both alive and pest-free until they're ready for eating in August.

I'm going to try. I planted peppers, cucumbers, onions, zuccini, chives, cataloupe, peas and tomatoes -- lots and lots of tomatoes. Too many I think, because the plants are closer together than the label says they should be. But what the heck, it's an experiment, right?
The worst thing that can happen is that the entire project fails and next spring, behind my shiny new brick wall, I plant flowers.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The new me

For years I've always said that if I ever wanted to go into business for myself, I could. Because I'm a writer, and it's easy to decide to become a freelance writer. It's harder to get clients, but it's easy to make that decision.

I just never thought I'd actually set out and do it.

But as of today, I am officially a freelance writer and editor in search of clients. In a span of two months, I found out I lost my job and went into business for myself. A few months earlier, I never would've imagined I'd be where I am today. Actually, I'm still a little stunned by how fast this all happened.

I mean, seriously -- I have business cards and everything!

And this morning, at 7 a.m., I went to my first breakfast schmooze thing. A friend of mine is a member of a networking organization and he invited me to come along as his guest so that I could hand out business cards and drum up some business for myself.

It was a great experience. But it was weird for me.

First of all, I had to be 'on' at 7 a.m. I deal with kids all day -- 7 a.m. means sleepily slopping around in my pyjamas trying to make breakfast for everyone. It's not exactly my best schmoozing hour.

But in all honesty, it was weird because schmoozing has never really been my thing. I'm not very good at interjecting myself into conversations, introducing myself to random people, talking about myself, remembering to hand them my card and generally just doing the schmooze thing. Which is what I need to be doing if I'm in business for myself.

But I can write. So if you need a writer, know someone who needs a writer or just want to check me out, here I am:

All I need is a few clients and I'll consider this venture successful. After all, it's only meant to be a part-time affair. I have a full-time job.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Our amazing new dishwasher

The new dishwasher arrived last Sunday. It was supposed to arrive on Saturday but The Brick screwed up.

(Even though I said I wanted it delivered, they processed it as a pickup, so when we called on Saturday morning to say where's our dishwasher they apologized for the error and arranged to deliver it on Sunday. It was only then that we realized that we never paid for delivery and they delivered it.)

It took Ryan the better part of the day to install it. And when he was done, we filled it with the dishes that littered the kitchen and turned it on.

And when it finished, we were amazed. Totally amazed.

Seriously, did you know that dishwashers could get your dishes that clean?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I've gone completely crazy

This morning, I set my alarm for 5 a.m., managed to drag myself out of bed and by 5:30 a.m. I was running.

Yup, the sun wasn't even up yet and I was out running.

Running in the ungodly hours of the morning is something new I'm trying out, and today was the first day.

I know many people who say they love exercising in the morning; that it energizes them to get on with their day. But for me, at the moment anyway, I'm doing this for practical reasons -- right now, and for the rest of the summer, our evenings are so busy (with swimming and soccer and baseball) that I don't have much time to go out when Ryan gets home. And if I ever want to be able to run a 10K, I have to get out there and run. So instead of going out in the evening, I figured I'd go out before he leaves in the morning (and he leaves by 6:30 a.m.)

And it wasn't bad. I can't say I loved it because one of the things I enjoy about running is that it helps me unwind and de-stress at the end of the day. And let's face it, I'm not stressed about anything at 5:30 a.m. except maybe for the fact that I'm not still in bed.

But once I got going I enjoyed myself. The first half of my run was great but I started to tire on the second half and well, it was a long way home. But I was home by 6:15 a.m., just as the sun was starting to come up.

And I ran 4.3 kilometres. When I first realized that, I thought "damn, that's it" (because I can do 6K or so now). But then I rethought that reaction because, seriously, not only did I run that far before breakfast, but I ran that far immediately after getting out of bed -- which means I didn't have any coffee!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ants, ants, ants. I hate ants

We have ants. And I think it's pretty safe to say that we have hundreds and hundreds, maybe even thousands and thousands, of ants.

Thankfully, there are (so far) only a few dozen finding their way into the house.

We've had an ant problem for years; pretty much since we bought the house, I think. At first, we didn't really care. Terrible to say, I know, but we didn't really use our backyard very much for the first two or three summers we lived here. Because, well, it was a pretty crappy place. (Remember?) And since we didn't have kids, there wasn't much need to hang out in the backyard when we could hang out on the front deck when we had company.

So that's what we did. And we ignored the ants. Although occasionally I'd be back there and I'd see how many there were and I'd boil a couple of pots of water and kill 'em. But otherwise, I didn't care.

Then, in 2007, we started to redo our backyard, and we cared. But here's the problem: we didn't care enough (or maybe we cared too much) to use poisons and other forms of ant killers. So, we dumped boiling water, used the power washer and tried other natural ways of ridding them (all ways were found thanks to Google). No luck.

The following summer (last summer), we removed the old patio (because we had put in a new patio) and in the process, Ryan dug and dug and dug and I poured gallons of boiling water in the area all in an effort to get the ants on the surface and the ants deeper down in the tunnels.

They came back.

And two weeks ago, as I'm closing Alex's curtains at nap time I look down and see ants. Yup, they finally found a way through the cracks in the back wall and into the house.

I decided enough was enough and that afternoon, Ryan stopped at Canadian Tire and bought three different type of ant killers. (And then we bought traps for inside a few days later.) I know I've always been anti-poisons and anti-chemicals, but I don't want to have ants anymore.

So for two weeks we've been laying down liquid poison in the wall cracks they keep finding their way into and spraying Raid foam killer down into the ant hills. Over and over and over again.

And they're still coming back.

Which leads me to my opening the sheer number of ants we've probably killed off by now, I'm sure we have ants by the thousands and thousands out there.

So, I'll keep spraying the foam and squirting the poison. Unless someone has a better idea of how to get rid of them for good?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I know I wanted a new dishwasher but...

Last Saturday night, Ryan and I had an at-home date. Life has been so busy lately, that when we discovered we had no weekend plans, I suggested we feed the kids dinner and then sit down to a nice dinner once we put them to bed.

So, steak, baked potatoes, ceasar salad and a bottle of red wine was served at about 8 p.m. Alex was in bed but Austin was sitting quietly watching a movie while we enjoyed our dinner -- and commented that dinner date music has changed over the years. Instead of listening to jazz or other tunes, we were listening to Austin's movie -- The Muppet Movie (yes, he was watching the original 1979 Muppet Movie).

After an awesome dinner, we shipped Austin off to bed and headed downstairs to watch a movie of our own (Zack and Miri make a Porno -- pretty damn funny, by the way). But before we flipped on the movie, we turned on the dishwasher.

And about 20 minutes later, we heard drip, drip, drip. Drip, drip, drip.

Our dishwasher was leaking through the ceiling and onto the basement carpet.

Definitely not a good sign.

Ryan ran upstairs to the kitchen and I followed close behind -- but not before sticking a bucket under the rapidly spreading wet spot on the ceiling.

The kitchen floor was flooded and when we opened the dishwasher the tub was full of water. After mopping up the floor with towels and sucking the water out of the tub with the wetvac, Ryan determined that the dishwasher wasn't draining because the pump was shot. The water just couldn't drain, so instead it did the only thing it could -- flow down to my basement floor.

So, on Sunday we went dishwasher shopping. And on Wednesday night we went shopping some more. We found one we liked, but we haven't actually got it yet. Hopefully, it'll be in my kitchen by this weekend.

There's two good things that came out of this experience. The first is that we always, and I mean ALWAYS, turn our dishwasher on before we go to bed instead of before we head downstairs to watch TV. I don't know what possessed us to turn it on earlier that night, but it's a good thing we did because otherwise, we would've woken Sunday morning to a flooded kitchen and a flooded basement.

And the second good thing that came of this is that we've been wanting a new dishwasher pretty much since we bought the house but could never justify the expense when we had one that worked. The one in our kitchen was about 25 years old (yup, that old), sounded like a jet engine coming through the house whenever it was turned on and, lately, only got the dishes sort of clean. So now it's dead and we have to get a shiny new one.

But of course, not having a dishwasher, and not having a shiny new one yet means I'm stuck washing everyone's dishes by hand.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The stay-at-home mom's guide to Mother's Day gifts

As a stay-at-home mom, I think it's fair to say that every day is Mother's Day. I don't need one day of the year for the kids to lavish me with attention because, they lavish with me attention at least 12 hours a day. For better or for worse.

And as for gifts, spending 12 hours a day with them is a gift. For better or for worse.

So, this Sunday, on the one day of the year that is designated as Mother's Day, I propose the following, not-so-traditional, but totally awesome gifts for a stay-at-home mom.

1) Peace and quiet while in the bathroom.
My kids love the bathroom. I don't know why, but if someone's in there -- whether taking a shower or sitting on the can -- they have to come charging in and bang around. One starts opening drawers and cupboards, the other tries to flush the toilet 14 times. And God forbid you lock the door before they have a chance to get in!
So, this Sunday, I'd like to take a shower in peace and quiet. This means that no one is a) banging on the door; b) crying at the door; c) opening the door; d) throwing toys or other assorted items in the tub with me; e) trying to flush the toilet.
Actually, what I'd really love is a hot bubble bath, a glass of wine and a book. But that might be asking for too much peace and quiet. Because have I mentioned how much my children love being in the bathroom?

2) New clothes that don't yet have puke, snot, spit, ketchup or other assorted stains them.
I'm not asking for much -- just a chance to buy some new t-shirts from a cheapie store. I mean, they're just going to get stained within 2.2 minutes anyway.

3) Pretty toes.
I'm going to wear sandals this summer... a lot. And while wearing said sandals, my feet are not going to be hiding under a desk at an office downtown. They're going to be on full display at playgrounds and wading pools across the neighbourhood. All the other moms are going to see them. So, they have to look good.

4) Flowers.
Sounds traditional and expensive but not when they come from my three-year-old and one-year-old. As a kid, I remember how proud of myself I was when I'd bring my mom flowers picked from the front lawn. And she'd act all happy and put the pretty yellow blooms in a glass of water on the table. Yup, hint, hint, nudge, nudge. Send the kids out front to pick me some dandelions for Mother's Day. That'll melt my heart and I'll proudly display them at the centre of the table.

So there you go. I don't need big gifts, expensive meals and hours of being doted on by my family. I just need some stain-free clothes, a chance to show off my feet, some beautiful yellow flowers and the ability to pee in peace.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Crafting corner Part II

Believe it or not, me, the self-proclaimed uncrafty one, has been reading a handful of crafting blogs on a semi-regular basis.

Now, before you start being all impressed with my new-found abilities, let me rephrase that these crafty blogs are mainly kids crafting blogs. In other words, I read them solely to get ideas of crafts to do with the kids.

And, I'm learning that it doesn't take much crafting ability to make my three-year-old happy. It just takes a little creativity. So, over the last few months, we've made snowmen, fire trucks, garbage trucks, dinosaurs and boats out of contruction paper, paint, glitter glue and more. And we've made sock puppets and painted shamrocks using potatoes. And I'm also learning how to get Alex involved in the making of crafts as well -- because anything her brother's doing, she wants to do too.

So, at least three times a week, the three of us will sit at the little craft table and 'make something'. I'm pretty proud of this -- because let's face it, it's me making something out of, well nothing but my imagination and some dollar store supplies.

So, without further ado, I'd like to share a few of those projects:

Let's make some music

This one took weeks of preparation because I needed to save enough material to make two drums, two shakers and two guitars.

The drums are made out of an empty formula container and an empty coffee canister. We wrapped them in paper and then coloured them with markers and crayons.

The shakers were made out of empty vitamin bottles with childproof caps so that the tops didn't need to be glued shut. One shaker was filled with rice and the other was filled with beer caps. Again, they were wrapped in paper and then decorated with glitter glue (although Alex didn't hang around for the decorating, so I got into this one).

Finally, the guitars were made out of empty Kleenex boxes, paper towel rolls and elastic bands. We changed up the type of decoration again, this time using stickers.

Hiding behind a mask

These paper plate masks were an all-day project. First, we cut out the eyes. Then each kid decorated their mask. Austin asked to make an elephant, so I got out some blue paint for him and he painted away. I decided Alex should make a tiger (or a cat) and gave her some crayons to colour with.

Once Austin finished painting, we found something else to do while the paint dried, returning a few hours later to glue the trunk on (a toilet paper roll). A few hours after that, we returned to glue the ears on (that we had cut out and glued together earlier). Finally, the next morning, I attached the string and Austin ran around the basement looking like an elephant.

Alex, on the other hand, coloured her mask with crayons and then found something else to do while Austin worked on his. And Austin was only too happy to finish hers by sticking on the ears for her.

Monsters stay out! This is my room!

Austin's been having nightmares again lately -- screaming out in the middle of the night that there are spiders/crocodiles/snakes/sharks/monsters in his room and that they're going to get him. Every time this happened, Ryan or I would put a post-it note on his door for him that told the unwanted creature to stay out.

So, one day, we painted more permanent signs for his bedroom door. Really, this was just a painting project -- although I threw in some letter practice by having him write his name on one of them (top right) so that the monsters would know not to enter his room. So far, the signs have had the desired effect -- the unwanted creatures have stopped visiting him.
And of course, Austin insisted that Alex needed to paint signs so that the monsters didn't visit her when they discovered that they couldn't go in his room.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

I need a dog

I've always been a cat person and have never wanted a dog. Ryan had dogs all his life and has always wanted one. But to date, I've managed to avoid even having the "I want a dog" conversation. Although I'm sure, as the kids get older, he may get them to work on wearing me down.

It may sound weird, since I have two kids, but a dog is too much work and too much responsibility.

Having a dog means not being able to pick up and go away for a day or a weekend or a week. Having a dog means having to take it out for walks every day -- which is good exercise, but I already get that by pushing two kids in a double stroller. And it just doesn't appeal to me to walk a dog while pushing two kids.

Having a dog means house training it. And, I spend enough energy trying to teach my kids to not tear apart my house all the time.

But I need a dog -- if only to clean up my kitchen floor for me after every meal.

Because I'm tired of sweeping up after a meal, only for the floor to look like it hasn't been swept in a week before we even sit down for the next meal. How does the floor manage to be covered in food before the kids even eat again?