Thursday, December 30, 2010

The 12 days of Christmas in our house

It was a not-so-fun Christmas for our clan this year as everyone got sick. Austin came down with a really bad cold on Dec. 23, Ryan spiked a fever late Dec. 24, I came down with a bad cold on Dec. 25 and Alex spiked a fever late Dec. 25.

So, in honour of our not-so-joyous holiday season, I have written the 12-days of Christmas...Evans style.

On the first day of Christmas, this season gave to us: 1 supermom (because despite a miserable cold that settled into my lungs and messed with my asthma, I continued to care for everyone all day and night. Oh and because that's what Ryan kept calling me.)

On the second day of Christmas, this season gave to us: 2 double ear infections (that's right, 2 kids with an infection in each ear), and 1 supermom.

On the third day of Christmas, this season gave to us: 3 days of high fevers (39C+), 2 double ear infections and 1 supermom.

On the fourth day of Christmas, this season gave to us: 4 sick people, 3 days of high fevers, 2 double ear infections and 1 supermom.

On the fifth day of Christmas, this season gave to us: 5 days lost to the flu. 4 sick people, 3 days of high fevers, 2 double ear infections and 1 supermom.

On the sixth day of Christmas, this season gave to us: 6 disappointed family members (the ones we had to call in an IOU Christmas visit with), 5 days lost to the flu, 4 sick people, 3 days of high fevers, 2 double ear infections and 1 supermom.

On the seventh day of Christmas, this season gave to us: 7 days of antibiotics, 6 disappointed family members, 5 days lost to the flu, 4 sick people, 3 days of high fevers, 2 double ear infections and 1 supemom.

On the eighth day of Christmas, this season gave to us: 8 presents from mom and dad/Santa per kid (hey, there's got to be something fun in this song), 7 days of antibiotics, 6 disappointed family members, 5 days lost to the flu, 4 sick people, 3 days of high fevers, 2 double ear infections and 1 supermom.

On the ninth day of Christmas, this season gave to us: 9 relatives we saw the day before the sickness started (I sure hope no one else caught this!), 8 presents per kid, 7 days of antibiotics, 6 disappointed family members, 5 days lost to the flu, 4 sick people, 3 days of high fevers, 2 double ear infections and 1 supermom.

On the tenth day of Christmas, this season gave to us: 10 days off school, 9 relatives we saw for lunch the day before the sickness started, 8 presents per kid, 7 days of antibiotics, 6 disappointed family members, 5 days lost to the flu, 4 sick people, 3 days of high fevers, 2 double ear infections and 1 supermom.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, this seaon gave to us: 11-hour nights that the kids couldn't sleep through (due to sickness), 10 days off school, 9 relatives we saw for lunch the day before the sickness started, 8 presents per kid, 7 days of antibiotics, 6 disappointed family members, 5 days lost to the flu, 4 sick people, 3 days of high fevers, 2 double ear infections and 1 supermom.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, this season gave to us: 12 gifts passed around (because when the kids and I went to my parents house for Christmas dinner (of which we ended up not staying for long because that's when Alex started to get sick), believe it or not, I forgot a gift -- my dad's), 11-hour nights that the kids couldn't sleep through, 10 days off school, 9 relatives we saw for lunch the day before the sickness started, 8 presents per kid, 7 days of antibiotics, 6 disappointed family members, 5 days lost to the flu, 4 sick people, 3 days of high fevers, 2 double ear infections and 1 supermom.

Phew. And on that note, this supermom needs a vacation. Oh yeah, and a Christmas do-over.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The house won't be that cold, right?

I'm sitting at our local McDonald's playground right now (using my Blackberry to pass the time) while the kids burn off some energy after lunch. Heading to McDonald's after school is a first for us but was a necessity today.

Today, I'm having all the windows replaced in my house (that's 9 for anyone that's counting). A day long project at best. Oh and did I mention that it's currently -7C outside right now?! And that's before the windchill makes it somewhere in the negative teens (which I guess is better than yesterday when it was in the negative 20s.) So yeah, sitting at home right now is not a top priority.

And on top of the cold, all the windows that are going to be installed are lying on the floor of the respective rooms - so not only do I not want to be in a cold house with two kids but I also would rather not be in a cold house with two kids and large plates of glass windows lying around everywhere.

This whole thing is ridiculous really. Because honestly who in their right mind replaces their windows in December? Why couldn't we have thought to do this in...oh I don't know....AUGUST!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Patting myself on the back

A year and a half ago, when I was trying to decide whether to go back to work (before the decision was handed to me on a silver platter), we played the numbers again.

That game where you take your salary, subtract the obligatory taxes and then subtract the cost of two kids in full-time daycare to see how much is left over. The game is useful to see if it's even worthwhile to go back to work or whether working is just a money-losing venture. (Now that game doesn't take into account the EI moeny you're receiving while on maternity leave versus the no income you receive as a stay-at-home mom, but it's still a worthwhile exercise. )

It would've been worthwhile for me to go back -- after taxes and daycare, we would've been left with a little less than a third of my salary. Then of course there would've been the added expenses of commuting and work clothes but you get the general idea.

When we decided I would stay home, it was a decision made on the assumption that I would be bringing in no income.

But soon after we decided I would stay home (or maybe it was at the same time) I decided to do some freelance writing. The decision was solely based on one thought "hey I can write, let's see if I can pick up a little bit of writing work".

In 2009 (or at least the second half of it, which is when I started writing), I did just that, pick up a little bit of work.

But I'm proud to pat myself on the back right now and tell you that as 2010 closes out, I will have worked enough "on the side" to make up that one-third of my salary that would've been leftover had I gone to work every day.

All while getting to do what I really wanted to do -- be a full-time stay-at-home mom.

I'll be honest, it hasn't always been easy. And some days, when I'm tired I think that I'm insane for wanting to be a full-time mom and a part-time writer. Because some weeks,
there isn't enough time to do it all. And there certainly isn't any time leftover for me.

There was a period from mid-May until the end of July where I was working almost constantly. Every afternoon and many evenings and weekends were filled with me sitting in front of my computer. Once or twice I found myself working until 1 a.m., only to get up with the kids at 7. In those months, it was a little too hectic. And I considered finding part-time daycare come September if that pace kept up.

But like the nature of all freelance work, it didn't. But work remained steady throughout the fall -- with many 'naptimes' filled with work, a few evenings a week and the occasional weekend afternoon. Enough to keep me busy. And enough to bring the money in.

The kids are used to it, even if they don't understand what 'work' is when I say mommy has to work. With my Blackberry closeby, I'm able to respond to work requests wherever I am -- I took a job this summer while at the splash pad with the kids and another one while wandering around Riverdale Farm. It might be a busy life, but I can do both my jobs at the same time while at the park. So life ain't all that bad.

As 2011 approaches, I'm going to do it all again. See if I can make that much money again, or as my contacts snowball with referrals and my client list continues to grow, maybe I'll even be able to make a little more. Goodness knows, having the extra money that we didn't expect to have when I left the working world has been helpful. And if all goes well, by the time the kids are both in school, I may have enough work on my hands to do this full-time and then maybe I'll never go back to an office again.

But now I'm getting ahead of myself. Because right now, if I take on much more work than I did this year, I may seriously need to look into daycare options.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Who would want an old broken fridge?

Last Monday, our ancient basement fridge (and oh yes, it was ancient) finally died. It was our beer fridge, so really, it wasn't a huge loss. By that I mean, no contents of the fridge were lost. Not having a beer/drink fridge mere weeks before having people over for Christmas -- now that was a problem.

So, on Tuesday morning, I marched off to Sears, found one we liked that also happened to be on sale and bought it. It's an all-fridge (no freezer) and it's about twice the size of the old one -- meaning we can store more than just drinks in it.

So that was Tuesday. On Wednesday, we discovered that the old fridge that was now sitting dead in the corner had been leaking for two (or more) days all over the carpet. The carpet was now soaked. I got to spend a fair bit of time with the wet vac before marching off to Home Depot and renting a carpet blower to dry the carpet out.

On Tuesday of this week, the guys from Sears brought me my new fridge and carried my old one out. Well most of it. They left the door behind in my basement because we had forgotten to remove drinks from it. (Oh, because did I mention that when the old fridge died, it did so by slowly filling with ice over the course of a few weeks so that it finally pushed the door right off. Yup, that's right. The door fell off. And yup, that's right, it didn't occur to either of us that a fridge full of ice sitting on your carpet can only lead to a very wet carpet. This is where you get to say dumbass.)

So the fridge went out on the curb Tuesday afternoon for Thursday's garbage pickup. As late as 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, it was lying sadly by the side of the road. At 8:30 p.m., I carried the door outside so it too would get picked up and low and behold, the dead fridge was gone.

I know the garbage truck didn't come by in that two hour period, so that leaves me with just one question.

Who would want a dead doorless fridge?

Friday, December 03, 2010

Santa's elves

In 1988, my youngest sister really, really, really wanted an Oopsie Daisy doll from Santa for Christmas. She was 3 years old and this crawling, talking baby was the big thing among toddlers that year. Sort of like Tickle Me Elmo was in the mid-199os.

Not wanting to disappoint their youngest daughter, my parents searched high and low for this doll. We lived in Montreal at the time, and they couldn't find it anywhere. Finally, a few days before Christmas, they found out a store in Platsburg, NY (the shopping town just over the border) was getting a shipment. My dad made the hour and a bit drive the following Saturday to get it. The one small problem that day -- there was a blizzard, yet my dad drove through it (and home in it) to get his daughter an Oopsie Daisy doll.
Us girls were told this story years later and it's always been a good laugh in our family.

Last week, I sat my kids down to write their Santa letters. Austin, who at 4 years old, I discovered, still doesn't quite get the Santa thing. He gets that Santa will come and bring him presents, but he doesn't understand that this is his chance to ask for anything he wants. (Which maybe for me, is a good thing.)

So, as we're writing his letter, he's looking around the room at his toys trying to figure out what to ask for based on what he has. He asks for blocks (of which he has lots of) and then he hones in on his Lightning McQueen car and says "I want a Sally car". And I'm thinking, "what's a Sally car?" and then I realize, he wants the Sally character car from the Cars movie.

My first thoughts are along the lines of "oh crap, how am I going to find one of those."

I know that the Disney Store sells Cars Movie stuff, but usually the cars are in 10 packs, and I didn't want to spend $50 because Austin wanted one car.

So I checked Amazon dot com and sure enough, I could buy a single Sally car (with Linticular eyes and all) for less than $9 -- oh and pay about $20 in shipping to Canada. At that price, I might as well pay a little bit more and get a 10-pack of cars.

And that's when I got the idea to enlist some elves to help me.

My sister lives in California and my other sister (the one who wanted the Oopsie Daisy doll all those years ago) lives here in Toronto but was heading to California for a visit.

So I called up my sister in California and we hatched a plan. The car was sent to her (at about a $3 shipping fee) and my other sister will bring it back with her to Toronto when she comes home. And then I'll just have to pick it up.

Sometimes Santa has to be a little creative. And years from now, I'm sure Austin will get a laugh out of the fact that it took two aunts to get one toy to him.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Baking granddad's cookies

The other day, I was frantically searching through my recipe box (which is an embarassing disaster, but that's a story for another day) in search of what I was planning to make for dinner, when I came across an index card labelled 'Granddad's Shortbread Cookies'.

I stopped what I was doing, looked it over and put it aside. Not the kind of put it aside that you do when you're finished with something and are now moving on, but the kind of put it aside where the wheels are turning in my head. I was thinking, I can make these.

Before I go on, here's where I have to retract a statement I made here on this blog almost four years ago. At that time, I was pretty emphatic in the statement "I don't bake." I didn't like doing it and so I didn't. Any yummy home-baked treats in my house were always courtesy of Ryan.

But times have changed -- and so have I. Four years ago, I was still a new mom. Now I'm a stay-at-home mom of two. Now, I enjoy baking, sort of. The sort of is that it's something I enjoy doing with the kids. It's an activity we do together -- taking turns measuring, pouring, mixing, scooping and finally watching whatever it is we've just made, baking in the oven. The idea of baking up a storm all afternoon, or in the evening after the kids go to bed, is not something that appeals to me (late-night cooking, yes, baking, not so much). But baking with the kids is fun.

So this year, for the first time ever, I started Christmas baking. And I started a little over a week ago. So far we have plain ol' chocolate chip cookies and magic squares in the freezer just waiting for Christmas.

I had already been thinking of shortbread as our next baking adventure, and when I saw my granddad's recipe, I just knew I had to try it.

When I was growing up, every Christmas my granddad would bake up dozens and dozens of shortbread cookies. And he always made sure that us kids ate many more than my parents knew about while we were visiting. They melted in your mouth and were the best cookies I ever had. Every year, we all looked forward to eating these cookies. And I'm pretty sure he enjoyed making them just because we all enjoyed eating them so much.

My granddad died a little over 10 years ago.

But sometime since then (or maybe it was before then, I don't remember) I copied down the recipe while visiting my grandmother. I don't know why I copied it down, because I didn't bake. But I did. It's a super simple recipe, it just always seemed so difficult because the idea of baking in general was difficult for me.

So today after lunch, the kids and I set out to make granddad's shortbread cookies. We measured and poured the ingredients, mixed it all up, rolled out the dough and cut out Christmas shapes (with my newly-bought Christmas cookie cutters). After the first batch was done, I baked the second batch as plain old circles, just like my granddad used to do.

A lot has changed since I ate way too many shortbread cookies as a kid, but when I tasted the first one that the kids and I had made it felt like some things never change.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A mini-vacation at home

On Friday afternoon, right after lunch, I drove the kids to my mother-in-law's for the weekend. She lives in London -- two hours away -- and the kids stayed for 48 whole hours.

Now, I love being home full-time with the kids, but I've been counting down the days and the hours to this weekend all week. And by the time I picked Austin up at school at 11:30 on Friday morning, I was doing a little happy dance (much to the jealous dismay of my mom friends at school).

I've been away from the kids before but it is a very rare occurance that the kids have gone away and I have stayed home. In the summer, the kids spent four days at my parents house while Ryan and I went to Chicago. They also spent three nights at my parents house in May so that we could go to Niagara-on-the-Lake as a sort-of anniversary getaway. All of these getaways are nice, but to ship the kids off and stay home is pure luxury.

And so, I arrived in London just after 3 p.m. and was back on the road heading home just after 4 p.m. (having been delayed because Alex fell asleep in the back seat about 10 minutes from my mother-in-laws so I sat in the car in the driveway with her for awhile). At about 6:30, I was back home in my house.

And what did we do? Go out. Being able to spontaneously say, "hey, you want to go out for dinner?" was too good an offer to pass up. So we went to this great little barbecue restaurant on Bayview -- ate, drank and listened to live music for a few hours.

Saturday morning rolled around and the first thing I noticed when I woke up was that I got to wake up on my own (which sadly was around 8 a.m., but that's not the point). No one was yelling 'mommy' from down the hall. The house was quiet and it was heavenly.

We spent the next few hours Christmas shopping -- buying stuff for our kids and other kids without having to drag two kids around from store to store with us. Then it was home for a few hours where we sat and watched TV -- a show we like in the middle afternoon, not Mickey Mouse Clubhouse -- before getting ready to go to Ryan's company Holiday Party.

That was the real purpose for shipping the kids off this weekend, the holiday party. It's always a big event, with hundreds of people and free food and booze all evening. We ate, we drank, we partied, we came home to a quiet house. Heaven.

Around noon, Ryan left for London to get the kids and I've been home alone all afternoon -- another first, as I don't remember the last time I had a whole afternoon by myself in my own house. How did I spend it? Well I spent three hours cleaning -- cleaning Austin's room, cleaning Alex's room and cleaning the toys in the family room. Going through and purging all the stuff the kids don't need without them around means they're not standing over me saying "but I want that".

I did find some time to relax this afternoon, which has been nice.

And now it's almsot 6 p.m. Ryan and and the kids should be home any minute. And I'll be honest. I miss them. Saturday morning when I woke up, I didn't. But now, I do. My house has been quiet long enough -- they can come home now and make some noise. At least until the next time I really need a break.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Problem? What problem?

In January, Alex starts preschool. Two mornings a week, for two hours a day. It's the same preschool that Austin went to last year and Alex is really excited to go. (Which is a good thing, because I did worry that she'd have separation anxiety.) Almost daily, she asks me how many more months until she goes to preschool.

So, last night at dinner, right after she asked "when do I go to preschool", for the 100th time, Austin and I had the following conversation:

Austin: Mommy, we have a problem.

Me: What is is?

Austin: Well, when Alex is at preschool and I'm at Kindergarten, you're going to be all by yourself.

Me: (Trying not to laugh, smile or start fist pumping at the idea of two whole hours to myself, not once but twice a week) That's ok Austin. I'll be ok.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My kids are conspiring against me

Last Saturday night, Ryan and I went out to a concert (Mumford and Sons...great band, great show, if you haven't heard of them, I highly suggest you check them out). It's not something we do often -- heck we don't go out just the two of us more than, maybe...maybe once a month.

This particular Saturday night involved having my sister-in-law babysitting (yay for overnight babysitters!), six friends and just one or two (or three or four or....) beers. We got home just after 1 a.m. and I hate to admit it, but I'm too old to be out that late and drink that much.

I don't easily remember the drinking days of my youth (hmmm, I wonder why?) but now days, when I do crash after a night out, I don't tend to sleep well. That iddy biddy bladder of mine keeps waking me up.

And so, I was up twice between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. And then, at 4:45 a.m., Ryan's alarm clock went off. Yes, it was Sunday morning, and his alarm starting buzzing like a Monday. Except he was so quick to hit snooze that I barely registered what it was before dozing back off.

He hit it out of habit and this scenerio repeated itself four times until, at about 5:25 a.m., my beer-induced brain finally forced itself to wake up enough and register what was going on. I nudged Ryan awake, told him to turn the damn alarm off and rolled over.

At 6:15 a.m., my *bleeping* alarm started to annoyingly try to tell me that it was Monday, not Sunday. I turned it off, cursed and went back to sleep.

The kids woke up around 7:30. (Thankfully it wasn't my morning to get up, but still...)

Why, you might ask, are our alarms going off at ungodly hours on the morning after a night of partying and drinking? Little fingers are the answer. Both kids like playing with our alarm clocks -- turning on the music from time to time. On Saturday afternoon, it was Alex who was fiddling with them -- and in the process, turned them on.

Moral of this story: (other than don't let your kids play with your bedside clock) the kids know when you get that one rare night out and conspire to ensure you pay for it as much as possible!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

I'm on a decluttering mission

Some days, I feel like my house is just one giant space filled with clutter. That's one of the downside to being at home all day long. You can never escape it. And with two kids and a work-from-home job, some weeks and months, I'm stretched so thin that the clutter just builds and builds until not only is every surface covered with stuff that doesn't belong there, but everywhere we would even casually toss stuff 'to be dealt with later' is full of stuff too.

So this weekend, I went on a clutter kick. Since I have a bit of downtime with my workload right now, I am determind that by the time Christmas comes (and we have a whole new level of clutter), that this house WILL BE decluttered. Every. Single. Room.

And yes, that even means you spare room.

On Saturday night, I started posting things on Kijiji like a mad woman. Sadly, so far I've only had one bite, but that's not the point. Whatever's not gone in a week is going to Goodwill with the other two boxes of stuff I filled. And those boxes go alongside the two boxes of toys that will be donated to the Early Years Centre tomorrow. (Why the Early Years Centre? Because I have been dropping in there for four years so this afternoon I called and asked if they take toy donations. They do -- and whatever they can't use they in turn donate to other charities, so I know that it will all go to good use.)

It might sound like a lot of decluttering has been done already, but that was the easy part. You see, a lot of that stuff has been hanging around in boxes and bins, stacked against a wall in the basement for months. All the stuff that has been removed from circulation but never taken that one step further.

Later this week starts the hard part. The storage space underneath the stairs that you can barely walk into anymore. It's mostly filled with Rubbermaid bins of kids clothes and shoes and God knows what else. Then will come the kids' rooms. Some toys and dolls are going to have to go to make room for the truckload of stuff they're bound to get for Christmas, and I have to empty out their closets of all the clothes that don't fit.

After then comes the *gulp* spare room. It's gotten better over the years, but it's still the place where things go to die. In other words, if we don't know what to do with something, it goes in there. And years later we finally realize it needs to be thrown out.

You may ask, if that system is working, why mess with it? Well, in the new year, we're going to be turning that spare room into an office for me. (Don't worry all you out-of-towners who have slept in that room in the past, there'll be a futon in there.) And I refuse to have it cluttered up with a million things that we don't need or want in the first place. The shelves full of my canning can stay and old photo albums can stay. But mountains of CDs and hundreds of old Ranger Rick magazines (don't ask) may just have to go.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My experience travelling with the kids

I have a few backlogged blog posts...things I wanted to write about but didn't get a chance to do before we left for Austin, Texas -- where we didn't have Internet in our hotel. Honestly, what hotel doesn't have Internet, these days? So I wrote in Word in the evenings, and am posting now.

Until Sunday (Oct. 17), we’d never flown anywhere with both kids. When Austin was 18 months, we flew to Fredericton for a weekend but we knew that that wouldn’t prepare us for this experience. For starters, the ratio of adults to kids on that flight was 2 to 1 and secondly, it was only a two-hour flight.

The flight to Austin, Texas, with both kids was to be a six-hour travel-time trip. But the day started much earlier than that, because goodness knows, the process at the Toronto airport can take awhile when you’re travelling by yourself – when you’re travelling with 2 kids, 2 suitcases, 2 car seats, 1 stroller and 5 carry-ons, (hey, we were going for an entire week afterall), we figured it would take a long while.

So here’s how the day went:
- Step 1: park the car and take the LINK train from the garage to the terminal.
- Step 2: stand in line to check in because the airline wouldn’t let us check in online the night before because the only seats left on the flight are in the exit aisle and you can’t sit in the exit aisle with kids.
- Step 3: drag all the bags, car seats and carry-ons through customs.
- Step 4: clear customs and put the suitcases on one conveyer belt and the car seats on another
- Step 5: wait in another long line to go through security while bribing the now screaming 2-year-old with promises that she'll get Smarties as soon as this line is done.
- Step 6: get to the gate and instead of waiting 1 hour for the flight, wait 2 hours because the flight is delayed.
- Step 7: Fly to Minneapolis while the woman in front of me repeatedly turns around and glares because my 2-year-old is loud (yes, she was talking loudly, but she was talking and singing – not screaming and not kicking the chair in front of her) Entertain 2-year-old for the entire 2-hour flight.
- Step 8: Instead of having 1 hour and 21 minutes to change planes in Minneapolis, dash across the airport because there's only about 25 minutes until takeoff while dragging two kids (and a stroller and 5 carry-ons)
- Step 9: Make the next flight and get through the next 2 and a half hours by bribing the kids with TV.
- Step 10: Get off the plane, get bags, find rental car company, rent car, go to car, install car seats in car and finally get a map and figure out where the heck you have to go (and tip the porter that was kind enough to help with some of the process).
- Step 11: Drive to hotel while 2-year-old screams from the backseat because it’s been 11 hours since we left home and she hasn’t napped.
- Step 12: Find hotel and realize that said 2-year-old has passed out from exhaustion.
- Step 13: Check in to hotel, move stuff upstairs, wake 2-year-old and find nearest McDonalds for dinner.

In all, it was a really long day – as travelling always is – but considering what we dragged the kids through, it was a good day. And for the most part, they were both really good.

Now we just have to reverse the entire process on the way home. But this time we were stupid enough to book a late afternoon flight, so not only will Alex not nap but she’ll also be up unbelievably late. Maybe if we’re lucky, she’ll pass out from exhaustion.

Racing Day

Saturday morning (Oct. 16) was racing day. Once again this year, I was crazy enough sign up to run the 10K Zoo Run. And I say crazy, because really, running 10K is a crazy idea.

But this year, I actually had fun.

I really only started seriously training for racing day 7 weeks ago – although, since April, I’d been going out about 3 or 4 times a month and running 4 to 6 km, so I wasn’t completely out of shape or practice. But, for the record, until Saturday, the last time I ran a full 10K was Oct. 17, 2009 – last year’s Zoo Run. In my 7 weeks of training, I never pushed past 9km.

Regardless, I was ready. After a 9K run earlier this week, my only thoughts upon completion was ‘bring it on’. Whereas in the days leading up to last year’s run, I was terrified and wondering why the hell I thought I could do such a crazy thing.

So, on Saturday, October 16, 2010, I ran 10K at the Toronto Zoo in 1:14:58 – about 45 seconds faster than last year. To be honest, when I first thought of running again, I had hoped to be able to do it faster than that, but considering I was on crutches a mere 9 months ago, I’m pretty damn pleased with myself.

Even though I was ready and pumped to run, I was still nervous when I woke up Saturday morning. And the fact that there was traffic along Morningside getting into the zoo didn’t make things easier. Parking was such a nightmare, that I had to jump out of the car partway to the lot and briskly walk to the starting gate while Ryan parked, just to ensure I’d make it for start time. Problem was, I still had to go to the bathroom when I got there and as I was lining up, 8:30 came and went.

No worries though, the starting gate stays open for 10 minutes after gun time and when I was done, I just hustled over and started running (with all the other late comers). It put me in a weird frame of mind when I started though, not to be with the pack of runners – and for the first kilometre or so, I kept thinking that I had to catch up until I finally remembered that the only person I was racing against was myself.

So once I got into a better mindset, I just enjoyed the run and before I knew it, I had passed the 3km mark – which was where I had planned to take a short walking break. My plan had been to stop at 3, 6 and 8. But suddenly I found myself somewhere past 3k. So I took a short walking break and then carried on.

As I rounded 5k, my cheering squad was yelling ‘go mommy go’ from the sidelines, giving me a much needed lift. Although I was still feeling good, it’s usually around the 4.5K to 6K point that I really tire out before getting a second wind. And then I just got into the zone and kept going – reaching 7K before stopping again for a drink and to fix my shoe. There was no point stopping anymore with less than 3km left, so I just pushed through it, not ever considering that I wouldn’t be able to do it. And about 100 metres from the finish line, my cheering squad was yelling as loud as they could.

One thing’s for sure…I forgot how hilly the zoo is. It was a different course this year than last year, and although I’m sure it didn’t make much of difference, I felt like I was almost always going up. Every time I ran to the top of one small hill, there was a bigger one a little ways down the way.

But after feeling so good about that race, I’m looking forward to the next one already. Because there will be another one. Next year, I’m looking at the Yonge Street one in May (the one I wanted to do this year before I ended up on crutches). And thankfully, it’s all downhill.

Monday, October 04, 2010

How does (my) garden grow?

The gardening season has officially ended for me. I say that in writing, but in reality I haven't yet had a chance to pull the plants out of the ground. Knowing how busy the next few weeks are going to be -- they'll probably sit for a least two or three (or four) more weeks.

In all, I have to say it was a pretty good growing season and, unlike last year, my little garden didn't turn into a jungle. (Although I did forget to take pictures of it in its glory so you'll just have to take my word for it.) But as I went on and on about in previous posts, my zucchinni plant really tried to take over.

It was big. It was plentiful and it tried to choke out everything in its path. Throughout much of July and August, I was begging and pleading with people to take a monster-sized zuchinni off my hands. And when I couldn't get rid of any more, I cooked and baked with it. And when I got tired of that, I shredded up what was left and tossed it in my freezer (all 24 cups of it). So we'll still be eating zuchinni for months to come; meaning my family should be wary because you never know where some zuchinni will crop up.

After being a big, plentiful plant for almost two months, I opened the curtains one morning, looked out the window and discovered that the entire plant had collapsed. There it was, lying dead in the garden -- with zuchinnis still growing on it and everything. I have no idea how it happened, but I wasn't overly sad to see it go.

It's demise meant my tomatoes had a fighting chance. Until that time, my four tomato plants (1 of which was a grape tomato plant) weren't doing badly, but they weren't doing great. They had produced enough tomatoes for one small batch of tomato sauce and one batch of salsa. The grape tomato plant hadn't done much, which is the one that surprised me the most because last year it grew like a weed and produced more little tomatoes than one family could possibly eat.

So in hopes of a warm September, I pulled the now-dead zucchini plant out of the ground and gave my tomato plants as much space as I could. The bottom half of each plant had seen better days but suddenly they started growing up and sprouting new tomotoes. In the end, I got a few more tomatoes out of each one -- although they're rather small and some had to be picked while still green to save them from this week's cold weather. But they'll do -- I'll toss them in with the basket of tomatoes I bought at the market to make more salsa.

And now that's it all done, the lessons I've learned this year are not to plant zucchini unless I really, really want it; raspberry bushes try to take over, even though they produce an incredible amount of fruit and when all else fails, buy tomatoes for salsa and sauce at the market.

Monday, September 13, 2010

An age reality

A few weeks ago I had a very odd realization. It was odd because it's not something I should've just 'realized', it's something that I should've already known.

But for some reason, I didn't. Or, at least, I hadn't really thought about it.

Ready for it? In less than four months, I'm going to be 35.

There, I said it. 35.

This statement is odd, because I know I'm 34; I even remember that, for the first time in years, I went out to celebrate my birthday last year with a night at the bar with a few close friends. So you would think that if I clearly remember celebrating my 34th birthday that, by default, I would know that my next birthday would be 35.

But somehow, it hadn't occurred to me.

For some reason, I'm having trouble with this one. 35. That's a really big number. I didn't have an issue with 30 -- which probably had a lot to do with the fact that I was eight months pregnant and had a lot more to think about (like the fact that I was about to become a new mom) than turning 30.

I don't really remember turning 25 (which means I probably drank too much) and 20 was, well, a really long time ago.

But 35 is a big number. It just feels so much older than 34. It means that when I respond to surveys, I can no longer check the 18-34 box. It means I'm halfway to...gulp...40.

What I need to do is just suck it up and accept it. Because, really, there's not a damn thing I can do about it. And it's just another number, right? The 18-34 bracket was a pretty interesting ride, so the start of the next age bracket is bound to be even better.

Who knows...I was writing about running the other day, maybe turning 35 will be motivation to run a half marathon before I turn 40.

Monday, September 06, 2010

T-40 days until I run again

Last year, I signed up for a 10K run to give myself a challenge; to prove to myself that I could do it and really, just for the sense of accomplishment.

And it felt awesome when I finished the run. I didn't care that I wasn't that fast -- I finished it and not long after (like later that night) I started thinking about when the next one will be.

It's in 40 days.

Back in June, I signed up for the same 10K run again. I had wanted to do one sooner, but with the whole sprained ankle and crutches episode from last winter, it wasn't really a feasible (or sensible) option. But I started running a little bit in March and then a little bit more in April and May. So by early June, I signed up for the 10K Zoo Run on Oct. 16.

Then I barely had a time to run this summer -- managing just once a week some weeks and no runs at all other weeks. Last week, I suddenly realized that race day is quickly approaching and if I want to actually be able to run 10K, I have to train for it.

So, in the last 11 days, I've been out five times with no run being shorter than 5K. Like last year, it's a struggle again and I can't manage even close to 10K yet (I'm about 4K short of that distance -- which is a long way when you're using foot-power to get there). But I have 6 weeks left to train and dammit, I'm going to do it. At one point, I wanted to run faster than last year, but now, I don't care. I just want to cross that finish line again.

I know I can do it. And Ryan's very supportive of this goal (and a real slave driver when I say I don't feel like going running right now!) And the kids even shout 'go, mommy, go' for me almost every time I head out the door.

After the Oct. 16 run, we'll see where running takes me -- whether I consistently keep training and aim for a spring run or even consider kicking it up a notch to a longer run. Ryan thinks I can do it, but I'm not so sure right now. Training for a 10K run takes enough of a time commitment out of my busy life -- quite frankly, I don't know if I can devote even more time to running every week.

Regardless of what I do in the future, think of me around 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 16 -- and hope that the weather is a little bit warmer this year.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

By the way...

...we ended up going to Chicago. Really, even thinking about not going was a crazy notion.

We got away for four whole nights and remembered again what it was like to be adults and not just parents. We slept until when we wanted without worry and planned our days how we wanted and not around nap schedules and snack schedules. So really, a much-deserved time to be a little bit selfish.

If you care, I wrote about our trip over on the family blog.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Canning, canning and more canning

I think I'm a little obssessed this time around. Last summer was my first foray into canning my own food. With a new vegetable garden in the back, it was the perfect opportunity to try it out.

Last summer, from my backyard vegetables, I made one batch of relish and two batches of salsa (and one batch of tomato sauce, but I froze that). And although at first, I was rather apprehensive by the whole process, I discovered that I really enjoyed it.

For me, the process -- when done during the evening after the kids go to bed -- is a relaxing way to spend my time. And, of course, makes for many tasty meals and condiments over the course of the year.

So, this year, I started early by making strawberry jam with fresh picked strawberries at the end of June. I even let the kids help and we made it an afternoon activity. One kid washed the strawberries, then I cut them up and then the other kid would take the cut pieces and put them in the pot. In the end, I made a really tasty jam -- even if it turned out more like strawberry syrup than jam. (Vanilla ice cream anyone?)

As the summer's worn on, I've made a batch of relish and a batch of salsa (from my garden vegetables), two batches of tomato sauce (one from my garden tomatoes one from a basket at the market) and yesterday, the kids and I made peach jam.

Again, we made a very tasty jam but again, it didn't quite set. I don't know what I'm doing wrong as both times I've followed the recipe exactly. And both times, I've ended up with runny jam (although this time it's not quite as syrupy). Any jam makers out there have any suggestions for me? As I'm thinking of making another batch of peach jam next week.

Also on the menu for this fall is another batch of salsa (maybe even two more batches), possibly another batch of relish (mainly because my cucumber plant is suddenly producing a ton of cukes again), a batch of pickles and another batch of tomato sauce.

One thing's for sure, I may soon need to find a new place to store all my jars. And watch out, some of you may end up with a jar or two from me under your Christmas tree this year.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What to do?

Late Saturday night, we got back from a week at the cottage that we rent up north. It was a fantastic week, with hot, almost-perfect weather (we had one afternoon of rain). The kids ran themselves ragged playing outside all day (meaning they slept until 8 or later almost every morning) and Ryan and I had a chance to relax and detach ourselves from the rest of the world.

In a word, it was perfect.

When we got home, our lives became a frenzy of unpacking, doing laundry, cutting the grass and getting caught up at work, because not four days after walking in the door, we're planning on walking back out on another vacation. This time, on Thursday morning, the kids are going to my parents house for four days and Ryan and I are going to Chicago for a wedding.

Now there's one small problem with this frenzied plan. Yesterday afternoon, the wedding was cancelled. I found out by e-mail and that's all I know as, in her e-mail, my friend specifically told everyone she didn't much feel like talking on the phone. I sent her an e-mail just to say I was thinking of her; she sent me a short message back to say she's doing ok and has left Chicago for a little while to sort out what to do with her life.

I feel for her. I don't know what's going on, but I feel sick just thinking about it. Calling off your wedding just 6 days before the date is surely not a decision that a couple comes to lightly.

But, if I can be selfish for a minute, Ryan and I are left with the dilemma of what to do. We have non-refundable airline tickets to Chicago for Thursday afternoon. Do we cancel our trip and lose the money from the flights or say to hell with it and go off on a romantic weekend anyway?

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Maybe I should just not plant zucchini

Last year, I mentioned that when we returned from the cottage, I had three monster zucchinis ready to be picked and eaten. At the time, I wondered what I was going to do with all that zucchini.

Last year was nothing compared to this year.

This year, my zucchini plant has decided that it shall take over the garden. It has decided that it will be the biggest plant; the one that attracts the most sun and soaks up all the water. It has also decided to produce more zucchinis than any one family can fathom eating in a summer. Or a year for that matter.

To date, I have baked 48 zucchini muffins; grilled zucchini for dinner one night; cut up zucchini to eat raw with dip (but I'm the only one who likes that in my family); shredded and frozen 12 cups (yes, 12 cups) of zucchini so that I can make two batches of salsa later this summer when the tomatoes are ready; and given two away. Yet there are still two semi-monster size zucchinis sitting in my kitchen and 5 more growing outside.

I have no idea what to do with it all anymore. Zucchini pickles maybe? Zucchini relish? More zucchini bread/muffins? (I think I'll make chocolate zucchini bread tomorrow). Any ideas would be very, very welcomed at this point.

Oh, and if you want one, just show up in my backyard one day and make it disappear for me. Goodness knows I won't miss it.

(The other vegetables, by the way, are doing alright. The raspberry bush was awesome and we ate raspberries by the pint for weeks -- I may even have enough in the freezer for a batch of jam later this month. The tomatoes and cucumbers are growing well, but honestly, I think they're being choked out by the damn zucchini.)

Monday, July 19, 2010

I could get used to this

Today was Austin's first day of day camp -- all day day camp. I dropped him off at 9 a.m. and picked him up at 4 p.m.

For those of you doing the math, that's 7 whole hours where I was only responsible for one child. The last time I dropped Austin off for an entire day was 19 months ago when he went to daycare 2 days a week.

Now, I know, I know, I'm a stay-at-home mom by choice. And I do love my job. But, I'll be honest, it was a nice change of pace to have only one kid today. Alex and I dropped Austin off, played outside, went for a bike ride around the block and then went to two different parks with a friend of mine who was visiting from Chicago.

After our park trip, we headed home for lunch, played a little more and then, when my friend left, Alex took a nap. And I had two complete hours of time to myself. Of course, instead of lounging around and relaxing, I used the time to get work done as I'm on a deadline right now. (A stroke of good luck with camp being at the same time that I'm deadline, considering I signed Austin up for this camp back in March before I ever had this particular job.) But that's alright, because that's two hours of work I won't have to do in the evenings.

In all, Alex and I had a great day and Austin came home happy and tired. I could definitely get used to this.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Seriously blurring the line between my self-employed career and my mom career

I tried something incredibly brave today.

Over the last few months, I have been getting more and more freelance work. To the point that throughout most of May and June I was working most evenings and weekends and I called in at least half a dozen favours (or paid visits) for babysitting so that I could go to daytime meetings or events.

Just last week, a new client wanted to meet with me and a friend oh-so-kindly added my kids to hers for two and half hours so that I could drive downtown, meet him and show off my portfolio (now hopefully that'll result in new work in the future).

All of this work has been great and I'm really happy with the way business is going, but it has got me seriously thinking about looking into part-time daycare options in the fall. Just so that I have some daytime hours to myself to work or meet and I'm not constantly working in the evenings.

I sure hadn't thought I'd be in this position when I decided to be a stay-at-home mom.

Which brings me to today's incredibly brave, blurred line adventure.

One of my clients wanted to meet to discuss the next phase of a project we've been working on for months and I couldn't get a sitter. All of my regular sitter's are on vacation or working and at a certain point, favour-asking wears thin..

So, I asked my client if she would mind if the kids joined us while we talked. And, since she's that kind of person (and has two kids of her own), she agreed to meet me at a café in Leslieville called lil' bean n' green.

Why that place? Well I found it online and chose it because it's a café and play place. And true to it's name, there are tables and expresso -- and beyond a little fence is a climbing structure, toys and books for the kids.

So while mom sits and talks the kids can run around and avoid being bored by the conversation.

I was pretty nervous heading into this meeting because it could've gone either way -- the kids could've been completely independent and left me alone or they could've decided that they don't want to play unless mommy joins them.

Thankfully, it went brilliantly and the kids played for an ENTIRE HOUR while I met with my client. They played nicely and even participated in the song and story time, led by one of the moms, without me. And yes, it wasn't exactly the quietest place to meet, but it allowed me to do two things at the same time -- be a self-employed professional and a stay-at-home mom. And it also made me realize that my kids are far more independent than I realized.

By the time my client left, it was almost noon so I rewarded the kids for being so good by buying them lunch there. The food prices weren't bad although it was more than I would normally spend on lunch for the kids.

I would definitely consider pulling this stunt again, with the right type of client. Or, when I'm really stretched thin for time, I'd consider bringing a laptop, sitting down with a cup of coffee and getting an hour's worth of work done while the kids play.

Now I just need to buy a laptop.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Time to start cooking, baking and canning

Last summer was my first adventure in growing vegetables. All in all, it went well, aside from the fact that I overplanted. Throughout the month of August, and into September, we ate fresh cucumbers, tomatoes and zucchini and I canned salsa and relish and baked with zucchini...a lot.

This year, when I planted, I hoped that the end results of my garden would be as 'fruitful' and that we'd once again get to eat yummy fresh vegetables and I'd get to spend hours in the kitchen.

And thanks to the hot, hot sunny days we've had these last few weeks -- and a fair bit of rain as well -- the garden is exploding with vegetables and I going to be cooking and baking way ahead of schedule.

You see, I just assumed that all would be similar to last year, and that I'd be cooking in late August and early September. But I forgot to take one small thing into consideration...last year, was cold all through July. Meaning everything likely grew and ripened much slower. This year, not so much.

Right now, sitting on my kitchen counter are three good-sized cucumbers and two very large zuchinnis. There are another two zucchinis out back waiting to be picked and the first batch of grape tomatoes are almost ready. The tomatoes are still quite green, but I'm sure they won't be long. And I won't even begin to tell you how many raspberries we have. There are so many that we can't eat them fast enough and I've now started freezing the leftover picked ones at the end of every day.

So, this afternoon the kids and I are going to bake some chocolate zucchini bread. And then maybe some muffins if we still have an abundance of zucchini. If those cucumbers don't get eaten fast enough -- I think there's relish in my future this week. Which is a good thing actually, because I'm down to my last jar from last summer!

And the raspberries? There's definitely going to be jam in my future.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday - Happy Canada Day!

Austin and Alex are both really interested in the Canada flag. Being older, Austin started it of course, but everywhere we go, they both have to point out -- by yelling -- every Canada flag we see.

So, last week, I explained about Canada Day -- which really just got the two of them excited to see more Canada flags. (Of course, they received several paper ones to wave around as we joined in on the many festivities of the day.) And for their pre-soccer snack the day before Canada Day, we did a red and white theme. On the top row, we have grape tomatoes, Babybel cheese (half unwrapped to show both colours) and strawberry yogurt. On the bottom row we have strawberries (picked by the three of us at the strawberry farm the day before), a piece of bread with cream cheese and strawberry jam spread to look like a Canada flag (I'll give credit where credit's due -- that was Ryan's idea) and milk.

The kids loved it. Austin ate every last bite. Alex, on the other hand has finally entered the picky two-year-old eater faze and licked the jam off the bread, ate the yogurt and strawberries and declared that she was 'all done'. (Really, I'm not going to complain that she's entered this faze -- until recently she could outeat her brother!)

See everyone else's Muffin Tin Monday here:
Muffin Tin Mom

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The weather gods are conspiring against us

The last three July 1st long weekends, we have gone camping with a group of friends ranging from a group as small as three families to a group as large as six families (I think we were 22 people that year).

The first year, it was cold (and I mean, see your breath at night cold) and it rained on and off for three days.

The second year started with a torrential rainstorm the first night, followed by cool temperatures and on and off rain for three days.

The third year, we moved the trip to a different park in hopes of having better weather luck. We did have a bit of sun, but we had a lot of rain -- more daytime rain than we'd had in the past three years. And it wasn't that warm out either.

This year, the group came to a consensus to move the trip to the August long weekend, in hopes that the weather will be better. That being said, check out the long-term forecast for this weekend:
Had we gone camping this weekend, we would've likely gone from Thursday until Sunday. Thursday is looking to be on the cooler side, but after that it's nothing but hot temperatures and sunshine.

If our 'lucky' streak continues, anyone want to take a wild guess on what the weather forecast might look like for the August long weekend?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday - Breakfast time!

Another rainy day last week had us trapped inside pretty much all morning. It was one of those days where it was raining so hard, that you'd get soaked just running to the car.

So we stayed in, played with almost every toy we had and finally filled a dress-up box with all the dress-up clothes the kids have.

For lunch, we went the muffin tin route. And to make it a little more fun, I told the kids that they could only pick breakfast foods for their tin. There's nothing like telling a two-year-old and four-year-old that they can only eat breakfast foods for lunch to keep them engaged. They thought the idea was the funniest (and coolest) ever.

So, in our tin we have (top row) raisin bran, yogurt and blackberries (bottom row) peanut butter and jam on toast, honey nut cheerios and strawberries. This was one lunch that was devoured by both of them.

As for the rain, soon after lunch, it stopped and the sun came out, so I decided that a quick trip to the library (which is just down the street) would be a good way to get out before nap/rest time. So off we went. And as we were choosing our books, the clouds returned and opened up. Needless to say, we got a little wet on our walk back.

To see what everyone else's muffin tin meal, click here

Thursday, June 24, 2010

My new toy....a crackberry

When Ryan first got his Blackberry three or four years ago, I hated it. This statement comes as no surprise to him. I hated that it connected him to work all the time, I hated that he checked it all the time. I just hated it.

But I got used to it. And admittedly, over the years, it's come in handy.

That being said, I never wanted one, never felt the need to have one and, quite frankly, never really understood why someone needed one that wasn't work-issued. And I never in a million years dreamed of buying one.

I just bought one for myself.

Me; the same person who a little over a year ago had cellphone so ancient that it wasn't text-compatible, had a bare-bones phone plan because I barely used my phone and when someone did call me, I rarely heard it ring (or it wasn't even charged) which added to the barely used it factor.

But things change; life changes. A year on from that phone, I'm running my own, rather successful (if I do say so myself) part-time, self-employed business. (To be honest, the kids are asleep right now, I should be working and not blogging.) And with this modest success comes the need to be connected while I'm doing my full-time job -- being a mom. Hence the Blackberry.

It's been in my possession for four days now and I think I'm in love. And I've barely even begun to use it yet. So far, I've mostly only used it for work-related purposes -- e-mailing with a client while out with the kids. Although it did come in awfully handy when I wanted to meet a friend at the zoo yesterday and she was running late.

So, I guess you can say I've been converted. I'm already randomly wandering over to it at all times of day just to see if I have any new e-mails. Or heck, just to go online and check the weather. Why? Because I can.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The vegetable garden adventure begins

The vegetable garden adventure has begun once again, although this year, (I hope) I know what I'm doing.

I planted one afternoon, the week after the May long weekend (that's definitely one of the perks to being a stay-at-home mom) with 'help' from the kids. Our first step was to tame the raspberry bush which had completely taken over the garden.I had no idea when we planted it last spring that in a year's time it would do so well. In fact, at one point in March, as it sat limply in the corner, I was certain that I had killed it.

So, I pulled out the dozens of raspberry bush shoots, making plenty of room to plant tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, strawberries and jalapeno peppers. That's right, that's it. I learned from my mistakes last year and did not over plant. I planted four tomato plants -- one being a grape tomato plant -- two cucumber plants (two different types of cucumber, although I did that by accident, picking up the wrong one at the garden centre but not realizing my mistake until I got home), one zucchini plant, one jalapeno pepper plant and one strawberry plant. (I moved the chives in the picture below to another garden in the backyard soon after taking this picture to give the zucchini plenty of room to grow.)We'll see how everything does. So far, so good -- thanks to the nothing-but-sunny-days-and-warm-temperatures of late May followed by a fair bit of rain in the last week. The strawberry plant has produced about four strawberries so far (but, like the raspberry bush last year, it's not supposed to do much in the first year) and one of my tomato plants already has a small green tomato on it.

The plants are all still small but already I'm excited to start cooking. I plan to stock my cupboard with relish and salsa (lots and lots of salsa) later this summer and maybe even bread and butter pickles.

Oh, and that raspberry bush that I thought I may have killed...there are so many raspberries on it (although not quite ripe yet) that I may even have to have jam in my future too.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday - planting our garden

It's been awhile since I last posted a Muffin Tin Monday. It's not that we don't do Muffin Tin's anymore, quite the opposite. In fact, Alex asks for a muffin tin lunch pretty much every other day, but normally I just throw a bunch of stuff together -- or the kids choose a bunch of stuff to put in the tin.

Here though, is one of our most recent Muffin Tin's with a theme. It was right after we planted our vegetable garden out back and flower garden in the front so we came up with ideas from those activities.We have (top row) bread and butter flowers, raisins subbing in for dirt, grape tomatoes, (bottom row) cheese flowers, strawberries and blackberries (we actually have raspberries in our garden but the kids insisted on eating blackberries at this meal).

In our veggie garden (which I guess, technically is a vegetable and fruit garden) we also have tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, zuchnni, chives and cucumbers. If this year's gardening adventure turns out anything like last year's, it's going to be a yummy summer!

Check out more MTM here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

And at this stage last time...

I worked out the math the other day (don't ask why, I have no idea why I would think of doing something like this), and today Alex is EXACTLY the same age -- to the day -- that Austin was when she was born.

Which leaves me with just one terrifying thought; OH MY GOD, WHAT THE HELL WERE WE THINKING?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Walking along at a kid's pace

On the first afternoon I was in California, my sister was exhausted from a bad night with the baby and wanted to take a nap. But like any good seven month old, he knew that mommy was tired and therefore decided that he wasn't.

So, I suggested that I take him out for an hour or so walk around the neighbourhood while she caught a couple of zzzzs.

She protested at first, saying I didn't fly all this way just to walk with the baby. I ignored her protests, sent her off to bed, popped my nephew in his stroller and wandered off. For the next hour and a half, I strolled through the streets, looking around and listening to my ipod. My nephew, for his part, caved rather quickly and fell asleep. Total miles covered -- between 2 and 3.

Let's compare this rather blissful walk (where, may I add, I walked at a nice brisk pace) with a single sleeping baby in a stroller to the walk I took the other day with my kids.

There is major road construction going on down the street from our house. Traffic is being diverted and roads are being ripped up. It's a major headache if you're the driver. But to my kids -- the sudden appearance of construction trucks so close to the house is heavenly.

So, the other day, we wandered out without a stroller or wagon to take a look. Over the next 45 minutes or so, we walked a block and a half in one direction and then turned around and walked back. This pace was not so much because we stood around and looked at the trucks but more because dandelions had to picked, grassy hills had to be rolled down, cracks had to be avoided being stepped on, rocks had to be pocketed and everything around us had to be questioned. Total distance covered -- maybe 400 ft.

Now, don't get me wrong, I remember all too well what the baby days were like and how difficult they can be. Especially when you're exhausted and the baby doesn't want to nap anywhere but the stroller -- therefore after the walk, he's refreshed and ready to go while you're just more tired than you were before. But considering I'm not in that place anymore, in response to my sister's protest two weeks ago, I say: taking a walk with a sleeping baby is a vacation.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

25 things I say to my kids every day

As we were eating breakfast, (the yummy bacon and egg one for Mother's Day) Ryan said to me, 'sorry it isn't a little more peaceful'. (We were desperately trying to ignore the fighting going on in the other room.) My response, 'well this wouldn't be a special day for me if it wasn't for them'.

So, in honour of Mother's Day, one of the blogs I follow recently wrote this, and I thought it was funny enough to write my own version.

1. I love you.
2. No.
3. I don't know.
4. Because. Just because.
5. Didn't you just finish eating?
6. Fine, what do you want for snack?
7. Play nice.
8. Can you sing me a song?
9. Thanks for being my big helper. (with emptying the dishwasher, doing the groceries, etc.)
10. No, we're not having pancakes/meatballs (again) for dinner.
11. You liked it last time I made it.
12. I'm really proud of you. (for whatever was just accomplished)
13. Yes, nap time.
14. Ok let's make a deal.
15. Five more minutes.
16. It's Austin/Alex's turn to use the Mickey/Minnie plate.
17. Share.
18. Can I have a big squishy hug?
19. Let's sit here and have a little snuggle.
20. Daddy's not home, it's (Monday/Tuesday/etc.)
21. I said no.
22. How do you ask?
23. What do you say?
24. Jammy time!
25. Night, night. Love you. Night, night.

And I wonder why some days I go insane from the lack of adult conversation.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Countdown to vacation time

About 6 months ago, my sister, brother-in-law and baby nephew moved back to California. And I miss them terribly.

They had lived there previously, from 2006 until mid-2008 when they moved to Ottawa (actually, I think it was back to Ottawa -- they do move an awful lot). After 14 or 15 months in Ottawa, they moved back. It's complicated and I don't need to bore anyone with all the details, but suffice to say, they don't live close to me, and I miss them.

When they lived in California the first time around, I never went to visit -- but my sister travelled here a fair bit. My reasons for not visiting were simple. In the time they lived there I had one baby, got pregnant and had another baby. In other words, there was never really a 'good' time to make the trip.

Now, I'm finally going to.

About a month ago, Ryan decided to take the first two weeks of May off work. February and March were hellish for both of us -- first I was working a lot of evenings and weekends and then he was working long days followed by even longer days. Now that the project he's working on is winding down, he figured it would be a good time to take a vacation.

So, we started talking about using some of that time to fly out to California for a visit. But after a few days of talking, Ryan was very honest about the idea. "It's sounds like it would be a lot of fun," he said, " but it would be exhausting."

I couldn't argue with that statement. It would be a lot of fun. And with two young kids, it would definitely not be a relaxing trip. And what him and I need most of all right now is time to relax. So, we decided to stay home. Ryan said, afterall, what he wants to do most of all is to just stay home, relax and spend some time with his kids (now, really, who can argue with that?)

Except, as I pointed out to him, staying home with the kids is what I do every day -- so there's nothing really relaxing or vacation-like about that for me. And that's when he came up with his brilliant idea.

"Why don't you go to California by yourself then?"

And that's exactly what I'm doing. This Thursday afternoon, I'm flying to San Franscisco and I won't return until Tuesday night. Five whole nights without kids. It's the longest I will have ever been away from them.

For the record, I did need some convincing to go through with it. As much as I want to see my sister and nephew (and brother-in-law), the idea of leaving made me feel a little guilty. But now that it's all said and done and the countdown is on, I'm excited. I know I'll miss the kids, but it'll be good for me to be away from them for a few days. And it'll be good for them to be away from me too.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Another birthday cake creation

Not to be outdone by her brother, for Alex's second birthday this past weekend, I created an Elmo birthday cake.

Because I did a Mickey cake last year for Austin's third birthday, I didn't have the same fear of screwing up. In other words, I knew I could do it. And, since Alex is completely in love with Elmo right now, I knew she'd love it -- no matter how great or poor it looked.

I rented the pan from Bulk Barn again and baked it on Thursday night. Then, around 7:30 Friday night, I got to work making and dying icing. This, in my opinion is the longest and most tedious part. Yes, the actual icing of the cake takes a long time -- but that, in some weird way, is fun. Stirring and adding dye and stirring and adding more dye and stirring and adding yet more dye to get the right colour is long and tedious. I think I used way too much red dye to get the right shade of red -- but what the heck, Elmo is very red after all. And besides, red icing doesn't stain your teeth quite as badly as Mickey Mouse ears black does.

It was about 9 p.m. when I started icing the cake. Oh how times have changed -- because I spent the next two and a half hours of my Friday night hanging out with Elmo. Although, that time did include drinking half a bottle a wine, so it was time well spent.

In the end, I think the cake looked great -- and yet again, I can't believe I pulled off doing something like that.

And Alex loved it. She saw it for the first time just as we were leaving for her party and she went nuts. And for the next few hours, while playing at the party, she would periodically go into the kitchen area, look at the cake and them come to me and say 'eat Elmo cake?'.

Needless to say, when it was time to 'eat Elmo cake' she was one happy girl. And really, that's all that mattered.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday -- Colours of the Rainbow

Our muffin tin meals have moved to Thursday afternoon snack time, because the kids now have gymnastics on Thursday evenings -- at the very inconvenient time of 6 p.m. An inconvenient time, because we usually eat dinner at 6:30 and the kids are not overly interested in eating any earlier than that. (I tried back in the fall when they had swimming at 6 p.m. and it was a no-go).

So, instead, I feed them a decent sized snack just before 5 p.m. and then they eat another good snack when we get home. And (I hope) the incentive to eat this pre-gymnastics snack is the fact that it's in a muffin tin.

So, here was this week's muffin tin:

Top row is popcorn, cucumber slices and purple grapes with a glass of water. Bottom row is cheese curds, apricots and red pepper. Before making this tin, we talked about what makes a rainbow -- so the popcorn is supposed to be the sun and the glass of water is supposed to be the rain (work with me here).

Check out everyone's else's muffin tin here.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Talk about a productive long weekend

We decided to stay in town and hibernate this weekend -- making as few commitments as possible in order to finally catch up on sleep, relaxing and things that needed to be done. After a month of Ryan working long hours (to the point that some days he didn't get home in time to see the kids before bed) and me putting in hours on evenings and weekends, we both needed some time off.

What better excuse then to get work done around the house? That's relaxing, right?

Actually, it was. This weekend completed to do list is as follows:

  • Take kids to the park
  • Rake front and back lawn
  • Share rake with the kids who want a turn raking front and back lawn.
  • Cut down two cedar hedges that did not survive the winter and discover that the kids think it's fun to pick up all the shavings and bag them in lawn bags.
  • Wash the outside of all windows (the advantage of living in a bungalow is you can reach all windows with the aid of one small ladder).
  • Get told by oldest kid to wait for him before washing the windows because he wants to help by washing the basement ones.
  • Realize that in 10 years the kids will likely not want to be so helpful.
  • Make a Home Depot run and laugh as the kids try to drive the big flatbed cart (we needed wood for a project that didn't get started this weekend).
  • Clean three years worth of grease off bbq. Kids weren't all that interested in that one.
  • Have in-laws over for dinner but don't cook anything because they're bringing the meal. Chip in by baking a pumpkin pie and making salad dressing.
  • Take kids to the park again.

After this three day weekend, we were both pretty tired. But, at least for me, not in that mental exhaustion kind of way of the last few weeks, but instead, in that wow-I-actually-did-all-that-in-three-days kind of exhaustion. It felt good, especially since the weather was so beautiful you wanted to be outside doing things.

Now, (I hate to say this but I need to) we need it to rain for a weekend (or at least one day of the weekend) so we can tackle cleaning out the spare room. There's barely space to walk into to it right now, let alone sleep in it and sunny weekends give us every excuse to continue dealing with it by simply shutting the door.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Two years and counting

Two years ago -- to the day -- I left my office job for my second maternity leave. And as we all now know, said mat leave never really ended. My EI payments ended, but my time at home with the kids did not.

It was a pretty big shock when I got the news last year that my job was being eliminated. I never dreamed that my job wasn't secure and, although I wanted to stay home with the kids, I never thought that it would be because I didn't have a permanent position to return to.

Cue the passing of yet another year and I can honestly say I'm happy with how things turned out. I'm happy to be home with my kids (except the days they drive me crazy and I want to sell them); I'm happy not going into an office every day; and I'm happy with my part-time career as a freelance writer (especially since it's going well and I'm getting a steady stream of part-time work).

So happy in fact, that it's very tempting to not go back to work at all.

I'm not saying that I want to stay home with the kids forever. But instead, I'm saying that in a few years, when the kids are older and are in school full-time, rather than pounding the payment in search of a full-time job, I'd try to make a go at a self-employed career.

When I decided to stay at home full-time, I said I'd do so at least until Austin went to school (this September) and likely until Alex started school (in two years -- four if our home school doesn't get full-time Kindergarten in time). But in reality, I didn't really think much about what I would do when that time came. I figured I'd find another job. The problem is, I just don’t know what I want to do at another job.

Right now anyway, what I want to do is write. And I don't need to work for someone or somewhere to do that.

Had you asked me 10 years ago that I would be considering a future in self-employment, I would've laughed. Back then, I didn't have the confidence in my work and my abilities to even think I could pull something like this off. But now, it seems like a viable career option. Yes, it's a scary career path, in the sense that you don't always know where (and when) your next pay cheque is coming from. But it's an exciting prospect. And something I think I can actually pull off.

But there's still at least two years until I can move from doing this part-time to pursuing a full-time career at it. Maybe by then, I'll change my mind or talk some sense into myself.

Then again, Ryan supports the idea, so maybe it's not so crazy after all.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday -- Blue/Purple

We actually did our blue and purple muffin tin early last week. It was a rainy day and the kids were going squirrly by 9 a.m. (so I knew I was in for a long one) so I tried to stimulate a day-long game. It was blue day.

The three of us dressed all in blue, we had a blue toy treasure hunt and we ate a blue (and purple) lunch. For the most part, the game was fun -- but by 7 p.m. when Ryan got home the three of us had definitely had enough of each other. Rainy days are hard to turn into fun days, no matter what you try.

So, for our blue (and purple) lunch, we had:

Blueberry yogurt, bread with (dyed) blue cream cheese, Babybel (Ok, I know -- and Austin so pointedly informed me -- that Babybel is yellow, no blue. But we were getting desperate trying to find things, so we went with the fact that it had a blue wrapper.), blueberries, grape Jello and blue Smarties.

Austin, like usual, gobbled everything up. Alex gobbled up the yogurt, blueberries and Smarties but she wasn't overly interested in blue cream cheese (I can't really blame her) and she thought the Babybel was more fun to play with than eat. And, I discovered that she doesn't like Jello -- at least she doesn't like purple Jello. Oh well, more for me!

Check out what other people did for MTM over at Muffin Tin Mom.

Muffin Tin Monday at Her Cup Overfloweth

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Getting into the swing of spring cleaning

I started spring cleaning last week. I just couldn't help it -- everything was getting to me. The dirt, the clutter, the grime, the disorganization.

This is, I've discovered, a downside to being a stay-at-home/work-from-home mom -- you see everything that bugs you in your house, all the time. Whether it's big (like the fact that I really, really, really want the main rooms in the house repainted and curtains that aren't falling apart in my living room) or the little things (like realizing holy crap that window is dirty), you see it all day long. Everyday. There's no escaping by going to the office for 40 or 50 hours a week.

So, after awhile, I stop trying to escape it and go on a mad cleaning and organizing frenzy. Well, that is in the 45 minutes a day that the kids give me a little peace and quiet. Sometimes I get the kids to help -- but usually they don't have the attention span to follow through with an entire cleaning or organizing job.

Empty diaper boxes start filling with items to go to Goodwill and buckets of soapy warm water get dragged out of the laundry room and used to wash things that don't get washed often enough (like windows and blinds). I've been doing this now for a little bit every day for a week and it feels really good to get some of it out of my system.

Now I just have to declutter the storage under my stairs and find what used to be my spare bedroom (don't get me started on how much stuff is collecting in there) and buy new curtains (because honestly, I need to just stop complaining and do something about it -- because they ain't going to change themselves). Oh, and hire someone to paint my house -- because I sure as heck can't pull that off in 45 minutes. Anyone know a good house painter?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Now I know my ABCs

About 11 months ago -- soon after it was decided that I would be a stay-at-home mom and hence, had an infinite amount of time to do things with the kids -- I decided to start a letter project with Austin.

I got the idea from several other blogs, most notably from No Time for Flashcards -- although many other mom blogs have similar ideas. The objective - teach Austin his ABCs in such a way that makes learning fun. So we combined his love for doing crafts with his thirst to learn and started the ABC project. Every letter was shaped into something that started with that letter (sometimes I took the idea from a mom blog, other times I came up with an idea on my own) and when we were finished, we wrote a letter word list. Later (often, many days or weeks later) I took that list and created a picture book to help him learn the words and (hopefully) the letter each word started with.

Notice how the first sentence of this post said 11 months ago? Never did I think that this project would take that long to complete. But it did. Because we would often do two or three letters in a short period of time, and then none again for many weeks. This pattern repeated itself for the last almost year.

But it was worth it as now, the entire wall over our craft table is covered with the ABCs. And, more importantly, Austin knows his ABCs and, with a little help from the wall, can write each letter.

I'm not sure which one of us is more proud of this project -- him because he did them all or me because he did them all! I do know we're going to have to find a new project now that this one is done -- at least until Alex is ready to start learning her ABCs. Then I'll take these letters down and we'll start from scratch.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Taking a pass on the next run

Almost as soon as I finished my Zoo Run 10K last October I decided that I wanted to run another 10K. To me, even though I've now done it once, 10K is a big challenge. And to tell the truth, it's a distance I have only completed that one time. In training, both before and since, I have never managed a full 10K.

So, I set my sights on the Sporting Life 10K on May 2, 2010. It runs straight down Yonge St., and I've heard from others that it's a lot of fun -- and a huge crowd. Some 12,000 to 15, 000 people participate -- instead of the 2,000 cap at the Zoo Run.

But then, as you all know, in January, I went and pulled the dumbass move of spraining my ankle. Two weeks on crutches were followed by many more weeks hobbling around. The result? There isn't a chance in hell that I'll be able to run 10K a mere six weeks from now.

I have been out running a few times in the last few weeks. But, not only do I no longer have the endurance to do much more than 5K, I also have to be careful to not cause myself pain. As it is, I'm wearing a brace on my foot when I run. And even with that, I start to get sore around the 4K mark (which is better, I guess, than the first time I went out and had to quit around 2K because of the pain).

So, I'm going to take a pass on the May run and set my sights on the October Zoo Run again. There's always next May.

Although, for practice, I just found a 5K in June that looks like it could be kind of fun.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday -- Green

My, my how life has changed. It doesn't feel all that long ago that I was heading out on St. Pady's Day to find some dyed green beer. Today, I dyed yogurt green.

To me, it didn't quite have the same appeal as green beer -- but since the kids love yogurt, they thought dyed-green yogurt was the funniest (and yummiest) thing they've ever seen. In fact, after I dyed the yogurt, they both insisted that I dye their milk as well. Green beer, green milk...same idea, right?

For today's muffin tin lunch, we have:
green yogurt, peas, cucumber, pickles, zuchinni, green smarties and -- as a little extra, because Austin insisted that because they're green, they had to be included on the plate, pear slices.

I must say, I think this is the most fruit and vegetables Austin has consumed in one sitting. And unlike Alex, he ate everything on his plate. Who knew the kid liked zuchinni? I figured I was going to at least be munching that off his plate when he was done.
But no, he ate it all. And when he finished, he informed me that he ate so many green foods that he was now going to turn green! I'm still waiting for the green effect, but for now, I have two very happy campers.

Check out other muffin tins here.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

So much stuff, and no idea what to do with it all

Years ago, Ryan and I had 'the kid talk'. You know, the how-many-kids-do-you-want-to-have talk. It came down to this: he felt that two kids was a good number, I felt that three kids was a good number. So, we did what any sensible couple would do in that situation -- we decided to have two kids and then figure it out.

Well, we have two kids. I guess that means it's time to make a decision.

We did sort of make a decision about a year ago -- and that was that we weren't ready to make a decision yet. In other words, although I was pregnant with Alex by the time Austin was 17 months old, there was no way in hell we were going to have a third child that quickly. The idea of having a 4-year-old, a 2-year-old and a newborn was, quite frankly, quite terrifying.

And so, since Alex's second birthday is just around the corner, there is no chance of that scenario (even accidentally) coming to fruition.

Yet a decision still hasn't been made. And although I'm not too old for any of this just yet -- I'm not exactly getting any younger either. The longer we wait to make a decision, the older I get.

(Now, for the record, the indecision is in my court at the moment. Since I’m the one who initially wanted three, I need to start the ball rolling again and say, ‘yes, I want another kid, how do you feel about that?’ The problem is, I don’t know if I want three kids anymore. Two is a pretty big handful at the moment.)

But in these days, weeks, months and years of indecision -- my house is quickly filling up with stuff that I don't know what to do with. Kid stuff. Kid clothes that are too small and kid toys that are too babyish. Because unlike some people I know who are absolutely, without a doubt, done after two kids and simply selling and giving away all their stuff -- I don't know if another little one may one day need this stuff.

And so I keep the mountain of stuff and lend it out where it's needed. But rather than being able to let it all go, I ask for it back...just in case.

Sooner or later, a decision is going to have to be made. Not because I'm getting older. Not because if we have three kids it would be nice to keep the baby years somewhat close together. But because I'm running out of space to put all this unused baby stuff.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday -- Yellow

Today's Muffin Tin Monday theme was the colour yellow. I considered skipping muffin tins because of this since, instead of going to the grocery store this morning (where we could've picked up some yellow foods) we played outside in the absolutely gorgeous March weather.

So a yellow muffin tin, knowing that I didn't have any bananas or yellow peppers in the house (the two yellow items Austin thought of when we talked about it on the weekend) was going to be a challenge. And eggs are out of the question, because Austin doesn't like them and Alex will only eat them if she's mooching what I'm eating.

But the kids were all excited to do a muffin tin today, so I couldn't say no. And, I even surprised myself at how well we did filling up a yellow tin without having to break out the food colouring.

We have leftover chocolate chip pancakes (I know, a little more golden brown than yellow, but work with me here) which the kids surprisingly didn't realize were missing syrup, corn, shredded mozzarella cheese, yellow Smarties, pineapple pieces and Swiss Cheese crackers.

I've learned two interesting lessons since I started doing muffin tin lunches on a regular basis.

1) The kids absolutely love the idea. Who knew that putting plain old food in a muffin tin instead of on a plate could be so exciting?

2) Both kids, but especially Austin, is more willing to eat something simply because it's in a muffin tin. Case and point, that Swiss Cheese cracker in today's tin. When I pulled the box out of the cupboard, Austin said to me -- "I don't like those, so only give me one and then I'll eat it quick." If I tried to put one of those crackers on a plate with some cheese for him, he would loudly complain that he didn't like them. The irony here is, not only did he eat the cracker 'quickly' he then informed me that he likes them now and wanted more.

Maybe I should try to put eggs in their muffin tins afterall.

Check out other muffin tin lunches:

Muffin Tin Monday at Her Cup Overfloweth

Monday, March 01, 2010

Another year, another birthday cake creation

It was no Mickey Mouse cake like last year, but I think it was still a pretty cool creation.

For Austin's birthday party this year, I baked ice cream cone cupcakes -- that is cupcakes in ice cream cones.

The idea came from a cake recipe I came across -- although I ended up just taking the idea and using a cake mix. And a good thing I did, because I had to make them twice. Because I discovered that unlike regular cupcakes, which just rise and rise and rise when you bake them -- these rose until they overflowed and spilled down the side of the cones. So batch number one sort of, um, exploded in the oven. (I wish I'd thought to take a picture of the mutant ones.)

So, it was off to the grocery store for another cake mix, more cones and trial number two.

This time, I was smarter -- I baked just three cupcake cones, filled to three different heights to test how much (or how little) I needed to fill each one before they exploded. Turns out you don't need to fill them that much at all. Who knew?

So test run done, I baked up the rest and whipped up some chocolate and buttercream icing (for chocolate and vanilla ice cream, of course). I then used the biggest piping tip in the set I bought earlier in the week (yup, I actually bought a piping set) to pipe in the icing to look like ice cream.

I think they turned out pretty cool. And, aside from the exploded first batch, they weren't that hard to make.

And they were a hit with the critics.

Although not surprisingly, I was left with only vanilla ones...the chocolate ones were gobbled up.