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.