Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 was the year

As 2012 draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on the year that was. Almost more so than usual. And since I was terrible at blogging consistently this year, here is my 2012, in a nutshell.

2012 was a year for physical accomplishments
In October, I ran my first half marathon which was a goal I had set for myself way back at the beginning of the year. Austin and Ryan completed their first triathlons and Austin and Alex both completed their first duathlons. In other words, we certainly became a very physically active family this year.

2012 was the year for personal accomplishments
This year, I took my little part-time business and turned it into a full-time, successful business venture. Now, that's not to say that I wasn't successful as a part-timer because in my eyes I was. Let's face it, in 2010 and 2011, I made a respectable salary (the amount that would've been leftover from my old job after taxes and daycare) all without having any kind of regular childcare. In hindsight, I look back and realize why I was so tired all the time! But this year, I'm patting myself on the back again. The kids started school in September and I successfully transitioned from part-time to full-time. Actually, the transition started before September, but I finally started having full-time daytime hours to work starting September. And as such, compared to last year, my income grew by over 50%. In fact, my income was greater than it was in the first few years I worked as a reporter. So in all, a good year and I'm excited as to what 2013 will bring.

2012 was the year for loss and sadness
In February, we lost Ryan's grandmother Nana. Now, she wasn't my grandmother, but for the last 15 years, Nana treated me as if she was. I was a granddaughter to her just as much as her other grandchildren. And she had many grandchildren -- and a handful of great-grandchildren.

Just six weeks later, we lost my aunt Joan. Now, technically she was my great-aunt Joan. She was my grandmother's sister yet she always treated me like one of her grandchildren and she was like another grandmother to me.

So in a way, I lost two grandmothers this year, and I miss them both terribly.

2012 was the year for a reality check
In June, my mom was hospitalized for bleeding on the brain. Doctors don't know exactly how it happened (she did not have a stroke) but the most likely reason is that she bumped her head and didn't remember. She spent five days in hospital and several weeks after recovering. She was otherwise very healthy and this scared all of us. She is fine now and was given a clean bill of health by the end of July.

In October, my dad had a heart attack. He too was otherwise very healthy and this seemingly came out of the blue. He spent four days in the hospital and is still recovering.

These two health scares brought to stark reality that, no matter how youthful my parents act, they are getting older.

2012 was the year for big changes
In September, life changed in a very big way as both Austin and Alex started full-time school. This was (obviously) a big change for both of them, but it was also a big change for me. I have been home with children full-time since Alex was born in 2008 -- suddenly not being a full-time stay-at-home mom was a scary, unknown thought. About as scary a thought as it was to make the decision to leave my job in 2009 and become a stay-at-home mom. The only difference was that this time I had no control over the decision. The kids were growing up and going to school whether I wanted them to or not.

Four months later, I'm happy to report that we've all weathered the big change well.

So that for me was 2012 in a nutshell. I'm excited for what 2013 will bring!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

From my house to yours, wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy (and healthy -- since two out of four of us are sick right now) New Year 2013!

Monday, December 24, 2012

The craziness that is Christmas

1) Christmas this year will span four days, with four celebrations in four houses in three cities. Now, to be fair, that includes Christmas morning at my house. But here's my schedule for the next few days. Christmas morning: my house. Christmas dinner: my parents house in Brampton. Boxing Day: my mother-in-law's house in London. 27th: my father-in-law's house in London. 28th: Come home and pass out.

2) We will travel 516 kilometres between Christmas Day and December 28th.

3) Christmas celebrations in three houses means three Christmas dinners. Three days in a row.

4) With all the craziness to come, my favourite thing to do on Christmas Eve is to be alone with my family, tuck the kids into bed and watch Miracle on 34th Street with Ryan. The original 1940s version of the movie, not the remake from about 10 years ago.

5) I like to watch the movie with a glass of Bailey's on ice. And then maybe another.

6) Before tucking the kids into bed, we'll likely watch a favourite kids Christmas movie over dinner. We've already watched our faves -- Muppets Family Christmas and Rudolph, so maybe tonight it'll be Frosty the Snowman.

7) Christmas is a crazy whirlwind time but I love it and wouldn't have it any other way. Although maybe one year I'll have it at my house again so that I won't have to travel.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Goodbye to my first car

Today I say goodbye to my very first car -- a 2000 Honda Civic that I bought in November 1999. At that time, 13 years ago, I had just taken my first job out of university at the Peterborough Examiner and, as a requirement of the job, I needed my own vehicle. 

And although I ended up only staying at the job for six months (yes, I hated it that much), I managed to put 30,000 kilometres on my little car in its first year. It was pretty easy to do considering I drove it every day on assignment and my then-boyfriend (now-husband) lived an hour and a half away (and didn't have a car). So needless to say, I spent a lot of my days off driving back and forth to Toronto.

I was super excited to get my car back in 1999 -- and my dad snapped this picture of me on the day I picked it up at my parents house (my dad actually picked it up at the dealership for me and brought it back to their house for me to collect).

Look how young I look with my shiny new car!

Over the years, my little Honda Civic has been a damn good car. It took us on trips to Montreal and New York City; it took us to visit family and it took us to the hospital when I was in labour. It's what we drove Austin home from the hospital in. 

But in the last few years, it most definitely entered its senior years. Some of the widows started sticking, the doors squeaked when opened, and the locks only worked when they wanted to. But hey, we figured, who needs locks -- because who's going to want to steal an old car like this!

And, to be perfectly honest, I haven't even driven it much in the last five years. Ryan had the 'joy' of seeing that car through to its retirement as I drove the kids around in our newer SUV. He got to experience all of its aches and aging pains.

But I still loved that car. And on the days I did drive it, it was still a good car to drive (Although a pain to cart kids around in because the power locks didn't work anymore).

This afternoon, I will drive it once last time to the dealership where I will sign it over in exchange for the keys of a brand new 2013 Hyundai Elantra hatchback. It too is a cute little car, and although technically it'll be in my name, it'll be Ryan's car -- he deserves to drive a new car after putting up with my little car for all these years. I almost feel like the dealership is getting the short-end of the deal by giving us $500 for it.

And so, just for the sake of bookending -- since my dad snapped a picture of me with my car on the day I got it, Austin snapped a picture of me with it on the day I give it away. Really, from a purely 2D point of view, the only thing that looks likes it's aged in the last 13 years is me!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Running log: counting kilometres

If you've been following my blog this year, you know that my big personal accomplishment was running my first half marathon in October. Running the 21.1-kilometre distance was something I’d been thinking about doing for a while. But I actually committed to that thought around this time last year.

As such, right from the beginning of January, every run I went on was with that goal in mind. And, just for the fun of it, I kept a log of every kilometre I ran.

As 2012 draws to a close, I added up all those kilometres and discovered that I ran 732 kilometres this year. That’s 732 kilometres covered simply by lacing up my running shoes and putting one foot in front of the other day after day.

And because I like to put things in perspective to truly understand it, I wondered how far that really was. And so, here are a few interesting stats (with the help of Google Maps).

From my house in Toronto, it’s:

  • 529 kilometres to the house I grew up in Montreal
  • 277 kilometres to the cottage we vacation at every summer in Sundridge
  • 320 kilometres to where my sister-in-law lives in Brockville
  • 371 kilometres to where my other sister-in-law lives in Windsor
The kids complain about being in the car for too long when we drive to any of those destinations and yet, those places are only half (or less) to three-quarters of the way there.

So where would I have to go to travel 732 kilometres, I wondered? Here are a few other interesting stats (again with the help of Google maps).

From my house in Toronto, it’s:

  • 819 kilometres to Philadelphia
  • 807 kilometres to New York City
  • 798 kilometres to Cincinnati
  • 706 kilometres to Columbus, Ohio
  • 689 kilometres to Sault Ste. Marie

For me, someone who only started running four years ago and who never accomplished a race of such distance before, 732 kilometres is a fantastic distance to have covered. I can only imagine what my grand total will be if I ever decide to train for a marathon.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A really great run

Last Sunday, I decided to go for run. Now that I'm not training for a race (which is something I've been doing basically since January), I haven't been out running as much as I'd like. Suddenly, there doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day to fit in a run three times a week. Although, this tends to happy to me by every November -- it gets dark so early and it's hard to motivate myself to go running when it's dark and cold out.

So anyway, Sunday afternoon was a beautiful day, so I decided to go for a run. But as I was getting ready, Austin declared that he wanted to go running too. He's mentioned this from time to time, but I've always said 'not right now' because I was training and needed to focus on covering long distances. But this time, I figured what the heck.

And so, we went for a run together. I didn't time us (although I wish I had now) and I don't know how fast we were running (a little slower than my average pace, I think) but I do know that by the time we were done, we had covered 2.5 kilometres. My six-year-old ran 2.5 kilometres with me!

As we were running, he was asking me all kinds of question: 'mommy do you get tired when you run?', 'mommy do you stretch like this?' etc., etc. He wanted to do everything the way I normally do it. He wanted to do it all with me.

And then he declared that he wanted to run a race with me. I can't even begin to tell you how proud I felt when he said he wanted to run a race with me.

So come the spring, we're going to train together and in 2013, Austin and I are going to run a 5K together.

How cool is that?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

I had a little fun with dinner last night.

For the main course, we had Jack o' Lantern brains and blood

And for dessert we had bats

The kids enjoyed the surprise -- and Austin showed us how bats are supposed to sit before promptly biting its head off.
Now, before you accuse me of going all Martha Stewart on you -- let me assure you that although I'm creative enough to craft these dinner items -- I'm not creative enough to come up with the ideas on my own. The main course idea came to me via a simple Google search for Halloween fun food and the cupcakes decor was in this month's Today's Parent.

It was fun -- I even created a Halloween dinner music soundtrack to go with it! Monster Mash anyone?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I did it! I ran a Half Marathon!

Those three simple words say it all. Nine months ago, I set my mind to running a half marathon and on Sunday, October 14, I ran a friggin’ Half Marathon in 2 hours and 31 minutes.

So, here's the good, the bad and the finish of my Half Marathon journey.

So, the day starts with a bad. As Ryan and I drove downtown at 7:30, it was pouring. As we walked from where we parked the car to the starting line, it was pouring. As I huddled under a garbage bag (because they're disposable, and perfect for keeping dry before a race) feeling nervous about what was about to start, it was pouring.

And then, miraculously, less than 5 minutes before starting time, the pouring turned to a drizzle and about 5 minutes after starting time, the drizzle stopped. And it never rained another drop again.

Now, on to the good. Well, as I just mentioned, it stopped raining right after the run began. The first 5 kilometres were hard. And I know it's because I was nervous. I still had my brain wrapped around the 'Holy crap, I'm actually doing this' thought and all that negative energy in my head was making my legs feel tight and tired. Ryan yelling at me that I could do this at the 1K marker didn't help me feel better. 

But as I got close to the 5K marker -- having already run around Queen's Park, across Wellesley to Church and across Bloor to Bathurst, I started to feel better. Ryan was there yelling words of encouragement at me again, I was feeling the running rhythm and feeling confident.
Out on Lakeshore (I think)

Before I go on past 5K, did I mention that Ryan – the most amazing husband in the world – stalked me by bike for the entire 21.1 kilometres. Sometimes he'd stay nearby for short spurts; other times I wouldn't see him for kilometres as he biked ahead to catch me at a later point. (And apparently, I ran by him once while he was on a Starbucks run).

So Ryan was there at 5K when I was starting to feel good. And he was there just before 10K when I was still feeling great. And I hit the 10K checkpoint at 1:09:27, which (if this had been a 10K race) was a personal best time for me. At the time, I didn’t realize that – I was just thrilled that I was still on pace while still feeling good.

It was just past this point, as I turned out onto the long, lonely stretch of the there and back on Lakeshore that a random spectator holding a sign caught my eye. This is the most amazing thing about doing a city race (vs the Zoo races I've done). Some people come out to support their friends or family and hold signs for those people, and other people just come out to cheer or make generic cheering signs. Sometimes they're witty (one person on Bathurst was holding a sign that said "You're still going faster than the King Streetcar), sometimes they're inspirational. And at the not quite halfway point of my half marathon, inspirational was wonderful. 

This person was holding a sign that said "One day you will not be able to do this. Today is not that day."

It may sound cheesy, but I held on to those words, and several kilometres down the road – as I was getting close enough to the finish to feel it, but not close enough – I found myself repeating those words over and over. Because at that point, it was taking everything I had to get there. 

But back to the 10K marker. Once you pass that, the run takes you down a long lonely stretch of Lakeshore – from Bathurst to Parkside and back to Bay Street. And Ryan was there all the way. Until about 16K or so, I'd smile or wave at him as he yelled at me. At one point, I even took my headphones out and talked to him for a few seconds as I ran. 

In case you can't find me, I'm the one with the blue shirt and pink hat in the middle.
At another point, two girls running near me commented that I appeared to have a stalker. He was always there, yelling encouragement at me and keeping me going. I can't thank him enough for motivating me like he did.

Because by 18K, I was struggling. I stopped to walk for a minute, choked down another gel pack and hoped that that would give me the strength to soldier on. But my body wanted to quit and I resorted to playing mind games with myself – willing my body to feel as relaxed as it does at the beginning of a 3K run.

Between that, and telling myself that today I could do this, somehow, my aching legs kept moving forward. 

Turning up Bay Street (from Lakeshore) towards the finish there’s a tunnel. It was dark in there – in fact it almost felt too dark. And then suddenly, you’re on the other side and people are lined up along both sides of the street cheering as you run your final 1K. People were yelling and music was blaring. One person was holding a sign that said "Holy crap, you just ran a friggin' Half Marathon!'. 

It was exciting and suddenly I found the strength I'd been having trouble finding for the last few kilometres. As I got closer to the finish line, the crowds increased, as did the noise. And yet I still heard Ryan's voice yelling at me from the crowd. Austin and Alex were yelling at me from somewhere along the last 400 metres. They saw me. I didn't see them. I will never tell them that.

I was so focused on getting there that I barely remember those last 400 metres. I just know that I finished it.
My cheering squad made signs for me (Alex's is a picture of me running with headphones on and Austin's is me crossing the finish line)
Back in January, I decided to target a 21/2 hour finish time. A month ago, after repeated slow long, runs; I acknowledged to myself that I wouldn't be able to finish in that time and decided I would be happy with a 2:45 finish.

Sunday’s finishing time: 2:31:45.

Holy crap. I really did it. I ran a friggin' Half Marathon. 

(As a side note: Sunday's great feat was to run a Half Marathon; Monday's great feat on the other hand was managing to climb a flight of stairs.)

Friday, October 12, 2012

I know I can, I know I can, I know I can...

Since racing day is practically here, I thought I’d share some wise words I recently came across after a particularly difficult training run. They come to me from a marathon runner’s blog that I follow.

It’s very hard to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the real competition is against the voice inside you that wants to quit.
 - George Sheehan 

Wish me luck! Once I recover, I’ll report back next week.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Pour your heart out: Feeling lonely all by myself

So, it's been a month now since the kids both started full day school and it's been an adjustment for me. To be perfectly honest, I was not one of those moms jumping for joy when summer vacation ended and I was left with a quiet house while the kids were at school.

Instead, I cried.

I've been home for four and a half years -- I've had children around almost non-stop for four and a half years. It used to be that I rejoiced in the two hours I'd get to myself when Austin was in half-day Kindergarten and Alex was in her preschool program. It used to be an incredible freedom when someone would babysit for an afternoon so that I could work in peace, or go to an appointment. 

Now, I can do whatever I want, whenever I want and yet, I don't always want to. Instead of rejoicing in the peace in quiet, it's just kind of lonely.

It doesn't help that work, which was incredibly (or insanely might be a better word) busy for much of the summer, suddenly slowed to what felt like a halt as soon as September started. Although I did the math – and I actually put in more or less the same number of hours into work in September that I did in August. It’s just in September, I had 6 hours a day, every day to do it in. And in August, I had 0 hours a day, every day to do it in (well that’s not entirely true – every morning the kids watched TV for an hour and a half so I could work and then I worked every single night). So I guess, I’m working just as much as I was, but I have so much more free time.

Some days are better than others. I’m trying to get into a routine of going out to a coffee shop several mornings a week with my laptop to work. I find, when I only have a small amount of things to do, I’m far more productive if I get out of the house and sit myself somewhere where I’m forced to do it. And the hustle and bustle around me is actually soothing.

I’m also trying to make lunch or coffee plans with friends several times a week to fill my hours. Other days, I've taken an hour and a half and gone for a run. But it’s hard to get over the guilt of allowing myself to have me time. Again, I guess I've spent so many years without having any that having some just doesn't ‘feel’ right.

As I said, some days are better than others. Some days are incredibly productive – whether it be with work or with getting stuff done around the house, or both. Or simply a lot of fun – having a kid-free lunch with a friend or shopping for new clothes for me (because seriously, how often do I get to do that!?). Other days, I feel a little lost and don’t quite know what to do with myself. And I end up puttering the day away and feeling worse for it afterwards.

I’m sure 9 months from now – when summer vacation starts – I’ll be scrambling, trying to figure out how to manage my work day with the kids around. But today, I just miss them.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Kick-in-the-ass motivation

I'm not sure where this came from, but it sums up how I feel today. 18 days and counting until my half marathon. I love running, but I'm looking forward to 19 days from now when I can answer no to the question and decide that that's ok.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Our summer bucket list

The kids and I definitely had a busy (as you can see) but fun summer together.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

T minus five weeks until my half-marathon

A few weeks ago, when I was visiting with my American cousin and his wife, our conversation veered towards running. She is a half-marathoner – having run three races over the last several years. When I expressed some fears over the distance, she scoffed at me and said ‘Run it in miles, it’s sooooo much shorter!’.

Of course, in reality, it’s not. 21 KILOMETRES is a half-marathon, which means 13 MILES is a half-marathon. It’s the same distance, you just don’t have to count as high.

But what she was likely getting at with me is distance is mind over matter. And as I approach the long distances in my training runs, I really understand the concept of mind over matter.

I’m less than five weeks away from my date with 21 kilometres and although I’m nervous, I know I can do it. In my training, I’m currently up to 19 kilometres. And honestly, once you’ve run that far, what’s two more?

The challenge is when I actually stop and think about how far 19 kilometres is. At that distance, when I head out for a Sunday morning run, I could technically run all the way from my house, to my friend’s house in The Beach and almost all the way home. That’s when I get nervous. When I put a perspective on just how far I need to run.

So, mind over matter – I have five weeks left to train. That’s five weeks to build up two more kilometres. That’s five weeks to work on increasing my speed. That’s five weeks of running three times a week (but not for 19 kilometres each time).  That’s five weeks of having lots of time to myself to think.

That’s five weeks until this crazy idea of running a half marathon becomes reality.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Making it through the first few days of Kindergarten

Yesterday (Thursday) was Alex's first day of Junior Kindergarten. I blogged about that a few days ago and about how I wasn't ready for this. So here's what our last two days of been like.

Alex is super-excited to go off to school. Daddy stays home for the morning so that we can all take her to her first day of school. First, we drop Austin off at his school and then the three of us drive over to Alex's school.

At first she's doing ok in the schoolyard, but I think the mass chaos and sheer number of people started to intimidate her (Did I mention that there are 90+ students in Kindergarten at her school this year? Oh and did I mention that there is only three classes? You do the math on class size.) By the time it was time to go in she was hanging back and clinging to me.

Since it was her first day, we were allowed to go in with her and help her find her cubby. We did. We hung up her backpack and then she started crying and clinging to my neck. It took everything I had to not start crying myself.

After a few minutes of this, her teacher (who I know already and is wonderful) came over, took her by the hand and led her into the class. She was fine. I walked out of the school and was not.

I picked her up for lunch to give her a break on her first day and she was hesitant to go back after lunch but did so without tears. At the end of the day, her teacher said she had a good day.

The first words out of Alex's mouth when she woke up this morning were 'I don't want to go to school today'. Uh oh, bad sign.

So, being a good mom, I pumped up how much fun she was going to have. She reluctantly agreed to go and off we went -- first to Austin's school and then to hers.

As we arrived at her school, I reminded her that she now had to go in by herself -- it wasn't the first day so I couldn't go in with her. As soon as we got to the Kindergarten doors, the clinginess started. The mass chaos of parents and students intimidated her and by the time it was time to go in she was in tears, even though a little girl she knows offered to hold her hand as they walked in

I had to go into the lobby area with her (only because we were blocking the doorway) and she cried and cried and cried. She refused to walk through the second set of doors. She cried harder and clung longer than she had the first day. I kept telling her I couldn't go in and that she could do this, I knew she could. She kept crying. And then she broke my heart by saying to me 'mommy I'm trying to be brave but I just can't do it'.

After about five minutes, her teacher came and found her and took her by the hand. She reluctantly went over to her classroom. And I made a quick exit and was given hugs by two moms I know who waited for me and watched the ordeal.

I'm sure when I pick her up today, I'll be told she had a good day. She always gets anxiety when she has to walk into something new but gets better once she's there. And sometimes something is new many times before it's familiar. Which means on Monday, we'll likely be back at square one.

And so, it may be awhile still until she can work up the courage to be brave enough to walk through those doors by herself. And until then, I have to be brave enough to encourage her to keep going.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

How does your garden grow?

Well, another vegetable garden growing season is slowly coming to an end. I say slowly because it's still so hot out that my tomatoes don't seem to know that they're supposed to be calling it quits soon.

So, how did my garden do this year? Well, first of all I can say that although at the beginning of the season, it appeared as if I was going to grow another jungle, the fact that all my cucumber plants and my zucchini plant died off early meant the jungle was kept at bay.

Yup, unfortunately, I lost my four cucumber plants first, followed soon thereafter by my zucchini plant. In each case, a plant would look healthy in the morning and would be completely dead by night. I assume that they attracted some sort of pest and not as a result of poor planting or lack of watering because they were planted right next to my tomatoes. And I have more tomatoes than I know what to do with.

Anyway, as for the dead plants, four cucumber plants only produced 2 cukes before dying. The zucchini plant produced 3 before keeling over. In other words, to make salsa I had to buy zucchini and I still haven't made relish because I haven't gotten around to buying cucumbers.

On to the tomatoes. As I said, I have more tomatoes than I know what to do with. I planted 5 large tomato plants and 2 grape tomato plants. To date, I've made a batch of tomato sauce and a batch of salsa and I have enough tomatoes chopped up and in the freezer to make another batch of salsa. And they keep growing. We eat tomatoes with lunch and we eat tomatoes with dinner. And they keep growing. Pretty soon my neighbours are going to be getting tomatoes left on their doorstep.

But the funniest part of all is that not only are they growing, but they're reproducing. When we returned home from the cottage 4 weeks ago, a small tomato plant had sprouted between the patio stones, next to the barbecue about 20 feet away from the nearest tomato plant. Rather than pulling it out, I left it as I was curious to see if it would actually produce tomatoes.

It has (notice how I had to tie it to the downspout on the side of the house because I couldn't exactly drive a stake through the patio stones). It appears to be grape tomatoes.
The newest vegetable we planted this year was lettuce -- and that was the best thing I've ever done. For the entire month of June and some of July, whenever we wanted a salad, we would simply walk into the backyard, pick a few leaves and walk back in. It was fantastic and I'll definitely plant it again.

Now you may be wondering how did I fit all of that (oh yeah, and a raspberry bush, a jalapeno plant and a strawberry plant that only produces enough strawberries for the squirrels to eat) fit in my little garden. Well, it didn't, I cut out a section of grass on the other side of the yard where I planted the lettuce, the strawberries, the jalapeno and one tomato plant.

It was that one tomato plant that did way better than any other plant. It produces monster-sized tomatoes (seriously, one of them weighed 1.2 pounds!) and is still producing.

So, that, in a nutshell was this year's garden. Anyone want a tomato or five?

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

I'm so not ready for this

My youngest starts Kindergarten tomorrow morning. I should be excited for her -- I was for my oldest when he started two years ago. (Even though, yes, I did cry a little after he walked through the doors for the first time without looking back). And I am, I'm excited that she's stepping out into the great big world. But I'm so not ready for this.

Not only is she four years old and heading off to Junior Kindergarten, but she's four years old and heading off to the new all-day Kindergarten program. So unlike when Austin was in Kindergarten just for a few hours a day (and spent the afternoons with me), as of tomorrow she'll be in school from 8:30 until 3.

Now, part of me is doing the little happy dance. That part of me is saying 'Finally, after four and a half years of towing children pretty much wherever I go, I can breathe just a little bit. I can have just a little bit of me time. (I can work during daylight hours!)"

The other part of me is screaming 'how can she be old enough to be in school for more than 6 hours a day?! I'll be honest, part of the screaming me is my own resistance to change -- Austin didn't go to all day school until Grade 1 (which started yesterday), so why should Alex have to? But that's the part of me who also chose to stay home with my kids full-time for the last four years and therefore doesn't want to have to part with them. I may be proud of both of them and how well they're growing up, but that doesn't mean that I'm not sad to see them go.

You see, the part of me that's doing the happy dance is looking forward to a little peace and quiet. But the other part of me is asking 'but who is going to eat lunch with me every day?'.


Friday, July 27, 2012

A big change to life as I know it

My life will be changing soon. And as much as I’m excited about what this big change will bring, I’m also a little sad.
The big change is that in five more weeks, both of my kids will be in full-time school. It’s a milestone event for them, and for me. Because for me, I made a conscious decision to leave a full-time job to stay home with my two kids. At the time of that decision, they were 3 and 1. Now they’re 6 and 4 — no longer babies. I can hardly believe it’s been more than three years since I left my full-time job — time certainly flies by when you have children.
So, on the positive side of this big life change, here are a few things I’m looking forward to:
  • Being able to work during regular business hours. Let’s face it, I’ve been working in this business on a part-time basis for three years now. And for three years, I’ve worked during nap time, half-day school time, and in the wee hours of the morning time. To me, it almost feels like a foreign concept to be able to work between the hours of 9 and 3.
  • Meeting friends and clients for lunch. Again, let’s be honest here. I haven’t ‘done’ lunch in over three years — unless you count ‘doing’ lunch at McDonald’s PlayPlace.
  • Arranging a meeting or coffee with a client without having to arrange for childcare. This one has been one of my biggest challenges in the last few years — in fact, there has been more than one occasion where I’ve brought my kids with me to meet with an understanding client or I’ve met with clients around my kitchen table while my kids watched a movie in the other room simply because I couldn’t find childcare.
  • Going to personal appointments, running errands and doing the groceries without an entourage. Because seriously, can I tell you how many times I’ve had to bring the kids to the dentist with me? (And here’s where I say ‘thank you iPad, for entertaining my children while I get my teeth cleaned’.)
But, I’ll be honest, the nostalgic side of me is dreading this big life change. But that dread goes along the same lines as lamenting the fact that my babies are growing up. What I’ll miss most is simply being with my kids all day/half days. Over the last three years, some days may have been long – so long that I contemplated putting the kids on the front porch with ‘for sale’ signs around their necks — but the weeks and years have flown by.
I’m going to miss them when they go to school. But I know I’ll quickly fall into a new rhythm of working during the day and spending some quality after-school time with them. And, in a blink of the eye, it’ll be next June and my head will be screaming ‘what do you mean, the kids will be home every day, all day for 9 weeks!’.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The summer bucket list

Yes, I'll admit it. I've been a little MIA this month. July just seems to be flying by and I'm doing everything in my power to make the most of this summer with the kids.

It's been challenging, I'll admit. Not the having fun part, but the managing to get my work done at the same time as having fun -- that's the challenging part. 

You see, back in April, I accepted a large project -- one that was so large that it was going to take me about 20 hours a week. So, I hired childcare to come in three days a week over the summer. I was a little sad about this, because it meant losing time with my kids in my last summer before full-day school, but I was excited by the prospect of working more.

Then, in mid-June, that project fell through. I was pretty upset and annoyed, but worst of all, I had to lay off the girl I had hired just two weeks before she was supposed to start. I felt terrible leaving her without a job just as summer was starting. But I couldn't justify paying her if I wasn't getting paid.

And so, the first week of summer was relatively slow for me -- work wise -- so the kids and I were busy, busy, busy. And then, the last two weeks, work picked up. Suddenly old clients were coming out of the woodwork and I was hooked up with not one, not two, but three new clients in a matter of days. And they all had jobs for me to do.

So although it was unfortunate that the big job fell through, in a way it was fortunate, because it meant that I could take on all this new work.

Except, I haven't had childcare. 

Thankfully for me, the girl I had hired and then laid off has still been free, so she's been coming in once a week so that I can work during the day. (But she does have a job starting August.) And last week and this week has been camp time for the kids (full day for Austin, half day for Alex).

But enough rambling about work, what I wanted to ramble about is the summer. We have been having a great time making our way through out bucket list. You see, during the last week of school, the three of us sat down and brainstormed ideas of things we wanted to do this summer and places we wanted to go. The only restriction on creativity that I had was that every idea had to be within the GTA (in other words, they weren't allowed to suggest trips to Niagara Falls) and Wonderland was not an option since we'd already been there in June.

The picture can be hard to see, but here's the list we came up with:

And we've been steadily checking things off every week. So far we went downtown to have lunch with Auntie Suzie (by bus and subway on a 36C day no less), we've been to the pool a few times, we've played with friends and been to the Science Centre, the park and more.

It's no wonder I haven't had time to blog this summer. I've either been at play during the day or 'at work' during the evening. 

In September my days will be childless. Something I'm looking forward to and dreading at the same time. Hey, what can I say, I've been a stay-at-home mom for over four years now -- it's going to be a big change.

But to avoid getting anxious by the dread of this big change, I'm choosing to enjoy as many minutes as I can. So don't be surprised if you don't hear much from me.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Fun Summertime activity: Water balloons angry birds

I'm not usually one to create activities and then write about it. But I do read many blogs with creative craft ideas and games. This craft/game was just so much fun, I decided I had to share and give you all the play-by-play. 

Austin loves Angry Birds so thanks to No Time for Flash Cards, we created our own outdoor Angry Birds game. 

First: I filled a bucket full of balloons -- adding angry faces and all. 

 Step 2: Draw pigs on the driveway.

Step 3: Take aim
Step 4: Bombs away!

The kids had a blast and it was a great way to get rid of the afternoon crankies. And surprisingly, it never occurred to either of them to toss water balloons at each other.

Monday, June 25, 2012

'We're doing something important'

This is a picture of our dress-up box in the basement:
It's solid wood and filled to the brim with dress-up costumes (mainly princess costumes for our little princess).

Here is the exchange Ryan had with the kids earlier this evening (now I wasn't there, but according to him, this is how the story goes):

Ryan, looking for the kids after telling them to go get ready for bed and then finding them in the basement.
Ryan: What are you doing?
Kids (I don't know who answered): Something really important.
Ryan: What?
Kids: Nothing.
Ryan: What were you doing?
Kids: Ummm....letting Moo out of the dress-up box
Ryan (Trying really hard not to laugh): Why was she in there?
Kids: Because we put her there.
Ryan: When?
Kids: After Alex had her dinner (before she went out with Ryan for her soccer game)

In other words, about two and a half hours earlier!

Yes, that's right folks. My kids, who love playing with their new kitten, thought it would be fun(?) to put her in the dress up box and then close the lid. Oh yeah, and then wander off and to do something else (like go play soccer) and FORGET ABOUT HER!

Thankfully she didn't seem to be worse for wear once released.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: It's a good thing canning season is upon us...

...because my supply is looking a little bare. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

At school pick up a few Fridays ago, as us stay-at-home mom's wished each other a good weekend upon saying goodbye, one of the mom's grumbled, "I hate weekends, it means I have one more person to look after."

I didn't know how to react to that, so I didn't say anything. But I assumed she was referring to her husband.

Now, maybe she was having a bad day. Maybe she had just had a fight with her husband. Maybe she was just in a bad mood. But it got me thinking.

I love the weekend -- because it means we can all be together. It means that the kids can have their daddy around for more than a couple of hours before bed.

Hanging out with mom all day is great (well, at least I think they think it is) but daddy, is well, daddy. Mommy is the one you cling to when you're scared, hurt or sad. Mommy is the one who kisses the boo-boos, tells you it's alright and is generally an all-around sucker. Daddy is the one who plays like you're never going to get hurt (and you usually don't), encourages you that you can go farther, faster and harder (and you usually can) and is generally an all-around fun person to be with.

So, this post is for the best husband -- who loves me for all my flaws and imperfections. And the best father -- our kids are so lucky to have a wonderful daddy like you.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A hazard of working for yourself

So, I blew up my computer a few weeks ago. Not literally of course, but it felt like it at the time.
It was a Monday morning and I was working away -- trying to finish up some writing before an afternoon meeting. And suddenly my computer took on a life of its own. And before I knew what was happening, an official looking Windows window popped up, told me to scan the computer and simply started 'scanning' my computer without the 'ok' click of my mouse.
Yup, I had a virus. And within minutes it wiped out everything. Files, photos, music, software -- it was all gone.
In a state of shock and disbelief, I packed up and went to my meeting. And when I returned I took my laptop over to Staples, practically pleading with the tech guys there to fix it. And while they did, I moved my work life over to my kids' desktop computer in the family room. Not an ideal situation but what else can you do?
A few days and a few hundred dollars later, the virus was cleaned off, my files were rescued and everything was loaded back on. Unfortunately, now I'm having some hardware problems with it -- I don't know if it's related or not, but it's definitely annoying and definitely something I'm going to need to get fixed. And fast.
I have learned to no longer store my files on my computer. Even though I used to periodically remember to back them up to an external hard drive -- why take the risk? Everything I need is now on a cloud drive. 
This experience has taught me yet another valuable lesson about the perils of working for yourself -- you have to be your own IT department. And since I know nothing about IT, it's definitely a peril.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day Run

Instead of a relaxing, sleep-in kind of morning, for Mother's Day, I dragged my family out to Yonge and Eglinton for 7:45 a.m. so that I could run a 10K -- my fifth in two and a half years.

It was an awesome race and I felt great from beginning to end and, being Mother's Day, my cheering squad came out in style -- making this mom feel very special.

They greeted me just 500 metres or so after the start line and then hopped in the car and met me 500 metres or so before the finish line, which I got to in 1:09:47 by the way, only 8 seconds slower than my personal best time. Maybe I wouldn't have been 8 seconds off if I hadn't slowed down to blow them both a kiss at the beginning. Ah hell, it was worth it!

Thanks Ryan, for standing on the side of the road with the kids, to once again watch thousands of people run by just to catch a glimpse of me for 10 seconds. You three made this mom feel very special on Mother's Day.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Monday, April 23, 2012

A bittersweet end to this chapter

It's hard to believe but I've been at home full-time for four years now (April 4 was my 'anniversary') and for three of those years, I've been working for myself.

As most of you know, I started working for myself because I wanted to stay home with the kids and because 'hey,  I can write so maybe I can pick up some work'. Honestly, other than wanting to be a stay-at-home mom, there wasn't much planning put into this career change.

And so, over the last three years, I've slowly built up a part-time business while being a stay-at-home mom -- something that has been, at times, quite a challenging balancing act.

And over the last year I have put more thought into 'the future' of my business. I've decided to try to make a (mostly) full-time go at it. I say mostly because, starting September, the kids will both be in full-time school but I intend to pick them up at 3ish instead of putting them in after-school care -- so that means I'll have, at most, a 6-hour work day.

But deciding to make a-go of it and actually doing it are two different things. And then suddenly, a whole lot of work fell onto my lap. And then a whole lot more. And then even more. And now, starting next month, I find myself in position of having about 25 hours a week of work from now until the end of the year -- four months ahead of schedule.

Great! Four months early is better than sitting on my butt doing nothing for the first four months of school. Except four months early means there isn't going to be enough hours in the day to work.

And so, starting July 1, I've hired childcare three days a week (May and June will be painful in terms of finding enough hours to work, sleep and be with the kids -- which means I'll likely cut out enough sleep and re-introduce movie afternoons several days a week.  But I really wanted this particular girl to do childcare and she's only available as of July 1).

I'm excited about these new work opportunities -- but it's a little bittersweet because in a way, I feel like I'm missing out my last few months with the kids. In Summer, when there's so many possibilities of things we can do together every day, I'll only get to spend Mondays and Fridays with the kids.

I know, I know, I'm lucky that I got all these years with them. So many parents I know don't get to be so lucky. I guess that as excited as I am by these new work opportunities, I'm a little sad to see this chapter -- the stay-at-home mom chapter -- of my life come to an end.

But hey, I hadn't exactly 'planned' on being a stay-at-home mom and that turned out pretty here's to exciting times in the next chapter!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A princess cake for my birthday princess

Last Tuesday was Alex's fourth birthday and we had her birthday party this afternoon. And since it was a princess party, and Alex loves everything to do with princesses, I made a Belle cake.

It was a lot easier to do than I thought it would be. First, I baked the cake in a Pampered Chef measuring bowl following these directions. Then, I coloured a whole lot of icing yellow and used an icing tip to pipe it onto the cake.

This was the best decision I made. It was super easy to put on and avoided the crummy mess you get from trying to slather the icing on top of chocolate cake.

Next, with a some help from Ryan, I added a little detailing to the skirt with a darker shade of yellow icing.

And finally, I added the piece which brought it all together -- the doll. But first she needed some clothes. So, using a glue gun and yellow ribbon from the dollar store I wrapped her in a dress. A little extra white ribbon, some beads from Alex's bead collection, the crown from her Belle Barbie and voilĂ ....Belle:

Most importantly, Alex was absolutely thrilled with her Belle cake.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

A Great Aunt

I lost someone special to me this week. My Aunt Joan was 82 years old and last week she had a massive stroke. She died on Monday.

I want to tell you all a little bit about her. For starters, she wasn't technically my Aunt. She was my Great Aunt -- meaning she was my father's Aunt and my Grandmother's sister. She was 15 years younger than my Grandmother (my Grandma was the oldest of 6 and Aunt Joan was the youngest) and she was always Aunt Joan to me and my sisters (and to many, many, many others in the family). And in a way, for me, having Aunt Joan in my life was like having another grandmother.

To be honest, I don't remember much of her from when I was a child -- but that's to be expected. I was a child and, since I said she was 15 years younger than my Grandmother, when I was born, she was still busy being a mother.

It was only after my family moved to Ontario when I was 14 and she and Uncle Chris followed a few years later that I really got to know her. My family spent a lot of time with her and Uncle Chris and two of their three children who lived nearby with their children. We were all one big family.

And sometime during those years, I remember sitting with her at a family gathering and chatting about family genealogy -- about how exactly everyone at this family gathering was related to everyone else. There were first cousins and second cousins and first cousins once removed and aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews and grandmothers get the point. And she said to me "you all call me Aunt Joan but really, I'm Great Aunt Joan but that's because I'm a great aunt". (Can you see her face light up as she's saying that?)

Great as in extraordinary, magnificent, wonderful, awesome.

That sums up exactly who she was to me -- to us all. For me, especially as I got older and moved away, I was always happy when we were both at the same family gathering. She cared for everyone so deeply and was never afraid to show it. Her family included everyone -- no one, regardless of how distant a relative they were, was left out. When my sister published her first book, Aunt Joan proudly came to the launch party. When I got married, Aunt Joan danced the night away as if it was her own grandchild's wedding. When my other sister had her first baby after an extremely difficult pregnancy, Aunt Joan snuggled that little boy with such relief and gratitude.

There are countless other stories I could tell; as could everyone else in my extended family. Whether we were near or far, she cared for us all; remembered our birthdays and anniversaries, cherished every visit and listened enthusiastically when we told her what we were doing.

Goodbye Aunt Joan. You will forever be loved and forever be remembered. You truly were a great aunt.

Friday, March 23, 2012

A crazy Saturday morning idea

Three weeks ago, I started the house painting project. You know the one I've been talking about wanting to do for paint the front hall, living room, dining room and hallway. Because for at least 2 years I've hated the paint in those rooms.

Aside from the fact that I didn't love the colour (it's a yellowish-beige and it was there when we moved in), all those rooms were painted with a flat paint. So it showed every, single mark. It was covered in food stains and boot stains and finger prints and probably toe prints. It had yellow crayon on one wall, and puke stains on another. And in one area, the paint had been put on so thinly that you could see the colour underneath (it was pink, by the way). To put it bluntly, it was gross and I hated it.

And so, 3 weeks ago I got started on what I anticipated being a multi-month project. I figured the only way I would get it done is to paint in little bits -- a wall here, a wall there. I started with the first coat on the baseboards and door frames in the hall. They were all the same flat colour as the walls and we decided they should be white -- and semi-gloss so you can actually wipe the finger prints off when you need to. And because there's 6 door frames in that hall -- just one coat took me 3 hours.

Flash forward 2 weeks to last Saturday morning at 9 a.m. while Ryan and I are sitting in the family room drinking coffee:
Me: Can you finish the caulking on the baseboards this weekend so I can finish painting them?
Ryan: Sure.
Me: I'm just really motivated right now to get going on this project. One of these days I'm going to be tempted to have a painting party and just get it done.
Ryan: So why don't we?
Me: Today?
Ryan: Sure.

And so, we did.

We called up some friends who wanted to help and they said they were free after 2ish, Ryan got to work finishing the caulking and taking shelves and pictures off the wall and I went and bought the paint (we had, by the way, already chosen the colour).

Just after 1 p.m., I started painting. The kids even pitched in for awhile.
Our friends were over by about 4 and it was an all out painting party. Their daughter played with our kids downstairs while we painted. We breaked for pizza and by 11 p.m., the hall, dining room and living room had been completely repainted.

The next morning, Ryan put the second coat on the 'feature' walls -- two walls in an accent colour -- and I finished up the second coat on the baseboards and some touchups.

By 2 p.m. we were done and still had time to go for a bike ride with the kids.

So what's left? The front hall and the small area that leads downstairs. But the 'big' parts of the job is done. Something that I thought would take months to do ended up taking a day and a half -- all because I had a crazy idea at 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning.

Oh yeah, and the house looks awesome now!

It's hard to really show in pictures, but here's an idea of what my house looks like now.


Random blurry picture of me on the living room couch in front of the shelves

A view of my living room...the left corner of the left couch is where I'm sitting in the above photo

This is a random hallway picture I found among our pictures.

A sample from the hallway (Ok, I know it's not the same spot in the hallway, but it makes a nicer photo)

The dining room. This room will be finished off shortly by the addition of a new dining room table. Sorry, couldn't find a before picture.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

It's March, right?

I wasn't planning on blogging today but then at the last minute I decided to write a mundane post about the weather.

Yes, the weather. And the fact that it's March 22 and it was 27C out today. And the fact that I had to break out the summer clothes for the kids. And the fact that while playing outside with friends this afternoon, the kids honestly came to us and said "can we go inside and play for awhile, it's too hot out". In March. Sometimes mid-summer days aren't this hot.

Oh yeah, but what really reminded me that it's a hot day in March was when I realized that I posted this almost exactly one year ago. If you don't actually feel like reading the post, I'll give you a hint: it was cold and snowing that day, and there's a picture to prove.

So let me make one thing very clear -- I. Am. Not. Complaining.

So to all my Ontario friends and readers, get out there and enjoy the summer-like weather.

Friday, March 09, 2012

A cake to make my birthday boy happy

This year's cake for Austin's birthday ended up very similar to last year's cake -- by request. Austin specifically asked for a Lightning McQueen cake with the number 6 on it...sound familiar?

So to make it a little different than last year -- and to avoid having way too much cake like we did last year -- I decided to use the icing to make the number 6. It was a good idea, but in the end, was actually a lot harder to do cleanly than last year's laying of a number 5 on top of a sheet cake.

First, I iced the cake all in blue -- which I learned from last year is the crumb coat. I think my icing was too thick because it wasn't easy to do.

Next, I iced a large rectangle in chocolate icing and then outlined the number 6 with white icing and filled in the 6 with Oreo cookie crumbs. (To look like the road of course!)

Next came another coat of blue icing. This was the tricky part because I had to 'cut' the icing in around the chocolate icing 6 and blue doesn't easily spread on top of chocolate brown! (So, if you're keeping track, that's three coat's of icing in some places. In case it isn't obvious, my technique to icing a cake is to keep putting more icing on until it looks more or less the way I want.)

And for the finishing touches -- a handful of cars from Cars, Austin's favourite movie and characters.

Me, the perfectionist, will say that it wasn't my most beautiful cake. But Austin loved it, and that's all that matters.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Something as simple as jam

About a week ago, Austin asked for jam with his peanut butter sandwich at lunch. A seemingly normal request except this kid hasn't asked for jam with his peanut butter in months.

So, I ran downstairs to my stash (yes, that stash of carefully arranged mason jars that sit on my office shelves full of the goodies I cooked last summer) grabbed a jar of what I thought was my strawberry jam and ran back upstairs.

And opened it.

That's when I realized that it was sealed with wax instead of the way I seal my jars (I can't explain the difference and I'm not going to bother for the purpose of this story). There's only one person that I know of who could've made that jar of jam if it wasn't mine. Ryan's grandmother. Nana.

Nana died less than two weeks before I opened that jar. She had given us an assortment of jam and sauces just this past Christmas yet this was the first jar we opened.

Now, she wasn't my grandmother, but for the last 15 years, Nana treated me as if she was. I was a granddaughter to her just as much as her other grandchildren. And she had many grandchildren -- and a handful of great-grandchildren.

So there was something very special in opening that jar of jam that day. It was raspberry jam by the way -- not even strawberry jam like I thought it was before I actually read the label. It was our last jar of Nana's raspberry jam.

And damn is it good. I enjoy making jam and have done so for two years now, but I could've learned a lot about jam making from her. It's just one of the many things I'll miss about her.

Austin, who was at the funeral and was alternatively fascinated and sad during that time, was a little confused at first as to why we had Nana's (or in his case, great-Nana's) jam. When I told him she gave it to us before she died, his matter-of-fact response (in only the way a 6-year-old can) was "well that was nice of her".

But raspberry jam wasn't her speciality. Peach jam was. Everyone who is anyone in the family (or newer to the family like me) knows that.

We have one jar of Nana's peach jam on the shelf from the presents she gave us last Christmas. I don't know when I'll have the heart to open it. Because when it's gone, she can never make us another jar.

I'll miss you Nana.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Missing the winter wonderland

It's been one of those winters here in Toronto. What I don't miss is the so-cold-my-car-won't-start cold, trudging through the snow every day to walk Austin to school, driving in not-so-ideal conditions and taking 15 minutes every morning to outfit the kids in snowsuits etc., before walking out the door.

Instead it's been a winter of mostly dry roads, winter coats and hats but very little need for snowpants, and temperatures above or at 0C most days.

Since winter is my least favourite season -- it sounds perfect. Yet, as a stay-at-home mom, I can tell you it sucks.

Because there is very little for the kids to do. When it's not raining or the tiny little bit of snow that fell within the last day of two is melting and turning the grass to slush and mud, it's too cold to play outside. It might be a warm winter, but it's not exactly bike riding and park playing weather. And so it's too cold to play, but too warm for snow (which would at least give the kids something to play in). The ground has been alternating between green and frozen or extremely muddy. Either way it means there's nothing for the kids to do outside.

And so they're getting bored and they're getting stir crazy as I try to fill afternoon after afternoon with things to do that don't involve killing each other.

And Austin, who loves winter, has even declared that this sucks. He wants to go skating (which we have on occasion, but even some days it's been too warm and the rinks are closed), and tobagganing (which we've done twice but both times there was more grass than snow) but more than anything, he just wants to play in the snow.

And for most of January I kept telling him wait, it'll come. He was so excited for last week's expected snowstorm -- and all we ended up getting was more rain mixed with a tiny bit of wet, slushy snow. And within two days, whatever dusting of snow we had was gone. And now, he just looks at me sadly and asks "how many more weeks of winter do we have left?". We've all resigned ourselves to the fact that this is it.

I know, us Canadians can never stop complaining about the weather. Last winter I cursed the fact that winter went on forever -- that walking to school was challenging by mid-February because the field I had to cross was buried in snow. This winter I'm complaining because it's not.

Friday, February 24, 2012

How to screw up a cake

So it's Austin's birthday today (6 years old!) and last night I was baking cakes. He needs a cake for his party on Saturday and cake for this evening as well. Because you can't have a birthday without cake!

So, first I made a simple 9x13 chocolate cake from a cake mix. This is the cake that I'm going to decorate tonight for his party.

Then, rather than making another cake mix for just the four of us tonight, I figured I'd make cupcakes. And, rather than using a cake mix, which makes 24 cupcakes when I only needed 4 or so -- I decided to make cupcakes from scratch. I had this really easy recipe that I made last month and they were delicious. And, the bonus is it only makes 12 cupcakes.

So here's what happened:

Step 1: Start making cupcakes from scratch at 9 p.m. after first making the sheet cake for Saturday's party.
Step 2: Make cupcakes and put them in the oven.
Step 3: Run to grocery store while cupcakes are still in oven to get more ingredients for icing (good thing the grocery store is practically across the street.)
Step 4: Remove cupcakes from oven and discover that they don't look right. (They appear to not have risen.)
Step 5: Get all defensive when Ryan says I forgot the baking powder. (I didn't.)
Step 6: Stand by while Ryan taste's one -- hey they may look bad but we thought maybe they could still be salvaged with a lot of icing.
Step 7: Realize they taste like crap.
Step 8: Throw cupcakes across room the room when (now at 9:45 p.m.) I realize the reason they taste like crap is that I forgot to add the sugar.

Yup, sugar.

I managed to make sugar-free cupcakes. Don't try it. They taste awful.

Oh yeah, so step 9 was 'be thankful there was an extra cake mix box in the cupboard and start making yet another batch at 10 p.m. all the while wondering why I just didn't do that in the first place.'

Monday, February 13, 2012

My Funny Valentine

Ryan and I have never really 'done' Valentine's Day. I'm one of those women who doesn't really believe in it -- doesn't really feel the need to have someone else buy me something just because Hallmark says so. Call me cynical, but to me, Valentine's Day has always been just another day.

And of course, Ryan's on board with this because it means he doesn't have to do anything special.

Some years I've remembered to do special crafts with the kids or bake heart-shaped cookies, and other years, like this year, I just forgot. I remembered to do their Valentines for the kids in their class -- that's got to count for something, right?

But today at dinner, as Austin was telling us about the Valentine surprises he's making for us at school, Ryan made a joke about tomorrow being Valentine's Day and the kids were appalled. The conversation went like this:

Ryan (to me, teasingly): Tomorrow's Valentine's Day and you're not getting a card.

(Cue me giving the fake shock look)

Ryan (still to me): And I'm not buying you flowers.

(Again, cue the even more fake shocked look on my face)

Austin (looking completely appalled): Well if you're not giving mommy a valentine than I'm not giving you one!

So now Ryan's downstairs with the kids while they help him make a Valentine for me. Me thinks a 6-year-old just put him in his place!

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Don't look back

I've been feeling nostalgic these last few days. Nostalgic and even a little bit down -- which in all, is making me feel completely unmotivated to do anything.

I couldn't really pinpoint what was bothering me and why I was feeling this way. Until this morning, when I friend posted this on her Facebook wall.

And suddenly, I realized 'that was it'. For some reason, I've been spending the last few days looking back. Looking back to a time when my kids were babies.When life was simpler yet way more hectic at the same time.

This morning (about half an hour before I saw this picture) I was waiting outside the preschool with Alex. And as she was playing with a friend in the hallway, I had a flashback of Austin doing the same two years earlier. And suddenly I missed that three-year-old boy.

Yesterday, as I drove by the library that we rarely go to anymore (the farther one, we tend to walk to the closer one now), Austin said to me, "mommy, why don't we go there anymore?". And I found myself thinking about how I used to go there because I would push the two of them in the double stroller and it was a good excuse for me to get some exercise and a good excuse to pass a few hours out of the house.

So I guess I've been looking back. And missing the past. And missing my babies.

And no, I'm not saying I'm missing my babies enough to have another one. I'm just saying when the hell did my babies become 6 and almost 4! And have I really been home full time for almost 4 years?!

But seeing that picture this morning reminded me to stop looking back, stop feeling down, stop missing the past and to keep looking forward. That's the only direction life is going -- and there's a hell of a lot to look forward to as my babies get older.