Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Mr. Do-it-Yourself

Babies are funny and lovely and quirky. They are each unique but with the passage of time, the finer points of their individuality can be lost in the murky depths of forgotten details. One of the joys of the blog (and there are many) is trying to capture a couple of those fleeting, endearing little snippets.

Lucas (who has been walking for the last month or so...I should remember to blog about the bigger things too. You think you will remember later when things like that happen, but as my mom reminds me...I probably won't. Already, I am mixing up the kids' baby pictures. A [not so] secret shame) has a ridiculous new routine around diapers. When he wants a new diaper, he pats his hip repeatedly. Then, when prompted, he goes to get all the things he needs for a change: fresh diaper, wipes and cream. Then he plops himself in the middle of all these accessories and lifts his legs, ready to be changed. When it is all fixed up, you hand him the old diaper and walk with him to the kitchen, open the garbage lid and he slam dunks it. It is hilarious.

Here he is, ready for action:

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

We know to be grateful

But sometimes it doesn't hurt to be reminded. You know how you grumble, usually about little things? Somehow, little things are the most grumbly ones (at least for me).

Ack, I need to buy more toilet paper.

Argh, why must these little girls squeeze toothpaste all over the sink each night (I swear, they must chant "Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze!" to egg each other on...I mean really, how much fun could that be? One time, maybe. But every time? Apparently.)?

Ahhh, who knew that putting dish soap into the dishwasher makes a sudsy mess (everyone knows that one I think...except me. What do I put in the dishwasher? Dishes. What does the soap say right on it? Dishsoap. What went wrong? A lot. I just did not see that one coming. I thought I was being innovative, creative problem solving. No, not problem solving. Not by a long shot.)?

We're all self-absorbed, by necessity. But a quick little step outside this narrow band of vision is a good thing. I took a little walk away from the grumbles last night when I went with some people from the co-op to cook for the families staying at Ronald McDonald House. There is little else like the sight of a bald-headed, ill child to make all trivial complaints fall away with a wee tinge of shame that something like a toothpaste oversqueeze even makes it on to the radar screen in the first place.

Just clean up the toothpaste (again) and be thankful for my good fortune that I can go to that house, cook dinner and come home. To health. Heck, maybe even try an extra squeeze of Colgate myself. It probably is fun. I did fulfill a childhood preoccupation just a couple of days ago and crammed my finger all the way to the bottom of a full Vasoline jar. Also fun.

On the weekend, the girls started up a collection inspired by this blog post (I told you I was all bloggy). They are gathering coins for performing menial tasks around here...there are many little tasks to be performed and someone has to do order to buy a colony of bees from Heifer International. The bees are given to a family in the developing world to supplement their diet and/or income. The girls are enchanted with the idea. Their only disappointment? They don't get to play with bees first.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Paying it forward?

I have a guilty admission: I have become addicted to other people's blogs. Now that I have that off my chest, I stumbled upon Nadia's page a couple of days ago and was intrigued by her Pay-It-Forward concept. By being one of the first three comments on her blog, she is now sending me something created by her...paying-it-forward, as it were.

I am game to try the same, though I can make no promises as to the quality or timeliness of my crafty contributions. And...given that I think we have three comments TOTAL over the life of the blog, three comments to this post sounds like a bit of an interactive bonanza. Nevertheless, the first three to comment here will find something dodgy and made by me arrive in their mailbox. Well now, if that isn't motivation...(even I am laughing).

NOTE: Part of me was pretty sure no one would comment...thanks for proving me wrong! But it also tells me something: it is really nice to get comments! So, in order to bribe you into stepping out of the darkness, I continue my offer of a handmade, suspect item delivered to your door. Just because it makes us happy that you stop by to read. Thanks!

Unadulterated Joy

Lucas just popped around the corner of the kitchen door and spotted his favourite little person, Molly. Unable to restrain himself in pure happiness at this surprise he threw his arms in the air and squealed. Molly, thrilled to be the cause of so much joy, threw her little arms around him and picked him up in a bear hug. He then wrapped his chubby thighs around her hips and squeezed. Then they made little cooing noises to each other.

When Molly came back into the kitchen, she said, "Having a little brother is just great." I couldn't agree more.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Preaching to the converted, but hey, there was free pizza

Literacy is something that will be taught in my home. Maybe that sounds a little dictatorial, but the one thing that might prevent me from loving my children with every scrap of my whole heart (oh, who am I heart is already devoured by love) would be if they rejected reading *ignore this pronouncement if any of the children have a good reason for not being able to, blindness, learning disability or crazy book phobia*

I just read that over. Even I am a little skeptical of that statement. The truth is, I would love the kids even if they built a giant bonfire out of all the books I have ever loved and then threw me on top of it to burn. FYI, that doesn't sound like all that bad a way to go...

I think I digress. This is all just a very long winded and barely applicable way of saying that we went to celebrate Family Literacy Week at their Write On event at the Central library today. Despite what I feel was an abysmal lack news about the event out in the community, the turnout was pretty good and the afternoon was a lot of fun. There were crafts, author readings (Kari Winters) and free Panago pizza. In fact, between the four of us (and one was a baby) we scarfed down 12 pieces. Hey, I was eating for literacy.
Doesn't Lucas look on the brink of jumping into the magical world of literacy?

There was plenty of glitter glue to brainwash children into thinking that literacy is sparkly fun.

That was a bookmark. I am pretty sure it is still drying...there was a lot of glitter glue on there in the end.

And to give you an idea of how literacy minded I am, even without the lure of pizza, upon leaving the downtown library we went to our neighbourhood library to pick up some books I had on hold. Two library trips in one day...maybe they should have saved the pizza and glitter for someone who needed convincing?

Friday, January 25, 2008

E- Festy is besty

Joey Vickery always used to tell Les and me that we were really "festy" people, meaning that we really knew how to super-relax. I have never been totally convinced of his argument but, if I get really self analytical and honest, I can admit there is a fair amount of evidence against us.

Firstly, I grew up in a house with an extra large hot tub, a bean bag chair and a very comfy, self massaging lazyboy (a key part of my success in passing university). In Europe we tried to travel light, but somehow managed to have a hammock on a big metal frame and our own dishwasher (ie. more time for festing). Our place in Point Roberts has two queen sized beds pushed together to create one superbed. We also have a hammock and a 5 meter diameter trampoline in the back yard. At home, our most expensive item is a cushion top king sized bed and we have a chair hammock hanging from our roof. Fairly damning evidence..... however, on the other hand ........... ...........we really like to camp and travel.

How ever even the two sides of this debate may have been, I think Les' Christmas gift to me probably tipped the balance of the argument in Joey's favour. The picture says it all. We now have a 7'X4'x3' monster bean bag chair (filled with foam not beans) taking up a significant portion of our living room......but wow is it comfortable. And, as a bonus, our kids are now getting flying lessons.
Note: No children were hurt during the filming of this movie. All actors were trained professionals. Please do not try this at home.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Music to my ears

Over at friends' house this evening, the kids disappeared upstairs to play (remember those days? You leave your shoes at the door, wave absently over your shoulder as you shoot up the stairs, only to emerge to put your shoes back on to go home. The funny thing is, I recall thinking that I was really getting away with something, doing whatever mischievous things poorly supervised kids get up to. As a parent now, I am secretly horrified on little Lesley's behalf that my parents were in all likelihood thrilled to get the break of adult conversation. Geez, one more illusion down.)

As the grown ups chatted, the sounds of youthful play drifted down. There was Playmobil involved. I like Playmobil. But over all the little squeals and giggles, one sound stood out: Finny laughing. I will grant you, the child has some volume in everything she does, but her full-throated boisterous guffah is joy itself. Happiness unadulterated. Good to hear.

E-The ever-changing, unpredictable path of life

I think it would be an understatement to say that in the past couple of years I have spent a good deal of my time and energy on my quest to be a fire fighter. I don't regret the choices I have made........however it can be really difficult at times because all this effort has come to nothing. Well, not nothing, because I have gained some skills and hopefully become a better candidate. However, until I actually get offered the job, all of my effort feels a little futile.

I sit once again in the waiting game. I have done my part and now my fate rests with others. I have taken all of the courses, done the necessary studying, gotten appropriate work and volunteer experiences. For this specific process I have passed the written and physical evaluations, done two interviews and a weekend of skills and teamwork evaluation. I have been on hall tours and studied about the department. It is the seventh time I have done such preparation and about the 20th time I have applied to a fire department.

Maybe tomorrow it will all end. Maybe I will get a call saying "congratulations, we would like to hire you". With only one job available, the odds aren't in my favour.......but it could happen. On the other hand, the process could be over for me and I will have to start all over again with my 21st process. Ahhhh life. You just never really know what to expect.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

You need to try this pizza dough

Not only was it good last night, it was good tonight. Back by popular demand, the seldom touched jar of yeast in the fridge felt like Hannah Montana when I grabbed it again this evening. Oh yeah, check me out...kneading dough two days in a row (wow, I am even turning into a rhyming is a magical time around here).

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Call me Luigi

No don't. Because I probably won't answer.

My point is that I learned something new about myself. Apparently, I make a mean pizza. Ok, I could go with that, or I could be honest...I picked a good recipe and somehow, it turned out really well.

Do I strike you as the "make pizza dough from scratch" type? No, me either. But I am. Or at least I was last night. It might have been the best pizza I have ever had. It started like this:

And it turned out like this: (with the simple addition of red and yellow peppers, marinated artichoke hearts, fresh basil, pineapple, red onion, and mozzarella, Parmesan and feta cheese)

Here, be your own Luigi

Jackson Pollack, watch out!

In general, I am not a huge fan of toys. Mostly, they are microscopic plastic items that I pick up off the floor five hundred times a day, either right before Lukey chokes on them or right after they puncture my instep. Ask me at any given moment to empty my pants pocket, I can virtually guarantee you will find a Polly Pocket shoe (beyond microscopic), a sparkled barrette (for last second grooming, probably because I have neglected first second grooming) and a mini comb or brush for a pony or doll or just about anything else.

There are a few toy items that are not on my rant list, however. One my favourite items is the MagnaDoodle. It goes in the car, comes back home, goes back in the car, comes back home...I think you get the idea. It is all one piece therefore, there are fewer trips back into the place you just left on the hunt for "Steeeeeeeella's soooooother!" with echoes of the tears you left behind in the car ringing in your ears as you search behind friends' couches, under coffee tables and through kitchen cupboards. Another bonus, it offers endless hours of drawing fun with no environmental drawback of forty-five sheets of printer paper with single scribbles on them. It has been popular with little wee people and popular with learning to print people. In short, the MagnaDoodle has been a consistent hit around here. So, you can imagine how pleased I was to see this sight today:

The torch has been passed on.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

If you give a kid a camera...

You know the expression, you can't judge a person until you walk a mile in their shoes? In other words, you have to see things through someone else's eyes in order to understand them. Well, technology, though wonderful, has yet to discover a way to make that possible...except through the lens of a camera.

Today, I taught the girls how to use our camera. The squeals of delight...I tell you, they had a good time. And I got to see our home as they see it. It was interesting, with the possible exception being a somewhat unhealthy interest in the toilet. I will spare you those.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Mess with Little Minds

And by little minds, I mean young, not necessarily small. You know when at the end of the day, you are a little fried and more or less mentally done? But then, as the evening winds down, at least around here, there is inevitably one more request to play babies, Strawberry Shortcake, Tellytellies (read Tellytubbies) or squirrel. Sometimes my heart is in it...sometimes, well...I just don't feel like being a pretend rodent.

So, in the interest of those of your who know what I am talking about:

Two Easy Steps to Deflect or Derail Pretend Play As Demonstrated Tonight(FYI, pretending is normally encouraged non-stop around here, so give me a break for the occasional curtailing of creativity)

1. At the start of the games, a great deal of attention will be given to the choosing of names. DO NOT accept the usual array of pleasing Victorian names. Reject all Sophies, Emilys, and Annas. Instead, suggest inanimate object names and try to make them slightly distasteful. Tonight, I tried Diaper for Finny, Wipe for Molly and Lucas was Baby Pooper.

2. When game play commences, stick to these names like Gorilla Glue. This is essential. Soon, you won't be playing pretend anymore. The girls quickly commenced negotiation..."Fine, I will call you Sophie, but don't tell Diaper...OK, Wipe? I mean Sophie...?" Diaper and Wipe tried to get Baby Pooper to be called Jack, but they gave up on that one pretty quickly. And personally, I think he might have preferred that moniker to Jack...

E- a typical day in a rountineless household

My night shift on the Canada Line ended at 6am. By the time I got home, had a little bit to eat and got settled, it was just about time for Molly to go to Friday morning Kindergarten class. After I crawled off to bed for a couple of hours sleep, I went with Les, Finny and Lucas to the Arbutus club. Finny had her first sportball class at the Arbutus Club while I went for a workout. In the afternoon the girls went skiing up Seymour mountain with my Mom and her friend Catherine. Lucas and I worked on some his dunking ability while Les had a rare break from the children to have lunch with Sam. Back together for a couple of hours before my next night shift began, we had a tickle war until Molly finally learned the definition of "truce".

I am aware that putting a ball in the hands of a one year old and taking video of him dunking.....because I used to play a lot of pretty cheesy. Deal with get the bonus of seeing him walking.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Imagine this pile of trees surrounded by 20 firefighters busily unloading cars in a Rona parking lot and you have a pretty good idea of how I spent the first Saturday in January. My friend Mark, who goes every year to the City of North Vancouver's fire department "chip up" fund raiser, convinced me to join him there. We were served good food, collected a lot of money for charity and even had the rain hold the event was a success in my books. And with everyone driving mini-vans and SUV's these days, it was useful to have someone with long arms around to untie all the trees strapped to the roof.

This past weekend I also spent with North Vancouver fire fighters, this time ones from the District. I successfully navigated the interview last month to become one of 5 candidates invited to a "Station Orientation" weekend. Although my skills, having been mostly unpracticed in the more than 2 years since fire school, were understandably rusty, the relaxed and friendly atmosphere of the crew made for a pretty fun weekend. However, I was put on the spot a couple of times. Putting on a short presentation about AED's didn't rate as stressful. Having to come up with a joke....on the spot.....pretty stressful. At least there were no stipulations on the joke being tasteful!

Bean Cookies?

Here is a funny one...I found this intriguing recipe online for Breakfast Bean Cookies. Sounds disgusting, I hear a chorus say. It does, doesn't it? But my interest was piqued, so I had to try. It isn't every day that you see a full can of beans in the middle of a cookie recipe (the closest I can think of is the black bean brownie recipe that circulated a while back...not my favourite).

Imagine me, huddled in the kitchen, frantically checking over my shoulder in case some family member should see my cracking open a tin of white kidney beans. It was a seriously subterfuge baking experience. Until the cookies started to emit cookie smell... then the kids and husband started to come out of the woodwork (bean can already washed, de-labeled and in the recycling bin...destruction of evidence is key in this type of undercover operation). Let's just say, all cookies disappeared in less than 24 hours. And beans were covertly consumed by all.

You can find the recipe at Breakfast Bean Cookie

Monday, January 14, 2008

Part of my Christmas gift to Les was a night in the Washington Athletic Club hotel in downtown Seattle. Lucas, not quite ready to be left on his own, made the trip with us, while his sisters stayed at my Mom's. We woke up fairly early on Sunday morning to get some shopping done on the way down. When we arrived at the hotel, we were impressed with the location, right in the centre of downtown, but unaccustomed to the $30 plus overnight parking rates at all the garages. Apparently these charges motivate a lot of people to find a free spot on the street because it took us about 20 minutes of cruising the local neighbourhood before we finally found something. This gave me a chance to get to know downtown Seattle, something I have never really done before. It's a bit strange that I would know at least 20 European cities better than I know Seattle, but I never really went down much while I was growing up.

We hopped on Seattle's new light rail system that goes to Lake Washington and had a pizza and pitcher of beer at a brewery restaurant on the water. With neither of us big fans of the bitter ale we ordered, it came down to some game playing for who would finish off the beer. Les lost big at first but maybe won in the end....with a happy ride home.

On Monday we did some more shopping before heading to Pike Place market for lunch. Before hitting the highway for home around 2, we drove around the university shopping district and campus of U of W.

My impression of Seattle is that it has some nice neighbourhoods as well as the convenience of being able to take the highway to downtown. The lake also adds a dimension that Vancouver doesn't have. Beyond this however, I see little for Seattle that compares favourably to its so called "twin" city up North.

My main complaint for Seattle.....and I guess source of pride for about the use of the waterfront and green spaces. Where Seattle has the occasional park or market, Vancouver has miles of walkways along the water and public access to parks and beaches. There are many things to do and places to see in Vancouver that don't require a car or cost money. As someone who lives 300 meters from the sea wall overlooking the ocean, I know it's easy to take it for granted. However, seeing how differently the waterfront could develop, like in Seattle, brings me back to a state of appreciation for all we have here.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A good read...

I won't be frequently pestering you as to what to read, mostly because I don't get to read nearly as much as I would like. I obsessively keep lists of my "wish I had time to lounge on a couch with a good book" books. I place holds at the library. Check my holds. Pick up my holds. The holds then sit in bags in various locations throughout my house. I then return my holds, untouched.

Four books in this undignified position in my house as I type this:

Arlington Park-Rachel Cusk
Radiance-Shaena Lambert
Empress of Asia-Adam Lewis Schroeder
Spanish Fly-Will Ferguson (which I especially want to read, having heard a fantastic interview with him on the CBC)

One book however, has managed to stick me on the couch for extended reading (and very intentional selective hearing with regards to the chaos around me) in the last week. The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill is phenomenal. I loved another of his books, Any Known Blood. This might top it.

Maybe I am the ignorant one, but how many of you knew that a group of ex-American slaves who assisted the British in the American Revolution were rewarded with free passage to Nova Scotia? After their settlement there failed, they were shipped away again. This time to form a new colony of Freetown, in Sierra Leone. 1,100 ex-slaves were returned to Africa and were forever after known as the Nova Scotians. Still are. I learned so much from this book (and Hill's Any Known Blood) about Canada's position on slavery and its aftermath. A very worthwhile read, both from the perspective of being lost in a fantastic story and for the smug belief that you have elevated your mind in some minute way to the plight of others. Five stars.

Alright, so back to my Entertainment Weekly and I really want to start Spanish Fly, but I am sure I don't have time before it needs to go back...luckily, I have a half-dozen new, sure-to-stay-unread books waiting for me.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

E- Better late than never

Warning. Most of the blog entry that follows is out of date, not very interesting and contains a list of things (which will mean nothing to anyone else)that we did over the Christmas vacation. Read at your own risk!

Merry Christmas to all our family and friends. It seems that this blog has replaced our Christmas letter and/or emails. After all, it would be pretty redundant to write about the growing kids and the stuff we are involved in, when there is an overabundance of that right here. So don't expect to hear from us unless you log onto Having said that, there hasn't been a lot of blogging lately either.

We have had a great Chrismas. It's easy for me to cynically complain about Christmas being a parade of plastic toys shipped from China to our living rooms. Although this part of Christmas now seems almost unavoidable….. so is the side of Christmas I enjoy much more…..seeing family and friends in a way we don't usually have time for. If it weren't for Christmas, when would we decorate gingerbread houses in New West Minister or go skating with the Halls?

After finishing work on December 21st, I had a 2 week break while the tunnel workers went home to Europe and Central America. The kids and I made Les breakfast for her birthday on the 22nd. That afternoon we saw Jamie Storrow, his wife Fiona and their new baby Muireann, before going out to diner with Les' parents and brother at the Ridge Chinese restaurant. Later that night we started our stay in Point Roberts.

On December 23rd our neighbours down there, Bill and Carol, came over for a couple of beers. The 24th was my family's Chistmas celebration at our place.
The 25th brought us back in town to the McKnight's for breakfast and then over to the Gaherty's for a delicious Turkey dinner. December 26th we spent by ourselves in Point Roberts

December 27th we came back to Vancouver for the skating party at Kerrisdale arena followed by drinks and a Canucks game at the Halls. Les took the kids back to the cottage while I played poker with Steve, Phil and Jeff until 5 am.
The next day was another late one as we stayed at Andrew and Lori's party until 2 am.

On the 29th we went back to the cottage where my Mom, her sister Betsy and brother-in-law Dave met us for a nice visit that included many Wii games and a great dinner at Brewsters. On the 30th the twins from Molly's class, Maya and Nathan and their parents, visited us at the cottage. The kids particularly liked jumping on the trampoline as well as the Smores we roasted over the fire.

On Dec 31st Trixie and John Dumont brought their 3 boys down for New Years Eve. With 6 kids running around wrestling and playing video games while their parents drank responsibly, the night seemed to go by in blur. I am not sure how it works… moment it was time to celebrate midnight…..when I looked at my watch a short while later….. it was 5am.
Happy 2008!

Our other Point Bob neighbours, Martin and Dorthy, hosted a New Years day lunch for 15 people. Despite a nice spread they put out, I didn't seem to have much of an appetite. Steve and Kathy came down on the 2nd and introduced us to the game "Scene It". The girls team won the game based on Les' strength of being able to complete all of the Wheel-of-fortune type of word games.

Despite a busy social calendar our time at the Point felt relaxing and rejuvenating. We had few obligations and it was a great break to get away from the ringing phone and ever present internet.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

You know you are in for a world of teenager pain when...

...this happens:

I took the girls to skating lessons this morning. We managed to mislay Molly's gloves en route, so in desperation I scoped out the lost and found box. Since I know Molly pretty well, I brought her a few mitten options from which to chose. Two of three choices were sensible. The third choice was thin little gloves in pink and purple stripes with little embroidered faces on each of the fingers. I offered her a choice. When she chose (obviously) the face fingers, I informed her that they would NOT be WARM enough (no doubt you are wondering why I brought them over in the first make a good point). She answered thusly:

"No. Probably not warm Mummy. But these ones are PRETTY."

To give her her due, she wore them all lesson without complaint. And I pretended not to notice her freezing, chapped little hands as she rubbed them after class, desperately trying to coax feeling back into her frozen digits.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Dodgy break, but we are still loving the blog...

...possibly even more than before. The main reason? For Christmas, we gave our parents copies of the blog in book form. We printed them on and we were very happy with the quality of the finished product. Plus, as an added bonus (although this hasn't been apparent so far this year), it is an added incentive to keep on blogging. The book makes the chronicle of our year seem more real somehow than this virtual log...I guess I am still pretty old school.

There is a lot to catch up on since December 22. Wow, has it been that long? We had a fantastic holiday in Point Roberts. It truly felt like a get-away, most of all being dislocated from the busy "conected" world of Vancouver. There was reading, snacking, lots of socializing and guests. Exactly what Christmas should be, right?

And lately? Eric and I got back from Seattle today...we popped down for 36 hours to shop and hang out.

Now, back to life. No more forgetting the day of the week...what luxury is that? Nope, schedules and daytimers. Wall calendars and to-do lists.

Resolutions, you ask? Just one. And I can guarantee that Eric is rolling his eyes he reads this. Laundry. I vow to improve.

I just read that myself. Geez, how lame am I? Just for the record and to feel less like a thirty-something mom...I will also try to cut back on street racing, self-piercing and bull fighting. Not buying that? Me either. It really is just the laundry. Lame.

Pictures and more holiday details to follow.