Dance Monkey, Dance!

Snow day… AGAIN! Not only a snow day, but I’m on my own with the kids this weekend. Lucky husband is skiing with friends, and I’m stuck here in the snowpocalypse. To ensure I don’t resort to heavy drinking, I’ve made a list of things the kids and I can do inside while the weather is terrible. Since it has been either bitterly cold or blowing snow every day for a month, we’ve had a lot of days inside. I’m starting to run out of ideas. We’ve baked muffins, cookies, healthy granola bars. We’ve watched movies, played video games, danced. We’ve had tea parties, and built forts out of every pillow and blanket in the house. I thought I’d start the kids on a new game. I called it “Let’s pretend we’re mommy.” They were all for it! Hooray! A game! Games are always fun…  Not this game though. I filled a few buckets with water and vinegar and gave them some rags. I’m sure they were thinking it was some sort of interesting water table game. Silly kids. They got to wipe down ledges and baseboards. It was fun…for all of 5 minutes. Then they decided that putting all of the play food they have scattered throughout the house into the buckets was more fun. So, eventually I ended up with three kids soaked in a vinegar/water combination and a pile of very clean play food. Great.

At that point, I decided I’d make play doh. I thought it was a surefire way to kill a few hours. The recipe actually worked, and the kids got a good 15 minutes of entertainment out of it. ONLY 15 MINUTES!! They have moved to the next room, and I’m left with about an hour of cleanup since they mashed it into the floor, and crumbled it into tiny balls that are scattered throughout the kitchen. Excellent.

I sometimes feel like my main purpose in life is to stand nearby waiting for them to ask me for something, do something for them, help them fix something. I could stand in one spot (here in the kitchen) and every 5 minutes someone would ask me something. “May I have a drink? I’m hungry. Can you put on a movie? My foot hurts. Fix it?” I’m technically not doing anything, and yet I’m always busy. Even as I type this, I know there will be consequences. I’m not paying attention for 15 minutes. Do you know what 3 bored kids can destroy in that short amount of time? Many, many things. I’ll let you know what they come up with this time.

So, now I need to scour Pinterest for more ideas. It’s not even lunchtime, if I don’t find something to do with them, they will eat me alive.

Pictures of our play-doh fun.

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File Under: Things I Must Never Forget

Since we moved, I have been driving Natalie to and from school. I’m now officially a mom-taxi. At times I’m annoyed beyond belief, but I’ve kind of settled into the idea that I’ll be doing this for many more years. Each day I drop her off, and tell her to have a good day and that I’ll be there when she’s done. At 3:40 p.m. I am usually waiting in the car, listening for the ring of the school bell so I can meet her exactly where I dropped her off.

On the first day of school this year, Natalie and I hadn’t worked out our routine so there was some confusion. I wasn’t late to pick her up, but I wasn’t fast enough to get from my car to where she imagined I’d be waiting for her. I saw her round the corner, not see me, and panic. She ran through the parking lot to find her teacher, crying that her mom forgot to pick her up. I was right there, chasing her down, but she didn’t know that. She was so upset. She told me she thought I forgot all about her. So, now we have this ridiculously crazy, yet important unspoken deal that I will ALWAYS be standing in the same spot, waiting patiently for her at the end of her school day.  I stand in the rain, the snow, the freezing cold. I am always there waiting. I’m usually by myself because the other parents aren’t stupid, and wait in their cars. Regardless, it has become my favourite moment of the day. 

When the bell rings, I watch all the school doors fly open, kids running to their buses. I wait for a few seconds and then there she is.  I can just catch a glimpse of her as she comes around to where I’m waiting. It’s that moment that makes my day. The moment when she sees me and smiles instantly. It’s the moment she realizes that I’m there. She counts on me being there, and when she sees me she is instantly happy that I’ve come through for her.

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Today I took this picture. It made me happy, and it captures exactly what I want to always remember. The security she feels in knowing each day, I’ll be there for her. I’m always there. Twice this year I’ve had to send her father to pick her up. Each time I am frantic in my explanation of how he has to get out and wait in the exact same spot. He laughs at me, and calls me crazy, but it’s our thing. I can’t let her down.

I sometimes worry about the day when she won’t want me to be there. When she’ll shy away from me in front of her peers. I also worry about her having bad days at school. When someone will have made her cry. When she’ll tell me about a boy who pulled her hair, or a girl who made fun of her. I worry about the day she walks around the corner and isn’t smiling. I worry about all sorts of things when it comes to my kids. I’m neurotic like that.

I watch as friends of mine post old pictures of their own kids, now grown, doing the same things my kids are doing now. I realize that I’m going to miss these little people, as they grow to be big and independent. So, as a result, I’m paying attention now. I want to really appreciate how precious they are today, and take the time to be in the moment with them. Before I know it, they’ll be grown and gone. My days are crazy, my kids drive me wild, but in a flash it will be over. Just like that. 

Next year I’ll be picking up two kids, instead of one. It will be different, but good all the same. While I’m excited about them growing up and experiencing all this world has to offer, I’m also a little sad about it. I am aware that it happens no matter what attempts I make in keeping them small. So, I’m going to breathe in deeply now. Enjoy the little people while they are little. 

This picture makes my day. This girl is everything good and beautiful in this world. I can’t wait to watch her grow to be the wonderful and amazing woman I know she’ll be. But for now, here is my Nattie-B as I’ll always see her.

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It will all work out in the end… We hope.

Back in June (2013) Nick and I took on the massive job of both paying for and renovating his family’s farmhouse. From the beginning of this whole venture, we both were very wary for a few reasons. Regardless, we put our small (and VERY affordable) house on the market and moved up the road (possibly 5 km) to what is now our home. The house itself is huge (a clean freak’s worst nightmare), and EVERYTHING needs to be updated. We’ve been working away for almost 7 months now, and we’ve only finished one room. I will admit, that after ripping the old kitchen out and painting every room in the house, we took an extensive break and spent a great deal of time saying, “we’ll have lots of time this fall and winter.” We were pretty busy doing this:

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And enjoying this (the view from our bedroom balcony):

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Can you blame us? 

Aside from the extensive painting that was done, a whole lot of the interior changed. We put doors where there were windows, windows where there were doors. We closed off rooms, ripped out closets. It was a huge undertaking. At the time (pre finding out we had a broken heating system and no insulation which is another story), our first goal was to put in a new kitchen. You have to start somewhere, and why not the one place you spend the most time? So, Nick started ripping everything apart. He tore down walls, and ripped up 3 layers of flooring. 

Kitchen before:

Open to the parlour, but not for very long. Also, a small staircase to the basement that is no longer there. I have very vivid memories of visiting this house and my mother-in-law hobbling up those stairs and through the little wooden door, with arms filled with whatever food she was getting from the basement fridge/freezer. It no longer exists. Soon, I will be making the space a built in wine dispenser (I shit you not).

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The window on the left, is now a door. Much more functional. No entry through the family room anymore, which makes me very very happy. Again, lots of memories of walking through the old door into the family room, to a BLARING TV and father-in-law on the couch sleeping. Nick does the same thing now, so obviously loud TVs while sleeping is genetic or something.

 

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I was pretty particular about what I had in mind for this kitchen. I spent months pouring over design magazines, looking at colours. I was pretty determined. We hired the best cabinet maker in the world. As an aside: In my brain, no one makes cabinets anymore. You buy them from a factory and some dude installs them. Not the case. Ours were built by a father and son duo from a neighbouring town. I was shocked! The price was out of this world, and the careful attention to detail blew my mind! I would highly recommend their work. 

I picked a tile that looks like hardwood for the floor, butcher block for the main counters, marble and polished stone for the backsplash and quartz for the massive island. I also found a ridiculously amazing find for our sink. A beautiful fireclay farmhouse apron sink. It’s amazing, and much more durable than you’d ever imagine. 

Final product. I think the before and after are astounding. 

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I am writing this post now, to remind myself that there are positive things about this house. You see, after moving in, almost everything in the house broke or fell apart. We have no heat in half of the house now. The other day there was snow on my bedroom floor. I could list a thousand things, and go on to tell a very hilarious (for you, not for us) tale of what happens when you buy an old farmhouse, but I won’t right now. Right now I will breathe in, and breathe out and remind myself that my kitchen is glorious and I shouldn’t burn this mother down. 

Moral of the story: The kitchen reno money could have been better used (i.e.replacing the mechanics of the house), but it’s a little too late to do the right thing now. So, here I am. Sitting on a stool, at my glorious kitchen island admiring the beauty that is the entire room. Like Nick says: “We just have to make it to summer. We just have to make it to summer. Everything is better in the summer.”

Here’s hoping!

 

Friday Night Skiing

Last night we made last minute plans to take the kids skiing. We went to the local hill (which is very small to everyone but my sister and I), and got the kids on skis. In my head I imagined Natalie and Jack falling down once, losing their minds and never putting skis on again. This is pretty much exactly what happened to me as a kid. My sister had a pretty similar experience, but hers ended with her mistakenly skiing through the parking lot because she couldn’t stop. Even though their father is a great skier, I assumed that our kids would follow in my footsteps. The opposite happened and I couldn’t be happier about that. Natalie LOVED it! She’d fall down and yell “I’m fine!” and laugh. I was so proud of her. At one point she convinced her Aunt to follow her up the hill (on foot, she wasn’t skiing), and chase her down. I could hear Natalie screaming “LIBBY!! You have to get ahead of me so I don’t crash!!” The things your niece will talk you into. Poor Libby was busting it down the hill alongside Natalie. The ultimate work-out!

Jack had a bit of a rough start. He decided he wasn’t skiing at all because he hated the helmet he had to wear. He’s only 3 so we let him sit and watch for awhile with Amelia, his Aunt and I. By the time the Tall Man (a nickname the kids gave their Aunt’s partner) arrived, Jack wanted to give it a try. He loved it too. By the end of the night Natalie screamed “Mom, did you see me carve snow?” Too cute. The kids had a great time and can’t wait to go again. I guess one of my newest goals is to catch up with my 3 and 5 year old, and ski the bunny hill.

A terrible picture, but this was Natalie’s first run down Bambi.

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Jack & Q skiing – with the tall man and Q’s mom (no skis, running after him).

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Jack & the tall man.

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Millie wishing she was old enough to ski. 

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Millie’s Restaurant: Chez Always…

My kids love picnics. If ever they are out of control and acting like fools, I just need to scream “WHO WANTS TO HAVE A PICNIC??” I don’t know why they love eating off the dog-hair covered living room floor, but they do. If it’s summer we head outside, but more often than not if I serve cheese, crackers and fruit on plastic plates in front of the TV and everyone is in heaven. Today is a snow day (I’m still waiting on the imaginary storm), so my kids are bored and driving me insane. Since today sucks, I let them have a picnic lunch in the living room. Natalie and Jack always set up their picnics with extreme care. They find tea towels to use as “fancy” tablecloths. They set out cutlery and fold napkins to make it a fine dining event. They love pretending they are in a restaurant and will even make menus and order their food from me. It’s actually quite a production for some pb&j sandwiches.

As they were setting up, Millie was tearing through, ripping everything apart. Natalie got really upset and was screaming that she wouldn’t have lunch with her sister because she “wrecks everything and has boogers.” Fair enough. I encouraged Millie to set up her own picnic area and she was up for that challenge. I was slicing apples and not really paying attention to all of the banging and noise she was making. For a not-even-2-year-old, she’s very efficient AND creative. She carried her own plate to her table, and when I turned the corner, I found THIS…

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So cute, I thought…. Then I noticed the maxi-pad under her plate. I have no idea what her theory was on that, but she was very proud of her place setting skills. 

Skipping Christmas Pt. 2: More Wine Please!

I’ve really been dragging on the telling of our “Skipping Christmas” Story, and here’s why:

1. Since arriving back home, I’ve had very little time to do anything but celebrate Christmas with all of those people we were running away from. But seriously, if you ever plan on “skipping” any holidays, make sure that you arrive back home WELL after said holiday. Preferably, in the next month. If we came home in January (as per original plan), no one would have remembered little old Christmas, and we would have gotten away with our master plan. But, our families weren’t having it. So, it wasn’t until AFTER we rung in the New Year that I actually got a chance to write anything.

2. I’m not going to lie, I think that I have a little bit of Post Traumatic Stress from the whole tour. I needed a little time to let it all settle in. Time to let the flashbacks and tremor-inducing nightmares fade away. OK, it wasn’t that bad, but still… I needed a little time.

So, where do I start? How do I tell the story of two insane-kid filled families who decide to drive to Florida and spend 13 days together in one house, at Christmas? I have no idea. So, I think I’ll do it in pictures. Here goes…

Picture 1. Upon arrival, we noticed one thing: Floridians (at least where we were) do NOT do Christmas like us Canadians. There were no ridiculous Griswold-like displays of lights, no tacky blow up penguins or snowmen, and NO big fat Santa on anyone’s roof. There were a few very tasteful garlands on some of the houses, but NOTHING else. Maybe they count their millions of billboards about Jesus as year-round Christmas decorating, but we Canadians, DO NOT! We knew we had to tacky up the place. We found some gloriously hideous light-up candy canes. I was hoping for snowmen but they don’t do snow or snowmen in Florida. Duh!

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Picture 2: What’s Christmas without a Christmas tree? The kids made their own decorations, and we found the rest at the dollar store.

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Picture 3: Final product. Isn’t she lovely?

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With our decorating done it was time to get on with the vacation part of the program. Time to do the tourist thing.

Picture 4: Fun Spot. An amusement park that luckily for us, was like a ghost town. There were practically no other visitors on the day we went. We were able to do all the rides, again and again, and enjoy a crowd-free day. It was great.  Here is a picture of the kids (minus Millie) on one of the rides. Can you see the excitement in their faces?

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Picture 5: The highlight of Fun Spot. Go Karts!

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Picture 6: Since Millie couldn’t really go on too many rides in any of the amusement parks we visited, most of my pictures of her look like this:

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Millie eating snacks. Her favourite: popcorn!

Picture 7: Disney. There is a ton I can say about Disney World, but I fear that I’d swear too much, and offend almost every Mickey Mouse lover in the world. This was our second time visiting the Magic Kingdom, and I will say, it was better than the first. This time we (and by we, I mean Melissa who LOVES Disney) got a chance to dance with the characters and get their autographs. BIG highlight for her, and we teased her to no end about that later. Here is a picture of the kids dancing in the streets.

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The kids had a blast. But as you can see, our “big kid” in the group, had the most fun! We love her to pieces for this. She was there front and centre at every random dance party, busting out her moves to get the kids amped. You go, girl!

Picture 8: Autographs and meeting characters. This was the highlight! Natalie and Jadyn meeting Minnie. Big deal people, BIG DEAL!

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Picture 9: For me, this picture sums up my own personal experience of Disney. This is our family picture in front of the castle. Natalie has sunscreen in her eye, Millie doesn’t care in the least that she’s here, and Jack just wants to get a move on and do “stuff.” My face says it all. Cursing is happening on the inside.

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We managed to stay the day, and into the evening when we saw the electrical parade (which was great) and then wrestled the crowds to escape before the fireworks ended. It took forever, and when we got home, the kids were put to bed, and we adults indulged in a few well-deserved alcoholic beverages. Mission complete.

Picture 10: Beach day! We drove to Clearwater for a bit of sun and sand. The kids collected shells, played in the ocean and I got to do some shopping.

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The kids also played mini golf, went to Dinosaur World and the Aquarium. I skipped these events, so that I could regain some composure and not get thrown into a jail cell before Christmas. Seriously, I can’t do that much chaos and survive. I knew that, so I stayed home and cleaned and organized the house that was in a complete state of emergency.

Tourist attractions complete. Now it’s time for Christmas. The kids spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day swimming and hanging out. The kids were geared up for Santa and we adults just drank away the pain of how insane things had gotten. Christmas eve we had a Christmas carol dance party and then everyone went to bed.

Picture 11: This is a picture of the kids acting out their version of what happens on Christmas Eve. I give you Santa and his reindeer.

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Christmas morning went well. The kids were happy. They went swimming and played with their new toys. We made dinner.

Picture 12: Christmas dinner.

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It was all over. The next day we would start to clean everything up, and get ready to leave at the crack of dawn on the 27th. We survived! We laughed, we cried, we made it through a very long trip with some very rambunctious kids. Ahhh…the emotional scars, they will last forever.

Final picture. This is how I made it through. Christmas day in yoga attire with a bottle of cheapo bandito sparkling wine.

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Skipping Christmas Pt. 1: Getting There Was Half The Battle…

Day of Departure: Wake kids up early. Our friends arrive and we set off to the airport in Syracuse. The kids are stoked! We are early, so we stop at McDonald’s for lunch before our flight. I make comments about how hilarious it would be if our flight was cancelled after all of our planning. We arrive at the airport. Flight cancelled. Kids running around the airport. I am swearing. The guys go to check on the situation. They come back to tell us that we will have to wait 2 days until the next flight. Again, more swearing. They leave again. They come back with sets of keys in their hands. We are now driving to Florida, in rented SUVs and flying home 2 weeks later. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve said “I WILL NEVER DRIVE WITH MY KIDS TO FLORIDA!!” I can’t handle driving with them for more than 30 minutes. Now I’m loading my kids up and driving to Florida (21 hours) with zero notice, and no preparations? You’ve got to be kidding me. Oh, and did I mention that it’s a blizzard? Great idea! So, with two SUVs (with NO 4-wheel drive), 6 kids, 4 tired and pissed off parents, we set off. We didn’t have blankets or pillows or even snacks for the kids. We had a tiny portable dvd player that has some sort of electrical short that made it cut in and out, a bottle of water and a couple packs of candy. We left around 3 p.m. from Syracuse. The weather was terrible. I was pretty sure we were going to die. In fact, I remember watching the mile markers on the side of the highway so I’d be prepared in the off-chance that I’d survive the crash, and be able to call for help. We drove very slowly until 7 p.m. when we stopped for dinner. Dinner with 6 kids who have been sitting in a car for 4 hours? Not very fun, but we made it through. We loaded them back up, and drove straight there (with 2 stops for gas). We arrived in Florida by morning. We stopped for one of the most disgustingly greasy and horrific truck stop breakfasts of my life, and finally arrived at our destination well before lunch. SUCCESS! I can’t believe I made it through that without losing my mind. I think that if we had planned to drive, and we were prepared for 24 hrs in the car with the kids, we never would have survived. We were caught off-guard, and it worked in our favour. That said, I would NEVER do that again.

We made it! Side note: Don’t you think it’s hilarious that we had virtually matching SUVs that travelled together the entire way down?

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