les gamins21 Mar 2010 06:12 pm

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At dinner tonight, Liam was talking about the puppy next door, who happens to be the most adorable Australian Shepherd ever. In fact, he was pretending to be her, and after some random comments about chasing our cat, “Callie the dog” started the toilet talk.

The table conversation was deteriorating rapidly. Meghan sweetly said with a smile, “Callie, that is really inappropriate.”

Excuse me? Aren’t you my four year old?

book club and les gamins16 Mar 2010 09:55 pm

Well. This is strange, isn’t it? Me writing? Well, don’t take it personally, but I have been writing. Just not here. Sorry.

I am afraid that I’ve been making time for letters to the editor, and letters to Council, communicating, connecting, and collaborating with my Community Association peeps, and there’s just been nothing left for the blog.

But I have to admit, I’ve also been reading. Sunk myself into The English Assassin, Arctic Chill, The Flying Troutmans, Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter, and now The Book Thief. All good reads. All completely different too.

And then there was that two-week Olympics love-in with the new television.

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And it gets worse. Now, a complete obsession with Midsommer Murders, and Prime Suspect. Cable has only tempted me for a few hours a week, so far. I don’t know what I’ll do when we have to actually pay for the service though. The six month free trial is likely just enough to ensure a no fail addiction to these shows, so I think they’ve likely got me now.

What I haven’t been doing, while enjoying all this easy entertainment, is all the unfinished projects around the house. So, my dear internet, I am saying here and now, that I will be finished repainting the interior of this house by the end of Spring. It’s just got to happen. I started too long ago to admit. I am not sure what is wrong with me that I can leave a project unfinished this long, but the end is nigh for the living room of three different colours, one running into the next. It must be.

I was hoping that it would all be finished by the time my dear boy returns from his great adventure across the province over Spring Break. He’s not a big fan of change, so I thought it would be best if the transformation happened in his absence. Of course, it hasn’t happened. I thought being one child down might make time for so much more, but alas, it has not. We managed a small expansion of the brick driveway to secure the manhole cover, but not much more.

And really, what am I doing here writing about books, TV, and projects, when really? I just want to tell you how much I’m missing Liam, and wishing he was home already. He’s at Granny and Grampa’s, and in a few short days, has learned to ski and loves it. As much as I’m thrilled to have a new ski buddy, and know that he got something wonderful out of these two weeks off school, I really am missing him. He’ll be home in two more sleeps, but I wish it were sooner.

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What I wouldn’t do to gather him up, all elbows and kneecaps that he is, and have a good hug! We took the ferry together to see him off on his great adventure, and he didn’t stop talking the whole ride. I gather he hasn’t stopped talking since he got to Windermere either. He drew pictures for his Aunties on the ferry, and I got the play-by-play of what was going on in the drawing. Always some kind of action, some intricate scenario being played out in his imagination.

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His sister is also missing the entertainment, and the guy that makes her laugh the most. Again, like last summer while he was away, Megs has reveled in the attention, but quietly, with only carefully chosen words to make a point. She astounds me with her vocabulary, use of very grown up expressions, and her ability to articulate her thoughts, feelings, emotions, but only when asked. (I promise to run to my laptop and write the next one down, because it kills me that I can’t remember all the gems that come out of her mouth.) She rarely volunteers anything. So completely the opposite of her brother. But still, peas in a pod. And hopefully we’ll have all the peas back in the pod, together where they belong, real soon.

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les gamins18 Jan 2010 10:05 pm

It seems that unless I abandon sleep, exercise, eating, work, or my family, I am not going to be able to write as much as I’d like. My sister once told me that believe it or not, as the kids get older, you get even busier! I would never have believed it at the time, being as pedal-to-the-metal as I felt I could ever be. Well, we’re working on changing that definition of busy, working very hard at it indeed.

The sad thing is how many times over the last month or so I’ve heard absolute gems from my kids. Blog posts that were practically writing themselves…in my head…and sadly never made it out.

We traveled back to my family in Windermere for Christmas this year, stopping each way for a good visit with Len’s family in the Okanagan. We left on a Saturday morning ferry, and we made it all the way to Saturday night before Meghan fell ill with a terrible fever. She was sick for the entire holiday. Two full weeks of fever, chills, congestion, cough, runny nose, and then the dreaded intestinal ills. The whole family got to share in the experience as well, as one by one, we were brought down by the flu. But none of us suffered nearly as much as poor Megs.

I blame the ferry, because we can’t seem to go to Windermere without Megs coming down with something awful when we get there. Perhaps next time, we’ll stay in the car with a picnic and a movie on the laptop to avoid the germs. I’ll let you know if it brings us success.

She was very pleased with the mini Barbie Princesses (and Prince…”Tom” as she calls him) that Santa brought her. She quietly opened her presents and stocking, commenting on things she was particularly happy to get, all with a satisfied smile on her face.

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Liam, on the other hand, was not so quiet. He was the first one up, and came to wake me up before he touched a single present. He had dared to open his stocking, but without tags on things, he was afraid to lay claim to the unwrapped gifts that Santa had left under the tree. He showed me all the things he was pretty sure were his, and finally gave way to excitement when I said that they must be his. He got a quick thrill from the space blasters (or guns…but you know my preference), but they haven’t seen much action since he got home. Perhaps they are only good for when a friends comes to play? The lego, on the other hand, has been played with every day since. And not just by Len!

Santa overlooked the duplication, and brought Meghan two tiny Cinderellas, and only one Prince. So, when Meghan asked me to play Princesses one day, I felt honoured to be included in her imaginative play that usually goes on quietly in her own head, and without any participation from me. She had both Cinderella and the Prince in her hands, and said, “We’re going on our Honeymoon. You stay here.” And she moved the two newlyweds off to dance around on the couch, making them look as if they were waltzing around and around. Me being the other twin Cinderella, I stayed put and petted the horse that was meant to pull the carriage. When Meghan’s Cinderella and Prince returned a few seconds later, she gave me the Prince, and said, “Okay. It’s your turn. You get to have him now.” If she only knew…

Liam was disappointed not to get a Nintendo DS, but we told him that Santa can’t bring it all, and he might just need to be a little older before he gets something like that. He has already said he’d like one for his birthday. The dog never came up. I guess he is perceptive enough to know that that’s a long shot, even for Santa.

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He lost his second front tooth, and now has a huge gap where his top front teeth should be. He finally had a haircut when we got home, and if it’s possible looks even cuter. He was apprehensive to get it cut at the glitzy place in the mall, when our usual place was closed, but he did it. All it took was a bubble gum bribe, and he was up on the chair. Meghan took one look at the place, turned on her heel and said, “I am not getting my hair cut here. I don’t like this place.” And that, was that.

I managed to succeed this weekend at another place in the mall. She just about backed out at the last minute, bribe (bubble gum) already in hand, but after a little explaining, a little reassuring, she consented to a trim. I don’t need to say it, but she is beyond adorable. Why have a blog, if you can’t use it to indulge yourself with praise for your own children?

The return to work, school, and daycare has been a bit of a slog for this family. We’ve slept in, missed buses, been late, been really late, and after two weeks finally seem to be getting a grip on reality. The first day back at school, the kids were bounding to the door to welcome me home, full of stories and excitement. By Friday of that first week, they were exhausted and impossible to put to bed without a terrible scene. After almost two full weeks of sleeping in, and disastrous bedtime situations, we finally got them to bed one night before 7:00 PM, and we’ve been gaining ground ever since.

Mornings are a little earlier, and a little easier every day. Bedtime is getting slightly easier each night, with the exception of the annoyance of the endless appetites. They must be in a growth spurt, because they will eat dinner and be ravenous at bedtime, not an hour later. It’s getting lighter every day, and the sun makes such a difference! It’s a shame we can’t all go into a winter hibernation for a month or so.

Len received a big screen television for his birthday from the family, so we’ve spent more time lately watching movies. I suppose this is our version of hibernation. We can’t quite bring ourselves to commit to cable, but it does seem like an eventuality, now that we actually own a TV. The 17″ old computer monitor we were using for the last few years left that temptation out of reach. And now, the idea of easy entertainment is only a phone call away…but really? Do we need anything else to do in our lives? We’re barely keeping up as is! I think a movie on the weekends will likely rule the day, and cable will have to wait until life calms down a little.

I promise the next technological device to be joining this household will be a camera. I will no longer require the generousity of family members to pass along their photos to pepper my blog. I will again be able to rely on my own creative inspiration and keep track of all the rapid change going on chez Kirby. These years are going by in too much of a blur, not to be recorded with a few stories and photos to make me smile when they are all said and done. Of course, now all I need to do is find the time to shop for one!

joie de vivre and la maison and les gamins and moi07 Dec 2009 12:02 am

We had a very busy day today, with gymnastics, and parties for both the kids and adults, but thankfully it all began very slowly. I enjoyed to the fullest a few hours of lounging around drinking hot coffee in my new mug, still in my pj’s, wrapped in blankets on my beautiful couch, kids snuggled into the new chair. It was perfection.

My Mum’s best friend visits a great second hand store in her city every week, and she found me four beautiful, cobalt blue mugs. They match the smattering of good dishes we have, and are the perfect size for a good Sunday morning coffee lie-about. Thanks Marilyn.

I have discovered my own version of the second hand store in the UsedVictoria site. I don’t have time to go to a store anymore, but surf? I can do that at least once a day! I love looking for exactly the right things, and sometimes…it’s pure magic!

I absolutely hit the jackpot in the summer with this amazing couch…

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…for $120.

My girlfriend says it was worth thousands new, and I am not surprised. High quality leather, and with the polish the guy threw in with it, I can keep it in good shape.

And then last weekend, I found this chair…

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for $150.

It’s become a favourite of mine, Len, the kids, and especially the cat. Cozy, the perfect size to read stories to the kids, and it’s not hard to look at either! Apparently it was from the old Eaton’s store. My Gran used to work for Eaton’s, so that makes it even more perfect.

And there’s so much satisfaction in waiting, watching, and waiting for just the right one to come along. It’s like fishing, except without the outdoors and the killing.

I don’t look for more than one thing at a time, usually. Just set my sights on the one thing I really would like to add to our house, and then when it shows up, I know. Even indecisive me can make a call and commit as a buyer, because I’ve been looking for so long I know exactly what I want. And, because it’s usually the right price, there’s no agonizing over finances!

I think the thing I’m starting to understand about all this waiting for nice things. Because, let’s face it, I’m 35, and finally have living room furniture I like. No one can accuse me of being apart of the instant-gratification generation. I finally get that there’s a reason for all the waiting. Just like Christmas, I have been enjoying all the anticipation, as much as the the celebration itself.

Oh, and about Christmas…

We went to my work’s Children’s Christmas Party today. Santa came, and it was all very exciting. Liam got a little remote control car that was not as immediately appealing as Meghan’s gift, which was a stuffy puppy, in a kennel, with all the veterinary equipment, and accessories to look after a dog.

She hadn’t had him ten minutes, when she came up with a name for her: Sweet Pete. Much like Elliot, Meghan’s baby girl.

…Right. Okay.

As we were loading up the car to go home from the party, Meghan and Liam were having a little discussion about where the dog could sit, and something to do with caring for the dog. Liam said, “Meghan, you’ll see what I mean when I get my dog…”

Ya. Okay. No pressure.

Expectations can be so difficult. I wouldn’t be in this awkward spot of having to prepare my little man for what is likely to be a big disappointment. I’ve already told him Santa doesn’t bring animals. The reindeer can get spooked by them, and there could be an accident. The sleigh goes way too fast, and a puppy would be way too scared, much like our neighbour’s puppy was shivering when we first met her. He remembered how nervous she was from her car ride, and he seemed to accept this explanation at the time. But obviously, the dream is still alive.

Now, if only I could find myself a free dog walker in the neighbourhood! That would be the find of the century!

les gamins02 Dec 2009 09:53 pm

And she looks a little like this…

Shih-tzu Maltese puppy

Yes, things have gotten interesting again around here the last few days (as if they were ever dull). Our neighbours got a little puppy last weekend, and by little, I’m not exaggerating. She is a Shih-tzu/Maltese cross, and so petite that they can’t get a collar or harness small enough for her. She is not really a dog, but a teddy bear. A fluff ball that is desperate to play, and whimpers while she tries to go down stairs.

As soon as we met her, I could feel a little tug…and steeled myself against her cuteness. We cannot add a dog to the already busy lives we lead.

Then yesterday, Liam and Meghan wrote their letters to Santa, and things went from tug to …well, downright turmoil.

Liam’s list consisted of three words: DOG, DS, and GUN.

Theories abound on what I should do, what Santa can and cannot deliver, and the ways in which I can or cannot get out of this hard place. But one thing’s for sure, he has me cornered.

The three things I’ve been saying no to for the past year, have come at the same time that my sweet little boy might be doubting the truth in a jolly old elf named Santa Claus! Doubt that my own failure as the Tooth Fairy probably brought on, with the help of some older boys at school. No pressure or anything.

So I have withheld comment to Liam, mostly, and left the letter on the mantle, in hopes answers come to me before it’s the weekend when we’ll have time to go to the post office.

Then I sat down with Meghan and wrote her letter by dictation.

It went like this:

Dear Santa,
I want some kitty stuff. This is a very great day and I love it. I want a Barbie castle with princesses in it, and a remote control car for the Barbie castle (and there’s seats in the car for each princess). I like your sleigh and I like all your reindeer, and Rudolph.
Love, Meghan

I love the kitty stuff idea. It’s the Barbie stuff I am reeling over. First off, I’m disturbed that she even knows what Barbie is, let alone that she wants all these things I had no idea existed. I asked her where she got these ideas, and she said, “I made them up!” Turns out, that indeed her best friend at daycare has all these things already.

Aha…so I can keep them away from television, I can keep it all out of my house, I can assume that they won’t be in a preschool daycare, but I can’t keep her friends from talking. I’m doomed.

I see Barbie in the same vein as I see guns for boys. I just don’t think it’s doing all that much good for them. And then there’s the fact that they will get played with very little before they break or lose their appeal. They will end up in the landfill and I will have been just another consumer making a bad choice. We already have a doll house for Meghan, so I’m hoping I can find a couple of little Princesses that will fit inside, and don’t weigh on my conscience like Barbie certainly would.

The Nintendo DS is expensive, and begins us on the whole video game addiction trajectory that both Len and I both want to avoid as long as possible. Some of his friends have them, but for reasons like a need for eye movement to correct an eye problem, or because they have older siblings that have them. I think I can hold firm on this one.

Which leaves me with trying to talk Liam out of the dog and the gun, or giving in on at least the gun. Or the dog? A friend suggested today that he is probably betting I’ll cave and get him at least one thing on his list. If so, he’s playing his odds pretty well. Can a mother really call her son’s bluff?

I’ve never been a fan of the pet for Christmas idea, nor for birthdays. I just see animals as friends that come along and become part of the family without being attached to one person as a gift. I remember our first family dog was given to us by my Gran, and the others were brought to us also by circumstances beyond my parent’s control. They were a huge part of our family, the four dogs and two cats we had over the years. Which also leads me to guilt, because I really loved those animals, and have really great memories of our lives together. I really don’t want to deprive my kids of that kind of companionship.

But reality bites. My house and yard are not sprawling like the home I grew up in. My Mum was also at home all day, so there was always someone there to look after them. They were never left alone like a dog would be in this house. The other bit of reality is that animals do not just adopt themselves to a family very often in the city. They go to shelters and it’s all very formal. As much as I’d like for a dog to find it’s way to us at just the right time, I know that that is a very unlikely scenario in the city.

So, where does that leave us for Christmas morning? I’m not sure, but Christmas shopping is not looking like the predictable, easy path we’ve worn away in years past. It’s looking like it’s going to be an uphill slog. I’m hoping the view on Christmas morning isn’t one of total disappointment. Because that my dear internet, would be even harder than a six year old girl expecting diamonds, gold, and jewels for Christmas (as promised by her sisters), and getting a little book about ponies. Disappointment doesn’t cover it.

les gamins17 Nov 2009 10:56 pm

On Sunday, Liam was thoroughly enjoying playing with his very loose front tooth, and took every opportunity to gross me out by clicking it around in his mouth. It was hanging by a thread, so he allowed Len to pull out, which he almost immediately regretted. He had lost the easy reaction-grabber from me, and it also felt different. I think I’ve mentioned before how this boy does not really like change?

He actually looks very different (I’ll share a photo as soon as I can get an operational camera). Len and I were both taken aback by how much older it makes him look. Can someone PLEASE slow this train down?!

So, after a little cry under the table, (Liam, not me) I coaxed him out to write a note to the Tooth Fairy. He asked her if he could keep his tooth, and still get some money. He sounded out the words, and carefully spaced his letters and words in neat rows. It’s the longest note I’ve ever seen him write, so it was an impressive effort.

We had dinner, bath time, stories, and bedtime. Len and I cleaned the kitchen, froze the seven litres of soup stock Len had made, made everyone’s lunches, signed Liam’s cahier de communication, got his skating gear ready, found the library books, got Meghan’s bag ready, finished folding two loads of laundry, and then finally fell into bed ourselves.

And we overlooked one very important little task.

Monday morning, I woke up with a start. Meghan was already up, which meant I wouldn’t have long before Liam was awake too. I slipped downstairs, grabbed a loonie and a twoonie from the laundry stash (I have a pile of coins there that come out of the washer), and slipped back up, only to find Liam awake and kneeling in his bed. He had his pillows pulled aside, and said with heartbreaking disappointment, “Mum! She didn’t come! I’ve looked all under my pillows, and there’s nothing there.”

I tried to slip the coins in under the note, but saw his eyes narrow onto my hand, and quickly pulled it back. I turned on the light, and said, “Maybe you just can’t see the money in the dark?” I put the coins under his duvet, and then asked, “What’s this under here?!” He looked me directly in the eye, and said, “Muuuum…I saw you put those there. I know you’re the Tooth Fairy.”

The game was up. I had no way out. I owned up, and told him in a whisper that yes, I am the Tooth Fairy. I told him that it’s a big grown up secret, and he’s in on it now, so he has to keep it. As I told him this, I could feel a little fear welling up inside, that maybe this honesty was about to ruin my favourite lie: Santa.

I made him promise not to tell Meghan, or the kids at school. I told him how a girl had made me cry in Grade One telling me that the Tooth Fairy wasn’t real (when really, it was Santa she stole from me). He obviously empathized, and promised, even pinky-swore, he’d keep the secret. He said a boy at school had told him that the Tooth Fairy was really his parents. I wondered how much else this boy had said.

Then he climbed down from his bunk bed, ran into the bathroom, and said, “Meghan! I have to tell you something!!”

I froze.

He said, “Meghan, I SAW the Tooth Fairy last night! And she has wings!”

Okay. Breathe.

He couldn’t stop himself there though. The story kept getting better and better. Next, he was telling her that “Actually, the Tooth Fairy? She took me with her to Fairy Land.”

Meghan looked at him, eyes alight, and said, “I know that is Wonderland. You went to Wonderland Liam?!”

He was just getting warmed up. He said, “Actually, Meghan, there’s a little door in Mum and Dad’s bedroom, and you can’t see it, but she took me through it.”

I stared at him, and when Meghan left the room, I said, “Liam, you have to be careful when you’re telling a lie, that it doesn’t get too big. If it gets too big, you might not be able to hold it together.”

He nodded, and left it at that.

So, last night at bedtime, he had a flyer (from Walmart of all places), and he was going through it with a pen and circling all the things he wanted. He doesn’t have very discriminating taste, because he had circled just about every item in the flyer. But at the end, he said, “Mum, I know that the Tooth Fairy isn’t real, and neither is Santa. You and Daddy just go and buy presents and you put them under the tree.”

My heart sank. I wasn’t going down without a fight. Not on this one. So, I said, “But Liam, what would make you think that about Santa?” Lame, I know, but I wasn’t ready! I tried again with, “Of course, Santa is real. He is the most generous man in the world, and he really is magic.”

Liam looked me in the eye again, and this time, I saw trust. I felt a little guilty, but it’s all in the name of fun, right? I had no idea this was going to be happening so soon. I wasn’t prepared with answers, and I certainly wasn’t prepared for him to be too old for Santa. So, I said what I remember my Dad saying. I said, “Liam, if you don’t believe in Santa? Santa won’t come anymore.”

Well, that did the trick. He said, “Well then, I believe!”

I don’t think he really knows what to believe, but he certainly wants to, and this Christmas that’s going to have to be enough.

la maison12 Oct 2009 11:21 am

The temperature seems to have dropped a little today, putting me more in mind of all-things-winter, and it’s come as a bit of a shock. I suppose it could be worse, as there’s no frost, and I can still see the purple of my petunias outside. And having just heard about the early arrival of winter in the Rockies, I should feel grateful that there’s no snow or sub-zero temperatures here.

It’s just that my feet are cold, and I can feel the draft off the windows, and I know it’s only going to get worse. So, now is when all that talk of energy efficiency upgrades we did all summer turns from the right thing to do, to the thing we need to do, so my feet aren’t so cold, and my neck doesn’t feel the draft, and I don’t have to run around cleaning up mold from windows that weep condensation for more than half the year!

We got our appointment this summer with CityGreen.ca to have an energy audit done in the first week of September. We finally felt we were financially capable of saving up for windows, doors, and insulation. By making these changes, we would get money back in rebates. Of course, within weeks of making our appointment, the BC Government canceled their part of the rebate program, the LiveSmartBC Energy Efficiency Program, which added about $2000 to our upgrading bill. I wrote a letter to my MLA, Ida Chong, voicing my disappointment, and received a response that did nothing to give me hope that they will reinstate the program anytime soon. So much for their Climate Action Plan. Easy come, easy go.

So, with new windows being out of reach this year, we are looking for other ways to save energy, and keep ourselves warm this winter. I had a look at our bill on BC Hydro.com, and as expected our bill shoots up after October each year, and comes back down in April. Typically, now is when I stop using the clothesline, and start using the dryer, which obviously has a major impact on our bill. It rises by about 50%, with the rest of the increase being due to electric heat in the basement. BC Hydro has a link to Rebates and Savings, and I clicked through and discovered a really neat idea, that if we can find room to implement, would save us using the dryer so much over the winter.

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What a simple, great idea! I doubt we’ll have the space to accommodate it, but there are other alternatives that make more sense for our teeny little house. Anything will be an improvement over the cheap wire rack we have now, that bends and breaks under the weight of a wet blanket. It’s constantly falling apart, and frustrates even the most devoted energy-saver in our house. I think I’ll take BC Hydro and Sundog Clotheslines up on their 10% off deal.

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Of course, this does nothing to warm up the house right now, but I guess I can say that the more we save on electricity, the more we can save towards our goal of new windows, and insulation in the walls and attic. In the meantime, I guess I better go buy myself some more socks and scarves, the energy efficiency upgrades of recession weary 2009.

joie de vivre and les gamins26 Aug 2009 10:53 pm

After work today, I was watching the kids play Lego, and talking to them about the highlights of their day. For some reason, that I can’t bring myself to remember now, Meghan denied that she had a birthday. She insisted that she did not turn four ten days ago. “I am three!”, she declared, leaving no one with any desire to argue the point.

Sadly, she’s not alone in wishing that we could turn back the clock a little. My heart aches at the thought of my baby losing her baby face, which seems to be happening overnight.

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She talks in sentences more complicated than most adults could string together. She can pick out an outfit, and dress herself, like the fashionista I always wished to be. She can do up and undo her car seat belts, all by herself. Tonight, she brushed her own teeth, and it caught me so off guard, that I convinced her to let me do another quick once over.

I’m not ready to leave this stage, and thankfully she’s not going to wait around for me to catch up. I mean, I should be grateful that she’s a healthy, developing, growing girl. I just wish that somehow, there was a way to go back and visit that baby I held in my arms four years ago, especially knowing the character that she would grow into.

Meggie’s birthday fell at the end of our holiday. She had a little party with her cousins, and my family a few days earlier, and then we had her actual birthday with Len’s family. Based on the forecast, we’d planned a day at the beach, the water park, the playground, and a picnic for all the family. Unfortunately, the forecast did not foresee the rain, which was kind of the theme of our week away. Megs got to spend most of her big day on a swing though, so life was good, and we topped it off with an ice cream cake with a kitty cat on it. Is there anything better?! Not in her world.

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In the grown up world of planned holiday time though, and great expectations, I’ve had better holidays. Rain, clouds, cold, sick kids, brake failure (in the best place for it to happen…a very small town road, and thankfully NOT the freeway!), another brake job (at the expense of the parts supplier who gave us a faulty caliper!), massive cold sores for both Len and I, a two-sailing wait for the ferry, and then losing track of each other on the ferry for the first time ever! Sounds fun, huh?

I should have seen it coming. I mean, things didn’t start out as planned, and we weren’t even at the ferry before I could count on two hands all the things that were not in the car that should have been. But the forgotten luggage was actually quite a good story, that -at the expense of my dear husband- got many laughs from friends and family along the way.

He did say though, “We’ll laugh about this….right? Eventually, we’re going to laugh about this?” when I opened the container of yogurt I’d asked him to bring, only to notice it read FETA across the top, and actually contained last night’s leftover spaghetti sauce. Definitely a sign to set aside my expectations of beaches, swimming in the lake, sunshine, and lovely dry heat. Obviously, I ignored the signs, and tried to make the best of it.

The reason that things were left behind, and we didn’t dare go back to get them, was because we were in a hurry to get to our destination: Liam! He was at Granny and Grampa’s place for two weeks and two days without us, and I think we all felt like his void was going to swallow us up if we waited one more millisecond to see him!

He had a great time with the cousins, his Aunt and Uncle, Granny and Grampa, and only missed us a couple of nights at bedtime. Thankfully, he was lucky enough to have the fantastic weather we had so hoped to enjoy.

Meghan, I think, enjoyed the undivided attention she got from both of us in Liam’s absence, but I know she missed the company, and entertainment her brother provides. I learned from those two weeks of silence, just how quiet Meggie really is. I knew she was a bit of an introvert, but the silent car rides, with hours between comments absolutely confirmed my impression of her as someone who prefers to keep her thoughts to herself. She is the complete opposite of Liam, who must share EVERYTHING. I wonder where he gets that?

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The time alone with my introspective little girl was something to savour. She and I had a float around in the warmest ocean water I’ve ever experienced in BC. The tide at Rathtrevor Beach (near Parksville) goes out for about a kilometre. In the afternoon, the tide rolls it’s way back in, and the sun baked beach is very quickly covered with water, but only about two feet deep. It’s as warm as nice bath, and to my surprise I actually found myself swimming in the Straight of Georgia! I can’t even put my toes in at our beach!

So, Meghan and I floated around one afternoon in our little two person dingy, rocking on the waves in the sun. It was so peaceful, and relaxing, that she fell asleep leaning on my legs. I shaded her with my sarong, and we stayed like that, drifting around the beach for the rest of the afternoon. Len gallantly waded out to bring me the most delicious, and satisfying lime margarita I have ever had in my life, with ice and salt and everything that makes it the perfect hot weather beverage (but only in small doses). That, my friends, is summer defined in it’s very best light.

My four year old has graduated to enjoying camping after our experiences this year. Her oft-quoted comment from last year was, “Stupid camping!” It was raining. I don’t blame her. But, this year, she loved it. She loved it so much, she didn’t even want to go to the beach at first, because camping is a campsite, not the beach too.

But by mid-way through our second day, she said, “This is way better Mum! Camping is waaay better than Liam’s!” Meaning, her holiday was far better than anything he was doing at Gran and Grampa’s. If she was sad when he left, and sad that she wasn’t allowed to go too? Well, any sad definitely went away with that camping trip.

We’ve had a good summer. We had a memorable, if not perfect holiday. And I think from what she described to me the other day, Meghan had a good birthday, on the swing in the lakefront park, getting pushes and laughs from her Mama.

The other night, Megs called out for me, and I went to her bed to comfort her. Once she was settled back under her covers, she said with a smile, “Mum I’m going to draw you a picture for your birthday. It will be of a lake, with trees in front of it. And there’s a swing, and a grown up, and a little girl. And the grown up’s name is Michelle, and the little girl’s name is Meghan. And she’s in the swing, and she’s saying, We forgot the luggage!”

joie de vivre and la maison and moi26 Jul 2009 09:05 pm

I guess my creativity is lacking, because without a camera, and therefore, a photo to get me started, I don’t write. And sadly, the camera remains unfixed, and a new one just out of reach.

In case you were wondering, I have been doing a whole lot of nothing the last few weeks. I have barely attended a meeting, haven’t written any letters of protest, and have even been avoiding the news. It’s curious, isn’t it? How does someone proclaiming herself to be an activist get so…lazy?

I think I found my answer today. I was enjoying the summer rerun of The Sunday Edition on CBC Radio while making ReBar Orange Yogurt Hotcakes. After thoroughly enjoying the recap of one of the “Twenty Pieces of Music that Changed the World,” I listened to a documentary, that was introduced like this:

And in hour three, the life of a political activist can be thrilling. But changing the world is not easy, and the personal toll on those who try can be enormous. We’ll have documentary producer Frank Faulk’s look at activist burnout.

Not to be dramatic, because the personal stories included in this piece were very much more intense than my own experience, but I did pay attention. I heard how one woman dropped out of activism after a particularly intense exchange at a meeting following 9/11, how a man who ran for Mayor -and lost- later commit suicide, and other sobering stories.

It reminded me that taking a few months off to enjoy my family, and my summer, is okay. In fact, it’s necessary. Although my little bit of advocacy, and activism isn’t much by comparison, it does take a toll on me. And it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with me if I want to tune out for a while. And I have tuned out. I’ve been avoiding the CBC Radio news and current affairs programming, that normally I can’t live without. I can sing along to almost all the Top 40. Yup. Quite a switch!

But just to show that I’ve still got some substance left to me, I can say that I made 10 pounds of strawberries, and 10 pounds of raspberries into jam yesterday. It was freezer jam, mind you, but I was preserving all the same.

There is nothing quite so divine as toast slathered in raspberry jam! And particularly so, in January, when the taste of a fresh berry, one with flavour and sweetness that is, unlike those imports that have been on trucks for weeks, is so luxurious. Freezer jam can take me back to summer, and remind me to continue living through the dark days of winter.

We’ve got pickling cukes and some dill from the same farm where we picked up the berries, and I plan to tackle those this week. There’s only enough for a few jars, but it should do us for a first try. I’m going to track down the recipe of a friend of my Mum’s, because her pickles are memorable. Hopefully, I’ll have a camera soon, and can share the results and the recipe with you soon.

We’ve got lots of summer left to savour, with camping, a road trip, more tomato canning, and good times with family on the agenda. I hope, by the end of it, I’ll be feeling a little more motivated to get back to work on changing the world. Because in case you’ve been tuned out as well, I have a feeling that no one’s fixed it while our backs were turned to enjoy the sun.

joie de vivre and la maison and les gamins07 Jul 2009 09:16 pm

For a moment, I was left wondering what to write about tonight. My first instinct is to go on ad nauseum, as I have been doing, about how busy I’ve been. But, I think that subject has been well and truly exhausted, and my lack of posts makes the point abundantly clear.

So, instead I’m going to be random, much like my mother, and throw subjects at you that don’t have anything in common, but for that they came from my life and mind.

You Make Your Own Yogurt?!

I’ve long since mastered the art of yogurt making, albeit with the help of a yogurt maker and Yogourmet. It wasn’t obvious at first, but I did manage to master the process, and have been making about a litre a week of consistently decent plain yogurt from our organic milk. I use it to make the lightest, fluffiest pancakes ever, and it’s essential for our now perfect family favourite Butter Chicken, or in my case Butter Tofu, curry marinade. It also packs well in the kid’s lunches. They were even on board with this homemade yogurt, as long as our supply of raspberry jam was around to sweeten it. Sadly, we ran out of the delicious jam a couple of months ago (Note to self: Make WAY more jam this summer!), and the kids ran out of enthusiasm for my yogurt with it.

I broke down last week, after Liam’s ear tube surgery, and bought some Island Farms Vanilla Plus yogurt for a treat. Both kids devoured them, but especially Liam, who has been less than enthusiastic about my yogurt, jam or no jam. He’s just not that into it.

So, not to be easily defeated, I did a little looking around for vanilla yogurt recipes, and found many. I’m going to experiment with this one, and put a little strawberry jam in as well. I sort of feel like I’m cheating with all the sugar, but I’m still not producing the plastic waste I would be if I was buying it at the store. Sometimes, you have to focus on the little victories.

The Camera Question

You may have noticed that there haven’t been a whole lot of photos included in recent posts. I am still trying to decide whether to repair the camera or give up on it, and buy a new one. This is the third time the lens on our Cannon PowerShot has failed. This time, the repair shop says we need a whole new optical unit. Not good news, much like we got yesterday from the service shop for our car…but there, we didn’t have much choice. The camera is nearly replaceable at the repair cost of a new optical unit, unlike the repairs on the car, while sickening, we can’t replace the car for the cost of the repair bill.

With the camera, I have had to battle with the idea of disposable technology. I don’t want to buy new, when I could repair the old one, although it is only a year and a half old. Still, in terms of technology, that means light years in advancements. But at what point do I give up on this model, and decide it’s just not working out for us? Maybe much like Liam and the homemade yogurt, we need to spend some time apart?

The Boy and a Birthday

And without a camera, I don’t have the snapshots to remind me of what went on these last few busy months. While much of it is vague, I can say that Liam had a birthday, and he’s now six. SIX! We had a backyard party with fifteen kids. We managed to keep them all busy for two hours, with some free play, painting on a huge roll of paper across the deck, snacks and a Pirate story, followed by a Treasure Hunt that took them all over the yard searching out clues, leading to Treasure of the candy variety.

Things went pretty smoothly, with only some slight panic. Half way through, all our planned activities were done, and Len turned to me and said, What do we do now? We have a whole hour left!” So, even though it wasn’t sweltering hot, we pulled out the water balloons and the ever popular Mt. Tiki Soki sprinkler that explodes water like a volcano, and let the kids play. That last hour went quickly, and culminated with an Incredible Hulk cake (I know. Green icing?! How appetizing!), that was actually 24 cupcakes covered in enough icing to make even the sweetest sweet-tooth slightly ill.

I refused to do goody bags for the party, and compromised with a helium balloon tied to a piece of sidewalk chalk for each child. All the kids seemed happy, and I was proud not to have caved to both the unnecessary waste produced, but also the ridiculous expense of dollar store plastic toys that end up almost immediately broken or discarded.

We also went with a Twoonie party again this year, where the kids all bring a Twoonie instead of a gift for Liam. This way there’s less pressure on parents to buy something appropriate for a child they don’t likely know well, they don’t have to shell out yet another $10 or $20 for a birthday party gift, and the birthday boy’s parents don’t end up with a big pile of presents that they don’t have room to store.

Liam gets to take his twoonies, in his case about $30, and buy a gift of his choice at the toy store. One gift to store in the playroom, instead of fifteen! And there’s the added benefit of the reduced environmental impact, less emphasis on the material aspect of the birthday, and a whole lot less financial waste and burden on everyone! More reasons to celebrate!

And celebrate we did…with the big party, angel food cupcakes with local, fresh strawberries and whipped cream at daycare, and then his favourite entrée (prawns fried in garlic butter), mountains of LEGO, and MORE cake with us on his actual birthday. Happy Birthday, my big boy!

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And so, there you have it. Likely the most random of all posts ever written here at chez Kirby. But, you know? I feel better, so it had to be worth it.

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