August 25, 2010

A Mother's Instinct

I was cleaning up downstairs for a while and then thought the house had been a little too quiet . . . for far too long.

I rushed upstairs to Liv's room and saw right away that my instincts were correct.

Avery had taken apart a greeting card and kindly placed the sunglass sticker on Liv's face.

Just When . . .

you had a few great days with your kids filled with beach days, playdates at the park, science experiments and compliments from other parents about how well behaved your kids are . . . you think you might be an adequate parent . . .

You find one of your children sneaking a ride-on car into their bedroom and another child sneaking a steak knife into their toy box.

Seriously?? A steak knife? What the heck were they thinking?

(Names have been withheld to protect the guilty . . . but you can use your imagination and probably come spot on to who it was.)

Our Summer: The Kids' Version

What We Did This Summer.

Discovered all sorts of bugs living in the rainwater puddles in our development.

Ate out. LOTS. And we all sat on Dad's side . . . every time.

We took the camper to Pageant. It was so much fun. (Poor Mom and Dad thought it would be easier to have the kids loose for a long trip . . . NOPE.)

We saw our cousins . . . a few times. That was so much fun.
Especially Avery's favourite cousin, Emma. (Although, Noah is running a very close second these days.)
Explored our exploding development. Every day was brand new.

We took Guillermo for walks.

Rode our scooters and bikes.

Went for walks, usually to the park.

Appreciated nature that was around us.

Mom says we watched WAY too much TV. (We don't think we watched enough.)

We learned how to use Mom's cameras . . . when she wasn't looking.

We took pictures of friends . . .
Let them take pictures of us . . .

And took pictures of ourselves and those we love.

Including Dora. (But we played with her a lot too. And with other toys.)

August 21, 2010

True Love

People do crazy things for the ones they love.

Some fly across the world just to be together, others climb trees and toss stones at windows to get attention. And yet there are some who climb high towers, while others slay fierce dragons.

And there are husbands who, for the love of their wife (and to get her constant nagging finished with), will climb to crazy heights on wobbly scaffolding and ladders to tame the beast that is our 4 ft tall, 50 lbs foyer chandelier.

The chandelier was a steal. For the size that we needed, our chandelier budget had to be in the $1000 range. YIKES! Somewhat fortunately, we found a great chandelier for 65% off . . . bringing us to $350! I say it was somewhat fortunate only because when you pay "so little" for a chandelier it makes it SO hard to pay an electrician $450 to hang it.

We debated about whether to walk across the construction site and "borrow" scaffolding from the builder. We thought about waiting until it was being used on the house beside us. (You know, so we could be a little less conspicuous than lugging 15 ft of scaffolding a half mile through the mud. Then we heard you could rent it at the big Orange Store for only $50 . . . and at least have all the parts. (Ha!)

We had to wait for a day when Brad had a lot of time, and for when we could recruit some unsuspecting volunteer. Finally the day had come. Scaffolding had been rented and picked up and before we knew it, we were struggling to lift the heavy pieces and build the massive structure.

It only took about two pieces before we started second guessing our intellect. What the heck were we thinking?? Once the structure was put together, a simple wobble test proved that this was NOT going to work. At all. Apparently, someone forgot to send us home with a few more braces. Back to the store Brad went to get the needed pieces. And still, the sheer height, the crazy swaying of the scaffolding, and the looming idea of holding the chandelier at that height had us spooked. Kind of like how you stand in line for a really big rollercoaster, only to really regret ever having gotten in line once you are next to sit in the car.

A nieghbour came by to help give us some confidence and the loan of a ladder and then we rigged a huge 20 ft ladder to lean against the scaffolding. This was no small feat since it weighed a TON and we had to keep it steady in the air soas not to bash a hole in the ceiling or upper wall.

Personally, one look at the bowed out, shaky ladder and I was positive the scaffolding was the piece to be on. However, since I wasn't the one standing up there doing the work, I thought it best for Brad to be on whatever he felt most comfortable on.

It worked pretty well, though I must admit I was sweating buckets for Brad the whole time. I did my best to make everything go as fast as possible, figuring that the faster we got him down, the less chance he had of falling.

This meant doing a measurement of the chain length on the ground rather than in the air. (We weren't about to stand there for an hour or so adusting the length and then making decisions. After scouring the internet for ideas of how long to make the chain (naturally there were many different rules to follow and being a two story foyer added some minor complications to the "golden chandelier hanging" rule), I did my best to have everything measured and ready.

After hanging four other hanging light fixtures, you would think that I would have it down pat. The chandeliers in the girls' rooms are too long. The dining room chandelier is a bit long, so I over compensated in the breakfast nook and that one is about 4 inches too short.

Three rules guided my foyer measurements: 1) it must be at least 7.5' off the ground, 2) it should start 5' from the ceiling, and 3) in a two story foyer it should not pass the second floor. Rule #3 guided my decision the most . . . but I forgot to take into account the 1 ft of space between the first floor ceiling and the second floor. But really, will any of you come over to my house and notice that we are off by 6 inches?? If so, please keep it to yourself! Unless of course YOU are willing to go up there to fix it.

I knew it wasn't going to be perfect (we are hardly professionals) and it doesn't bother me too much except when I think of rule #4: The chandelier should be centered in the windows to be seen from outside. While it looks fine in the big window, the little one in the foyer could have had it about 6-9 inches lower to see it from the street. Instead, you can only see it when you are really close to the house . . . but who, other than me, would be THAT picky?

A big thank you has to go out to my brother-in-law, Drew, for helping us take the scaffolding down. It was hard enough getting it all up, but taking it down without a ladder and trying not to wreck the walls or the new, fragile chandelier was a little tricky.

As far as the chandelier goes, I must admit, I probably wouldn't have picked this chandelier out myself . . . these were the choices I was looking at:

But, when we were in the store and we stumbled across it and saw the price tag . . . I was very interested. (Funny thing: since the price was so good I figured it would almost be "disposable" if we really didn't like it in a few years. Ha. HA. HA!!) I did like the way it looked, somewhat, and when we went home I "tried it out" by photoshopping it into our foyer. I still feel that it really does suit the foyer. In fact, I think it looks even nicer in person than my preliminary photoshop effort.

There is something light and airy; contemporary, but not too modern; something just effortlessly elegant about it. And I LOVE how it doesn't take away from the other features in the foyer, but just adds a little finishing to it. (It makes us feel like we are in a house instead of a builder's box . . . which is important these days since our exterior is a little depressing.)

Now the bigger problem is that I'm afraid the rest of our lighting doesn't go and will need to be changed out . . .Uh oh! I think maybe we'll keep what we have but just fix the breakfast nook light.

August 18, 2010

Alfredo Tomato

My cousin and his friends have put together a cute pre-schooler DVD, Alfredo Tomato. It's along the lines of Blue's Clues and the like.

Check it out:

It's only $10 (a steal by today's DVD prices) so buy one to add to your child(ren)'s collection!

Costco Photofinishing and Ikea Framing:

This Photographer's nightmare.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I loathe Costco's photofinishing. I know that I am picky, but really, it is just horrible.

I have never had good experiences with it in the past: colours were always off, in a really repulsive way; perfectly proportioned portraits would be slanted and re-sized in some ridiculous manner. But they are cheap, and since I was eager to get some family photos up on our wall and didn't know exactly which ones would fit the space, I used Costco.

The photos were tinted a light sepia, kind of cappuccino . . . on my screen. However, when I got them back they had turned them some ugly shade of bluey-green! (How can that be when any other developer I have used has them come out that soft brown?)

But at least they were cheap, and quick.

The Ikea frames . . . that's an even bigger nightmare.

My wall is about 18 feet high. I thought it would be interesting to make a huge portrait wall of it and put in large family photos up it. (Meaning the smallest frame would be 11x14.)

I wanted it out of gallery frames, and since my budget couldn't afford the Pottery Barn versions, or even the full wall of cheaper frames, I went with Ikea. Yes, they are cheap, but they don't look that bad on the wall . . . and I know that I will always be able to find the same style in a year or so when I need to add more portraits to the wall.

You know the saying, "You get what you pay for?" I certainly did. Headaches. Major headaches. Ikea's larger frames are in such absurd sizes that no printer carries them. I have to custom but them and naturally they will only fit on larger sized sheets, costing 3 times what I would have paid if the photo could have been a mere 1/2 inch smaller. So in the end, I am having to pay more out of pocket anyway for the prints or for custom matting (because they couldn't even make the "16x20" frame a true "16x20" . . . it is in reality a 15 3/4" x 19 3/4".

How I loathe Ikea frames and Costco developing. I am sending my order to a real developer as soon as I post this. I take some solace in the fact that I didn't use a good developer in the first place since the sizes were so far off.

Wherefore Art Thou, School Time?

The back-to-school sales have been on for a month, school supplies are becoming scarce.

The house has been in shambles for months now, with all the packing, unpacking; coming and going; and three little tornadoes ripping through every five minutes.

Yes, the lack of organization is appalling. And so is the fact that last year's school work is still sitting on the kitchen counter top. (Good thing we have so much counter space!)

The house, although it is looking much better and more lived in, still needs a lot of TLC . . . which it is obviously not getting from the builder. (We have a weed jungle on our front lawn, interspersed with decorative brick and stone shards, courtesy of the masons working next door, and a lovely modern take on plastic orange fencing . . . rolled in a loose ball instead of in a straight line around our property.)

My mental health is at the breaking point with four little children cooped up inside because we have no yard for them to play in, and one child requires several naps a day.

And even though I remind myself of the morning rush, the hectic days and nights of school, and the homework whining, I still can't help but yearn a little for those days to return. Mostly because of the relief. At least two days a week I will be at home with just the girls and hopefully, just hopefully, I'll be able to clean again. And maybe it might even stay clean. For a few hours (let's be realistic!).

And the grocery shopping . . . ahhh, how wonderful would it be to go grocery shopping myself again . . . with only two tag-a-longs, instead of four?

At the same time, it makes me a little sad. That I wasn't able to accomplish all I set out to do this summer. And that I will have less time with my kids. Finding moments for quiet, one-on-one conversations will be harder. And then the morning stress is definitely not going to be embraced . . . especially when construction will be just starting beside us . . . blocking our way to the bus stop.

Oh School Time, until we meet in the crispness of fall, I shall try to savour my (lazy) summer days as much as possible. For while you bring such structure, and relief at times, my love affair with you will most likely be fickle.

August 16, 2010

Summer Trip '09

As plans are getting underway for our end of the summer trip of 2010, I thought maybe I should get around to posting about our trip from last summer.

It is a long, dry post, mostly put in for my benefit when I finally get around to doing the 2009 yearbook (yikes, am I really this far behind on that too??). I had to go through archives to find pictures and only found a few boring ones . . . not sure what happened to the rest . . . but I did find photos of a lot of other fun things we did but I didn't blog about. Yea for me, more blogging about last year.

I used to be so good at this thing. And baby books. I have yet to put any photos in Avery's book. Or even scratch marks of a pen in Liv's. YIKES!

Summer Evaluation

Now that back-to-school stuff has been on sale for a month (seriously?? PLEASE! I haven't even put my kids' school work from last year away yet.), the end of summer is racing towards me.

I've done a bit of reflecting on all my big projects for the summer that I thought I would get to.

-teach Jackson how to read (or at least know all his sounds and read a few words)
-have Jayden read chapters in books and write responses
-do science experiments with the kids
-soccer at the park
-swim at the local amusement park and at Sarah's
-organize the kids' cupboard
-organize closets
-organize the secretary desk
-make 6 weeks of meal plans and grocery lists
-practice cooking with the kids
-go on picnics
-paint the foyer wall
-attend play dates
-take photos

Although the big items on the list (like teaching Jackson to read, organizing closets, and meal plans) flew quickly out the window, I am happy that at least a few items could get crossed off. And there are still two and a half weeks left to do the rest.

I did take some photos, although I'd like to take more.

We did order a pizza in town and ate it at a park. (Does that count as a picnic?)

And it was just too hot this summer for soccer at the park, but we did clock in quite a bit of swim time.

Play dates just didn't work out. Neither did the science experiments (unless you consider trapping fruit flies a science experiment).

Even painting the foyer wall didn't pan out . . . but I think I made up for it by painting the boys' bathroom and the laundry room. (I guess a photo is needed.)

We'll see how much I can get done in the next few weeks. If back-to-school shopping and organizing doesn't interfere too much!

Black or White

With the new house there have been a lot of decisions regarding decorating. And with that has brought much thought and (sometimes) discussion.

Avery, although she is so young, has not been afraid to share her thoughts . . . and even becomes adament that we follow her advice.

Take, for instance, when I painted her room.

"What colour do you want?"


"How about green?"

"No. PINK."

When the paint went on the walls and began looking more green than pink, someone was in serious trouble.

A similar situation occured when I was painting her bathroom, although instead of forcing her to accept the mauve that I wanted, I did actually give in and let her choose pink.

Today, I was changing out the dresser knobs on her Wal-Mart dresser. I had looked high and low for a good quality pink crystal drawer pull, but hadn't found any. Instead, I decided that her white dresser could stand some black knobs.

"What are you doing, mom?"

"I'm changing out the knobs on your dresser."

"Why are you putting black ones on?"

"To make it look nicer."

"Mo-om, I don't like black."

"No? What colour do you like?"

"Pink. Or white."

"Honey, I tried to find pink knobs but I couldn't. I thought these ones would match your chandelier. See, it's black."

Avery looked up at the chandelier and paused for a moment.

"But the light is WHITE. Put the white knobs back on."

"I think the black ones are nicer."

"But I don't like black."

I even tried to get her to stand at the entrance of the room to see how the black knobs tied the chandelier and black mirror in with the rest of the room, but it didn't win her over.

"The dresser is white. Put the white ones back on."

I guess we'll be on the hunt for some pink knobs . . . if anyone knows of any good ones. :)

Flesh Eating Disease

It has been a long, hard fight, but Liv has been slowly losing her fight to the flesh eating disease.

This flesh eating disease is a little different than the text book version though. Instead of the flesh getting eaten by bacteria, the flesh is consuming her little body. :)

First to go was her chin. Next were her knuckles. Then her wrists and ankels followed suit.

It wasn't long before her hands and feet disappeared, followed by her knees. Now that we haven't seen her elbows for a few weeks, we've really begun to love the rolls brought on by the uncontrolled appetite of her flesh.

And sadly, now that she has started rolling her body, we will be seeing less of her chunky rolls and getting reacquainted with her sweet little body parts.

August 14, 2010


Used to be my best subject.

I was writing books when I was five. (Albeit, they were short and the printing was a little sloppy, but they were books . . . books that I even forced the librarian to put a pocket on so other kids could sign it out.)

I started up a school newspaper when I was nine. I had a magazine that I circulated to help other "young writers" get published when I was 11. A few years later, I wrote "novels" (well, 53 pagers).

As yearbook editor, you could say that I had a great command of the English language. And all my speaking and poetry awards would support that claim.

In fact, I did well in all languages: English, French or even Russian. I had little trouble expressing myself in written or spoken word. (At least to the level at which I had been taught.)

Which is why I have been so perplexed lately. (Lately being the last four years.)

In my mind, I speak perfect English.

"Don't climb my counters!"

"No eating on the couch. Eat only at the table."

"Clean your room."

"Pee INto the toilet, NOT on the floor."

Jayden and Avery seem to understand me well enough but Jackson, well, it's as though I was speaking Martian to him. He just looks at me (well, if I am lucky) and then before I can even finish repeating myself, he will have climbed back on the counters or snuck another spoonful of ice cream that he was not-s0-cleverly hiding beneath couch cushions.

I cannot even begin to express the great frustration that I have had these last four years. Or the horrible glimpses into the future of an unchecked child who has grown up doing whatever the heck he wants, whenever because no positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, or wooden spoon threats have proved to work in teaching him how to behave properly.

At my wits end (surely the long summer, mostly couped up inside our house since we have construction all around and not even a hope of grass this year contributed to the stress), I began to think of other ways for him to learn. From other people. Obviously, I was the wrong parent for him.

Private school? Maybe boarding school somewhere. A change or a different person out there could maybe inspire him. And though it made me sad to think that it would have to come to that in order for me to give him a good chance at being successful in life, I really believed it would be our only chance.

As Brad and I pulled lint from our pockets, the reality of funding such an idea became a faint dream and we realized we had to pull our sleeves up and figure something else out.

We thought about being super positive. But it's SO hard to be super positive with your child when they absolutely refuse to eat anything but bacon at a meal. Or when they go behind your back, find the iPad that you have hidden, and begin playing it against your will. Or, after he refused to clean his room and you decide to "switch chores," his room for the kitchen of dishes and you still have to do all the dishes yourself.

This afternoon, I had had it. Brad took over dinner duty and I ran to the store for a few more things. He bribed Jackson with Kernels Popcorn to help him cook and set the table. Afterwards, we all praised him about how amazing dinner was, how the juice was the best we'd ever tasted, etc, etc. And he even ate his whole dinner.

Later on at bedtime, we heard screaming from upstairs. Apparently, Jackson had asked Jayden to read to him from his Bakugan book and Jayden refused, so Jackson bit his head. Some scolding from downstairs and lots of whining and crying from upstairs (okay, maybe there was a lot of both), left Jackson in tears on his bed.

I went in and calmly told him how unacceptable it was to bit, hit, or bully someone into doing something that you wanted them to. I reminded him of how good he really is and how much he is loved and then I read him a Bakugan biography and then we talked about all the good things he did that day.

As we spent a few extra minutes cuddling, Jackson turned to me, tears in his eyes, and said, "Today was a really good day."

"Yes, it was. You were a really good helper," I agreed.

"It was the best. And tomorrow is going to be even better."

Let's hope so. Hopefully we have found Jackson's rosetta stone and things will go (mostly) up from here.

Otherwise, I'll be in the market for an English to Martian dictionary . . . if anyone out there has one. :)