Thursday, July 31, 2008

What's keeping me away

I'm still in vacation mode which equals no interest in blogging. But I fear that you, my readers, are dropping off like flies. It's not that I don't have anything to write about, it's just that I don't feel like writing anything. The weather, while sketchy, still drives me outside to the garden, to the playground, just to sitting on the deck. In the evening, I'm knitting or sewing.

Sewing. It's been a long, long time since my poor sewing machine has seen any significant action. It's been even longer for the serger. But yesterday I got that poor beast humming again. Emily's birthday party is fast approaching, August 9, which means I'm already slightly stressed about it. This is Emily's first real birthday party, which means me against a bunch of preschoolers.

Her party is a cooking party. I settled on this theme for her because, as you all know, Emily loves cooking and baking. So, here are my plans: first, we're going to make the pizza dough that will become our lunch. I had always planned to do the dough myself before hand (and I will have some extra on hand in case the kid-made stuff fails) but then after reading through Shan's WCW post this week, I decided to have the kids do the work. After the pizza dough making, we're going to head outside for a little Just Like Mom action. For those of you unlucky enough not to have grown up in Hamilton, Toronto or the Niagara Region, Just Like Mom was a CTV game show based on the Newlywed Game where moms had to guess their kids' answers to questions. The last segment of the show, The Bake Off, saw the kids making cookies. The moms had to taste them and guess which one belonged to their kid. Typical ingredients included ketchup and relish. I just happened to find a clip of The Bake Off on Youtube. It is definitely worth watching.

We're going to do our own cookie Just Like Mom game show. Each kid will have their own station and have to mix up their dough. Then we'll bake them and all get a taste test. Prizes will be for best cookie, yuckiest cookie, funniest, prettiest, I still have to work out the different prize categories. Oh, better put prizes on my "to do" list.

After that we're going to make home-made pasta and the kids will take home some as their craft. After that it is make your own pizza, bake them, eat cake,which I plan to decorate like a sushi roll given that Emily has a fondness for sushi. Here is my inspiration:

then open presents and send them home. At the beginning of all of this they'll get an apron (which is the sewing I'm doing right now) to wear through the party and take home with them. So far I'm really happy with how the aprons are coming. I'll post a photo, and likely offer them on my Etsy site, when I have one done.

I know, it all sounds a little ambitious but I think it will all be okay. There will be a lot of stuff to do before hand and I really have to get on getting some of that organized - lists and such need to be made. Most of the party will be outside so the mess will be hose-able. I sure hope the weather cooperates or I will be so screwed. We would manage, but the house might not fair so well.

And so, that is what is keeping me occupied at the moment. Yes, I realize I've barely talked about our three weeks at the cottage (which were awesome) and the old sermon. I'll get to it.


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Why I love the library

A few days ago, Emily asked me a question about bees that I couldn't answer. She wanted to know how they built hives. I seemed to remember that bees used saliva to build hives but I had no idea about honeybees and that was all she cared about in regard to bees. So, I suggested that next time we were at the library we get some books about bees.

The next day was our weekly trip to the library. I found three books for kids on honeybees. We have now read through each one multiple times. One of them is Emily's favourite bedtime "story."

Emily and I have both learned a lot about honeybees during the last few days. Did you know that the female worker bees do a dance for the other worker bees when they've discovered a new crop of flowers? The dance will tell the bees whether the flowers are within 300 feet of the hive (the circle dance) or further than 300 ft. The dance will convey where the flowers are in relation to the sun depending on the direction the bee dances. Did you know that each worker bee collects pollen from about 10,000 flowers each day? And that worker bees eventually die of exhaustion in their wings and legs and just fall out of the sky while flying and just die? And that during the life of a worker bee (about two months) all that pollen only adds up to about one tablespoon of honey?


Emily is rather taken with the queen bee and the fact that her only job is to have babies (and mate with the drones although thankfully she hasn't actually asked me what that is yet. I wasn't prepared to have this conversation in the midst of a lesson about bees. Hmmm, I guess it makes sense though: bees, sex, probably where the whole lame term "birds and bees" came from.)

Our brief foray into the world of honeybees and beekeeping has reminded me how lucky we are to have a daughter who is so interested in the world around her and so genuinely excited about learning new things. This is going to be huge in her success in school next year and the years following, and in life in general. I'm so excited for her as a result and excited for us that we won't have to instill this in her. It's there naturally.

I am also reminded, as I am every time I walk into the place, how fortunate we are to have such a great library nearby and proud that I've made it such a big part of our lives. At age 3, Emily already knows where to go to find answers that we don't have to questions that she has.

Eventually, she'll go to the internet like the rest of us. Going to the library to find the answer to the bee question took me back to the days when that is what we all did. The World Book or Encyclopedia Britannica was the backbone of our public school projects and the library was the centre of our "research." In fact, in my family, we went to the library every Saturday to get books to read, for pure enjoyment, during the week. I'm glad that I've kept this alive with my kids and I hope that they will continue to use it for school projects as they get older, rather than only relying on the internet. There is still something much more satisfying about turning pages and reading words and pictures on paper, browsing through the stacks and talking to a librarian than typing a word in Google in isolation in the basement.

One of the best moments of yesterday was when we saw the life (and ultimate death) of bees in action. We went out onto the deck and saw a wasp laying on one of our chairs, dying. We were witnessing a worker bee (although not a honeybee, but the same action was taking place) dying due to exhaustion. At least, that's what we deduced. Emily was enthralled. Almost as much as I was.

Have I conveyed well enough how excited I am that she is excited about learning? I think it's because I get to learn, or relearn, along the way too. And that's what I loved about school.

And now I get to do it all over again. When do I get my new pencil case?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Easing back into the rat race

You'd think after three weeks at the cottage I'd be itching to post all about our adventures there. And I am. Only thing is I just have no time this week. Well, I have time but if I used it for blogging that would mean I wouldn't be using my time for little things like THE SERMON. Yikes!

It is coming along. I have a draft and will tinker tonight for a bit and then dive back in in earnest tomorrow night.

Also going on.... serious weeding of the gardens. There were weeds that were as tall as Emily. I've discovered however that it is a lot easier to pull out big-as-Emily weeds that small weed sprouts. I'm thinking of letting the garden go nuts in three week increments whether I'm away or not just to save time later. Who cares what the neighbours think?

I'm getting some good running around done this week thanks to Vacation Bible School, that kiddie rite of passage. Emily is loving it this year and I'm loving only having one kid on my heels during the morning.

My big news of the week, and I mean really big, I told my boss yesterday that I won't be returning to work for at least two years. Holy crap. That decision was made a while ago, internally anyway but I hadn't told anyone at work. Now it's done and I've said goodbye to the French training. It is still eating at me a bit. I'm fairly certain it was the right decision for me right now but there is still that nagging little part of me that wonders whether I'll regret this in a few months or years. I know I won't regret having the time with the kids. That's a no-brainer. It's the damn French. And so tonight I subscribed to a Learn French podcast just to appease myself a bit and start working towards doing this all on my own.

We have a slight ant infestation that is causing me angst. We get one every spring. I thought we'd missed it this year but no luck turns out.

Time to turn my attention to something more celestial.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Three weeks of filth

We're home. I need a shower so bad. I haven't showered in three weeks. All right, so I have bathed in the lake several times but no real shower. No real deep clean. That is job one tonight.

After three weeks away, it is a minor culture shock to return home. My evening entertainment for the past three weeks has been watching the bugs congregate on the window, the moon rise over the lake and glimmer on the waves and recently trying to keep Hope from climbing out of her bed. That was more torture than entertainment though.

The first two weeks Hope did so well sleeping in a big bed. She took to it right away. And then Week 3. It was like she realized she could GET OUT. And strip too. I mean, why stop at getting out of bed when you can do it naked? Getting her to sleep has been really crappy the last week. Thoughts of buying her a single bed are now long gone. I was so thankful to plop her in her crib tonight knowing she couldn't get out. Of course, she's likely naked right now.

The week ahead is busy. Emily is starting Vacation Bible School tomorrow. I have to restock the fridge tomorrow morning. The gardens are looking great although there are crazy weeds everywhere and the tomatoes need to be totally re-staked. To top it all off, I'm speaking at church on Sunday. How insane is that? It feels insane anyway.

I'm glad to be home but I do miss the cottage already. I'll have to dream it over the next few weeks until we're back.

I am glad to talk to you all again though.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Damn Safari! Problem solved.

Turns out the browser was the problem. Firefox solved it. Anyway, here are the posts and photos I tried to post last time. All is well here. John leaves for Austin with Graeme tomorrow and then we'll be all girls all the time at the cottage for the next week. A lot of estrogen.

I just realized I haven't heard news, read a paper or scanned the internet in two weeks. I love it. Unplugging is one of the newest best things about the cottage for me. Ignorance really is bliss at times.

July 4

The final week of the Cleanse

I’m sitting here drinking what will be the last smoothie I will have, most likely, for a long time. I’m about to swallow the last supplements.

Tonight is the last night of the Cleanse.

The last few days have been a little more challenging. Being at the cottage means Loeb isn’t a 50minute car ride or 10-minute bike. We’re 20 minutes from a grocery store. I have had to shop carefully.

The cottage also means ice cream, cookies, a lot of fruit, treats brought by visitors, a steaming cup of coffee on the dock in the morning, a late afternoon glass of wine in the speckled sunlight.

The coffee and wine start tomorrow. I plan to keep my sweets-consumption very low and my vegetable intake very high because I really like how I feel after eating mainly vegetables for three weeks.

I also know that I will keep my portions much smaller. The reality is that I was consistently eating too much, or at least too much of the wrong things.

The other thing I know is this: tomorrow is Day 1-Post Cleanse and it will start with a cup of decaf, freshly ground and a warm piece of bakery-fresh multigrain toast covered in peanut butter and homemade strawberry jam. Tomorrow morning I’m celebrating me.

With just one piece though.

July 9, 2008

Grand plans gone sour on Mary Lake

Remember how I told you I’d keep writing posts and just upload a bunch every few days? Yah, that hasn’t happened. The post above is the only one I’ve written besides this one I’m writing on the fly right now.

I’ve been having fun. A lot of fun. No time or desire to sit at a computer or scribble things down by hand. It means I’m missing some good stuff for the blog but I’m living the good stuff without many worries or stresses or pressure on myself.

First, the morning after the post above I had grand plans to sip my coffee and eat my toast while watching the mist burn off the lake. Instead, Hope woke up at 6:00 and my day took off from there. I had my coffee and toast in a hurry between demands/requests and really only thought much about it after the last bite was gone. It was anti-climactic.

During our first week (last week), John’s mum joined us for a couple of days. The girls loved playg with her and I loved the short break it gave me. The evenings were spent playing a long forgotten game – Probe. It isn’t as intrusive as it sounds.

The day Omi left kicked off a few days of visits to other cottages nearby: Dad and Donna’s, Steve and Sue’s (John’s sister and BIL), and the Henkelman’s (Beth’s husband’s family’s cottage). Emily loves visiting other people at their cottages. It was all fun but I was really happy to be done driving all over God’s Green Earth and just stay put right here.

The day Omi left was also the day John went back to Ottawa for a few days. By the time he got back, I was spent. I’ve been a single parent on and off again enough during the last month. I’ll be glad to put an end to it soon. I still have one more week though starting Saturday when John flies to Austin for a week of exploration about his sabbatical.

Beth, Graeme and Kate joined us here on Sunday. The girls are having so much fun with Kate and she seems to tolerate them well.

I’m so happy to be with Beth. We’re having a great time. Yesterday we hiked up The Rock, as we’ve always called it and found a huge amount of wild blueberries. Lots had already been found by deer and bears but we still came home with a good amount. I was picking the last section of bushes when I heard a buzzing sound. I kept looking around for a hive but didn’t see one. I pulled up the bush to get at another clump o berries and found the hive. The bees swarmed up at me. Beth yelled: run! Not that I needed any instructions at that point. I started to run but slipped on the wet rocks. I managed to hold onto the bag of blueberries and I got away with only one small sting. I said to Beth that it felt like I had just lived a Franklin episode. She told me I was lame. She was right.

Today was a perfect cottage day. Emily, Hope and I did a short nature hike this morning collecting things that were the “colours of the rainbow” as per the instruction sheet from Emily’s JK teacher that we just received. Emily is really excited about starting school in the fall and is very keen to do the summer activities suggested by her teacher. They are all lots of fun and keep the excitement of school in her mind.

The girls played inside, swam, I put together the new barbecue, Beth vacuumed all the corners of the cottage, I knit, the girls played restaurant outside, we watched the ducks and ducklings, swam again, baked and laughed, laughed, laughed. It reminded me, or re-emphasized that we’re doing the cottage right, the way we existed here when Beth and I were kids: no fancy toys, no big store-bought water toys or playground equipment; just old pots and pans, hand-me down sand toys, a couple of water toys, old puzzles and books that have been here for ages, the old Sindy dolls that Beth and I had in the early 1980s, looking at everything outside, collecting it and talking about it, playing games, making up our own games, simple crafts on rainy days, occasional outings into town, just playing the way kids want to play. With imagination and with their parents.

Tomorrow we’re heading into town so I can finally post this, check my email, go to the Farmer’s Market and then come back and do it all over again.

I do have one teensy complaint about the cottage this year: the bugs! They are so bad this year! It’s almost mid-July there are still black flies. Hope’s head is a minefield of scabs. It’s truly unbelievable for this time of year. I could really do with a heat wave.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Finally a new post

I'm sooooo frustrated!  I have (finally) two blog posts to put up here, my first time with internet access and a computer in almost two weeks and Blogger won't let me paste it in from Word.  Sucky!  I don't have time to retype everything so I'll have to leave you with only this:

- Cleanse done.  Went well.
- Having great time.  
- Picked wild blueberries.  Chased by swarm of angry bees.