Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The fat lady is getting on the stage

It's almost over, folks. The big move, also known around here as the big headache, is reaching it's peak and I can see the other side.

The house is packed up. Tomorrow morning, we're dropping the kids at Pam and Jim's and going to pick up the Uhaul truck. Then we load. Okay, the guys load while I clean. Nothing like fulfilling gender stereotypes, eh?

We unsure if all our stuff will fit in the size of truck we booked. We have a lot of stuff. Too much. How did we get so much stuff. The reality is that we're moving more furniture than we intended because we're going into a completely unfurnished house. Most likely we'll be making some decisions in the driveway about leaving some things behind that we intended to take. We've already given away our really terrible dining room chairs and it's possible we'll leave the table at the side of the road as well. We may be eating picnic-style for a while.

Postings for the next two days will be sporadic but I should be up and running again by Thursday.

Oh, and as an aside, I had my MRI tonight or what I like to call my entry into the giant donut. That really is what it feels like; like you are entering the donut hole except there is much louder noises than at the standard Tim Hortons. All in all, it was fine and I don't really expect them to find anything which in my opinion is a good thing when it comes to MRIs of the head and neck.

Night all. I need some quality sleep before the big move tomorrow. Think of us and pray that our marriage comes out intact! (So far, so good.)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The medical system must read my blog

because after I wrote my post yesterday, I called the Queensway-Carleton Hospital to ask about getting a quick MRI (not expecting it to happen, of course). But they did it! I have an MRI at 11:00 pm on Monday night! I was flabbergasted. I'm beginning to think wait times are long for those who don't complain a lot.

Anyway, so that will be done before we go. Now I just hope that it doesn't show anything and we can move onto another test. I'll be having the Celiac blood test at the end of August. I could have it anytime but I have to have had gluten back in my system for two months for it to be accurate.

Yesterday, my good friend Pam came over with her kids. The kids all entertained each other while Pam and I did some packing and cleaning. After lunch we headed over to our nearest city pool. The kids tolerated the bit of rain and had a great time splashing around. I'm going to take my girls back today after I get some more packing done.

Last night Julie also came over to help me pack. I had great plans that we would tackle the remaining storage area. Unfortunately, about 40 minutes before she was due to arrive, the power went out in our area. Julie still came expecting it to be back on shortly. No such luck. It remained out until John and I went to bed around 10:00 or so. I actually have no idea what time it was since all our clocks are reliant on electricity. John did wander over to the corner where the Hyrdo guys were working on.... stuff. They told him the thunderstorm had caused the damage to a box in our area and they were trying to figure out where the problem was. It was the longest power outage we've had in this house. Bad timing for packing in the basement, but I do love me a blackout.

Time for some coffee, a shower and some serious packing. The basement, scary as it is, is calling me.

Friday, June 26, 2009

WHAT day is it?

Seriously, it's Friday??! My house still looks like we're at the beginning of a move, not an end. Which scares me silly. There is still so much to do and not a lot of time left. John picks up the moving truck on Tuesday morning. And I have two kids at home with me. One of which had her last day of school yesterday. Here is Emily on her first day of school in September:

And here she is yesterday:

Certainly, her hair has grown. And she does look a lot more "grown up" to me.

I have to mention quickly again how great this year was for Emily. And on her year end report, there wasn't one area that needed work or that was of concern. I think her enthusiasm for school is reflected in how she did this year. And, thankfully, she wasn't tearful yesterday about it being her last day, even knowing that she won't be at her school or with Mrs. B next year. She knows she'll be in a new place and a new school with all new kids and so far, she's okay with that.

Last night was her t-ball dinner celebrating the end of the season. She got her trophy and photo and was thrilled beyond belief. I can't say enough great things about the Gloucester South Youth Softball League. It was an amazing experience (after the rough start for Emily - no fault of theirs). The people were great and it was lots of fun. Hope will definitely be doing t-ball with them when we return to Ottawa. The best photo of last night was not Emily getting her trophy or playing with her t-ball friends for the last time, but this one captured by John:

Just awesome.

And now, for my last disjointed paragraph (maybe).... last night I finally heard back from my neurologist's office. Wait, I have to back up a bit because I never did write about the latest in this ongoing saga. Last week (or was it two weeks ago now), I found out that the neurologist's office had sent our old phone number to the MRI people so that when they phoned, the phone number wasn't in service so the hospital cancelled the request and just left it alone, never calling the neuro's office to inform them. Now, given how busy the radiology departments of our hospitals are, I can't really blame them. I can definitely blame the neuro's office given that they've called me a few times on my current number and the old number is scratched out on my file, which by the way was disconnected well over a year ago. Anywho. If you're not in Canada, this may not seem like a big deal, but here (at least in Ottawa) a wait for an MRI can be up to six months or more, so I'm told. But, here I was having been given the opportunity to have an MRI within 4 weeks of the request being made and I missed the opportunity because someone stupid sent the wrong phone number to the hospital. I was irate. I was in tears. I left some angry messages with the neuro's office.

Last night, they informed me they were sorry. At least there's that. And that they put in a new referral on June 15 and I'm to call the hospital this morning to see if there is any way I can get an MRI by Tuesday (HAH!). If that doesn't work (and I don't expect it to), I'm to call the neuro from Waterloo and give them the number of an MRI clinic or hospital there and they'll send the referral there. At least that's something. I try hard not to dwell on the fact that the MRI would be done by now (by a full month) if they hadn't screwed up in the first place.

Welcome to human error in health care.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

New York Day 3: Prospect Park, Park Slope and the Empire State Building

This morning John and I got up early (well, early for vacation) at 7:30 and went out for a highly anticipated breakfast at Tom's Restaurant. We got to the front door of Tom's only to find it closed on Sundays. Of course. So, we headed toward Park Slope (a neighbourhood of Brooklyn) and found a diner with a decent hash and good eggs benedict.

From there, we wandered through Prospect Park, the little sister (although some say superior) of Central Park, designed also by Olmstead and partner. You likely recognize the arch below from the drop-off scene in When Harry Met Sally.

After spending lots of time in the park, we wandered through Park Slope (home to many artists, writers, and stroller pushing yuppies). There were some pretty cool shops and one awesome bakery, Brooklyn Bread Cafe. It was by far the best coffee we've tasted in New York and the best baking I've seen so far. Everything is baked on premises. The bagels were literally as big as my head. I was very pleased to find amazing pastries and cookies. I couldn't help myself... I bought John and myself two black and white cookies, the famous NY cookies that made Jerry barf. They were so good. These ones had a lemony cakey cookie underneath rather than a plain vanilla and oh, they were heaven.

We kept making our way by foot over to Brooklyn Heights. The area between downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights had some really eclectic shops that we poked around in. We wandered some of the streets in Brooklyn Heights marvelling at the brownstones. These houses were the ones you see in pictures.

I left John to go see the Brooklyn Historical Society Museum while I went into Manhattan to go up the Empire State Building with Beth, Graeme and Kate.

We expected long lines since the rain had cleared up. Instead of long lines, we just found a series of shorter lines. You get through one line and then have to stand in another one for the next phase of getting up to the Observation Decks. And of course, they funnel you through as many buying opportunities as possible. There was a lot of hawking going on. It got a bit stomach-turning. However, the views were worth it.

From there, we went to Bryant Park so Kate could run around a bit. Beth and I sat and drank our Starbucks before we all headed to Grand Central Station (with a quick stop for me to buy my roasted cashews, almonds and peanuts at a Nuts for Nuts cart - my favourite NY street food, although the Halal carts were pretty tempting too). I tried to get some good photos of Grand Central but that was impossible with my shitty camera.

We ordered in Thai for supper and had plans to hit a bar tonight but John and I are spent and plan to chill here before heading to the airport tomorrow.

I'm really looking forward to seeing the girls but would also love one more day to see just a bit more.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

New York Day 2: rain, sore feet and blog the chicken

John just gave me the instruction that I have to blog the chicken. I'll get to that in a bit. Here's a run-down of our day.

We slept in. We blissfully slept in. Until 9:15! We ate a quick brekkie here and then headed into Manhattan. John and I searched out the Strand Bookstore and spent some money. John bought academic stuff and I bought one thing for me and a bunch of stuff for the girls. I bought an awesome book bag that I plan to replace the 5-year old diaper bag with.

My stomach was needing filling by then so we walked up to Little Korea, first walking through the Union Square Green Market area (a farmer's market) that had a wonderful aroma of fresh onions and tent after tent of produce, flowers, salsas, honey etc, and had a great lunch in Little Korea. We balked at the price of the egg pancake. In Ottawa it's $9 or so. In Manhattan, $17. Ouch. But, we're on vacation so we ordered what we wanted and really enjoyed it.

Today was very rainy. And so we declared it a museum day. We took the subway up to Museum Mile and met Beth, Graeme and Kate in front of the Guggenheim Museum. The line was too long for Kate so they headed to the Central Park Zoo instead. John and I went into the Guggenheim and saw the current Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit (as well as all the others). Wow, that is a great museum. We loved it. Museum fatigue set in near the end. It was time to move on.

We walked through Central Park, hoping to spot Beth and Graeme (our cell phone had no power so our only chance to meet up was to spot them. Needless to say, that didn't happen. I mean, this isn't a Seinfeld episode after all). We walked, walked, walked, until we left the south end of the Park. We desperately sought out a Starbucks to rest our weary feet. We perused our books, drank our coffee/tea and then I headed back out to tackle FAO Schwarz, the big toy store made famous by the movie Big. Right in front of FAO Schwarz was a large glass cube that proved once and for all why Apple is just way cooler than PC.

I found one gift I was looking for but nothing else. Wearily, I headed back to the meeting spot and John and I trained it back to Brooklyn.

On the walk back to the apartment, we picked up some of the AMAZING chicken that seems to be roasted daily on the sidewalk (in a bbq/smoker) in front of one of the many Caribbean restaurants in the area. For $8 you get a huge serving of chicken pieces. Beth and Graeme were already back here eating their own chicken and some pumpkin roti. We tucked in and came out the other side with mouths on fire and raving about the chicken and roti. I expect we'll have more of the same tomorrow. It was great and we like eating the neighbourhood specialty.

Now for a bit more wine and to rest my still-weary feet.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Day 1 down: Brooklyn Bridge and LES

Wow, we had a great afternoon. After Beth and Graeme got to the apartment, we hung about for a bit and then we started walking. We walked and walked and walked some more, eventually ending up in Brooklyn Heights, a really nice neighbourhood of leafy streets lined with beautiful brownstones. We had some ice cream under the Brooklyn Bridge, found a park for Kate to play at and then we left that threesome behind while John and I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge. We decided it's something everyone should do at some point in their lives. The lines of the cables and the stone arches were beautiful, not to mention the Manhattan skyline. The bridge was filled with people on their way home from work in Manhattan or tourists like us. Every hundred meters or so was someone selling water out of a cooler. It was a warm walk over that bridge.

Once on the other side, John and I sat by City Hall Park and watched a bunch of guys break-dancing. After that we just walked around lower Manhattan, stopped for a drink, took in the World Trade Center site and then after more walking we headed back to Brooklyn. We had dinner at a great Indian restaurant near the apartment, filled ourselves for $35 and now we're chilling with Beth and Graeme in our ultra-cool apartment.

We're in New York!

We just arrived and we're in our apartment. It's really nice... the basement apartment of a typical Brooklyn brownstone. It is decorated in French style, I'd say. The owner, Krista, left us a bottle of local NJ wine, some locally roasted coffee beans (Gorilla) and some homemade banana bread. Wow.

We're waiting for Beth, Graeme and Kate at this point. I don't know where they are. They should be here by now but when you don't know the subway system, getting to Brooklyn would be a major challenge. It would be for me.

When we arrived we spent a long time walking (in the wrong direction) looking for something to eat. We finally found a pizza place that wasn't too seedy and realized then that we'd headed the not-so-nice way when we left the cab. Lesson: always consult the guidebook before setting out on foot.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

On our way to the Big Apple

And why do they call it that by the way? I'll have to look it up in the old guidebook.

Yesterday afternoon, arriving late last night, we drove to Omi's in St. Catharines. We're spending the day here today and then John and I are flying to New York from Buffalo tomorrow morning, leaving the girls with Omi. We're all very excited, John and I about a weekend together in New York, the girls about staying with Omi on their own for the weekend.

John and I decided to do this a long time ago to celebrate our 10th anniversary which comes around in October. Beth and Graeme (my sister and her husband) celebrate their 10th this year too (in March) and so we decided to meet there for a weekend without kids.

It isn't working out quite that way. If you want to read why, read this entry in Beth's blog. Let the lesson be this: if you're traveling, make sure you check your passport a dozen times before leaving just to be sure it's valid. Poor Beth. Oh well, at least she'll get to see New York.

Today we're going to take the girls to see Niagara Falls. For me, it was such a regular part of my life growing up that I didn't really think about taking them to see it until now. Also, most of our trips to Niagara are filled with family visits so there really hasn't been time. With Emily at the age she is now, I think she'll really be wowed by it. And if there's time, we'll go to the Butterfly Conservatory as well.

It should be a good start to an amazing weekend.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Phase One of The Move

Today a truck arrives around 12:00 to pick up the stuff we want to put in storage. This move thing is for real! You'd think that the house would look more organized or at least packed.

Actually, the stuff for storage is pretty well packed. This morning I still want to go through the laundry room/tool area and organize that but if I don't get to it and there is a box or two to go into storage I can always take that over another time.

The house really does look like it has been ransacked. I'm learning to live with it though. And so are the kids. In fact, they're finding treasures long forgotten that are migrating around the house adding to the chaos. My motto now is Embrace It!

Well, given what's going on today, I better get this day started!

Monday, June 15, 2009

John's birthday in pictures

I'm not going to give you the play-by-play of the big birthday bash. I'll save you that. However, I will give you a bulleted edition and then give you a bunch of photos, courtesy Jim, who is the best photographer I know.

The party was awesome! It was everything I hoped for. I wish I could have changed one thing though: I arrived after John! I know. Duh. But, sometimes things are out of your control when you have two kids in the back seat. Oh well. If that was all that went wrong, it was a good day. The highlights were:

  • all of our good friends in one place
  • the perfect weather - overcast but warm therefore no worries about getting overheated or sunstroke
  • swimming in the cold lake - my kids loved that. Some of the other kids were a bit smarter.
  • John taking the kids for rides in the inflatable dingy
  • Dawn's leaches (okay, not so great but funny when you look back on it. Not for Dawn probably).
  • Great food (pat on the back to me)
  • A well-decorated cake and extremely tasty I'm told. It was carrot with cream cheese icing.
  • The kids playing with all the bubbles.
  • how well all the kids played together regardless of age or if they had met before.
  • lots of laughs.
  • John being surprised by who was there.
  • no one getting lost.
  • At the end, wishing we could start back at the beginning and do it all again.
And now for the photos.....

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Finally, I can blog about this!

It's 8:02 AM and John has been golfing for the last hour. Since I know he won't be reading my blog at all today I finally have a chance to talk about what we're doing today. But first some background:

John is turning 40. Yipes!

His actual birthday is June 18 but today I'm throwing him a not-so-surprising-surprise-party. It was supposed to be a traditional surprise party but I had to tell him what was going on when he announced he would likely be at graduation today (turns out he had the date wrong). And then he asked if it would be like a wedding where he could golf first before the big event. Another surprise gone.

However, he thinks that it will only be the usual four families. He doesn't know that it will be his brother's family, Pam/Jim and company, and our friends Dawn/John and Emily. So at least there is one surprise left.

This whole thing is going down at Pete and Julie's cottage in Perth. I am going to owe them so big after this.

I've made a lot A LOT of food - homemade hamburgers, great sausages from my favourite Ottawa sausage place, a huge whack of potato salad, and a very large carrot cake (decorated quite well, although not SHANNON-well). Others are helping me out by bringing fruit and vegetable trays and cupcakes for the kiddies.

I hope the weather holds. I think it will. I also think it will be a great day although probably seriously chaotic with 9 children and 14 adults. Pictures to come later!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Why every Mennonite loves relief sales

I meant to get this post up soon after my house-hunting trip to Kitchener but here I am two weeks later and still. not. done. Much like everything else going on lately, it is being done half-assed.

But I still think it's worth talking about Mennonite relief sales. These things, particularly the one held every year in New Hamburg (known around Ontario just as The Relief Sale), is a bit of a mecca for anyone of the Mennonite persuasion. There are three main foci to The Relief Sale: raising money for Mennonite Central Committee programs (ie relief programs around the world for anyone in need) and every cent raised at The Relief Sale goes to these programs, the quilt auction (Mennonites and quilts together? who knew?), and food, food, food. Did I mention food? Cuz there is lots of food. Lots of fried, smoked, bad for you but oh, so good, food. All those tents below, are mainly food tents. Different Mennonite churches from around southern and south-western Ontario run tents making one specialty each.

Mennonite food, particularly Russian Mennonite, which is what is mainly represented at The Relief Sale, is mainly variations of fried bread. This is due to the fact that Mennonites in Russia were poor for a really long time and had to make do with what they had. So, we've got rollkuchen (fried twisted dough great with watermelon), tea balls (kind of like timbits but better), donuts, cream buns and then the non-fried realm of pies. And then there is meat of course. Lots and lots of meat. Elias was into the donuts.

Of course, if you think Mennonites are only European in origin, you'd be wrong. One of the most popular food items in recent years is made by the Laotian Mennonite Church. They make the best spring rolls and the line-up proves it.

At The Relief Sale, the most popular item has to be the fresh strawberry pies. My new favourite this year was the barbecued chicken (real barbecue... smoked for a long time. So good). I saw the smoker below (and smelled it) immediately and knew I had to taste whatever was going to come out of it. I was not disappointed.

We popped into the quilt auction (to get in the strawberry pie line - see second picture below) and then visited several food tents and the Ten Thousand Villages tent for me to buy teacher gifts.

And that was pretty much how we spent our time. Oh, there is one other thing everyone does at The Relief Sale: talk to other Mennonites that they haven't seen in a while. When arriving at The Relief Sale there are always bets traded on who will see the most people they know. It's kind of The Relief Sale edition of The Mennonite Game.

I was really happy to be there this year and will definitely be there, family in tow, next year too. Even just for the barbecued chicken.

And so, that was our morning at The Relief Sale.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

It's official

We signed the lease and sent it to the property manager yesterday. It's all done now. The house is ours. We won't be homeless when we arrive in Waterloo. Good news!

Now onto the really fun stuff: packing. Ugh, how I loathe packing. I have several boxes done already. I have a few more I can do and then most of the rest of them will have to wait until just before we go.

Right now my head is more focussed on New York City, baby! In eight days we drive to St. Catharines to drop the girls off at Omi's for the weekend and then on June 19 we fly to NYC from Buffalo. I bought some new sandals, primed for a lot of walking, for the trip.

I hope my legs are up to it! With all this possible Celiac/whatever is going on with me, my legs have a feeling of constant fatigue although the muscle strength is really good... it's strange. Anyway, hopefully my appointment with a GI on June 17 will help explain some of this. It will likely be no bagels for me in NY. So sad.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Mom Central is now in Canada!

I've been a participating blogger with Mom Central for a while now. I've loved the opportunities to review new products and be compensated with some great gift certificates. The staff there is very professional and great to work with. I've been given ample opportunities to review products. However I'm able to respond to probably 50% of them at best. I've ruminated before that too many of the campaigns aren't relevant to Canadians, the products aren't available here, or the contests are open to us.

That has all changed!

Mom Central has come to Canada. This means that the campaigns sent to those of us who have signed up with Mom Central are now purely focussed on Canadians and Canadian bloggers. Here is some more information about Mom Central:

  • Mom Central is a one-stop online resource dedicated to providing busy moms with smart household and parenting solutions.
  • As our founder Stacy DeBroff puts it, "I wanted to create a resource for busy Moms - a place where Moms can trust they'll find helpful information they need to make their lives easier."
  • At Mom Central, you'll find information on everything from toddler toys and baby-proofing to household finances and green living.
But here is the very best part for Canadian bloggers: The Mom Central Testing Panel! This is where Moms get to test out the latest and greatest products and services and have their voices heard by companies who care about their opinion. Moms can get involved today by clicking here to register for the Canadian Mom Central Testing Panel. AND If you sign-up during the month of June, you'll be entered into the draw to win 1 of 5 Canon PowerShot cameras.

As a Mom Central Blogger, I've been given a $20 Amazon gift certificate for telling you all about it.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

It's ours! (although really I hesitate to say that until the signed lease is in hand)

I got a call yesterday afternoon from Joan, the property manager of the house we so desperately wanted. The owner was "very happy" with our application and asked Joan to draw up a lease for us. So barring anything unforeseen (and I'm always expecting something unforeseen) we should be living in this house as of July 1:

The house has five bedrooms. Five! And it's not because a previous owner split normal-sized bedrooms into tiny bedrooms. These are five regular sized bedrooms (for an older house). That means John will have an office, the girls will have a dedicated playroom, they'll share a bedroom (Emily is thrilled with the idea of a bunkbed), we'll have our room and we'll have a guest room. We've never had a guest room before! Living the high life I tell you.

Aside from all the space inside, the best part of this house is the location. It is a 10-minute walk to Emily's school, a 15-minute walk to Tamara and Greg's house, a 15-minute walk to Uptown Waterloo, a fairly short walk to my friend Marnie's house, and a good nursery school is only about 10 minutes away.

And there is a small fenced yard. A yard begging for a climber, a water table and a sand box. And some tomato plants, lettuce and beans. Hurrah!

And now just to have the lease in hand.