Casual Friday + It’s December!

And just like that, we’ve launched into the hectic (but wonderful) world of Christmas festivities. Believe it or not, it’s December!

The last week had some really great days; I literally started my One Line A Day Journal entry twice this week with: A great day! There were also a few mediocre days thrown in for good measure but I’ll try not to dwell on those too long (cough, cough: mostly sibling squabbles).

Currently? Sitting on the couch watching a holiday movie at 9:30 am because at 6:30 am I was woken from my slumber by a child screaming they thought they were about to vomit (they didn’t; Hallelujah). Sigh. Illness strikes again…but at least it is giving me a great excuse to snuggle up on the couch and watch movies about Christmas tree farms.

Now – some highlights from the week.


FRIDAY |

We took my father-in-law out for supper at our favourite family restaurant. The kids always love eating there and we had a fun – and delicious – time.

After supper, we headed to a neighbouring town for a showing of Star Wars: A New Hope. This is my favourite Star Wars movie. It felt like a bit of a stretch to PAY to watch a movie we own in various forms (DVD, Disney+, etc.), and have seen several dozen times. But I’m really glad we went. The entry ticket included popcorn, which was an added layer of fun (we never buy popcorn at the movies). The movie was being shown at a small, old theatre, but everyone was very enthusiastic. It was predominantly a middle-aged crowd, with many people sporting Star Wars paraphernalia – why didn’t we think of that?; there were plenty of kids too, several in full costume regalia. Abby and Levi posed with a stormtrooper. Some people (not naming names but it wasn’t me; I have never fallen asleep at the movies) nodded off part-way through, but were rudely jarred awake by the racket of lightsaber battles.

SATURDAY |

A friend of mine hosts a monthly brunch; she’s been inviting me for…a year? This is the first time I managed to make it! I made my traditional Christmas-morning Cinnamon Coffee Cake and it was a hit.

While there, a Russian-Canadian woman I know highlighted her fundraising efforts for Ukraine. She shared some heartbreaking personal stories (she has been largely cut off from her family in Russia + has close ties with a number of people in Ukraine who are facing such adversity). It was sobering. She is determined to help as she’s able and has been selling homemade cards with all proceeds going to several specific families still living in Ukraine (many with young families).

I bought a collection; these two are my favourites. She only started painting last year!

I have to admit I was pretty grumpy all day. I got cold first thing in the morning and stayed cold the whole day. Thankfully, once the dust settled from morning events, John and I fit in an 8 km walk. It was cold and a bit rainy/windy, so it felt extra virtuous to be outside. We also did a quick grocery run together while we were out. At least I was grumpy and slightly productive.

After supper, we played a few rounds of Just One (the recap of how to play the game is in this post; it simply requires some slips of paper + a writing utensil per player) with my father-in-law who is the most hilarious player. Such a hit, especially with the kids.

SUNDAY |

On the way home from the airport (we dropped off John and his Dad at the same time), we made a quick stop by IKEA for lunch + ice cream (obviously) and to do a quick return. When I got home it all felt overwhelming. Everyone leaving at once, the house feeling so empty, and I now had a small stash of things that needed to be put away. I was feeling pretty bummed and overwhelmed.

Levi kept himself occupied with those mini IKEA pencils and some paper.

But then the kids were perfectly chipper about fitting in a 2 km walk. The temperatures were glorious! Levi wore shorts! On the way home he asked to stop in to see if a specific friend could come to our place to trade Pokemon cards. This friend came and gave Levi his entire collection of Pokemon cards. I guess he’s never been into it, and his set had been handed down from someone else. He stayed for hours and everyone was happy and – most importantly – occupied.

While the kids were otherwise engaged, I did a deep clean of one child’s room. Said child likes to – how shall I put this delicately? – collect things. I set up some new, inexpensive (under $5!) IKEA storage boxes (WITH LIDS) so messes can be contained and did a major purge, with the child’s blessing. The room looks SO much better. I would like to paint and generally overhaul this room as it hasn’t been touched since we moved in and was very dated before that, so clearing out clutter will help make any little renovation run more smoothly. Also, with Christmas coming up, having more space free always helps. I’ve tried to stay conscious this year when buying gifts: is this something they want? need? does it have a place? will I be able to stand the level of clutter it might bring? So far, I think I’ve made good choices?!

And, as always, doing a round of decluttering is a guaranteed mood booster.

MONDAY |

This was a great reset day. Work responsibilities were light in the morning and I have not been running lately; I told myself to just get on the treadmill and do a slow 2 km. That’s it. So I did – dutifully stopping at 2 km – and it felt amazing. I immediately went for my 1 km walk. Hooray for even a tiny dose of endorphins.

I also decided to do a 1-hour blitz and get all the decorations (except for the main tree) up. While I finalized decorations, I took the opportunity to clear out lesser-used seasonal detritus. It felt GREAT to let go of a few items that have been bumping around, unused, for years. One canister ended up partially breaking (the lid), and a friend was interested in the bottom half. Perfect!

I had a cup of Chai tea with Oat Nog and blasted Christmas tunes while I worked. Yum.

This looks vaguely like a sponsored ad. It is not. I just happened to use both Earth’s Own Oat products in this cup of tea! For what it’s worth: my fav oat “beverage” (since they can’t label it milk) is Suzie’s brand from Costco.

At one point a neighbour – who works for an airline and was in Copenhagen last week – dropped off some Danish craft kits from my brother and his wife! Talk about an efficient postal service. This also marked our first Christmas card of the year and a sheet of gold stars to my brother for specifically sending loving holiday greetings to Meatball (Abby’s hamster).

I am HERE for the Scandinavian crafts.

After school/work, the kids and I set up a few things at my parents’ rental. Exciting! I just felt so happy that: 1) they were arriving the next day and 2) that they have such a wonderful place to live. The house they rent has been completely renovated over the years and is lovely. They get the whole house (3 bedrooms + 2.5 baths) for about…1/3 of the price per month of a standard 2-bedroom rental in our town. The lady they rent from goes to New Zealand for the winter to volunteer (she’s retired) and so it’s a mutually helpful situation. She needs someone in her space – short-term – for insurance purposes. And my parents want to live locally for that exact span of time.

Back home, some senior-citizen friends (the wife being the host of my Soup and Sandwich Oasis) stopped by to give the kids an Advent activity. They take such an interest in Abby and Levi, and it makes my heart swell. The wife commented how she would enjoy a hot chocolate, so we made a huge batch and sipped that while playing a few rounds of Just One.

This year I’m bringing back Advent Affirmations (e.g. Levi, I appreciate how quick you are to compliment and encourage others or Abby, I’m amazed by your creative skills – acting, singing, drawing – wow!). Each child gets a small mason jar and family members/friends write affirmations on little slips of paper. They get to pull one out each morning when they open their Advent Calendars. It’s a nice way to start the day and might help curb some sibling rivalry of late (or is that just wishful thinking?)! Anyhoo, these friends were delighted to contribute one slip each to the kids’ jars.

I had blitzed supper prep before the kids got home and so we had sausage + veggie soup (this on the day I posted about not adding veggies to Mac n’ Cheese). It is so good! I hadn’t made it since last winter, but it is delicious (and freezes well).

After supper, the kids were thrilled when I suggested a Christmas movie. They immediately requested Ice Sculpture Christmas – a 2015 Hallmark movie that is a fav. We watched that and savoured one Lindor chocolate each. While watching the movie, I tackled the horror that was my receipt filing system. I reworked my approach and got rid of a huge stack of receipts that are no longer relevant. It felt so good to get that behind me, especially as this time of year there are extra receipts to juggle with holiday shopping.

TUESDAY |

I did another 2 km run (right after getting home from walking the kids to school, so I was “warmed” up; an ironic turn of phrase after being out in below zero temps). That distance I can handle on the treadmill; I have to get over this irrational thought that I MUST run 5 km. The 2 km I run feels better than the 5 km I don’t…

I also stretched first thing in the morning; 30 seconds of downward dog, 30 seconds of child’s pose. And yes, I ticked off the “stretch” box in my planner. 1 minute is 1 minute!

I loved walking through the house and seeing all the decorations up. This green mistletoe ornament is my all-time favourite Christmas decoration. If I could save only one Christmas item it would be this. It’s a scented wax figurine from Avon circa the early 1970s; my parents received it as a wedding gift. 50+ years later, it still smells like Christmas. It was my favourite decoration growing up and, when I got married, my Mom gave it to me. The wire bird was a Christmas gift from Abby several years ago and I love it (she is so good at picking out gifts; always has been – an idea for one of her affirmation strips?) and his tail got a festive boost!

A nativity set Levi received years ago from his preschool. He was thrilled to see it set up. Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost the angel’s legs, so it is now riding a donkey. It works.

My parents arrived around the time the kids got home from school. The unloading process went so smoothly. We thought it would take hours, but things were mostly finished after just over an hour! My Dad shuttled Abby to and from drama (happy to be chauffeur and let me help Mom unpack). We all came back to our place for supper, and then Abby and I went to a quick choir rehearsal for our church’s Live Nativity event, while Levi stayed home and played board games with Grammie; what a life.

While we unpacked, Levi entertained himself (mainly so he wouldn’t get roped into working?); Abby was an unpacker extraordinaire. Grammie reimbursed labourers (and gymnasts) with homemade cookies.
At one point I started walking up the stairs and caught this glimpse of Levi sitting at the kitchen island with my Mom, explaining the finer points of Pokemon cards. Bless. These are the moments that mean the most to me; the spontaneous interactions that aren’t the same over FaceTime.

WEDNESDAY |

This wasn’t my favourite day, but there were highlights.

The first lowlight? Having to raise my voice about wearing snow pants. I try to give my kids lots of flexibility with clothing choices – even when it comes to dressing for inclement weather. But I knew one child needed to wear snow pants for an afternoon activity AND it was -8C. There was much pushback and eventually I had to be firm – and loud. It wasn’t a time for a hard lesson (i.e. said child getting cold because of lack of appropriate clothing). Not fun.

Thankfully, sour moods changed fast enough when we found a friend to walk with us to school.

On the way home I spent a happy few minutes taking pictures of the downtown decorations. These are just a few from the main street; I’ll have to get down to the waterfront soon because they install GIANT greenery arches and a lighted wreath. I love the colours and the puns.

En route home, I stopped briefly at my parents’ rental (I pass their place on my way home). They were eating breakfast when I arrived and it was so sweet to walk in during a mundane moment. One day they’re hours and hours away; the next, I’m watching them eat jam on toast.

I ended up having a fantastic work call when I got home. While I don’t feel like an “imposter” as much anymore, I definitely still question my impact. Do they need me? Am I doing a decent job at my work responsibilities? My contract is officially up at the end of December, but they’re asking me to stay on and several people on the call made some off-hand, “organic” comments about the quality of my work that I wasn’t expecting and didn’t know I needed to hear until they said them. This really put a skip in my step – literally – for hours.

The rest of the day was productive, but I started to feel really tired by mid-afternoon. I’ve had a dry cough since getting COVID back in October and woke up from a dream about coughing at 3:15 am the previous night…to find myself actually coughing – and couldn’t get back to sleep. I know the change in temperature really throws me off too, and the house feels dry despite my attempts to add humidity.

My Mom met Abby at the bus stop, so I got an extra few hours to myself which felt glorious. After getting work things squared away, I finished a batch of Peanut Butter Balls. I don’t know if a single batch is going to cut it this year?

My favourite time and mess-saving hack is to spoon a little dollop of melted chocolate over the top. It doesn’t look quite as sophisticated, I suppose – but it is about 10,000x less work and mess vs. dipping.

The kids…were in fine form at supper. Grumpy, with lots of competition for attention in the dinner conversation. I’m trying to keep perspective about how exciting it is to have Grammie and Grampie suddenly so close again, but it grates on my nerves. Complaints, talking over each other, and general/unnecessary sarcasm. There may have been a quiet “Will you please excuse us!” (said cheerily through gritted teeth) while I moved our little family unit into a bedroom for a short motherly speech in an attempt to course-correct (I got mediocre results, at best).

My Dad offered to take the kids to their evening activity, and I sat on the couch exhausted! I did make a quick spin by the DollarStore for Ricola and Scotch mints for this infernal dry cough.

THURSDAY |

December! The kids loved their chocolate advent calendars, and each kid picked out – randomly – a lovely affirmation. Last week I decided I wanted an advent calendar too, and being the frugal gal I am, decided to opt for the cheapest option (especially since I “splurged” on Kinder versions for the kids). The one I bought is the very cheap, very “waxy” chocolate of my youth. Bad move, Elisabeth. I may suck up my pride and buy myself a much nicer one in the next few days. Somehow it feels like life is too short to eat crummy chocolate. I haven’t had an advent calendar in over a decade, so I thought the simple act of opening a little flap each day would bring me joy. But, apparently, my palate has matured a bit since grade school…

The first big highlight of my day came virtue of Canada’s Postal Service all the way from chilly Calgary – and most of you will be very familiar with the source. The one, the only…Nicoooollleeee.

Nicole was assigned my name in the Secret Santa (Mug) Swap and her package was filled with warming, cozy, delicious treats. Can I just say: receiving a package wrapped in festive paper this time of year is so. much. fun. I didn’t even need to unwrap my parcel to get a huge boost. The contents are lovely – chocolate, my beloved Chai tea, an inspirational mug. Thank you, Nicole for the thoughtful present and note (and cameo appearance by Rex) and thank you San for organizing yet another fun event!

Next, my Dad randomly stopped by with a bag of flour. I didn’t need flour (I don’t bake that much), but he had been at the store and saw it on a great sale and thought I might appreciate not having to source it before the holiday cooking sprees commence. I didn’t need it, but the thought alone was deeply touching.

I had woken up feeling tired and achy, but took a shower, an Advil, a 20-minute nap (with 3 Magic Bags; I would have used 4 but couldn’t find the last one), and woke up feeling like a new person. I hadn’t fit in my daily walk, so decided to combine that with a stroll along the waterfront to see the decorations.

But the biggest highlight of the day came at the end of it – it’s hard to beat the Christmas cheer that comes from dressing up like an angel, belting out Christmas tunes with 20 other “angels” while swaying next to a fire, with tiny flurries of snow falling, and staring straight into the eyes of the most adorable donkeys ever. Yes there were donkeys! Day One of our Live Nativity was so much fun. My fingers were slightly numb by the end – but the costume was roomy enough for me to wear snow pants, winter boots + heated socks!

And now I’m off to finish watching that Christmas movie…

Happy weekending! Do you fall asleep at the movies? Do you have a favourite Christmas decoration?

Header photo by Guneet Jassal on Unsplash

Casual Friday + “The Worst Birthday Party Ever”

The finish line is in sight, my blogging friends. This time next week NaBloPoMo 2022 will be in my rearview mirror. I love writing (and reading and commenting), but I have to say: I’m tired! Once again, a huge thanks to San for organizing this event, and congrats to my fellow participants for seeing things through to the end.

The hardest posts for me to write – without question – are these weekly Casual Friday missives. I want to pull in all the adventures (and misadventures) from our life. I love having this record of the mundane (and exciting), but it takes…a lot of time. And I hate wrangling pictures.

Anyhoo. It was another busy week, so let’s jump right in.

levi’s birthday

Shall I start with the good news, or the bad news?

Good news? I think his party guests had a phenomenal time.

Bad news? He told me, and I quote: “This was the worst birthday party ever.” (I just flipped back to my post about last year’s birthday – when we arranged a big surprise – which at the time didn’t go over too well, either.)

Sigh.

Shall we discuss?

I’d say it was 90% awesome, with a few rookie mistakes thrown in for good measure.

We rotate “big” (a number of guests up to their birthday age; so, for Levi, that was 8 guests) and “little” (max of 3 guests) parties. This was a “big” year.

For some inexplicable reason, I had the party run from 2:00-4:30 pm. I know better! How/why did I do this? Two hours would have been absolutely perfect. 2.5 hours was too much of a good thing. I literally was not paying attention when I had Abby design the invites, and poof, we ended up with 30 extra minutes – ROOKIE MISTAKE!

One – very adorable – guest happens to have a lot of excess energy. He’s sweet and well-behaved, but also LITERALLY bounces off the walls. In combination with all the stimulation of all those extra kids in our house, sugar, and being the center of attention, Levi told me at the end of the night: My favourite part of the whole party was when everyone left and it was just me and O (his best friend since preschool). For years this is exactly what we did for his party – even years he could have gone “big” – it would just be him and O hanging out.

Levi and his bestie playing Tic-Tac-Toe – two peas in a pod since they started preschool together years ago!

The actual party events went very smoothly.

We played some games:

  • Four corners. You number each corner in a room. Someone stands in the center and spins around and counts to four with their eyes closed. Still with their eyes closed, they pick a number between 1-4. Anyone standing in that numbered corner is out. You keep repeating until only one person remains.
  • Musical chairs. On oldie but a goodie. The kids seemed to really enjoy this one. Maybe it’s so old they’d never played it before?
  • Doodle paper. Inspired by the Catherine Newman house tour, I covered our dining room table in IKEA craft paper, set out some markers and let the kids have free reign. This stole the show. From drawings (including the requisite poop emojis and barfing clouds) to Tic-Tac-Toe (the biggest hit), it was a lot of fun.
Without some wall-bouncing guests, I think Levi could have stayed at the Doodle Table for hours. Look at that face <3
  • Candy hunt. This is a tradition for every birthday, big or little. We hid candy inside and outside the house and the kids all loved this (obviously). I think they could have been hunting for rusty nails and owl pellets and would have been almost as enthusiastic. There is something so primal and exciting about racing around a yard/house and trying to find hidden things.
Abby hid all the candy inside; John did the outside. I also set up Twister, but there were no takers!
  • Balloons. As per usual, I opted to skip any elaborate decorations and just blew up a few balloons and left them sitting on the floor/chairs. Fun fact: kids love to bat balloons around (adults, too)!

The cake was also a big success. One boy looked at me very seriously and pronounced: This is very good cake. I take that as high praise, indeed. Another boy had at least 3 slices, at which point we lost count. (Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone, but it was a cake mix). Levi requested a surprise rainbow cake which is high impact, but extremely easy. Just divide plain batter into a few bowls, add some food colouring, pour one colour into the bundt pan at a time. Bake. Ice. Cut. Impress small children.

Oh, hello there hidden colours! The purple looks a bit brown in this picture, but no one lodged a formal complaint.

The day of his actual birthday, John and Abby headed to the airport to get my father-in-law, so Levi and I hung out at home. I was tired and felt sad I couldn’t give him some awesome birthday experience (especially since he had just endured “The worst birthday party ever“). But his best friend popped up for an hour and they played Twister. Then we played Tic-Tac-Toe on the doodle paper.

We made boxed Macaroni and Cheese. He lit our special Danish candles for the first time in 2022. We drew together. John was in Barcelona a few weeks ago and got him an FC Barcelona hat for his birthday which he now wears constantly.

He tested his new spy glasses (part of a kit he got for his birthday; they have reflective mirrors on the side; very cool).

We played a round of the board game Sorry. He worked on a fairy tale writing project for school. The evening ended up being very nice. And I kept looking over at him and marveling at how much he’s grown.

It was bittersweet for me, but only sweet for him. Just the way it’s meant to be, I suppose?

We agreed the whole Mac n’ Cheese + candles close to Christmas reminds us of Kevin McCallister in Home Alone. Thankfully, Marv and Harry did not show up.

Home Alone Has A Secret Canadian Connection Nobody Noticed - MTL Blog

MISc

  • It snowed. I did my daily walk on Sunday in the middle of a squall. If I wasn’t walking outside daily, I’m sure I would have found some excuse to stay inside. I wouldn’t call the walk pleasant, per se, but there was a feeling of satisfaction coming home covered in snow.
Km 1 = light flurries
Km 3 = squall/white-out
  • Years ago, before Levi was born, we finalized our will. I’ll never forget how grown up I felt leaving the lawyer’s office. Last week we hired someone to come clean our windows inside and out. It was surprisingly inexpensive! I don’t plan to do it annually, but every few years – absolutely. It also felt like such an adult thing to spend money on. Window washing?! That sounds about as exciting as hearing aid batteries and incontinence underwear. Trust me, it was exciting and I can now see out the back window into our yard while I wash dishes.
  • I was out of sorts on Monday; I felt very flustered and couldn’t put my finger on why. Mid-evening I realized: I didn’t give myself a Top Five To-Do list for the day. I’m sure that wasn’t the only reason I felt a bit “off”, but it really helps me focus my day when I have a Top-Five list. And I’ve made sure to prep one every day since!
  • I sent out my Christmas photocards; I know it’s early, but I had everything ready and I wanted to officially cross it off my list. Done.
  • Join us in congratulating Eufy, who is now a big brother. Eufy Jr. entered the Frost family earlier this week; $40, in like-new condition, and he happens to be the spitting image of Eufy Sr. Eufy Jr. lives in the basement and, as I type this, Eufy Sr. is making quick work of the mulch that spilled out of Meatball’s cage.

company

My father-in-law arrived on Monday and it has been a wonderful visit! I planned a “Greatest Hits” menu.

  • Tuesday was Levi’s all-time favourite meal: Meatballs, rice, peas, and pecan pie.
  • Wednesday was a traditional Portuguese boiled cod dinner – bacalhau. Hear me out on this one. It sounds crazy, but it’s actually delicious. It’s salt cod, potato, broccoli, chickpeas, hardboiled eggs and garlic. We are mashers, so everything goes on a plate, you mash it to a pulp and then top it with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I was…skeptical…when I met John, but it’s shockingly good, even if it does look like baby food on a plate.
  • Thursday was our go-to fav with company: Chicken Mango Curry + skillet cornbread.
  • Tonight will be supper out at our favourite “family” restaurant – with coupons, of course.

Once again I realize how nice it is to have people visit when the kids are in school/have their regular routine in place. There’s lots of overlap, but also a nice amount of breathing room. And it’s so nice for grandparents to be able to observe grandkids immersed in their normal routine. Just like last year, my father-in-law comes along for the walk to school, helps pick them up from the bus, and goes with us as we shuttle them to different extracurriculars. It’s a lot nicer – to me at least – than hosting company when the kids are off on vacation.

coming up

  • Christmas gift prep continues plodding along. I have been using – and loving – my Christmas spreadsheet, inspired by Sarah. I’ll post about that sometime in December.
  • I am still so behind on photo organization. This time last year I basically had our 2021 photobook ready. I don’t want to talk/think about it but, also, it’s not going away and it’s not going to get any easier if I wait. Maybe now that my photocards are done, I’ll turn my attention to the digital disaster that is a giant folder full of hundreds of pictures? [I woke up in the middle of the night and have finished 8 pages of my 2022 photobook, so there might be hope for me yet…]
  • I’ve put up a few more Christmas decorations (wreaths on both doors), but I’ll leave most other things until we get our real tree at some point the first week of December. I always seem to decorate in tiny bursts. Two or three items one day; a few days later two or three more, etc.
  • My parents arrive next Tuesday! Woot, woot.
  • The live nativity production spans three nights the end of next week. Abby has decided she wants to join me in the angel choir and I’m elated. I really wanted to do it with her, but she had no interest at first. I’m not sure what has changed her mind, but I didn’t push her on the matter and I’m just happy we’re going to do this together!

Happy weekending. If you’re doing NaBloPoMo, are you excited to be nearing the end of the month? How’s your Christmas prep going? Do you have a go-to holiday hack/tip you’re willing to share? What was your “worst birthday party ever?”

P.S. I’ve just put on my first Christmas music of the season – Ingrid Michaelson’s Songs for the Season which, in my opinion, is one of the best Christmas compilations ever. JJ Heller and Sarah McLachlan are solid options. My sentimental fav, from childhood, is The Living Strings album White Christmas. But I’m looking for more recs (as long as your suggestions do not include Last Christmas – yes, I’m looking at you, Nicole – or Mele Kalikimaka).

Header photo by Simon Harmer on Unsplash

Casual Friday + Low/Medium/High-Lights

Hey, hey, hey. It’s Friday.

We’re about to launch into one long continuous string of celebrations and activities. Levi’s birthday party tomorrow (8 kids, 2.5 hours, my house; enough said). My father-in-law comes for a week-long visit on Monday. There are some fun church events (including three nights participating in a Live Nativity production; I’m very excited). My parents arrive for the winter. And let’s not forget Christmas. (Side note: every November I always feel so happy the only thing on my radar after Remembrance Day is Christmas; I’m sure American Thanksgiving is lovely, but it also sounds very stressful to have two huge holiday events less than a month apart!)

I think there will be wiggle room in our schedule…in January?

But I’m enthusiastic (mostly) and am trying to keep things as simple as possible in most areas of life, and going “big” where it matters (to me).

This Christmas I’ve decided I want everything to fall under one of three categories:

  1. Things I want to do for me.
  2. Things I want to do for people I love. Not people I know. Not people I like. People I love. I do not have to say “yes” to everything, but I can say “yes” to things I don’t want to do if people I love genuinely care about them – like making custom photo calendars – right, Nicole!?).
  3. Things I don’t want to do (that no one else cares about). I want to avoid anything spilling out of this category into #’s1 & 2.

For example:

I want to: watch White Christmas with my best friend, visit our three favourite holiday lights displays, and eat peanut butter balls (I don’t love making the latter, but since I want to eat them, the preparation is a necessary evil).

People I love enjoy custom photo calendars, specific holiday meals, and…well…it makes people I love happy to receive thoughtful gifts, so I will be buying some gifts.

Things I don’t want to do? Buy matching pajamas for the family. Make cutout cookies of any sort or build a gingerbread house. Hide an Elf on the Shelf. No one cares about any of these activities and even though I’m sure they blow up social media (I’m not on social media, so that helps) – I don’t. want. to. do. them. End of story! Basically, everything I wrote on my list last year holds true: This Christmas: Good Things I Don’t Have to Do.


It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these low/medium/high-light roundups on the blog. Honestly, it’s been a while since we’ve done this as a family around the dinner table. As a quick recap: low-lights are the low point in a day/week, medium-lights are positive things that don’t quite make the cut as…HIGHLIGHTS…which, intuitively, are our favourite things from a day/week.

Without further ado:

LOWLIGHTS |

  • Not being able to go to church on Sunday. Church attendance can become perfunctory, but I am genuinely excited to go each week. I’m grateful for how happy and settled the kids have become and I’m honoured we get to “do life” with such a diverse group of people.
  • Sibling squabbles. Things have been much better lately in terms of the kids’ fighting/rivalry. But being stuck home together for the better part of a week was…not ideal.
  • At one point over our stay at home (I was solo, since John was overseas) it hit me that I felt like I was in the middle of a pandemic lockdown again. And I just can’t imagine doing that much time cooped up at home with kids! Even though I knew everyone was on the mend, I definitely felt the beginnings of panic just thinking about those many lockdown experiences.
  • Working in the evenings. I used to do evening shifts a lot. I’m not opposed to working at night; I have so much flexibility in my job and appreciate that I can do many things (appointments, coffee with friends, sick duty with kids) during the day when others would typically be working. But…when I’ve been home alone with sick kids for a week, the last thing I wanted to do was work at night. It didn’t happen a lot, but when I did need to do it, it sucked.
  • One evening after the bedtime routine was over – while I was working on a project report due the next day – a child came to me in tears over their inability to draw a lion properly. Yes. A lion. I found a colouring book with a lion for reference. It wasn’t realistic enough. I found a children’s Bible with a ‘realistic’ lion. I can’t remember what was wrong with that suggestion, but Daniel’s lion also failed to cut the mustard. I suggested said child consult their sibling for help. This spiraled down into a very unpleasant scene but I should have predicted this outcome. “They didn’t like the mane I drew” followed by “That’s because the mane he/she drew was horrible.” Etcetera, etcetera. The whole debacle stretched for over an hour off and on and involved tears, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Also, this was happening AFTER said child had been settled in their room to do art before bed. 80% of the time this evening room time goes smoothly, so I kept my patience and perspective. For a while. But I was not a happy camper. Things ended on a high note – snuggles and a Magic Bag and a “Well, at least I drew a good body!” But, sheesh.
  • I gave myself a time-out. After picking up the kids at the bus, one child learned they were going to have to accompany me to the library and to the grocery store. These are typical activities and not a big deal. Well – they were a very big deal, apparently. Then, when we got home, I was informed the carrot sticks sent for lunch were too dry and the bell peppers (which had been specifically requested by this child) made them feel “yucky”. I get it – after being sick for a week, there is some pent-up angst and exhaustion. But I could also tell it didn’t make sense to engage further, so I just left the situation without saying a word, quietly walked to my room, closed the door without any fuss, and read a book. And when said child knocked on my door a few minutes later, all was well. For the record, we did go to the library and to the grocery store and it was fine. (Also, the dry veggie comment immediately made me think of These pretzels are making me thirsty!!).
The Alternate Side) - "These pretzels are making me thirsty." | Seinfeld,  Seinfeld quotes, Best tv shows
  • My body felt sluggish and Meh from Thursday – Tuesday. Because the kids were sick, I only did my bare minimum of 1 km most days, walking little loops in our neighbourhood. Food didn’t taste very good because I hadn’t really gotten in some heart-pumping exercise…and I just felt restless.

MEDIUM LIGHTS|

  • One child, whose feelings were hurt by a sibling, emerged from their room with a note saying, in essence: I won’t be speaking to anyone for the rest of the day but will communicate in writing. I texted about this with John who responded: Let’s push for these kinds of falling out more often. Honestly, reading notes is a lot easier on my head than arguing. I texted a friend and we decided to start a friendly wager; I said the child wouldn’t last an hour – my friend guessed 90 minutes. The winner was to owe the loser a cup of Earl Grey at our favourite café. That cup of tea is going to be delicious. Behold how far said child made it:
15 minutes 13 seconds and 4/100ths of a second…

  • A walk through the woods. Everything looked pretty dreary after the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole passed through – but I loved the bright pops of colour in the kid’s outfits. And it felt wonderful to be outside.
  • I don’t know if this belongs as a “light” of any sort, but I finished reading Adam Grant’s book Think Again (I think from her Goodreads feed, Lisa did too!) this week and this line made me laugh. I was happy to see Canada written about in such a positive light and I also think it’s fairly accurate? “Agreeable people tend to be nice. Friendly. Polite. Canadian.
We also say “sorry” – A LOT.
  • One of our neighbours – who travels regularly for work – is headed to Copenhagen multiple times in the next month and offered to take Christmas gifts to my brother/sister-in-law. While I don’t typically exchange gifts with my siblings, I couldn’t resist the offer and I am so appreciative of his willingness to do this. He certainly didn’t need to extend the offer and it will take some logistics on his end to sort it out. Gold star!
  • Quarterly reporting is done! I’m responsible for coordinating and submitting this; financials and narrative progress reports are due from project partners weeks in advance, but approvals from the project PI (my boss) and our institution’s finance office happen at the last minute. So it’s always a relief when I finalize the digital reporting package and send it off to the granting agency (on the due date – so this feels…precarious).
  • I happened to walk by a plant in the living room and saw a clip on one of the leaves. Who put it there? I may never know, but it made me smile.

HIGHLIGHTS |

  • Sunday night I fed the kids early, sent them to bed, and enjoyed an at-home date night…with myself. I watched the Joan Didion documentary on Netflix (soooo interesting), ate takeout sushi. It was lovely, especially after some intense days involving way too much vomit for my liking.
  • Abby had some leftover gift cards from LAST Christmas to Tim Hortons and offered to take us out for breakfast. I never do breakfast out with the kids (this is a Dad-only activity; to be fair, we opted for takeout and came home to eat), but it was a lot of fun. And I was really appreciative of Abby for being willing to do this. I got a breakfast sandwich on a biscuit and my favourite doughnut – Old Fashioned Sugar. I don’t need either item for another year now, but it was delicious and very fun!
  • I preface this highlight by saying my kids have so. many. moments (as does their mother) – raising empathetic, independent, growth-mindset kiddos is a constant work in progress and it’s anyone’s guess as to how it will all pan out. See lowlights above. Anyhoo…When we were at the grocery store recently, a woman I recognize only vaguely from church went out of her way to greet me as I was about to leave the store. I had no idea what she was coming to say (those quasi-stranger approaches can be daunting), but she simply said quietly: I had to tell you what a sweet girl your daughter is – she’s such a blessing. Well, I wasn’t expecting that as I juggled my frozen raspberries and Earth’s Own Oat Nog. As part of an initiative with the food bank, this woman had chaperoned Abby and a gaggle of middle-school girls on a collection campaign for our local food bank. Most of the time you don’t get feedback on how your child behaves/relates to others when they’re out interacting in the world without you. It also made me smile because my favourite line to say to the kids is: You are a joy and a blessing. I relayed this comment to Abby and she simply smiled, but I hope it touches her heart to know that someone outside the confines of our home considers her a “blessing.” Parenting is no joke, so I encourage everyone – if you ever feel like verbally supporting a parent, DO IT. We (and our kids!) need all the moral support we can get!
  • Abby worked on an art project all week. She’s long out of the phase of regular “colouring” but she found these really cool Harry Potter character colouring sheets and spent HOURS working on them over the week. Very fun!
  • The rule in our house is the kids can knock on our bedroom door at 7 am on weekdays and 8 am on weekends. One morning I woke up exhausted and sure enough there was a knock at 7 am. I was so not ready to engage. But…Levi was still asleep and Abby ended up coming in and reading me jokes for 45 minutes. It was actually very fun – the jokes were hilarious and it was pleasant just being the two of us in the early morning (John was still away).
  • The night of my solo “date night” I came upstairs to find the kids having an unsanctioned sleepover. Most weekends they watch a movie/have a sleepover while John and I have our date night, but because they had been sick, I didn’t plan for one and, typically, Sunday nights are never sleepover nights. But there was a school holiday on Monday so they took matters into their own hands! They were asleep by the time I got upstairs, and I learned the next morning that Abby told Levi: We need to fall asleep extra early. If we’re asleep when she comes upstairs, she won’t bother sending you back to your room. They can fight like the best of them (again, see above), but they also love each other fiercely and genuinely enjoy spending time together. It helps to be reminded of that sometimes.
  • My best friend and her kiddos came for a movie afternoon. Both of our families were sick the previous week (we overlap a lot at school/activities), but everyone was feeling better and in need of interaction. My friend had a few things to do solo back at her house and so I did a short stint of watching the toddler. What a hoot. He is just the sweetest thing and we had a very intellectually stimulating conversation about animal sounds, though we were both flummoxed when we got to the giraffe. What sound does a giraffe make? Anyone? Also, toddlers are especially cute when you just get to do puzzles and read books and don’t have to deal with meltdowns or the inconvenient timing of naps. Hanging out with him was a highlight of my week. Also, doing puzzles under 100 pieces is really fun. He followed me into the kitchen while I prepped supper and we worked on the alphabet together. He killed this puzzle – though “Y” was tricky for a few minutes.
I used a measuring cup to portion out popcorn for the big kids watching a movie. I wasn’t born yesterday…!
  • I’ve talked before about how this same friend (the mother, not the toddler) and I exchange a truly random assortment of items. When I used to do pickup at the school, almost every day we would have some small bag to pass back and forth and it became a running joke. One day a hand-me-down snowsuit. The next day two carrots. Another day, perhaps a little baggie of tumeric. A few weeks ago I asked for exactly 1 Tablespoon of dried thyme. The day of our movie playdate and toddler bonanza, she arrived with two (unused) garbage bags (per my request), and I sent her home with two tomatoes, an avocado of questionable freshness, and a baggie of Tier Two (read no one’s favourites) Halloween candy. I got a text from her an hour ago that read: Could you use any clementines – I have a surplus? It’s the little things in a relationship that can bring the most delight. And I will 100% be taking her up on the clementines…
  • Still on the friend theme, I’ve mentioned before that a good friend recently started commuting to our town each day for work. She drives by me most mornings en route to her office as we’re walking home from school drop-off. We always smile big and wave. One morning this week I was thinking how much of a daily joy boost this has become. She is one of the most joyful people I know and has a bright grin (and wears a hot pink coat). It’s like a treasure hunt each day, watching for her car. And then – delight! It’s her! So we saw each other and waved and I immediately made a note in my phone to write about it as being a highlight of my week. When I got closer to home it crossed my mind again. And I spent 10 minutes ruminating on how much joy it brings to see this friend drive by. Pavlovian conditioning? Yes, but also – it’s fundamentally joyful! Plus, because I wave to her, people in front/behind her in the traffic line often think I’m waving at them, so it sets off a chain reaction of waving. Imagine my surprise when I got home and saw this text (we’ve been waving at each other for months but this is the first time I’ve thought about how much I look forward to this moment + it’s the first time she’s ever mentioned it to me).
Wave and smile, my friends. Wave and smile! Also, I have to admit that I kinda wish my first interaction of the day didn’t happen until 8:30 am…
  • When we went on that woods walk (see medium lights), a child was carrying a notebook to write notes (remember the bet I won). They left a note with a pencil asking passersby to write their name. I planned to collect it surreptitiously, assuming nobody would have left a signature. When we passed by the spot on our way to school one day – lo and behold there were signatures! It was very exciting for the kids!
  • JOHN ARRIVED HOME. Are any more words needed on this one? This entry should have a jumbo neon flashing Highlight sign beside it.
This also works…

A FEW NOTES ON CHRISTMAS PREP

  • I started wrapping. Just a few gifts and every single one is now stored inside a plastic tote (for new readers, last Christmas a pipe leaked into the closet where I was storing wrapped gifts; I’ll be the first to tell you that unwrapping soggy gifts a few weeks before Christmas is not ideal, so I’m taking no chances moving forward!).
  • I wrote up our annual Christmas letter which gets mailed out with our photocards. I always add a little custom greeting to each one, but it’s great to get the basic framework of what I want to say completed.
  • Abby addressed most of the Christmas envelopes! Have I mentioned the many perks that come with independence? She drew little things on each envelope and I’m sure it will make recipients smile to see a tween’s handwriting.
  • I prepared and froze the spiced meat we use on pizzas Christmas Eve (if you’re ever in Atlantic Canada – and aren’t vegan/vegetarian – try a donair; the meat is famous here and this is the recipe I use for the meat, BUT NOT THIS SAUCE!)
  • After MUCH deliberation, I put up the artificial tree in the basement. I bought this tree at Zellers – a now-defunct Canadian department store – the first year John and I were married. It cost $30 and we’ve used it in some capacity every Christmas since. One of our first Christmases in the house – when we were finally able to get a real tree – I put this little artificial one off to the side of the TV in the downstairs family room. I LOVED it here. The glow while I watched a Christmas movie felt like magic. My family was less enthused – it partially blocked the view of whoever was sitting in the corner of the couch and it impacted the sound quality of the audio system. The last few years I’ve put it in a back corner, but it means I really don’t see/appreciate it. I dithered. I thought of putting it in the office but, again, my back would be to it the whole time because of the room configuration. Finally, I decided to go for it – all in an effort to break through my demerit of not using the treadmill desk. I have a PERFECT view of the tree from the treadmill. It took 15 minutes to set up the tree and lights and I always dislike that process – but when the kids came home from school, they helped me decorate it (the fun part). And I am typing these words from my treadmill desk, looking at the lights aglow. Yesterday, I walked for 80 minutes while working. Go me.

Abby made the angel topper as part of a puppet play years ago; this tree also has the kids homemade preschool Christmas ornaments and all sorts of other treasures. I’m really glad we put it up after all..

Your turn. How was your week? How goes Christmas prep? If you’re American, how do you juggle Thanksgiving/Christmas planning? Do you wait until Thanksgiving is over to decorate/buy gifts? What was a low-, medium-, or high-light from your week? Enlighten me – what sound does a giraffe make? I’ll pass any intel along to my pint-sized friend.

Neon light photo by Samuel Regan-Asante on Unsplash

Casual Saturday + Lots of Vomit

Look at me being rebellious and posting my “casual” update on a Saturday.

John is finishing up a trip away (Spain + Finland) and the kids have an extra long weekend (Friday + Monday off). I did a great job of lining things up to fill the time, with the pièce de résistance being a trip to visit my parents in New Brunswick. I could just picture the kids jumping into golden piles of leaves, skipping rocks over calm-as-glass lake water, and roasting marshmallows by a fire with winter toques to keep the chilly November air at bay. Our trip – in my mind, at least – was practically drenched in the very best of cozy late-fall vibes.

Instead, I shuttled buckets full of vomit to the toilet, googled viral rashes, and spent an inordinate amount of time warming up Magic Bags. Sometimes plans work, and sometimes they don’t. Such is life.

Highlights (and lowlights) of the week that was…

FRIDAY | I was so, so irritable last week and Friday felt like the crescendo. I know my hormones were in flux – but yikes, I didn’t have much patience this day and, unfortunately, John bore the brunt of my ire. In the end, there were many redeemable moments. After school, we took the kids shopping to complete Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. We’ve been doing this for years and each child fills a box with age-appropriate things for someone in their demographic. So Levi’s 5-to-9-year-old box included socks with hockey sticks, Play-doh and a bouncy ball; Abby’s 10-to-14-year-old box got a notebook with an adorable cat on the cover, puffy stickers, and hair elastics.

We also made a quick thrift store stop where everyone found something! A new pair of jeans for me (I only have two pairs of pants I wear on regular rotation, so adding a third pair to the mix was…a good idea). Abby found a cute dressy top. Levi is obsessed with the Under Armour brand after inheriting some hand-me-downs this summer and – we let the kids search for their own clothes at thrift stores now – he found two Under Armour shirts (for about $2.75 each). I also secretly sourced him a robe that will end up in his stocking at Christmas. His existing robe, which he wears constantly, is getting very short on his lengthening body! John found a great dressy-casual shirt that will be perfect for so many situations (Tommy Hilfiger; it was about $4?)

You may be thinking all we do is buy things at thrift stores, but it feels like someone always needs something for their wardrobe. And the prices just can’t be beat! I also appreciate that the kids are growing up excited to search for things second-hand – it’s 100% normalized in our family (and, to be honest, in the local culture – thrifting is a BIG deal where we live).

Ignore my serial-killer stare. I have no idea what to do with my hands or eyes in selfies. But this dress was a winner at under $5!
For reference, this is everything hanging in my closet for fall/winter (aside from athletic bottoms which are stored in a dresser).

Despite my less-than-stellar attitude, things ended on a high note. We got take-out sushi, set the kids up with a movie, and John and I had an at-home date night.

SATURDAY | What a day. I made a quick stop at the grocery store and bought the kid’s 2022 Advent calendars. John had a coffee all prepped in a travel mug (yum) and we spent the day in Halifax doing various errands. We actually all found winter boots at a thrift store (I know, I know – more thrifting?!). I ended up with a pair of Sorels (for $15 – with a coupon – it felt like a wise idea to have a backup pair, since a single pair of winter boots isn’t ideal for the different types of weather we have). Lest you worry that all your suggestions are no longer relevant, I have a feeling these Sorels won’t be warm enough for the coldest winter months. I’m still eyeing the UGG Adirondack and Baffin and Columbia and Olang boots suggested last week.

We also found Christmas PJs for Abby at the thrift store. It takes some of the magic out of it to know what you’re getting, but she “wanted to make sure they fit”. Yet another sign of independence

We stopped by IKEA and were…moderately successful. We had no hooks in our entryway, so we sourced a coat hook. We also found shelves – grey – for $5! I paid $50 for the glass shelf and the aesthetic was lost inside a utilitarian entryway PAX anyway, so we’ll return that shelf and try to get a few more grey ones.

We also got some small side tables. Technically, nothing we bought was actually a side table. Those suckers were expensive! We got a minimalistic bedside table ($17.99) and a folding indoor/outdoor stool ($19). We have lived in this house for over 5 years and have never had a place to put a cup of coffee or a book beside the chairs in our living room. It feels luxurious to sit in the oversized corner chair and ACTUALLY have a place to put down a mug. I have to admit, I don’t love the extra visual clutter of another piece of furniture but functionally, it’s very nice.

At one point I saw John sprinting out the door and had no idea what was going on – turns out he had spotted friends of ours from Prince Edward Island exiting the store. I waved through the window; a fun and unexpected cameo in our day!

IKEA was the busiest I have ever seen – the lines for the checkout and food were enormous. So the whole outing took a lot longer than we anticipated (plus, on the showroom floor, tags would indicate certain items were in stock, but then we’d check in the warehouse and they’d be sold out). I was exhausted by the end, but the kids were excellent (ice cream definitely helped).

Some neighbours had invited us over to roast marshmallows/make s’mores, so as soon as we got home from IKEA (and ice cream) we carted over deck chairs and spent an hour chatting (while the kids each had TWO s’mores). It was late by the time we got the kids to bed, but we still carved out a quick date night (ramen noodles + a documentary; Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist on Netflix which was jaw-dropping and gripping and absolutely crazy and maddening and every other emotion concurrently).

SUNDAY | This was a great day. The extra hour from DST melted into the morning and we were scrambling to get out the door on time for church (honestly, I think it was worse than normal and I was up before 6 am “new” time!).

We had friends coming for an early supper, so by the time we ate lunch, prepped for supper, made lunchboxes, and I fit in a very quick daily outside walk, it was time for them to arrive.

I said there was no need to bring anything, but they showed up with peanut butter balls (peanut butter should be one of Gary Chapman’s love languages, IMO) and flowers. After they left John said: Well, they don’t read your blog. But I have to admit, fresh flowers are beautiful and have been a lovely addition to our table this week!!

Supper was great. We set out all sorts of toppings for individual pizzas on mini Naan breads and a huge tray of veggies with hummus. I did try a new recipe for dessert – a cast-iron skillet baked cookie that was a bit of a miss for me (but multiple people asked for seconds, so it can’t have been that bad). The kids had a great time playing. I always feel nervous when we host families with kids because there are so many dynamics at work but thankfully things went very smoothly. We played some very successful group games, the kids traded Pokemon cards, and Levi happily passed along some action figures. All in all, this was a very fun night.

MONDAY | A regular day! Work, some writing for NaMoBloPo. We hung up the hooks in the entryway. Getting off the bus Levi spontaneously arranged for a playdate at our house; while he was occupied, Abby and I made a batch of Fall Chocolate Chip Spiced Cookies (a recipe recommended by Suzanne).

They were delicious! My go-to approach with any spiced cookie is to double the spices (cinnamon and ginger, at least). Abby asked me to scale things back and I have to admit I think these cookies would have been even better if I had gone with my gut and doubled the spices! I also did NOT make 4-ounce cookies. I used my regular cookie scoop which is about 2 ounces! Very tasty. I will be making this recipe again…with double the cinnamon and ginger.

While we waited for cookies to bake, I tackled 2023 calendars while Abby drew beside me. I always buy the same wall and desk calendars from the DollarStore and I LOVE them. The desk calendar sits on my desk and only contains work-related deadlines. The wall calendar hangs in the kitchen and only contains family-centric items (birthdays, major appointments). I also started filling in the relevant information in my 2023 Sprouted Planner. I have all the school dates (inservices, etc) for the rest of the academic year + all the family/friend birthdays have been recorded for the year ahead. It felt GREAT to get this job completed.

Supper and then, because it was on my to-do list and there was a 40%-off sale + free shipping, I finalized and ordered the custom wall calendars and photocards.

This is a labour of love. I make three different calendars: one for my parents, one for my inlaws, and one for Abby. It takes time and coordination (I get photos from other people) – the whole experience is tedious. A few years ago I casually mentioned to my parents that I was thinking of not doing a calendar that year and it did not go over well; I mean, they were gracious about this idea, but also clearly extremely disappointed. It is, and I quote, their: “favourite gift”. So I continue on and will do so for the foreseeable future because I’m reframing this annual job from something I “have” to do into something I “get” to do. I’m thankful people appreciate this gift and I’m so grateful these special people – my parents, my inlaws, Abby – are in my life!

TUESDAY | John left early for a conference in the city; thankfully the weather was good so we walked to school as per usual.

When we were getting ready I couldn’t find Levi – eventually spotting him cleaning the table (very sweet – it was sticky), but the amount of water on the cloth did leave me chuckling – not sure if you can tell from these pictures, but that dishcloth was SOAKED…

And then the ultimate irony. Tuesday morning I posted about tending to sick kids, and a few hours later had a call from the school telling me Abby was feeling unwell. This is one of the rare times I deeply regretted not having a second vehicle. My bestie – bless her – who, it turns out, also had a child home sick, offered to pick Abby up at school and deliver her home to me.

I’ll spare the goriest of details, but let’s just say there was plenty of vomit involved and this was one of those Sick, Sick illnesses.

I swear every single family we know that has kids has someone sick right now. It’s like every cold, flu, and rash that was temporarily avoided during lockdowns has all accumulated and is hitting EVERYONE hard.

Of course, I had a whole day of work things scheduled and everything had to get shuffled around to make the “nursing” and working balance out. At one point, as I raced into the office to do a few things I said to John: There just aren’t enough hours in the day. But you know what, that’s not true – it’s that, as a parent, I feel like there are never enough UNINTERRUPTED hours in a day. I feel like I’m so regularly being pulled in 10 different directions.

In good news, last week I mentioned a potential work challenge that I did not handle gracefully. Turns out all my worries were moot as the resolution came on Tuesday with no harm done (except I had been very gripey about it with John and regretted my complaints/attitude, especially now knowing all the worry was for naught).

The only thing that really made Abby feel better was to take long, hot showers. But she really wanted me to be in the bathroom with her. At one point she said – muffled from the facecloth over her face – Mom, I want you to know I really appreciate this.

Appreciate what? I asked.

Staying with me, she said. Because you could, like, just leave me here alone…but you don’t.

There was a midnight wakeup for vomit and I ended up spending the night tossing and turning beside her but we both survived.

WEDNESDAY | Abby was feeling a lot better in the morning, but definitely not school material! I wanted to fit in my outside walk, so Levi and I trekked to school together; he invited a friend along and it was a fun. I called my parents to tell them about the stomach bug and started thinking that my weekend visit wasn’t such a good idea after all.

We left mid-morning to take John to the airport and Abby had to come along for the ride. We made a quick stop by IKEA to return a few items (like that $50 shelf) and John grabbed a few new $5 shelves and a little bench for the entryway. There is a chance we might opt for a bigger version (below), but it’s double the cost and would take up a lot more space…

Of everything that has been done in terms of renovations, the entryway is my favourite. We had a tiny entryway for the first 4.5 years of living here that was COLD (basically no insulation) and it leaked. Having space to move and lots of places to hang things up feels so – luxurious!

A picture I snapped of the entryway on the very first walk-through of the house with our realtor. It was functional but very small, the folding door didn’t work properly…and it ended up leaking in various places.

Abby LOVES to build IKEA things and helped me put the little bench together. The kids can store their winter hats/mitts in bins and we have a place to sit to put on shoes.

Art, a mirror, some matching bins for the hats/mitts in the coat closet, maybe a plant – and then this renovation is done!

THURSDAY | Abby woke up full of vim and vinegar insisting she wanted to go to school, but within an hour I could see her eyes still looked tired and we opted for another sick day (plus the fact it’s a 4-day weekend means she’ll have had a whole week off school, so LOTS of time to rest and recuperate properly).

A friend offered us some soup for supper so I didn’t have to cook, and we stopped by to collected that after dropping Levi off at school. We were home by 9 am and she set up on the couch with videos and I tackled laundry, work and all the other things that had fallen by the wayside for a few days (including a bit of research for Christmas gift ideas).

In the afternoon she set up the Christmas evergreens on the mantle (she did it last year too and insists I don’t look while she’s setting things up). This is early for me, but we have a busy November ahead and it feels good to get something crossed off the list. When we were digging out the Christmas gear, she spotted a box of photos and spent the better part of an hour looking at pictures from my infancy through to when she was born! She seemed delighted to see glimpses of herself in me!

Elisabeth circa 1988

When Levi got off the bus he wasn’t looking too peppy. He settled in okay at home but was quiet. Abby had asked to prepare Levi’s birthday party invite (it is so nice to delegate these things). The kids typically attend a youth event on Thursdays, but we skipped that and settled in for an early night.

Around 9:30 pm I heard Levi pad down the hallway and he told me he didn’t feel well. I could tell he had a temp and immediately launched into nursing mode. Is your tummy upset? What can I do to make you feel better?

DO YOU FEEL NAUSEOUS?

He insisted he didn’t feel nauseous, so I went to get Advil (he had a temp) and grabbed a bucket on my way back to the bedroom. I also decided to up my preparations and brought along a giant, washable waterproof mat we have for just such a moment. He was looking okay, so I left it at his feet and decided to add some insurance to the situation and go downstairs to get the second giant waterproof mat. I went quickly but when I was at the bottom of the stairs, back up mat in hand, I heard the crying.

And I just knew what had happened. Sigh.

When I got back to the room, sure enough, my bed was COVERED in vomit (good news: the waterproof mat and barf bucket were clean as a whistle as he missed those completely).

Anyhoo. The following hours involved lots of TLC. He took a shower at one point and looked so pitiful and I felt awful and said: I am so sorry, Levi! To which he responded: Why? It’s not your fault. Fair enough and I’ll explain the concept of empathy to him another day! In the end, he slept through the rest of the night and there was no more vomit. I consider that an early Christmas gift.

FRIDAY | Friday morning was all about staying cozy. I read a book and sipped coffee (with a side table for my drink!) while Abby looked at old photobooks and Levi convalesced in various locations.

I really expected the day to be awful, but it wasn’t. Levi was sick and docile, but never irritable (it can easily go the other way; fair enough). He slept a lot. He took another shower. Some videos were involved, but also colouring and audiobooks and some really nice, quiet chats.

I got the last of the “sick” laundry done. I texted out Levi’s birthday invite. I did a bit more work on Christmas gift ideas. I’m not ordering either of the items below, but they sure made me smile:

Can I get an Amen from fellow introverts?
There were a whole bunch of Dad joke t-shirts that were adorable!

I fit in a short walk in our neighbourhood. The daily walk streak continues and I’m nearing the finish line. I’ve loved having this routine, but I’m also very ready to not have it as an official daily “to-do” in 2023.

Our Christmas cards/calendars that I just ordered on Monday arrived so much earlier than expected; I couldn’t settle on a photocard design, so just bought a small stack in three different designs (if you read this and get Christmas photocards from us, I’ll leave you in suspense about the images/design on the back!)

A second friend offered to bring by soup – it really does take a village! – and Abby and I chatted with her (distanced across the deck) for almost an hour while Levi slept inside. It was such a gorgeous day!

Levi was keen to head to bed early; Abby has been cooped up for days, and I could tell she was feeling a bit antsy, so I suggested we wrap up Levi’s birthday gifts. It needed to happen and while all I really wanted was 5 hours of uninterrupted time to read or write or sleep…we had a nice time and the presents are wrapped!

And that’s a wrap on my semi-eventful week.


Your turn. How was your week? I’m hoping it involved less vomit than mine!

Casual Friday + Winter Boot Recommendations

It’s Friday again, and we’ve officially crossed over into November which, in my mind, means winter has arrived and I’m not quite sure how I feel about that. Actually, I do know how I feel – not ready!

Sure the sun is shining while I write this and there is no snow on the ground, but the possibility of cold weather and icy sidewalks is crouching in the wings waiting to pounce on me any moment. Melodramatic? Perhaps a touch, but I’m wishing I could rewind the last few weeks, hit the replay button and glory in the leaves, pumpkins, and warm afternoons just a little bit longer…

Truthfully? I’ve also felt mildly irritated all week. It could be finishing my course of steroids (the doctor warned they might disrupt sleep and make me restless but I felt amazing – I think they helped counter my regular deep fatigue). It could be that when I signed – full of excitement – for my Sprouted Planner I discovered the duty charges cost as much as the book itself (not cool UPS brokerage, not cool). It could be that a work situation I should have better prepared myself for mentally still caught me by surprise and I didn’t handle the aftermath with grace. It could be that from my limited ideas for Christmas gifts this year, several have already fallen flat. It could be that despite having transitioned into/out of solo-parent mode regularly for over a decade, the transitions continue to knock me at least slightly off-kilter. It could be that Tuesday morning I had a terrible nightmare and woke up feeling sick with anxiety – I know it was just a dream (involving overnight company and a house flood: so very relevant!), but a figment of my imagination or not – it managed to throw off my morning! Also, guess what started on Wednesday? Maybe this will teach me to never publicly declare that any era is officially over. Sigh.

I’ve tried to counter my irritation by eating mini-chocolate bars (which, in my opinion, provide much smaller bites than they used to? Do we really need to mess with the portion of my individual-sized Reese’s PB cups?) – then again maybe this is another source of my irritation. (The extra sugar, not the size of said bars – I just eat more to compensate.)

But mostly I think it’s that I’m not ready to say goodbye to October…

That said there were lots of bright moments in the week, literally and figuratively, and let’s focus on those from here on out.

HALLOWEEN | Halloween is not my “thing.” As a kid, I rather dreaded it. We lived in a rural area where you had to drive five minutes between houses. Also, because my father was the pastor at a small church, we prioritized visiting parishioners’ houses. This wouldn’t have been so bad, but some were downright spooky – and not in a good way. Like the widow with her house FULL of cats. It reeked of pet urine and I dreaded going there every. single. year. Or the trailer with the Beware of Dog sign that was terrifying as a child. I dressed up and went out because I felt like it was a thing kids had to do and everyone else seemed jolly about the experience. But my favourite part of the night was coming home to find the dining room table cleared off, cookie sheets arranged neatly and my mother waiting with a pad of paper and pen so we could categorize and count all the treats. I always heaved a sigh of relief when it was over (same with overnight summer camp). This peek into adolescent Elisabeth informs so much of my current habits and preferences!

My kids, on the other hand, LOVE Halloween. When they were younger and we lived in a local apartment complex, we would traipse over to our current neighbourhood to trick-or-treat. It’s a closed loop and very popular among families with young kids. When we toured our current home with our realtor the first thing we told him: This is our trick-or-treating neighbourhood!

These pictures of Abby on Halloween morning were completely candid. I thought it was hilarious to see her about to dive into a bowl of oatmeal at breakfast…in FULL Hermoine garb. And then, how fitting that she spent a few minutes before the walk to school reading The Goblet of Fire (clutching a wand). She walked to school with Hogwarts robes billowing behind her. It was all very fun and festive.

John and the kids carved the pumpkins on Sunday. I don’t do much in terms of decorations, but our front stoop looked cheery enough. At 5:45 our doorbell rang and I was shocked to have someone so early – it was a friend (whose children are all grown) stopping by to see the kid’s costumes which was a fun and unexpected start to the evening festivities.

Levi was a Formula One racecar driver (the suit was a $5 thrift store find) and we grabbed his ski goggles, helmet, and some black finger gloves from the winter stash – DONE!

There are a few houses outside of our neighbourhood the kids always want to visit. Every other year we’ve gone AFTER it’s dark and we’re finished our main trick-or-treating loop. This time I thought: Why not go early before I have to spend the entire time squinting in the dark, terrified of hitting pint-sized pedestrians?

This was a great idea! We did all our driving in the light (before most kids had started trick-or-treating). At our first stop, they had pre-labeled bags set aside for our kids which thrilled them to no end. Also, the parents at this house were dressed up like Elastigirl and Mr. Incredible. Gold stars to them.

We were home by 6:15 and did our neighbourhood loop in under an hour. The kids had a great time, they got lots of candy, and I was showered and in bed reading a book by 8:30 pm. I think it was my favourite Halloween ever.

Of course we counted all the treats:

  • Chips and cheezies (way down this year): 22
  • Full-sized bars (also down): 4
  • Freezies: 2
  • Juice boxes: 2
  • Temporary Tattoos: 2 (bonus: these were glow-in-the-dark!)
  • Suckers: 14
  • Rockets (American Smarties): 14
  • Caramels: 14
  • Mini-chocolate bars: 107 (+21 leftover from our stash)
  • Chewy candy: 64
  • Rice Krispy Squares: 3
  • Mini-cookies: 4

Grand total = 273 (this doesn’t include special items the kids got from friends earlier in the week, that would definitely put it over 300!)

As for candy consumption? The kids pick out one item when they come home from trick-or-treating. They’ll get several in their lunch boxes for the next couple of weeks. Each night at supper for a few weeks everyone picks out two things. And then, well, everyone seems to forget. We give some away. I set aside a little stash for the winter months. There is no huge sugar rush/crash – just a slow, steady stream for a few weeks, then a trickle.

Amen.

KIDS | Abby had an absolutely fantastic time at her weekend “camp.” There was consternation when I insisted on getting a picture before she headed off. She deemed us worthy of a hug at the dropoff point, but there was some eye-rolling when I went back for one last goodbye. I looked at the schedule and bedtime was listed as 12:45 am (and wakeup on Saturday was at 6:30 am). Better her than me.

Once Abby was safely settled, Levi and I ran errands together. So many activities are much easier/more enjoyable with only one kid in tow. We capped off our adventure with some ice cream at McDonald’s. We don’t go to fast-food spots very often and to make things extra special, Levi asked if we could visit a brand new location about 5 minutes further than where we would normally go. Why not? And this little detail added a whole other layer of whimsy to our date.

On Saturday afternoon I realized I hadn’t thought about Abby in hours. Not in a: I don’t care. But in a: I know my girl, and I bet she’s having the time of her life.

I was right. When John and I arrived to serve supper, she was draped over the arm of a couch in the lobby laughing with friends.

This is what we do, isn’t it? Raise our kids and hold them tight – all so we can let them go, little by little. These are all tiny steps…but also…huge, too.

She was happy to see us. No embarrassment. Just hugs and waves, and then back to her friends.

We served 250 people, give or take a few dozen, and it was wonderful. I commented, after it was over, it felt less daunting to serve 250 than it does to put supper on my own table at night. But that’s the thrill of working in a group. Though when we pulled out of the parking lot, I hit a wall. Wow, I was tired!

Abby was home by 9 pm Saturday, voice cracking from exhaustion and excitement. I asked her to list her top three memories from the weekend. Number 2? Bedtime the first night (remember this was 12:45 am!!). Mom, she said, I have NEVER been so excited to go to bed in my life. Isn’t that the truth, my low-sleep-needs-child.

There were bouncy castles and s’mores and a band – the whole scenario would have been a nightmare for me as an introverted child. Who am I kidding? That scenario sounds like a nightmare to me as an introverted adult. But for Abby – it was bliss. And that made my Mama heart happy.

CHRISTMAS (AND THRIFTING) | November 1st I actually felt the start of a cold panic. My response was to write down everything in my head (scary) that relates to Christmas (less scary) so I can see what needs to be done. It already feels more manageable. There will be areas of minimalism (decorations, gifts) and there will be areas of excesses (food options). But mostly I really want it to be fun.

But it does all start to feel overwhelming because there is a lot to do. I’m sure I’ll process all the emotions (and logistics) in the weeks to come.

While the kids were at an activity mid-week, I visited a nearby thrift store and found a few items to get the ball rolling for my Christmas shopping. There are two gifts we buy every year for the kids: new-to-them PJs and a new Christmas ornament (both items get opened on Christmas Eve). A few times I’ve managed to find matching jammies, but at this point, I just look for cute sets I think they’ll enjoy and I found a set for Levi this week. I also really wanted to have a Christmas sweater (or two) this year for fun holiday events and found something for both myself and Abby (hers includes sequins that flip – doubly festive).

I also found a like-new Levi’s shirt for Abby at a consignment store this week for $7 which will end up in her stocking!

NaBloPoMo | The list of “official” participants is in the double digits; once again, a huge thanks to San for spearheading this fun November event.

OTHER | John was set to get back from Germany last Friday around midnight which meant a taxi service. But then he managed to snag an earlier flight. This slight change in plans was so exciting (I hate when he leaves/arrives when I’m sleeping – it doesn’t allow for a proper hello or goodbye); after our ice cream date, Levi and I packed up and went to get him.

It was such a nice ride. Levi was relaxed and happy – in pjs, snuggled up with a blankie and a pillow – and we just talked and listened to music (my Spotify playlist wowed again).

As we were just about to the airport I saw what looked like a shooting star. Then I realized it was an airplane and thought: Hey – my husband might be on that “shooting star” and it made me feel very happy. Levi was sound asleep in the back seat at this point and it was just a very peaceful, heartwarming moment. (Much more enjoyable than my Tuesday flood nightmare; my imagination can run both ways!)

EXERCISE | Mostly limited to daily walks, including tromping around after dark for Halloween treats and a gorgeous/spontaneous Saturday walk with a friend. John and I fit in a great (relatively fast) 6 km run together. But my absolute highlight was a 2 km run with Levi. The week before he had done 5.5 km with John and he had very big plans for us to do a 6 km run. Then we opened the door and he saw friends playing in the street and our 6 km shrunk to: “Mom, can we just do a 1 km walk?” In the end, we ran 2 km (6’26 splits) and fit in a 1 km walk. As we were running up an incline he said: Now Mom, we shouldn’t talk at all while we run uphill. Then, seconds later: Well, we can ask each other short questions. And then he proceeded to talk the whole time. He was quite a drill sergeant, too. I was loving our pace, but in the last 250 meters he was adamant about pushing harder. He definitely can outrun me. It was a lot of fun, if a bit demoralizing that my 7-year-old can run faster than me.

MISC | My favourite Christmas gift is back in stock at Shopper Drug Mart – maple-scented candles with a wooden wick that crackles. They’re not cheap, but they burn for a very long time and they are our favourite scented candle. I had a points offer, too, so I got cash kickbacks on the purchase which always feels thrilling.

There is another fun new mural in town. I just love this use of “blank” canvases. It makes everything look bright and cheerful. Gold star to the town for commissioning these.

MEATBALL | I’ll give the little guy his own category.

  • You’ll be pleased to learn he has not attempted escape from his new cage. Phew.
  • I gave him a second haircut in under a month. Abby brushes him daily, but he still needs a trim regularly. His fur gets so long and puffy (which is adorable but it gets hopelessly tangled with mulch).
  • He did not enjoy this grooming one bit, but then settled in with me for about 15 minutes in the living room and just…hung out. He’s very cute.

WORK |

  • It’s reading week, so things are very quiet around the university.
  • My Project Management position technically wraps up in December, but they’ve asked me to extend my contract. I had a great call talking through next steps and what things will look like in terms of hours and responsibilities.
  • I feel like I’m in a great spot right now. This time last year I remember waiting for the bus to arrive one day and feeling a complete wall of panic surrounding me and I asked (sobbed?) John: What have I done? It was like drinking through a fire hose and I was panicked and drowning. The person I replaced (who had been working on the project for SEVEN years) mentioned casually: It took me a year to feel like I knew what was going on. Well, I’m now at a year and I finally feel like I know what’s going on. And that feels…nice.
  • There are several doors that I could likely push open if I wanted to, but for now I’m content to leave them ever-so-slightly ajar. I don’t want more responsibility. I don’t want to be busier.
  • Now that I’m less terrified of screwing up a massive research project, I can bask in the fact it’s very satisfying to be engaged with an interesting topic. It’s been over a decade since I hung up my lab coat, but I’m living vicariously through the researchers. The project is focused on natural solutions to invasive and economically devastating insect pests. Think of items like insect pheromones, essential oils, and bacteria being used to help remediate/prevent billions of dollars of damage being caused by things like Spruce Budworm, Emerald Ash Borer (forestry) and Drosophila (food). It’s a very cool project and it’s a privilege to be involved – and too often I don’t acknowledge that fact!
  • I’ve blogged briefly about another project (part of our small business) that I was involved with for the better part of a decade. When John started his sabbatical, I used that transition as an impetus to officially step away. For years it had required a disproportionate amount of mental energy from me; the hours were completely unpredictable but if something came in it had to be dealt with IMMEDIATELY. I also always felt so out of my league. While I haven’t had anything to do with the project since March, it has now almost entirely wrapped up which gives me an added layer of closure/calm.
  • I mentioned a few weeks ago there had been an issue with back pay not coming through. The whole situation was made more complicated by the fact my go-to contact was out on paternity leave. He returned this week and within an hour of logging back online he reached out to me sure everything had been resolved (it has). It was a small gesture, but after 6 weeks out of the office I can only imagine what his inbox looked like and I really appreciated him putting in that extra effort to touch base.

winter boots

I am in a very precarious position as a Canadian – I don’t own winter boots.

Several years ago I snagged a nice pair of Sorel’s at a thrift store for about $5. They served their purpose but one boot, and then the other, started leaking last winter. I tried patching them, without success. By the end of the winter, I was literally lining my boots with plastic bags. And, if I’m being honest, they were never overly comfortable.

While I love the idea of finding my next pair at a thrift store (partly because I’m frugal, partly because I appreciate it is environmentally conscious, and partly because I love the thrill of a successful hunt), it is hard to find second-hand boots in good condition.

So, it may be time to bite the bullet and invest in some really good winter boots. (I already have an excellent: coat, pair of snow pants, and gloves, so boots are the only missing piece in my winter gear puzzle).

I’m looking for:

  • Something with direct shipping from within Canada. If there’s an issue, returns to the US are too much of a hassle. A friend loves her L.L. Bean boots, but I’d prefer to avoid cross-border shopping. Especially after getting walloped with duty yesterday.
  • In order of importance, they need to be: warm, waterproof and comfortable. “Stylish” would be a nice bonus, but warmth and practicality trump all else.

Brand/model suggestions, please! (And, if you have a pair/brand you dislike, I’d appreciate any notes of caution).

Your turn. What’s your favourite Halloween treat? I do especially love Reese’s, but aside from Tootsie Rolls (ick!) I’ll eat just about everything…Happy weekending – though I’ll see you tomorrow since it’s NaBloPoMo!

Casual Friday + Sometimes, Everything Fits

What a week, friends. What a week. It was busy, but also great. My hearing issues, though a nuisance on one level, provided plenty of opportunities to focus on gratitude. The kids went above and beyond with their behaviour (most of the time). The rainy forecast wasn’t nearly as bad as predicted and temperatures were unseasonably warm.

Absolutely nothing in the house leaked.


This is one of those massive brain-dump-style posts. I feel silly about the length of my Friday posts, but earlier this week was validated when Lisa mentioned referencing a post years later and loving her access to a snapshot back in time. And Suzanne recently confirmed the length of blog posts is yet another thing we should be measuring by heart (along with vanilla, exclamation marks, and parentheses. Amen!).

As always, skimming is encouraged! This is a long one, measured with my heart.


I tried to set the bar very low in terms of expectations. John was at a conference in Germany for much of the week and I was determined to ease back into solo parenting gently. Each day I wrote a list of 5 things I wanted to accomplish and gave myself permission to let everything else slide. Two items on this list always included my daily walk and preparing lunchboxes. A low bar indeed! Maybe because I didn’t try to fill every minute, I fit in more than usual at a generally relaxed pace? (I also think the course of steroids gave me more energy than usual, too.)

FRIDAY | I worked all morning but the kids had a half-day followed by an afternoon birthday party which involved cake and a GIANT bouncy castle. So, yes, they enjoyed their afternoon immensely! John and I dropped them off and tackled a long list of errands:

  • We mailed a baby gift to Australia. Not surprisingly the postage cost more than the gift, but it was great to cross this off our list! Bonus: Abby has been writing lots of letters to friends/family, so I stocked up on cute stamps. Wowzers, postage is not cheap.
  • We stopped by the police station to request record checks for volunteering.
  • We went to the library (lots of great holds).
  • We went to the hardware store and bought a new door sweep for the leaky side door. Fingers crossed this is the solution. We’ll have our handyman install and troubleshoot the issue. We also bought a huge, clear plastic tote that we’ve retrofitted to be an incredible – and inescapable – cage for Meatball! Kudos to John for spearheading this.

We made it home in time to work in the office some more and then, since Abby had choir at 3:30 pm, I collected the kids a few minutes early from the birthday party.

I haven’t been to our favourite thrift store in months and Abby needed some pants for the cooler weather and I was looking for some comfortable dresses. I had thought of going on Saturday, but that would have involved bringing Levi, too. Instead, I left him at home with John and after choir Abby and I spent an enormously fun and productive hour shopping.

For $47 (including tax) we got the following:

Abby got: 3 pairs of pants (1 is too big, but her size-up clothing bin was sparse, so I was glad to buy ahead), a pair of adorable white sneakers (her white Keds, from this same thrift store, were looking worse for wear), a pair of Airwalk “Uggs”, and a witch hat. She was planning to make her costume this year, but I was thrilled when she found this hat and decided to be Hermoine instead. I knew a friend’s son had gone as Harry previously and they generously loaned us all the other costume elements, including an official Hogwarts robe and homemade wand that LIGHTS UP! This means the grand total for her Halloween outfit is $2. I can stomach that.

I got: a pair of pants (which I proceeded to spill tomato-based soup on this week), an extremely comfortable jersey dress, a bathing suit (Speedo brand), spandex (I don’t think I can ever have too many pairs), and a cute A-line skirt.

So comfy! Without the belt it looks like a gray potato sack, though…
I wore the new skirt to church on Sunday. Very comfy; how I love elasticized A-line waists!

One of my goals for the next few weeks is to go through the clothes in my closet – admittedly a sparse collection – and take a load to the consignment store. Almost everything I have is in good shape (despite being thrifted to begin with!), but some of it is also a decade old and, eventually, I do get tired of wearing the same pieces.

Friday night the kids had been promised a sleepover/movie night with John. This was originally planned for when I was to be in the hospital, and the kids were keen to reschedule. They started re-watching The Lord of the Rings trilogy and I spent some time organizing photos (oh my goodness – what an epic task this year) and working on our 2022 photobook.

SATURDAY | I felt “off” all morning. John was gone on a hiking trip with friends. The kids were grumpy with each other. I enjoyed my coffee, but the day felt very long. We did fit in a family walk together, though.

One of Abby’s new outfits (the jeans and shoes) – the coat and shirt were thrift finds, too, but much older!

Once John got home I spent the rest of the day at the hospital reading The Thursday Murder Club!

SUNDAY | I was exhausted, but what a great morning! Abby was volunteering with preschoolers during the first service, so we had to leave the house by 9 am. She is absolutely thriving in this role! At one point, I saw her in passing in the lobby and she was cradling a hot chocolate she had gotten from the “cafe” (independently) and was heading to her small group. Her need for parental oversight to organize these things is slowly dwindling, and that can be very sweet to watch.

By the time we finished church and did a few errands, it was after 2:00 pm! We ate lunch, and then John headed off on a long run. He wanted to do a straight shot and have us pick him up, so the kids and I drove to Grand Pré and fit in my daily walk while we waited for him to arrive.

There were cobwebs everywhere! It might be hard to see in this picture, but we all caught and trailed 3-4 foot cobweb strings behind us and pretended we were walking invisible pets. The weather was incredible. Slightly overcast, warm – everything smelled like musty leaves, but in the best possible way.

You can sort of see the white trail behind Abby – these long cobwebs were EVERYWHERE.
Of course, we had to stop to collect chestnuts. They’re mostly all out of their casings, so the primary activity was trying to throw them into hollow spaces in trees!

I had been invited to a birthday party for a friend at 5 pm. I’m not much for big groups and knew it was going to be a busy week. I dithered for days but am glad I decided to go. Ten minutes after we got home from our walk, I left the house. The food was great, the ladies were wonderful (especially when I kept having to ask people to repeat themselves because of my hearing challenges) – it was a lovely evening, and not for one second did I regret going. Happy Birthday, E! Bonus: I missed the bedtime routine at home which would have required more energy than eating out.

MONDAY | We drove the kids to school and headed straight to the airport. It is so nice when John leaves at a reasonable hour. For years most of his flights left at 5 am, so he would take a taxi service in the wee hours of the morning and I absolutely HATED waking up to find him gone. Goodbyes seem so much more cheerful when they happen at the airport in daylight.

I went to IKEA – en route home – to return a few items and to source another shelf for our entryway PAX. Weeks ago I caved and bought one glass shelf. It killed me because the basic white shelves are only $15 and the glass ones are $50! But they only had glass shelves at the time. I decided to bite the bullet and buy another shelf (hoping the less expensive white ones would be in stock). No luck, and now the glass shelves are all gone too!

The other thing I wanted at IKEA was an ice cream. On my last visit with Levi, I tried their ice cream for the first time and am now a convert. With him, I bought a baby cone. Today, I was going to throw caution to the wind and planned to get a full-size cone. After spending way too much time fantasizing about how delicious this ice cream was going to be, you can imagine my despair when I discovered they only serve ice cream after 12:00 pm. Sigh. What about middle-aged mothers WHO WANT ICE CREAM AT 10 am? I bought a milk chocolate bar for $1 instead; it wasn’t the same, but it worked in a pinch.

Once home, I turned off all notifications and sat down and hammered out work tasks until it was time for my doctor’s appointment.

I’ve admired the subtle messaging in this painting in her office many times, but finally snapped a picture.

Then there was a flurry of activity to get an emergency audiogram, etc.

After picking the kids up from the bus, I got an invitation to meet friends at the playground. I really wanted to fit this in, but we were already scheduled to deliver a birthday gift to a friend who lives out of town (this was clearly the week for birthdays!). We prioritized that adventure – it was on my list of 5 to-do’s for the day – but left early enough we were also able to fit in a late-afternoon playground trip. Sometimes it can all fit in, especially if I don’t try to force it.

En route home, I asked about bringing along Levi’s best friend who has been asking to play. The boys decided they wanted to play at his house, so I dropped Levi off and he ended up staying for supper. Abby and I went to the playground solo and she got invited to a friend’s house for supper. Hooray! I filled up the car with gas – it was dangerously low, odd for me – and then came home and made lunchboxes solo. That white space over the supper hour was delightful.

I also received a lovely care package in the mail from a sweet reader on Monday and the kids were ecstatic. We started sampling things immediately!

TUESDAY | I drove the kids to school, saw the ENT, grabbed my prescription, did a grocery store run, and was home by 10:30 am. I had a backlog of work to tackle. I was also feeling decidedly antsy about not having gone for a run in WEEKS (since my race, to be specific) and managed to fit in a 5K run + my 1 km outside walk. The temperature, the leaves – everything about this day was glorious.

The kids have been begging for more card dividers for their Pokemon cards, and we had enough buffer to get to the DollarStore before Abby’s drama camp.

I promised Levi that he could teach me his “craft” while Abby was at drama class, but he opted to play with friends outside instead. Between you and me, this was perfect as I was able to work! He came in filthy, so a shower was in order and by now it was almost time to get Abby. Of course, he was still desperate to do the craft. I was about to say No, but decided to answer: Let’s see what we can do in 10 minutes. And we managed to finish our pumpkin art. Sometimes it can all fit in!

Christmas pajamas – on backward – freshly washed hair, and a Sharpie. #HisBestLife
Look at those adorable crossed little feet that can’t reach the floor.

I had abandoned plans to visit the library but, guess what, I fit that in too, while waiting for Abby! We had supper, I started a laundry, Abby showered, we watched the end of a Junior Bakeoff, I had a long snuggle with Levi, blowdried Abby’s hair and read Weird But True fact books together. I worked another few hours, read from several different books, and had my light out by 10:30 pm.

WEDNESDAY | I finally managed to walk the kids to school. Between rain, COVID, and busy schedules we’ve been driving far more frequently and it feels wonderful to start the day with a walk. Bonus: our fall weather has been incredible.

Work. Laundry. Work.

Years ago, when Levi was a newborn, the university where I work had an internal messaging board for faculty and staff. I posted a query about baby clothes and a director at the school wrote and invited me to look at some things. She sold most items for $0.25, had a son 1 year older than Levi and a daughter 1 year older than Abby. Perfect! The majority of Levi’s clothes since birth have come from this specific source. A few weeks ago she reached out about having some items for me to look at and I managed to squeeze it in before the kids got home from school.

For $20: A rashguard swim set, 5 pairs of pants (including a PUMA hoodie/pant set in like-new condition I’m going to give him for Christmas), a wetsuit, a long-sleeved T, and shin guards. We go through an alarming number of pants between growth spurts and hard use.

I had reached out to SHU to see if she had any discount codes for the Sprouted Planner before I placed my order; she didn’t, but was able to point me in the direction of YouTuber Amanda – from Amanda’s Favourites – who has a 15%-off code: AMANDASFAVORITES. I used that and placed my order (middle cover). I also watched Amanda’s 2023 review online and am very excited for the new features. I’m planning to do a year-end review of how my system for using this planner has evolved, but I truly love it! (Not perked/paid in any way).

Levi participated in an after-school program that teaches wilderness survival skills and Abby had a playdate come home on the bus with her.

The girls and I spent the whole time doing art together. It ended up being a lot of fun. I planned to work, but Abby asked if I could Please do it with them. It took me a while to settle in as it felt decidedly unproductive and I find it overwhelming to be confronted with limitless creative options. I made life easy and opted for stencils (surprisingly fun, albeit perfectly mindless), cut out a few Christmas labels…and then filled out my grid chart in my planner through to the end of the year.

A completed week…including iPhone use and pickups.
And blank weeks all ready until year-end. Whoot, whoot! The straightness of my lines leaves a bit to be desired, but having this done gave me such a boost of joy.

Levi was covered in mud but had a phenomenal time at his after-school class. They climbed trees and saw frogs (and also a decapitated rat, apparently – shudder). They earn sticker badges for different skills, so over supper, I asked what skill he had learned on this first day. He thought, very seriously, for a minute and then said: Mom, I think the skill today was learning how to have fun. Based on the state of his clothes and knees, I’ll assume he earned his badge.

While the kids were at their evening youth groups (Food Bank canvassing for Abby; a Nerf War night for Levi), I came home and worked in the office for a few hours. I even managed to start AND finish the photo calendar for my in-laws. One down, two to go! These are such a labour of love. I would skip them in a heartbeat, but for my parents/in-laws/Abby these calendars are a highlight gift each year. I even broached the subject of NOT making a calendar with my parents a few years and…well…here I am still making calendars. I have to admit, it is satisfying once it’s all done.

By the time we got home and the kids were settled, it was almost 9:30! I did my bedtime routine alongside them, so as soon as the final snuggle was given and I had done the appropriate amount of oohing and ahhing over Meatball – I hopped into bed and finished Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. This was an excellent book. It’s all about the death industry, focussed primarily on the author’s experience working at a crematory, and delves into how death used to be handled/is still handled by other cultures. It was absolutely fascinating, gave me lots to ponder (I’m all for green/natural burials!) and, as odd as this sounds, the book was absolutely hilarious. The writing was tight and entertaining. While I don’t align with her spiritual beliefs, I highly recommend this book (unless you’re the queasy type). 4.5 stars.

THURSDAY | Literally the first words out of Levi’s mouth in the morning: Mom, can you pleeeaaassseee make me a cup of coffee? He usually gets some morning sips from John and that source has been lacking during the week. So I made a cup of coffee for us all to share. Am I enabling a future caffeine addiction? Perhaps. It definitely hasn’t stunted his growth; boy he’s getting tall.

We walked to school; Abby is taking trumpet for band class and it is no joke to lug that thing to school! A friend from out of town had arranged to meet me for a walk – it felt good to have over 10 km logged before 10 am.

A haircut! Long overdue.

Work. Lunchboxes. I wrote up chunks of this blog post.

When the kids got home we headed straight to the grocery store – there is a food festival happening in our town and it took longer to find parking than to buy food. The kids were not impressed. Home to unpack, do some food prep and then – company!

A senior couple from our former church love to dote on the kids and visited with Halloween swag. Just what they need – more sugar – but I still smile to recall the special people that set aside bags of treats for me as a kid, so I appreciate the memories this provides for both parties.

Supper (we watched an episode of Junior Bakeoff while we ate). I snuck in 15 minutes to read more Mary Oliver (how does she write so brilliantly?) while the kids traded Pokemon cards. Bible Club. Bedtime. Phew!

Levi and I read the sweetest book. (Actually, we both enjoyed it so much that we read it twice.)

Can we? Shall we steal a day? Pack the floods of life away? Forget the maddened morning rush, and spend the day on nothing much?

Let’s seize these moments. Slowly now. And be together. Love out loud. For soon we’ll see that time has flown. We’ll close our eyes and you’ll be grown.

These magic years of us will end. And life won’t be the same again…But this day’s ours and ours to own.

That’s all I ask for. Nothing more. No grand adventure, just this small, exquisite daydream, ours to keep. As precious as your fallen leaf.

My arms could hold us here forever, but time is like that flitting feather. It’s beautiful, but still it’s wild.

Try reading that at bedtime to a boy who is now scrambling his own eggs.

Also:

Me: Goodnight, Levi.

Levi: Goodnight. I’ll miss you.

Me: I’ll miss you too, little buddy.

Levi: [Rather quietly, but in what I desperately hope was a sincere tone] Who wouldn’t miss the best mom ever?

*Lest you think this all goes to my head, earlier in the day I received, from a different child living under my roof a: Mom, why do you always have to react this way? when I expressed frustration that I was being asked to help meet a deadline said child had known about FOR AN ENTIRE WEEK but had only started tackling the day before.*


Today the kids have a Halloween-themed day camp and I intend to spend the morning working at a coffee shop. Abby is involved in a 24-hour youth conference overnight Friday and all day Saturday. She is beyond excited! Saturday is all about community service so they’re going to be raking leaves and collecting donations for the food bank (which is really feeling the strain of inflation). John gets home and…I have no plans for Saturday until we go to help serve supper for the final meal of the conference.

So a very full week, but a good week. We fit in a lot of fun activities, there were no major catastrophes. The pendulum will swing, of course – other weeks will be absolute disasters. So I’m documenting this week for me to pull out from my back pocket when the kids have been home for a month because of snowstorms and I’m tantrumming on the floor (been there, done that). But this week? Well, it was – thankfully – tantrum-free.


Your turn. Good week, bad week? Busy week, normal week? Any fun plans in the coming days? Do you measure vanilla with your heart? Happy weekending!

Casual Friday + Looking Forward

And just like that…it’s Friday again!

It ended up being a decent week, all things considered. Perspective, wallowing, extra sleep (and some well-timed chocolate treats) really helped.

Also, the fact I worked so hard to get all my work responsibilities in order has paid dividends. I did a lot of tasks proactively and hadn’t scheduled a single meeting for this week which ended up providing a wonderful reprieve.

There were some hiccups along the way:

RANDOM (NOT FUN) STUFF FROM THE WEEK

  • For the smaller of my university roles, I haven’t been paid SINCE APRIL. Admittedly, it’s a bit complicated – my regular contract runs to the end of April, then I have a short, smaller contract over the summer, and then a bigger contract starts up in August. But it’s not that complicated – and this is why there is an entire office dedicated to payroll! The person who approves my contracts is out on paternity leave until November and, well, the whole thing has been a shemozzle. (Both my roles get paid out in a lump sum so I was still getting paid, I just hadn’t clued into the fact it was only for one job, not both).
Abby snapped this picture of me snuggling our little escape artist! This was immediately after I had given him a haircut. Meatball is a Fancy Bear hamster and has SO much hair which eventually gets long and scraggly and tangles up with mulch. The longest whisps are at the back of his body which we affectionately call his “butt bangs.”
  • Meatball has learned how to get out of his cage. The first time he escaped, he landed in his exercise tote and Abby heard him in the middle of the night and got things sorted. Eventually, we had to remove his wheel because he was climbing up on top of it and gnawing through the top mesh of his cage. Then, earlier this week, he started climbing on top of his water dispenser (dislodging it repeatedly, causing it to leak all over his mulch) and prying up the top corner of his cage. Again, Abby heard him and even managed to get a video of the whole thing. I have to admit, watching a little hamster hang off his water bottle holder with two claws and swing like he was part of a rodent circus act was downright hilarious. But trying to fortify his cage at 9:00 pm another night was a lot less fun. We’ve purchased a new – smaller – wheel and switched out water bottles. Fingers crossed that corrals our little Houdini. He’s so docile when he’s hanging out with us, but it’s clearly a ruse.
  • We had a big rain/wind storm on Wednesday and water got in around the side door in our new entryway. This is not to be confused with the brand-new front door that leaked during Hurricane Fiona. I spent at least 30 minutes on my stomach by the door with a flashlight trying to figure out where the water was coming in; I think it might be an issue with the door sweep not fitting properly? I could not make this stuff up if I tried!!! (If anyone is a new reader, we have…an unfortunate track record with water issues in our home).
One of the original water woes…right after move-in in 2017.

  • Right around the time I tested positive for COVID, I ended up with severe ear pain. I was convinced I was going to have to go to the ER for an ear infection (and jump through all sorts of hoops because I was positive). The good news? The ear pain dissipated quickly. The bad news? I’ve all but lost my hearing. Everything is muffled and it feels like my ears are completely plugged with water. This has been a decidedly unfun experience.

random (positive) stuff from this week


  • I had a huge stack of books lined up for convalescing (isn’t that such a weird, but satisfying, word)…and I managed to get through a few of them this week. Send Me Into The Woods Alone is a series of essays on motherhood by a Canadian author. There is so much relatable material in here and multiple stories had me laughing out loud, especially the one about the constant stream of doctors having hands where the sun don’t shine when you’re in labour. #BeenThereDoneThat

Or this line:

Have you ever seen an umbilical cord in real life? It looks like a gigantic, pulsating tapeworm that’s attacking your newborn. It’s messed up, and then they ask your husband to cut it with scissors which is even wilder. They actually cheered my husband on like he was about to christen a boat, and then praised him for cutting the thing successfully. A woman spends over nine months gestating a child and then labours to birth it, guided through the process by a dedicated medical professional. At what point did someone suggest the father be given some sort of ceremonial role involving blood and scissors? Do men really need to feel important at every event? Maybe just sit back and let women have this one thing.

Or this one, which made me laugh because I genuinely do want to win every game I play (though the kids frequently beat me and they can do so knowing I did NOT let them win).

When I play a board game with my children, I want to win. It doesn’t matter if it’s cards or Monopoly or the children’s version of Settlers of Catan – I’ll happily destroy them. I did not go through pregnancy and birth two humans just so I could pretend to be bad at chess. I mean, I’m not particularly good at chess either, but I’m still going to try my best. When we play games that require reading, do I have an unfair advantage based on thirty-plus years of literacy that predates their existence? Sure, but that’s not my fault. If they fumble over “counterclockwise” in an instructional card, it should motivate them to work on reading better. That’s life, baby.

  • I really enjoyed the Mary Oliver collection Why I Wake Early and I’m going to dedicate a whole post to excerpts of my favourite poems. Stay tuned.
  • The Book of Moods. I finished this book because I was certain it had to get better eventually. It did not. The premise of the book is great, but I found the author to be very unrelatable and, as awful as this sounds, completely unlikeable. I wanted to give it a 1-star review on Goodreads but felt that would be too harsh. Since Goodreads STILL won’t give me 1/2 stars, I rounded up to a 2. The only redeemable thing about this book was some great quotes – from other women – sprinkled throughout. I cannot overstate how much this author grated on my nerves.
  • A friend included this treat for me in a birthday gift for John (I think she realized I might need a sugary pick-me-up after the events of last Friday). I approve.
  • If you’re looking for a fun birthday/Christmas gift for kids, look no further. Levi pulled this book out last week and I was reminded how awesome it is. You read it with a flashlight which you can shine through cutout silhouettes that project shadows on to the wall. So fun! While we only own Up, Up, and Away!, there are lots of other books in this series, including one of The Night Before Christmas.
  • While I rarely use the stuff, John has been feeling the pinch of the sriracha shortage. We arrived home one day to find a giant bottle sitting on our doorstep (friends apparently found it at Costco).
  • I made black bean brownies. It has been ages since I cooked up a batch and they did not disappoint. And while I don’t have any pictures, I also made up my favourite vegan soup – this smoky red lentil/chickpea recipe from Once Upon a Chef.
In progress; fittingly enough, pictured below our print of another Van Gogh!
All done!
  • The kids and John worked together to finish up his birthday LEGO – Van Gogh’s Starry Night. This 3D set is epic!

I love fall and have a tendency to feel a bit blue as I see the last of the leaves falling. It’s like I’m watching a movie scene with foreboding music. You can’t see anything scary yet, but the minor beat tells you everything you need to know: bad stuff is coming. In this case, “bad stuff” is 6 months of snow, ice, and cold temperatures. To stave off pre-winter blues, I’m trying to think about things I’m looking forward to. It helps to have things lined up that are fun.

LOOKING FORWARD TO:

  • My parents are scheduled to be nearby from December – March. In 2018 + 2019, my parents rented a house a 2-minute drive from our place and this same option is available again this year (the person they rent from relocates to New Zealand for the winter and those borders were closed due to COVID). This is very exciting. I loved bumping into my father in the grocery store or driving around town only to spot them out walking. My Mom would have Abby down to bake cookies, or they’d come over to our house for a mid-week supper. We ended up seeing each other most days and it was absolutely wonderful. I’m really happy things are on track for them to be nearby over the winter.
  • A haircut next week. It has been 9 months. About the 7-month mark I think: Long hair isn’t so bad. I should just get a trim. And then I don’t get around to the trim and by 9 months out I’m like – CUT IT ALL OFF.
  • Christmas decorations. I love the twinkle lights.
  • Watching White Christmas. When I wrote a post that included song lyrics from the movie, it sparked an internal countdown for this event (a friend and I watch this movie together every December and it’s one of my all-time favourite holiday activities).
  • Decorating our entryway. It is literally a blank slate right now, and I’m excited to hang some art, put up some hooks and generally finalize this space (which now includes fixing a door leak; sigh).
  • Ordering our Christmas photocards. The process is overwhelming – between taking pictures and then wading through the 100s of designs I have a love/hate relationship with it all. But, but, but…how I love having a new photocard for each year. It’s fun to look back at how our family has changed (here’s more about how we do annual photos + how I do our photocards)!
Most of our previous cards!

And one last newsworthy item from the week: look at our latest thrift store find. A felt pumpkin! It was $1.99 but since John had a $2 off when you spend $5 coupon, it ended up being “free.” This means we have TWO fall decorations (felt pumpkin + pumpkin light covers). Who have we become?

And that’s a wrap on the week.

Your turn. Have you had to battle any red-tape at work lately? What are you looking forward to in the next few days/weeks/months? Do you own more than two fall/Halloween decorations?

Casual Friday + COVID & Fall Joyfinding

I tested positive for COVID today. I was gowned and ready to head to the operating room. After 2.5 years of testing negative every single time on COVID tests today, of all days, I was positive. Perhaps it was that short stomach bug last week; maybe not, they told me tests can stay positive for weeks. Either way, the surgery is off. Because my OB/GYN is headed on maternity leave, it is postponed until May (unless one of her colleagues can squeeze me in).

All around me people were coughing; I overheard one nurse mention she had woken up with a headache and aches, my surgeon has cold symptoms. I felt fine – nary a sniffle – but I was the one who tested positive, so them’s the breaks.

As cliche as it sounds, I do believe God has a plan in all of it. But it still feels like an emotional wringer around my heart right now. The nurse who gave me my results asked if I wanted a muffin and cup of tea (I couldn’t eat leading up to surgery). As if a snack was going to make me feel better for walking out of the hospital with my uterus intact. I declined the muffin and opted for a nice ugly cry in front of the OB/GYN.

All the auto-messaging on my work emails is moot. I’m feeling dazed and confused and not quite sure what to do with my day. But onward and upward, I suppose.

I had a post drafted to go today and if I’ve ever wanted to find joy, it’s now!


It was an odd week. Between the Thanksgiving holiday Monday, stress about surgery and all the loose ends of work/life I was trying to tie up – things felt topsy-turvy. Little things, like annoying water streaks on the bathroom ceiling were suddenly tremendously bothersome.

More generally I looked at everything with an eye to getting every single duck in a row. This wasn’t feasible, but I tried my best. And for the truly important and urgent items, I managed to cross everything off my list…including cleaning those irksome water spots.


It feels like an appropriate time to do a #Joyfinding post. Here goes:

  • Playing Five Crowns as a family. This was a lot of fun (despite me losing every game).
  • Taking impromptu family photos after the 5K race on Sunday. Last year I made a note to make a hair appointment the day before family pictures. Not only has my hair not been cut in 9 months…I didn’t even wash it after my run. Oops. But instead of dithering about outfits and such we just put on clean, nice-enough clothing, went for a drive, took some pictures…and then turned around and came home. My bestie usually takes them for us, but I hadn’t arranged anything and suddenly realized I really should get these done ahead of surgery/the onset of cold weather. And…they’re done! We didn’t end up with any great ones of the whole family but I appreciate having nice fall pictures of the kids each year. How quickly they change! (I wrote more about annual family pictures here.) This little photoshoot did involve tears as a child tripped on some stairs and tumbled all way to the bottom. I had JUST been thinking: Isn’t it so nice family photos don’t involve tears anymore? And BAM – waterworks. Thankfully, the smiles were back in place quickly and there were no serious injuries.
  • I’m saving my favourites for our Christmas card, but here are some sneak peeks!
  • Pumpkin pie and all the fixings. We had a perfect mix of easy/store-bought vs. homemade. A rotisserie chicken (so much easier than a turkey and this year the kids didn’t even bat an eye – there were some big groans last year about me opting not to make a turkey), gravy from a mix, stuffing from a box. I bought a pie, but made an apple crisp. We had corn and peas, but we baked potatoes and made two different versions of sweet potato (shredded/pan fried and roasted). As always, leftovers were even better the next day (and the next, and the next).
  • Getting e-mails during the day from Abby. She has had a school account for a few years but has only now started regularly e-mailing during the day. It’s very sweet. Once she wrote John and said: “I thought an e-mail from me would make you happy/smile.” And it did.
  • Tea with a friend at a coffee shop.
  • My copy of Tranquility by Tuesday arrived; the shipping notification said it wouldn’t arrive until October 18th, so I was thrilled to find it on my doorstep yesterday afternoon. If you haven’t had a chance to order this book, I highly recommend it!
  • The leaves (always the leaves this time of year). So beautiful and nuanced – from the colours and the sound of crunching through them, to the even-changing carpet they form on the lawns and driveways.

And now I’m off to take a long shower, have another long cry – and appreciate that the sky is still blue, the leaves are still beautiful, I am still loved, and things really will be okay…


Your turn. How was your week – what brought you the most joy over the last 7 days? Do you prefer Thanksgiving food the first day, or do you find leftovers even more delicious?