We were out grocery shopping a few weeks ago when one child presented with a sudden – and overwhelming – need for water.
I am not in the habit of bringing drinks along for errands anymore; the kids are old enough to manage these things independently and can typically hold out until we get home.
But this time I knew we were at least an hour from wrapping up errands and I also learned said child had not had any water since the previous day (this child usually drinks a LOT of water and I do not monitor their consumption because it is so regular, but they had been at a birthday party the previous afternoon and had skipped supper because they were full…and then had a big breakfast and somehow managed to not get a drink then, either?).
I thought there might be a fountain in a nearby shopping complex, but the logistics of coordinating this pit stop were complicated. But, this was the only logical solution, right?
Water is free! Water is not something we buy! We have a water cooler full of refreshing aqua at home!
As we were standing in line to check out – with a thirsty child and a pile of groceries – I attempted to coordinate with John how to split up and go on a hunt for a water fountain.
And then, shocking even myself, I added: Or I suppose I could just buy a jug of water.
I grabbed a $1.99 4L bottle out of the nearby fridge – it was the exact same price as a 950 mL bottle, so I didn’t throw frugality to the wind entirely – and within seconds our very thirsty child was chugging water. (This is the best water I have EVER tasted was their official response).
Because of my hardwired desire to pinch pennies – and because water is something that I equate with being free – it was not my default reaction to shell out $1.99 to buy a bottle of the stuff. But I did…and it ended up being the most satisfying $2 I spent in January.
Your turn. What’s the best small purchase you’ve made lately – let’s say something under $5. Do you have a hard time spending money on “convenience” items?
Everybody’s good at something, and nobody’s good at everything. Here are a few things I can categorically admit to being “bad” at…
Whistling. Not only do I whistle off-key, but I have a very quiet whistle that “breaks” constantly. I have a strong singing voice, so this musical flaw irks me.
Team sports. Let’s just say I did not rise to the top in high school gym class.
Dancing. I am horribly uncoordinated (I have a good sense of beat and have been singing my whole life, but moving my body to a rhythm is a truly pitiful sight). I look like I’m slowly and painfully dying from a series of random electric shocks if I try to dance. Sigh. I wish it was fun and natural for me but, alas, it is not.
Making decisions. Going to a new restaurant with a big menu? This is my worst nightmare! But it doesn’t end with food; I am indecisive about many, many things. (To be fair, in some areas of my life – e.g. makeup, clothes, hair – I just don’t care very much and can make decisions quickly and without regret).
Waking up early. I blogged about this last week. I am groggy and grumpy and just a whole bundle of unpleasantness. Mostly these feelings bounce around inside me, so I don’t think my family realizes how much I hate being out of bed before 8 am.
Remembering movie (and fictional book) plots. This is especially frustrating because John is very good at remembering movie plots (and quotes). I swear that before the credits have finished rolling, I’ve forgotten the names of at least half the main characters. Within a week, I can’t tell you who lived, died, or turned out to be a double agent. Within a month – if I happen to see the same movie – it’s like I’m watching it for the first time.
Conflict. I mean, I don’t think very many people enjoy conflict (though I’ve met a few argumentative types who seem to treat conflict as a fun hobby), but I loathe it. I hate feeling like someone (anyone!) is upset with me. This is problematic because as a parent, spouse, friend, child, employee – basically in any human relationship – there will be points of conflict. I’m working on handling conflict better. I tend to be a turtle who pulls into her shell and tries to avoid discussing a matter which, almost always, makes things worse. I know this but I hide out in my exoskeleton anyway, hoping things will magically pass me by.
Driving stick shift. When we got married, John owned a manual car. I drove as infrequently as possible. Out on the highway in 5th gear? No problem. But I was horrible at starting/stopping on hills or any precise maneuvers that required cycling through lower gears. We have only owned automatic vehicles for the last decade, but driving a manual car is a skill I wish I had fully mastered.
Applying eyeliner. How do women do this? I look like a toddler got loose on my eyelids with a giant black crayon. I’ve tried gels and pencils…and simply cannot figure this out.
Your turn. What’s something you’re “bad” at. What’s something you’re “good” at? What’s something you thought was a character flaw (e.g. a flair for bossiness when you were a kid) that has turned into a big asset in your life (e.g that bossiness now presents as strong leadership capabilities)?
It has been a good week. We’ve gotten into a predictable (and structured routine) with Levi and he has been able to make it through each day at school. Cue jazz hands. Nights aren’t perfect, but he has been handling all wakings solo. I have slept like a rock every night this week and it felt glorious. John is home, snow is on the ground, and everyone seems to have heaved a giant sigh of contented relief after the fiasco that was last week.
random notes from the week
COOKIES | I modified our beloved Fall Chocolate Chip Spiced Cookie into a Peanut Butter Thumbprint version. Why not use my go-to thumbprint recipe you might ask? Well, everyone has raved about the texture of these spiced cookies and someone specifically asked me to modify it into a non-spiced variation. I was despairing at first because the dough was waaayyy too dry. So I added a few tablespoons of milk and crossed my fingers. Next, I despaired because I thought the baked cookies were waaayyy too dry. But after sitting overnight in an airtight container? Perfection. I have eaten a lot of PB Thumbprint cookies this week…
WORK | January has been a hectic month, and it was hard to work efficiently when Levi was home sick. Thankfully, this week I have been very productive; I got caught up and, in a few cases, proactively tackled projects and to-dos. I hit yet another snag with payment for my contracts (long-time readers might recall this happened in 2022 – TWICE). One contract ended December 31st, and the next contract should have started January 1st, but the paperwork was actually dated January 31st. All’s well that ends well and I have started to get used to receiving lump sum back payments, which are rather nice.
THRIFTING | Things have been quiet on the thrifting front since Christmas, but last weekend the kids were keen to add some buttons to their collections (trading buttons is a “thing” and one I am happy to get behind). In addition to a handful of buttons for each child (one of the more expensive purchases of the day – $7.50), I sourced a new dress for $4.95 (pictured just before heading out the door to church; so comfy!), shorts – $3.75, and a sweater that is soft and slouchy and wonderful – $3.75. Not pictured: sneakers, a dress, and one pair of black shorts for Abby; John got a sweater and a button-up shirt. Grand total for everything, including tax, was $42.90.
At a second thrift store, I also bought a cozy throw blanket (~$9). John may have rolled his eyes when I suggested it (as in: Don’t we already have enough blankets at home; answer: No, we do not. You can never have too many cozy blankets in a home).
WINTER | We’ve now received the traditional winter weather we’ve been waiting for/dreading. There is snow on the ground…and bitterly cold temperatures. For the most part, the kids have been thrilled. We walked to school several mornings this week, and also fit in a sledding adventure. (For sledding, we had a short window of about 35 minutes which was perfect; no one got too cold, the sliding hill was empty so we were able to zoom up and down quickly, and everyone left while they were still happy.)
READING | Reading has plummeted this month, but that’s okay.
Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad. This cancer memoir reminded me of When Breath Becomes Air (probably my all-time favourite memoir). The book was well written and provides a very detailed and intimate look at navigating a cancer diagnosis and then the years and years and years of challenges that follow. A few things grated on my nerves and I preferred the first half of the book, but I’m glad I read this and would definitely recommend it.
The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka. I have mixed feelings about this book. At first, I loved it. It’s short. It’s written in a unique format. But, over time, her heavy use of the same patterned writing felt stale and cumbersome. I love random details in books, but this was FULL of that sort of thing and it felt a bit overworked by the end. There was also a lot of thinly veiled imagery and I got tired of trying to read into things. Also, it really irked me that the main character was named Alice which felt much too “on-the-nose” after Still Alice. Like, of all names you could have picked, did it have to be Alice? I’m glad I read it and I can see others LOVING it. But it missed the mark a bit for me.
PUZZLES | We remain quasi-obsessed with puzzles. Yesterday we finished a Ravensburger Escape Room puzzle (368 pieces). We haven’t gotten around to solving the clues yet, but it was a lot of fun to build and I love that there are layers of intrigue to the experience. (We’re going to have to partially dismantle this puzzle and build a smaller puzzle that will help us solve a “mystery”. Also, there are parts of the completed puzzle picture that DON’T match the cover design (this is on purpose). Levi received this for his birthday and I think it’s a great twist on a classic puzzle.
EXERCISE | What a weird month for exercise. As much as I try to convince myself otherwise, I am just not a fan of the treadmill; with Levi sick, I was often either stuck at home or driving the route to school. Still, I managed 111 km of walking + running workouts in January, which is more than I recorded for January 2022 (and 2022 turned out to be my highest mileage year ever).
ORGANIZATION | I am loving my Sprouted planner. I hate the thought of paying so much for shipping and duty again next year, but I also can’t imagine NOT using this system moving forward. I had a few complaints about the updated design, but have to admit there are new features that more than compensate. I’ve really found my groove in terms of customizing the layouts.
On the full calendar spread, I have 12 rollover goals/tasks for each month. It is so helpful to have these listed out!
Wave (corporate accounting). While we have an accountant that handles the heaviest lifting, I manage the day-to-day upkeep of our small business accounting. At the first of the month there are a series of dull administrative tasks I need to handle, and crossing this off my list is SO satisfying.
Frost budget. I track our personal expenditures in a spreadsheet each month and also have a year-long tracker that I update with overall savings/investments.
Update e-mail. I send a summary of activities from our month to family and friends.
Pics off phone. A reminder to take photos off from the previous month and organize them into folders/subfolders.
Pay gov’t. This also relates to our small business; source deductions (taxes and the national pension plan) are due by the 15th of each month.
Export posts. I export all the text from my blog posts for the previous month.
Invoice —-. At the first of the month, an invoice has to go out to our main client.
Abby allowance. She gets $11/month (minus $1 for a charitable donation and $2 for savings; so actually $8/month). This will go up to $12/month when she turns 12 in March.
Workouts. I track mytotal number of walks and runs + overall mileage for each month. It takes less than 2 minutes, but I like having it in an old-fashioned spreadsheet and not just as a report on my phone.
Review goals. This is new for me; I now take a few minutes to look at my annual goals list at the start of each new month.
Go through receipts. Between business/work and personal paperwork + ALL THE RECEIPTS, I feel like it’s easy to get weighed down by papers. While it’s ideal for me to do this several times a month, having it written down as a monthly to-do keeps it from ever getting too far out of hand.
Reach out. One of my goals for 2023 (though not listed as an official goal) is to do a better job of maintaining contact with people I love. So…at the start of the month, I go through my contacts list and send a quick hello/a few recent pictures. It’s low impact but keeps relationships that could easily go dormant alive and friendly.
One of my new hacks is to use the flexible planning page to divide up weekly work and home tasks. This split layout works so well for me!
And then my tracking chart. On the left are all the personal things I track – like taking certain supplements and my exercise. On the right is the structured routine “prescribed” by the gastroenterologist for Levi including some gentle natural solutions for abdominal issues/sleep (magnesium, melatonin) and some guided audio recordings specifically for nausea and upset tummies. [I track my mood on the main calendar spread; a good day gets an up arrow, a bad day a down arrow, and an okay day a sideways arrow. At the end of the month, I tally up the arrows and it’s shockingly satisfying. January, ironically enough, was a fabulous month for my mood. I track it in the evening based on how I feel at the end of the day. My numbers would be horrible if tracked in the morning, but I tend to feel optimistic and happy at night. For those curious, I had 25 up arrows, 4 down, and 2 sideways.]
That’s a wrap on our week. Abby is off for a weekend of overnight camp (in February! in the middle of a deep freeze!! she is very excited!!!), and I’m looking forward to the slower dynamic of having only one kiddo at home for a few days. I’m already dreaming of sipping a cup of coffee and reading a book when it’s -40C (with windchill) tomorrow morning.
Your turn. Do you enjoy puzzles? What was the highlight (or lowlight) of your week? Anyone else in the middle of a deep freeze?
After I finished my undergrad, I stayed on as a research technician for the summer between graduation and the start of my post-graduate degree. It was a lot of fun – I had multiple years of experience, but zero responsibility with project design. In other words, a better paycheck…and a whole lot less work!
Our research lab did a lot of cage work – we’d build them out of bamboo sticks and aquatic netting and then track impacts on diatom and amphipod densities (the primary food sources for sandpipers), and snail movements in control vs treated areas (the netted cage areas prevented plovers and sandpipers from foraging). Setting up semi-permanent cages in the mud required a major team effort. We had to get everything set up during low tide, so it was a race against the clock. Or, more specifically, the gravitational pull of the moon!
One day, we were installing cages about 500 meters offshore. We had huge metal mallets, rebar (also metal), and one very tall lab tech named Colin. It was a warm, overcast and muggy day. At one point another tech looked at me and said, Elisabeth, what’s wrong with your hair?
Apparently, my hair was standing completely on end – like I had my hand on one of those statically charged balls at a science exhibit.
Problem was, I wasn’t touching a ball!!! Within seconds, we heard the first boom of thunder.
Here we were in the middle of a mudflat that had only recently been uncovered by the ocean. It was flat. Covered in a thin film of salt water (highly conductive). We were the tallest objects for miles around. We were working with metal tools and supplies. And we were 500 meters away from shore. Our supervisor happened to be with us and gave us the all-clear to drop our equipment and run (knowing that if the storm didn’t pass in time, all those tools and supplies would be swept out with the tide).
We managed to find some humour in the situation; as we raced back to shore we were quick to identify that Colin – at least half a foot taller than anyone else – would be the first target in any lightning strike. (Spoiler alert: He survived and went on to become a doctor…but apparently mudflats are pretty dangerous places!)
We had come to the site in two vehicles and one lab tech had taken the second vehicle to another site. So when we arrived back on shore there were 8 of us and one pickup truck. A few people – including me – drew the short straw and had to hunker down in the truck bed.
The storm passed after 30 minutes and we rescued the equipment but it was a real hair-raising experience (sorry, couldn’t resist).
Working on the mudflats was incredible exercise. It was exhausting but in a good way. The natural resistance of mud, along with walking kilometer after kilometer along transects, all while carrying giant backpacks full of samples (heavy mud and/or water) was an excellent cardiovascular workout. Not surprisingly, mud would splatter everywhere and we came back to the lab absolutely filthy.
It was the early 2000s and I was young and didn’t always remember to use sunscreen, especially on my legs. One day we were out for hours and hours and hours and mud had splashed on my legs and dried. When I washed it off that night it looked like I had leprosy. There were giant white spots (in random patterning) ALL over the back of my calves. For the rest of the summer, my legs looked absolutely ridiculous. I wish I still had pictures because I would 100% share them but, alas, I lost most of my photos from this pre-OneDrive era.
That same summer, one of my friends and fellow labmates wanted to research nocturnal feeding habits of sandpipers – low tides happen at night, too! Our team received funding to purchase night-vision goggles. But, for obvious reasons, military-grade night vision equipment is not available at the local hardware store. For some reason, I was the one tasked with calling the supplier (who normally dealt with military contracts) to ask: Um…we’d like to purchase some night vision equipment. Why you ask? Just to look at birds. I promise!
Fun fact, John and I had only been dating a few months when he volunteered to come with us on one of those night shifts. For safety reasons (see above and my mud “quicksand” story from last week) we had to have a set number of crew out at any given time, so he trudged to the mud at 2:30 am (unpaid, I might add) with me. True love!
Speaking of John and mud, I might have told this story before, but it’s one of my favourites from our love story. When we had only just met and were arranging for our first “date”, I asked him to meet me at the lab mid-afternoon. There was a mix-up and I was convinced he had stood me up (he hadn’t). In the end, we rescheduled for that evening. I got there very early and selected a microscope right in front of the window so I would look all sciencey. And so it was by design that I was bent over a microscope looking very intense and studious when he walked by the window. He tells me seeing me like that took his breath away and he said to himself: Don’t screw this up. We’ve now been married almost 14 years but I was looking at…NOTHING. It was all a ruse!
I planned to continue avian work for my Masters and, for the first few months, actually put together a project in this area of study. But I ended up switching gears to bees. (Yes, I have heard plenty of “birds and bees” jokes over the years.) Because I didn’t need a large number of hives for my research – and because the beekeeper providing us with hives lived quite a distance from the university – my supervisor offered to store them on his property. Every day John would drive me in my giant beesuit to collect a fresh set of bees. This all happened while I was pregnant with Abby and battling morning sickness. There is a sickly sweet smell around beehives and it made me very nauseous. One warm summer morning it was more than I could handle…and that’s how I came to upchuck my breakfast smoothie all over my supervisor’s rhododendrons.* (*I don’t actually know if they were rhododendrons; I was too busy barfing to worry about my horticultural proficiencies.)
Fun fact: I only got stung a single time in two years of working with honeybees! I was studying operant conditioning and had to secure individual bees into modified pipette tips. Once, I didn’t quite get enough wax in place and the bee managed to wiggle free and straight down into my latex glove where she proceeded to sting me.
Your turn. Any weird workplace stories? Are you a fan of thunder and lightning storms? Any bizarre tan line stories to report?
January was a rollercoaster of a month; some great days and some not-so-great experiences, too.
Such is life.
Along the way, I made little notes of things that were making my life easier and/or bringing a smile to my face.
Dill pickle hummus
I’m a huge fan of dill pickle flavoured…anything. And this hummus is so, so good (if you like dill pickles; it would be pretty awful if you didn’t). Paired with some pillowy-soft mini-Naan bread, this is lunchtime perfection. Yum.
I know I’ve written about these candles ad nauseum, but January is PEAK candle season for me. Christmas is over and with it most of the brightest twinkle lights. The nights are still dark and we’re huddling over warm foods at the table. I love, love, love having candlelit suppers most evenings.
IKEA paper boxes
Okay, so these aren’t going to win any awards for the most stylish storage containers. But they are simple, inexpensive (the black ones are being discontinued and were only $4.99 for the large size), shockingly sturdy, and absolutely fabulous for storing all sorts of miscellany up and away in closets. Huge fan.
IKEA PAX Wardrobe
Speaking of closets, this is another repeat mention, but I cannot stop marvelling at how wonderful it is to have a functional entryway. Where was this for the first decade of being a parent? Everything has a place! The kids can reach their own gear! We have exposed hooks AND closet space! I have a laundry tote for wet winter gear, I can keep my mop, broom, and outdoor play equipment handy. While the whole entryway is an overarching favourite, the IKEA Pax wardrobe is the star of the show. Putting it together was a nightmare, but I couldn’t be happier with the outcome. Especially the fact that at the end of the day I can slide the doors shut and ALL the mess gets hidden from view. So satisfying.
levi asking for picture books
At the end of 2022 I announced I was ready to let go. I wasn’t going to keep forcing picture books on the kids. Within a few days, the picture book bin was empty after I had returned the last set to the library. It felt liberating in a way, but still sad. Then Levi wandered over and said: Where are the books, Mom!? I think he believes they just magically appear overnight? As if they grow up out of the empty box and Voila! – a tote full of fun, carefully curated reads. I’m not ordering many books in, I’m not putting any pressure on myself to read all the books in the box before they go back and, overall, I’m bringing home a fraction of the reading material I used to, but it made me happy that he missed having a steady source of picture books when the urge struck. So I’ll keep filling the box and let the kids come to it on their own terms.
I didn’t read as many books as I would have liked in January because of Levi’s sickies, but every single book I read was on the Kobo and it’s great! (I do find highlighting things to be a pain in the butt but, aside from that, I don’t have a single complaint.) I am especially loving the fact that I can look up the definition of a word while reading. Previously, if I didn’t know a word, I would just sail right on by. Now I stop, press on the word…and a definition appears. So handy! I also appreciate not having to keep track of my place in a book. And it’s so lightweight and can slip right into my purse (see below). In short, it has been wonderful.
A new-to-me purse
I disliked my leather crossbody purse for years. I bought it second hand and it looked great, but the way the zipper fastened was a proper nuisance.
I found a new one at a thrift store for under $10. It’s not amazing quality, but it has pockets of perfect dimensions that make storing and accessing important things (keys, wallet, phone) so much easier. Also, it’s big enough to hold my Sprouted planner AND my Kobo in the main pouch.
One line a day journal
I know, I know. Another repeat. But I really do love this thing. And I love it even more now that I’m on my second year of using it; each day I get to look back and see what we were doing exactly one year ago. It’s a fascinating daily glimpse into the past.
Okay, that’s it from me. Your turn. What are you loving so far in 2023? Any standout products or moments?
Some things, despite my best attempts, remain firmly in my “don’t like” column. I feel like I should enjoy certain foods/experiences because people I know and love enjoy them. But, at a certain point, it’s okay to throw in the towel and say This just ain’t working.
Opera. Opera seems so cultured and highbrow. I guess I am not cultured and highbrow. I also don’t speak Italian or German or French and can’t understand a single word being sung.
Ballet. Ditto above. It’s fine. I’ll watch The Nutcracker without consternation. But what I really want are some words*!!!
*Digression: on numerous occasions over the years I have ordered picture books into the library based on beautiful covers, only to discover that they are wordless books. I never, ever bother bringing those options home. I have a perfectly suitable imagination – and even though I was reading these books to toddlers and could have made up any words or descriptions I saw fit – I WANT WORDS HANDED TO ME ON A SILVER PLATTER! That is the point of books!
Wine. I grew up in a home with absolutely zero alcohol consumption. On the whole, I think my disdain for alcoholic beverages is an overwhelmingly net positive trait (Canadian health authorities just released new guidelines basically saying complete avoidance of alcohol is best and, if you are going to drink, two drinks a week, tops; no problem, says I). Still, in some social settings, it would be nice to enjoy imbibing. Champagne is tolerable (especially in mimosa form), rum and coke or hard cider are okay in a pinch, but wine? Shudder. I drink it only occasionally and dislike it every single time.
Fancy cheese. Once we get past mozzarella, you’ve lost me.
Group events. I want to be energized by group settings, but they drain me. I avoid these situations whenever possible; if I have to attend/participate, I put on my game face, but my brain is screaming Run. One-on-one? Amazing. But give me a room and a big crowd, and I wilt.
Scary movies. Horror movies have always been a hard pass for me, but now anything with intense suspense is not my cup of tea.
Driving in traffic. Puttering around our little town, I quite enjoy driving. But navigating in a city is NO FUN. Also, I have literally only had to parallel park a handful of times since I took my driving test, so the thought of having to parallel park anywhere – but particularly in a city – terrifies me!
Mornings. I have tried to put a positive spin on mornings for over a decade. I can’t do it. I simply am not a morning person. I don’t want to sleep in late, but anything before 7:30 am feels horribly early to me. In an ideal world, I wouldn’t have to exit my room until 8 am. This does not happen very often, as you can imagine…
Your turn. What’s something you’ve tried to like, but finally had to acknowledge was too much of a forced fit? Do you like ballet and opera? Fancy cheese and fine wine? How about scary movies, driving in traffic, and big group environments?Are you proficient at parallel parking?
We own a single vehicle. It’s from 2011 and when we bought it (second-hand) 8 years ago, it came with two fob controls.
A little over a year ago, the fob I use stopped working. To gain access to the car, I had to use the key to manually unlock it. While many generations lived this way, in an age where keyless entry is the norm, it irritated me endlessly. Rainy days were especially triggering for my wrath.
To solve the problem, I started using John’s key fob instead. Since we only have the one vehicle, it wasn’t a major issue to share keys.
Cue wailing and gnashing of teeth last week when HIS key fob died, too.
Somewhere along the line, I had heard about key fobs needing to be replaced entirely if something went wrong. It never crossed my mind that a simple battery swap at home could correct the issue.
Now with two non-functioning key fobs, John said: I wonder if the fix could be as simple as switching out batteries?
Turns out, it is exactly that simple.
Keep in mind we are two relatively high-functioning adults. And yet it never crossed our minds to switch out a battery that is at least 8 years old on a BATTERY-operated key fob? (In John’s defense, his fob worked perfectly well, and I just shrugged and assumed mine was unfixable).
After a year of fighting with a non-functional fob…it took less than 5 minutes to fix the problem.
Your turn. This ties in with my post about What great feature might I be missing but with a subtle twist; more of a What annoyance do I tolerate every single day without attempting to find a solution? Is there something bugging you that might have an obvious fix?
We had a very long (almost 2 hours!) and thorough appointment with a wonderful gastroenterologist. Test results remain reassuring; based on some relevant markers it appears to be a virally induced response (probably his 48-hour flu bug back in November). The solution?
It could take weeks – or months – for his body to fully heal.
That said, we walked out of the appointment with a game plan (including some at-home supports aimed specifically at children with chronic abdominal pain/nausea). We’ve also been brainstorming how to best support each other as a family, and have lots of great ideas – many coming from the kids!
I’m not going to lie. Nights are still very bleak. But we’re working on those, too. As Nicole so wisely said: There will be a time after this.
Indeed there will be a time after this; in the meantime, while I’m in this time – with its worry and frustration and lack of sleep – thanks for coming alongside and offering support.