"Our life is frittered away by detail...simplify, simplify." - Henry David Thoreau

I know I said "blog like no one is reading" but it's nice to know these people are

Friday, January 29, 2010

Happy Hour Friday

TGIF! Why is it that short weeks always feel so long?

Have to think a little harder to come up with reasons to be happy since this time last week I was on the beach with a Margarita in my hand and the children 1500 miles or so away. My Florida child-free sojourn was short and sweet. I got to spend some quality time with my Dad and I single-handedly brought the warmth, make that heat back to the Sunshine State. Really. The day I arrived the temperatures were back up into the 70's and by the time I left they were well into the 80's. Won't help all those frozen oranges and grapefruits but at least the lizards will stop falling out of the trees because of the cold.

But back to coming up with things that are making me happy at the moment. Well, it wasn't a Snow Day today, although it should have been. Yesterday was because of very high winds but the kids went to school anyway since they miss so darn much for ski racing. This morning I drove Number One Son to the hill for training and could barely see the highway, dropped the dog off at the groomer and impressed upon her the importance of not shaving him down to nothing as winter still has a long way to go and we do spend a lot of time outside. Hopefully I won't have to buy him one of those silly dog coats. Back home now where I am thinking of starting a fire and cozying up to it with Jeanette Wall's Half Broke Horses, the true-life novel based on her great grandmother's amazing life. That would definitely make me very happy.

I did have a very happy day on Wednesday as it was my Other Half's birthday and we spent it together. The kids were picked up by my sister after school and had a sleep over while we went to Le Scandinave Spa for massages and then a perfect few hours in their hot and cold pools, steam rooms and sauna. It is the most relaxing place on earth and only 15 minutes from our house. It is so amazing to sit in the 103F pool with the snow falling gently around you and the moon almost full overhead. Afterwards we went to our favourite local restaurant The Mill Cafe which is right in town. I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I saw their Lobster Mac 'n Cheese was back on the menu. It was a huge serving and I saved some for lunch the next day. So all in all it was a pretty perfect evening if I do say so myself. The birthday boy agreed.

Back to reality now as we gear up for another weekend of skiing, lots of fresh snow but very, very cold. Hope you all have a great weekend. Cheers!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Silly Me

As I was packing for my all about me get-away I thought "I am going to keep this simple" and not just because you can only take one carry on bag when flying into the U.S. now. I wanted to forget the days of travelling with snacks and changes of clothes and every toy to keep my boys occupied. I wanted to breeze into the airport with a purse and one bag. So I did and I thought I won't even take my camera case which is where I keep all my electronic devices. Of course in doing so I forgot my iPod and the charger for my blackberry. No problem I thought, I can enjoy the sounds of the surf while I walk along the beach and Dad has a bb, I can use his charger. Silly me. Why would two brand new handheld devices made by the same company have the same size ports for the charger? Come on, my Bold is three weeks old, his Curve a week or two older.

I have been ranting about this for quite a while now but if the governments of the world wanted to really make a difference environmentally they would legislate that all electronics from iPods, to phones to handheld games must have universal chargers. That would clean out one junk drawer in my kitchen and would mean that I could have taken a photo of the spectacular sunset over the Gulf of Mexico last night to share with you all. And while they're at it they should make sure all microwaves have the same buttons so I could figure out how to warm up my coffee down here.

My best friend Sandy advised me in one of the last emails I read before I was cut off to unplug this week - no email, no blog, no nothing. Well, I have commandeered my Dad's laptop to post this so I have ignored that advice and now I guess I'm going out to buy another charger because I really don't think I want to be unplugged. Silly me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Random Tuesday

My thoughts are even more random and scattered this week as in about six hours I am getting on a plane south to Naples, FL for six days all by myself! This was my Other Half's Christmas present to me. And before you say anything, I know, he is pretty darn perfect. After 20 years of marriage and over 25 years together after all, we met when I was 2 (No, not really, but I don't feel as old as that makes me sound) and he knows me all to well. After 12 days single mothering and after the whole Christmas chaos I need a break from winter up here and from my darling boys.

So I am off to stay with my Dad and his girlfriend. I have a stack of new books, including Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna , Greg Mortensen's Stones into Schools and Kristen Espinasse's book Words in a French Life - Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France from her blog French Word a Day weighing down my suitcase and not much else. Although I will be buying that rather provocative Vanity Fair with Tiger on the cover to read on the plane. I know it isn't very warm down there but who cares? I won't have to make lunches or beds, break up arguments over whether if you watch a Barbie commercial it means you like girls or listen to any whining. The only whine will be without the h and in my glass.

So I will try to post from my chair overlooking the Gulf and maybe even take some photos with my blackberry (so glad my old one died and now I can see blogs in their entirety) and the best part is think of all the time I will have for commenting on your posts.

I will also be doing some thinking on behalf of the Kemu family who may have already arrived from the Congo by the time I get home. I want to be able to jump right in and help them out and also find a way to get my overly shy but quite bilingual boys involved. They will be some of the few kids who can communicate with the Kemu children in French.
So stay tuned, lots to come.

On another totally random note, does anyone know why sometimes I can't get line spaces between paragraphs? I hate reading posts that all run together, doesn't give a reader time to take a breath in between my fascinating thoughts.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Journey from the Congo

Oh boy. Or should I say boys? It has been a long week of single motherhood. My mother did arrive to help out while my Other Half was off at a trade show, although she was 24 hours late. First she was too tired to come up on Tuesday night and then she forgot to set her alarm on Wednesday morning. I had to have Number One Son at the ski hill for 8:30am and the other two at school for 8:40am, they are about 20 minutes apart. Thank goodness for neighbours, it really does take a village.

I love my mother and my boys do too but reliable she is not. Once she was here everyone had fun, she loves to just hang out and the boys love to vie for her attention with stories of what is happening at school. It must be a grandmother thing since they never tell me a thing about their days. But one thing that did come out from Number Two Son who is nine and in Grade 4 is that there is going to be a new student in his class soon. We had been hearing about a refugee family from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)who are being sponsored by the churches in our town. There are six family members, including mother, father, 16 year old son, and 13, 9 and 3 year old daughters. The nine year old will be in my middle son's class. Not much is known about the family except that they speak French and Swahili. The DRC is in central Africa and was formerly known as Zaire and before that the Belgian Congo. Barbara Kingsolver's book The Poisonwood Bible is set in this country during colonial times.

The DRC is rich in minerals including diamonds and copper and has suffered almost constant war both internally and against neighbouring countries since these resources were discovered. The people, of course, have suffered the most and this family is no exception. They had a fourth daughter who was raped and murdered while they were fleeing their village. The family will be arriving any day now and will be welcomed by our entire town. A house has been donated for them to live in and has been completely repainted and fully furnished with donations of time, money and furniture. The family will be greeted at the Toronto airport with bags of winter clothing for each of them and that is where I start to wonder what on Earth they will be thinking as they are handed parkas, hats, mitts and snow boots. The average temperature in the DRC is about 28C or 82F. Right now we are experiencing our January "thaw" and the temperature is around -7C or 19F. The ground is completely white and Georgian Bay is partially frozen. Will they believe us when we tell them that the trees that look so grey and dead will blossom in a few months and that underneath all the snow the grass, flowers and even animals are just sleeping?

But is not just the climate shock they will be going through that I cannot fathom, it is the culture shock. They come from a country of 68 million and although it is the third largest country in Africa it is still significantly smaller than Canada. They have been living in tents in a camp crammed in with thousands of other refugees and they are coming to a place where you can drive for miles and never see another person and not just in the winter when we are all hibernating. They will be living in a house with four bedrooms and two bathrooms. How will the children react to sleeping apart from their parents? How will they react to attending school where the vast majority of the student body is white, English speaking and have known one another since Kindergarten? What will it be like for the parents to cope with the every day details of grocery shopping in a supermarket with entire aisles devoted to boxes of cereal and potato chips? Will they ever be able to forget what they went through to get here?

As I deal with the day-to-day stresses of raising three boisterous, active and healthy boys and complain about the driving from ski hill to arena, the constant battle to get homework done, meals prepared and eaten I realize all that we take for granted. As soon as this family arrives I will be one of the regular volunteers helping them with their shopping, driving to appointments and getting the children settled in school. I am hoping my ability to speak French will allow them to understand me and me them despite the vast differences in our lives. I hope, despite the cold climate and our Canadian reputation for being reserved, that we will be able to welcome them with warmth and joy so that their new life here will be worth all the emotional and physical sacrifices they have endured to get here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Random Tuesday Thoughts

  • day four of single motherhood, so far so good, reinforcements arrive this evening in the form of the grandmother cavalry
  • I fear I have turned into a fair weather skier or maybe it's just that I am sick of freezing my toes off in my old boots
  • I wish all electronic devices, ie. DSi's iPods and cameras came with paging systems like when you lose your cordless phone (yes, I know I have mentioned this before, but I lost my little camera on Christmas morning and it hasn't turned up yet)
  • I don't get the whole grey colour trend in interior design, we get quite enough grey outside from about November to April, than you very much
  • if our Prime Minister can prorogue or suspend Parliament until after the Olympics then why can't we just prorogue paying our taxes until ... say ... after the summer?
  • would I rather have kids who are fit & involved but who require constant chauffeuring from early morning until late at night to arenas, ski hills and trampoline classes or ones who live in the basement, glued to the screen and never have to be driven anywhere? (Yes, that was a rhetorical question)
  • I have just noticed an alarming pattern in my Other Half's and my level of fitness & fatness - as he gets fitter, I get fatter
  • Number Three Son has asked his favourite babysitter to be his godmother since his parents had neglected to make the necessary arrangements for his spiritual guidance - she was his second choice after the Pink Power Ranger
  • another interesting pattern has emerged recently - the older the child and the colder the weather is inverse to the amount of clothing put on to go outside. Gives a whole new meaning to being cool, doesn't it?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Why Volvos are still boxy but not so good

You may remember about two weeks before Christmas my blackberry died and so did our Volvo and I promised that I would return to rant about it. First, I did get a new Blackberry Bold which, I hate to admit, I really like and being without a phone from December 23rd to the 27th wasn't so bad. But the car, that is another story.

About three weeks ago I drove downtown (I use the term downtown to mean I drove out and down the hill to the one block of shops) for my Pilates class. I left the car for about an hour while I crunched and squeezed and stretched my core then I set off to run my errands. I put the key in the ignition and I turned it. It went as far as turning the radio and lights on but that was it. I took it out and tried again. I got out of the car, locked it, opened it and tried again. Nothing, it wouldn't budge past the initial turn. I locked and unlocked the steering wheel. Still nothing. I called my Other Half to see if this had ever happened to him. It hadn't and no it wasn't anything I had done to the car as far as I knew.

Then I called the Volvo roadside assistance number, the guy I spoke to was very nice but after he had figured out that our warranty was no longer valid his only suggestion was that I have it towed to my nearest Volvo dealership at my expense. Now, some of you may know the geography of where I live from past posts, our little town is on the lower half of the Bruce Peninsula between Georgian Bay and Lake Huron and about two and a half hours north of Toronto. We are in a major snow belt region as the lake effect snow squalls come off both Lake Huron and the Bay, it is a skiers paradise but not so great for when you can't move your Volvo XCountry Wagon. The nearest dealership is two hours south of us and that my friends is a very expensive tow. So I called CAA and asked them to take the car to our local garage where, by the way, we had been having all the regular service done with Volvo's blessing. I decided to walk home while I was waiting for the tow truck to get another set of keys to see if that might be the problem, it wasn't.

Now if you have a newish car it most likely came with one of these huge electronic keys. (Word of warning - never drop one of these babies in the snow right before a big storm. You won't find it until the snow melts and they cost about $200 to replace.)

But the key wasn't the problem, our friends at the local place took apart the entire steering column and ordered a new part from Sweden (yes, it actually had to come from the land of the Swedish Chef, even though Volvo is owned by Ford, I think) Then they told us that even if they got the part installed we still might not be able to start the car and it would still have to be taken to a dealership to have the key reprogrammed. You see it is like dealing with Apple or Microsoft, you own the hardware (the car) but not the software that is now required to make it go and Volvo wouldn't release the info to our very reputable service centre. No, no we would still have to take it down to the dealership. Does Volvo care that we haven't been able to drive the car in over three weeks? Of course not. Do they care that the car is only two and half years old? Of course not. Will we get rid of this car as soon as it is drivable? Yes. Am I thoroughly disappointed in the one car company that I thought still built cars to last? Yes. Am I currently composing a scathing letter to said car company? You bet your Swedish meatballs I am.

In the meantime, this is what I have been driving. Cute and fun but not so great in the snow.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Back to Reality (sort of)

Ah ... the first day back at school and the first snow day ... sigh. It has been snowing and blowing since New Year's Day when I rode Jazz practically blind, trusting the fact that while I had to keep my eyes down, my face buried in his mane to keep the flying snow crystals out of my eyes as we galloped through down the rows of apple trees in the orchard, his eyes were on the side of his head and he could see and stop before we reached the barbed wire fence at the end. He did and we started 2010 off with a cold but wonderful ride.

So now the boys are in the basement playing Wii Ski, as if they didn't get enough of moguls, powder and speed over the last two weeks of being on the hill every morning at 9am and staying until the last chair went up the hill at 4pm. I struggle with wanting to stay home and hang out and knowing that they are happiest when they are with their friends and busy. But this morning when I saw the buses were cancelled and even though we live in town and the school is technically open for them I relented and agreed to let them stay home and do a bit of vegging. They deserve it, as long as there is no fighting or trashing of the house. In a little while I will toss them outside to shovel and make snow forts and do what kids should do on a snow day. And we will put off the inevitable return to everyday life - making lunches, calling upstairs for the tenth time to get up and get dressed and get downstairs, (funny how this morning it wasn't a problem) homework and hockey practise.

My Other Half leaves on Thursday for 12 days and since I survived last year (barely) I think I will make it through this one as long as Mother Nature lays off on the blizzards for a while. We have quite enough snow to ski on, thank you very much and the frigid temperatures forecasted for the next two weeks means it isn't going anywhere anytime soon. I'll try to get some photos of all the fun outside and post them later.
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