"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

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I am torn

I am not sure what to do about Christmas this year. Number One Son and his father will be leaving to go to Mont Tremblant, Quebec to ski with his team on December 12th and then they join Numbers Two, Three and I in Naples, FL on December 19th. We will be leaving on the 17th to spend our first Christmas down south with my Dad, my brother and sister and their families. We will be home on Boxing Day, the 26th in time for the boys to begin their season of ski racing but the question is, do we put up the tree?

We will have so little time before we leave and then, of course, we will come home to a half dead tree with needles every where and I will be the one who has to put everything away and clean it all up. For what? My Other Half was at a trade show this weekend and so we could put it up this week but then the weekend after we are staying at my Mum's to celebrate Christmas with her, four days later we head south. Am I a Grinch for not wanting to go through the hassle?

Number Two with Santa's Marching Band - Christmas 2000

Yesterday Number Two Son found his Santa hat to wear to school and started to rip through all the boxes to find his favourite Playmobile Santa sleigh and reindeer. I lost it when I saw the mess but I know how much he has always loved playing with the decorations. And on Saturday night I went to a party at a home that was decked to the halls and that coupled with some snow on the ground I know I can't not get out the Santas and the wreaths. And even though there might be a few needles to sweep up when we get home I think we will all appreciate coming home to enjoy Christmas for another week or so, at least until after New Years.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Winter's Hush

My world is white this morning.

The first snow fell over night and everything is quiet outside.

The howling wind that brought the storm has calmed and the birds are huddled around the feeder.

The dog stepped out for his morning constitutional and made it as far as the back porch before noticing the world had changed. He put his nose down and snuffled under the blanket of snow before leaping off to run around in circles like a puppy.

Soon we will find mitts and hats and snowpants. Put on boots and join him for snow angels

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wabi Sabi

In yet another case of I'm still thinking while someone else is actually doing, I had been pondering a post about the Japanese aesthetic of Wabi Sabi which means to find perfection in imperfection which has been my mantra ever since a friend who lived in Japan for four years gave me a book about it. Of course just as I was mulling over whether to take my own photos to illustrate the post or just go on line and find someone else's I came across this Design Sponge post which explains and has the perfect (no pun intended) photos of what Wabi Sabi means. I found another post explaining Wabi Sabi more as a philosophy of living rather than just one of decorating. I love the idea that, "Wabi-sabi is underplayed and modest, the kind of quiet, undeclared beauty that waits patiently to be discovered. It's a fragmentary glimpse: the branch representing the entire tree, shoji screens filtering the sun, the moon 90 percent obscured behind a ribbon of cloud. It's a richly mellow beauty that's striking but not obvious, that you can imagine having around you for a long, long time - Katherine Hepburn versus Marilyn Monroe." I always wanted to be Katherine Hepburn, elegant in trousers and a simple white man's shirt while my next door neighbour styled herself after Marilyn Monroe.

In my life I have evolved from a teenage girl who wanted nothing more than a room that "matched" to become someone who embraces the bits and pieces my Other Half and I have collected over the 22 years we have been creating home together. But I certainly didn't appreciate this growing up in a 150 year old farmhouse decorated with antique pine furniture and my mother's own unique style. In short - nothing matched. When I was 13 I went to school in the city and met a girl who became a life long friend and spent most of my time at her house which, of course, matched. Her mother had a wonderful style, formal yet comfortable. She used bright colours and had fabrics on the couches which had names like chintz and toile. Their kitchen was white and in my eyes, modern. Ours was dark and country. While my parents collected unknown (at the time) Inuit sculpture and native art, my friend's mother adorned her walls with up-and-coming and even famous artists.

In hindsight, of course, I can now appreciate what my parents created at our farm - a warm and inviting place with wonderful pieces of furniture scarred and battered with use by my brother, sister and I as well as many families before us. I have many of those pieces in my house now and they all have a story to tell. My own decorating philosophy, such as it is, begins with, " Is something useful and does it belong?" Meaning, not that it matches but because it looks at home. Of course all of this lofty discussion takes place in my head and isn't always easily translated to my home because of either time or money and I certainly have made some mistakes since I "decorated" our first apartment 22 years ago. We have gone from city to country, apartment to semi-detached house to bungalow to building a timber frame house in the country back to city and now Cape Cod-style in a small town. The first couch we bought was a high backed, over-stuffed, chintz-covered monster that hasn't fit anywhere after we sold the timber frame house. It will finally be liberated from our storage locker and moved to the office of our new workshop which has knotty pine walls and appropriately enough used to be the home of a timber frame builder.

We are currently in the process of transforming the basement playroom into a "Boy Cave" for our sons, namely the eldest who when asked why he wasn't inviting his friends over much replied, "because downstairs is a dump." At first I wanted to scream, "Well then why don't you guys clean up more often?" but then I saw his point. When we moved from the city the boys were 5, 7 and 9 and it was full of toys that now lie forgotten for the most part and the room centres around the TV and video games. So we bit the bullet and bought a giant sectional couch, fake leather that is easily wiped off and the cushions which are permanently attached so that mac & cheese can't be hidden under them. Now all five of us can sit comfortably and watch a movie together and the boys can have friends over and not be embarrassed. We have also moved their rooms around and I have given them free rein in their decor. So has any of my own personal aesthetic rubbed off on them? I'll let you decide.

Number One Son's Room (still under renovation)

Number Three Son's Room

Number Two Son's Room

P.S. I have no idea why the typeface decided to change, I guess maybe that's just another example of Wabi Sabi.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived - that is to have succeeded.”

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life seems to be a challenge lately and continuing to believe that what I do everyday is important is harder and harder. Boys constantly bickering and fighting, my continual nagging to make the bed, set the table, do homework, feed the dog ... it goes on and on and there never seems to be anything positive in return. In the end I want them to grow up to be three good men like their father, but not necessarily great. The world is full of too many men whom society judges great but who cheat on their wives, abandon their children and leave a trail of friends behind all for power, money or fame.

So I will continue to lie with my children before they go to sleep, listen to their fears and dreams and put up with their noise and fights, tend my family and my friends and hope that I will in some way have succeeded - at least by Emerson's very fine definition.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Highway of Heroes

This week was, of course, when we do a lot of looking back. My kids’ school does an incredible job of bringing Remembrance Day to life. The assembly is poignant, relevant and brings me to tears every year. My eldest son’s Grade 7 class sang The Trews “Highway of Heroes” song while this video was shown. The interesting thing is that all the talk of war and peace seems to touch my children much more profoundly that it ever did me when I was their age. I was lucky to not know any family members who when to war and when I was growing up in the 70′s and 80′s in Canada, other than our peacekeeping forces, our country was not sending soldiers off to fight overseas. Today, it is quite different. All too frequently there is another ramp ceremony broadcast from Afghanistan and footage of the procession of cars and hearses along the Highway of Heroes (Hwy 401 in Ontario), a road I have travelled more times than I can count, back and forth from Montreal where I went to university and on weekends down to my husband's cottage in the Thousand Islands. I cannot imagine what it would be like to travel it as the parent of a fallen soldier. We live near a base and my boys actually ran their cross country race through it’s beautiful woods and fields where other mother's sons train to be sent to Afghanistan. Remembrance Day is far more relevant and real to my children than it ever was to me and while I am sorry that our world doesn’t seem to have changed since the “Great War” or any other since I am glad that my boys understand why we must never forget the sacrifices that others have made so we can live.

Monday, November 8, 2010

What a Weekend

It's not often that I get to report on a weekend full of fun with other grown ups but this one was all that and more. I didn't see the boys from Friday morning when they left for school until Sunday at about 11am when we picked them up at my Mum's. In fact I had Thursday off as well when we we headed up to close the cottage for the day.

Yes, that is snow on the ground

Now I know that driving five hours to pull boats out of the water and to bait mouse traps isn't everyone's idea of fun but I didn't have to make lunch or dinner so that counts for something, doesn't it? And no matter what you are doing what a difference having some time off makes in how you deal with your children. And the best part is that now that they are older there is hardly any prep involved in me getting away. Of course leaving my incredible Other Half at the helm helps too. He has never been one of those fathers. You know the ones who babysit their kids, who need detailed instructions on the care and feeding of their own offspring. The man I chose to marry and bear children for (and I take all the credit for my very wise choice) doesn't need to be told or even reminded to pick up his kids at school or make sure they don't eat only Halloween candy for every meal. I didn't make up meals or post instructions on the fridge for anything, not even the phone number of our local pizza place. I just had a shower, straightened my hair, packed my city clothes and walked out the door. I think it's partly because I definitely don't have any control issues and also because my partner is more organized than I will ever be. Here he is, right in the middle of a major expansion of the business, moving the shop to a new location next week, sourcing new suppliers and arranging for the necessary improvements to be made in, what will officially be, a plant not a workshop anymore. All the while keeping up with hockey, volleyball and dry land training schedules, homework and bloody Grade 5 Ancient Civilizations projects. He is Mr. Super Mom.

As for me, I hit the Starbucks drive through by 3pm on Friday afternoon and was on my way to the big city for a girl's dinner with my high school posse. We met downtown at a great Moroccan restaurant and ate and drank, laughed and talked until it was time for them to put the chairs up on the tables. Afterwards Diana and I headed back to her house where her hubby had thoughtfully chilled a bottle of Pino Grigio for us before he went to bed. We talked and laughed some more and I fell into bed feeling reconnected with friends who I don't get to see often enough but when we do get together it is as if no time has passed.

Saturday morning I got up, popped an Advil to ward off the post Pino head ache and hung out with the family for a while catching up on their lives until I headed off to IKEA. Normally the thought of tackling the Swedish super store on a Saturday would be my idea of hell but alone with no particular timetable I wandered, took pictures and got ideas for the "boy cave" we are transforming the basement playroom into. After a successful couple of hours I called my best friend and we met for lunch, gorged myself on Pad Thai and then went off to meet my Other Half to drive out to the suburbs see his parents. My father-in-law had a double bypass and a valve replacement two weeks ago and is now home and doing well. The pig's valve is a source of great amusement to the boys who keep asking whether Grandpa can now oink or if he still eats bacon. But both my in-laws while tired, looked much better than they had in the very tense weeks and days leading up to the surgery. We had dinner and motored back into the city to check in at our hotel. We were going to stay with our friends again but we decided to treat ourselves and not sleep on their basement hide-a-bed. One night on it was enough for my 44 year old back.

Dressed, refreshed and ready to party we hopped in a cab and headed back uptown to the "Twisted Kilt" for my sister's 40th birthday party. Those of you who might have read my previous post will know that my sister is a very special person and as a result the pub was packed with friends and family. We had a great time but unfortunately I left my camera back at the hotel and so there is no photographic evidence of the evening's festivities. But trust me on this, it was a great party. And when we did get back to our room we realized that since it was the night to "fall" back we had gained an extra hour of sleep with no children to spoil the illusion. Perfect timing on my party-planning brother-in-law's part.

Sunday morning was a lazy one until we looked at our watches over our favourite greasy spoon bacon and eggs and realized that even with the extra hour our reprieve was over. We had to haul it to my Mum's to pick up the boys and get Number One Son home for hockey practise while Number Two Son had a month's worth of work to do on his Ancient Civilization project which is due this week. So Cinderella left the ball, kicked off her high-heeled boots, slipped back into her Blundstones and went home to star as the sous chef in a video of Number Two Procrastinator making spicy Mayan hot chocolate.

But after a little break even spilled hot chocolate on a white dress shirt didn't get to me like it would have 48 hours ago. The boys had quality time with their grandmother and I had quality time with friends and my so-close-to-perfect Other Half.

Note to Self - Do it more often and everyone will be happier.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Top Ten Reasons Why You are So Special and
(after 40 years) I'm Glad You're My Sister

  1. You always listen to me no matter if I'm crying, ranting or just feeling sorry for myself.

  2. You make friends where ever you are whether it's in a bar or at the counter of a cheese shop. ('cause you never know who you might be talking to – dotcom millionaire or local wino)

  3. You are passionate about whatever you are doing and make everyone around you care too.

  4. You always were our grandfather's favourite and he must have recognized something early on that I have only come to see with the wisdom of age.

  5. You get my boys. Each one of their quirks and eccentricities and you bring out the best in each one of them.

  6. You will spontaneously sing "It's a Long Road to Freedom" with me.

  7. You back me up when I buy yet another pair of boots (aren't we lucky to wear the same size?)

  8. You brought PJ into our lives with joy and determination despite everything you and Paddy went through.

  9. No one (except our brother and you together) makes me laugh more or harder.

  10. You know me better than anyone else. Through Monday morning temper tantrums leaving for Havergal, frat parties at McGill, Christmas parties at the farm, weddings, break ups, babies and in the not-so-distant future, teenagers. You have been there, not necessarily close by, but always at the other end of phone whether I'm drunk dialling, crying or laughing.

    Not everyone has the kind of relationship we have, I have been surprised to learn and it might be because we haven't lived under the same roof since 1978. But whatever the reason, I am so glad to have you and your little family close by to celebrate with on special occasions like this and to just hang out, spending time together. Watching PJ take his first steps between his cousins, cheering on whatever sporting endeavour the boys are participating in and every once in a while, just the two of us. And I hope we can fine sometime to do just that, - before you turn 41.

    Happy 40th Boo. I love you.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Twas the night before All Hallo's Eve

Halloween seemed a little discombobulated this year. Maybe it was because it was on a Sunday or the fact that it was really cold but we didn't even get out the decorations until the day of and only got so far as to put a few cobwebs up by the front door. In contrast to our old street in the city where we'd get over a hundred trick or treaters, here on our quiet cul de sac of eight houses only my cousin's son and a couple of neighbours rang the bell. The kids, mine included, are smart enough to know you get way more candy per street if you go to the high density neighbourhoods.

But we adults did get out the night before for a few treats and lots of fun as witnessed by photos below.

Breakfast at Tiffany's meets Bonnie while Clyde was getting them drinks
(Apologies to Audrey and Faye)

Lisbeth Salader, Holly Golightly, an Angel and a Witch

Not sure who is Madder? The Hatter or the Devil.

Barbie & Ken were the perfect hosts once they came out of their boxes.

Everyone was getting into the spirit including Number Two Son and
his cousin who modelled matching Spiderman costumes.

Finally the big night arrived and the ghosts, ghouls and zombies were out in full force.

The Motley Crew consisted of a Dirtbiker, Zombie Lumberjack, Mini Spiderman, Little Red Riding Hood, an Old Rich Guy, 80's Skier and Zombie Abe Lincoln. I never know what they are going to be until the last minute. Number One Son actually changed from a Hobo to Old Rich Guy about five minutes before we headed out.

The Lumberjack met up with his good buddy Shaun White who found trick or treating while carrying a snowboard a little tiring but at least he was dressed for the frigid temperatures.

I also had a revelation this year while trying to come up with a good couple costume for my Other Half and I - we need to really be in disguise. My wonderful Clark Kentish hubby definitely comes out of his more introverted self when he dons a costume but this year's tweed suit and fedora just wasn't disguise enough for him to let loose like last year's leather biker chaps and tattoo sleeves did. He said he felt too much like himself or at least his old self who used to wear a suit and tie every day.

Lesson learned. Next year there will be make up and/or masks involved.

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