The girls enjoyed decorating Easter eggs yesterday using Kool-Aid, a permanent marker, and elastic bands. Thanks to Shauna for getting us a variety of Kool-Aid flavours in Texas! We didn't follow these instructions close enough to get a rainbow of colours. Perhaps we'll try that next year as we have another full set of Kool-Aid packages. I'd also love to try natural dyes (see my Easter board for three sources).
This magic moment: I didn't take this picture for the prompt, and it certainly isn't "off the beaten path" (it's just the first photo I snapped Christmas morning, and the colour was terrible, hence the B&W), so I debated whether to use it or not. But, this moment -- opening their gifts from Santa -- is still full of magic for my children, so it fits perfectly.
The day after: Our stockings and some gift-wrapping items we'll use again. I enjoy putting away the remnants of Christmas. Our tree is still up, but I'll have it down before January 1! I won't start a new year with this task unfinished.
A breath of fresh air: When I noticed the sun came out this afternoon, I immediately ran out to the park to take some pictures. I was quite surprised to see it today as the sky was completely overcast this morning. It seems like we haven't seen the sun very much this month.
Where I stand, there's no end to the number of things that need to be done. Sunday afternoon I painted the bathroom wall and a piece of trim (MDF) so we could reinstall the towel bar and hooks. The towel bar and one of two hooks had (in separate incidents) become detached from the wall -- taking a bunch of the wall with them. Lovely. About six coats of compound later, we decided we needed a better way to secure the bar and hooks, so we screwed the board to the wall (to three studs) and then attached the towel bar and hooks to that. They aren't going anywhere now!
It looks and feels (in more ways than one) like Fall has arrived. The weather turned chilly this week. We went from six days of 30C+ weather to 18, and then 12. We had to cover our tomatoes overnight for the first time this year.
Our full calendar is another reminder that Fall is here (essentially). We've been super busy this month, and I can't believe it's the 15th already.
Sophia is running in cross country again this year. She's been to a few practices and two of four multi-school meets. She's doing very well, placing 9th last Thursday and 3rd today. Dozens compete (more than 75, I think), so it's quite an accomplishment to place in the top 10!
Sophia and Madeline have been to ringette conditioning camp nine of 12 times already. It ends next week on the 22nd, and then we'll have a week or two break before evaluations begin. (Yay!) Madeline also participated in the Come Try Ringette event last Saturday. Happily, her name was drawn for a new stick so we don't have to buy one for her. Sophia won a stick at the same event last year.
Irish dance lessons started this week for all three girls. This is Georgia's first year and she's very excited to finally have her turn! She's been waiting her whole life. This is Sophia's 7th year and Madeline's 5th. We'll be heading to the dance studio four times a week this year: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday. Ack! It's Madeline's first year of hard shoe, and she has separate classes for soft shoe and hard shoe. Sophia's soft shoe and hard shoe lessons are back-to-back.
Sophia is also taking piano lessons which is just once a week, thankfully. It hasn't been easy to get her to practice the past three weeks with the fantastic weather we were having and being so busy with ringette camp. I hope we can get her into an acceptable routine with this. She wanted to continue with piano this year, so she needs to put some effort into it! We've already decided this will be her last year in piano as she can participate in band at school next year.
In summary, Georgia has one activity, Madeline has two, and Sophia has three, plus cross-country in September and track in May. Sophia seems to need more organized activities, so I think this is fine for her, but she also has much more homework than ever before -- which is challenging for all of us! I spent a full hour helping her with homework this evening, and we didn't even finish. She'll have to finish it before her 8:00 am cross-country practice tomorrow.
"She" is a Concha Y Toro Xplorador Carmanere 2010, and she's good. Thanks to Neil for this interpretation of the prompt!
My long-legged 5-year old. I like the movement, light, and line in this picture, and how it offers a glimpse of the super summer weather we're having. Tuesday to Saturday this week: 30, 31, 32, 31, 32 C. I love it! (Unfortunately, I have to endure A/C most of these days!)
And speaking of legs, we bought this at Liquidation World the other day. What a difference an extra four square feet of counter space makes! And, having a place where the children can see what's going on without shoving each other out of the way: priceless. (It was a bargain, too!)
I went back to work on Monday after my glorious week off (10 days in total). I loved my vacation time! The weather was fabulous. I loved being at home and doing whatever I felt like doing most of the time. And, of course, I loved crossing a few things off my to-do list. For me, it was a great balance of productivity and play. Here's a recap of some of the things we did after the girls returned from Camp Monahan (aside from regular housework, BSS work, etc.)
Thursday morning, Sophia and I made Dill Pickle Spears. I think they turned out well, but Sophia doesn't care for the taste of the vinegar. She LOVES garlic dill pickles, but these weren't quite right for her (the white wine vinegar, perhaps?). Maybe we'll add more sugar next time or try another recipe; they were very easy to make.
Later on Thursday, all three girls had an annual check-up with our family doctor. They're all doing fine and growing well. (Georgia also began a 24-hour Holter Monitor today so the pediatric cardiologist will have the results at her heart checkup in January.) That evening, we went to Boston Pizza for supper as Neil had a gift card to use (it was a thank you gift for his lunch supervision at school). The girls were excited to eat out as we hadn't eaten out at all in July (making up for some extra eating-out expenses in June).
On Friday afternoon, we all went shopping for school supplies. It was our first time buying supplies for all three. The girls were full of eager anticipation for this event. Before we went out, we "shopped" our house for supplies that could be reused. Georgia is quite happy to use things we already had (for example, she'll use Madeline's scissors and Sophia's backpack from last school year), while Sophia is quite a bit less willing to reuse (which frustrates me!).
We purchased the majority of school supplies at Walmart, Staples, and Costco this year. There were some great deals such as duotangs for 10 cents (we needed 24) and 200-sheet packs of loose leaf for 25 cents. Shoes were purchased at Winners, the Bay, and Payless. Finally, two new t-shirts for each girl from The Children's Place (less than $7/shirt). They all selected a t-shirt that says "Best Sister Ever" with an arrow to their own head. And all three wore it to their first day of K4J Vacation Bible Camp on Monday. :)
After shopping, we picked up the girls' packed bags and drove them to Corinne. Lou met us there and took the girls to Avonlea to spend two nights with their grandparents. We needed a babysitter on Saturday, so this worked very well for us. As always, the girls had a great time out there. They went for a hike in the hills, swimming at Dunnet, and sewed some potholders with their grandma.
On Saturday, Neil went golfing with friends, which is something he hasn't done for years. They golfed at Flowing Springs and had to take a long break while waiting for a severe thunderstorm to roll through. Meanwhile, I was alone for much of the day. So unusual! I listened to scrapbooking podcasts, and worked on July pictures and a series of scrapbook pages I had started in May 2010. (Photos to follow in a separate post.)
I also registered for The Art of Composition this weekend. Pricey, yes, but I see it as an investment in knowledge I'll use for the rest of my life. (I was glad to get a $20 discount as a member of Picture Inspiration, though.) I'm really looking forward to this workshop!
Saturday evening, Neil and I went to the home of our friends, Derek and Lisa, in Pilot Butte. There were about a dozen people there (and no kids, except the host couple's baby). We had a delicious steak supper, and I really enjoyed visiting with Lisa and Karla, whom I hadn't seen for a very long time.
Sunday was painting day. I painted the front door while Neil created and painted a cruise ship to be used in a skit at the K4J VBS this week (Neil is helping with props and stage set-up all week long). They both turned out well! I used the "Exotic Grass" paint that I used to paint one wall of our dining room in 1997. I had wanted to paint this door green for years! So glad I finally did this. What took me so long?
Also on Sunday, Neil picked up the girls at Corinne, and my mom and Buffy (her dog) came over to visit for a little while. The girls and I needed to go to a few stores on the east side, so Mom came with us. Sophia also had captain's training (she's a K4J captain) and a playdate at Meghan's house, before and after our shopping excursion, respectively.
I took this photo in the park on Monday evening. I'm so glad I ran across a similar photo from last summer which inspired me to get this photo for "finding our tribe." Dash is on the left.
The girls having been having a fun week. Neil took them (including B) swimming at the Sandra Schmirler on Monday, bowling at the Golden Mile on Tuesday, and to PlayEscapes (-B) on Wednesday afternoon. There were several other kids there that they know. This afternoon, Georgia enjoyed a playdate at Henry's house. The girls have also been playing with Zoe (neighbour) at every opportunity.
The girls' swimming lessons end tomorrow. I look forward to going along on their last day. Neil says he's going to miss swimming lessons because he gets to sit and read all morning. (He's enjoying the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson.) All three are doing quite well so I'm sure they'll pass. They won't have swimming lessons again until next summer.
Sophia and Madeline are super excited about going to camp in a few days. They have already started packing, but we will spend quite a bit of time this weekend making sure they have everything they need and that it's all labeled. The list of supplies they require is quite long! The weather looks great for their camp days -- sunny and hot. I don't think they'll be cold at night, but I hope they don't get any severe storms!
I'm off work now until August 8th! Woohoo! And, other than driving the girls to and from camp, I'm staying home the whole time! I love that. I will be working practically the whole time (housework, paperwork, yard work, BSS work), but that's okay. Actually, it's GREAT! I have so much to do. All progress will be thrilling! (I always remind myself that any progress is good because I can never get everything done.)
The past couple of weeks, I have been doing a lot of extra work for Bite-sized Scrapbooking in addition to my usual weekly tasks:
I'm supplying a 6-month subscription as a prize for a contest at a major scrapbooking store in California, so I provided some information for their blog post.
I'm writing a guest post for a popular scrapbooking website and I want to provide high-quality content, so I'm working very hard on that! When it goes live (which may be several weeks away), I will certainly share the link here (and everywhere!).
I'm developing another Bite-sized Scrapbooking product. I've been working on this project a little every weekend for a couple months now. I'm not quite ready to share details, but I'm excited about it!
I'm in the midst of finding and getting permission for the last 19 layouts of the first year of BSS. This is my third time doing a big search for layouts, spread over a couple of weekends each time. (In January, I lined up the first 17 layouts; in April, I secured the next 16 layouts, and this time, I need 19 to complete 52 weeks of BSS). From my efforts last weekend, I've received permission for 10 layouts, and I will spend several more hours this weekend trying to establish the last nine. I estimate it takes me about 90 minutes per layout when all is said and done (that doesn't include developing the content when the layout is scheduled). Sometimes I wonder if it would be easier to design my own layouts! But there are many more good things that come out of connecting with others in the online scrapbooking world. Plus, it's great for subscribers to get layouts from different designers, and my layouts would certainly not be as varied in design or products used.
We've been having gorgeous weather. Summer is truly here! Just wanted to give a quick update on what the girls have been doing on their summer vacation so far. As of today, they've been out of school for two weeks, and
they've gone to the spray pad a couple times
Sophia went to a movie with Meghan one evening (Monte Carlo)
they've attended PlayEscapes a few times (we have the planned activities on our bulletin board, so they know what they'll be doing when they go; they enjoy it!)
Madeline went to Mattea's house one evening and they decorated white tank tops
they've set up a sheet fort on the front lawn
Sophia went to a movie with Cyandra one afternoon (Soul Surfer)
all six of us went walking and riding on the bike path for over an hour one evening
they've spent some time with their cousins, Bronwyn, Cole, and Rian
Sophia went to Meghan's house for a sleepover
they've pulled out the Perler Beads and made several cool creations (they're into making their own designs now rather than following the patterns)
Madeline stayed overnight at Bronwyn's house
they've signed up for the Summer Reading Program at the public library, and are eagerly colouring in a fish for each 15 minutes of reading
they've set up the mesh/fabric tunnels on the lawn
I was delighted to realize I had captured "exploration" on Sunday without thinking about the prompt at the time. My girls -- especially Sophia (in pink) -- are always exploring like this. I love how curious they are!
Yesterday morning, I was listening to the radio and heard about the Loggerhead Shrike, an endangered bird species, being in southern Saskatchewan right now. Anyone who sees one is asked to report the sighting. I thought this bird (also known as the "Butcher Bird") sounded quite interesting, so I mentioned it to the kids. We spent the next few minutes looking up images on the Internet. Later, at school, Sophia was required to write a short story in English. Based on our conversation and brief research, she wrote about the Loggerhead Shrike. :)
Last week, I scribbled down a few things that the girls are "into" right now:
finding and keeping caterpillars in containers with hole-punched lids (which are not always secure; I have found two caterpillars roaming free in our house. ick!)
jumping on the trampoline (as always!)
checking the growth of seedlings in the garden and pots
Harry Potter books and movies - Sophia
Fancy Nancy books, every night - Madeline and Georgia
making circle "spinning art" -- I love how they've taken an art toy that was meant to be used in one way (with dripping paint that sprays unpredictably) and are using it to make art in another way (with a marker touching the paper as it spins).
I've been wanting to do this, and now seemed like the perfect time! (Neil helped and it only took a few minutes.) Inspired by Meg Duerksen and my rainbow board on Pinterest (@kkbyrns).* It's amazing how much neater this looks than random or other placement. These shelves are in Georgia's room and she's delighted with the new arrangement. She asked excitedly, "Can we keep it this way?!" Why, of course! Although I suspect it won't stay this way for long. Also, we need to go through these books and give some away. There are more books below these shelves, and many more in Sophia and Madeline's room. And we *have* given away quite a few children's books in the past. They seem to multiply at our house!
Georgia attended her very last day of preschool today. Originally, they were going to go to the spray pad, but thanks to today's forecast for rain (which didn't materialize, thank goodness), they went on Wednesday instead. Today, they made dirt cups (chocolate pudding, cookie crumbs, and gummy worms) to celebrate the end of the school year.
After Georgia was home from school, she wanted me to pull her tooth which was quite loose (this is her second; she lost the first one in early December 2010). I think this is the first time I've actually pulled a child's tooth out; they've all come out on their own -- but she insisted I do it. And then it bled quite a bit! Oh well. She's over it and is very excited about the tooth fairy coming tonight (fingers crossed!).
The girls' school was supposed to do their annual Walk Around Wascana today but it didn't happen as planned, either. Madeline's class (and a few others) walked to Wascana Centre yesterday. They played in the park for awhile before walking back, but didn't walk around the lake. Sophia's class (and a couple others, including Bronwyn's) walked to the park and back this morning. They didn't spend any time there and were back by the end of first recess. Normally, they spend the whole day on this activity. It turned out to be a very nice day today, so it's too bad everything didn't go ahead as usual. And now, just three days of school remain for the older girls. This month has flown by! I look forward to updating the calendar less frequently over the next two months. :)
*I miss Pinterest! I haven't been there for weeks. Too busy with Picture Color and blogging this month, but I'll be back.
It's tough to find any calm in my house these days, but when I was home alone for about 90 minutes yesterday (while Neil and the kids took Dash for exercise at Chloe's house), I captured some calm blue, green, purple -- and me. This image isn't exactly what I was going for, but it was the most interesting among a bunch of dull photos and I didn't have time to keep looking. My reflection appears in the window of the china cabinet and in a dark blue teapot inside the cabinet.
Our Sunday was mostly filled with sorting toys to keep, give away, and throw away -- as well as sorting toys into their sets and types. Although we got rid of loads of toys last summer, we still have so many! It's way too much. I was very pleased with the girls' willingness to let go of a bunch of things in this round: all Barbie, Dora, My Little Pony, Strawberry Shortcake, and Polly Pockets are going, plus some miscellaneous things. (Sadly, several Barbies and Strawberry Shortcake dolls had to be thrown out due to missing feet and hands; chewed off by Dash. The survivors are better off leaving our house!) While you'd think Georgia would still want to play with these items, she was very willing to part with them, and the other two don't care about them any more. Sophia was just slightly concerned about My Little Pony, but preferred to keep Littlest Pet Shop when given a choice. (I left one pony in the bathtub.)
The girls still have PLENTY of toys. Lots of Littlest Pet Shop, Zhu Zhu Pets, play food and dishes, shopping toys (they would NOT part with the shopping cart Sophia received as a toddler), games, dress up clothes, baby dolls and accessories, stuffed animals (far too many stuffed animals), Tinkertoys, K'nex, puzzles, quite a collection of Fisher-Price Little People... We'll have to do another toy decluttering session this summer. We really don't have room for all of this stuff and I know there's much remaining that they don't use, but we ran out of time and energy for this task. I'm very happy with what we accomplished in this session, though. We weighed the outgoing (including the garbaged toys) and it was 31 pounds! I had offered the girls $2.50 worth of dinner (for the whole family) at a restaurant for every pound of toys they parted with, so we went out for dinner with $77.50 to spend.
We attempted to go to Montana's, the girls' first choice, but were told the wait would be an hour. At 6:00 pm on Father's Day, we weren't surprised. Ribs were desired, so we went to Smokin' Oakies on the East side. It was good (although they were out of a couple of things we wanted to order), and I liked their new bright dining room. Great to eat local (non-chain), too. From there, we went to the Coldstone Creamery as we hadn't been there yet (in Regina). The line up was long and it is rather pricey, I must say, but we all enjoyed our treats. My "Raspberry Soiree" (raspberry ice cream with raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries mixed in) was yummy! Neil enjoyed his raspberry ice cream with chocolate shavings. I think raspberry is then next kind of ice cream we'll have to make at home. And the girls all selected cotton candy ice cream with gummy bears and marshmallows mixed in.
We usually only eat out once a month, so this was a very big extra treat. In addition to the kids' toy-reduction incentive, I also thought it would be nice for Neil not to have to make supper on Father's Day. Could I have made supper instead? Sure, I'm capable, but I'm not in that zone at all these days. It didn't even occur to me until now!
P.S. Madeline did sleep all night, getting up just before 7:00 am. I asked her what it felt like to get 14 hours of sleep, and she replied, "I feel tired."
It seems I don't have many white things around here, so I looked to my scrapbooking supplies. This was a tough shot! I found it very difficult to get the exposure right. After taking a bunch of pictures that were much too dark, I was forced to re-learn how to change the exposure bias on my camera. I hadn't done that for a very long time. Now that I remember how to do this, it might come in handy!
I took this morning as a half-day vacation, and it was awesome! I was so tired last night that I didn't get up again after reading a book to Madeline. As a result, I practically sprang out of bed at 5:30 a.m. which maximized my time at home. I was able to check a bunch of things off my to-do list. One of the things I'm very happy to have finished today is planting the garden. I planted a couple perennials and 10 pepper plants morning, Neil and the kids planted seeds in the garden after school, and when I got home from work, I helped Madeline plant her seeds (12 different seeds from a school project) into pots. Just in time for another inch of rain.
Also, Neil took our broken couch and broken blinds to the dump this afternoon. I'm so glad they're outta here! The kids keep asking what they're going to sit on. I honestly don't know. The ultimate furnishing would be something unbreakable, that dog hair can't stick to, that won't stain or soak up spills, and with no crevices where stuff can get trapped. I have no plans to get another sofa anytime soon. (Laurel suggested bean bag chairs, and I like that idea if I can find the right ones.)
This evening, I attended the kindergarten orientation for parents. The numbers are huge this year. With just a few more registrations, they may have to add a fourth kindergarten class. Also, the school principal delivered the entire orientation because none of the kindergarten teachers are here yet (one is coming from Switzerland). After the girls were in bed and Neil finished watching the hockey game, we watched Top Chef Canada. I can't wait to see it each week!
Sophia has continued to do well in track, and she loves it! She's participated in three quad meets and one track meet at her school. These photos are from the third quad meet in which Sophia got 1st place in triple jump. After her school meet (where she won five 2nds, one 6th, and one 8th), she received a silver medal for the Midget Girls category. We're not sure yet if she will be going to the city track meet or not.
The kids haven't had very much school lately! For the Victoria Day weekend, they had no school on Friday or Monday. While I worked until noon on Friday, Neil took six kids to the Science Centre: our three girls, our niece, the boy Neil babysits, and Madeline's friend, Lauren, who was here for a sleepover Thursday night. (Sophia also had a friend, Desirae, over for a sleepover on Saturday night.) Having a family membership for the Science Centre is awesome! They allowed all seven to go in under our membership.
The kids were in school yesterday (Tuesday), and now are off for two days due to the teachers' job action. It's not an all-out strike yet, but I hope they come to an agreement very soon! We're wondering if there will even be a city track meet at this point. Also, the school community council had a big spring carnival/fundraiser planned for tomorrow night, and it had to be postponed. I feel bad for those who have put in the hours to plan this event, so I hope it still happens (but NOT next week -- we have Mosaic).
So, the kids are only in school two days this week, and this is my vacation week! Part of me wishes they were in school for all four days as planned (I have tons of housework to do!), but on the other hand, it's nice not doing the morning rush to get them going to school. Plus, if I had been at work, I would have been jealous that my whole family had these free days without me. Georgia still has preschool, though, and right now she's at the Dino Bouncer place on a field trip. On Friday, we'll attend her preschool graduation!
Regarding my week off -- my staycation -- I am LOVING it! This is the first time in over 16 years, other than being ill or on mat leave, that I've had a whole week off and stayed home the whole time. I'm getting so much done! Not quite as much as I had hoped (my plans were too ambitious, perhaps!), but still a ton, and I'm glad. I'm relieved. So much was long overdue.
Also, I'm finally feeling better. That cold I had, that started on Friday the 13th, turned into a sinus infection and I was totally miserable all of last week. If I had not been taking this week off, I would have stayed in bed a couple of days. But I couldn't; there were too many things I had to do before my vacation. (For my sinuses, I used a neti pot a few times. I think it helped a great deal and may have shortened the infection.)
Time to get back to my spring cleaning! This is just about the half-way point of my nine days off and I intend to accomplish a great deal over the next few days. :)
Last Friday, I had the day off work (my work as an employee, that is), and I woke up with a cold. Not how I wanted to start my three-day weekend! At least it's just me; the rest of my family is cold-free.
Friday, I spent much of day preparing a new free sampler for Bite-sized Scrapbooking. It includes the first three layouts issued for BSS in February. In those early weeks, I wasn't providing a sneak peek or a sketch, so I needed to create those elements for the sampler. Please go and download the sampler if you're interested! It will give you three inspiration layouts and a good idea of what subscribers receive.
When the kids were out of school, we all went to Cherrylane Greenhouse near Grand Coulee to shop for plants. Laurel came with us, too, while Bronwyn stayed at a friend's house. We all LOVE going to greenhouses. This is one of my very favourite things to do every spring. We hadn't been to this place before, and we went because I had purchased vouchers on SwarmJam. It was a lovely greenhouse and the people running it are super nice and eager to help. We had fun picking out a bunch of plants. I let the girls get whatever they wanted, so we'll have an eclectic variety of flowers! I'm very excited that I picked out seven perennials for our yard (one was Sophia's request, actually). I love perennials, but we don't have many. I decided it's time to start investing in perennials. I will write more about the plants we purchased in another post.
Saturday, I took Sophia to her piano lesson, then shopping for dressy sandals (for her piano recital) and a birthday gift for her friend. (She went to Haley's party later in the day.) The shopping took much too long but we came home with good purchases. Sophia's feet are the same size as mine and it was challenging to find sandals that weren't too high or too expensive. We found some at Walmart for $15.
It was mid-afternoon by the time I started working on Madeline's clothes -- my real plan for the day. Clothes, clothes, clothes. There's no end to them, it seems. Madeline is quite particular about her clothing, so she easily rejected about half of the clothes that were available to her (and those were separated into two piles: donate and keep for Georgia). The remaining third is still more than enough. Madeline's dresser and closet are full and we didn't even open any of the other three bins of 7/8 clothes in our basement. I'm still going to have to go through these soon because I would rather get rid of at least half of those clothes NOW, than have to go through six bins of 7/8 when Georgia gets to that size. Can you feel my pain? At least the job of going through Sophia's clothes will be much easier. She actually doesn't have that many clothes that fit her any more. I hope she has enough but we'll see about that next weekend.
*Okay, I need to insert here that we did not buy all of these clothes! In fact, we have purchased very little. In addition to a few gifts of new clothes (which the girls LOVE), we have received hand me downs from three families. Our girls are always overjoyed to receive these clothes and I am very thankful for them because we can't spend much money on children's clothing, but the price we pay is the considerable space they take up in our house and the time I spend sorting through them. I am not ungrateful; just slightly frustrated.*
I continued dealing with children's clothing on Sunday because we had a bunch of bags and piles and bins that contained a mixture of sizes. This photo shows just some of the 10s (which are too small for Sophia), 7/8s, 6X/7s, and 6/6Xs I sorted that day. But here's the best part: While I worked on this, I had the laptop set up so I could watch Penny De Los Santos teaching Food & Culture Photography on creativeLIVE. The course was three days long (May 13-15) and I only caught about 20% of the live broadcast over the weekend, but what I saw was absolutely riveting! Neil and I both wished we could see all of it, so we purchased the course for $99, which I think is incredibly inexpensive for 24 hours of video. Certainly a bit of a splurge, but now we can watch the whole thing on the TV downstairs whenever we want. I'm so glad I noticed a tweet from @thepioneerwoman about this course. After seeing Penny's short video, The Power of Food Photography, I just had to register. I don't really aspire to BE a food photographer; I'm just fascinated by Penny's photos and her approach to food and culture photography.
Meanwhile, Neil started cleaning the incredible disaster of a place we call Sophia and Madeline's room. (Neil got possession of the laptop when I had to spend some time dealing with the clothing/toy storage room downstairs.) We had not seen the floor in their room for quite some time, and he made some good progress on it before we all had to stop and get ready for the girls' piano recital. After the recital and supper, I continued working on the floor until it was finished, but I wasn't able to get to all the surfaces in their room before the girls' bedtime. I will try to squeeze this into my vacation week (next week) because it simply has to get done.
And where were the girls during all of this bedroom cleaning? Playing elsewhere and that's fine with me. In fact, I prefer they stay away; it's much easier to throw things out when they're not there to protest! Madeline did show up at one point and rescued several silly bands before they were swept into the dust pan. (I can't even imagine what it would be like to have carpet in the girls' bedrooms. Scary!) Although it seems easier to declutter without the kids' help right now, I know they need to learn how to do this -- and I'm not sure how to teach them -- so I am considering signing up for this class at Simplify 101: Organizing with your kids.
Sophia and Madeline's piano recital was at 4:45 p.m. on Sunday. It was a nice event, as always. This was our fourth one. Madeline (pictured below) played a solo on the piano (Autumn), played sand blocks in the rhythm ensemble (Waltz), and sang with several other children (MYC Theme Song). Sophia played a solo on the piano (The Greatest Show on Earth). She played so clearly and enthusiastically! It was great to hear! Unfortunately, she got stuck about 2/3 of the way through and couldn't finish. She got up, visibly upset, and came straight to me. Sadly, we hadn't brought her book along, so she couldn't refer to it.
The recital continued with another couple private students, and then Sophia's teacher asked if she wanted to try again. Sophia agreed. She played just as enthusiastically as the first time, and then... got stuck in the same spot again. :( Mrs. Young tried to help, but without the music for reference, they were both unsure what came next. What a bummer. We all learned a hard lesson about taking the book. We should have had it with us even though Sophia didn't think she needed it. Well, it won't happen again! It's over, and she's okay. (I think this helped a tiny bit: another private student had the same problem and he didn't have his book there either.) The thing is, she knew the song at home when no one was paying attention, but she was nervous about the audience. And the entire song wasn't quite etched in her brain. At the end of the recital, her teacher praised her for trying again, and several parents patted her on the back afterward, saying she was very brave. She is, and I'm proud of her, too!
On Monday (yesterday), Sophia participated in the track & field day at her school. She competed against other girls in grades 4 and 5, and came home with a fist full of ribbons: five 2nds, a 6th, and an 8th. The 2nds were in high jump, and the 60m, 80m, 200m, and 400m races. The 6th was in triple jump (she claims she thought it was a practice jump), and the 8th was in shotput. (A very determined and trained runner in grade 5 won 1st place in all the races.) Our niece, who's in grade 5, won 1st place in triple jump, 4th in high jump, and 7th in the 60m race. Sophia (and B) also had a 90-minute dance class Monday evening and she said her legs were burning in class. Not surprising, huh?!
Georgia planted this grass from seed in preschool on April 1st when I was parent helper. I love that it, along with some parsley and mint, are adding a splash of fresh green colour in front of our kitchen window. Now it seems a little more spring-like both inside and out! I suppose I should have cleaned up those dead plants before snapping this photo, but I took it on impulse, and this is more like spring anyway. :)
It was nice and sunny out this weekend and the temp reached 13C today. Yay! The snow is disappearing very quickly now. The sidewalks were mostly clear on the weekend, so the girls got their bikes out. Above zero temps around the clock also means our basement is getting some water again (we had a reprieve from this thanks to a 10-day cold snap in late March and then freezing temps every night for another week or so). At least we're aware of it and Neil is using the shop vac to suck up the water periodically. Plus, the dehumidifier and fan are running constantly. We'll have to try to repair the trouble spot as soon as everything is dry. Neil has also begun the annual pumping water out of the yard (to the back alley).
On Thursday evening, I made blue and yellow cupcakes (school colours) for Friday's hot lunch day at school. I had never tinted cake batter before, but I think they turned out pretty well. I used Wilton gel food colouring which Neil picked up at Bulk Barn. This is much more work than I normally do for the hot lunch day baking. My standard contribution is Rice Krispies squares, which I still think is perfectly acceptable!
On Friday evening, the girls had a brief K4J gathering and then we all went to the Stations of the Cross event and mass. This was our third year contributing posters for Stations of the Cross. The past two years, each family made one large poster, and I helped with ours quite a bit by drawing the picture before the kids painted it. This year, each child was to make their own smaller poster (our girls were assigned III, IV, and V), and since I didn't have (or make) time to get them started sooner, they worked on their posters on Friday before and after school. I was impressed with their drawings!
Saturday was almost completely free, so we did a bunch of housework. I did some extra cleaning in the kitchen such as the inside of the microwave, around the dishwasher door, cupboard doors, etc. Long overdue! I wish I could get around to these things more frequently, but I don't see this changing any time soon. Otherwise, I took Sophia to her piano lesson at 5:00 p.m. (rescheduled) and Neil made a fantastic supper of bison tenderloin steak with garlic butter (seriously delicious and decadent!), oven-roasted asparagus, and a grill-roasted potatoes, carrots, and onions. He also made avocado ice cream (Alton Brown's recipe). He and I liked it, while the kids were not impressed. Luckily, we had Saskatoon Berry Sorbet (from Safeway) for them.
On Sunday afternoon, we all went to Sophia's ringette windup: bowling and pizza at Glencairn Bolodrome and Stats (above the bowling alley). It was a lot of fun! All of the team families are great, and it was nice to see them again. (Madeline is in the photo. The younger siblings bowled with bumper rails.) After supper, one of the coaches spoke thoughtfully about each player and her ringette skill development through the season. It was very nice. Also, each player received a necklace with her number on it. As we were leaving, Sophia said, "I think we should have wind-ups throughout the year!" :) Afterward, we went over to L&B's to visit Donna & Lou. We had cake from Coldstone Creamery (half cake and half ice cream) and watched Canada win the final (defeating Scotland) in the Men's World Curling Championship (held in Regina this year).
Also, we have been using My Job Chart for the past few days and are having some success with it. The girls are pretty eager to log in and put check marks next to their tasks. We have promised them a trip to the Milky Way for ice cream after they all accumulate two-weeks worth of points. It's going to take them longer than two weeks, but they are definitely doing much more than before! My Job Chart is pretty cool. If you have children and would like to encourage them to do chores, practice music, brush teeth, or anything else, I encourage you to check it out. I'm quite happy with it so far.
It was Madeline's 8th birthday today, so of course she's the centre of attention! Also, I love capturing this smile and it is near the centre of the photo. :) This was taken at Sophia's game this evening. I tried to get a good picture of M with her birthday cake and candles, but it wasn't meant to be.
We gave Madeline her gifts in the morning before I went to work. She received a real twirling baton and a little Zhu Zhu Pets bed and blanket. She has wanted a baton for a long time and had no idea she was getting one for her birthday; however, she did see the long triangular box that arrived in the mail a couple weeks before Christmas and was very curious about what might be inside. She could not figure out what could possibly be that shape and she asked about it many times. It was fun to finally give it to her.
I took an earlier bus home after work (arriving home at 4:55 p.m.), so we'd have a few extra minutes for birthday cake. Neil baked the confetti cake and made fluffy frosting during the day. We ate our supper soon after I got home, and then I quickly frosted the cake -- half pink and half green at Madeline's request. We sang Happy Birthday, ate some cake, and then headed out the door by 6:00 p.m. to go to Sophia's ringette game. It was nice that Bronwyn was with us for the birthday cake, too. (Laurel picked her up at the rink.)
At bedtime, I read to Madeline alone (i.e., without Sophia). We do this occasionally anyway, but today, I made sure to read what Madeline wanted. She has been enjoying the Help Me Be Good series (by Joy Berry) for several weeks now, and today was no exception. I always read the main part of the book and we assign speaking parts for the cartoon-like illustrations. She loves reading these books with me.
Kids are pro scatterers! I couldn't have scattered anything this well. :) This is exactly how I found our dining room table when I got home from work today. Barely enough light to take a decent photo, but using ISO 1600 and a colour tweak in PSE helped. Georgia has been painting up a storm lately, but I believe all of these are the work of Madeline (concentric circles) and Sophia (all others, I think).
P.S. I have since learned that these paintings were created by Sophia, Madeline, and Georgia (left to right), and the little boy who spends a few days a month at our house (the one with the paintbrush on it).
All three girls enjoyed going to K4J Vacation Bible School last week. Surprisingly (as it's unusual for her), Georgia was upset after Neil left the first morning. Sophia immediately stepped in and stayed with Georgia the entire morning, rather than going with her own age group. What a good big sister! Georgia was just fine for the next four days of VBS.
Quick recap of the girls' summer activities: swimming lessons for the first two weeks (mornings), Summer Sports School for the next two weeks (afternoons), three weeks off, VBS for one week (mornings), and then a week and a half off. Plus, Sophia had bagpipe lessons for one week in July. This seemed like a nice, not-too- full summer schedule, and the girls were happy.
The girls and I enjoyed our scrapbooking class, Kidding Around, at BPS. We did many of the activities -- going for ice cream, blowing bubbles, drawing with sidewalk chalk, making a pillow fort, making lemonade from scratch -- but didn't have much time for scrapbooking. I didn't make any pages, but the girls made four or five each (which was pretty labour-intensive for me as I was busy spelling out words, cutting papers, printing things out, cleaning stamps, and so on). After posting her bubble layout in the online gallery, Madeline won a prize draw! In the mail, all the way from California, she received a package containing some bubble liquid, bubble stickers, a package of Kool-Aid, and a BPS button. Madeline was very excited about her prize and she happily shared it with her sisters.
I have signed up for a couple more BPS classes beginning in early September: Use Your Stash with May Flaum and Book of Stories with Karen Grunberg. Both of these teachers get rave reviews from past students and I'm really looking forward to learning from them! I try not to take more than one class at a time, but these are very different classes and both are in line with current goals -- to use my stash (i.e., not buy new supplies except staples I run out of) and to have a ready supply of stories and journaling ideas. Both should serve me well into the future.
We purchased all of the girls' school supplies a couple weeks ago. They also got new backpacks (Sophia & Madeline), lunch kits, and shoes. Sophia and Madeline were so obsessed with their supplies the first couple days, they were driving me nuts! They had them in and out of their backpacks several times, and they bugged me to label their supplies until I couldn't stand it anymore. I wasn't planning to do it until the following weekend (alone!), but I gave up and labeled everything under their watchful eyes.
We are now putting Dash into his crate before we set the table for supper and we don't let him out until the table is completely cleared and wiped. He is a pretty good dog -- except when it comes to the dining room table! If there was even a speck of food on the table, someone would have to be guarding it diligently every second, and that proved to be a challenge we weren't up to. Plus, he was just too annoying during a meal, always trying to get to the food. It's so much better now that he's in the crate. He barks for the first few minutes and then stops. I'm sure that eventually he won't bark at all (it's only been a week or so).
Starting in September, Neil is going to provide child care a few days each month for one of Georgia's preschool classmates. This little boy and Georgia were the closest of pals at preschool last year, and I'm sure they'll have fun together when he comes to our house this fall. I think it'll be great. He is a sweet boy and his parents are very nice, too.
I just started reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I've enjoyed reading her blog for about a year and a half now, and I'm certain I'll enjoy the book, too. Perhaps I'll begin my own Happiness Project! I'm not unhappy, but I'm sure I could be happier. If I do make any resolutions, I'll share my progress here.
Last Saturday, we went to the Mercury Cafe and Grill on 13th Avenue for supper. We had received gift certificates as a thank you for dog-sitting in July. It was a fun outing. We all enjoyed this little 50s-diner-style restaurant, and the burgers were great! The girls were completely delighted with their cream soda floats which were served in those big metal cups used for making milk shakes. I took pictures. :)
I've been wrestling with what extra-curricular activities the girls will take this year. Sophia and Madeline are interested in many things and I think if it were up to them, they'd be in far more activities than any of us could handle. I have made the decision that they cannot do more than three each, not counting K4J which is only once a month, and not counting free school-based sports such as Cross Country (Sophia is now old enough and wants to do this). This is the same number of activities as last year, but some will be more time consuming. And Georgia still won't be in any evening or weekend activities except K4J -- thank goodness! Last year, we had nothing on weekends and I LOVED it. I was really hoping to continue having free weekends, but I think I'm going to have to give up on that. I will update on the specific activities once we decide.
(1-5) The girls' game/temporary art form, Giraffakiki. In the first photo, Madeline's feet (ready to go), then Georgia's (loading up the wet chalk which has been applied to a patio block), and then Sophia's (in the air). Fourth, the art itself, and lastly, some residual art. That's how it works. :)
I'm now on summer vacation until August 10! Hooray!
Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart - Unknown
Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice. - Anton Chekhov
You miss 100% of the shots you don't take. - Wayne Gretzky
You are getting your wants confused with your needs. - Stacy Julian's dad
We are weaving character every day, and the way to weave the best character is to be kind and to be useful. Think right, act right; it is what we think and do that makes us who we are. - Elbert Hubbard
I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter. - Blaise Pascal
Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.
- Cyril Connolly
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
to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
to leave the world a little better;
whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is the meaning of success.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson