Monday, December 29, 2008

A belated Merry Christmas

The day came and went at a frighteningly fast pace. As usual. On the 23rd we visited with neighbours. It was a good excuse to stop doing stuff around the house for a few hours.

Christmas eve morning was the kids holiday party at Rob's office. It was our first chance to see where daddy actually works. His job requires a lot of security so unless you have one of those chipped ID cards, you can't get past the lobby, which we are quite familiar with. So we saw his cube. Not surprising to us at all, there was nothing hung up in the way of photos or drawings from the kids. We will be fixing that for him shortly. One of these days he'll notice an extra heavy backpack. We took the train in that morning, at Izzy's request, which was nice. No fighting major traffic. Santa dropped by the party with toys for the kids. Alex got a Bionicle and Izzy received a Mermaid barbie. There were lots of games and sugary treats. It was quite a lot of fun.

After the party we went out for an early lunch at East Side Marios. We took our time getting home.

Christmas Day was spent at home.

The kids were thrilled with their presents.

I managed a turkey dinner and since it was my turn to host Christmas on Boxing Day for the in-laws we moved the dinner to Grandpa's house while I provided the lasagnas.

Sadly, it was rushed business. We took down the tree as soon as we got back from Grandpa's. The renovation couldn't wait any longer. Cabinets and appliances were on their way and we had a deadline to meet. Next Christmas will be much more relaxing. I hope.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Three More Sleeps, right Mommy?

That was the first thing out of Alex's mouth this morning. Izzy is beyond excited, and this isn't exactly a somber child to begin with. Her enthusiasm these days borders on insanity. At least we really hope it is Christmas making her this nuts.

All the shopping is nearly done. Not just the presents (that was done a while back) but the kitchen too. It is all coming together so quickly that yesterday I wondered aloud how soon we could tear down the Christmas tree to make room for cabinet building. Ikea will be delivering sometime before the new year and the appliances come on the 9th. We brought the flooring home yesterday and half of the stick tiles in the kitchen are up.

I'm a little overwhelmed at the thought of this process but we are doing our research and will take our time to do it the right way. Now that all the money is gone, I am ready to see something to show for it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"I'm soooo lucky, Mommy!"

That was Alex in the back of the car today on our way home from gymnastics. He is feeling pretty good these days. We have had the kids in a lot of activities but lately we've been able to arrange some of these activities with other home school children we know. There are four families, with nine children between us, that have gotten pretty close. The kids get along fabulously. They range from ages 6 to 2 and there is someone for everyone. An ideal mix, actually.

So Alex is thrilled that he gets to do the activities he enjoys with the friends he loves most. As a bonus, he mentioned that he has even more friends, here in our neighbourhood, and at Beavers and swimming.

It is so nice to see the kids happy and developing great friendships. They are pretty social kids and need this outlet. The bonus is that I actually get to know the parents of the kids my children hang out with - and I really like them too.

Christmas next weeK? How did that happen?

I blinked and December is half over. Luckily my obsession with early Christmas shopping paid off very well this year. I am still shopping like crazy, only this is for the kitchen and not old St. Nick.

Still, it feels odd. Like this will be the Christmas that wasn't. The kids will get their gifts and I managed to squeeze the tree into a very packed living room but the things that usually make me feel festive aren't going to happen. I have done no baking at all. Nada. Zippo. Everyone who knows me knows all about the dozens of treats I bake every year. I might try to whip off a few butter tarts or shortbread cookies but that seems less likely with each passing day. There have been no evenings cuddled on the couch watching Christmas movies. No time for that. Not even a walk around the neighbourhood to look at all the lights.

The kids have been slightly more neglected these days. It doesn't help that all of their activities go on hold for a few weeks. It helps when we have to be somewhere, at some specific time. Things will be a little off kilter these next few months so outside sources, like gym classes, are a good way to refocus our attention elsewhere and let the kids blow off steam.

I cannot wait until I get my kitchen back.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Creative Planning

As if I didn't anything to keep me busy, what with Christmas, a complete kitchen renovation and now a foundation leak, I need to get the kids organized for January. Everyone is signing up for their programs and lessons. This month the kids started gymnastics and art resumes in January. They will still have Beavers, Dance and Swim lessons. I found a piano teacher for Alex, so we'll give that a shot in the new year, as well. There are other activities in between, like gym or soccer at the Y. Free range play-dates with other hs kids. So much for life settling down after the holidays.

At least they'll still have some structure but in all likelihood formal lessons will be at the bottom of our list in the months to come. Alright, formal lessons have never been overly important to us, not in the traditional sense anyway. At least not yet. Still, every few days we'd crack open the math books or do something science or geography related. I am trying to get my guilt out of the way now for all the neglect they will be suffering soon...if not already.

The upside has been that Alex has become quite proficient with reading on his own. The kids mostly play well together and are quite imaginative. They are getting better at finding things to do that don't require my help or constant supervision. I'll think of it as more of a lesson on independence. See, you can find a silver lining in every cloud!

Alex's first comic...

Can you tell this kid loves comic books? This is his first unprompted attempt at story writing and its a comic. I love it. The only thing he usually draws are pictures of Izzy in a circle with a big line crossed through it. I find them everywhere, taped to his bedroom door or on the baby gate at the top of the stairs. Lots of fun! He is a big fan of shortcuts and using symbols or signs to get his point across. Right now he prefers drawing a heart next to his name, rather than writing Love Alex. I showed him how to do a sideways heart with the keyboard <3 and it was the highlight of his day.

It was just refreshing to see him doing something creative (that wasn't Lego) today although Rob is pretty convinced the circular machine shooting at him is one of those robots from Star Wars that rolls and has a force field. He told Rob it was called a Death Ball. We joked at dinner that Alex was turning into a well-rounded geek. Loves Lego, Star Wars, video games and now writes comic books. Too bad there isn't a Lego, Star Wars math program out there. We'd really be set then!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I'm a slow learner

You know, every year I seem to have some sort of epiphany about the kids and how I am raising them. One year it was about all the stuff they were getting and not using. Another year it was about pushing them into peer activities that they were clearly not ready for. This year it is about doing all the stuff that school kids do - and not doing it anymore.

We have been to several over-hyped and over-rated Christmas functions already. Yes, the kids had fun. None of the activities broke the bank. Sure, it is interesting to see the kids in a setting where all the other kids are schooled and the parents have made themselves scarce. In the end though, it hasn't been worth it. Not the running around from place to place. Not the sugar highs that come with too many candy canes and sweet treats. Not the constraints it makes on our time.

Last week we saw Santa at the zoo and attended a community centre event with games and treats. Both were busy and crowded. Both were full of kids we didn't know. Both were not really worth repeating.

I wasn't thinking this year. Instead of stuff, I wanted the kids to have experiences. In the past, when Izzy was younger and we hadn't really sought out many other home schoolers, I wound up going to all sorts of crazy things. Events that usually cost a few bucks and where you would meet kids you were sure never to see. It made me feel like my kids were getting some *mainstream* experience that was otherwise lacking in their lives. Other kids get play-days at school or Christmas concerts. So we go to fun events filled with strangers to experience standing in line to wait for your turn to throw the bean bag or get a face painted.

Once again, I've learned a valuable lesson. It really is about quality time together - with family and with friends. It doesn't matter what everyone else is doing. It is not necessary to fill up every square on the calendar with experiences. Less truly is more.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

People Plan, the Universe Laughs!

I had it all under control. Kids Christmas gifts were purchased before November even hit. (I have predictable, easy-going kids where gift giving is concerned.) Lists were made for errands, meal planning, etc. The goal was to not be running around like a chicken without its head through the month of December. To avoid malls at all costs! This time I was going to enjoy it and stress less. Ha. Ha. Ha. The tree is not up. Rob's not complaining but it now puts more stress on my 'relaxed' schedule. The kids will be out of town this weekend and the next few days are overflowing with things to do (last minute details not originally in the plan like doctor appointment and the whole shopping for everything one would need to outfit a new kitchen from scratch). I am starting to wonder how to fit in Rob's work, home schooling, renovation and Christmas in one month.

On a brighter note this advent thing is working out wonderfully. It actually forces me to do what is written on those little notes. Like today it said make ornaments out of clay. Not a big deal, right? Well, we had a busy morning where the kids had their first gymnastics class. We then went on to check out some prices on plumbing fixtures at Home Depot. Got home, Izzy needed a nap and I wound up having to track down four neighbours and tell them about a canceled board meeting. Finally got dinner on the table, Rob's home and slightly grumpy, the living room is still a disaster and the advent calendar promised fun with clay. Any other time I would have said kids, its late, we're tired...another day. I couldn't do it though. It would have completely taken away all the substance of my little project. So we did it, kids got to stay up a little late and honestly, we were all in better moods for it. I didn't feel guilty and the kids weren't disappointed.

While washing the dishes I wondered if we needed a monthly advent system. Not just to have something to look forward to but to force ourselves to have fun, even when we feel like putting it off.