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Retreat

19 Jul

My house just keeps getting worse. Summer is so chaotic . We just want to be OUT, but there’s still dishes and laundry piling up and toys always underfoot and half-finished colouring pages and used sleeping bags and half-empty bottles of sunscreen and that dead fly-covered vole Crook somehow caught despite being leashed in the backyard. Plus the actual work work that needs to be done. I’m running from one urgent must-do to another and never catching up.

I don’t mean to complain, but the truth is that the havoc wears on all of our nerves.

Today I have a rare break from the urgency — no gig coming right up that I need to write charts for, no emergency underwear situations, so I will wash a few dishes, haul out a few camping supplies to the shed… and get ready for my 3-day retreat.

I can’t remember if I’ve ever spent more than a few hours completely alone. Sunday, I’m packing up the car with food, some paper and pens, and a good book or two and I’m heading to a friend’s cabin for two nights all to myself. I’m not sure what it will be like. I can’t possibly imagine getting bored, but will I get lonely? I think I’ll be okay.

I envision some time just sitting in the woods (weather permitting) or by the lake, some serious reading time, maybe time to write down some thoughts, or even new song lyrics. I intend to do some meditation. I might even do some work… some enjoyable work that I can complete from start to finish without outside interruption.

Two nights. The possibilities seem limitless, don’t you think?

Autumn leaves

5 Oct

This is the very essence of a perfect autumn day.

En route

7 May

I’m sitting in the International wing of the Vancouver Airport. There’s a little oasis here, with a stream, grasses growing along the edges, a footbridge from which small children can throw coins, a giant salt-water aquarium, and comfy chairs all around.

I have quite a nasty head cold and am grateful for the sinus-clearing drugs that allowed me to stave it off long enough on Saturday that I had a fantastic show, and that allowed me to land in Vancouver this morning with trepidation but no pain.

I am off to meet my parents in Oslo. It will take all day today and a good chunk of tomorrow to get there. I’ll be gone for 10 days. I’m excited, but melancholy all at once. Yesterday as I was packing Jade’s lunch, I was getting teary thinking about leaving my girls for so long. And I very nearly cried when my plane took off this morning. I am a suck.

I know Michael is perfectly capable, and yet I feel bad to leave him to parent both girls and try to get his work done. (Although I do the same thing. But my work doesn’t pay the bills. It just barely pays for itself. Yet.)

I just had a Skype talk with Michael and Halia, so I feel a bit better.

My Oma will be in Oslo, too. I haven’t seen her in a couple of years and I’m really looking forward to giving her a great big hug. I wish I’d thought to ask the girls to make a card for her before I left home.

This is my life today. Chaotic, disorganized, and exciting.

And my kids will be fine.

Your life is easier than my life

12 Apr

This attitude is a pet peeve of mine. It annoys the hell out of me when I hear comments like this, whether it’s directed at me or at someone else. That other guy over there has it better because he’s got more money. She’s got it easier than me because she’s so pretty. He’s got a cushy job. She’s only got one kid.

WHATEVER.

Image from believe-toachieve.tumblr.com

EVERYBODY’s life is hard. We all take on as much as we can, and then we take on a little bit more, don’t ask me why. Even if you live the simple life, there’s not enough time in the day to do everything you want to do, and there are always outside demands. We are all struggling to find balance. We are all battling our own particular demons. We’re all fighting to stay on top of the day-to-day stuff. Even the kids. They are busy learning their own hard lessons.

Occasionally, I’ve encountered the opposite, with someone telling me she feels better about her own life because mine is so hard. Particularly when Jade was suffering countless seizures in a day, it was kind of a silver lining to know that some people might appreciate their own blessings a little more. And there are families I feel the same way about, who make me draw my girls a little closer and send up a little prayer of thanks.

I just recently had an epiphany, though.

Although I was doing a good job of reminding myself not to compare my life to anyone else’s, I was still falling into the trap.

Jade has been on the keto diet for over three years now. It’s done amazing things for her. And I am grateful. So grateful! I remember thinking, when we were in the thick of things, “If only we could make the seizures stop, life would be so much better again. Things would be easier again.”

And it’s true. I am so glad we aren’t holding our breaths all the time, waiting for the next seizure to hit. There is a lot of tension gone.

But guess what? Life isn’t easy right now. I have all sorts of new things to worry about these days. Not complaining: that’s just life.

And until this epiphany hit me, if you could read my thoughts, you’d have heard this one a lot, “Things will be so much easier when we can finally be off the keto diet.” In other words, I was looking at my future self and thinking “Her life is easier than my life.”

It’s true. There are things that the diet is preventing us from doing. Like taking Jade to Germany or to Taiwan to visit my family, for example. Or even going on extended road trips because I can’t bear the thought of all the preparation that has to be done in advance.

When keto becomes history in our daily life, I will not be sad to let it go. And life will be easier. In one sense. But I’ll bet there’ll be new things to balance and new challenges to forge through. Because that’s life.

So maybe I need to stop wishing we could be done with the ketogenic diet and just start appreciating, a little bit more, the blessings I have in my life now.

And thank God I am the capable person that I am.

Waiting for the party

13 Nov

Halia turned three on Friday and we had a lovely day together as a family, with Michael returning home from a week away that afternoon.  She was old enough to ask for a party this year, so we hosted that today.  There was a balloon forest, a clown, chocolate cupcakes with pink frosting (gluten-free and vegan, and absolutely delicious, natch), dancing, giggling, and balloon sword fights.

There are days when the girls are at each others’ throats all day long.  And there are days where they are inseparable best of friends.  Here’s what they were doing today while waiting for the first party guests to arrive.  It might be a bit long for those of us used to 30-second clips, but the whole thing makes me smile.

I didn’t know Michael was filming, or I’d have stopped putting dishes away.  No, I wouldn’t, but I’d have been quieter about it.  Oh, and it was Jade who put The Four Seasons in the CD player, by the way.

Black Donald Lake

9 Jul

We’re spending a week with family at Black Donald Lake, just outside of Calabogie, Ontario.  To get here, one must drive the Calabogie Road, which is ridiculously fun to say.  Try it.  Calabogie Road.  Calabogie Road.  Calabogie (Boogie Woogie) Calabogie Road!

Admit it, you’re smiling now.

We’ve crammed 8 adults and 8 kids into four bedrooms and we’re having a marvelous time.  Our spot on the lake has a great little shallow beach that is truly perfect for the kids, plus a play structure and a slanted “climbing wall” for when they tire of splashing in water and playing in sand.

There’s a long floating dock and a paddleboat and a canoe.  I finally had the opportunity, for just the second time in my life, to try paddling solo.  In our thirteen years together, I’ve done a lot of paddling with Michael, both on rivers and lakes; I long ago learned the J-stroke, the draw, the pry, the scull, the sweep… but never really got to see if I could actually steer a canoe for myself.

With so many other adults around, it was easy to make my escape and paddle to the spit of land a small way down the lake.  Coming back was more challenging, as I once again learned how much wind can affect the direction of a canoe, especially one so wide and so lightly-laden.  But I lived to tell the tale and even had time to think philosophically about my lifelong fear of failure and the damage perfectionism can do.

We’ve eaten like kings, having arrived with enough groceries to pack both the fridges here, plus a couple of coolers, not to mention all the unrefrigerated food overflowing over the laundry room counters.

It’s the first time, since our families have gelled into their current configurations, that we’ve had the chance to really spend time together, to really get to know each other.  And for the cousins to get to know each other, too.

In short, this truly feels like a vacation, and I can’t quite remember the last time I felt that.

Ninja cats!

31 Oct

It all started with some cat masks we bought at an early Christmas craft sale last weekend.  Yesterday, I used some fuzzy material (left over from a raven mascot costume Michael once made) to make tails.  Today I made paws.  Then, obssessed with having the full costumes, I used some ghost/witch robes a work friend gave me to make bodies for our cats.

Next year, I refuse to be sewing costumes on Halloween day.  (Or so I say now.)  On the bright side, our evening really was fun.

Jade and Halia got their own pumpkin to carve, with a little assistance from Papa. Why yes, that IS a sharp knife sitting next to our almost-two-year-old.

 

Kitty jazz hands! to celebrate the completion of four kitty paws. Why yes, that IS a Hello Kitty bandaid on Halia's shirt.

 

Someone has to keep the kids busy while Mama madly sews. (Photo credit: Norris Cheung)

 

We were surprised to learn that Paddy's Pond is already frozen. And with no snow, it's perfect for ice skating! (Photo credit: Norris Cheung)

 

Face, whiskers (Jade insisted!), tail, paws, and -- finally -- body, too.

 

Next up, a party at our friends' house down the street. Complete with bonfire. And very serious-looking ninja cats. Beware, they are stealthy! Even with their secret snow suits on underneath. (Photo credit: Norris Cheung)

 

I think this is the first time Jade really understood that Halloween was coming and was excited to go trick-or-treating. (Photo credit: Norris Cheung)

 

Look out, it's a fierce tiger! And while you're at it, just look at those rosy cheeks! It's the first Halloween in years with no snow, but it was still really cold. (Also: chili stains around the mouth.)

 

We bring the Halloween loot to our neighbours ahead of time. They're all really good about remembering that our girls don't get candy. One neighbour even phoned a week before and told us we didn't have to bring anything, because she'd already got non-candy treats for the girls.

 

Some Halloween loot! A crazy hat for the dress-up bin and some bath time body paint from a thoughtful neighbour.

 

Another hat for the dress-up bin. Michael did the shopping this year while I was in Vancouver with the girls. There was a dressing-up theme (appropriate for Halloween, don't you think?) which is a great alternative to junky trinkets that will end up in the garbage. Why yes, that IS a bare foot you see. I don't understand why she actually left a sock on her foot for once.

The house is in chaos with costume bits and Halloween loot everywhere.  Michael (and Norris) are heading out of town for 10 days and will be home just in time for Halia’s birthday, before taking off again for the rest of November.  Our poor nanny broke her wrist, so I’m not sure how the heck I’m going to make it to work in the next two months. 

But, boy, it really was a fun Halloween!

Easter with a side of keto

5 Apr

Holidays can be challenging when someone in the family has food restrictions, but this Easter Sunday was one of the loveliest family days we’ve had in a long time.  Jade was quite excited in the lead-up to Easter.  Every day she wanted to make more decorations.

We started out with classic Easter egg dyeing; my mom had sent us some neat stickers and special transfers that made some of our finished eggs quite spectacular.  Jade loved directing me to pour the hot water and vinegar into containers and then proudly put the food colouring in herself, dunking the eggs, and fishing them out again all on her own.

Another morning we made an Easter tree.  Small trees decorated with Easter eggs are a tradition in Germany, but I’ve never had one before.  I’m quite proud of myself because the project only cost about $2.50, but was easy and fun to do with Jade, since there was table time and outdoor adventure time.  We were able to stretch the activity for several days by making new decorations for it.  Plus I think it turned out really cute.  As you can see, Halia was delighted with it; she loved batting the little bunny ornaments (also sent from my mom!) and would squeal with delight in watching them swing madly to and fro.

Saturday night Michael and I cleaned like mad (the house is in chaos because we are in the middle of replacing our furnace, which meant cutting new holes in floors and walls for cold-air returns, plus emptying out the front-hall closet to make way for the new chimney) and decided Monday would do for an egg hunt.  But Sunday morning I couldn’t bear it and “hid” the eggs (I use the term loosely, as you can see…) all over the living room while Michael kept the girls distracted.  Since Jade can’t have chocolate, we did plastic eggs.  Which are way more fun, if you ask me.

Jade got to crack open her eggs as she ate her breakfast.  (Here you can see she’s having chicken thigh, banana, and a vanilla coconut smoothie; this is her most-requested meal these days.)

We actually got all this activity done early enough that I could wash my hair and get out of pajamas so we could all go to church together.  I haven’t been to church at all lately because of Michael’s constant travelling, and was happy to see a lot of friends I hadn’t seen since Christmas. We tried to go to the after-church coffee get-together, but Jade got upset about not being allowed to have any of the Easter treats out on the table, so we made a quick exit and headed for home.  Happily, the forbidden treats were quickly forgotten in light of more Easter surprises.

Gran’s Easter surprise for the girls was a bag full of craft supplies and some very cool 3D alphabet flashcards, which was a huge hit.  (Check out Halia taking off with Michael’s car keys AND the glitter glue.  We should have named her Trouble.)

The girls also got some homemade gifts from our friend Linda.

After lunch and nap/quiet time, the sunshine beckoned, and Halia made it known that she wanted to get out into it.  Michael obliged the girls (after I made them change into play clothes, of course).  I stayed in and roasted ducks and chopped vegetables and read some blog posts in blissful quiet.

And we finished off the day with Easter dinner, complete with lashings of rich gravy and a Skype chat with Michael’s family.  Jade insisted on getting back into her “fancy clothes” for supper.  She got to have duck like the rest of us, and she chose a side of tangerine.  Duck a l’orange: the girl has taste.

Just a simple day with family, but the togetherness and good humour (almost no whining all day!) and break from computer work and yummy food and sunshine… yes, it was simple, but perfect.

Hypoallergenic Christmas

29 Dec

So, how was your Christmas?  Did Santa bring you everything you wished for?  Did you get to stuff yourself with turkey, gravy, potatoes, and your favourite veggies?

(We had a great day, overall, thanks for asking.  My dad joined us for Christmas this year — while my mom is now off visiting her family in Taiwan — and he even put in an appearance as Santa Claus first thing Christmas morning.  You should see the bruise where my jaw hit the floor when I heard he had brought a Santa suit.   Seriously, grandparenthood changes everything.)

But speaking of Christmas dinner, we had a delicious meal, if I do say so myself.  I was frequently stressed during the cooking, sometimes because of howling children who absolutely-needed-mama-rightthisverysecond.  But mostly because I wasn’t sure how long some of my dishes were going to take and there hadn’t been time to do advance prep.  I ventured into new territory this year, mostly to make the meal Michael-friendly.

Y’see it turns out Michael has a whole schwack of food allergies/sensitivities (most likely a result of a chronic yeast imbalance that we discovered just a few months ago).  So suddenly we are cooking gluten-, dairy-, egg-, {and a whole lotta other stuff}- free.  (I won’t give any more away, or you’ll have an unfair advantage on his Villainous Vittles contest.)

Yeah it sucks.  But it’s also good.

It sucks for the obvious reasons: the foods we have to cut out, more time and trouble preparing meals, not being able to eat out.  But there have been some happy side effects.

For one, we’ve both become a lot more creative about coming up with our meals.  We’re trying new foods and ingredients cooking methods and liking it.  For another, having to cook everything from scratch using fresh ingredients and emphasizing lean meat and veggies means we’ve been eating a much healthier menu. 

And the extra bonus on top of that?  I’ve lost weight without even trying.

Actually, it’s a wee bit problematic, as my clothes aren’t fitting so well these days.  I gave away my smaller clothes long ago, thinking I’d never see 135 again.  But, oh well, I guess that’s a problem I can live with. 

And anyway, it makes me feel a little better about scarfing, um, (Michael don’t read this) 20 Toffiffee candies in one sitting on Christmas night.  (Did you know those buggers are 45 calories each???!  Please don’t do the math on that one…)

A family sailing day

5 Sep

Sailing Collage

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