Thursday, June 30, 2011

Achievement

 The last week of the school year is often focused on THE REPORT CARD....... it is often anticipated with a mixture of anxiety and trepidation.   I am always very curious to read the comments as I am usually on top of how my kids are doing in school as the year progresses.

Both my kids came home with a handful of A's and B's......We are so proud of the way Lindsay made the transition to high school and all that that brings.  She went to McMath with only 1 classmate and has made SO many friends so quickly.  She wisely joined a team and got to know a whole lot of new girls.... and a whole lot about rugby!  And she also managed to make Honour Roll all 3 terms of Grade 8!  Wow - what a year and what a start to high school.

David had such a hard year at school and had to deal with so much and yet, in spite of all that "stuff", his smart and curious brain shone through.  I think he got 100% on every math test this year and I swear I have no idea where those genes come from!  Not me! The comments on his report card indicated that he showed integrity and dignity in a classroom that showed him neither which is such
a testament to who he is, not what work he does (or doesn't) produce.

And then there is Allan..... rocking the whole Adult Degree Completion Program.  Man, for a guy who endlessely complains about students hunting for marks he is sure on the hunt now....he is  so competitive....against himself....constantly trying to best his last mark.  I don't think he has had any less than 90% on anything yet.   And, as I predicted, the studying bug is biting and he is already talking about a Masters.  I always knew he was brilliant and now he has proved it to himself.


And speaking of achievement and brilliance...... I would like to introduce my little sister Dr. Jillian Gates PhD..... she successfully defended her PhD thesis today and completed a loooong journey to Drhood.  She did this while having babies 5 and 6 and is currently pregnant with baby 7, she moved from Alaska to Indiana and then back to Alaska, taught full-time in a special ed classroom......etc etc all with the help of her husband Russell (who also completed his degree this past year in the midst of all those things too - hats off to him) and her amazing children.  The last year has been a tough slog but she did it and I could not be prouder of her tenacity and determination and sheer work to make it this amazing milestone.  David was instructed to whoop and holler and hug her for me!!  There are so many PhD jokes Jill but I restrained myself to these......

 

The grades and letters and perfect assignments are all great but they tell just part of the story of who these amazing people are!

I am so proud of them all......

"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 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

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

No Quack

My family Dr. sent me to see a pain management specialist because my arm (that I broke in 5 place 6 years ago) still gives me lots of pain and is not as mobile or flexible as I think it could/should be.

I am pretty tired of dealing with this arm....who knew a simple stumble on the stairs could be this life altering..... seriously.......3 surgeries later and months and months of hand physio.....ENOUGH ALREADY.

Anyway Dr. Joy was pretty insistent I go to this specialist Dr. King.  She made a throw away comment about him being semi-retied and a bit unorthodox.  I got the distinct impression she was downplaying her description.

So of course when I got home I googled the Dr. King and was mildly alarmed by the comments on "Rate your MD"....... two fair but two pretty negative if not scary.  His "office" is in garage off a laneway in Vancouver and his wife is the office person and apparently a bit of a battle axe.

So I was only half joking when I left the address and name of the Dr. with my colleague Linda and told her if I wasn't back by 1pm to send the cops. 

Well.....the battleaxe wasn't too crotchety although I do see that if provoked she could be...... a bit bossy and brusque.  The office is a lovely renovation of a garage and very well done so I was feeling much better.

Dr. King is a lovely man in his 70's I would guess.  He asked alot of questions.  Took alot of notes and then looked at my arm.  And then in 20 minutes, with a couple of manipulations (which he has taught me to do myself) he released the muscles in my arm that have been in spasm for over 5 years. 

I could not believe it.  My arm feels totally different (and totally exhausted). And of course the spasm returned but I now know how to make it go away.

He calls what he does "Active release" and he basically retrains the muscle to contract and release to do its work.  But seeing as the muscles have been contracted for so many years they have lost their memory and strength so it will be a slow process but it can be done. He showed me a text book and explained the anatomy of my forearm and how every muscle group attaches and then how to do the exercises to retrain the muscle and rebuild the strength.

How refreshing to see a Dr. who clearly deeply understands this "thing" and empowers his patient to do the therapy herself and has no need for dozens of follow-up appointments.  He did say I shouldn't use it to much until it strengthens but he and I both knew I was going to have to use it a bit but no weights in Jazzercise for  a couple months and no yoga planks (oh how I will miss those.....NOT).

Anyway.... my arm feels light and flexible and I feel optimistic this will work......and I am grateful for my medical care!   Thank you Dr. Henry King!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Crafty??

The story I tell myself is.......... that I am not crafty...........as in I don't sew, ice cakes, quilt, arrange flowers etc... I was at the back of the line when the crafty gene was being assigned and I got quarter rations (or maybe less!).

I have always been around crafty people.  My Mom can quilt and sew.  Allan's Mom can sew and knit and ice cakes.  Heck even Allan can ice cakes.....like with fondant and pretty pictures on them.......he can also do macrame but I am pretty sure that is a skill he'd rather I didn't blog about.

So moving right along..... I have learned a couple of things about being crafty.

1. Being crafty can be learned.  For instance scrap booking is like a math formula - pretty paper + photo's + cool stickers = memories recorded forever.  OK , ok.... I know that when some people do this equation it looks magnificent, like a work of art and mostly when I do it it looks like a weird mashup......but just like math (Lindsay are you listening?) one can keep practicing and keep getting better (especially if you learn your times tables....Lindsay...).

2.  Just Do It.  If you wait to be good at every crafty skill you will be 90 and have no crafty things to show for it.  Even if your early works are of dubious distinction, at least you will have them and when you pass them on to your children they will be able to joke about your early works.  Which is fine because you have all their early Mothers Day and Fathers Day projects to taunt them back with!

3. Steal other peoples good ideas.  Spend time around crafty people and learn from their brilliance.  Lurk on their blogs, read their books, go to a class.   Admit others are better at some stuff than you are and go find out what they know.

In the spirit of this I was once again inspired by the ever crafty Janice who knows I read her blog and who inspired me, a total non-baker, to make cake pops for Valentines this year.  They were a great success but I am not going to lie.....too much work for me.  Being crafty sometimes takes more time and committment than I have.

This weekend I stole was inspired to make the marshmallow pops Janice posted here......In my mind these are a genius treat - quick, easy, so lovely to look at, and virtually calorie free (ok not free exactly but not bad!).  Lindsay and I decided to make them for our sweet Sola's first birthday party and they were a hit....and we had fun being crafty....... and this little project will be repeated....I have some planned for a baby shower coming up....See, I am just a little bit crafty after all.  And here is the proof.

Fat Free Jumbo Marshmallows (try and use one that stand straight)

Multicoloured chocolate chips - genius!

Dip in candy melt of your choice and sprinkle topping on

We did pink and yellow.  Stick marshmallows on sticks
I use a styrofoam base - I wanted it to look like a garden

I added a few flowers and ladybugs and the marshmallow pops and VOILA!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A full nest

I have had a very relaxing weekend.......just what I needed.

On Friday night Allan and I went out for a bite of dinner and then to a movie.  I honestly cannot remember when we last went to a movie together and today we decided we want to do that more often.  We saw "Bridesmaids" which was very irreverent but very funny - I laughed until I cried.....again....just what I needed.

On Saturday Lindsay made us breakfast and then she and I ran some errands and came home and did some creative projects (more about those tomorrow) and then I made us all a nice dinner.

This morning Allan and I were on Nursery duty together and then we came home while Lindsay stayed for a BBQ at church.  We did some stuff around the garden and David "facetimed" us and we had a great chat with him.  He is having a ball in Anchorage and is seemingly just fine without me. 

Al and I sat down in the glorious sunshine to have some brunch and I remarked that while it was nice to have all this freedom from parenting and all this time together I was really not ready for it. I completely surprised myself by getting totally choked up realizing that I am in no hurry to grow my kids up and out of the house.  I had this overwhelming feeling of needing to hang on to all the precious moments we have with them. 

We had our kids relatively young and I am not going to lie and say we don't think about things we want to do when they are grown-up.  And I won't lie that there weren't times I would have killed for even a few hours of freedom or a vacation from parenting.  I don't miss the baby stage - it was not my strength (thankfully Allan rocked it - literally) and I am SO enjoying my kids now.  I don't want it to stay like this forever but I guess I am missing my boy and reveling in having my girl to myself and I feel so grateful to not only love my kids to bits but to really like being with them.

I am already looking forward to throwing my arms around David in a just a bit under two weeks and I know he won't mind a bit........and the next day Lindsay will go off to Camp for a week without a backwards glance but I have several text messages from her that say "I love you Mama" and I will never delete those from my phone or from my heart.

To two of the best kids in the world - I love you to the moon and back 50 bazillion times.





Saturday, June 25, 2011

The cost of local

I needed some fruit and vegetables today and since I had several other things on my shopping list (and seeing as I had no idea it was the NO TAX event at Superstore and therefore packed to the hilt) I headed over to No 3 Rd to Superstore (aka Stupidstore).  I only shop there occasionally and every time I do I remember why I don't do it more often.  It was especially crazy today as people eagerly embraced the No HST marketing ploy.

I got most of the things on my list from baby clothes, to kleenex, to candy, a good deal on steak, some prawns for dinner and a pizza for $5 for dinner in the busy week ahead.  I then headed over to the fruit and veg.  I looked up and down the aisles hoping to find local fruit.... I know....I should have known better than to even try......there was produce from Mexico, Florida, Guatemala, Hawaii, Spain....... and many items whose place of origin was not identified.

I bought two items I knew I could not source locally.......and then we headed out to the farm stalls off Steveston Hwy which this week showed signs the strawberries were in season - YAY!  We are BIG consumers of strawberries as we eat about one and half to two cups in our smoothies every morning for breakfast.  We wanted to scoop up as many local berries as we could and freeze them. 

I headed down McKenzie Rd to JS Nature Farms in the Green Barn at the very end of the road where an older lady Susanne (?) is the principal farmer carrying on after her husband died a few years ago.  Today her son and grandson were helping her out.  ALAS the section of counter where the strawberries should be was bare, already cleaned out by earlier birds than I.  I expressed my dismay and she said not to worry some were just coming in from the fields and her son would weigh them for me if I waited a minute.  I used the time to visit the fridge at the back of the barn for some brown eggs that have the darkest yellow yolks and are SO delicious.

Within a few minutes I had three boxes of strawberries which she quaintly wrapped in newspaper and 1 dozen eggs and I handed over $23 and headed out of the door.



The smell of strawberries fresh from the soil filled the kitchen.  Lindsay and I pinched off the green stalks, washed them, of their dirt and dried them in the sun before packaging them up for the freezer.





It has been a dismal year for local farmers as this article   from last October so clearly articulates.  Further to this we have had the wettest Spring on record so their woes have only worsened.

I was so glad to be able to buy from this local farmer today and now having read this article I am even more determined to support our local farmers.   Richmond is so lucky to have produce grown so close to home and we should embrace that as a gift and appreciate it.

You may pay a buck or two more for a box of local strawberries and they may look a bit funny and be a variety of sizes and shapes but nothing can come close to their sweetness.  I guess that's what happens when the journey from farm to table is 5 minutes rather than 5 weeks and 5000 miles.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Veggie Garden Update

Back in May we were a little despairing that we would ever see the sun and wondering if our veggie garden version 2011 was doomed.  This post with it's genius title told a soggy tale.  Well...... things have improved somewhat and it is amazing what a little sun and few degrees warmer soil can produce!!

The tomato plants are growing like weeds as are the potatoes and the romaine lettuce, peas, peppers and squash are looking good.....

Potatoes in tire tubes - Tire #3 will go this weekend
 We also had our first sweet strawberries from our hanging strawberry plant!  David will be sorry to have missed it!


So while it feels like Summer is coming and going in little spurts the veggies seems to be in the groove and growing.  We are looking forward to the bounty.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Stressed OUT

I am soooooo tired.  Being tired makes me anxious.  I had chronic fatigue and missed my Grade 11 year so when I get a certain kind of tired it makes me anxious. 

I am almost that tired right now. 

So naturally I went to Jazzercise today and during the never.ending.thigh.routine I was contemplating why I am so tired.  It is better to think of anything other than how bloody long that routine is and how you might die from the burning in your muscles.

The mindblowing conclusion I came to was that I am tired because my routines have been all out of whack for a few weeks and there has been some stress...... mindblowing right?


Ok Ok so if you just shook your head and muttered "Duh" I understand.  But I am interested in how much I love routine and how its absence stresses me out. 


I love routines. I love predictability. I love systems.  I love rituals and traditions.  I like the order these things bring to my life.  It makes me feel safe and in control and I function best like that.  I have really worked on this over the last few years and am much more comfortable with a certain level of spontaneity and spur.of.the.moment-ness. 

I actually think if you have a good foundation of routine it can facilitate more flexibility.  I found that with my kids too..... we had a pretty solid routine but when there was a special occasion or a day when things were different they always rose to the occasion.

So as things settle down this week I am allowing the stress to rise and my body to react with fatigue, because now I can go to bed early and sleep later on the weekend, have some downtime........

So this scary tired will be gone.....very soon........and then what will I think about during the thigh routine???

Good night blog world.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Dads, Daughters, Granddaughters......

My Dad and I....can you tell we're related?

Papa and his girls

Allan and Lindsay

Allan advising Lindsay to cover her cleavage

Lindsay is not taking the advice.....

But they love each other anyway!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The longest day of the year... for some

Today is the longest day of the year....and it sure feels like it...... just kidding!!  But the sun is out today which is lovely so we might have that long evening we so love in the summer. But it is slightly depressing that on what feels like Day 1 of summer in these parts is also the start of shortening days....... what!!!  I hear the lilting tune of "We've only just begun...." in my head...... I want so many more days like today!!

I know not eveyone pays attention to the science of the solstice but being a Geography major at university and a certified geography geek I actually know the science and even remember the degrees the earths's axis is tilted at relative to the sun!!! Thank you Miss Metcalfe - geography teacher extrodinaire (even if she made latecomers to class stand in the garbage can.....ha ha).

Here is a National Geographic concise explanation:

The summer solstice is a result of the Earth's north-south axis being tilted 23.4 degrees relative to the sun. The tilt causes different amounts of sunlight to reach different regions of the planet.  Today the North Pole is tipped more toward the sun than on any other day of 2011. The opposite holds true for the Southern Hemisphere, where today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year.  As a result, at high noon on the first day of summer, the sun appears at its highest point in the sky—its most directly overhead position—in the Northern Hemisphere.



Here in the wacky Northwest (and famously at Stonehenge in the UK) many celebrate this day with parties and dancing under the skies late into the night.  I don't really "get" what exactly the celebration is about but it seems ancient and mystical (and a teensy bit weird.......to me..... the geography geek.......I realise this is a pot/kettle situation).  I liked this excerpt, again from National Geographic that has various points of view.

Summer Solstice Not What It Used to Be
For many of the ancients, the summer solstice wasn't just an excuse to party or pray—it was essential to their well-being. Associated with agriculture, the summer solstice was a reminder that a turning point in the growing season had been reached. "The calendar was very important—much more important than it is now," said Ricky Patterson, an astronomer at the University of Virginia. "People wanted to know what was going to happen, so that they could be ready."
But for many modern cultures the solstices and equinoxes no longer attract the same kind of attention that they once did.  "The only people who really pay attention to what's going on outside on a regular basis still are like the neo-pagans in America and farmers, because it's important for their growing and harvest seasons," said Jarita Holbrook, a cultural astronomer at the University of Arizona in Tucson.  "But we're pretty much an indoor culture at this point … so we have less of a connection to the sky."
Mark Hammergren, an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, said he doesn't feel too bad about the declining significance of the solstices in modern society.   "Ancient cultures and some modern religions pay very, very close attention to certain natural alignments … and there's a lot of mysticism and special supernatural significance attached to them," he said. "The fact that we don't pay attention to that stuff as much anymore, I think, is a rational thing."
The University of Arizona's Holbrook, however, thinks there are certain benefits in keeping the tradition alive.  "Paying attention to the solstices is a way of teaching mathematics, celestial mechanics and astronomy and culture and history," she said. "It is also a pretty good party."

So whatever you are doing tonight (if you are in the northern hemisphere) let's hope this long sunny evening is only the start of a long awaited warm and sunny summer of 2011!   And why oh why am I in a Board meeting?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Angst

I woke up feeling crappy this morning after coughing all night so I decided to stay home and work from here and not spread the germs.  While I was drinking my tea I was listening to CBC radio as I always do in the morning.  I was getting more and more frustrated with the never-ending pieces on the now infamous Vancouver Riot of 2011.  What was frustrating me was that what I had, at first, perceived to be a positive use of social media to identify criminal behaviour had itself turned into a mob.  I was also wondering just how long this navel-gazing, introspective angst was going to go on.  And I was thoroughly disquietened by the desperate clamour to insist this is not who "we" are, this was the work of a few anarchists, it was the mob who made decent people violent and turned them into thieves and looters.  I think I even wrote that on my post about the riots but by this morning I was not so sure.

Whenever Allan or I leave on a trip (or David leaves on one) David writes these delightful notes for us to open "only when you are really missing me" or "Open when I have been away 1.5 weeks ".  These notes always start by reassuring us that he is OK and that we are OK and that everything will be fine and that he loves us 9999999999999x99999999999x9999999999xinfinity.  I adore these notes and treasure them.  I also know that in writing them David is not only expressing his love but also reassuring himself that everything will be ok.

In much of the commentary and now ubiquitous online apologies from outed rioters as well as other blog posts, there is a desperate attempt to reassure ourselves, as Canuck fans, as Vancouverites, as Canadians that everything is OK........ that we still love each other and respect our City and our team, indeed ourselves, because more of us are good people who write messages on plywood boarded windows and paste police cars with post-it notes of thanks. Good.For.Us......... is the message....... not to worry about the bad guys, not only are they not "us", we will track them down and shame them publicly and pray the justice system gives them more than a slap on the wrist.

Well... I am not so sure....that we are ok or that we are as nice/good as we think we are.  In response to my friend Jeff Golby's post on FB today I answered with this:

I was lying in bed this morning listening to piece after piece on the riots and the aftermath and seeing that what started out as a positive use of social media has become the virtual mob.....not only am I saddened by the latent anger that has now been given full vent either in person downtown or through FB/Twitter/email etc. but I wonder how long we are going to dwell here in the anger and the desperation to claim this is not who we are...... when clearly that is not entirely the case. I think this whole debacle scares Canadians because it does actually say something about who we are. Is this a wake-up call?

This whole debate has been going around in head all morning as I try to make sense of it.  I absolutely do not have the answers but I do have questions and concerns about what this means for "us " collectively and what my role was/is/should be.......

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day

Happy Father's day to my Dad David and to my husband Allan - two men who are great Fathers!  And to my Dad for being a wonderful Papa to my kids too.

Our eldest Lindsay is remarkably like her Dad.... and with David away it makes it all the more obvious just how alike they are....Allan has long seen himself in Lindsay and often worried it would be a source of friction between them (the stubborn streak, the quick mouth, the dry wit) but in truth it is bringing them closer.  Lindsay now also experiences high school which is Allan's work world and that is a great common connection. And now they are also both into woodwork and plan to build a kayak for Lindsay together this summer.  And they adore one another and make one another laugh...... it makes my heart really grateful to see two of my favourite people love and enjoy each other so much.  I do believe that this will see them through the inevitable bumping of willls in the future.

And while we totally miss our boy we are enjoying having this time with our girl.

On the spur of the moment we headed to the DTES (Downtown East Side) of Vancouver to a tiny little restaurant I had recently discovered online called  Two Chefs and a Table.  What a charming find, a beautiful room with an open kitchen, old architecture with modern decor and a delicious breakfast.  I bought Allan a Father's Day gift of a cooking class with these chefs and he is excited to be going to "Sausage Making 101" and I am excited about the 8lbs of sausages he gets to bring home!





 














We drove around the area a bit and found Portside Park and Crab Park which would be great spots for a picnic in the sun with an amazing view of the North Shore.  It is always fun to find a new spot in your City!








Not the fanciest but the most "interesting"
Came home via IKEA where we bumped into my parents!!!
And the Steveston Show and Shine Car Show which was a nice wander.












I should be marking but I am still fighting this bug so am off to rest perchance to nap before dinner with the Dad's at Sabatino's in White Rock tonight!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Last 24 or so

It has been a wild ride........

I want to start by thanking all of you who sent message and notes and calls of encouragement and support for David and for us over the past few days.  In a week that seemed so full of loss - last day at a school that failed him, last day at an after school program that loved him - such a stark contrast of how they handled him and the goodbyes - another word of gratitude for South Arm OSC - Thank you.

The stress gave a foothold to a nasty little virus and I was feeling very unwell by Friday morning but I went to work in a brave but ultimately futile attempt to impersonate a well person......by midday I was D.O.N.E.  I don't know if you have ever fallen into bed and can actually feel the virus coursing through your body?  Anyone?  Well I gave it 4 hours to have its way and then I had to get up and be a Junior Youth Leader.

"My" Junior Youth group had our year end celebration at Cliffhangers rock climbing. They had such a great time and I am sure some of them had sore arms today.  Graham, my fearless co-leader, climbed a few walls himself and then injected the always necessary element of betting and chance to the event by betting the kids slurpees they couldn't beat his stopwatch climbing various walls.......... Graham owes alot of kids slurpees.  I am ever grateful for Graham and the role he plays with these kids......



We got home and headed to bed knowing there would be little sleep in our house.  In a week of loss David was offered the chance to go to Alaska for 3 weeks to hang out with his Aunt and Uncle and cousins.  Great redemption!!  He was SO excited, as were we, and grateful to my Sister Jill and BIL Russell who managed to get him on a fight at very short notice.  The downside was that it was a 4:30am check-in at SeaTac (a 2 hour drive south of us in the USA) so we were up at 1:50am and on the road at 2am.  I ended up waking up coughing at midnight so I headed out with 90 minutes of seep and was grateful not to be driving in the rain and the dark.  The border was a dream........ and we made SeaTac on the dot of 4:30am.

I checked my Unaccompanied Minor in and he got his badge and he and I headed through security.  As we were heading to the gate we were caught in some sort of security incident and were stopped between rapidly deployed barriers in the hallway and a sea of security and police personnel.  Fortunately it resolved within 15 mins and we booted it to the gate.  David and I were both a bit teary as he headed down the ramp - first passenger onto the plane... and off on a great adventure which included a 4 hour layover in Juneau Alaska.  He called me when he got into Anchorage and told of his great adventure which included sitting in the tower in Juneau watching the planes land and take off and "Mom they have been stuffing food into me since 5am this morning"...... thank you Alaska Airlines!!!  My sister Jillian "There is no barrier that I cannot overturn" Gates managed to defy all security measures and get her whole clan (6 kids) through to the gate to greet David!!  What a welcome.  She told me a random passenger came off the plane and asked if she was waiting for David.  She told random lady that she was and random lady said "Oh David will be along soon".  Thank you random lady.  I was a bit nervous that this meant David had talked to everyone on the plane but he assures me this was not the case......... Hmmm.   The crew handed him off with lots of nice things said about how well he did!!  YAY....Phew..


 My Mom, Allan, Lindsay and I found a 24 hour diner in Seattle called Beth's which was very ..... different!!  The walls are papered with drawings of customers.... and would be a psychologists dream..... Allan exorcised his Canucks/Vancouver riots angst with a rendering of "the week that was" in Vancouver.  It was funky and perfectly Seattle spot.  And we were done breakfast by 7am and nothing was open.  We drove to the Premium Outlets and Mom and Allan had a nap while Lindsay and I played Angry Birds until we could do a little retail therapy.


As energy was waning we headed to Bellingham and perked ourselves up with 3 big brown paper bags of Trader Joes goodness!!

Made it home and I had a delightful nap...... phew ..... WHAT A WEEK.