Your ticket, please

This fall has been a bit of a wild ride, but it seems to be settling into a routine at last.

A little more than a week after my three oldest boys started school, just when I was beginning to figure out what the new shape of my life might look like, Jason received a job offer with a start-up branch office of an IT Services company. Unfortunately, the job would have required us to move to Fort St. John, B.C., a nearly 3-hour drive west of here.

The job was appealing because it offered Jason a chance to gain shares in the company incrementally over time, which is not the kind of thing that comes along in his industry all that often. However, the initial salary offer was not enough to make us think of the decision as a no-brainer.

So, after much prayer, and research, and two fact-finding missions to Fort St. John, Jason sent them a counter-offer that we could live with. They couldn't, and that was that. The process described in the last three paragraphs was about four weeks of limbo and turmoil in our lives, though, which made for a rather emotional September. But at least, in the state of "are-we-going-to-sell-our-house-or-not?", I got my kitchen linoleum replaced--no more holes! Yay!

Thankfully, we have had a beautiful "Indian Summer"-type of fall again, which means that, while we did not accomplish huge chunks of our yardwork in September, we have been able to get winter-ready (for the most part) in October.

After Jason's super-stressful summer, he decided to take two weeks off in October so we could actually finish up a few of the "summer" projects he had been meaning to do--not to mention, get a mental break from work! Yesterday was his first day back at the office.

While he was off, I managed to butcher the last of my spring roosters, so I now only have one remaining (which Jason pithily named "Lucky"), other than one or two in a batch of chicks still too young to be certain about at only 2 1/2 months. The garden got taken in and prepped for winter, our collection of old appliances got hauled away, and on Sunday, Jason and Brian Stanley put our deck on at last! (Yay! It's been sitting on blocks in the middle of the yard for two years, ever since we purchased this mobile home.)

Jason is still hoping to build a roof over our woodshed before the snow flies (because wood burns so much nicer when it is dry.)

Now that Jason is back at work, and the outside stuff is mostly done for the year, I find that I can be in the house focusing on my "inside projects"--except, not really. Levi has reached the stage where he needs almost constant supervision, and thinks all things electronic are things he must get his hands on--and throw. Or at least (in the case of keyboard), copy the typing action everyone else does on it. :-)

Ergo, office work while he is awake is pretty much out of the question. I can do some kitchen stuff (like the bread I plan to bake today), and have been making progress on some knitting patterns I have been designing, but I have been praying for God to help me remember how short this phase is as I try to subvert the frustration I feel at not being able to get even basic office work done some days.

Going back to the baby phase--and now into the so-called "terrible twos"--has been more of a change than I thought it would be, and I realize how much freedom I had with the ages of my other three boys. They were all old enough to be trusted with a certain amount of independence, and I had peace of mind knowing they were all looking out for each other while they were outside, too.

I think I'm going to have to find some friends with boys this age so Levi can start having play dates, and I can start having sanity time. And I'm going to keep praying. A lot.

Keep Moving Forward

So much time has passed since my last blog post, I find myself at a bit of a loss of where to start... which is where I've been with it for at least two weeks, and why I haven't posted before now. The overfullness of my life has continued on through May and June, but became a little more manageable with the purchase of a new dishwasher about seven weeks ago. We spent the big bucks and got a stainless steel interior, which has now saved me the additional work of de-rusting it every two months--after heavy use all this time, not a single part of the interior of the dishwasher is turning orange. Yay! Another perk of spending the big bucks is that the thing is so quiet, it is sometimes hard to tell if it is actually running. The dryer at the other end of the house drowns it out... *quiet smile*

I guess I could talk about the forest tent moth caterpillar infestation that ravaged the Peace Country this spring, and made all of our trees naked.* Thank goodness the grass is still green, because the trees make it look like January outside. Now, two weeks after the caterpillars started starving to death en masse, the trees are just starting to get a dusting of green on them again, but for several weeks, I found it depressing to look out the window. I wasn't alone.

"Poor trees," Noah sighed one day on our way into town. Where gaily-fluttering foliage should have been were wooden skeletons cobwebbed in sheets of caterpillar silk, with the occasional "cocoon tree", looking like it had managed to bud out its fluff without the benefit of leaves.

We did not have them quite as bad as some people I know, who literally had a layer over an inch thick and solid covering house, yard, and vehicles, but it was bad enough. They especially seemed to favour our south-facing front sidewalk and the corner beside our steps--which is a very difficult place to remove all the little carcasses from, and made it quite stinky there once they started dying.

Everyone say it with me: "EEEEEEEEWWWWWW!"

Once they started diminishing in numbers to something reasonable (e.g. 1/sq. ft. as opposed to 1/sq. in.), we actually managed to get our lawn mowed, and I even got the garden in. (Didn't seem to be much point in trying when the beds were covered in greenery-chomping nasties before that. Sadly, I was a little behind this spring, and hadn't got a thing in the ground before the plague hit.)

In my last post, I alluded to the fact that we had been in Sylvan Lake. We were there for Jason's grandma Joan Morrison's memorial service--a small family celebration of her life. Unfortunately, little Levi got a nasty stomach flu the night before the service. He had managed to keep a few things down for an hour or two by the time we needed to leave for the event, so I decided to go and take him, anyway. (Previously, I had been planning to stay home with him so Jason could go, at least.) All was well until I got distracted with visiting while feeding him a bottle and let him drink way more than I planned. The eruption of Mount Leviticus was epic, and folllowed by a first for Jason and me--washing our baby's hair together in the sink of the handicap washroom. :-)

Other than that, the weekend was great, and we were glad to have even a short visit with family members that we don't see nearly often enough.

After sudden jolts to a life system like adding Levi was for us, your habits and ways of doing things take a while to reconfigure themselves into something workable. But slowly, it does happen. My garden is in. The taxes aren't done, but at least progress on finishing my year-end has resumed, and taxes will hopefully be finished in the next couple of weeks. My boys are wrapping up their school subjects, with only one or two that will not be completed until sometime in July. While I still feel overwhelmed a good portion of the time, I am beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

This morning, the boys and I went to a registration interview at the school they will be attending in the fall. I had expected to be upset about it, but I'm really not. I feel like I am under a huge, rainy cloud of pressures and responsibilities right now, and I can look across the field of summer to see some golden-leaved autumn trees on the other side--and that's where the sun is shining. But not here. Not yet.

I find myself wondering how long it will take for my mind to slow down, for me to not feel like every moment I am awake must be a productive one? How long to revert to a time when blogging could happen several times a week (on the actual computer instead of only in my head), I could occasionally sew myself a dress over a couple of days (instead of only buying fabric that sits collecting dust in a pile somewhere), and making a scrapbook page was a healthy, self-nurturing habit, not something I only do in stolen moments--with the guilt of things not being done whispering through the window screens of my mind's art gallery all the while? I am really looking forward to that "reset", when I don't feel like my whole life is lived on a deadline... to pick up the writing course I was doing... finally go through a few other educational books I have had calling my name on the shelf for a year or several. To compose again. To not be too exhausted to go out with my friends once in a while. To spend my evenings with my husband instead of my office work.

Wow. I am really, really looking forward to that. I know it's up the road a ways, yet, so for now, I'll just keep putting one foot in front of the other. 'Cause the only way to get past where you are is to keep moving forward.

Happy summer, friends. I hope the sun is shining on you.

*In light of the floods ravaging southern Alberta at the moment, I want to clarify that I mention this not by way of complaint, but posterity. I'll take caterpillars over floods any day.

Settling In

The last two weeks have had their ups and downs, but fortunately, there have been more ups than downs.

Levi is starting to feel more at home, both with us and with the actual house. This was evidenced by how he kept pushing boundaries as much as possible beginning two weeks ago. While this is completely normal for a child that has just learned to walk--since the horizon is suddenly three feet higher--there is even more of this here, since he hadn't had any previous boundaries established at crawling height to start from. Not only that, he is still early in the process of attaching to us as parents, so he is also pushing against our boundaries.

The worst casualties of this experimentation are our school bulletin boards in the hallway, since there was really no place to relocate those things that they would still be useful to us. Several centuries of history have been obliterated from the timelines, and key figures from the early stages of humanity have been demolished. Has anyone you know winked out of existence, lately? If so, my sincerest apologies. ;-)

This week, despite several interrupted nights that have made for long, tiring days for all members of our family (the paper-thin walls, hollow doors, and ankle-high gaps under them in our trailer don't do much to slow down the transference of sound between parts of our house), Levi seems to be fitting in more and more as a family member instead of a guest. Last weekend, Jason and I were discussing how we still felt like the babysitters... this week, I started to feel more like his mom. He would do cute things to get our attention, he would play and wrestle with the boys more, and he would be more easily comforted by Jason and I. He has become less clingy (a sign of a more secure attachment).

We have also seen Levi's natural happy-go-lucky, laid-back personality start to re-emerge, which has made him much more pleasant to be around. The sudden changes in caregivers, diet, and environment combined with teething meant that the first few weeks were mostly spent carrying around a fussy, insecure baby. The shift has been encouraging.

We have also managed to get his diet figured out a little better. We are back in the groove of creating baby food, keeping regular feeding schedules, and have started to work out just how much lactose this baby boy can handle. (Not much. Too much lactose=unpleasant diaper changing experiences.)
Rubber bands--pshaw!! Rules were meant to be broken, right?

Beets=fun baby photos.

Speaking of diapers, I began my adventures in cloth diapering this week. So far, I haven't made Jason deal with any of the cloth ones (oops, except a wet one he took off as he was prepping Levi for bed one night), as there was about a two-month supply of disposables that came along with him we need to use up (so they stop "using up" space in our house!), so he's been in disposables at night. However, cloth diapering is way easier than I thought it would be, and I still haven't even gotten any of those flush-able paper liners for them--although I am looking forward to having them!

I got started fairly cheaply, buying most of what I needed from a friend who is past the baby stage. She had sewn the diapers herself from a kit she bought on Etsy, but had several purchased covers and other accessories that came with the package--all in all, it would have cost well over $350 to buy all that new, and she gave me a super deal at only $50. The diapers are similar to these. So, I only had to buy a few things like new fasteners (bye-bye, diaper pins! Check out the coolness of modern diaper fasteners!) and some boy-themed and slightly larger diaper covers, as the smaller pink hearts she had for her little girl aren't so stylin' on our little man. :-) I was glad to find a SAHM in Grande Prairie with a "local" online business that I could support to fill in the gaps. (www.ClothDiaperKids.com)

Cloth diapering, even only during the day for the last three days, has already had the desired effect--less garbage going out. We went from throwing away a half-to-one 22-L bag of garbage a week B.L ("Before Levi"), to a full (stinky!) one every 2-3 days after we got him, especially when we were working through the teething and lactose issues, to now going back to pretty much what we were at before. We don't have a dumpster or a burn barrel, so disposing of garbage for us is kind of an inconvenience--we have to take it to the local dump for our area, but there are only two time blocks a week that it is open, and it is about 20 minutes away in a direction we rarely travel. We prefer to save it in a couple of garbage bins until they are full, and make the trip every few months. Thank goodness, we won't be filling those up once every two weeks anymore!

Thankfully, we didn't have to sink any money into buying any disposable diapers before I got going on this. A quick trip down the baby aisle at the grocery store reminded me how outrageously priced they are, all to wrap your baby in chemical-laden plastic and paper that is inconvenient to dispose of and harmful for both the baby and the environment! I wish I would have taken the time and energy to figure out cloth with my older three boys. Oh, well... never too late to start, I guess. :-)

Enough about diapers...

In the last two weeks, Levi's preferred form of transportation has gradually morphed from crawling with a few occasional steps to walking full-time. He's getting faster and more stable, but still trips and goes "kerplunk" on his butt fairly frequently. Good thing those cloth diapers offer extra padding! (Okay, last time with the diapers. I promise.)

While most of the excitement in our home has centred on our most recent addition lately, Jude did get to go to his buddy Ethan's birthday party last Saturday. The activity for the party was that Ethan's dad (an accomplished career carpenter) helped the boys create medieval weapons from plywood.

Jude designed a rather menacing-looking sword. And posed with it.

Jude, April 2013 (Age 10)

The more things change, the more they stay the same, right?

Jude, July 2006 (Age 3)

Levi: Week Two

The second week with Levi in our family has seen some significant changes, not the least of which was the little man turning one!

Before last weekend, we had not yet had even one whole day home together as a family. However, thanks to a four-day weekend that Jason got over Easter, that was rectified. At the beginning of the weekend, Levi was still ultra-clingy to me, exclusively. However, by Monday, he had decided that this "Dad" guy was okay to be with, too.

He has been more and more settled as the week has gone on. Also, I think the tooth that has been bothering him has gone up a little. That irks me, since I know we'll have to go through all those symptoms of teething (including clinginess) again, but it has given us some temporary relief from the Cry Baby.

The rest of us, too, seem to be finding our new groove with a baby in the house. It has been helpful that for the most part, he has been sleeping through the night for the last week. He goes to bed at about 8-8:30, and has begun sleeping until 6:30-7:15. That's exactly what we were hoping for.

Sleep training during the day is not going so well. He still wants to be held or rocked to sleep, and as soon as he is put down, wakes up and fights it. As many of you know, I don't have time to hold a baby (nor the strength to hold a 26-lb. bundle!) for an hour and a half so he can sleep. One day, he had three short naps of 20-30 minutes each. Yesterday, he slept for five minutes, and refused to sleep any more. That cherubic photo at the beginning of this post was taken in his carseat on Wednesday, when he fell asleep in town and had a rare, 1 1/2-hour nap.

So, he is still learning how to self-soothe. However, as long as he is sleeping at night (so the rest of us can sleep, too!), handling a fussy, tired baby during the day becomes a lot easier to do.

All in all, after two weeks, I feel like we are beginning to discover what the "new normal" is. Even though our lives remain full, as I did not have time to do the normal "weeding-out" of activities that would have happened had I been having a baby the traditional way, he has begun to fit right into it like he has been there all along.

In other news, Jude is taking a belt test for karate today, going for his yellow belt. Unfortunately, it is in Grande Prairie, and the weather is not that great. Jason is supposed to let me know what the roads are like when he gets to work--I'm not sure whether I hope he says that they are fine to travel, or I should stay home! At least if we go, Levi should get a nap! ;-)

Happy Friday, friends!

Levi: Week One

Tomorrow, it will be a week since our family grew by two feet. It has been an emotional ride, as well as a physical one. My body is no longer trained for the rigours of carrying around a teething, 26-lb. toddler, nor for waking once or more at odd hours in the middle of the night, nor for surviving on army sleep rations--6 hours or less!

Emotionally, we and the Stanleys have been working out the details of a transition that was too fast to be healthy... in retrospect. Now that it has gone down the way it did, we are having to work things out backwards a little. This has not been as easy on any of us as we would like, so I would ask that you continue to pray for us, but especially them. We are merely dealing with a little extra busy-ness, and the joys of getting to know this little guy. They are dealing with a gaping void that suddenly appeared in their lives, and although there is less work for them, they also are missing the many joys that come from having a baby in the house.

I am going to keep the overall tone of the rest of this post positive, however.

Sleep training is progressing, but not "there", yet. Levi is cutting his top left-of-the-middle tooth (which will make 6 total), and that has made him fussy, not to mention the major changes he has experienced recently. All things considered, things could be worse, though. Incidentally, I found out that Frankincense oil diluted 1:4 with vegetable oil is a fairly effective teething remedy for babies, you just have to apply fairly frequently when the pain is really bothering them.

As of today, I pretty much have all of his stuff unpacked and sorted through, so as soon as I can put the yet-to-be-grown-into clothes out into the Seacan, and give the just-grew-out-of-them clothes to a new friend of mine with a 3- or 4-month old boy, he'll be "moved in."

Last week saw me doing some significant rearranging of our living room, purchasing new storage and shelving units to keep things safer for little guys, and throwing in some spring cleaning and mouse-proofing (a recently-discovered issue) to boot.

Last week when we brought Levi home, Jabin laid out his Big Brother plan:

"First, I'm going to teach him to walk. Then, I'm going to teach him to talk. Then, I'm going to teach him to read!"

Well, this boy has taken being a big brother by the horns, I tell ya. He dotes on Levi, as do the other boys, but it has been such a joy to watch Jabin really dive into this new role. He has fed him lunch several times, and enjoys entertaining him for me at such times as I can't be carrying or holding him.

Two of the kids have caught a stomach bug that's been going around recently--Jude and Jabin. I am hoping that it stops there, as some of my least-favourite memories of this stage are cleaning up pukey crib sheets and blankets several times a night, and middle-of-the-night baths. So far, so good.

Levi turns one next Tuesday, so I am going to be spending this weekend planning a birthday/adoption party for next weekend. And hopefully, while my husband is home, getting caught up on a little sleep!

On an unrelated note, I started the Young Living Slique Experience diet last Sunday (March 17), of which a key component is using Slique Essence to control cravings and regulate blood sugar. Alongside that, I have been severely limiting grains, especially wheat (not quite a full elimination, but close), and also dairy in my diet. So far, I have lost 6 pounds. Not bad for 12 days, I guess! My total goal is to take off the 20 extra pounds that have snuck onto me without permission over the last several years. As an added benefit, the extra exercise Levi is currently adding to my day is inadvertently aiding the process. :-)

Here's a photo that Jude took last night--it's blurry, but he's still cute!!

The Wheel of the World Keeps Turning

I stepped through the oversized wooden doors onto plush carpets and paused. Breathing in deeply, I savoured the smell of new paper and coffee, and listened to the muted tones of contented voices chatting comfortably on overstuffed couches. The whole atmosphere oozed calm and peace... the perfect notecard for the invitation the rows of books were giving... Come in. Sit down. Read awhile.

Next to church, the bookstore may just be one of my favourite places in the world to visit. Ever since we were married, my husband and I would consider it a good date to head in to Chapters, have our favourite dessert-like coffee treat, browse through shelves as though searching for buried treasure, and leave with a few paper-bound nuggets in a crisp plastic bag, all anticipation and excitement for the adventures that would soon be ours when we delved into their pages.

As our family expanded, this has still been a great place to visit--we all find treasures when we go. As I insist on previewing children's fiction that I have not heard of or seen reviewed, I spend more of my time in the "Young Reader's" section than anything else these days... however, for the most part, I find children's fiction just as or more enjoyable than that meant for adults, as it tends to be, um, cleaner.

On Saturday, we packed up the kids and the van and drove to Sylvan Lake to spend time with our extended family and grieve Lance's passing. It was a good time of remembering, celebrating, and visiting. By yesterday, feeling drained because of the high emotions and all the visiting, we decided to spend the day in Red Deer, just the kids and us, relaxing a little. A few errands, an hour at Chapters, and a family movie at the "cheap" theatre ("Wreck-It Ralph") was a great "family date."

Now, we are ready to head home and pick up our lives again. The memorial will not be for several months, when spring weather has arrived in Alberta.

For now, life goes on. We enjoy each moment we can. And we treasure the places and moments we find peace... like at the bookstore.


Zoom! There went December. And holidays. And 2012.

Despite the fact that we were on holidays from school from about the 8th, the month was very full. My list had several things checked off, but not as many as I liked. We got to see friends that the busy-ness of fall schedules had been keeping us from for several months. My old, second-or-third-hand oven finally bit the dust on Dec. 22, and we got a new one (which I LOVE!) And Jason got a promotion.

There is more to each of those stories, but they all seem a little too lengthy to try to cram into one post. Suffice it to say that Jason is now working as a System Analyst, a position that was handed to him within minutes of him receiving a job offer as a Project Manager for another company. The jobs were so similar as far as benefits, pay, and other things, that Jason struggled with the decision for about a week, initially thinking he would take the Project Manager job. He had no peace about it until he decided to stay with Northlands School Division as System Analyst, however, so that is what he did. We are very grateful that our belts can loosen a little, and that Jason gets to stay in a work environment he enjoys, making a wage he is happy with.

The kids were happy to start school again after our four weeks off. Last Sunday night, Jabin commented that he thought the holiday was TOO long. Didn't expect that. I could definitely have used another week, but my "to-do" list has significantly more items on it than theirs does! Especially for the last two weeks of the break, when Jason was off, too--there were a great deal of video games played during that time. It's good to know that they do see the value of structure and learning at times. :-)

My To-Do was more various forms of work, but fortunately, they were mostly ones I enjoyed:
  • sew
  • knit
  • write patterns
  • update web stores (all of them)
  • start newsletter mailing lists for various businesses
  • Plan Science for the remainder of the school year
  • do my books for the past year
It's the last one I have yet to tackle. I'll get to it soon. Most of the sewing was to make things like pajamas, mitts, and toques that my kids (or other family's kids) were short on. I am very much looking forward to making myself a new dress, which I purchased the fabric for a month ago and have been looking longingly at ever since.

Maybe this week...

That's What He Said...

Overheard on Thursday morning:

Jabin: I wish that you could rewind, because it was really fun in Grande Pairie [sic] yesterday.

Jude: We were in the van almost the whole day!!

Jabin: Yeah, but it was fun watching movies and playing on Dad's tablet.

Hee hee.
The boys and I have been on holidays from school for a week, now. That doesn't necessarily mean I have been on a complete holiday, though. I have been doing various and sundry business-related activities that I have been putting off until this very time of year, which I planned to devote to "catch-up." Still, the activities seem to be piling up a little, and despite the progress made this week, I felt a little overwhelmed by Thursday at the total amount of things still left on the "to-do" list.

Still, I'll just keep plugging away at them, one thing at a time, and get as much accomplished as I can before school starts again. Weekends are reserved for family and friends and play time, so I don't get totally bogged down in work... that whole "Too much work, not enough play, dull girl" thing sounds like something I want to avoid, if possible.

Hanukkah ended yesterday, and we gave each of the boys a little gift on the last day. Jason found this cool online service (U Star Novels) where you can substitute someone's name so they can "star" in a novel. He bought one for Jude using the Adventures of Tom Sawyer--Jude is Tom, and his friend's names are substituted for some of the other main characters.

Then he surprised me with a copy of Pride and Prejudice starring moi! "Mr. Darcy" has become "Mr. Winters", of course, and the Bennett family was transformed to the Hilmans. A quick flip through the book revealed that several other family members and and friends got supporting parts.

It's kind of cool, in a weird sort of way. I want to read through it again (never need much excuse to re-read P&P) just to see who gets to make appearances. But now I think I know how my junior-high classmates felt when it became known I had written a short sci-fi story starring all of them--fascinated and freaked out, all at the same time. (At least I know I like the story, which wasn't the case with all of my hapless classmates. Lesson learned on my part.)

And really, what woman reading Jane's most popular novel doesn't identify with Lizzy Bennett in some way?

Happy holidays, friends!

Change of Season, Change of Pace

This past week, our Indian Summer made the full transition into Early Winter with freezing temperatures and two days of snow. This weekend, the mercury has hit +10 again, melting away most of the white stuff, but I know it is only a very temporary reprieve before winter begins in earnest.

... a reprieve that we are making full use of to finish our yard clean-up and other last-minute outside chores to prep for winter.

Jude has been driving us crazy for the last few months with comments of, "I can't wait for it to snow!" and "I wish it was winter already!" Given the brevity of our Northern summers, this has irked Jason and I, and we usually retort with, "Six months a year isn't enough for you?"

On Friday, as the kids and I were driving away from home in a snowstorm, Jabin said, "When it's summer, I want it to be colder. When it's winter, I want it to be warmer."

"Do you know what the secret to happiness is, buddy?" I asked him.


"Being content in whatever circumstances you are in." Then I explained what "contentment" is.

"Oh," he said, in that "clear as mud" tone of voice.

I guess that's a lesson we all have to learn in our own way. Sometimes, we re-learn it over, and over, and over.

Yesterday, I was surprised by a restless feeling.

"If we were in Red Deer," I commented to Jason, "this is the kind of day where I'd say 'Let's go to the mall and people-watch and have coffee.'" I think I just wanted to get out of the house, see something different, feel the crispness of the air and the bustle of a busier place. However, after seven years in Peace River, I don't get the yen for that much anymore--I'm out of the habit, I guess.

Well, since that wasn't an option, and since we wouldn't pile into the van for a two-hour trip to Grande Prairie just to have coffee at the mall, I did some digital scrapbooking instead. I managed to complete six layouts, working backwards from the present. That, plus the ones I've already completed in the last few weeks (I've been going through a miniature "scrapbooking phase") means that I have done all the photos back to mid-August already. You never know--maybe I'll actually get a whole year done digitally and print a photobook when Shutterfly has their year-end sales. That would be different. :-)

Well, I better go tackle those afore-mentioned outside chores. Here are the layouts I did yesterday:

Any Season is Knitting Season

I am in adamant denial that summer is only two weeks from ending. Even while typing that, I blindfolded myself and thought about rainbows and sunflowers so I could trick myself that it was just a "pretend."

This summer has been full, and busy, and not, all at the same time. July was travelling and visiting and getting sick, a cold that worked its way through our entire household and didn't move on for about a month. What is it about summer colds that makes them hang on so long, anyway?

Combine that with the heat wave that we endured for most of the month, and on into the first part of August, making our li'l Tin Can o' Dreams a mere 30C+ by evening every night, and most of the summer "to-do" list didn't really start getting tackled until the August long weekend (first weekend, for those not Canadian-holiday-aware). So, what did we do while we were coughing, and sweltering, through July?

First two weeks: The boys had swimming lessons from Monday to Thursday in the morning. Conveniently (for me), they were in a consecutive two-hour stretch each morning. Guess what? That meant two hours of nearly-uninterrupted KNITTING TIME!! I also met a new friend, another avid knitter named Lori. She was making a tank top. I was making a cotton sundress. (More about that in a minute.)

Next two weeks: Veg. Recover. Read. KNIT. I read several books this summer. The whole 12-month "Conspiracy 365" series (preview for Jude, ostensibly. Not bad--a little "mile-a-minute" for my tastes, but good adventure for teen and pre-teen reading.) After that, I read "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West" by Gregory McGuire. This is the novel that the musical "Wicked" is based on. While I enjoyed the skill of the writing, and seeing how the source material was changed to create the musical, I was disappointed in the vulgarity of the book--about an "R" rating. Oh, well. Since then, I have been working through "Which Lie Did I Tell?", William Goldman's sequel to "Adventures in the Screen Trade" about his life as a screenwriter.

The skirt of the sundress was very boring. Since I was reading "Wicked" on the Kindle app on my phone and PC, and therefore didn't need hands to hold a book open (and only a light touch to "turn pages"), I also got a great deal of knitting done while I was reading. This was a new trick for me, but I found it worked well to keep my mind occupied while my fingers were doing the same repetitive stitch for hours.

Cotton Cool Sundress 2

Here's the story of the sundress: I actually started it early last summer (2011), very excited about the slight challenge the lace bodice would supply, and the prospect of making myself a summer garment. (I don't usually knit summer dresses, I sew them.) Last summer, as you all know, was more than a little busy with moving, renovating, and the like. So, I didn't really put any speed on with the project until the week between Christmas and New Year's, when Jason was off of work and we were watching movies every night, with not much to do all day but knit, either.

Cotton Cool Sundress lace detail

By the end of the week, the skirt was nearly finished when I realized I had made two fatal errors: my gauge had loosened considerably from when I started the project, meaning the fit would be off, and I had also cast on the wrong number of stitches in the first place.

I was so grouchy about it, I stuffed the whole thing into my knitting bag and didn't touch it again for months. This spring, I was finally over my "irk" enough to rip it out and prepare to re-knit.

I (re)cast this on the third weekend of June, and finished it by the end of July. I am SO glad it is done, it fits (maybe a touch loose, but nothing major), and I can move onto something else.

Cotton Cool Sundress

Like this sweater for Jason, for which I just ordered the yarn.


The Days are Just Packed!

We started summer almost a week early in our house, having Jude skip the last few days of school (mostly "party time" anyway) so we could spend eight days in central Alberta, visiting family for the most part. The holiday was a nice mix of "busy" and "relaxed", with plenty of visiting throughout.

My brother even came up from Seattle area for the second weekend, so although most of the visiting was with Jason's side of the family this time around, I got to see my immediate family lots (since we were bunking at my dad's.)

The reason we chose that week, instead of the following one, is because my boys all had swimming lessons back here in P.R., starting at 10 a.m. on July 2. (Weird, considering it was a holiday here.) We made it in time, although Jude missed his first day, as he and my niece Kayla (who had come home with us for the week to visit) both woke up on Monday with a horrible cold. That cold has since made the rounds through everyone in our family except Jason, with me being the most recent victim. I have been feeling the effects all this week, and have now got it reduced to the slightly-sore-throat-and-lots-of-nose-blowing stage.

Thursday (the 5th), the last day of swim lessons for the week, we split from Peace River as soon as they were done to head back down to Red Deer, dropping Kayla off on the way out to my dad's again. Jason didn't come along this time, as he really didn't want to go on a 20-hour-in-4-day drive, no matter how beautiful the scenery. Our destination was Emerald Lake, B.C., by Friday afternoon, where my cousin Stephanie was getting married at 3:30.

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Emerald Lake, B.C.

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Walking down the "aisle" at Emerald Lake Lodge.

We made it with time to spare, and I got to visit with members of my mother's side of the family that I haven't seen in ages, including my cousin Michael and his family. Despite the fact that he has lived far away from me for most of our lives, I have always maintained a pretty good friendship with him (probably helps that he is my only cousin that is my age). His wife is a complete sweetheart whom I befriended as soon as I met her at their wedding reception years ago, and whom I hadn't seen since. (I always wish we lived closer together anytime I get to spend any time at all with those two.) And meeting their daughter Juanita for the first time was a joy.

The next day, my boys went kayaking for the first time EVER in some boats brought up by friends of the family and generously shared with all the guests present. The three of them went out together in a larger boat at first, coached along by Mr. Dalk in the basics of rowing, etc. They went a long ways across the lake before coming back.

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Our three big boys on their maiden voyage!

Then Jude and Noah each took solo voyages, a watchful adult in a kayak close by. Unfortunately, when Noah went out, all the smaller lifejackets were in use, so he was figuratively "swimming" in his. Fortunately, the boats were surprisingly stable, and he managed it like a pro! I was so proud of my boys. (And a little proud of myself for not going all maternal and not letting them go.)

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Jude on his solo trip.

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Noah going solo!

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Three crazy, amazing boys!

We had intended to take the short hike from Lake Louise up to Moraine Lake on our way up toward Jasper to camp for the night, but while the boating was going on, the aforementioned nasty cold bug hit Noah--he was suddenly in no condition for hiking. (This one comes on hard and fast.) So, my mom (who was coming up to Peace River from the wedding with us, having just flown up from Arkansas and driving out with her parents), the boys, and I packed up and hit Hwy 93 north. We did make a quick stop for the 10-minute hike to Peyto Lake. Since this was my boys' first time in the B.C. Rockies, I wanted them to experience it as much as was still possible with an "invalid" in the group. Unfortunately, Mom and I had to take turns carrying Noah the whole way up and back. It was a sacrifice we were willing to make to ensure the other two would get to enjoy a close-up with some of the amazing beauty we were driving through instead of just barely acknowledging it through the window.

The first night in the mountains (by Emerald Lake), I set up the tent with just the boys. It's an eight-man "mansion", as far as tents go, and although fairly easy to set up, I was quite glad that Mom was there the second night to help. Since this was my first camping trip of any kind for four years, I was also glad the the only thing I really seemed to forget was a flipper for the French Toast. In fact, being "out of practice" actually meant that I bought enough food to feed an army, so there was no lack of anything except ice to keep it cold.

On Sunday morning, we debated on our day's activities as we broke camp. We had to be back in P.R. by that night, as the boys still had swimming lessons the next morning. Noah was not doing a lot better (having experienced the bug myself now, I know why), so we thought that we would try to make one short stop at a place called "Jasper House" on our map, and that was it, disappointed to put off the planned stop at Miette Hot Springs for another time. Unfortunately, we somehow missed the sign that would have taken us off the highway to whatever that attraction may have been, so decided to take our own "pit stop" at Fiddle River, just before leaving the National Park. We pulled over beside the highway and hiked across the scrub and rocks to dabble our toes in the glacier-fed stream (COLD!!). Jude was brave enough to stand in it up to his ankles. It sure felt good on the sunburn I had collected the day before, and on that 30 degree day it was a wonderful refresher.

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The rest of the trip home was uneventful, which is good... Well, except for the yearling bear that ran across the highway right in front of us south of Fox Creek. We grazed his backside--but Mom said he still trotted off using all fours, so I'm hoping that that fact, and the lack of damage to my bumper, means that he would be fine--and much more wary of roads and vehicles! (Okay, I guess hitting a bear is kind of a big event!)

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This fellow was having a snack beside main street in Jasper as we were leaving. This is right through our van's side window!

The boys finished their swimming lessons yesterday, with Jude and Noah both passing to Levels 5 and 4 respectively. Jabin gets to repeat Level 1 for the third time, but not for lack of effort. Considering he actually had a fear of putting his head underwater at the beginning of this school year, he's doing alright. Once he lets himself relax a little more, he'll just take off with the swimming. For now, he's enjoying the journey.

Which is exactly what I've been doing for the last three weeks. I have to admit, though, I am really looking forward to next week--no schedule, and hopefully the heat wave we've been experiencing this week will have slackened. (I'd only wish for a little slackening--'tis hard to keep the tin can I live in below 30 degrees when it is 35C+ outside. However, summer is usually so short here, I don't want to complain about the heat too much!)

What a great start to summer.

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Fiddle River, AB

Oh Blah Dee, Oh Blah Dah

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I cut open this butternut squash a few weeks ago to a wonderful surprise--sprouts!

After sitting on my counter for several weeks, it must have decided it had had enough sunshine to rev up the next phase of the life cycle. I had grand plans of planting the sprouts and growing squash through the winter (indoors, of course). Those plans ended in a mass of black, squishy rot, since first of all I thought I would keep it in a plastic bag "until I had the time to deal with it." Apparently, "Time" made that decision for me. 

Lady Time seems to be holding a few other Rods of Doom over our heads these days, and we are working hard to make sure they don't land. Jason has been valiantly working away on erecting and connecting the diesel fuel tank for our furnace all weekend, but has met with several setbacks that have made the project stretch out in the most maddening way.

I can claim slightly more success in my weekend plans: I managed to get the second coat of paint on the addition walls this afternoon, meaning that after I paint the trim in there tomorrow, the room can become at least partially useful. (We still have to lay the new linoleum and put on the baseboard, but progress is being made.)

I also got some poles for my new, "permanent" chicken run tamped in tonight. Two down, fourteen more to go! And my back is already feeling it.

It sounds like Jason will be staying home tomorrow to continue working on his projects while the weather is good. I may only do school in the morning with the boys for the same reason. 

We intend to beat Time to the punch, if it is at all possible!

How was your weekend, friends?

Back to the Future

I've had some people hint at me recently that they would like to see something new on this page a little more often.

While my intentions are all towards blogging 3-5 times a week, the reality is that by the end of my day, it has usually dropped right off my priority list. We'll see if I can pick up the pace again in a few more weeks once we have all the "extremely-urgent" items off of our "to-do" list.

But I'm not making any promises...


Despite the frost we had several nights earlier in the week (or maybe because of it), I managed to get all my potatoes and onions in by Wednesday. There is still a good chunk of garden to come in, but between school planning and the sun going down so darn early (what's with this "dark at 8:30" thing?! :-D), I am running behind on a few things. Our addition only has one coat of paint on it, still... and in a way I was glad that I was stalled at that point when we got to "discover" some leaks yesterday, thanks to a day of steady, slow rain. Now we get to figure out where the sources of those are before finishing the inside.

Jason almost got our fuel tank for the diesel furnace in place before dark on Thursday... but not quite. Yesterday, the rain made working outside unfavourable, so I expect we may now not have heat until Monday. It won't be a minute too early, either! Some mornings this week, I have really had to "psych myself up" to extend my bare toes from beneath warm, fluffy blankets to frigid morning air!


Both Jabin and Noah have said some things this week that tickled me to the funny bone. Of course, I don't remember what they are now...

Okay, I remember one. On Monday, Jabin was helping me pick rosehips to make jelly.

"Could we have rosehip jelly for a snack sometime, Mom?" he asked, clambering over some rocks to reach some berries that were higher on the bush.

"Well, yes, on our toast and butter," I replied, gingerly reaching my hand through a gap in some thorny branches toward a succulent-looking red hip.

"Not by itself?"

After several turns around this conversation, it occurred to me what he was talking about.

"I'm not making Jell-O, I'm making jelly," I clarified.

"What's jelly?" he asked.

"It's like jam, only without the pieces of fruit," I replied. "'Jell-O' is that jiggly stuff that is really bright, weird colours."

"Oh." After a few more moments, "It would be cool if my name were 'Jell-O'," he said.

Giggling, I asked, "Why's that?"

"Because I love Jello so much," he said, then went on with his picking.

Oh. "I guess we didn't think of that when you were born," I replied. Gotta love kid logic.

Yesterday, Jabin used the word "struggling" a handful of times, in context. It caught me by surprise at first. How many near-six-year-olds use words like "struggling?"

"Mommy, I am struggling with this one. My '2' doesn't look right," he calmly said to me, pointing at the question in his math book so I could help him out. He used the word several more times in the next twenty minutes.

Later, at supper, when I said to Jason, "Jabin's 'Word-of-the-Day' was 'struggling,'" Jabin added, "Yeah, I was struggling with math."


It really struck me last night how grown-up all my boys seem. Only a few short years ago, Jude was bringing our family into the new chapter of "school age" by being in grade one, Noah was a mystery we hadn't read very many pages of, and Jabin made you want to squish him into a hundred little pieces of love just by being alive.

Now, Jabin is running around using words like "struggling", "supposedly", and making astute observations every day. The "baby" is gone from his face, leaving behind a little boy with hairy legs (which he gets from his dad!) who thinks he can boss around his big brothers. Jude is only a couple of years from "pre-teen", and Noah is becoming more responsible all the time.

Reading through some of those older posts, it struck me that I used to be much more clever. I guess that's the benefit of posting more often--you think of better things to say. Or better ways to say the things you were going to say anyway.

From the archives, here is a few-paragraph blurb that gave me a giggle. I hope it does for you, too:

From August 10, 2008 (my 31st birthday):

"What is this thing?" Logan asked, looking at me. The "thing" in question was a small but surprisingly heavy shiny metal rod that had been shaped into a triangle, and was suspended by a brightly-coloured nylon cord attached to a very small, rounded, red wooden handle. My brother kept swinging it around by the cord. "Is it an actual musical instrument, or a weapon?"

"Both," I replied. "It's a child-sized triangle. I don't know where the stick is for it." A twinkle popped into my eye. "But musical instruments often double as weapons, you know. That's why you would always see the Mafia walking around with violin cases."

"Uh, Talena, those had guns in them," my Dad said, but I refused to be deceived.

"No, just violins," I replied nonchalantly.

"What, 'If you don't talk, I'm going to play my violin at you?!'" he teased, imitating a maddened Mafia henchman with evil intent about to play something dark and Russian.

"Well, you know, some of them were saxophones," Logan chimed in.

"Really?" I asked.

"Yeah. That's why they had so much sax and violins."

Disclaimer to the members of my family who may feel like correcting me on any part of the above conversation: While some of the exact wording may have been changed, the purpose of the conversation remains the same. This is how I remember it--and conversations around a breakfast table do not always translate well verbatim to the written word. End of disclaimer.

Another Year, Another Milestone

Despite the mile-high stack of items still on my summer "to-do" list, summer has had the indecency to wander off with barely a "hey, how's it going?" or even a "here, would you like some good weather to remember me by?" She's kind of sanguine that way.

And that means that fall has sidled in the front door, silent as a cat. I noticed him sitting at my table the other day drinking his tea as though it was the most natural thing in the world to have the leaves changing, the days cool, and the "back-to-school" sales breaking out all over town.

Jude's first day of school is tomorrow. He is actually going to school this year, as opposed to staying home for it, and he is very very excited. He has been setting his alarm for 7:00 a.m. all week (which means we have all been waking up then, for the alarm is loud, screeching, and annoying to the -nth degree). The school shoes and new backpack have been bought, the lunch is packed, the bussing arrangements are arranged. Now, if only he could sleep! ;-)

Noah and Jabin are pretty excited about school, too. Their math and printing workbooks came in the mail yesterday, and they begged until I let them do a few pages from each today. We are not officially beginning our home school until Monday, as I have other things to finish up and some last-minute preparations before then, but it was pretty easy to oversee their activities today while I was going about my own.

As far as our housing situation, we are still trying to get our addition here. (I'm praying that that happens this weekend!) However, the trailer itself is feeling a little homier every day. The kitchen cabinets are now painted, and I was re-hanging them tonight. All I have left to paint now is the bathroom and some of the trim around the house. Once the addition comes, it will also need paint. And new flooring, which has been bought and is waiting patiently to be unrolled.

This whole moving thing is a pain. Whose idea was it, anyway? :-)

Well, I better go try and settle down a little earlier tonight than I have been. I am not sure who finds it harder to adjust from a Northern summer to a Northern fall--the kids, or me! However, despite the fact that it is WAY too short of a season at this latitude, it is still one of my favourite times of year.

"I love [Peace River] in the fall. If I knew where you lived, I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils." - Joe Fox, You've Got Mail (slightly altered by yours truly)

Suddenly Busy Part 3

Well, in order to make this post about the last two weeks seem somewhat shorter and less dry to the casual reader (since anyone not directly involved in them may care a lot less than I do), I am going to put the highlights in bullet form.
  • After returning from our weekend in Sylvan Lake on Tuesday, Aug. 2, we knew we had our work cut out for us. The first stop for me was the paint store. For Jason, it was the hardware store--his trips there became almost daily. I'm sure he now knows all the employees by first name. Fortunately, he was just beginning his scheduled holidays, so had plenty of time with helping to get our new house ready! His main accomplishments that week were getting the trailer levelled with the help of our friend Brian, getting the pressure pump moved over from the other trailer and getting that and the septic hooked up, and getting the electrician here by Friday so we could bathe again. Yay!
  • By Saturday morning, we were cheering because Jude came back into the holiday trailer from his bathroom break to report that there was hot water. The celebration was short-lived, however. After only three quick showers, Jabin's bath-water came out cold. I waited four hours before trying to have my shower, and within five minutes the water was cold. Hmmph. Guess we'll need to change out the water heater.
  • We are now referring to our three homes as the "new trailer", the "holiday trailer" or "camper", and the "old trailer", or, more affectionately, the "parts trailer".
  • The first part to come in from the "parts trailer" was our other water heater. Jason changed it out by himself on Sunday, which was quite the job. I continued painting.
  • Upon removing the first baseboard from the dining room to start painting, I discovered (horrors!) mould behind it. And the same behind the second board, which came from the peninsula adjoining it. Further inspection (by removing the peninsula and lifting up the wall panel) revealed the bottom part of the wall frame to be damp, but there to be no rot or damage in the wall or behind the poly. We concluded it was from a leak from either the dishwasher or the sink, but since we had no running water at the time, had to wait a week to confirm it. In the meantime, we let the wall dry out and discovered we liked the kitchen better without the peninsula in it. Bonus!
  • Turns out it was a leak from the faucet, which is a really old unilever-style. When you lift it to the hot side, water pours out around the base. Changing out the kitchen faucet from the "parts trailer" is pretty high on Jason's "to-do" list right now (but really low on his "things-I-enjoy-doing" list! We had just put the other one in last winter, and it is much nicer, anyway--although, a real pain-in-the-you-know-what to deal with, apparently.)
  • Painting jobs completed: Living room; kitchen; Jude's room; alcove in our bedroom. Still to do: hallway; bathroom; dining room; kitchen cabinets.
  • While revamping the peninsula design, Jason built me a "weathered-wood"-look set of display shelves at the end of my cupboards from some old pallets. He does not really enjoy carpentry work, and I am so proud of him. He did a great job, and I absolutely love them! (I can't post photos right now, due to computer issues. I will be posting the "grand photo tour" once we are done renovating, anyway.)
  • We spent our first night in our new home on Wednesday, which happened to be my 34th birthday. My friend Laurie C. commented on my Facebook update about this, "Lucky girl! Not everybody gets a new house for her birthday!" She's right! :-D
  • Jabin's sock (see yesterday's post) has been successfully frogged and is well on it's way to complete recovery. I finally got over my grumpiness about my mistake. I'm not sure if that could be called an "adventure in knitting", but hopefully the "inconvenience" did teach me to inspect my heels carefully before moving past them from now on!
And that's about it!... so far.