Sunday, 26 March 2017

Big Month Moment: March 2017

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"Someone once told me that women should do two things everyday they love, one thing every week that they treasure, and one bigger thing every month they will never forget." ~ commenter on Modern Mrs. Darcy
I love this idea, and since I only vividly remember the moments chronicled in this log, I am writing down those big things monthly.

I kind of forgot, but it turns out I'm dating my husband.

And that swell guy did something pretty awesome this week.  He surprised me by taking me to a concert that I have been lusting after for months.  As the kids these days say: Best. Date. Ever.

He snagged pit tickets released at the last minute, strategized how to get through security first and down on the floor before anyone else, and his efforts landed us in the first row at centre stage.  Since we had three hours until the headliners hit the stage, we sat on the floor and had a picnic of sorts with some 18-year-olds in mom jeans (Side note: Is that ironic?  That only people without children wear mom jeans?).

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There were two opening acts so the time passed quickly.  Turns out the 18-year-olds were there to see the second of the opening acts: Kaleo.  Behind the gravelly voice is the cutest 27-year-old face that, for added bonus points, is from Iceland.  They were great.  And was really adorable to watch first-hand while teenagers were brought to tears by handsome man.

And then came The Lumineers.  They are the people I put on repeat on the saddest day of my life, the people who I saw at my first "real" big concert last summer, and the people who I hope I get to watch many more times in my life.  Before I went to this concert, I didn't understand why people would go to see a band live more than once or why anyone would go to a concert in a sports stadium.  While I am still unconvinced that I would want tickets in the comfy seats way back in the stadium seating, I totally get the rest of it.  I've gone twice in the same tour and I am completely enamoured by their live performance.  They were so close, they could step on my fingers.  And they played up the crowd.  And Wesley Schultz jumped into the crowd, and they showered us with confetti. and the tapping of his feet was mesmerizing, and singing the lyrics of all the songs that are written to be sung in chorus was so, so, so good, and I could go on and on and on.  I am so totally in love with them and the guy who got me there.  I don't know which was my favourite part, but I know the most touching part.  Wesley Schultz came out to start the encore on his own and he sang a song about his father dying of cancer.  The stadium was silent.  He was emotional.  It was moving.  At the end he dropped his pick and rejoined his bandmates for some more feel good songs.  He was singing two feet away from us, so I picked up the pick.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to frame it, like any fan should.

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When we were dating and first married, we had a sedan.  Shawn would reach across the console and rest his hand on my knee.  Then we made some kids, bought a behemoth van and I forgot all about that old habit.  While we here idling in line to get out of the parking lot, Shawn reached across and put his hand on my knee.  We smiled.

Monday, 13 March 2017

The Week Of March Sixth

malcolmfranklinbw

Have you ever read the book "Good News, Bad News" by Jeff Mack?  It's really good.  It's about a perpetually optimistic rabbit who plans a picnic with his pessimistic friend, Mouse, and the whole story is told with only the words "good news" and "bad news."  The rabbit keeps finding the positives in every situation and then the mouse keeps dishing out negatives.  That was my life last week.  I was the rabbit and Life was the mouse.

Good news.  Malcolm threw up early Saturday morning.  This left plenty of time for him to recover over the weekend so Shawn and I wouldn't have to take time off work Monday.
Bad news.  Shawn, Nevin and Scarlett started on Sunday night.

Good news.  I was scheduled to leave at 5:30am Monday morning for work related road trip.  Sayonara, sickies!  Good luck with that!
Bad news.  It struck me Monday night.  While I was sharing a room with relative strangers.

Good news.  I took the train for my trip.  Even if I was exhausted, I didn't have to drive 7 hours to get home.  Lap of luxury.
Bad news.  A wind storm hit.  Our train hit a few trees, and took out its headlights - no biggie since it was daytime.  Then a giant tree took out power lines beside the track.  Delays.  We missed our connection.  Ultimately, we took a four hour taxi ride to get home.

Good news.  By the time I got home, Shawn had recovered, disinfected everything and it was like nothing had ever happened.
Bad news.  Just when I thought everything was back to normal, my belly played cruel tricks on me.

We started calling it The Week Of March Sixth because every monster deserves a wicked name.  Good news: it is now the week of March 13th, and as creatures of the weekly variety always do, The Week Of March Sixth has gone back to bed.  (Which is also were you'll find us).

Monday, 20 February 2017

Chocolate Peanut Butter Crispies

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Hello Family Day 2017.  Its nice to see you.

We had these grand plans of doing family things outside, but then the toddler had an epic fit about being towed on a GT snow racer while the rest of the family snowshoed.  And no, he didn't want to be snowshoeing.  Being carried in someone's arms was the only acceptable mode of transportation for him today.  Shawn turned back with him lest the neighbours think a child was being killed by coyotes in the woods.

After a short half-family snowshoe, we went back to our driveway.  We had new big plans of playing hockey.  That worked for a while.  Shawn made me a lounge chair out of a snowbank in the warm sun, so I was happy.  Malcolm had trucks to dig in the snow, so he was thrilled.  But then Scarlett decided that winter is too long and too cold, and cuddling with mum on a snowbank lounger just isn't the same as the real thing.

So the girls gave up on Canadian winters, went inside to make cookies and consoled ourselves with melted chocolate and peanut butter.  And in the end, we felt like we came out winners.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Crispies
Adapted from One Part Plant by Jessica Murnane

1 cup + 2 Tbsp peanut butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt
2 cups crispy rice cereal
1 cup chocolate

1) Mix 1 cup of peanut butter, maple syrup, vanilla extract and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Stir in the rice crispies.
2) Take a tablespoon-sized amount of the mixture and roll it in to a ball.  Place the balls on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet or plate.
3) Melt the chocolate and remaining 2 Tbsp of peanut butter in the microwave.  It might take about 2 minutes, but stop every 30 seconds or so to stir.
4) Drizzle the melted chocolate over the balls.  Sprinkle coconut flakes or coarse sea salt over the chocolate covered balls.
5) Freeze until ready to serve.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Balloon Ball

We sat on the floor with ministick nets between us, using our octopus arms to lob a balloon at each other volleyball-style, only without the strict rules.  Boys vs. girls.
Post-it notes turned our shirts into jerseys.
Folk music blaring to counterpoint the intensity of the court.
A two-year-old toddling across the court or plopping in cozy laps mid-play, adding complexity to an otherwise straightforward game.
Until, inevitably a dive for the ball left a player with an injured elbow and no desire to continue.
"I better bring my 'A' game," I said.
Nevin responded "Sure, I'm on my way!"
And so the game continued while dinner prep didn't and a forgettable meal followed because we were living a memorable life.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Chicken Broth

slaughbwweb

Warner kitchen, 3:45pm.

Scarlett and Sasha are making soup together.

Scarlett, crinkling her nose: What is that?
Sasha: Chicken broth.
Scarlett: What?
Sasha: Chicken broth.
Pause.
Scarlett: What?!?  You mean that's bras from chickens?

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Pride and Parenting

elizabethside

I have been thinking very hard the last couple weeks about writing about my proudest parenting moment.  It is so easy to wrap up one's self worth with one's children's accomplishments.  Sure, I tell my kids I am proud of them, but I am acutely aware of that fine line when a parent starts to take ownership of their child's successes.  There is a point at which it becomes boastful.

And yet.  My kids did something a couple weeks ago.  I don't think I have ever been so proud in all my life, and I don't want to ever forget the heart swell I feel right now as I think about it.  And so I need to write it down here, where I can reference it and take myself back to the moment and it can punctuate our family values for them (because this is after all their favourite storybook).

Yes, it's another somber post.

For me at a funeral, its the burial that always gets me.  I think it has something to do with the finality of it.  Everything is rush, rush, rush, thank you, sorry, move right along through the rituals and then the burial happens and it all stops.  There is no busy-ness to distract.  I don't think I am the only one who feels it all at that moment.

My uncle has lived with my Gram his entire life.  For almost fifteen years, it has been just the two of them, taking care of each other.  Although everyone present felt the loss deeply, no one felt it as profoundly as my uncle.  When it was time for us to trudge through the snow back to our car, we walked past my uncle.  Nevin, my shy boy who hates intimacy and intrusion, stopped in front of him and looked up at his face.  He took off his glove and shook my uncle's hand.  My breath caught.  My uncle shifted his attention to Scarlett, just behind her brother.  He held out his hands to her in polite invitation.  She looked way up at him, took two running strides and bounded into his arms.  She hugged him tight and didn't let him go until he was ready.  I think she whispered, "I love you."

My children.  My tender, sweet, loving children.  I didn't and couldn't have expected them to give such love and kindness during a difficult time.  Honestly, we promised them a MacDonald's lunch with dessert in exchange for no bickering or complaining during the funeral and thought we came out winners.  Who knew they were capable of such humanity?  My children are beautiful.  I am so proud.


Thursday, 5 January 2017

A Eulogy for my Gram

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First: If you aren't related to me, you might want to just skip this post.  It won't mean much to anyone but my family.

Yesterday, we said good bye to my Gram.  It amazes me that so many people could have interpreted her words and actions so differently, and the tiny little stories that made up her life were all stored in different places.  What makes one person remember one thing that everyone else forgets?  And how is it that each of us does this to all different seemingly insignificant moments?  Here is what I remember about Gram.

Based on my childish reasoning and worldly knowledge, I think my oldest memories of Gram must've formed when I was in kindergarten.  I was certain that she was the Queen of England's sister.   I thought the woman on the back of our coins was my Gram, and when someone older -- and without imagination -- told me about the Queen, everything came together for me.  My grandmother was the Queen's taller, prettier sister.  It all made sense in my four-year-old mind: she was certainly proper, they looked a lot alike, they were around the same age, they had the same name (didn't people from families share a name?) and Gram spoke English.  And of course, the hardest proof of all: Gram was rich.  Or at least, I figured she must be; how else could someone afford to bake birthday cakes with dimes and quarters hidden in the batter?

I continued with this belief for months, or maybe years, until either age or an older cousin convinced me otherwise.  Although it my have been my imagination that won her my devotion, it was her real skills that kept it.  She made my Barbies one-of-a-kind, straight-off-the-modest-churchgoing-runway fashions from her sewing scraps.  She gave me the most luxurious double-sized Kleenex's you've ever seen when I sneezed (which was often, because I'm kind of allergic to her house).  She turned full packs of Life Savors into elf ornaments and told me to eat the whole pack after Christmas.  And it was her pies and butter tarts that really and truly made everyone swoon.

When I was twelve, my mom dropped me off at Gram's house and told me I wasn't allowed to come home until I knew how to bake a proper pie.  This was their version of a rite of passage.  I spent the day with Gram in the kitchen and after my second attempt, I was given a seal of approval and the apple pie to take home for dinner.  Since then, pie has been my favourite dessert to make and eat.

As I've grown older, it has been her waste-not, want-not mentality that is so common from children raised in the Great Depression that has proved most inspiring to me.  Her kitchen is filled with thrice used twist ties, scraps of paper and plastic cartoons waiting to be repurposed.  Long before zero-waste was a thing with Millenials, she and my uncle were throwing out a grocery-sized bag of garbage only once or twice a month.  Some people thought her lack of shopping and intentional minimalism was cheap, but I thought it was beautiful.  In university I loved getting her homemade cookies ("Date Dainties, Sasha, because they taste the same even if they are a little stale"), sent cross-country in a plastic Wendy's salad container wrapped in half-popped bubble wrap.  It was endearing.

About ten years ago, she copied down her recipe for peach pie for me so I could make it for my mother.  It is well worn and loved: it has shortening stains on it and brown speckles (cinnamon, maybe?) but I want to frame it.  I love the regal, tightly formed slant of her cursive letters and that the recipe is of a beloved pie filling, but most of all I love that it is written on the back of a used envelope with gold paper lining.  She saw the beauty in the discarded, in efficiency, and in sharing her gifts.  Her love was not loud or boastful, but it was present in every little detail, quietly shining for those who noticed, like the gold lining in a discarded envelope.
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