Friday, December 30, 2011

[heart] Christmas

I love Christmas, I really do... but at the same time, when it's done - I am *so* over it. I don't think I can do a play-by-play at this point. I am going to maybe do one big collective post that covers the last week... when I can get the thoughts in order! For now though, I am heading to bed early. I was out last night and it will be a big night tomorrow night. Two nights out in one week! - what am I, 16 again? :)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Resolving early

This was me a couple of days ago, and I'm hoping that by the time this post posts, it's nothing but a distant memory. I woke up feeling fine last Friday, then had a somewhat achy back by the end of the day, which got worse on Saturday and by Sunday I could hardly walk. A trip to the chiropractor on Monday resulted in the diagnosis of one of the crookedest spines he had seen in some time. I am literally standing as straight as I can in this picture, but a massive lower-back muscle spasm had me teetering dangerously over to the right.

His diagnosis included the hypothesis that it was probably stress-related, and at first I protested that I didn't think that could be it, but then I thought about it some more. We did have to convene the Emergency Operating Centre at work on Friday for an unforseen incident. Mallory did spend the night vomiting. We did have family obligations the next day which followed on the obligations we had the weekend before that and the weekend before that and... The constant to-do lists and running around that happen at this time of year. And as usual, I am sure I had probably not been getting enough sleep, eating well enough, exercising as much as I should, and I know my pool time (the one thing that always makes my back feel good) has been dwindling as of late.

And then I thought about how this has probably been the poorest-ever year for me from a health perspective, what with the injuries I had over the summer (also back related; not really surprising, hmmm?) that made my race season 1 for 3, the pneumonia I had in September, and the never-ending sickness that pervaded our household through much of October and November. Clearly, something is not working.

So this is my vow - to make 2012 the Year Of Health. To sleep more, eat better, move as much as I can, and let as much stress as possible roll off my back. To commit to doing less, but rather than seeing it as wasted opportunity, I'm going to make it as purposeful as possible. The past six months have been tough ones and I'd rather not repeat them.

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. This is me officially unplugging for a bit, for the sake of my body + soul.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

And then it was his turn

'Tis the season for school concerts. Wednesday was Liam's. He did not sing much during the group number, but he did recite a poem along with three or four other kids, and nailed his own personal lines. We followed the show up with some craft time back in his classroom.We also encountered Mallory's class travelling the halls. They had a pajama day to celebrate the end of their Polar Express unit, and it was pretty cute to see them all lined up in their jammies. (Mallory is making the 'quiet' sign that her teacher often does - the kids were getting a bit rowdy in the hall and the teacher had just shushed them. She takes that quiet sign pretty seriously!!)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

As promised

I've spliced together roughly 90 seconds of footage... when you are filming between the heads of 4 rows of parents in front of you, you don't get a clean edit. That's OK though... condensed cuteness is fine by me.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The kindergarten Christmas concert - round #3

Be still, my heart. It's one of my favourite days of the year. I will have to find some time to upload a video clip because that Mallory, she carried her little trio right through Twelve Days of Christmas, and it was a hoot.(Last week I let her wear that shirt to school one day, and she managed to dump a bottle of grape juice down the front of it. Clearly the kids-clothes-selector is not the same as the kids-lunch-packer in this house. Her teacher called me, slightly frantic and quite apologetic although it had nothing to do with her, to say that she'd tried washing it out in the sink in the classroom to no avail. I thought that shirt was ruined and that we'd have to find something else for the concert, but let me tell you once again - white vinegar works MAGIC.)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Taking a risk

Mallory is mostly absent from these pictures taken Saturday, but look closely. There's a sliver of her face on the left of the middle one. Despite having been up puking several times the night before, she came skipping into our room bright and early the next morning, requesting a glass of juice and her breakfast. She seemed to be fully restored. We waffled for a while; to go or not to go? In the end we decided to go, all of us.Halfway to Brights Grove we heard it from the back seat: "My tummy hurts!" I spent the next half hour regretting the decision. We walked through Aunt Brenda and Uncle Bob's door and she wanted to sit and cuddle on my lap on the first armchair she saw. But once she warmed up to the crowd and the idea of a Christmas party, it was game on. I think her tummy hurting only meant that she was hungry. She ate strawberries and waffles for brunch and nibbled from the buffet later in the day. During the board game round-robin she remained undefeated at Pictureka. All in all, a very good day.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Beware of referencing the past, lest ye summon it.

(Picture taken during happier times. Last weekend, to be precise.)

This is what I'm referring to. Yep - it's happened again - Mallory has come down with a nasty stomach virus with a week to go until Christmas. We have not been able to keep up with the laundry tonight (three pairs of pajamas/three sets of bedsheets, and it's not even midnight!)

This time, though, we are early knowers. We have a family Christmas party tomorrow but I'm pretty sure we infected that side of the family when we went through this back in 2007, so this year Mallory and I will stay home and Liam and Chad will head out without us. I couldn't bear for Liam not to go - he is never happier than when grazing at a buffet table or playing with Fluffster, The Cat Who Dresses Up Like Santa.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The thing about the Elf on the Shelf

Reddy (named by Mallory) The Elf has lived with us for fifteen days now, and during that time we have had our share of ups and downs. First, a bit of backstory. The idea of Elf on the Shelf is that the elf comes to us directly from the North Pole. He observes the kids' behaviour by day and flies back to the North Pole nightly in order to report back to Santa on what he has seen and heard. The next morning, the kids wake up to find him in a new location, proof that he took that magical overnight trip.

The only rule of Elf on the Shelf is that you are not allowed to touch him, or else his magic might disappear.

With that in mind... I laughed out loud when I read this post today, because I could totally relate. The same thing happened to us.Well, our kids didn't have such a complete meltdown, but an unsuspecting grandmother did touch the elf (in plain sight of the kids) before we could warn her about the rules of Elf on the Shelf. There was an immediate, horrified gasp from Liam and Mallory, who worried that the elf's magic would thusly be ruined. I gave them a quick reassurance that it would not matter, but still they got out of bed extra-early the following morning to race back to that same spot and make sure he wasn't stuck there, magic drained like an old Energizer battery.

True, Reddy has taken a lot of work on our behalf. There was one morning when I was very, very lucky to remember that he was in the same spot he'd occupied the day before, and I held the kids off of going downstairs with some lame excuse, then rushed around to find him a new spot moments before they came in. Another Elf on the Shelf low moment came when Liam saw the tag on him (I had rested him on a plant, and by the end of the day, the branch he was on had flopped over, exposing his backside.) "Why is there a tag on Reddy?" he wondered aloud. I quickly changed the subject and that night after Liam was in bed, I chopped the offending tag off. No need for Liam, who can read an amazingly wide assortment of literature these days, to see "MADE IN CHINA".

But there have been benefits, too. It is not uncommon to wander into whatever room Reddy happens to be hanging out in and find Liam staring at him intently. I can see what is running through his mind. He is willing Reddy to blink. I remember that feeling of willing an inanimate object to come to life very well. (Heck, I still feel that way whenever I pass a religious statue - I always make eye contact because you never know, I might see a sign.) When I was a kid we had a Snap, Crackle or Pop figurine (who knows which one) that came out of a Rice Krispies box, and sometimes for fun my mom would play a game where we would put him on top of the fridge and leave the kitchen. Upon returning, he would be gone, hidden somewhere around the house. And I totally bought into it that he was some magical little thing that could hide entirely on his own.

Before we got the Elf on the Shelf, I read all kinds of stories of people who caught their elves doing naughty things, like having marshmallow fights with their Barbie dolls or decorating the house with candy canes. I always sort of thought our elf would do those things too, but he doesn't. He mostly just moves from kitchen to living room to bathroom and back again. I came across this post and nodded along in agreement with almost every word. Maybe Reddy will step it up as Christmas approaches, though to be honest, I am working until December 23rd this year and I don't foresee a whole lot of extra magic until I'm done... but he goes home to the North Pole for good on the 24th, so at that point, why bother?

Oh well... there's always next year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

All they want for Christmas

The annual making-of-the-Christmas-lists tradition has come and gone in our house, and it played out this year similarly to how it has played out in the past. Mallory cut everything pink and girlie out of the Sears Christmas Wish Book and said she wanted it all. Her original list was multiple pages long before she whittled it down to a manageable size. Liam, on the other hand, really didn't know what he wanted even with the Wish Book in front of him, and it took some suggestions from Mom and Dad for him to be able to compose any list at all.

Liam's big wish this year is for a Lego pirate ship. I had it on pretty good authority that Santa had requested this item from Sears back in the middle of November, only to get an email a few days ago telling him that the order had been cancelled. This upset Santa quite a bit and he fired off a nasty email to Sears saying he found it unacceptable that his order would have been deemed to be fulfilled only to be cancelled three weeks later, and what if he can't find the item elsewhere and has nothing under the tree for Liam on Christmas morning? Sears replied with an unapologetic mass email,which means that Santa will be taking his business back to the elves next year. Meanwhile, Santa sourced the Lego set elsewhere and though it hasn't arrived yet, he has a tracking number that at least indicates it's on its way (and residing in Mississauga, last he checked.)

Mallory's big wish this year is for all things Barbie. Actually, she has deemed that she wants the purple barbie and the Ken doll pictured here (actually, their names are Delaney and Nicholas - I think she will be pleased by that!) and this ridiculous thing called the Puppy Water Park, which is a swimming pool you can fill with water and a couple of plastic dogs that swim in it. No idea how much use she will get out of it but she very much wants it. And let's face it, Barbie wishes are easy wishes to fulfill - they are cheap and they are available everywhere. Santa is going to throw in an extra playhouse type thing that will hopefully give her more mileage with the dolls than the water park will. And, she is getting the Barbie Princess Charm School movie, starring Delaney and Nicholas, which I think she will be thrilled about.

Mom and Dad's gift to the kids is a Leappad for each of them, and thank goodness we had the foresight to order these in October because we paid $85 each for them and they are now going for upwards of $250 on eBay - they seem to be sold out everywhere. This year's version of the 1983 Cabbage Patch doll shortage.

Liam is still very much into Beyblades and will get a BeyLocker... some hockey books... Mallory has some more Squinkies and a Rapunzel t-shirt coming her way... and several more fun little things that will make for a happy Christmas morning.

If only Chad were so easy to buy for!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

First we'll make snow angels for two hours, then we'll go ice skating, then we'll eat a whole roll of Tollhouse cookie dough as fast as we can...

...and then we'll snuggle.

I simply adore Christmas movies. They're even better now that the kids like watching them, too. We finish up homework and race to get into pajamas so that we can watch some of our favourite holiday specials before bed.

(Name that movie? Here are some additional hints:
I love smiling. Smiling's my favourite.
You're not Santa. You smell like meat and cheese!
Son of a nutcracker!)

Monday, December 12, 2011

The first rule of December Daily is there are no rules

I have been (mostly) keeping up with my December Daily... on my own terms. (Meaning, I caught up over the weekend. I can do the easy days midweek, but anything that requires decision making typically gets deferred to the weekend!)

Yesterday was our first family Christmas get-together. I am particularly enamoured of this picture of Mallory in the midst of a game of Duck Duck Goose. Can't believe she is actually mostly in focus:The day prior was a very big day for Liam. He, Chad, and both of his grandpas went to the Red Wings game in Detroit - his first NHL game. I have gone back and forth over it, considered adding a page of extra photos, but in the end I'm going to stick just with what's here and will recrop this one horizontal and maybe add some text to finish the day off:And you knew this would probably show up as my entry for December 9:

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The newest member of the family

Lillian Jane MacKenzie, born to John and Katrina yesterday morning and clocking in at 9 pounds even! Mallory is beyond thrilled to have a girl cousin. She is tomboyish enough right now to hold her own with the posse of boys, but I'm glad that she will have Lilly to grow up with.

Friday, December 9, 2011

I keep going back to this link

It's the '45 Most Powerful Photos of 2011'. They all take my breath away, and make me want to pick up my camera and shoot something.

45 Most Powerful Photos of 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011

December Daily: Day 4

The middle picture quite possibly being the best Santa photo in Cook family history.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hello, December.

This is the fifth year running that I've tackled a December Daily project. I'll be honest... I follow the project guidelines very, very loosely. Sometimes I do a week's worth of pages in one day and then ignore it for the rest of the week. Sometimes I use pictures from November and call them December. Sometimes I number the days and sometimes I just document the month without worrying about lining it up with the calendar. My motto is basically to do what it takes to get it done. The first rule of December Daily is that there are no rules in December Daily.

This year I bought a 6x8.5" Christmas recipe binder (from a scrapbook store during their Christmas in July sale and got it for $6!) It has 6x8.5" page protectors and 2-up photo pages. So the guesswork was taken out of the equation for me (gotta love simplifying). Each layout is one 6x8.5" page plus two 4x6" photos printed and inserted in the sleeves. If something super fantastic happens one day I might throw in an extra photo sleeve.

Some of the pages will have some stuff added to them once printed... some of them are complete as they are. I'm random like that.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Worth watching

To think that it started when he was the age Liam is now... really drives it home.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

About face

This is what Mallory made at school on Wednesday.

You were all here to witness this, right??

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Notes from the battlefield

Monday night was ringette night, and we threw Mallory back into the ring. She had known this day was coming and was prepped the night before. So it was no surprise when I got to the school to pick her up Monday night and she saw me, ran down the hall toward me as she usually does, leapt into my arms, gave me a big hug, then stepped back and stomped her foot and said, “I DON’T want to go to ringette!” Well, tough luck, kiddo. I told her it was non-negotiable and reminded her that a Happy Meal awaited her if she did well on the ice. Yup, I have stooped to bribery. (I can see my sister, who is on the cusp of having a brand new baby of her own, shaking her head in dismay as she reads this, much the same way I used to do before I had kids; and all I can say is, wait 4 years and see how many things you do that you swore you would never do!) Then I reminded her that she would have a friend on the ice that night, Evelyn, a friend who has been playing ringette for 7 years and volunteered her time and effort to help initiate Mallory into the ringette cult. Except that when we got to the arena, the program leader was giving Evelyn a hard time, saying she shouldn’t be on the ice. It was frustrating to say the least (and if I felt that way then I can only imagine how Evelyn felt.) There seemed to be little harm in letting a long standing member of the league, in full protective equipment, help a new member of the league who has years of membership ahead of her if only we can spark some interest in her. Finally the program leader acquiesced and they took to the ice. I can’t say Mallory looked particularly happy during the practice. It’s hard to tell with the mouth guard in place, but I think I had some looks of death shot my way as she dutifully skated by. A few times during the hour she appeared to be needing a lot of encouragement. But, she stuck it out for the full hour, which is a bigger success than we’ve seen all month. When the practice ended, Evelyn took Mallory into the change room and presented her with a ringette pin, explaining that she had received it for being a great ringette player and now that Mallory had also done a great job, she was passing the pin along to her. Mallory was trying to be sly about the pin but I think Evelyn really pushed her buttons when she gave it to her. The whole drive home was spent chattering about where she was going to put this special pin, in a box, but first she needed a special box, do you have any special boxes in the office Mom? Then I’m going to write ‘Ringette’ on the box, no, I’m going to write ‘Ringette Pin’, will you help me spell ‘Ringette Pin’?I told Mallory that the only way she could keep her special ringette pin was by being a special ringette player, and that meant playing once a week until the winter is over. Did she think she could handle that? She sighed heavily, like the weight of the world was on her shoulders, before nodding yes. So… we’ll see. There is a practice tomorrow that we will skip because frankly, at this point, going once a week without any tears would make Mallory a rock star to me. Twice a week is pushing it.So Evelyn deserves a world of thanks for getting Mallory back on the ice and helping her to see that a 50-minute ringette practice is not pure torture. After Mallory’s practice was Evelyn’s practice, and we stayed for a few minutes to watch the team. The girls are amazingly fast, can skate backwards with ease and stop or turn on a dime. We admired their agility for a while as I prayed that Mallory would come to appreciate that… or at least learn to not hate it so much, from now until April. And then we were off to McDonald’s to pick up her Happy Meal. For one night at least, she earned it.Here's Liam, hanging out in the penalty box. He's figured out where the buzzer is and liked giving me heart attacks by pretending to go for it. There's always fun to be had at the arena.)

Monday, November 28, 2011

That one

Liam's school interview, on the other hand, went pretty much as we expected it would. He brought home a pretty strong report card, which we were pleased with because we hear that his teacher is a toughie. Still, it seems that he is quite advanced in reading, strong in math, and that he is REALLY good at gym.
This kind of makes me laugh because he is still not the most competitive kid in the world when it comes to hockey... though (a) he has improved a lot even just in the last few weeks (must be because he is actually making it to both the game and the practice - for so many weeks when we were all sick, that just wasn't happening) and (b) whether or not he's good at it, HE LOVES IT. Oh man, does he love it. This kid eats, sleeps, and breathes hockey. It's kind of taken on a life of its own. He watches hockey games, he watches hockey game reruns on the Leafs channel, he checks Sports Center every morning for the scores of games that finished after he went to bed the night before, he maintains both his hockey sticker book and Mallory's hockey sticker book, and I am starting to find hockey doodles left lying around the house again - team names, game scores, lists of players, and so on.
Liam is going to his first NHL game in a couple of weeks, and couldn't be more excited. It's sort of a guys night out and I have to say that I am sorry I am going to miss it.
Liam also chose a hockey ornament for the Christmas tree this year, one we weren't able to find locally and finally bought off eBay today. More on that when it actually gets here.
So I guess this digressed from a school update to a hockey update, but whatevs. Back to school - Liam is doing really well and the only thing we have been given for him to work on is helping him to open up to his teachers, to help him prove to them that he knows as much as he does. And if that's the only thing that needs improving, well, we can't ask for much more than that.

Friday, November 25, 2011

This one

On Monday night this week, we had probably our worst ringette experience to date. Another night where Mallory stepped on the ice and then refused to move a muscle. One of the teenage girls assisting with the program spent a good 30-40 minutes talking to her, trying to coax her into action, before we finally pulled her off the ice. During this 30-40 minutes we had plenty of time to discuss our options and we basically came to the conclusion that it was time to quit ringette.

On the drive home, over dinner and into the evening we talked about ringette not being the be-all end-all. That perhaps we’d give Mallory a break from skating until after Christmas, and then get her back into CanSkate lessons for ½ hour a week. Or maybe we wouldn’t try to keep pushing the skating; maybe we’d look for a dance class or even get Mallory started on piano lessons, since she seems to show an affinity for music.

Later that night I got online to check out the league’s cancellation policy, though, and I discovered that the deadline for pulling out and getting even a partial refund had long since passed. So we can quit ringette, but we are still on the hook for $400 worth of ice time and a bunch of equipment. Then and there, I vowed that it’s not over until it’s over: Mallory is going back to ringette. It may not be every week, it may take some bribery, but she is going back. I am not going to kiss that $400 good-bye just yet.

It was with this fresh in mind that we went into parent-teacher interviews this week, and perhaps that’s why I was braced for the worst. Well, not the worst, exactly. I mean, I know Mallory is a pretty bright little thing and that socially, she is one to be reckoned with. I was a bit apprehensive, though, that we might hear back that she lacks focus, is bossy and stubborn, or tries too hard to be the class clown. Instead, we got a glowing report on her that indicates that in addition to actually being a very friendly, responsible and caring kid, she’s at the top of her class academically, reading and writing and doing math at a level beyond what’s normally taught in JK. So she has pretty much shattered my perception that Liam was going to be our intellectual kid who’s less of a socialite, and that Mallory was going to be social as all get out but potentially lack the academic strengths that Liam has.

Then I remember the ringette thing, and I’m glad that she can focus and do well at school and give us something to praise her about, because boy howdy has she been close to being tossed out the window after some of her escapades at the rink.