Saturday, October 31, 2009

Photos + words: Halloween 2009

Mallory was grossed out by the pumpkin guts and wanted nothing to do with the carving.
Getting ready for visitors to our house.
Spotting the first set of trick-or-treaters making rounds just as we were setting out ourselves.
The prettiest Cinderella ever.
And, the coolest pirate dude.
About two minutes after we went outside, the kids decided (despite multiple layers - Mallory was wearing 3 shirts under her dress) that it was just too cold to go out in costumes alone. So much for putting all that effort into Mallory's dress! (But at least the wonky zipper in the back was hidden from view!)
I love getting a few shots of the kids ToT'ing at some of the well-decked out neighbours' houses, like this one...
... and this one...
... and this one.
Back at home, checking out the stash. The kids didn't have much ToT'ing stamina. Halfway down the first cul-de-sac, Liam decided he'd had enough, and we turned and headed home.
They probably got more enjoyment out of dropping loot into the bags of kids who came to our house. We counted about 85 kids in all.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ready to go

So glad to have gotten the kids out yesterday for a quick photo in their costumes (even if we didn't do it up with Liam's 'stache). The forecast for tomorrow calls for cold, rain, and wind. We may get some great ToT photos but then again... we may not. And with the amount of effort that went into Mallory's costume, it needed a portrait!

Coming soon: volunteering at the kindergarten Halloween party yesterday. It was a hoot! Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thwarted!

So, on Monday I pulled into the driveway at home, Mallory in the car with me, to find Chad and Liam (who had just gotten home themselves) out gawking at the front lawn. What do you think they were looking at??

Some squirrel - I assume - decided to go after my crocus bulbs. So picture this. We planted 90 crocuses, 3 to a hole. 30 chunks of sod we cut out with a bulb planter, popped the corms in place and topped back off with the plug. So there were 30 clumps of sod - because oh yes, this vermin had removed every last one - and crocus bulbs chucked everywhere. I couldn't make out whether he had eaten half of them or just had a good time tossing them about. To say that I was livid was an understatement.

I was not going for *quite* this effect (though you have to admit - it's gorgeous!), but at this rate, I will never, ever get there.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

On This Day in Cook Family History:

2008:
So I had a bit of a story to share today, but I am swamped again, and it's been a long day, and the story is only coming to me now in dribs and drabs. It had something to do with how I still find myself ogling Liam's little skinny legs whenever my face is in their general vicinity, finding it hilarious how knock-kneed he is and how much his build looks like Chad's at the same age, and still marvelling at the fact that his knees are so flat-topped and completely square when bent (how did I not know before that kids don't grow kneecaps til later in life?) So I was completely shocked, when faced with what appears to be delicacy and spindliness every day, to have grabbed his calf the other night in a bout of wrestling and to have found it to be a rock-solid piece of muscle. I mean, it put my poor, flabby, nowhere-near-its-former-glory body to shame. I was totally surprised by just how ripped the little dude is. I know his constant walks down to feed the ducks and bike loops around the basement and so forth all contribute, but it was still a shock.

Or something like that. It's late in the day. I can't really think straight anymore.

2007:
I haven't been posting much lately and it's not because I am dying a slow and miserable spider-induced death - it's because I've been lazy. Still too lazy today to type any more out, so watch this instead. This was back when it was a novelty; now she's hoisting herself up on everything.
video

2005:
The weekend before Dana and Bruce left for Florida, we went over to their place for dinner, and we dressed Liam in his Halloween costume to give them a preview since they aren't here for the holiday itself. Here he is - our little monkey, complete with a banana that he really enjoys chewing on (what else is new, right?)

This afternoon we are off to a Halloween party. Yes, Liam has been invited out for a Halloween party with 30 other kids. We'll see how this goes. He doesn't seem to be too crazy about his costume, but will likely be OK with the hood down. (And yes, I got him some socks that blend in with the monkey feet a little better - this photo makes it glaringly obvious that navy blue was not a good choice!) He has really taken an interest in other kids lately though. Over the last few weeks he has been more interactive with the other babies at our playgroup, he did well with Melissa's girls when we visited her on Wednesday, and at the pool on Thursday we met Baby Henry, who Liam seemed to adore. It actually isn't even limited to babies; he just seems to be coming out of his shell lately. I'm not sure that a Halloween party is the place to test this theory - a few spooky costumes may throw him right off - but I'm looking forward to such a fun kiddie event. I spent Thursday night baking cupcakes and making little white chocolate ghosts to go on top. This afternoon Audrey and Evelyn are coming over, and if they're willing participants then we'll get out the frosting and do some assembly. I hope to have some cool photos to post when we come home - that is, if I'm not too busy consoling an easily frightened baby!...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Missed

Last night I had another school council meeting. It was only our second meeting and it's the last one til the end of January (!!). I like being involved in something like this that gives me some insight into something and yet is not a major drain on my time.

Anyway, I'd told the kids that I should be home for bedtime and even though the meeting dragged on a bit... and I was a few minutes later than their usual bedtime... I came home to find them waiting up for me. I gave them some cuddles and put them to bed. Mallory was a bit teary as I did so. "Are you home now, Mom?" she said. I told her that I was and then she said, "Are you staying home, Mom?"

Break. My. Heart.

I don't have another business trip planned until May - I'm trying to skate by on a 'once a year' minimum - and I'm glad that I don't, because obviously, it messes with the kids. Thank goodness I am not in sales or some such thing.

That said, tonight... I have another meeting. This time, it's book club. And while it's not strictly *necessary* that I go, well, I haven't been for months and months. And I know I won't be going next month. And I finished the book this month. And I really liked it. So I am going to try to pop out and be back within an hour... kind of the best of both worlds.

(We went out on the weekend when the weather was nice and planted some snow crocuses in the lawn. I love the look of naturalized crocus, but I think Chad is a little leery. This is fair enough, because at the last house I planted daffodils around the base of a tree and Chad had a terrible time mowing around the knee-high foliage that was supposed to be left standing until, like, July. It looked great while they were flowering and terrible thereafter. But crocuses flower before the grass even starts growing, and its foliage can be mown over right away, and just looks like grass blades, anyway. I am hoping Chad will like it OK when he sees it or else I will be out there picking 90 crocus bulbs out of the ground in March.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

It's almost here...

Halloween seems to be a six-week-long production these days. Liam has been traipsing around the house in his costume for that long already, and I had the pile of fabrics that were destined to become Mallory's costume kicking about since late summer, too. I had fully intended to buy her costume because really - you can get a Cinderella dress at any drugstore or supermarket these days. But then I found the fabrics on clearance - literally just a couple of dollars a meter - and got the itch to make it myself. I did worry because I have never made clothing and thought the slinky fabrics might have been difficult to sew with, but those engineering skills came in handy when it came to piecing it together, and the fabrics weren't hard to handle at all.

(Chad tried to talk Mallory out of being Cinderella, saying she should be Ariel instead so she could play up her gorgeous hair. Mallory would have none of it. She said months ago that she wanted to be Cinderella and once those words were out of her mouth, there was no convincing her otherwise!)

I got the dress finished before I left on my trip last week, so she was able to wear it to Cindy's Halloween party last week. (I still need to finish the hairband - maybe tonight?) I made her a size 3 and I totally lack the skill to custom-size something like that. Partway through I freaked out and thought it was going to be too small to fit her. Lo and behold, now that it's finished, it is actually quite large - I have to safety-pin it in the back to keep it from slipping off her shoulders! Ah well, she'll be able to play dress-up for months to come. Nothing wrong with that.

We got her a plain white turtleneck to wear underneath for trick-or-treating purposes, since the gathers in the neckline on this white t kind of detract from the whole ensemble and make it look less than thought out! (Liam actually has several different pieces of pirate wear that he can layer depending on the weather... the long coat he's sporting here is not my favourite among them, but if he's happy then we are (usually) all happy.) And yes, those are Mallory's flower girl shoes getting a second lease on life. I would like to get the kids dressed up and outside for a few posed pictures one day this week... something that shows the true colour of her dress, with some autumn leaves in the background perhaps. I have had some good luck bribing the kids for pictures with a Halloween treat lately. Perhaps I'll try that tack again.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Back

The morning before I left for Houston, I took the kids to the pumpkin patch. I had these photos on the card in my camera while I was gone. Every time I missed them, I turned the camera on and scrolled through. I also did that when I was flying home through the remnants of Tropical Storm Rick and the turbulence made me think the plane was going down. (Yes, I am a nervous flier.) But, it could have been worse - my pilot could have fallen asleep in the cockpit and overshot the Detroit airport by several hundred miles, delaying the reunion even further.Mallory took a running leap at me when she saw me and gave me the biggest bear hug of all time, followed up by an out-of-the-blue "I missed you, Mommy" while I was driving the kids to daycare this morning. Liam? The one who cried himself to sleep multiple times this week? He's too cool for school. He's not giving much indication that he missed me at all. Though we spent some quality time cuddling last night and also took our time getting out the door this morning. (Actually, that is probably more due to the fact that today is Cindy's Halloween party, and it took me some time to get his mustache and goatee drawn on properly!)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Costly

Right before I left for Houston, I got the repair estimate from Canon for my lens. It came to $80 plus return shipping and taxes. Not too bad, or so I thought.

Since I have been here, with time on my hands, I have been doing some shopping. The usual shopping I do these days is pretty much limited to picking something up at Winners without even trying it on because I have kids in tow. (Or picking something up at Winners without even trying it on because I am on my lunch hour and don't have time.) We don't have a ton of shopping options where I live and I don't often spend real time on it.

So since I have been here for several days, in the main shopping district of the city, where there really isn't anything 'touristy' to see or do but with wonderful access to all of my favourite stores... I have been making the most of it. I have been traipsing back and forth between stores, comparing things, trying things on, determining if this goes with that and narrowing my choices down. (I don't like to buy something until I see what else is out there. There might be something I like more.)

I have spent more in the past few days than I normally do, but I've gotten some great stuff. Mostly on sale. I even had time to spend in TJ Maxx digging through racks and racks of ugly crap to get to the $200 sweater that I bought for $50.
(I did pass on some costume jewelry that I saw and just loved. When did stuff get so darn expensive? A costume necklace for almost $100? Where have I been that prices have gotten this high and I didn't know it was the new norm??? I also drew the line at trying on any of the $2000 Zac Posen dresses while passing through Nordstrom's. While I knew that 90% of what I tried on probably wasn't going to make the cut, I am a bit more realistic than that.)

Anyway, I spent enough to feel like I had gotten some great stuff and to stock up since it will likely be a while before my next shopping trip like this, but was not yet verging on regretting having spent too much. It was a fine line, but I was OK with it. I came back to my hotel last night and made sure I could squeeze it all into my suitcase. I considered all the legwork time well spent.

And then I logged into my email, and got a message from Canon stating that upon further inspection, another part in my lens needs to be replaced, and it's another $170 to do that.
Crap!!!!!

Oh well… I’m sitting in an airport terminal right now. Too late to take anything back. :)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

There's no place like home

Liam has had a really tough week with me being away from home, and when I called home tonight to check in with Chad, a bawling-his-eyes-out little boy got on the phone with me and broke my heart. We finished up our work a bit early and so I am staying up late tonight to get onto nwa.com when the clock rolls over to October 22nd - in the hopes of securing an early flight home on standby. I can't wait to be home.

10 ways you know you are in Houston... and one way you don't

10. Your local friends make you eat alligator.
9. There are more Spanish-language magazines at Borders than English.
8. Your business associate has a huge deer head he shot himself mounted on his office wall, and photos of bloody deer carcasses on display. I cannot imagine that kind of thing flying at home!
7. The iced tea is unsweetened.
6. Every building in sight is a sand-coloured stucco strip mall.
5. The other (local) shoppers at Ann Taylor Loft are all drooling over the wool sweaters that just came in, knowing that it will almost never get cold enough here for them to wear them. So you buy one. Because you will actually need it!
4. The weather forecast is calling for 6 inches of rain today and another 6 tomorrow. I am about to go out and buy a rubber dinghy but the locals do not get fazed until daily precipitation totals at least hit the double digits. That's in inches, folks.
3. When visiting your head office you pass "No Firearms Allowed" signage.
2. There are crowds of sunbathers out at the pool. In October.
1. You discuss your associate's next visit to your office. It will take place in mid-January. He starts asking you about the need for long johns, and you can tell that he is close to crying.

And...

1. The Cheesecake Factory is every bit as good as I remembered it being!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Where Mallory says I am right now:

“In Youston, helping someone else do their work.”

Well... kind of. I am in Houston, though it's more like someone else is helping me do my work.

Yesterday, I finally stopped by my company's head office after my day work was done. Eight years ago they bought us and all anyone could talk about was how much commuting we would be doing between home and Houston. Eight years later (!) I finally made my first trip, and it was for a completely different purpose at that!

I got a tour of the Gas Control area of head office and met up with some old friends for dinner (I ate alligator!!) and a visit back at their house. Then I went for a hot tub before going to bed. I miss the kids like crazy, but I am trying to make the most of my alone time while I have it. I will be working later tonight, but there is a Cheesecake Factory a couple of blocks away and an FAO Schwartz that I can see from my hotel window. I think I know what I am having for dinner tonight, and I hope to follow it up with some early Christmas shopping.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Under pressure (a.k.a. where I have been)

On Thursday, Cindy dropped a bombshell on me - her Halloween party for the kids is a full week earlier than I expected. And, um, I'm going out of town for five days... starting tomorrow. So the past 48 hours have been a frenzy of sewing, because back in August I somehow got it in my head that it would be more fun to sew Mallory's costume than it would be to purchase the mass-produced variety.

Well, it has been fun. A little stressful, but fun. It's nearly done and I am breathing a bit easier now. I will get to my email inbox tomorrow, when I have time to kill in an airport and my sewing machine access has been revoked!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Arrrrrrrrrgh, matey!

Sometimes, that is what Liam sounds like. He has not been able to keep away from his Halloween costume. At least a couple of times a week, he dresses up (complete with mustache and goatee). I think this is partly because Mallory gets all dramatic and feigns fear: "I don't want the pirate to get me!" And that does nothing but egg Liam on. Let's just hope the novelty doesn't wear off over the next couple of weeks. I have no intentions of making a last-minute run to a big-box store for a new costume the day before!

However.... that could ALSO be what comes out of my mouth, when I find out that Liam has had yet another accident at school (or, more specifically, at the after school program) because he is too shy to use the bathroom and would rather pee on the sports field instead. He holds it as long as he can, but evidently, 4 p.m. or so is the breaking point. I am kind of at my wit's end with this. The teacher said she would start making a point of taking him to the bathroom whether he wants to or not but... I kind of think she forgot about that. And frankly, when I am not with him all day - there is nothing I can do about it. Except to keep washing the dirty clothes that come home.

Like I said... arrrrrghhhh!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Disney Days 4&5: EPCOT

If I don't start lumping some days together, the odds of me making it through this entire vacation are bound to wither away. Besides... Epcot is not my favourite park. The first day we were there, I actually took very few photos. So it should be easy to summarize. On our first morning, we went to Akershus for their Storybook Dining breakfast with the princesses. Great cold buffet (though I stayed away from the herring and capers - they weren't doing it for me at 8 a.m.) and hot plated breakfast.

I'm having a hard time now remembering what we even did. We visited a few attractions in Future World, which is my least favourite side of the park. They pipe in that cheesy 'futuristic music' soundtrack that I'm sure has remained unchanged since 1986. The kids loved Innoventions though, and I convinced Liam to ride Soarin'! with me, a hang glider simulator that was the one new attraction I was looking forward to. He had a few moments when he clutched my hand, but overall he enjoyed it and went on to ride it again with Chad the next day. We also spent a lot of time on the Nemo ride, and we went to see Turtle Talk with Crush, which was surprisingly good. And we hung around the aquarium for a bit.Lunch was at a favourite, Teppan Edo. The kids got a big kick out of having the food prepared right at the table in front of us. And Mallory is always up for rice and noodles.We were back at the hotel each afternoon for swimming, colouring, and an attempt at a nap for Mallory. Our first night's dinner was at Coral Reef which is cool because one whole wall is a giant fish tank. Plenty of entertainment for the kids. We'd heard reports of food quality here suffering lately, but we both thought it was excellent. This was my appetizer -a Shrimp and Lobster Cake with some sort of thai dressing. On our second day, we picked up a quick to-go breakfast and Chad and Liam jumped right in line to go on Soarin'! again. (The attraction can have waits of up to 2 hours, but if you time things right, you can get through the queue in 10-15 minutes.) Then we spent a bit of time around the World Showcase. We had fish and chips for lunch one day in England... now I'm thinking perhaps I have my first and second days mixed up? I would have to check my notes.Back to the hotel for more swimming and a break before dinner. Right before dinner, Liam and Chad rode Test Track, which I think scared Liam half to death, but he says he would do it again. Dinner that night was at Chip and Dale's Harvest Dinner Buffet at the Garden Grill. It's served family-style and includes a lot of food grown in the greenhouses on the premises (it's in The Land building)... and again, it was excellent - much better than I anticipated. The real highlight though was that this character meal featured Pluto, who is (for whatever reason) Liam's favourite. He was so excited. He brought a little stuffed Pluto from home and carried it through the park to show the Pluto character, who pretended to weep with joy. And that just made Liam's day. This photo is one that the Photopass photographer took on our way out of the park. Lovely, cooperative children, right? Thus the need to do a new family portrait on the weekend!Next up: Day 6: Hollywood Studios. I'll have to refer back to my notes before posting that one... otherwise it will just be a whole lot of "I don't remember."P.S. I know it looks like we have barely changed our clothes in these photos. That's because we packed light and did a load of wash half way through the trip!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Photo shoots (and photo shoot woes)

For the past 5 years or so, we have been doing an annual Cook Family Portrait. Usually at the trailer, and usually in the summer. This year, the summer ended abruptly and the trailer was closed up early when Grampa Bruce got sick, so we didn't get our picture done until this past Sunday, when we were all together for Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, it was the coldest day of the year so far - not exactly ideal for catching an outdoor shot.

On top of that, two things. First: my tripod broke as I was setting up the shot. Lovely. A nearby picnic table to hold the camera and a quick change of location got the job done. Number two: my favourite lens, with which I would normally take this shot, is currently somewhere in No Man's Land - either Canada Post or Canon Canada has it right now. I had to break out a telephoto lens instead. This meant that I had to back way the heck up to get the shot, and also meant that I had to run like heck and just barely had enough time to get into the shot, since it was taken with the 10-second-timer feature on my camera. They need to make a 20-second-timer option for situations like these. (Do I look sweaty, dishevelled and windswept?) I want my short lens back!!

It was a photo weekend all around, because on Saturday we had no real plans, and I was out for a run that morning when in a perfect act of serendipity, I passed what would become our 2009 Christmas Photo backdrop. And since the weather wasn't too bad, we took the kids out later that same afternoon to capture a few shots. I already had their clothes and I had bought the props last year for this year's photo - thinking that I wanted to take it early enough that I wasn't hearing complaints about how cold they were the whole time, and that Christmas stuff wouldn't be in stores yet. I am so glad we did this on Saturday. There is a brief warm spell coming but mostly it is cold and gloom and doom from this point forward. My recommendation: if you are planning to do outdoor photos anytime soon... do them NOW. Two years ago we did them on November 3 and last year we did them October 27. It was definitely colder this year, on October 10, than it was either of those times. And it's only going to get worse!After the full family shot, I asked Jenn to take a few of our immediate family. I have a big copy of our family shot from 2 years ago hanging on the wall, and I'd like to update it. I love that photo and it's going to take a lot for me to love something more. I'm not entirely sure that we succeeded... there are things I would do differently if I had the chance to do it again. But that's the way, isn't it? It's like the cobbler's children who have no shoes. Photographers are never satisfied with photos of their own families. They're used to churning out perfection for clients, but somehow it all falls apart when it's your own family.Case in point: I took about 60 photos for our Christmas card. Not one of them turned out like I'd originally planned. At least I know that I am not alone in this. On a photography board I frequent, there is an annual thread where photogs post their own Christmas photos. And they are always a far cry from the work I see these people post during the rest of the year!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Girls' day in

Mallory and I are having a lovely day together. Man, were we due for that. We ran errands this morning, to the grocery store and the nursery, and came home with a copy of the newly-released Snow White on DVD. Popped some popcorn and sat down for a movie on a bleary, rainy day. (I have some ideas for some photos I'd like to try with Mallory and I thought today would be the perfect opportunity to do them. So much for that idea.)

Right now, she is napping, and when she gets up we will be off to pick Liam up from school. I talked to his teacher this morning when we dropped him off and she informed me that yes, he actually did do show and tell. He didn't want to tell the kids anything about what he chose to take in, but he answered their questions. So why did he tell me he didn't do it at all? The child can't be trusted.

Oh, and the last ten minutes of last night's The Office was probably the best TV I've seen since the season 3 finale of Lost ("We have to go back, Kate! We have to go back!") I've watched it about ten times now. It was perfect.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Troubled waters

We've come to the end of a difficult couple of weeks. I had a consultant in town and was working on implementing a project with him. The project is mostly complete but we encountered a lot of grief along the way. In a couple of weeks I head to Houston for a training course, but it looks like we are going to have to put in some after-hours hours to get things wrapped up.

More importantly, Liam has had a rough few weeks at school. On Tuesday morning he started crying as we got out of the car in the school parking lot, and continued to cry for 45 minutes (during which time I called the office and left a message for the consultant, begging forgiveness for being so late). Every single staff member who saw us stopped and offered some help, though with Liam being Liam, that probably made things worse, not better. I finally had to give him a smile and a hug and push him through the door and leave him. He went on to have a great day, but there were more tears this morning. We *think* we have traced this to the fact that he was supposed to do show-and-tell on Tuesday and we think he was scared stiff. (He probably gets it from me; public speaking is not my forte.) But because Tuesday was also picture day, show and tell got bumped, so he was slated to do it today instead. Of course, getting him to admit that show and tell was the problem was like pulling teeth, so this could still all be a wild goose chase. But we warned his teacher that we thought that was the reason for his upset, and he came home today and reported that he didn't have to do it, his mood obviously improved. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing - I mean, school sometimes sucks, you don't just get out of everything you don't want to do - but I'm at least glad that he wasn't pushed into something that so clearly (?) had him miserable.

With one battle (hopefully) over though, another one began. Within her first hour at Cindy's house this morning, Mallory had had two time outs and had deliberately peed on the floor. By the time I went to pick her up - early, I might add - she was wearing Liam's backup clothes, having also peed her way through her own backup clothes. I apologized profusely to Cindy as I whisked her out the door. I think she was giving Cindy a run for her money today.

I am now off until after the long weekend. I think both the kids need some time and energy from me after a couple of weeks when they didn't get enough of either, and the effects are starting to show.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Do you read NieNie?

I've been following the NieNie Dialogues for a long time. "Nie" will be on Oprah tomorrow (Wednesday). I'm so excited to see her in real life. Can I say that - is TV 'in real life'? Anyway, the DVR is set.

A day in the life of the Magic Kingdom

Sigh... when I am buried under work... this takes me back!

(Shot with a tilt-shift lens, which is what makes it appear that the real people and places are actually miniature models.)

Monday, October 05, 2009

Run for the Toad

Run for the Toad