Monday, February 28, 2011

Another case of deja vu

Remember this, from two years ago?Well, this was the scene this morning:Yes indeed - today we took Mallory to school to get registered for JK in September. Of course it was different the second time around, no matter how much we tried to keep it the same. She has been inside that school dozens of times already, so it is not all exciting and new to her. She just already thinks she belongs there. It took no time at all to fill out the paperwork while she coloured. The VP and the educational assistant from Liam's classroom both dropped by to say hello. She already knows them both and couldn't have been more blase about the experience.Still, we took her out to a private lunch afterward, to celebrate. She got mom and dad's undivided attention for a while, which happens... well... almost never. Hopefully she enjoyed it.

As for me, I enjoyed this:This is the FIRST TIME I have been able to find one of these in years. Literally. The last time I had one, this happened:Yes... that is 2008. And I got almost none of that one, after Liam got a taste of it. Like I said, it's been a while. There may be a few more of these babies in my future over the next few weeks. (I have no idea why I like them so much. I don't like mint anything: not mint gum, not mint ice cream... nothing. So why I enjoy drinking a glass of toothpaste, I do not know. But it is YUMMY!!)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Kind of wishing we had a winter birthday in the family, but also knowing we could never pull it off

Here I am! Coming up for air! If I thought the first part of the winter was busy, then I had no idea what I was talking about. This past week really drove home just how busy things can get. Work has been plagued by issue after issue after issue, and just when we think one more thing can't possibly be layered on top... it happens. Never before have I so looked forward to March Break, just by virtue of the fact that Cindy heads south and it gives me an excuse to take a few days off!

(This year, most of my staff are also taking off. Which means that while I think I am taking the week off... should anything else go wrong, I will be among the only ones around to handle it. Let's not even go there.)Anyway, today the kids headed over to a Winter Carnival-themed birthday party that was really just so much fun and such a fresh take on birthday parties. I'm sure the parents of the birthday girl had a few nerve-wracking moments, because about four days ago every last bit of snow melted away, and it looked certain that the theme would have to change. As luck would have it, this is The Winter That Just Keeps On Giving, and within 24 hours there was a fresh foot and then some. In fact, it snowed throughout the party today, too, though the temperature was hovering right around freezing which made for some perfect packing snow. The party was in their back yard and was just so totally festive. There were pathways shovelled through the snow and lined with a wall made of snow blocks, and a 'dance floor' cleared for games of Freeze Dance and Musical Chairs. (Poor Liam is not assertive enough to push the other kids out of the way when the music stops - that's him as the first kid out, above.) The kids dug with sand pails and shovels for a treasure chest hidden somewhere under the white stuff:It really made me long for a winter birthday in the family so that we could do the same thing, but who am I kidding? Now that I do what I do, I think my ability to pull off a party between the months of January and March just hit nil. I think having back-to-back April babies was a lucky break, after all.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Next up: War and Peace

As a student in both JK and SK, Liam brought home a list of 'Popcorn Words' from school that we were encouraged to have him read whenever possible. These are the little filler words like 'a', 'the', 'and', etc. that the kids learn to read by sight rather than by phonetics. Whenever we read bedtime stories, I usually let him pick these out, and he is pretty good at it.

Also, he brings home a book from the classroom library each day. These are early reader books that the kids read with their 6th grade buddies, and then they are supposed to read them to or with us each night. Liam does a good job of reading these books, needing us only to sound out or help with a few words here and there. I had attributed that mostly to him having read the book with his buddy first and having a good memory for the storyline. (Also, the books are awfully repetitive and easy reading.)

I never really considered Liam to be a 'reader' until we went to the library on Friday and he brought this book home. He read two pages to me and then I stopped him, grabbed the camera, and recorded him finishing the book. He'd never read it before. I was shocked to see him actually picking up some brand new material and making his way through it so well. We have raised a reader! It feels like it happened overnight - one day he was blind to the significance of words, and the next he was well aware of the whole world around him. That's not it, of course. I know that almost two years of school have gotten him to this point. What a wonderful point to be at. Way to go, Liam!!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Snow days

I'm getting behind... still haven't uploaded the V'day photos, some of which are on my phone. In the meantime, though, I got all of my 'snow day' type stuff organized. I guess I was in the mood with the consecutive days of temps in the 40s and immediate melting of snow. I should take a picture of the amount of water and flooding in the creek right now... higher than we've ever seen it.

Anyway, here's a reminder of what those snow days were like. Liam's interpretation of sledding in the back yard:And Mallory making a snow angel. I have no idea why this is posting upside down, because it looks right side up on my computer and I've even opened and saved it in Photoshop to try to rectify the situation, to no avail:Finally, the sledding highlight reel. Shot on two different days - one when there was barely enough snow to get the sleds down the hill, and one after we'd been inundated. See if you can spot the difference.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The 100-day cold

That is what I heard someone call it last night, and that pretty much says it all. I am currently on day 60 or so of the 100-day cold. On Saturday morning I woke up feeling not too heinous, so I went out for my long run - only a few weeks until race day. I came home utterly exhausted, and managed to hang on long enough to get out to Liam’s hockey game later that afternoon. Then we came home from the game and I went straight to bed and didn’t get up until the following morning.

This week I have had a weird light-headed feeling, kind of a dizziness or mild vertigo that comes and goes. I'm hoping it's an inner ear thing (which might make sense, given the sinus problems I've been having that have also led to a toothache - weird how that happens) and not a brain tumour. Time will tell.

The kids are still feeling it, too. This is the scene in our house pretty much every night after we get home:
Actually, I think I took this picture while we were supposed to be Skyping with my parents, who are back in Maui. They were looking forward to seeing the grandkids but I couldn't bear to wake them up when I knew exactly how awful they were feeling.Most of this snow is gone now as we are in the midst of an early spring thaw, which sounds lovely, but has made work extra busy. There's nothing like being caught by warm weather when it's supposed to be cold to turn the world upside down! We are very much looking forward to a long weekend this weekend. Mallory has a birthday party to go to, and she was invited to wear her favourite princess dress or ballerina tutu. At first she was insisting on the Cinderella dress, even though I was pushing the tutu. Now she wants me to decide for her, just when I'd decided to let go of the battle. I just want her to wear something that makes her happy.The cat has taken to running and hiding under Liam’s bed whenever I am around, no doubt the result of three consecutive months of shoving pills down his throat. Liam got his mid-year report card and is doing awesome. Mrs. Garrow commented (in a good way!) on his ability to make friends. He has suddenly decided to invite four boys from his class to his birthday party, and I will do what I can to help him foster those relationships. We went to see an exotic snake show at the mall last weekend, and Liam got to pet an anaconda, which made his day. Mallory was over-the-top thrilled to give Nicky his real Valentine on Valentine’s Day, but she is now quite sad as he is heading off on vacation and she won’t see him for another month. Her dance class is doing a routine to “Once Upon a Dream” from Sleeping Beauty for their recital, and she couldn’t be happier about it. I ordered two dresses from ModCloth and two from Lands End last week and was heartbroken that not a single one covered my bum – I guess I will stick to Tall Girl from here on out. And that's what's new with the Cook Family these days. Pretty exciting stuff, huh?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Skate musings

I know I said my next post would be about Valentine's Day... but I don't have all my pictures uploaded yet, and don't have time tonight. So instead - I present to you, last Friday's Annual Kindergarten Skating Trip. (Photos taken by Chad, or by me on my cell phone.)
When you see Liam skating with all the kids on his hockey team, he is pretty middle-of-the-pack. But when you see him compared to his classmates, he is light years ahead of all but about two of them. You take for granted that kids can skate, because his hockey team can, but most of them cannot. Most of them look like they have never been on skates before. So, it's all relative.It's a nice reminder that playing hockey twice a week this winter has really improved Liam's skating. Something good to keep in mind for Mallory, who went to her first skating lesson in about a month tonight. Last week she was sick, week before that was a snow storm, week before that there was no ice time. She didn't want to go tonight and spent the whole half hour on the ice pouting and trying to regain her balance. But there is hope for her yet. We'll finish off the next six weeks or so of lessons, take the summer off, and I'm sure she'll be raring to go again in the fall.Look at my little dude, sitting in the back seat on the bus. A hooligan in the making. (Spoken as an almost-lifelong bus kid.)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Not my true Valentines, but pretty darn cute nonetheless

This year's Valentine's portraits of the kids. Mallory's had some text added to make cards... Liam's was printed as is, since there was no sense repeating the sentiment. The photo lab overexposed the pictures of Liam but not the ones of Mallory - weird. We had fun making some goodie bags for the daycare kids and attached mini versions of the cards to each of them. For Liam's class at school we decided to keep things simple - he handed out those little boxes of Smarties that have a space on them to write 'To' and 'From' (which he did, with great gusto). Of course, we probably had the most meagre Valentines to hand out, out of his entire class. The kids practically get more candy at Valentine's Day than they do at Halloween these days. Good thing we piled all the candy into a central bowl to share. Chad and I should have it all polished off in no time.

Valentine's Day Part II coming up next.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Grocery list

This week was another one that sort of knocked us out of our normal routine. On Monday, both kids were sick and I stayed home with them. Giving Mallory some Motrin at noon to bring her fever down seemed like a good idea at the time; unfortunately, I didn't take into account several conference calls I had to be on that afternoon. She perked right up and made a bit more noise than I would have liked. Next time, I will take my meeting schedule into account when I medicate her! Both kids felt well enough to go back to Cindy's on Tuesday, but by the time I picked them up Tuesday night, they were both wiped. It happened all week - the kids would go out during the day, but come home and crash on the couch until we moved them upstairs and put pajamas on for bed. I didn't push any activities this week because I certainly understood where they were coming from. I am once again battling a low-grade something-or-other. I don't feel awful, but I don't feel normal, either. I skipped several workouts this week and felt like I was going to die this morning when I got home from my long run. Note to self: you can't just do a long run every weekend without sustaining it through the week with a few short runs! The footing was icy and bumpy and sloppy, too, which didn't make for a very good time.

Currently we are resting up, because Liam has hockey later today and wants to go. He will probably do fine on the ice, but come home and sleep most of the rest of the day away. Which is fine by me, because I feel like getting some rest, too. The to-do list is not getting any smaller, but I don't really feel like I've got enough motivation right now to care.

(Liam assisted me in creating last week's grocery list by copying labels off of some of the empty glass jars we pitched in the recycling bin. He also insisted that he could spell 'milk' on his own, and he did come close - our apologies to Uncle Mike. We never did buy those jalapeno poppers for the Superbowl - Chad wasn't really eating much last weekend, so the appetizer buffet that we would normally do will wait until next year.)

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The most well-organized five-year-old you will ever meet

Crack-me-up moment number 1: at the beginning of January, Liam set about a project with no provoking from us. He made an extensive set of puppets, shown below. There are puppets representing the four of us, Gramma and Grampa Cook, and Darin, Jenn and Ethan. There is also a puppet for Grampa's truck 'before the bear attack' and one for Grampa's truck 'after the bear attack' (including a big rip in the bed cover). Liam proceeded to put on a puppet show for us depicting our camping trip, complete with the bear incident. He used his moose pencil, stuffed bear, and the campfire from an old Little People set as props. It was quite a production and I think it could give a Broadway show a run for its money.Crack-me-up moment number two: after running encore performances of this show a few times over the past several weeks, Liam went rummaging in the drawer where we keep the tinfoil and Saran Wrap and came up with this - seems that he wanted to keep his puppet collection organized:Crack-me-up moment number three: he wrote 'Algonquin' all by himself. (He also made himself a set of Christmas-themed puppets, with Santa and Rudolph, so he has to keep them separated - duh.) I had no idea how he knew how to spell it. I had to ask. And so he went and brought this to me: He is one smart Cookie.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Around the house #2: 2 more knocked off the list!

I admit, I am always making unrealistic assumptions about how much I can get done in a day, and not following through. This weekend was no exception - I didn't get everything done that I'd planned. Though I blame that more on Chad being sick than anything else. I need him to use some power tools. BUT - I did finish up two projects that didn't require his input! Here is number one, the pom/lantern canopy that I hung over Mallory's bed. This is not an original idea - I have seen it all over the internet. In fact, it's likely to be this year's version of the "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster, something that I jump on late and eventually see EVERYWHERE and tire of before too long. (My Keep Calm poster is being relocated to the basement.) But, for the cost of some tissue paper, I'm not too worried about longevity.

This was a little bit finicky but not at all hard to do. A few tips, if you decide to do this yourself: first and foremost, spend the extra dollar on NAME BRAND TISSUE PAPER. The difference in quality between my $1 dollar store paper and $2 Hallmark paper is exceptional. It's just not worth the hassle of the cheaper paper. Number two, even if you buy the clear 3M command hooks, you'll be able to see them on the ceiling. So hang your poms strategically to cover them. I started this project all gung ho, made the first few poms, bought the lanterns, hung a couple up, decided to move one... and promptly took a chunk of drywall off Mallory's ceiling (I think I pulled at the wrong angle). Then, I threw in the towel for a couple of weeks. I have this abnormal fear of things not being cosmetically mint and I find myself very intolerant of the middle stages of a project (you know, the "it gets worse before it gets better" part). I really had to psych myself up to get back at it and finish, and of course when I did, it wasn't nearly as hard as I'd made it out be in my head and I really do love the result. And after I got all the poms into position I didn't even have to get out the touch-up paint, because that spot is now covered. For the time being, at least.I totally love this canopy. I think I caught some eye-rolling from Chad, but he pretty much lets me do what I want in Mallory's room. It isn't supposed to serve a purpose... it's just supposed to look pretty. And I think it does that quite well.

Now, I want to get a few other things done in Mal's room. I've finally found something to hang on the wall over her bed and that should arrive in a few weeks. I would like to get some more pillows for her daybed, too, though we are not really good at making beds here, chez Cook, so those will only make it look nice SOME of the time.I also think I am eventually going to move my old childhood bed into her room. I think it will look great in there and give her a bit more room (it's a queen). Not sure that it will work with the poster I plan to put on that wall in the near future, but we'll figure something out. Also not sure if that will mean rearranging the entire pom canopy - so it won't be happening anytime soon. I am all pom'd out right now.The second thing I finally got done was this little vignette in the front hall. We have had the bench (with quilt and cushion) for some time, but there was originally a much smaller picture hanging above it, one that was really too small for the space. I always thought about adding something, but wasn't quite sure what. I also wanted to update the photo, since the original was from the year Mallory was born. I finally chose this one in its place:And instead of planning to frame it, I had it mounted on foam core, so it could be hung directly on the wall. It's 20x30 and the total cost to print and mount it was about $50. It is also stuck to the wall with 3M Command strips.

It still needed something more, this vignette of mine... and then one day, I found it on Etsy:A retro restaurant 'cook' sign... the perfect way to round out the scene, since I imagine I will always have some sort of family picture hanging in that spot. The cook sign is also Command'ed to the wall. I LOVE those 3M strips, even after the incident with Mal's ceiling!It's very, very satisfying to make progress on these spaces that I've meant to get to since we moved in 2.5 years ago. I abhor empty wall space, so to fill it up with things I love makes me happy. I smile every time I walk down this hall. I LOVE Liam in this picture.

Next up: finishing another project, once Chad is healthy enough to do some drilling. And, I just bought a dresser for Liam from Kijiji - will have to show that off. I love it so much that I actually toyed with putting it somewhere else, like the living room, rather than having it hidden away in Liam's closet! And just yesterday, also on Kijiji, I found a desk that I am considering for either Liam or Mallory... it needs some TLC, but has plenty of potential. So many projects, so little time.

But first... I have to get this mess cleaned up.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Sole survivor

I was pretty sick the whole first week of January. However, that was nothing compared to Chad, who came down with what was likely the same thing around January 7th-8th and only seemed to get better by the middle of last week. He had one or two days of near-normalcy and then on Friday, came home from work sicker than ever. He went straight to bed and I think I only saw him come out of our room for food twice before Sunday night. He actually made a trip to see a doctor and is now on pills and a spray and goodness knows what else.

So... including Friday, when I was home with the kids on a scheduled day off, I spent three solid days cooking, cleaning, serving and cleaning up after meals, playing Candy Land and xBox, doing a week's worth of laundry, shovelling seven inches of unexpected snow (I only got half the driveway done before I ran out of steam on this one), grocery shopping, giving baths and reading stories - you get the picture.

On top of that - prepare for some horn tooting, here - on account of the fact that I was home with the kids all day and unable to get out for my much-needed long run - race day is fast approaching, and I have lost a lot of time to sickness and bad weather already this winter - I actually put the kids to bed on Saturday night and then spent two hours on the treadmill, getting off right in time to watch Saturday Night Live. Let me tell you, this was an accomplishment the likes of which I have never seen before. Two hours on a treadmill is more an exercise in mental toughness than physical toughness, and I was pretty proud of myself for sticking it out. In case you couldn't tell.

(Of course, it was the following morning that we headed out to shovel, and my poor body cried uncle.)

By yesterday afternoon, I was freaking exhausted. And the kids were lethargic and snuffly too, and sure enough this morning we woke up and both Liam and Mallory are fevered and runny-nosed, and we are currently all three sitting on the couch, watching Despicable Me and trying to calculate how much linepack we need to get us through the deep freeze coming this week. (Given that Jan and Feb are really my peak work months, it kind of sucks that that's when cold and flu season hits, too. Just sayin'.)

So my return to work today, which I was almost looking forward to as a bit of a break from these past few days, has instead morphed into a combination of caring for sick children AND trying to fit in a full day's work. Funny how that happens, no??

So far, I am the sole survivor in this household - the lone healthy person. Though, given the amount of time I have spent around sick people lately, I really don't know how much longer I will last.

Friday, February 04, 2011

"Let's fight!"

This is the kind of fighting that I really don't mind seeing. More accurately, it's wrestling, but it always starts with Mallory saying "Liam, let's fight!" The two of them then generally take off for one of their bedrooms, because they enjoy rolling around on a mattress rather than a wood floor. In this case, the living room area rug sufficed. We have not really had any casualties thus far... sometimes someone takes an unintended elbow, but generally they are pretty careful with each other.
I am on the verge of COMPLETING a few of my around-the-house projects. Hoping to knock 'em ALL off this weekend, and then dream up some more! Pictures coming soon I hope...

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Snowpocalypse 2011. AKA: is it spring yet??

I thought 'Snowmageddon' was a catchier name, but the media used that one back in 2008. So 'Snowpocalypse' it was. And like most media events, it was more hype than follow through, at least where we live. Yes, I have seen the pictures of 800 abandoned cars on Lakeshore Drive in Chicago, and all the people posting shots of their front doors being blocked in by giant snow drifts... but that's not us. I would say we maybe got six inches, which is still a lot for this neck of the woods. Liam LOVED the anticipation of a good snowstorm, and was out as the snow began to fall on Tuesday night, keeping the sidewalk clear as best he could. We were supposed to get the worst of it overnight, and around 2 a.m. the quiet snow turned into noisy sleet being driven by the wind straight into our bedroom window. I got up at that point to look outside, and there was some accumulation, but still not as bad as the weatherman had said. By morning it didn't look much different. Here's a shot of the front of our house that I took when we got home from work Wednesday night. The snow is heaped along the driveway, but a manageable depth everywhere else; still well below our main floor window ledges.Well, *I* can say manageable, because *I* was not outside shovelling it. Chad may beg to differ. Chad was up early on Wednesday and cleared one half of the driveway - we thought we would carpool to work, and clear the other side of the drive Wednesday night. Then, our neighbour with a snow removal business on the side cleared the other side of our drive with his tractor... I expect as a favour to us. Except that he cut the top of our water main valve off, and it's probably buried somewhere under all that snow. Chad called the city and they came out and installed a new one right away, so the crisis was not long lasting.We've seen a lot of people ploughing snow with a blade attached to the front of their ATVs, so Liam decided to try the same thing. Chad said at one point he was driving with one hand and trying to shovel with the other. I missed that and I don't think he lasted at it long - by the time I got outside to take this picture of him, he was just zipping around in the snow, admiring the tracks he was leaving behind.The kids had spent a few hours playing outside in the snow at Cindy's house, so it was no surprise that Mallory fell asleep on the drive home, and missed out on the shovelling adventures altogether (not that she would likely want to go out for them, anyway.) We skipped out on her skating lesson last night - partly because it was the ONLY activity in the city that was not on the cancellation list, which I figured must be some sort of mistake; partly because even if we took her to her lesson, she would have been practising the routine for the ice show, which we are not participating in; partly because I didn't want to have to drive back across town for it when the roads were bad; and partly because she was just too exhausted from being outside, and said she didn't want to go.I am very thankful that the groundhog did not see his shadow (and a little bit puzzled about how he got out of his tunnel at all, given that he must have been snowed in). Work has been nuts this week and all of our weather services are pointing to another deep freeze next week, meaning more of the same. Spring cannot get here soon enough for me.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Not much has changed in three years

We were supposed to go away for the weekend last weekend, and then circumstances changed and we found ourselves at home instead. Which saved us some money, and saved us some time, and even made for a nice relaxing don't-have-to-be-anywhere-don't-have-to-do-anything break from our normal lives. But even though we still treated ourselves to a dinner out, and went to a movie to burn off some of that newfound time, we still had many many hours left to fill. And that is how I came to find myself staring at this pot of muck on the stove.It's playdough, of course. What happened was that we sledded ourselves silly and then came in to warm up, and Liam was sitting up at the counter having his snack when he turned and pulled the playdough out of the junk drawer behind him. (Note to self: the playdough is probably better kept in the craft drawer than the junk drawer!) As soon as Mallory saw it, she wanted some too, but Liam insisted that there was not enough to go around. And the old stuff, well, it was several months old. We had everything on hand to cook up a new batch, though I did have to troll the internet for a slightly different recipe than the one I'd used before - we had some cream of tartar in the house, but not enough to make a full batch.The playdough really did the trick. It kept the kids entertained for some time, and they have had it out again several days this week.

Note to self: we are out of food colouring now.Trolling around on my laptop searching for a playdough recipe, I remembered having posted about it once before, and I loved coming across this post as a result. Look how little the kids are! Look at how short Mal's hair is! Look at our old house!

And oh yeah... look how I had just accepted a new job at the time I wrote that, against my best intentions, and said I was going to stay put for a long, long time. I guess I ate those words last fall, didn't I? Ooops... I did it again.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Around the house: status report #1

So... about those projects I said I was dabbling in around the house. I seem to have come to a standstill on some of them. (You know me... all motivated at the start, and then I tend to bail out when I am 80% of the way through!) Here is something that did get finished though, so I'm going to try to ride the wave of satisfaction of this one through the rest of the things I want to accomplish!

This was how Liam's bedroom looked the week after Christmas. He is a pretty arty kid, and he had done all of these seasonal drawings and hung them up on his bed-cum-art gallery. (Don't ask me why the bed became the display area of choice; I really don't know!) He actually started this a few months ago. He had some summer drawings up there at first, and he took those ones down and when I offered to recycle them, he declined the offer and instead chose to store them away in a plastic box in his closet so that he can bring them out again next year. (I think my seasonal decorating tendencies have gone to his head!) He then had some Halloween stuff up, which also came down, and now this generic 'winter' theme. (He also had a picture of Santa and some reindeer, which he had up for a bit, but took down after Christmas. He is so on the ball!)I finally got my act together and made him what he so desperately needed: a bulletin board for his room. We do have one small bulletin board in the mudroom, but the kids bring home so much artwork that it really does not cut it. (The one in the mudroom is also a calendar that is SUPPOSED to be keeping us organized, but it's always covered in so many tissue-paper and toilet paper roll creations that the calendar does not get edited for months at a time.) I picked the bulletin board up several weeks ago but was loathe to put up a big square of plain cork in his room. So I ordered a yard of a cute Echino fabric covered in rocket ships and other spacecraft, and when it finally came last week, I stretched some batting over the board, the fabric over that, got out the staple gun... and the rest was history. Then it took us a week to get it hung up on the wall because digging out the level just seemed like WAY too much effort. Ha! Anyway, Liam is thrilled with it and has meticulously arranged his artwork on it (along with his hockey calendar, which he is very proud of - he has drawn many holidays and family birthdays into its squares, so don't be surprised if he knows exactly when you will be celebrating this year.