Wednesday, August 26, 2015

If only summer could last a few more months...or more

It has been SUCH a hot, dry summer here on the usually ‘wet coast.’  It’s been amazing, actually.  Not so much for the earth itself, since obviously we’re in dire need of rain to feed all the trees and plants (which apparently we’re in for - after tomorrow all that’s in the forecast is rain…)  But I have to be honest, I’ve loved how dry it’s been.  I’ve gotten used to being able to plan outdoor events without even really giving the weather much thought, because it’s just assumed it’s going to be sunny and hot.  I love that!  People have been calling this ‘the new California’ and I have to say, I’ll take it!  Now, I know California has been in a serious drought situation...and I also know that it would be nice to be able to get back to using water without feeling such a need to conserve (I don’t even remember the last time we had the kids’ outdoor pool filled up, despite that the heat has made us wish we could use it daily).  But no rain has been glorious, and I could seriously get used to this.  I worry we’re going to have a harsher winter to make up for how dry the summer has been, which freaks me out because I’m not a snow person (one or two days is fine but that’s about it!)  I never realized it, but maybe I COULD get used to living somewhere warmer!  The only thing that holds me back from that is the size of the bugs and spiders in a hotter climate.  I’ve noticed the spiders around here have expanded in size over the summer and that’s one thing about the heat I can say I could never love!

We were spending a LOT of our time out in the backyard until they started with the fence building/clear cutting of trees business.  This tree has become a major issue the past few days, as our entire backyard has been full of little wood chips and dust from the 100s year old tree that was taken down.  Still sad about that one...I look forward to when we can get back to using our yard, but I fear with the rain coming we won’t be able to finish the project in time and we’ll end up not finishing it till next spring.  I can’t stand when things are in such disarray.  I’m hoping we can at least get it seeming more like it’s supposed to look this way before we pack it in for the winter!

I’m not ready for summer to end.  I feel SO SAD about Andrew starting up at school again in just a couple of weeks.  Just 2 more weeks of summer!  Or is it a week and a half now.  UGH.  I’m so not ready.  I can’t let on to him that I feel this way because I want to encourage him and make him feel excited about school starting.  But I just want to cry.  I don’t look forward to making lunches for him every night (coming up with lunches for James is challenging enough, but Andrew is more specific about what he’ll eat, and I’m just praying that his grade one teacher doesn’t have an issue with peanuts entering the classroom because if she does I’m really in for it, since PB&J is my go-to for him).  I’m not looking forward to having to be up and ready and PRESENTABLE AND probably worst of all, in a mode where I’m ready to actually CONVERSE with people, AND have all the kids dressed and ready and fed and out the door by 8:30 in the morning.  I’m not ready to have to make sure the girls are on a schedule that works for picking Andrew up at 3, especially since they’ve taken to napping slightly later lately and aren’t usually up till after 3, and I’ve enjoyed the leeway because it’s meant that we can plan outings and go do things and not worry that it might coincide with when they have to take their nap by, because it’s not that big a deal if it’s a bit on the later side.  Now it will be a big deal!  I know in some ways my life will be ‘easier’ with Andrew ‘out of my hair’ for 6 hours a day, and I KNOW the enriching experience of school is ultimately good for all of us.  But I like having my boy around!  As much as he’s demanding and makes me crazy at times, I love being around him, and I’ll miss all the extra time we get to spend together.  He’s been at his nana’s in Victoria the past few days (on his way home right now) and I’ve really missed him.  It’s been way too quiet without him here!  

Why oh why does summer have to end?  It feels like it just started.  Fall can go somewhere else, I really don’t feel the need for it this year!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The story of our fence and the fallen trees

The fence in our backyard is complete...sort of.  It was quite a process for the workers, and I think my head is still spinning from watching the whole thing.

Nothing in our complex ever happens in a way that makes sense, so why I thought they could do a great job of the fence, I have no idea.  I guess I just couldn’t bring myself to not be hopeful.  I guess it’s better than what we had so I don’t want to sound completely ungrateful about it...but…….

First of all, they built the back wall of the fence before doing the sides.  They built one long strip of fence from our neighbours’ backyard, through ours, and through our other neighbours’.  Instead of measuring where to put the fence based from the actual structure of the house, they based it off the fence that separates us from the complex across the way.  The problem with their logic is that if you look down the pathway that separates us, you can see that the fence in the other complex is on an angle.  So while the dead space between the two fences is straight, our yards are now asymmetrical.  Which probably wouldn’t be a big deal if we were like most people in this complex and didn’t really use our yard and therefore did nothing to make it look half decent.  But because we want it to look nice and be functional, it’s very much going to matter.  The plan is to extend our deck out by a few more feet (thanks to my dad who offered to do that!) and then push the fake grass to be up against the fence.  The problem is, there’s going to be a huge gap on one side of the yard because of the fact that it’s not actually straight.  We’ll figure something out, and likely use pots with plants and/or flowers to try to mask the issue, but still.  It really pisses me off that they couldn’t just do the job right.

They cut down 3 trees in the process.  One of which I was happy to see go, two of which could have stayed.  They de-rooted as best they could two of the trees, one in each of our neighbours’ yards.  But they didn’t bother to do that for the one that happens to now be in our yard...So I’ve been fighting with it with a rake, shovel, and saw for days and still haven’t been able to get the damn thing removed.  Madness.

We requested a gate, one so that we’d be able to leave through the back if need be, and two so the meter person can still access our meter without having to knock on the front door (because I swear without being told that, management wouldn’t have thought that far).  When they put the gate in afterwards, I would have thought they’d have put it in the middle of the yard so we could have made use of both the sides and been able to do something symmetrical, but no, they put the gate off to the side but not quite in the corner, and had to build 2 new fence posts to put it in, whereas if they’d just built it in the middle they’d only have had to add one.  They put our gate on backwards, and all the other gates on the right away.

When they built the sides of fence (which they did really oddly, one side is higher than the other and one side goes lower from post to post whereas the other side doesn't...) they said they’d be spacing the boards closer together, because I’d mentioned that if they spaced them as far as at the back, we’d have zero privacy and may as well not even have a fence (I said it nicer than that!)  They assured me they’d space them more appropriately but of course, they didn’t.  So we were looking straight into the neighbours’ yards and had ZERO privacy despite the fence being about 7 feet tall on the sides (it’s probably about 4 feet at the back).  We had 2 bamboo blinds that we’d used on the old fence for privacy (when there were only 2 fence panels to speak of) so I ended up going out and having to spend about $140 on more bamboo blinds to pretty much cover ALL the side panels of the new fence.  I figured the workers would be annoyed when they saw we’d covered the new fence they’d built us, but the main supervisor said he thought it was a great idea that we did that!  Seriously.  He also told me he figured the fence would look decent ‘for a few years, maybe.’  Great.

They went 10 feet between posts, when most fences wouldn’t be more than 8 feet between, so we can expect the fence to be sagging in the middle between each post within about 6 months.  Fun.

They also left such a huge gap underneath the fence on all sides that I could comfortably crawl under the fence, and I’m not the tiniest of persons!!  So we’ve had to spend about $60 to have my dad install boards underneath.  I’m totally appalled that we’re putting money into this place when we don’t own it, but it’s the only way we’re going to have it even remotely the way we would want it.

The night before last I was sitting out there on one of our lounge chairs cuddling with Emily, looking up at the huge willow tree to our right.  I thought to myself, at least they didn’t take that tree down.  It’s so beautiful and I enjoy sitting out there to watch the birds perch on the branches way up high, and I love how it offers us shade for several hours throughout the afternoon.  That tree just made me feel happy.  It was so tall, well established, and healthy that it honestly didn’t even cross my mind that they might cut it down.  Yesterday they started the process, and now it is just a giant stem that they’re working at taking down.  We will have bright sun beating down on our backyard ALL DAY now, because there are no trees in line with the sun that would ever offer us shade.  So unless we go out and spend upwards of another $100 to buy a second umbrella/stand, we won’t be able to use the yard during the day on the hot, sunny days until after dinner, because we’ll always be in the direct sun.  I am sad/angry/upset……….I just can’t believe they’ve done this, and without even warning us that it was happening.  I know we don’t own this place, but even renters consider their house their home, and we treat this place as if it were our own.  It just seems like common courtesy to me to inform tenants of your plans for the property, especially when it’s going to affect them directly.

I’m trying to embrace that we have this new fence, and our yard IS a bit bigger, which once we have it all redone to make sense with the new layout, I know it’ll be great to have that extra space.  I just wish they could have gone about the process better, knew how to actually build a fence properly, and for the love of gawd (and us!) would stop with the clearcutting already!

A childhood dream come true...sort of!

I bought a Groupon for Dinotown a few weeks ago and on Saturday we decided to take the kids.  Andrew went last summer with the mil after they’d camped over at Cultus Lake (which is right down the street from it) but James and I (and therefore of course the girls) had never been to that area at all.  

When I was a little girl there was often a commercial on TV about Flintstone Bedrock City in Chilliwack, and I desperately wanted to go.  It was just too far away to get there from where we lived on the island, and it never happened.  Several years ago it was renamed Dinotown and I had hoped it meant that a lot of Bedrock City had been saved, but from what I gather the majority of it was torn down.  There were a few things leftover from what it used to be, though, and while it wasn’t much it did feel like I was finally able to check that off my Bucket List of places I’d always wanted to go!

Dinotown was definitely ‘campy,’ but it turned out to be perfect for all 3 of our kids, to the point that we’ve already decided we’re going back next year.  We plan to stay overnight somewhere nearby for maybe a couple of nights so that we can explore a lot more of the area (there’s an AWESOME looking theme park there, for example) and enjoy the lake as well, which we didn’t get to do this time because the kids were so tired after 3 hours at Dinotown, and the girls really needed a nap (although as it turned out Andrew slept the longest of all of them on the car ride home!)

For $24 (the cost of the Groupon), the kids got 3 full hours of fun, and James and I loved how laid back it was, and that it was small enough that we could let the kids run around without feeling overwhelmed about where they were going.  Of course, the girls in particular still needed a close watch since if they did get ‘lost’ they wouldn’t necessarily know where to find us, but they mostly wanted to play in the life-sized dollhouse, anyway.  It was equipped with lots of dolls, clothes, blankets, a little kitchen stocked with supplies, and high chairs and cradles.  

Andrew loved the bouncy castles, but it took him some time to feel comfortable with the fact that it was a free-for-all.  He’s used to having to wait in lines and have someone give him the OK to go on a ride, but at Dinotown, while there are employees at each ‘station’, you don’t have to wait to go on anything, you just sort of do your own thing.  I guess if it got super busy you’d have to wait, but there were a comfortable amount of people there that it was never an issue.  I loved that they didn’t push products, and really only had an ice cream stand if you wanted to get something.  They encouraged bringing your own food (which we did), or going to the little store down the street to buy something and come back in.

There was mini golf, too, which the girls tried for the first time, and all I can say is...thank goodness for plastic golf clubs!!!  Everything there seemed fairly low-budget, and I definitely think they could do a lot with the place to make it ‘better’, but the kids LOVED it the way it was, and in all honesty there was something nice about it being the way it was.  It was more relaxing there than any other kids’ attraction we’ve ever visited, which has to count for something!

I can’t wait till we go back next year and explore the area, and make a little holiday out of it.  It took about an hour and a half to drive there (taking the scenic route to avoid the tolls), but due to an accident and just crazy traffic, it took 2.5 hours to get home, which was ridiculous.  The kids were amazing and all 3 seem to be really great travellers, which we’re so lucky to have because I suffered from terrible motion sickness as a child so there was always a risk at least one of our kids would inherit it.  But the trip was made much easier by them all being so content, and while they didn’t nap much they also did a minimum of fussing.  Still, it would be much more ideal to spend a few days in the area, knowing we had some space between the long car rides.  Definitely something to look forward to next summer!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The girls' first Playland adventure!

This morning James and I dropped Andrew off at my parents’ place and took the girls to Playland for the very first time ever.  We took Andrew a few weeks ago, and he knew that when we took the girls he wouldn’t be going with us.  He was amazingly completely fine with it, because he knew we wouldn’t be able to do all the fun, cool rides he’s tall enough for that they aren’t.  He had his special day there with us, and today was the girls’ turn.

I wasn’t sure how they would do, especially Emily.  She can be so shy at first, especially around strangers, so I wasn’t sure if she’d enjoy going on rides by herself (even with her sister by her side) because the person tending the ride would have to be the one helping her with seat belts and whatnot.  But she ended up being the most excited one of all, to the point she was half running, half prancing as we walked to the venue from where we parked the van.  

Both girls absolutely LOVED all the rides they were able to go on.  Most of them require being at least 36 inches tall, and they are about 34 inches I’d say.  But only one of the tenders said no to them going on the ride, all the others ok’d it despite their shortcomings lol!  They went on the cars first (Emily LOVED the pink one, and Margaret LOVED the blue one), then the train, the carousel (Emily said she ‘loved riding on the mommy horsie on the cawousel!’), the hot air balloons, a gopher car (or whatever it is!), the super slide, the tea cups, the motorcycles, and a little play area pirate ship.  Some of the rides were gone on twice, and we brought our own snacks but bought some cotton candy, which Emily claimed insofar as she HAD to be the one carrying the bag AT ALL TIMES, OR ELSE!  Both girls loved checking out the outside of the Haunted Mansion, which we had to go back to twice because they were in awe of all the ghosts and much like their big brother!

It was really cute to see the different ways they approached the rides from each other, but also in relation to how Andrew was at Playland when we took him for the first time around their age.  I was amazed at how often they chose to get on a ride at opposites sides.  I imagined them doing everything together, and feeling safer being close to one another, but not so!  They did some rides together and enjoyed doing that, too, but it certainly wasn’t as a means of feeling secure having each other close by.  They got the hang of the place pretty quickly and were loving it, each in their own ways!  

We saw 3 sets of twins within minutes of being at the park, which was really bizarre.  It was so quiet having got their shortly after it opened, and it looked like it was turning into ‘twins day at the fair’ by how many sets we were seeing!  It was fairly cloudy when we got there and I’d worried it would be too cold for the girls, but it turned out to be quite muggy and then about halfway through our time there the sun came out and it was bordering on boiling hot.  There were still a lot of clouds, though, which kept things at a much better temperature than they could have been.  It was nice to experience Playland in less sunny weather, as we’d already had a scorching day there with Andrew (which was awesome, I loved it, I’m not complaining!)  It felt like a different experience, and I’m so glad we decided to take them this year, even though they couldn’t go on any of the more thrilling rides just yet.  

Our summer trip to the island...

I wrote this on Monday, August 10th, so when I say 'On Saturday we got back...' it was Saturday the 8th I was referring to!

On Saturday we got back from a week long adventure on the island, with our home base being a cottage resort in Parksville.  I wrote extensively about it already, in my private journal, with details I didn’t necessarily feel needed to be blogged about.  Suffice it to say, we had a good, albeit totally exhausting, time.  We were mainly there for James’ dad’s significant other’s family reunion (say that 10 times fast!), but we also had the chance to visit some of my family and friends in Nanaimo, since it’s just a short drive away.  

The kids travelled amazingly well, loved the cottage that we had all to ourselves, and were mostly very well behaved (aside from a few, let’s face it, AWFUL moments with Andrew when he decided to be in a really bad mood...!  But mostly they did well).  The weather was amazing, and pretty much perfect for visiting Rathtrevor Beach, which happens to be my most favourite beach in the world.  The best beach, in my view, for children, because the tide is generally so far out that there’s never a fear of them running off too far into the ocean!  There are so many little pools and pockets of water, with baby crabs and sand dollars and little fish and shells.  I used to go every year in the summer for day trips with my family, and took Andrew a few times when he was a baby, so it was special for me to be able to enjoy it with all 3 of our kids (and James, of course!) throughout the week.

We explored Coombs Market, checked out the awesome sandcastle competition on Heroes and Villains, which was AMAZING, Andrew and I spent lots of time swimming in the pool at the resort (which he REALLY took to and was actually SWIMMING without my help, it was a huge milestone and a major Proud Mommy Moment for sure!), and we finally got to Butterfly World, which I’ve been wanting to go to since I was a little kid.  We had lots of mini beach adventures, hit up my favourite party store in Nanaimo, visited with family, and danced at a concert in the (warm) rrain under a big beautiful rainbow on our final night there.  I’m so grateful that we had the opportunity to go, and want to remind myself of all the wonderful memories we created with the kids, because when it comes right down to it that’s really all that matters.

I have to be honest, though.  The trip left me with some difficult emotions to wrap my head around, and I’m still processing it two days post-trip.  Part of it is how tiring it was.  Considering how many people were at the reunion and staying right near us all week, it was pretty upsetting that no one, not even a group of people, was willing to look after the kids for us so James and I could have even an hour or two alone together.  I would have loved to have grabbed a coffee together and gone for a walk along the beach, or been able to go back to Coombs and explore it a bit more ‘sans enfants.’  James’ dad did stay with the kids on one of the nights so James and I could socialize at one of the family get togethers, but only once all the kids were tucked in and asleep..  And as much as it was nice to experience one of the evening parties (since typically that’s when everyone gathered, and we were usually not able to attend due to the kids’ bedtimes, as well as our exhaustion setting in by a much earlier hour than for those without small kids...which was everyone but us!) it really would have been great if we could have had a little time just the two of us.  But I digress.  A few times people would take Andrew to the beach and one night someone else took him to the pool when I was way too tired for a swim.  But other than that, we really had zero help, and I had less time to myself over all on this trip than I do during a typical week at home.  Which is frightening, given how little time I get as it is!  Psychologically I need space sometimes, or I start to go crazy, which I think is what happened to me on this ‘vacation.’  It was challenging, to say the least.  I guess it made me a bit sad to know that a holiday is way more work than just staying home...Which doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do it again, I’m really glad we went and the memories we created in the positive moments were wonderful, and I’m so happy we have those.  I guess I just wish the things that stressed me out and upset me about the trip didn’t have to feel so prominent when I think about our time away.  

UPDATE:  It has been almost a week since I wrote this and can say that I am feeling a lot better about things!  I just needed time to process it.  Some of my thoughts toward the trip still upset me but I’m not dwelling on them like I did when they were fresh.  I’m just grateful for the good parts of it, and knowing that through our kids eyes it was wonderful makes me happy!