10 Year Albertaversary

23rd June 2015

“Well?” he said, waiting for an answer.  “What are you going to do?”

We were sitting in his office – him, leaning back in his chair with his feet on his desk, me, in the swivel chair across from him with my feet tucked beneath me, spinning myself around and around and around as I tried to make a decision.

I had been planning the cross country move for more than a decade.   I attended university after high school like my parents wanted, even earning a “sensible degree” in economics – but my passion had always been horses.  The deal was that if I graduated from university, my parents would support me in whatever I chose to do next – even if that meant moving 3000 miles away to study horses at the best school of its kind in the country.

Hours earlier I had received a letter from that school informing me that I had been wait listed.  They allowed ten students into the English Horsemanship program and I was unlucky number eleven.  A month before I had flown across the country to tour the school and perform a riding test.  I made one mistake – picking up the wrong canter lead and not correcting it quickly enough – and I was done.  “You’re welcome to try again next year!” the letter said.

What was I going to do? 

“I’m going to go anyway!” I finally said, surprising even myself with the boldness of the statement.

“Seriously?” he asked.

“Seriously.” I reached out to stop the spinning chair.  “I mean, it’s now or never, right?”

“Well, if that’s what you want to do …” I could tell he wasn’t sure.  I don’t have a history of courage, by any means, and the thought of me, moving across the country to a place where I didn’t know anybody, had no place to live, and had no job lined up must have seemed a little bit silly.  But I was sure.

Three months later he dropped me off at the airport with a crushing hug and a promise to keep in touch, and  I stepped onto a plane with two suitcases crammed full of my worldly possessions.

* * * *

If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past ten years, it’s that courage produces more courage.  On that day, in that moment – I was terrified.  I had no idea if I was doing the right thing.  I had no guarantees, no real plan for the future – but I did it anyway.

And when I look at my  life now – an entire decade later – I can’t help but think that I became the woman I did because I took that first brave step.

Because for me, it was more than a cross country move:

It was a conscious decision to cut ties with the past,

And it was me choosing to chase my dreams even though it clearly wasn’t going to be easy.

* * * *

Spoiler alert:  I’m not an Olympic equestrian.  I’m not much of an equestrian at all, at this point in my life.

But it all worked out.  It always does, doesn’t it?

I’m not where I thought I would be, ten years ago,  I’m somewhere better.

* * * *

So here’s to the big decisions.

Here’s to the frightening moments.

Here’s to the times where you trust yourself, and you trust God – and you do it anyway.

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Onward and Upward

15th June 2015

tpreschoolgrad1As if last week wasn’t emotional enough, on Saturday we celebrated Topher’s graduation from preschool.  There was cake and ice cream, two bouncy houses – and surprisingly few tears, thanks in large part to this post by Melanie Dale.

I will miss Topher’s days as a preschooler.

I’ll miss the silly game we played every morning, trying to get his shoes on the right feet.  I’ll miss the way he scrambled to his feet the second his teacher walked into the room and his mad dash to her chair so he could be first in line to get his letter.  I’ll miss his “One more hug and kiss, Mommy!” and the way he tackled little Ellie to the ground to give her hers.  I’ll miss chatting with the other moms in the hallway outside the classroom, and I’ll miss Topher sending his lunchbox down the railing on the wall for one of his friends to catch.  I’ll miss the guessing games – “Guess who had Show and Tell today, Mommy?  You’ll never guess!”  followed by “Guess what he brought!”  when I finally get it right.

I will miss Topher’s days as a preschooler, but at the same time, I’m looking ahead.  Onward and upward, I say!

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Kindergarten, here we come! 

My Neighbourhood (#EPSstrong)

10th June 2015

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The more Nathan and I have talked about moving over the past few months, the more I’ve wanted to stay in our little neighbourhood.

It’s home.

Sure, our neighbours are a little kooky, and I hate the way our entire building smells like pot from March through October.  Some of the kids Topher meets in the park use words I don’t appreciate and I would never dream of taking a walk by myself after dark – but then again, the same is true of any neighbourhood in the city.

What sets our neighbourhood apart is the people.  

Our neighbourhood is a community in every sense of the word.  When the kids and I are outside we’re typically stopped at least three times by neighbours talking to the kids or asking how my day is or wanting to pat the dog.  Ellie gets her cheeks pinched by one particular lady every single time they meet but she still races toward her with a huge grin, yelling “HI!” at the top of her lungs and flapping both arms excitedly to greet her friend.

I took the kids for a walk this morning.  It was a morning like any other morning – except that it wasn’t.

This morning our street is lined with blue ribbons to honour Const. Daniel Woodall, a member of the Edmonton Police Service , who was killed in the line of duty on Monday night.

He was killed protecting us.

Our neighbourhood has never felt more like a community.  I’ve been amazed at the outpouring of support – for each other, after the frightening ordeal we all went through on Monday night, but more so for the Edmonton Police Service.  The investigation was ongoing throughout  the day yesterday and every time I was outside I could see  people walking through the area, reaching out to shake the hands of officers to offer their condolences, their support, and to say thank you.

In our neighbourhood – in our city – we honour a man, a husband, a father, a son:  Const. Daniel Woodall.

Hold your loved ones close.  It can all change in the blink of an eye.  I am sending thoughts and prayers of strength, comfort and peace for those affected by this tragedy.

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Summer Reading Club

8th June 2015

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Tomorrow is Topher’s last day of preschool.  That means a lot of things , most of which I don’t really want to think about (My little boy is growing up!  Hold me!) – but one thing is means that I’m actually looking forward to?

Summer Reading Club!  

I’m not a huge fan of the way the EPL runs their summer reading club – no weekly programming,  just random “events” at different branches throughout the city that you’re supposed to attend to earn badges.  Each badge you earn gives you points towards entries in a draw for the Big Prize – usually a computer game of some sort.  How does that support literacy?

(I worked as the Summer Reading Club Coordinator at our local library when I was in university so I have much higher standards!)

So I made up my own Summer Reading Club:  I take the kids to Storytime once a week and made a logbook for Topher to keep track of the books he reads as well as the time he spends reading.  With the “real” reading club he earns one badge for every hour he spends reading; with Mommy’s reading club he earns one sticker for every five books he reads.

He’s more excited about the stickers.  Take that, Big City Library, with your fancy schmancy computerized reading club!

This is Topher’s third year participating and he’s set the goal of reading 100 books!

Here are a few of his favourites:

Topher’s Top 10

  1. The Runaway Hug
  2. Zoe Gets Ready
  3. The Book With No Pictures 
  4. Just One Goal (though he loves anything by Robert Munsch!)
  5. Anything Curious George
  6. Pete the Cat
  7. The Girl Who Wouldn’t Brush Her Hair
  8. The Gruffalo
  9. Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake
  10. I Spy books

Ellie hates to be left out of anything her brother is involved in, so she’s participating in Mommy’s Summer Reading Club this year too.  (Topher is in both.  Shhh, don’t tell Ellie!)

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Here are her go-to books when it’s time to snuggle up on the couch and read:

Ellie’s Top 10 

  1. Anything Caillou
  2. Beautiful Oops!
  3. Yoo-hoo, Ladybug!
  4. Who’s Making That Noise?
  5. Hide and Seek Harry (Around the House, At the Beach, etc.)
  6. Clifford the Big Red Dog
  7. Hug
  8. Where’s the Poop?
  9. The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  10. Peek-A-Moo

If you have kids, what are their favourite books?  If you don’t have kids, what were your favourite books as a child?  

*FYI: None of the links shared above are affiliates, I just wanted to show you where to buy the books if you’re interested.

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When Things Don’t Go As Planned

3rd June 2015

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When it comes to birthday parties, I’m not much of a planner.  I like to invite entire families so I don’t have to entertain small children, and I like hosting events outside, since we live in a teeny tiny condo.  Laurier Park is one of my favourite party locations.   It’s fairly central for all of our friends and for a (slightly unreasonable) fee, you can reserve the picnic site of your choice.

Two weeks before Topher’s party I checked the forecast (24 and sunny!) and booked Picnic Site #2.  It’s our favourite:  Right beside a playground, shaded by evergreens, backing onto an enormous open field, and with its own fountain so the little ones can refill their water guns.  Party site booked?  CHECK!

Topher’s birthday fell on a Thursday, and that morning I noticed a small bump on his nose.  He rubs his nose all the time so I thought it could be just a pimple – but I made a mental note to keep an eye on it, just in case!

By Friday afternoon he had spots on both cheeks.  I called Nathan in a panic:  “It’s a rash!  We have to cancel the party!”

Nathan is typically much more calm than I am, so he suggested we “wait and see how it looks in the morning.”

Of course.  Because it’s much better to cancel a birthday party hours before it starts than the day before.

Anyway …

By Saturday, Topher had spots on his face, ears, arms and legs.   I felt like he had a handful of new spots every time I looked at him!   We didn’t want to cancel his party so Nathan took him to the doctor to make sure it wasn’t chicken pox.

Just a tip:  If you think your child has the chicken pox and you go to a walk-in clinic, phone ahead and tell them you think it could be the chicken pox and they’ll most likely get you into an examination room right away.  It takes less than 15 minutes in the same room with someone with chicken pox for you to catch it, if you’ve never had it!

I stayed home with Ellie.  It had been pouring rain all morning and even though the forecast predicted it would stop by noon (the party was scheduled for two o’clock), it was cold and windy and I knew nobody would want to spend the afternoon at the park.  I had less than three hours to pull together an indoor party at an alternate location.

Our condo is too small to hold all of Topher’s friends and their families, so Nathan’s parents kindly volunteered to host the party at their house.  Whew!  Problem #1 solved! 

I’ve never thrown an indoor party before.  Like I said, I like outdoor events.  The kids entertain themselves!  We had Topher’s third birthday at a park and the kids (ages 2-6) spent a glorious three hours running around with sticks, whacking trees, and squirting each other with water guns.  The other adults mingled, and I nursed her baby Ellie in a lawn chair in the shade.  It was a great day!

I was in a panic so I called my sister for suggestions.  She has six kids so she’s thrown a lot of parties.  Her first suggestion was that I have a theme (in three hours?!?) – and plan games accordingly.

“You mean I need to come up with games?!?”  

Thank goodness for Pinterest.  

I didn’t have time to pull together a theme, but we did play three games that went over really well:

  1. Jump The River – Place two pieces of blue yarn about two inches apart to create a “river”.  Each guest has to jump over the river successfully in order to continue.  Every round, the yarn moves farther and farther apart.  Whichever guest jumps the widest river is the winner.
  2. Unwrap the Present – Pick a prize and wrap it over and over and over again, in as many different kinds of paper as you want.  The guests sit in a circle.  When the music starts, they pass the present around the circle until the music stops.  Whoever is holding the present when the music stops gets to unwrap one layer.  Whoever wraps the last layer gets to keep the prize.
  3. Penguin Race – Each guest holds a balloon between their legs and waddles to the finish!  The winner gets a prize.

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Fortunately that day was Grocery Day, so when Ellie and I picked up the groceries we threw in a few extras that could be considered prizes:  Glitter markers, stickers, colouring books, a stuffed monkey, and a disposable camera.  Things I knew my kids would enjoy playing with, even if the party did have to be rescheduled.

Nathan and Topher got home from the doctor just before lunch.  The rash was an allergic reaction of some sort – likely something environmental – and not chicken pox.  The party was on!

I phoned, e-mailed, and Facebooked all of our guests about the change in location, and after that there was nothing to do but wait.  We headed over to Nathan’s parents’ house to “decorate” (we blew up balloons and called it done!), set out some food, and Topher’s guests started arriving.

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I’m not a take charge kind of person, especially with children (am I the only person who thinks getting kids from Point A to Point B is like herding cats that are on fire?) – but all in all, things went well.  We visited, we ate, we played games.  Topher opened presents, blew out candles and spit on his cake.

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I think we hit all the high points of a typical birthday party!  It wasn’t at all like I had planned, but everyone had fun and I think – maybe, just maybe! – I might be confident enough in my party throwing skills now, after pulling everything together in a couple of hours with no major mishaps – that I might try an indoor party for Ellie next year.

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I guess I’ll wait and see how I feel in March.