26
December

Wordless Wednesday – Icy

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20
December

Not quite the twelve days of Christmas

On the Friday before Christmas, my day looked something like this…

Twelve snowballs thrown at me,

Eleven near misses on the roads because people were driving CRAZY,

Ten gifts purchased,

Nine inches of snow fallen (so far!)

Eight presents wrapped,

Seven dozen cupcakes baked,

Six pairs of mittens dried,

Five time-outs given,

Four crazy children running,

Three dozen cookies decorated,

Two times the laneway shoveled,

And one semi naked child on a play-date!

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19
December

Wordless wednesday – O Christmas Tree

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17
December

It’s just a number

I spent much of the Fall looking forward to my birthday, despite the fact that forty was the number on the cake. I kept telling myself that my birthday is only one day, it doesn’t mean that anything changes; and that forty could be really great if I let it. In so many ways, my life is pretty awesome… why would one day, one number change that.

I’ve only ever once gotten freaked out about a birthday; my twenty-seventh.  I have no idea why this birthday was significant.  It could have been that I was in a job where I was going nowhere, or that I was in a relationship with this guy, and I didn’t know if he was ever going to ask me to marry him (it took six more years, BTW), but woke on the day and was sad and unsure.  It took weeks to shake that feeling, and I vowed never to let the number get to me again.

Why then, did I spend the weeks leading up to this birthday freaking out just a little bit? It as the little things, like Woo telling me that all that white in my hair was not the snow that was falling, it was my hair; my hair dresser telling me that my hair wasn’t going to cooperate with me anymore unless I coloured it to “relax all the grey”, or the friend of a friend who was seemingly shocked that I was only turning forty.  The real cause of my insomnia (and I did lose several night’s sleep over this), was this picture.

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My eyes are where I see it, where I show my age.  This pictured bothered me, even though it is the same face that I see when I look in the mirror. Even though it doesn’t look remarkably different , the picture stuck with me.  Even yesterday, I came across it when I was look for a different picture from that day, my reaction was the same. Old.

Then I woke up.  I was greeted by a sweet lil boy, who just wanted to whisper happy birthday into my ear, and invite me to come cuddle on the couch.  We were joined by his sister and they sang to me.  We had to go to the dentist, so enjoyed a late start to the day.  I spent the bulk of the day in Goose’s class room, then hung out with the family for a  great meal with cake, followed by a family trip to the Beavers Christmas celebration.  Now Willy and I sit, enjoying a glass of wine and each other’s company.  It’s a perfect end to a great day.

I know that the changes I saw in that picture didn’t happen overnight, and that they don’t mean that I am really old. On the other hand, if this is me getting old, I kinda like it.

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9
December

Letting go

I’ve become one of those people who rarely hangs on to things for sentimental reasons.  Stuff gets passed on, recycled, trashed… and the memories live on in my mind, or as increasingly happens with my mind being less reliable, in my photos. There are a few things, mostly items that remind me of someone who is no longer here, but the rest gets dealt with pretty quickly.  I am especially brutal with the lils artwork and Willy’s huge collection of twenty year old concert t-shirts that he never wears, but they seem to have bought into the system, and occasionally ask me to take pictures of stuff so that they can get rid of it.

This week reminded me that I’ve become attached to a thing.  Ironically, I am attached to it because of a photo, one I took when Woo was a wee boy.  It was a snowy day, and he was propped up in the yard, keeping me company as I shovelled.  I love this photo.

Snowy Boy

I’ve hung onto the snowsuit that he wore that day, even though I have had opportunity to sell it, to donate it, to give it away.  It reminded me of that day, that first winter with my lil boy, my first year as a mom. I didn’t need a snowsuit to remind me of those times, the pictures worked too. But I couldn’t let it go. As time passed, and it became apparent to me that this was becoming a thing, I tried to let go, but failed repeatedly, thinking that I would be ready in a year’s time.

This year, when we were searching for snowsuits for the Snowsuit Fund, Woo found this old suit and I let him bring it out.  It went to the donation pile, got washed and packed away, then sat on the floor by the door for a few days before I found the time to drop the items off.  Each time I looked at it, I fought the urge to hide it away for “just one more year”.  Knowing that my resolve was weakening, I made a quick trip out today, dropped off the bag and then drove away fast, before I could change my mind.

As I helped the lils go through their toys looking for donations tonight, I was glad that I had successfully dropped off the snowsuit today.  They were struggling with letting go of some toys that they no longer play with, and my struggle this week allowed me to be more understanding to their perspective.  Instead we talked about why they wanted to keep the stuff and why they might want to give them away.  In the end, they kept most of the items that they were on the fence about, but did donate some.  I let them know that it is even hard for Mommy to part with things that she loves but doesn’t need anymore. I didn’t let them know that I am still a little sad that it is gone.

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5
December

Oops

Every now and again life gets away from me, be it because we are busy, or playing hooky, or travelling or whatever, and I wake up on Thursday and say, “oops.” That is what happened this week.  We were busy leading up to the weekend, then we travelled to Toronto to see family and have fun, then played hooky on Monday. I woke up this morning and had my oops moment, realized it is Thursday, and now I get to use words…

 

This weekend we went to say good bye to Uncle D, who is heading off on a meandering adventure to the south for a while.  While we were there, we checked out the new aquarium, where the lion fish and jellyfish were my favourites.

Lionfish!

Jellyfish! 

There were baby snuggles, lots of baby snuggles!!!

Snuggles 

We went to the Science Centre, where Woo did a little surgery…

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then made himself a pin cushion…

AHHHH 

Goose played with really big bubbles…

Fun with bubbles 

and Willy got his groove on!!

Willy getting his groove on 

I was drawn to the plasma ball!  I want one of these at home :)

Plasma ball 

 

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3
December

Holiday giving

We started to do an activity focused advent calendar with the lils when they were just old enough to get into the Christmas spirit. I borrowed the idea from my twitter friend, @missfish in 2008 and the daily December activities quickly became a favourite tradition for our family. I am not organized enough to have an actual advent style calendar, and often don’t have the activities planned out more than a few hours before they happen, but we’ve all been happy with the results.

Each year, I vow that it will be different, but as I sit down tonight to try and plan out the month (yes, I realize that we are already two days into the month), I can see that it’s not going to be too different from previous years. Yes, we’ll still be working without a firm plan for a lot of the days, but thanks the fact that I have at least recorded the activities from previous years, I know that we will be doing all of the things that we love to do as a family.

Again this year, we have decided to make a concentrated effort on helping to support those in our community who are less fortunate. As the lils get older, we want to involve them as much as possible. It’s important to us that they see us trying to help those who are less fortunate than we are, teaching them to be giving and empathetic. We are very thankful for our happiness, health, and home, and we know that others are not as fortunate. We want to show our children together can do something to help.

I often get asked how we can include small children in this charitable giving. Here is a list of the activities that we have participated in the past, or investigated for this year. Some represent a monetary donation, a donation of time, and some require both. Not all are applicable for families with young children, but I am going to try and get them involved in as many as possible! It is always best to check with the recipient of your donation to see what age is appropriate for participation. Some will encourage the participation of little ones, but others might require that they be excluded or take a limited role.

The Ottawa Foodbank  is a local institution that helps to feed families in need, as well as supply food to shelters and other programs for their meals. This month, we will be targeting their “most needed list” with a donation each time we shop. While volunteers generally need to be over 14, they may have some options for family volunteer activities, providing the children are 6 or older. You can volunteer together to do things like work in the warehouse, do office work, or work at special events. The volunteer contact information is on their website.

The Christmas Exchange also seeks to provide assistance with feeding families in need, through the Christmas hamper and store vouchers programs. When I was a child, we used to always do Christmas baking while listening to their Christmas Cheer broadcast on CFRA. This year’s Christmas Cheer broadcast will be held on Friday, December 6th. It’s a good opportunity to listen to some Christmas carols, and make a donation if you are able.

The Shepherds of Good Hope, and many local churches and houses of worship (many of Ottawa’s houses of worship are listed here) also have programs where you can “adopt” a family, and build a hamper containing food for Christmas dinner, essential goods and small gifts. You can see if your family can help to build a hamper by purchasing the items they need, pack hampers and wrap gifts, deliver hampers right before Christmas, or adopt a family and do all of those activities. With the Shepherds, when you call (613-233-7007), you can be matched to a family that is in great need, but that meets your wishes (ie size or location). You then contact the family representative and discuss what their needs AND wishes are. There are opportunities for younger children to help out in all aspects of this process, but some tasks may be more suitable than others. We have elected to gather and deliver the hamper to the family that we were matched up with, so our lils will have a significant role.

Many local elementary, middle, and high schools, churches, and community associations also get involved with food drives, charitable fundraisers like bake sales and holiday meals. These drives and events provide a great opportunity to talk about those less fortunate, and why you support the activities. You can help out by volunteering with your child in preparation for the event, gathering donations, baking, cooking, or helping out at the event. School, church, and community run events generally offer great opportunities for children of ALL ages to help out. Please check with your local school, community association, or church to see what they have planned.

There are a few institutions in Ottawa that host holiday meals in the days leading up to Christmas, starting in early December! This presents an opportunity for those looking to volunteer, but not on Christmas day. In addition to using volunteers on that day, they may have a need for volunteers in preparation for meal. The Mission is one that holds the meal in advance of Christmas – it’s December 22nd this year. My lils are still too small to help out with the serving at the Mission, but have been baking desert for them for years! We will be baking cupcakes through Cupcakes 4 Christmas again this year. This is one of our favourite things to do, as there are always a few extra cupcakes! I am not sure if they need any more bakers for this year, but you can contact either organization to see what they need.

This year is our second year contributing to the creation of prepared and delivered meals through Essence Catering. Chef Jason and his team collect all the ingredients that are needed to cook up full meals for needy families in our community, spend the hours leading up to Christmas prepping the meals, then go out and deliver them to the families. Last year we contributed some turkeys, and I am waiting to hear what they need from us this year.

A number of local restaurants and houses of worship also hold free meals for those less fortunate on Christmas day. Many accept food donations, as well as need volunteers on Christmas day to help out. If you cannot make it on Christmas day, they also accept food donations in advance. There are a number of participating restaurants listed here.

In the lead up to Christmas, we will also try to bring some toys to children in need. This can be accomplished in a couple of ways. Each year we do two things; go shopping as a family and pick out toys or games that our children would like, but donate them to Toy Mountain, who only accept new toys; and we clean out our toy bins, and donate the toys and books that we don’t use any more to a shelter (the Community Information Centre of Ottawa has a searchable database to help find shelters), or church, or a thrift store. Thrift stores, like the Saint Vincent de Paul take all sorts of donated goods, including toys, and help out lower income families by offering them for sale at low cost, or in some cases, giving the goods to needy families.

Finally, we will be gathering up our old snow suits to donate to the Snowsuit Fund, which will pass them on to children in need. My lils have fun helping us by gathering the pieces and matching up hats, mitts and boots, and then dropping them off with us.

Hope that this gives you some ideas for how you and your family can help out!

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