july & the summer


I’m obsessed with that giant tree. It’s down near the edge of Stanley Park by Georgia Street and I just think it would be perfect for a treehouse and/or a swing, or even just climbing up to sit on a wide branch and read. I wish one the trees in our yard was like this but ALAS we just have a prickly hawthorn, a short dogwood and a spindly rowan.

For the whole month of June Gwen and I were both counting down the days until the end of the school year. I was SO READY to be done with the twice-daily down-and-up the hill with all the kids. School in this district went all the way to June 27th this year and it was SUCH a relief to be done… until July 3rd when she started her summer daycamp, which is at the school. I’m actually really thankful that she got into it, it’s a program for kids who need more support with reading, there are super limited spaces and it is very low cost, but the down-and-up the hill! Plus I can’t just drop her at the door, I need to take her up to the library on the second floor and sign her in which means I have to take Nicky and the daycare kids up to the library on the second floor. I don’t know what it is about being inside the school but it makes them all (ESPECIALLY Nicky) go bananas! The building it mostly empty so there’s a fantastic echo and I feel a little bad to the other parents subjected to Nicky’s yells of CHEESE! and SQUEAKY! up and down the stairs and hall- but not too bad. We’re on day 7 of 16 of the program and so far it seems to be going well.

After a few false starts and a lot of confusion and maybe a few frustrated tears Symphony is registered for her first college classes! We’re still holding out hope she can get into some art classes (registration for them is reserved for only students in the fine art program until the 17th) but if she isn’t able this semester there’s always next time. This month she’s helping out with the kids when I pick Gwen up from daycamp (the pickup is in the middle of quiet/nap time) and her other goal is to do lots of baking and crafts because as she said “I can’t just spend all my time in my room watching videos.” THAT IS WHAT I HAVE BEEN SAYING FOR LIKE THREE YEARS OH MY GOD. Anyway she made cookies last week and last night she made the brownies pictured above. I made the wooden bench and little wooden mushroom, both with scrap wood I pillaged from the construction site next door. They are finally almost done over there and I’m looking forward to being able to open my windows whenever I want without worrying about fumes or noise or dust BUT I will miss pillaging their scrap heap for bits for my projects! (FYI I was given express permission to do so and was even given an extra piece of white quartz countertop they had, which is beautiful but weighs a million pounds and I’m not sure what to do with it?).

solstice

When Gwen found out that Friday was the longest day of the year she begged to go down to the beach to watch the sunset. Actually she STATED she was going to watch the sunrise AND the sunset but I dissuaded her haha. I also made her swear up and down that she would sleep in the next morning but Nicky had different ideas (and a virus) so in the end no one slept in. We had a lot of fun although next time I think I would pick a different beach (this one was very crowded).

summertime

It’s been a while.

I’ve meant to write more, I’ve even composed posts in my head when I was running around doing stuff, or spending time outside with the kids (which I do a lot of these days) but never actually had a moment to sit down and type anything out. Not to be like “I’m busy” but like… I’m busy. Having three kids and a job and a regularly updated blog is too much, man!

This spring we said goodbye to Kichou. He was 17 and his quality of life was suffering and it was time. It was sad and weird and Taylor was annoyed with me because I’d scheduled Gwen’s eye exam for later that same afternoon and he had to take her (NEVERMIND that when I put Claire to sleep, and went to my ex’s to be there for Dougal’s end I had to go back to work right after!). Georgie’s been a bit of a basket case ever since, she gets extremely hysterical when we come home from even short errands, I think because Kichou left and didn’t come back and she thinks we are going to leave and not come back? It’s rough (ruff).

Gwen’s eyes are fine btw. at the beginning of last summer we had them checked and she had a slight astigmatism in one eye. We were supposed to take her back at the end of August to get rechecked to see if she needed any interventions but… I forgot. I SAID I’M BUSY OK. Anyway she’s fine, the one eye (her right?) isn’t as strong as the left yet but it’s getting better on its own.

Nicky was sick this past weekend and I had to take him to get checked out at the urgent care clinic. I spend so much time with him during the week but almost never one-on-one and to be honest he spends a lot of his day yelling at other kids, so it was nice to actually hear him talk. He talks so much! He has a lot to say. The doctor told me he’s physically closer to a 4-year-old. He recently started climbing out of his crib so I converted it to a toddler bed and put Gwen’s spare bedding on it so they have matching pillowcases and duvets. Next step: BUNK BEDS. Eventually.

This morning Symphony wrote her Provincial exam for English and that’s it. She’s done high school. WILD I KNOW. The graduation (or “school-leaving”) ceremony was last week, followed by the dinner & dance. I took the day off work to take her to get her nails and hair and makeup done. I watched her walk across the stage; she was the first one in her class to do so (just last-name-starts-with-the-letter-A things). I have to say it was pretty surreal to see and think about and I did cry a lil bit making her breakfast that morning. My little girl is literally all grown up.

trees & ten years

On Wednesdays after the kids go to bed Taylor and I usually go out. Like, not OUT out, not like a date night or anything. We go to the comic book store down on Granville Street so Taylor can get his weekly comics, and I usually make him go with me to my favourite store HomeSense to look at all the stuff.

I was idly browsing kitchen gadgets when he suddenly called to me “I FOUND A BLEAK ART.” A little backstory, about a year ago I was there and found a canvas print of a landscape that I fell in love with. It’s a photograph of a range of mountains growing paler as they recede into the distance, mist in the valleys, all in shades of grey. I immediately bought it for our dining room wall. I call it my bleak art BUT that sort of vista is one of my FAVOURITE things to look at, second only to the same vibe, but with trees.

The print that Taylor had found was the same vibe, but with trees.

I told him I loved it and he offered to buy it for me, as an anniversary gift. We had decided not to do gifts this year as we (especially me) are quite broke, but I just loved this print so much! We walked around the rest of the store to see if there was something better (I even offered to make the ultimate sacrifice and get towels instead, because the towels we received as a wedding gift ten years ago have mostly all disintegrated and as such we only have six bath towels for our family of five people, hashtag minimalism). But in the end the art was the thing.

When we took it up to the cash desk the sales associate had a real moment with it. He glanced at it and said “good choice” and then looked again, longer and said “REALLY good choice,” with real emotion. He asked us if we “drive around a lot” and I replied “sometimes we go up to Kelowna?” (Taylor’s hometown, a forest-y, mountain-y scenic four hour drive away) and he was like “YES! It’s like that!” and really it is.

I had thought I would put the new print up in the bedroom, but after I got home I realized the new bleak art complimented the old one perfectly: it’s the same size (although oriented vertically rather than horizontally) and the frame is the same colour. Isn’t it funny, finding this matching pair almost a whole year apart? I hung the new one on the adjacent wall in the dining room (where it hides a spot where someone unfamiliar with removing Command hooks damaged the paint) and I can see it from almost every part of the front of the apartment, where it reminds me of the forest, and the mountains, and peace, and having a partner who knows me so well that in a whole huge store full of miscellaneous items he found the one thing I would really and truly love.

Happy tenth anniversary Taylor, you are my heart.

inside outside

I almost titled this post “full house” but then I thought… better not.

Gwen felt a little under the weather today so I let her stay home from school, but I needed Taylor to stay/work from home as well since I would be busy with Nicky & the daycare kids. We’ve been spending most of our time outside lately (more on this below) and I knew Gwen wouldn’t be up for that. Then Sym was also feeling sick (unrelated to how Gwen was feeling sick) so I let HER stay home from school as well, and honestly… it’s a lot. There are a lot of people here! Spring break starts on Monday and this is kind of a trial run for that and I think it’s going to be a long two weeks! I mean don’t get me wrong it’s nice to have others here to help with chores & child wrangling, lovely not having to walk down to the school with all the kids, and Taylor made me tea while I was out in the backyard with the little ones but I’m just not used to doing my family thing and my work thing at the same time all day.

Recently I read Balanced and Barefoot and much like There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather, it has inspired me to get the kids outside more, as well as just let them play as they choose rather than setting up activities for them, or guiding their play. I will bring up a selection of toys for them and just let them do what they want and they get on just fine. The biggest struggle I had been having was rainy days, because it’s a lot of standing around in the rain for me, and also trying to fit outdoor play around school drop-off & pick-up as well as snack times was a little tricky when the weather was foul. Like we would all get wet going to the school and then take off our outdoor gear to go in and have snack, and then who wants to put, cold, wet, clammy outdoor gear back on to go play? Not I, and not really the kids either, so I’ve been planning a way to put a roof over my little patio so there’s somewhere under cover to eat snack outside instead. I’m hoping to put together a prototype (using my fave material: DOLLAR STORE SHOWER CURTAINS) this weekend.

I’ve also been gathering old bricks to make another, smaller patio area on the other side of my stairs. I’ve gotten enough now and just need a bag or two of sand and I can lay it all out. I’m going to move my outdoor storage shelf & garbage/recycling up on to it and the space right outside the door (which is the most sheltered) can be for the kid’s bikes and muddy boots, etc. You MIGHT be thinking “Tanie why are you planning to keep bikes outside, isn’t that how your giant stroller was stolen?” and the answer is I’M GONNA LOCK THEM UP. I actually have a lock out there already (I have for years) that I used with my giant stroller but the night it was stolen I forgot to bring it down to lock it up. Bikes are smaller, lighter and easier to move down the stairs and don’t need to be folded up like the stroller, plus I think in total they cost about $130… not EIGHT HUNDRED lol so the risk is significantly lower.

I would also like to have a few more options for outdoor toys. Right now there’s some large trucks & cars, balls and badminton equipment (I brought that out for the first time on Tuesday afternoon and it only took two minutes before someone’s lip was busted open by an errant racket swing but I’m pretty sure that’s a learning experience for everyone involved?), and an assorted of shovels, rakes and other beach toys (we also use these when it snows, but I don’t want to just let the kids dig up the shared yard so I’m trying to figure out an area they can use them). I have sidewalk chalk in my storage room that I can bring out soon, and last weekend I used some scrap wood I pilfered from a construction site to make a balance beam, which I’ve so far only let my own kids and their friends upstairs use, NOT the daycare kids. It’s literally just a 2×2 securely screwed to a a pair of 2″ high “feet” to raise it up and stop it from tipping over so I don’t see why they couldn’t use it. I would also like to get some large wooden blocks for outside but I think I might have to make those myself as well, unless someone has a giant Jenga set they would like to donate to me!

Anyway. That’s what is going on around here. Sick kids, outside time, and planning, planning, planning for spring.

snow days

It started snowing on Sunday after Gwen’s last ice skating lesson and kept going on and off for the next few few days. I was happy because the little kids LOVE playing in the snow and it happens so infrequently here. That afternoon I took her for a walk downtown and then after Nicky’s nap Taylor and I took the two little kids to Sunset Beach to go sledding down the big hill there. We have a little “baby-boggan” infant sled for Nicky to use and brought our least favourite pool float (an ugly donut) for Gwen. It got absolutely destroyed and deflated but she was able to get in plenty of runs before that happened!

Monday she had school like usual but Tuesday was her first snow day and also SYMPHONY’S first snow day because we NEVER have snow days in Vancouver. I personally feel like cancelling school had more to do with staff living in the suburbs (which typically get more snow than the city) being unable to get downtown than the amount of snow we had. Of course I still had to work but we took full advantage of the snow and played outside for most of the day.


I actually had the daycare kids out playing for hours morning & afternoon on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (on Thursday we were out a bit less BUT we did go down to the snowy beach to throw snowballs in the ocean) and I had a bit of an epiphany. You might recall that over winter break I read There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather and have been trying to make more of an effort to spend more time outside with both the daycare kids and my own kids. It hasn’t necessarily been easy and the reason is THE RAIN. Going outside to play in the snow for hours and hours is one thing: you can build snowmen and throw snowballs and go sledding and make snow angels. You can get out the beach toys from storage and make snow castles and snow pies. You can invent new games like “throwing a snowball straight up in the air and trying to hit the top of your own head” and “jamming toy trucks into a snow bank so you have to stage an emergency rescue” and “throwing snowballs into the tree to knock snow out so it falls on everyone” (this was my own invention) but when it RAINS??? What??? Are we??? Supposed to do??? It’s cold and wet and gross and mud and NOT in a fun way for so much of the winter here. I HATE standing around in the rain! The kids HATE getting muddy! I’m going to keep trying to find a way to make it fun but so far that’s been a struggle. It’s raining today and Gwen has no school (it’s a professional day) so I can already find myself looking for excuses not to go out at all.

routines

Will 2019 be the year I finish painting the playroom? STAY TUNED…

shark

Now that winter break is over we are all slowly getting back into our daily routines. While I don’t typically like to have my kids over-scheduled in a lot of activities I DO try to stick to a schedule for meals, naps, and bedtimes. It’s especially important for my work week as I have to fit morning snack, lunch and afternoon nap for Nicky and the daycare kids all into the five-hour block of time between getting back from dropping Gwen at school and leaving to pick her up. In order to make it work we have to have morning snack at 9:30, right when we get back, and the kids have developed their OWN routine from there:

  • 9:30- 9:45 morning snack
  • 9:45-9:50 help me move the couch (see below)
  • 9:50-??? listen to Baby Shark and run around in a circle

They do this EVERY DAY and honestly… I don’t even find Baby Shark that annoying anymore. Oh and re: the couch, I don’t want the kids playing in the “living room” part of our living area because they always jump on the couch and throw all the cushions on the floor (annoying) and one time a toy was thrown by someone running through the living room and it SMASHED our tv so…. Anyway we push the couch forward to the entertainment stand (there needs to be a shorter word for this…) which pretty much eliminates the living room as a play area and makes the playroom huge with more room for running, playing and dumping out all the toys.

dough

Before Christmas my friend gave me a little jar of sourdough starter, which I promptly put in the fridge and forgot about. If you keep them on the counter they need to be fed every twelve hours but in the fridge you can let them go a week, two weeks or… a month? I’ve heard conflicting things from different people and websites, and of course there is my own personal experience of just leaving it for a month. Yesterday I FINALLY pulled it out and was like… is it alive? is it dead? WHO CAN SAY. I figured I’d feed it some to find out, and then I forgot to put it back in my fridge. This morning I have to say YES, it is alive and ALL OVER THE COUNTER. I transferred it to a bigger jar and popped it back in the fridge but HONESTLY I should start using it to make bread. Sourdough bread is actually one of my FAVES so it makes sense. If anyone has and tips, tricks, techniques, recipes or advice please let me know and REST ASSURED I’m going to set an alarm on my phone to remind me to feed Li’l Yeasty… weekly? Bi-monthly? Something-ly.

skin

Over the winter break, especially the last week when I was sick (I literally got a cough/lost my voice on New Year’s Day and I’m still not better) I definitely started slacking in the skincare routine department. SHAMEFUL in these times I know. I needed to get a new nighttime moisturizer so I decided to jumpstart my return to skincare by getting a TON of tiny products from Sephora. I wanted to try the Herbivore Pink Cloud moisturizer but I didn’t want to buy a full size jar in case I didn’t like it, so I got a set of small Herbivore products and THEN because I’d never used any of my Rewards points (I have literally never ordered anything from Sephora because the entire time I’ve been regularly buying stuff there it’s been three blocks from my house) so I got every (free) tiny product I could. I ended up with a bunch of new masks, moisturizers, cleansers, serums and facial oils, and a bunch of lip colour for some reason. SO be on the look out for a lot of well-hydrated selfies from me in the months ahead.

dishes

Last week we got a new dishwasher! You might recall we tried to replace our old, third-hand one a year ago but the new one we bought at the time turned out to be contaminated with mold and returning it was an extremely huge hassle that took honestly months. MONTHS! After Christmas we decided to give it another try with a different dishwasher from a different retailer and HONESTLY it turned out great. We were really anxious about something else going wrong so we weirdly kept it a secret? We just didn’t want to jinx it! But in the end we got a brand new dishwasher that had the look and all the features that I wanted/needed delivered, installed and the old one hauled away in a week and a half.

With our old machine we had to completely pre-wash everything before putting it in (you might ask “why put them in at all then?” and the answer is DAYCARE REGULATIONS). So we all got into the habit of leaving our dirty dishes in the sink/on the counter until there was enough to justify filling the sink with water. It was frustrating for me because I ended up washing up after everyone’s snacks and drinks all day long (I’m talking about people over the age of sixteen here) . With the new machine everyone can just put their dishes in it right away and wow. WOW. What a difference! We are all still getting used to this new routine but I sincerely hope “putting dishes in the dishwasher” remains a fun novelty activity my kids are happy to keep doing, haha.

go outside

Just before New Year’s I read There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather and I feel a little silly about it but I really did find it inspiring. Obviously I did have some problems with it, like literally HOW can you say the only obstacle between kids playing outside in wet/cold weather is high-quality outdoor gear and not even acknowledge that these things are out of the budget for a LOT of families. Even secondhand may be too pricy/not an option if you don’t have the time/capability to troll through used clothing shops to try and find the sizes you need OR go all over town sourcing them from randos on craigslist or fb marketplace??? Like I got Gwen’s ice skates and helmet used via fb marketplace and YES I saved money but also YES picking up each item took literally hours of time. Anyway, there’s is definitely some seriously unexamined privilege in this book.

This issue aside though, before I even finished it I was really doing my best to get the kids outside more. This two weeks of winter break has been awesome and it’s been wonderful to see Gwen & Nicky have the chance to play and interact without the added variable of the daycare kids; last time I had vacation Nicky was still too small to really *PLAY* the way he can now and it’s been a delight. HOWEVER they (and everyone) have had a bit of cabin fever and too much screen time and there’s been a few temper tantrums and bad nights of sleep as a result. The day after I started reading the book I was DETERMINED to take the kids outside rain or shine and wouldn’t you know it, it was a gorgeous sunny day! Fully blue-skied and clear in the morning. It was cold as heck though, but I didn’t let that stop us and after a small amount of cartoons I bundled them up in head-to-toe waterproofs and we hit the playground. And you know what? We had fun!

Of course, I already knew how much fun my family could have outside in gross weather after Nicky’s extremely wet & muddy but also extremely successful pumpkin patch birthday. And the kids often ask to go outside in any weather at all, which is something I definitely should not be discouraging. I have found myself saying “not right now, it’s too cold/wet/muddy to play outside” which needs to stop! I think my main obstacles are:

1. I can’t send both kids outside to play on their own.
Growing up in the country I definitely had one of those “go out to play see you at dinnertime” childhoods with plenty of forest exploring, creek-wading, fort-building, and tree-climbing. We’re lucky to have a fenced backyard that the kids can play in but we do still live downtown in a major city and honestly… not all the people who live or pass through our neighborhood or even our yard are kind, or harmless. I’m just not comfortable letting them both go out alone, especially with my limited view of the backyard from inside the apartment. Also the gates don’t necessarily latch securely and while Gwen is very good about staying in the yard, Nicky just isn’t there yet. So both of them going outside also means me (or Taylor, or Sym) going outside and with work, school & home responsibilities that’s just not always an option. I will admit though that sometimes I just don’t wanna go out and stand around in the cold/wet while they play!

2. I get burnt out on outside time from school drop offs/pick up
Obviously this hasn’t been a problem these last two weeks but during the school year dropping Gwen off & picking her up with all the daycare kids in tow is a HUGE production. Getting everyone’s outdoor gear on and walking five block there and back at the speed of two- and three-year olds takes an hour, two times a day. Fitting in snacks, lunch, and nap around it takes some tight scheduling and when you factor in the dressing/undressing/cleaning up sometimes there just isn’t time to get in a good amount of outdoor play. Additionally during the warmer months we typically go outside after afternoon snack and stay out until pick up time but at this time of year it’s basically pitch dark by then.

Something that ISN’T an obstacle for us though is outdoor clothing; both kids have an abundance of waterproof rain gear and warm snow gear. Of course it hasn’t snowed at all this winter but the snowsuits are getting a decent workout as non-rainy-day outer layers to keep small bodies and inner layers of clothing warm, dry and free from mud. I know that we’re lucky that we can afford (or have previously been able to afford; all Nicky’s stuff is Gwen’s hand-me-downs) a variety of layering options and that makes overcoming my other obstacles easier. I have been trying to let go of the idea that expending the effort getting the kids and myself geared up for just a short amount of outdoor time is a waste, and recently we have been going out to play in the late afternoons when it’s dark and honestly, they have just as much fun as when it’s light. The other day I even brought sparklers out for them to play with in the rain before dinner and it was a huge hit! (I don’t think I could get away with that during the work week though, the child care powers-that-be probably frown on fireworks lol).

Going forward I want to continue making more of an effort on this. I’ve already seen positive results from both kids with better sleep and fewer tantrums when we’ve spent more time outside. Of course as soon as I embarked on this new adventure I immediately got sick as shit but I haven’t let that stop me… much.