room to live

Ever since our tv was accidentally smashed by an errantly thrown toy hammer I’ve reduced access to the “living room” area of our open-plan apartment and increased the size of the “playroom” area by pushing the couch up against the entertainment stand under the window. Then last month when I had my initial inspection from a daycare licensing officer it was pointed out that if I turn the couch around before pushing it back, it could be included in the measured square footage of usable daycare space. DOY. Since then I’ve been turning it before pushing it and it’s been very nice to be able to like… SIT ON THE COUCH during the day.

It’s also really ignited the bee in my bonnet about replacing our current tv (the old one we moved back out to the living room from the bedroom after our new one was broken) with a digital projector. I could replace the entertainment stand with a smaller cabinet, push the couch against the wall, have side tables, a rug (we used to have one that I had to roll up ever day in order to move the couch but threw it away after an unfortunate milk-barfing incident), even a coffee table! I literally haven’t had a coffee table in any of my apartments since Symphony was a baby because I never felt the space in front of the couch was large enough but with the couch facing into a room six meters wide I think it could be managed, haha.

Taylor was not on board with my projector plan for a long time because he felt you couldn’t get a decent image with a super duper expensive projector and also he thought we wouldn’t be able to get our space dark enough to be able to see it well? Um we live in a basement, pal. Anyway this is all in the daydream stage right now because I don’t have money for a projector or side tables or a rug or coffee table but someday, I hope!

vacation disasters

This week is the one week Taylor and I both have off of work while Symphony is around. I’m also off next week, but Sym is at her grandma’s and Taylor is back at work EVEN THOUGH I told him he should take BOTH weeks off because he says he can’t be away from the office for three weeks and he’s going to a conference at the end of the month. I say that doesn’t count because it’s a WORK conference and he’ll be WORKING and also the HR department at his job recently told him he had too many vacation days accrued and he had to take a random day off immediately but that is another story.

Anyway. We didn’t have big plans to go away somewhere but I did want to do some Family Fun activities with… mixed results. Last weekend was a long weekend, with the last night of the annual fireworks competition and also Pride weekend. On Saturday Taylor, Nicky and I drove up to Merritt to pick Gwen up from her grandmas who she had been visiting for the past week, and that night we took them to the beach to watch the fireworks. Nicky had barely napped all day and was up super late so he was incapable of sitting still and kept trying to a) escape into the night, and b) smack me in the face. This led me to believe taking him to the Pride parade the following day would be a mistake so instead on Sunday we went to the Davie Street Promenade to let the kids play in the Love Bus (a school bus that has been painted pink and converted into a giant ball pit by some Burners) and then run a few errands. In the afternoon we had our own impromptu backyard party with a couple kiddy pools and our neighbors. Later my sister came over, Taylor and I picked up fried chicken for dinner and we finished building my Lego Cinderella castle which we had started the previous weekend (it has over 4,000 pieces so it’s a real production).

On Tuesday afternoon I had an initial inspection with a licensing officer from Community Care Facilities Licensing scheduled so Monday we spent most of the day trying to get the house back into some semblance of professionalism. Tuesday morning we took the kids to Science World. I also took Sym to the bank to get her account information so she could register to order to start withdrawing money from her RESP for college. She’s had a bank account since she was a little kid when one of her great grandmas used to write her cheques for her birthday and Christmas but hasn’t used it in years. Anyway… we had a fun time at Science World but unfortunately at some point on the way back Sym lost her cards out of her wallet! We know it had to have happened downtown because she used her Compass (transit) card to tap out of the train station but when we got home it, her Science World membership card and her bank card were missing! She and I retraced our steps all the way back to the train station and then home again but no dice. She needs to be able to access that account to like… pay her tuition, but also she doesn’t really have proper photo ID right now. So on Wednesday I had to take her to apply for photo ID and try and get a new bank card using a somewhat expired passport with a picture from when she was 11 (which we were thankfully able to do). Unfortunately all the walking around in the heat for two days and and waiting in lines killed me and that evening I felt very overheated and sick and had to take a cool bath and go to bed to chug Gatorade while everyone else had dinner.

Thursday was our big Family Fun activity: a day trip to Alice Lake. We went last summer and had a blast, and this year I was determined to actually get Sym into the water instead of just reading in our beach tent all day. Taylor had prepped all our food & supplies the night before while I was feeling ill so after he picked up our Zipcar we were ready to head out. We made a brief detour to a store in North Vancouver to pick up one of those folding wagons all the moms have as well as an adaptor to allow up to plug our electric air pump into the car to blow up all our floaties and LET ME TELL YOU they have already paid for themselves!

We got to the lake around 11:30 and I took the kids & all our stuff (in the wagon) to the beach to set up while Taylor stayed at the car inflating things. I went back and forth bringing floaties over but no one else had to make multiple trips which was nice- last year it was a huge pain getting everything from the parking lot to the lake with no wagon. When the last float was done Taylor had a little trouble getting the Zipcar to lock using his card but the app worked fine so we didn’t worry about it (this is foreshadowing by the way). It was super windy at the lake and everyone’s floats kept blowing away when left unattended, especially ours (mostly because… we had a lot) but it was fun and funny and after lunch I did manage to convince Sym to come out for a float and have fun in spite of herself.

Around 3:30 we decided it was time to head home so we deflated and packed up everything. I took Gwen to the washroom and then we went to meet everyone else at the car. It was a little weird because they were all still standing around it with all our belongings, and as it turned out… it wouldn’t unlock! The card wasn’t working and now neither was the app, because Taylor didn’t have enough service. We had to call Zipcar on my phone because Taylor kept getting disconnected and then he was on hold forever. When he finally spoke to someone they couldn’t even locate the car in their system because of the lack of service so it couldn’t be remotely unlocked. Taylor was put on hold again while he waited to be connected to roadside assistance.

In the end a tow truck came and the driver popped the lock on the car, but doing that locked up the ignition so it wouldn’t start. He needed to tow the car to somewhere with service so Taylor could try unlocking it with his card because that was the only was to unlock the ignition. I had to stay alone with the kids while this happened, and we didn’t even know if it would work or if Zipcar would pick us up in a new car, which would probably take hours- by this time it was rush hour in the city. Also the tow truck happened to be one of the flat bed kind and loading our car onto it blocked the entire exit from the parking lot right at the time everyone else decided to leave so there was a big line of steamed up people fuming at us.

We had taken the kids up to a little playground in the woods and again, GOD BLESS THAT LITTLE WAGON! Literally the best $65 I’ve ever spent! Dragging our cooler, deflated floaties, Taylor’s Swim bag, Nicky’s diaper bag and a big Ikea bag full of wet towels, swimsuits and lifevests around by myself would have been impossible, and moving the kids around from the concession to the lake side of the playground to the parking lot side of the playground to the concession again broke up the wait so they didn’t get too punchy (although Nicky who had skipped his whole nap and was now creeping up on his bedtime had reached the gravel-throwing stage of overtiredness).

Finally, after having the car towed to somewhere with decent service Taylor was able to get it started and came back to pick us up. We’d started trying to leave at 3:30; when we were all finally in the car it was 6:45, and we were still an hour+ outside of the city. The first thing we did once we got out of the park was hit a drive-thru for fries for the kids and then it was straight home. Nicky fell asleep so hard that not only did he stay asleep when we moved him from the car to the house he stayed sleepy enough while I changed his dirty diaper that I was able to put him straight to bed.

In spite of the rather large hiccup of being stranded in the woods for several hours with no clear plan of how or when we were going to all get home (at one point we thought Zipcar might send a driver in a car with carseats to bring me & the kids home while Taylor stayed with our car until???), the day was still a lot of fun and I look forward to next year’s trip, although this time… no Zipcars*


*We actually did use a Zipcar last year with no problems but we parked at the other end of the lot which is higher and I guess has better service? Still, not willing to risk another stranding.

on minimalism

a rainbow in my cloudy sky of an apartment

Gwen has been away this week visiting Taylor’s moms and her cousins and I’ve noticed two things since she’s been gone: Nicky has been sleeping in every day and I have been doing half as many loads of laundry as I normally do. I can understand the former; Gwen is a very early riser and tends to wake everyone else up, but the latter??? Does she really wear that many clothes in a week???

I’ve been thinking a lot about laundry lately because it’s a frequent topic of discussion in the Minimalist Moms facebook group I mostly joined for lols (the group is a wild west mess of a place with something like 100,000 members, no post moderation and just a minimalist approach to moderation in general from the modmin team which leads to INCESSANT DRAMA in every post). I’d say a significant percentage of the group wants to minimalize their/their children’s wardrobes but there seems to be a disconnect about clothes washing? Theoretically it’s just a choice between washing more clothes less frequently or washing fewer clothes more frequently but I see a lot of comments asking WHEN will the laundry be DONE??? Tragically… never.

I don’t really consider myself a minimalist because I honestly try to never put myself in a box like that but I do have to admit that:

  • painting my whole apartment the same light grey (with the exception of the white powder room & hallway and the off-white in the kid’s bedrooms)
  • my carefully curated selection of decorative objects that are all white or were something found in nature, artfully arranged on shelves and windowsills
  • my constant donating of bags of clothing and housewares
  • my even more constant decluttering in general
  • living in a multi-family dwelling instead of a SFH and not owning a car, although those are less “choices” than “financial requirements”

… make a bit of a case for it haha. I know for me this all stems from the ten years of my apartment being painted an eclectic variety of bright colours with the playroom mural and kid art everywhere. It was so visually cluttered and just started giving me anxiety. I guess if I HAD to call myself a minimalist I’d say for me it’s really more of an ~aesthetic minimalism~ because I just want a nice-looking (to me!), peaceful environment, which is kind of looked down on for being superficial but seeing as how I’ve changed my space to better serve my mental health it’s really not, you know? I’ve also come to believe that a less visually stimulating space is better for child development so really it’s a business decision as well.

I kind of feel that minimalism can definitely mean different things to different people and subscribing to one set of beliefs about it doesn’t necessarily invalidate another’s set of beliefs about it, something I think some of the facebook minimalist moms should try to understand! The amount of posts that have descended into vicious name-calling because a homeschooling mom-of-seven takes offense to a person who’s chosen to be one-and-done saying they’ve minimalized their carbon footprint by only having one child is NEXT LEVEL and honestly kind of depressing they way people refuse to consider other people’s choices as valid.

Anyway. This post went in a completely different direction than I thought it would, and I’m not sure of my point? I guess this is just what I’ve been thinking about lately, and also… I should probably leave that group.

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.