Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Change is Constant - an Update on Life with the M's

Where to begin and where to end? Once again life twists and turns and puts us where we didn't expect to be. This time last year, I was home schooling Melissa and Michael with every intention of doing so for years to come. I was dealing with gall bladder attacks and had not yet even contemplating returning to school myself. This year I'm in school, the kids are in school, and other than a twin-inflicted cold, my health is the best it has been in a number of years: physically and mentally - I would say that until I started getting better, I didn't know how bad off I was for so long.

The big news here is that we are buying a condo! The subjects are removed; the deposit paid and it is closing the end of February. The chain of events that have transpired over the past year seem to be leading somewhere; somewhere there is a reason for all of this: kids in school, me in school, buying a condo, having a mortgage. Every time I think I know where life is going to put me; things change, the road turns, and I end up somewhere else. There is a bit of stomach turning terror at going into so much debt: I think I've lost 5 pounds just in the process so far.

Megan and Maribeth two years ago - December 19, 2004

Melissa, Michael, and Maddy had their 1st report cards and parent teacher conferences of the year. Maddy and Melissa are both completely on track for their age and grade levels. In short, they're doing well and their teachers love having them in their classrooms. Michael is advanced in everything and is in advanced spelling, reading, and math. He also is helping other 1st graders as well as being sent in to read to the Kindergarten class. Michael is also "extremely popular" at school. Given that he grew up with all girls, that kind of surprised me. I guess that was wasted worry on whether or not he would get along ok with other boys.

I finished up my first semester back to school in almost a decade with a 4.0 GPA. I got A's in both my English and Political Science classes. I 'm thrilled with that and also enjoying the time off between semesters. I have proved that my brain is not dead or turned to mush. I'm also loving seeing the kids. Having both them and me going to school has improved our family dynamics amazingly. We all have things to talk about and when we have a break from school we appreciate spending time with each other, instead of just getting on each other's nerves. Of course maybe the thousands of dollars Allan and I dropped into personal and marriage counselling this year may be helping with some of that as well.

There is more. There has been so much more, I just can't remember it all. 2006 has been an interesting year that ranged from wonderful times to some of the most stressful things we have been through; things we almost didn't make it through. At the end of all the twists and turns 2006 threw at us, we are not where we thought we would be. It will be interesting to see what happens next year in 2007. I'm getting the chills now because when I went to type 2007, I typed 1997 and then again. 1997 was a year for me of very hard change and transitions. I hope that is not a sign of things to come...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Snow Day!

Snow day!
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

The kids had their first snow day yesterday after a storm dumped 29-53 cm of snow over the lower mainland over the weekend and through Monday morning.

Uncle Alvin stuck around for the snow day and helped Michael build a big snowman/jabba-the-snow-hutt in the back yard complete with carrot nose. Uncle Alvin also helped the kids build a snow jump for the sleds and a "snow mountain" in the front yard and the kids pestered both of us for endless rides around the yard on the sleds.

The surprise of the snowstorm was that the twins LOVE playing outside in the snow - they got into the action with snowball rights, sled rides and even their summer beach toys.

Maddy and Melissa enjoyed playing outside as well - but they decided not to go out again in the afternoon - but to stay curled up with books in the living room in front of the TV. Melissa is currently reading through the Chronicles of Narnia on her OWN!

Besides playing outside - the kids got to enjoy the traditional "snow day" activities:plenty of hot chocolate, fresh chocoloate chip cookies, movies to watch, and even making Christmas oranments and pictures using copious amounts of glitter. For the first time ever, Melissa was sad to have to go to school this morning.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Boo gets Bangs

Boo with clipped bangs
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

She's never had bangs, her hair goes so nicely to one side on its own, but she ASKED me to give her bangs while I was trimming Maddy's. I gave it my best shot, but well, they still need some work, not very even. She's happy though. I think that with this cut our Miss. Melissa Jean looks a bit like my cousin Jeanne.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Silly twins

Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

Maribeth and Megan are just a constant source of amusement around here, both what they say and the faces they make!

From smiling happy to this and back in just a couple of seconds!

silly faces

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Over here please
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

Michael, Melissa and Maddy went trick or treating with "Auntie Len" while Megan and Maribeth stayed home to help Daddy eat the candy,err - hand out the candy. ;)

Check this out

Maddy was a "fairy princess ballerina" (the twins followed her example)

See my haul!

Melissa scorned the planned puppy costume to be "the angel of the Lord", which morphed into the "Angel of Liberty" and back.

Angel of Liberty

Michael was thrilled for his turn to be "Hobbes" in the fleece tiger costume! Even though the temperature was down to 3C this evening - he didn't need a coat!


Where was Mommy? In English class, but at least I found out I got an A on my midterm.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Five Dressed to the Nines

Ready for an evening on the town - My mother gave Michael what amounts to a mini-Tux. He's not going to fit it for very long, but while it does fit him, he looks very handsome: 'specially when standing next to Melissa in her flower girl's dress from my sister-in-law's wedding. You'd think they were going to the symphony or something.

Ain't it grand! - Actually, these pictures give me the heebie-jeebies. I'm thinking, if they look good now, what am I going to be up against when they're teens and getting their photos taken for Prom night, or something like that?

Cha-cha-cha! - My step-mother gave Madeleine, Megan, and Maribeth matching dresses and we've been waiting for a chance to dress 'em up to show them off. We took 'em to church this weekend with their dresses to show 'em off to their grandmother. All three were too wiggly to sit, so we took them out to the hall for some pictures and they just wouldn't stop dancing.

Four out of five aini't bad - When we got home we herded the M's onto the couch for some pictures before they messed up their clothes. The problem with any photo-shoot with all five is that getting them to all look at the camera at the same time is like herding cats.

Between Takes #1 - I kept shooting even between tries, and got a few interesting shots like this one below.

Happy M's all in a row - I think this shot is the closest we got to all five looking more or less in the same direction.

That's a wrap! - We pretty much decided to call it quits after this parting shot.

Madeleine Turns Five

Playing catch-up here. Maddy's birthday was October 22 - one week ago. She had a really great day; Cheryl did a really big build-up, with a Pink Princess themed day. Madeleine just ate it up. All of her sibs liked the girly pink thing, except the boy, but he was told in so many words to play nice or he could sit the day out.

Cheryl putting up the streamers

Birthday balloons

Feathered pens, kewl!!!!

Later on that day we went over to my mother's place as she had a gift for Madeleine too. To her credit, Maddy was a perfect little lady and behaved herself very well at Granny's house.

A couple of days after Maddy's birthday a package arrived from my sister in Toronto. After Madeleine got the wrapping off, she was really on Cloud 9.

The Pink Princess

I don't know how long Cheryl is going to keep it up with the themed birthday parties, but I'm really wondering how she's going to top herself when the twins birthday rolls around next February.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Maddy is crowned "princess"

See my wand?
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

Maddy's birthday gift from her Auntie Gail came today and now we have a very happy "pink barbie princess" twirling around our house!! Thank you Auntie Gail!!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Hollyburn Mountain - a dissenting voice

Cheryl writes:

It was the perfect day for a hike; beautiful fall weather; sunny, but not hot; crisp, but not cold; and gorgeous fall foliage. This was the kind of day that Allan and I remember lamenting being stuck inside for school, work, or church. So beautiful, so perfect a day for hiking, that we decided to skip church and take our 5 M's for a hike. Destination: Hollyburn Mountain.

For the most part, the M's were happy to be outside but there was ONE exception. Much to the frustration of everyone else in the family, instead of scrambling up the powerline trail from the parking lot, Melissa sulked, whined, and pouted her way up.

"I don't like this."

"I did NOT want to go hiking."

"Can't you just leave me at home?"

While still in sight of our van, "Can we turn around yet?"

Our other children were enjoying themselves.

To quote Maddy, "This has all the beautiful mountain things that I needed."

The happier the rest of us were, the more sullen Melissa became. Just as we were about to turn off the powerline trail onto the Hollyburn trail, she said something that left me speechless and wondering if she was switched at birth.

"I HATE this. I wish I was in SCHOOL. I wish I could go to school and be inside ALL the time."

For all the days I have spent stuck inside, wishing to be free to be outside, my child was hiking outside on a beautiful, perfect fall day, and wishing she was sitting at her desk in school. It was a cruel irony of life. It will be another 4 or 5 years until Melissa is old enough to be left home while we go hiking.

As the trail wound upwards through incredible mountain meadows, bushes aflame with fall color, Melissa realized that whining wasn't working and decided to try a new adventure ending tactic

"Golden Ears. Golden Ears. Golden Ears," she muttered under her breath as she walked.

"MELISSA!" I said to her; indignant that she would attempt to call down rain on our perfect fall hike.

"Well, I WANT It to RAIN so we can go home," glared the Baboo, the very picture of slouching, pre-teenish unhappiness.

"Do you actually think that we will go home if it rains?" I asked her.

"Umm-hmmm", she said; still glaring at us.

"But, Melissa, we brought our RAINCOATS!" Michael interjected excitedly.

"I didn't," said Melissa.

"Oh but I did!" I said. "And if it rains then we will just hike in the rain and have a rainy day adventure."

"It will just rain on all of YOU!" said Melissa; mad that I had her raincoat. "It will not rain on me because I have my pink water bottle."

The complete lack of logic in that statement had Michael and Maddy in stitches.

We were,however, pleased to note, that the rain-making properties of the term "Golden Ears" does not extend to our offspring and we were able to have a wonderful hike. Melissa's disposition improved dramatically once we got to the top of the mountain. She even got to feed some gray jays out of her hand.

But still; what child of ours prefers to be in school than to hiking on a perfect fall day????

Hollyburn Mountain

After a wet and gray week, Cheryl and I were cheered by the weekend forecast: sunshine Saturday and Sunday. We planned straightaway to not waste the sun and dry days. An adventure, the destination of which was left up to me, was planned and the kids packed off to bed (after reading chapter 3 of "The Voyage of the Dawntreader" to them of course).

I packed our lunches. I made up separate baggies of goldfish crackers and home made GORP: raisins, chipits, and smarties. We had to go without the peanuts because of Maddy's allergies. I made up some PBJ's, packed one apple for everyone, one nutrigrain bar each, and filled up our waterbottles. Everyone had a bottle for themselves and I filled four 1 litre nalgene bottles in reserve.

The next day started out with a very thick blanket of fog. We only live about 20 minutes from the ocean, so this is typical. We packed up the van, drove up the hill on 176th St and found ourselves in golden morning sunshine. Forty-five minutes after leaving our driveway, we were at the trailhead of my chosen destination for the day: Hollyburn Mountain.

According to my battered copy of 103 Hikes in Southwestern BC, I last did this hike in September of '92. Fourteen years since my boots touched this trail. That was a little much to swallow. My printing on the margin also noted that I was stung by a wasp. It was the first time I had ever been stung by a bee or wasp. I remember thinking, "Oh great. What a time to find out I'm allergic." Thankfully nothing happened.

Alpine Autumn - above. Melissa headed up the trail - below.

In the middle distance is North Vancouver. Just beyond you can see Belcarra on Indian Arm. Beyond is Burnaby Mountain and SFU. The far distance is the Fraser Valley and the U.S.

The trail gets steeper.

We passed a number of these little alpine ponds - like jewels in the mountain crowns.

It got pretty steep in places, but it still wasn't as strenuous as Mt. Seymour last summer.

The Three Amigos. Extra points if you can identify which is which.

Maribeth, "Care for a green smartie?"

Megan, "Thank-you. Don't mind if I do."

Melissa feeding the gray jays. At first I tried to tell 'em NOT to encourage the jays. They're also known as "Camp Robbers" for their aggressive theivery. I eventually gave up. It's pretty cool having one land on your hand to eat the goldfish cracker or raisin or chipit you're holding out for it.

Megan is very silly. She did this spontaneously - without any prompting at all.

We had a good time, didn't we?  Madeleine and Cheryl (and Maribeth in the backpack) silhouetted at the top of the powerline road, just before it plunges back down to the trailhead and parking lot.  In the distance, far across a sea of clouds blanketing the Straight of Georgia, is Vancouver Island and behind it the peaks of Washington's Olympic Peninsula.  Yeah, we had fun.

You can see the rest of the photos in this set by going to this link: Hollyburn Mountain.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Wagon ho!

Wagon ho!
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl.

Within a 48 hour span we've switched to completely new child-carrying devices. The double stroller, maddeningly past warranty, literally snapped in half on Thursday as I was pushing it loaded with the twins and groceries. Allan points out that it was a light-weight stroller and NOT meant to have the basket stuffed with groceries and have more groceries hanging off the handles. Then the green wagon has been dealing with front axle failure, so that wasn't a good backup option. It was only kind of usable and not good for really loading up. We stuck it out by the road with a free sign and it was gone overnight.

The first purchase (not pictured) was a single stroller from a consignment store on Thursday. Allan has attached the Buggy-board to it and now I basically have a "sit and stand" type of contraption for the twins. They can take turns riding in the stroller, on the buggy-board, or just walking.

But the big find was on Craiglist yesterday: listed as a kid's chuck wagon. It had been used for a paper route and is in excellent condition. It has real pneumatic wheels, a pad in the bottom for comfort, and a removeable rain/sun canopy. There is room for twins plus sand toys or groceries, or for the twins and Maddy. To be honest, if I had found this first, I might not have bought the single stroller. Hopefully this is the end of the road for new strollers and/or wagons. The kids just love the new wagon.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Maribeth potty-training update

Posted on behalf of Cheryl

First day in panties all day: she only had ONE accident and it was my fault really as I was on the phone and could NOT take her when she needed to go and then she didn't make it; even being out of the house much of the day. She tells me when she has to go but then I also am having her go before we leave the house anymore. I'm taking spare clothes with me everywhere in a wetbag just in CASE of an accident!

Maddy is having fits though because she decides she has to go too anytime Maribeth tells me she has to go. Maddy gets mad about waiting for Maribeth OR having to walk UPSTAIRS or DOWNSTAIRS (to whatever floor we aren't on) to use the 2nd bathroom. Of course since DH and I grew up in houses with one bathroom when we were young AND since Michael and Melissa remember having only one bathroom, Maddy is NOT getting a lot of sympathy from anyone about either waiting for her younger sister or (gasp) walking to the other bathroom. She has had a couple of accidents after deciding that she would NOT walk upstairs to the potty and if I wouldn't let her go downstairs before Maribeth, she wouldn't go potty AT ALL. THAT didn't work out so well for her. I shouldn't laugh but, "If I can't pee first - i won't pee at all", is just NOT a stand to take.

That saidm Maddy herself hasn't even been potty trained a year yet. She potty trained in November/December last year and still had accidents even through this spring. Megan shows no interest yet, but Maribeth is sure trying.

"I'm a big girl - I wear my panties."

"I went pee in potty. MEGGY - you need to go potty."

"Mama - change BABY'S diaper: Megan poopy."

Megan reacts to be called a "baby" by saying "gaa gaa, goo goo" in affected baby talk. Still, I'm hoping twin power will work eventually.