Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Week in the Life... September 13 to 19

If you're quiet and head for the back half of Woodland cemetery, you're quite likely to see several deer...
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...but only if you're VERY lucky will you stumble across the mythical Sophie-doe!
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Feeling fancy... I made Salmon & spinach Mille-Feuille for dinner one night this week - delicious!
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Park(ing) Day London... the Museum of Curiosities spot hosted by CityLights. My personal fave was the mummy...
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Yup... anarchy is about to rein. Guy Fawkes and Guy Fawkes Jr. at the spot hosted by the London Short Film Showcase...
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Sophie chats with her new little friend, a stuffed Echidna she was given at the "Day in the Park" booth hosted by (who else?) Echidna Solutions Corp.
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Sophie and I having a right giddy time at the Yo Gabba Gabba concert... what a wacky experience!
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Sophie and her friend Aideen at Aideen's little sister Keelin's birthday party on Sunday
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After starting the week quietly with a walk in Woodland Cemetery looking for deer, I'm swept up in a wave of volunteering once again... I do seem to keep recreating this situation. After spending last weekend working furiously on the school newsletter I chaired a meeting for the newsletter committee, attended a meeting for the South Collegiate Alumni Association, and hosted a coffee drop-in at school. Busy, busy... but I still had time to enjoy lots of Sophie-centered events this week too.
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We spent part of Friday exploring Park(ing) Day, an event that challenges our car-focused way of life by reclaiming downtown parking spaces and re-imagining them as people-focused spaces. In one of my favourite spaces they had even carpeted the parking spot with sod to create a real grass surface, and set up park benches, plants, and a generally very inviting environment. I noticed several people stopping by just to relax, even if they weren't taking part in Park(ing) Day. At another space Sophie and one of the Park(ing) Day hosts build a Lego masterpiece in a reclaimed parking spot they rechristened "LEGO SPACE!" - it was a great, think-outside-the-box creative endeavor.
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Saturday was spent at the much-anticipated Yo Gabba Gabba Live concert at the John Labatt Centre. If you're not familiar with Yo Gabba Gabba, it's quite the kids show phenomenon... and it's also completely nutty. I couldn't possibly explain it clearly, but I'll attempt to sum up: An orange-jump suit and fuzzy hat wearing dude named "DJ Lance" walks around with his magic boom box, then opens it up to reveal a set of five strange alien-like creatures that live inside... they dance and sing and generally horse around before climbing back in the boom box again. They sing about such riveting challenges as eating all your vegetables (There's a Party in my Tummy!) and welcome special guest that constantly surprise me (Sean Kingston, Elijah Wood, Jimmy Eat World!) It's surreal, and kinds psychedelic, and a heck of a lot of fun. Chris and I generally take turns sharing kids concerts with Sophie... I took her to Playhouse Disney Live, he took her to see The Wiggles, and I have to say I think I lucked out being the one to take her to Yo Gabba Gabba Live - I haven't laughed that hard in a while!
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We rounded out our week with a birthday party and good long playtime at The Children's Museum, making for a great kid-centered end to a pretty exciting week for us...
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A Week in the Life... September 6 to 12

Sargent Sophie pretends to radio her dispatcher Dad on OPP Family Day
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One of the many OPP Family Day demonstrations... the Tactics and Rescue Unit shows off their rappelling skills (upside down!)
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Sophie participates in the Bike Rodeo at OPP Family Day - she passed with flying colours!
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How is it possible we've arrived at the first day of school already???
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Sophie and Rowan watch their "witches brew" bubble... nothing like baking soda, vinegar and food colouring to entertain!
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Sophie and Rhys show off their "robot", complete with the instructions for making it (which Sophie's displaying.) Two prouder kids I've never seen...
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Yay for family fondu night!
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The official "end of summer" is upon us (let's all say BOO!) with the arrival of Labour Day and the start of school. As usual, Chris's work held their annual "Family Day" event on Labour Day, giving us the opportunity to see displays from many of the OPP's different departments including the K9 Unit, Emergency Response Team, Tactics and Rescue Unit (shown rappelling above), Ministry of Natural Resources and more. This year Sophie was able to participate in the Bike Rodeo, with her "big girl bike", which made her quite proud... and she and Chris enjoyed hot dogs while watching the K9 unit demonstrate suspect take-downs and their dog's ability to sniff out drugs concealed in household items like flashlights and tools. Great fun for all!
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The start of school... wow. Sophie's now in Senior Kindergarten, which makes her feel awfully special - some of the younger siblings of friends that were in her class last year are just coming to school as JK students, so she's able to help "show them the ropes". We're so lucky that she loves school the way she does - no scenes of hiding behind Mom at the school doors, or crying as she's being led in, thank goodness. With the start of her school year, so begins mine... my "full time volunteerism" has begun again, with meetings this week to discuss upcoming Curriculum Presentations, to help Home & School develop a parent survey, with the Principal to discuss School Council for the year, and with the Thames Valley Parent Involvement Council to discuss grant applications and the upcoming Director's Forum. A busy year for all of us has just begun...
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A Week in the Life... August 30 to September 5

Reason # 451 that parenthood is interesting: after prepping dinner I walked into the living room where Sophie was watching TV to find her pretty much covered in Kleenex. Her explanation? "I was a little bit chilly..."
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Sophie and her newly-won stuffed donkey prepare for a helicopter ride at the CNE
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Truly mind-blowing sand sculptures were some of the many artistic and creative endeavors we saw at the CNE
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My little ham checks herself out in the hall of mirrors
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Having a little visit with one of the President's Choice "Super Dogs" after the show. Looks like all that performing has worn the dog out!
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Sophie's last appointment with Beth at the Thames Valley Children's Centre. We'll miss going, and so appreciate all the work Beth has done helping Sophie with her speech.
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This week's big event was our family trip to the CNE in Toronto... neither Chris nor I have been there since we were kids, and we thought it would be an awesome thing to do with Sophie. As soon as we pinned down a date we called our friends Heather and Barrett in Toronto to see if they might be free, and they were able to join us in the evening - it made the day simply perfect. It was mind-blowing... so much to do and see everywhere you turned. And I have to say, although it was expensive, you got so much more for your money than we get at London's Western Fair. Admission tickets to the CNE were only $4 more than the Fair, and all the shows were free once we got inside... we saw stage shows with cartoon characters Sophie likes, the President's Choice Super Dogs, an ice-capades style skating show, and even Bedouin Soundclash in concert without paying a dime over and above our admission price. As you can tell just from the list of shows it was a busy day... add sight-seeing in many of the arts-themed buildings, eating both lunch and dinner, going on rides, checking out the huge agricultural building, and visiting with our friends, we were exhausted by the end. I have to give Sophie huge credit for her ability to handle it though... we arrived at 11am and didn't leave until 10pm (11 hours!) and she was still going strong by the end. Not even the torrential downpours that hit several times during the day got her down!
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This week also marks Sophie's last appointment with Beth at the Thames Valley Children's Centre. Sophie's been going to the TVCC since she was 2, when we identified that she had some challenges with her speech. Beth and the Speech Pathology staff at the centre have been wonderful to work with, and their sessions in combination with our work at home have really helped Sophie work learn and practice the sounds that don't come naturally to her - she's come a long way, and we'll miss seeing Beth's smiling face now that our time at the TVCC is done!
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Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Week in the Life... August 23-29

Sophie's earnest letter to the tooth fairy, complete with illustration of a tooth that's sad because it's been lost. Note the little tooth fairy to the right - I bet she'll find it.
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My Cooking Club Challenge entry, Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese salad. Isn't it pretty?
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One of the many interactive displays at McCully's Hill Farm, and old-fashioned corn de-kerneler. Sophie had a blast running the cobs of corn through the contraption and watching the kernels fly!
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Are we spoiled or what? Our lunch from SPLAT-fest... sun dried tomato and feta on puff pastry, fresh garden tomato stuffed with couscous salad, and colourful heirloom tomatoes with locally produced goat cheese... top it all off with a glass of Cave Springs wine and life is good!
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Sophie enjoys the children's area at McCully's Hill Farm
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Sophie took "losing a tooth" to a whole new level this week... she told me that one of her teeth was loose, and that very afternoon (while I was out for a lovely lunch with my friend Meagan from California) it popped out. Unfortunately for her, it happened while she and Chris were sitting in front of the corner store, enjoying ice cream... the tooth apparently fell out of her mouth and into the gravel near where they were sitting, and despite Chris's efforts, it just couldn't be found. Poor Sophie was so concerned that the tooth fairy wouldn't come since there was no actual tooth to put under her pillow - so she drew a picture of the tooth instead, and dictated a letter for me to write the tooth fairy in explanation. Before bed we tucked the letter under her pillow and guess what? Turns out the tooth fairy is pretty understanding about these things... and Sophie found a toonie waiting under her pillow in the morning.
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For the past few months I've been participating in a foodnetwork.ca event called the Cooking Club Challenge... each month a recipe formerly featured on a Food Network show is chosen by members, and then everyone makes it. We take pictures of the finished product, talk about how we may have changed the recipe to suit our tastes, and generally chat about the process and the end results. I enjoy participating not only to get cooking tips, but because it challenges me to make dishes that I otherwise wouldn't think of... this month's chosen recipe is a great example of that. It's Lynn Crawford's Roasted Beet & Goat Cheese Salad - don't get me wrong, I love a good salad, but with beets? I just never think of cooking them. In my mind beets remain those little cubes covered in purple syrup that come from a can. I used to have them at my Grandmother's house and thought they were great when I was five, but I grew up and now think of them much like I think of bologna or Pogos... kinda yucky kid-related food. So this was a great challenge for me, and I really loved the results - I'll be adding this recipe to my go-to salads for sure! To make it that much nicer, the picture of my beet salad was used on foodnetwork.ca's main page as the link to the Cooking Club Challenge section of the website. My beets are famous!
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Speaking of food, we spent a wonderful afternoon at McCully's Hill Farm in St. Mary's this weekend, enjoying SPLATfest, their annual Tomato Festival. Tomato target practice, heirloom tomato and cheese tastings, horse drawn wagon rides, canning demos, live music and more... it was a wonderful way to wrap up the week, and enjoy one of the last weekends of the summer.
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A Week in the Life... August 16-22

Time to say goodbye to my Dad - thanks for a wonderful visit and we're already looking forward to next time!
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The three musketeers in Victoria Park, exploring and feeding squirrels...
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Without a doubt, the kids ate far more peanuts than the squirrels did!
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Play time in the shark pool - despite the water being "straight from the hose" cool, everyone had a blast!
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Mmmmm... that "new baby smell"... there's nothing in the world like it.
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How obvious is it that Sophie's asking "Can we get a bunny??? PLEASE????"
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My little honey and I at Heather's bridal shower. Sophie was starting to get a bit tired of watching presents being opened without being able to open any herself!
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Sophie and "Red Haired Grandma" enjoy snuggles over breakfast at The Farmer's Kitchen
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Another busy week - it's no wonder the summer is flying by so fast! Chris and Sophie spent some extra time at Tecumseh this week, as we volunteered for the annual summer watering program. So much naturalization work has been done on the school grounds that it's important to keep it watered and cared for throughout the year - not just when the kids are in school. Luckily there's a great group of parents and community members who volunteer to be "in charge" of the school yard's upkeep for one week each summer - it takes the pressure off the organizer of the naturalization project and allows a large group of people to feel a real sense of ownership and connectedness to the flowers, plants, trees and gardens at the school. It's also a lot of work, and I commend Chris and all the other volunteers for giving it their all - the yard looks lush and wonderful thanks to all your hard work!
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Unfortunately we had to say goodbye to my Dad this week... it's been great having him here but real life beckoned and he had to head back to Montreal. After we dropped him off at the train station I took Sophie, Rhys and Rowan down to Victoria park to explore and feed the squirrels, one of my personal favourite simple and old-fashioned activities. The kids had a blast and wore themselves out - but not enough that they couldn't come home and splash around like crazy in our little shark pool!
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My youngest cousin Heather is getting married this fall (you may recall I blogged about making their wedding invitations earlier), and this weekend was her bridal shower. Unfortunately Chris had to work, so Sophie and I made the long drive by ourselves. We made the best of it, stopping both on the way up and back at a few cool places to stretch our legs and either picnic or shop, and I made the trip on so much more sleep than last time that it felt like a breeze! We stayed with my cousin Sandy and her family which currently includes a five-week-old foster baby, so I got a much needed dose of "new baby smell" in addition to a really great visit with her. Throughout the weekend we dearly enjoyed spending time with not only my cousins but my Mom, Grandfather, Aunt and Uncle. Family: they feed the soul, they really do.
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A Week in the Life... August 9-15

Sharing a laugh with Grandpa while we visit with my Grandmother in Wallaceburg
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Sophie checks out some of the nursing home`s resident fish
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My freshly made peach jam... yum!
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Sophie practices some moves in the pool with one of her instructors during her last week of classes.
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Hard at work making dolmades - a vegetarian version so I could enjoy them too.
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Viola - the finished product!
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This is Sophie's last week of swimming lessons - we've done four weeks in a row of daily lessons, so as great as they've been I think we're both about ready a change of pace. Unfortunately it looks as though she won't be passing on to the next level, as she still refuses to dunk under the water - she's come a really long way since the beginning of the lessons, but that one hurdle she just can't bring herself to overcome. We'll take a break for now, and hope that when we tackle it again she feels a bit braver.
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This week I've been feeling rather domestic - yearning for the "comforts of home" I suppose. On the way back from visiting Grandma in Wallaceburg on Tuesday I stopped at a roadside fruit stand and bought a whole lot of peaches - now they're looking lovely as several jars of home made peach jam. I also made dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) from scratch, and several other "put the apron on and grab a glass of wine because we're going to be here for a while" kind of recipes. It felt good - it felt grounding, and there are times when I really need that.
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Sounds like a nice segue to talk about something that's left me feeling pretty ungrounded actually... I haven't bothered venting about the many, many phone calls and trips to government offices I've made to try and replace my ID since the theft (and believe me, I could), but I will share this: I had an MRI scheduled this week, and without my replacement Health Card had to be billed for it. Should you be interested, an MRI in Ontario costs $247.00. Thank God my OHIP card came in just a few days later so I was able to have the charges reversed... I am once again thankful for being Canadian, and won't be complaining about where my tax money is going any time soon (not that I was before - but this certainly drives the point home!)
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A Week in the Life... August 2-8

One of the stunning pieces we saw at the Expressions in Chalk festival this week.
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Again, more amazing chalk art. It's incredible what people can do with such a rough canvas and relatively simple medium!
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Sophie, Charlotte and Rachael do some creative sliding out in Tiffany and Scott's backyard after a swim. We had a great visit...
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The bar at one of my four Beer Tastings this week - a warm summer weekend meant the samples I offered were gratefully accepted by LCBO customers!
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The table's set in anticipation of family arriving for Sunday brunch in honour of Mary's birthday
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This summer has been so busy that I find myself shocked when I realize we're already a week into August. I remember back at the beginning of the summer thinking that I would need to organize lots of activities for Sophie because I knew how much she would miss the social interaction of being at school every day... and even without scheduling a huge host of events I've found it's flown by. Sure we had the Library's Reading Club, swimming lessons, and gymnastics - but honestly I was concerned about the "Mom I'm bored!" factor rearing its ugly head this summer. I needn't have worried. This week we supplemented our schedule with not only lots of Grandpa time (he's still in town from Montreal) but a visit to the Expressions in Chalk Festival, a family brunch to celebrate Aunt Mary's birthday, and a visit to Cambridge to enjoy an evening with our friends Tiffany and Scott and their two girls. In addition to all that socializing and culture, I worked four beer-tasting events for the LCBO this week to support their Ontario Craft Brewery promotion. Not only has the week flown by, but it seemed there weren't enough hours in the day, and I ended the week in need of a good nap!
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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Week in the Life... July 26 - August 1st

My dad picked a good week for a visit - I really needed his support. Here, Sophie and Grandpa enjoy the swings at Thames Park
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Two beautiful girls at a very fun birthday party for Sophie's classmate Elijah. Wasn't the face (and body) painting wonderful?
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My Dad, Grandmother, and Sophie during a weekend visit to Wallaceburg
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I have had a difficult enough week that I can't even really write this entry... so I'm going to share an email I sent to a friend earlier this week instead. You'll get the picture.
I've had a rough day. A super shitty day actually... while I was at the park with Sophie and our friend Kenzie this afternoon someone broke into our trunk and stole our stuff. We had been at swimming lessons and had a picnic lunch, and after lunch I decided to take our things back to the car so I wouldn't have to keep my eye on them while the girls were playing. The irony is that I was worried someone would grab them if I got dragged to the far side of the park by Sophie wanting to be pushed on a swing or something. Someone popped the trunk open and scooped the whole lot of it out - they took Sophie's backpack, Kenzie's swim bag, and our cooler bag. I had my wallet in the front pouch of the backpack so it's gone, as is my digital camera, and my prescription glasses. I've spent most of the afternoon filling out a police report, calling banks and government agencies, and I'm doing the whole damned thing wearing my sunglasses since they're the only thing I can see with. I called the place I ordered my last pair of glasses from and they refused to even consider making me a new pair because it's been too long since I've had my eyes checked... so I have to wait to hear back from my Optometrist about getting an appointment (which I have to PAY for since OHIP doesn't cover it) before I can get a new prescription and then PAY another arm and leg to get new glasses. And PAY to purchase a new digital camera when I can afford one. And PAY to replace all my ID (ex. $35 for a birth certificate, $10 for a SIN, $20 for a Driver's Licence), which I have to somehow figure out how to produce ID for - since they all want two pieces of ID to prove I'm me before they'll reissue the ID. Which has all been stolen. Chicken? Egg? Oh, and they're happy to help me by charging my credit card for those fees so I can conveniently take advantage of their online request systems, but WAIT... all my charge cards have been held because they were stolen too! I'm going to loose my mind!!! I've alternated between crying and being furious most of the afternoon, when I haven't been filling out the police report (online again - because a car break-in isn't serious enough for a police officer attends in person) - although sometimes even the police report beat me up because it kept timing out on me as I had to stop working on it to do things like drop Sophie off at the library - and I would loose all my work and have to start again from scratch (no "save" button... not sure why...?) I want to scream. And then cry some more. And seriously... they stole the kids BATHING SUITS??? And our leftover LUNCH??? Aaaaaaaarrrrrrgggghhhhh!!!!!!!
As you can tell, I was completely shaken by the theft, and frustrated by the resulting work and cost. Enough time has passed now that I can recognize several "silver linings":
  1. While I don't understand how they got into the trunk, I know it wasn't by breaking a window or punching out a lock, which would have resulted in us not being able to use the car for a while and having to pay a larger repair bill - it's a mystery, but one I'm thankful for.
  2. While the culprits did manage to use my credit card before I could call the bank to report the theft (they moved fast - I was on the phone within an hour of discovering it), it wasn't for too much and the bank has assured me I'm not liable. Whew.
  3. It was a break-in, not a car-jacking or a mugging. No one got hurt, and especially since I had children with me I'm very, very grateful.
  4. My family & friends were very supportive. In addition to several sympathetic emails and phone calls, my mom stepped in and sent money for my Optometrists appointment, my dad and girlfriend Tiffany helped me get a new camera, and my dad also acted as a loan officer so I could buy a very good-quality pair of prescription glasses, instead of the cheep-as-I-can-possibly-find version I was actually going to get. I'm very lucky.
We rounded out this difficult week with a welcome influx of family. In addition to my Dad being in town from Montreal we went to Wallaceburg to see Grandma, then met my Uncle Ray and Aunt Mame for dinner and a visit - they live in Edmonton so we see them very rarely. When the going gets tough it's nice to find yourself surrounded by family, that's for sure...
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Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Week in the Life... July 19-25

Staring at the pool in trepidation...
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Sophie takes her first ride on her new "big girl bike", with Rowan and Mommy spotting her! To watch her discover her bike, check out the video posted at the bottom of this week's entry...
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Our neighbour's cat had kittens, and we enjoyed a little visit with them on the weekend... cute as cute can be.
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Chris, Sophie and I on our rather impromptu road trip to Niagara Falls - as you can tell, we had a blast!
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One of the many natural beauties we witnessed on our trip to Niagara - these grapes were growing on the edge of the Niagara Gorge, in the parking lot where we stopped for a picnic.
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Sophie poses outside Chateau des Charmes, a winery in the Niagara region that Chris and I both really enjoy, and where we found ourselves during our Sunday Drive.
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Sophie started swimming lessons this week - it's an interesting setup, as they offer the lessons daily instead of weekly, which was how she'd taken lessons before. It seems to be a bit much for her, and we've had several swimming-lesson-related meltdowns this week. Sophie is not a brave child - she's cautious, which in many ways has served her well. She was never the child climbing book cases or falling down stairs - in fact, she's the only child I've ever known who even when she was a baby would pick something up off the floor and show it to me for approval before putting it in her mouth. I've been thankful for her caution a number of times, but it's a double edged sword. Her lessons at The Little Gym were in many ways inspired by her fear of climbing up and jumping off things, and her swimming lessons have been a bit of a trial as a result of her cautious approach to life. She does not want to put her fact in the water, let alone dunk under - she does not want to attempt to float either on her front or her back, unless someone has a heck of a firm hold on her and even then it's a struggle - she does not want to jump into the pool from the side, but will slide in as long as it's into someone's arms. The swimming teacher at Thames Pool is a bit flummoxed by Sophie, because she gives every appearance of loving the water and having fun - until she's asked to try something that makes her uncomfortable and then the fight begins. That said, swimming is a vital skill to learn even if you are a cautious person... and I need to figure out a way to get her comfortable in the water even if it takes all summer.
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The actual day of Sophie's birth - the culmination of several days worth of celebrations - was this Tuesday. It was a busy day, with the aforementioned swimming lessons in the morning, an appointment with her Speech Pathologist Beth in the afternoon, and Gymnastics class in the evening. In amongst the classes and appointments Sophie opened lots of presents from Mom and Dad, including her "big gift" - her very first two-wheeler bike (check out the video below for her reaction). Before bed that evening we re-read her a story that we've had for years: Sophie's Wheels, which features a little red-haired girl named Sophie and all the different types of wheels she uses as she grows from an infant to a big girl - it culminates, as you may have guessed, in her riding around the neighborhood on her first two-wheeler bike. Not a dry eye in the house when that story was read this evening, I tell ya.
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Sunday marked one of the few days we've had this summer with no obligations, no appointments, no work that needed to be done, no... nothing. So we decided to go on a good old-fashioned family "Sunday Drive". We started out just saying we wanted to get out of London, and somehow that one guideline turned into a 12-hour journey to and around Niagara. Spontaneity at it's best! Although I prefer to experience our road trips fully prepared with snacks, Sophie's favourite toys and videos, a picnic basket and more - it turned out to be a great journey without the prep. We stopped at the Upper Canada Cheese Company in Jordan for some wonderful cheeses and fresh bread, took an impromptu (the word of the day, really) tour of Cave Spring Cellars where we picked up an amazing Riesling, and then picnicked in a park along the Niagara river on our way to see the Falls. We haven't been to the Falls in well over a year so it was a lot of fun bringing Sophie down there to check out one of the natural wonders of the world and showing her some of the classic tourist attractions (like Clifton Hill, the Floral Clock, and so on...) and we certainly enjoyed our time in the local wineries. I was surprised by how "into" the winery experience Sophie actually was - I thought she'd be interested as long as there was something in it for her (ie: a special grape juice to try), but she not only was the one who insisted that we take part in the Cave Springs underground tour, but asked several really good questions of our tour guide along the way. I'm beaming in pride - you just can't see it from here!
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