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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A Week in the Life... July 12-18

The absolutely stunning back garden and pond at Heeman's Greenhouse
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Sophie enjoys a walk around Heeman's, picking out some beautiful new flowers for our front porch
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I've been making batch after batch after batch of muffins over the past week and a half - blueberry and chocolate chip being family favorites after some experimenting
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Sophie and I share a bowl of vegetables and vermicelli in black bean sauce at Ben Than on the evening of my birthday
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Sophie's birthday party was a very bouncy affair!
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Deflating the Tumble Track using body weight - the kids wanted to blow it back up again just so they could enjoy deflating it once more!
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The whole gang from Sophie's birthday party at The Little Gym
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Opening presents during our "family party" at Aunt Mary's house
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I've been meaning to get out to a place called the Heeman Greenhouse for a while now - it's a garden centre and strawberry farm just on the other side of the airport, and they have a reputation for having a wonderful selection of fresh berries. I've been making lots of jam lately and I want to have a crack at making black cherry jam - I knew I had to check it out when I found out they offer pitted cherries by the 10lb pail. We went and were so impressed by not only the berry selection but by the enormous greenhouses and the centre's amazing landscaping - it made for a wonderful afternoon and we brought home a couple potted plants for our front porch, some fresh herbs, and cat nip to help keep Gabbie and George entertained. Sadly, they were out of fresh cherries but I was able to place an order for when they come in - so cherry jam will wait for a bit. Not that I'm hurting for things to do in the kitchen mind you... I've been on a real muffin kick lately. I baked four dozen muffins this week alone, and aside from a dozen I brought over to a friend's house we've eaten every last one of them. Sophie is my "muffin monster", and if given the choice will eat two muffins for breakfast, another as an afternoon snack, and a fourth before bed. No really - I actually gave her the choice one day and that's what she ate. I think I'll take a break from muffin baking for a bit so she doesn't turn into one herself!
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One hiccup in my plan for the week involved an intended visit that fell through: I've been excitedly waiting for a visit from my mom, who was supposed to spend most of the week and all of the weekend with us - unfortunately she's been derailed by illness so we've had to go without our visit. I hate that she's ill, and I know she's incredibly frustrated having to miss this time with us - we're all feeling a bit sorry for ourselves as she had planned to be here for both my birthday and Sophie's, and her presence would have made those days extra-special for us. We'll have to make the time up when she's feeling better...
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Speaking of birthdays, mine was on Friday so I've successfully reached the ripe old age of 37. It wasn't the greatest of days, as I ended up having to take a 4+ hour lie-down in the middle of it to fight off a migraine headache. I haven't had one of those in years, but since I loose part of my vision and most of the feeling in my right hand when they happen, the side effects are enough to knock me out of commission, let alone the actual pain. I was lucky that it was brief, so I rallied by the end of the day and was able to join Chris and Sophie for dinner at a local Viet-Thai fave called Ben Than. The big birthday focus was on Sophie this week though, as the big birthday party with all her friends was on Saturday. We decided against hosting the kids at our house and instead booked her party at The Little Gym - it's a good thing we did, as her guest list grew and grew and grew... we ended up hosting 16 kids all together! The party was fantastic - the kids jumped and bounced and ran and played and had an absolute blast... Sophie loved every second of being with such a great big group of friends, and the staff at The Little Gym made it a breeze for me - in fact, at one point they told me I was trying to do too much and I should really just go sit down. Sweet! On Sunday the "festival of Sophie" continued with a birthday party for family over at Mary's house... where she was surrounded by lots of people who love her, was treated to a special cake created by Nanny and Courtney, and generally showered with attention and presents. I got treated too - I'm excited to use my Chapters and Starbuck's gift cards and enjoy the bottle of wine that I received for my birthday. Quite the "gifty" week... and with Sophie's actual birthday still to come on Tuesday, it's not over yet!
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A Week in the Life... July 5 - 11

Getting ready to read my newly-won book!
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Hanging out on a blanket in the shade at Mitches park, after some playground time and before our picnic lunch
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Sophie and Rowan enjoy the shade and a bit of a rest after our picnic on a very hot day
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One of the many fun events at Chloe's birthday party - the kids were each given a "shopping bag" and some play money, and invited to go to the "store" (AKA Chloe's grandpa, in a tepee) to spend it. By playing games throughout the party they could earn more money to spend at the store!
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While Sophie was at Chloe's birthday party I made a batch of strawberry jam, using some wonderful strawberries from a local farm. Fresh and yummy!
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Sophie enjoys some time at the Tecumseh playground on a sunny Sunday
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I guess we're officially on summer vacation! It still hasn't hit me yet... I'm feeling a bit thrown off by the fact I have a bit of free time on my hands actually. I'm trying to tie up loose ends - make good on some of the commitments I've made to people - and trying to get started on some things I simply haven't had time to lately. One of the things I'm looking forward to doing is getting some reading done - and I'm very excited to say that I just got a new book to dig into! Food Network Canada recently ran a Book Club contest, which I entered and actually won (!!!) so I'm about to start reading my prize: Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain. I've enjoyed both his television shows "A Cooks Tour" and "No Reservations", and while I haven't read his first book "Kitchen Confidential" Chris has and raves about it - I'm sure he'll be taking advantage of my win as well!
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It's been a typical summer week weather-wise... very hot, very humid, very sunny. It's taking a bit of a toll on Sophie, who seems to have inherited my displeasure with sticky weather... a few times when we've been out and about she's asked if we can just go home because she's too hot. This Thursday was a good example of that: I took Rowan and Sophie to the playground to play and to have a picnic, but after about 10 minutes of swinging and sliding it was so hot they didn't want to play on the equipment any more - we spend the rest of our time at the park under a tree playing games instead. Luckily Sophie did have a couple indoor events this week as well - including her afternoon at The Little Gym day camp, which we won for her colouring of a drawing I did of her at the gym. She's already asking when she can go back and do it again...
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July is a very birthday-centric month, with my mom's birthday on Tuesday (Happy Birthday Mom!) and Sophie going to her friend Chloe's birthday party on Saturday. Next week it's my birthday, my cousin Sandy's birthday and Sophie's big birthday party... the week after is Sophie's actual birthday, and the end of the month is my Aunt's birthday as well. Whew - I can feel myself running out of breath to help blow out all those candles already!
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Friday, July 9, 2010

A Week in the Life... June 28 - July 4

A very proud Sophie sits with her class during JK/SK Graduation
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Just a few of the neighborhood kids who turned out for the Canada Day bicycle parade around Old South - Sophie stands out in her orange Canada Day shirt!
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Sophie makes a new friend at the Canada Day celebration at Harris Park
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Learning how to drive the Coast Guard boat - Sophie was a rapt student
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We were amazed at how many old friends we ran into at the Canada Day celebration - among them an old coworker named Shirley (shown here), our friend Jennifer and her daughter Hannah, and Chris's Dad. It was a great day to be at the park!
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The end of Sophie's first year of school... I can't believe it! Kindergarten Graduation was a hoot, with the class singing three songs and reciting a poem before being called up to accept their "diplomas" and a goodie bag from their Teacher Mrs. Orr. It was all very sweet, and I was thrilled to see how many parents and grandparents showed up to cheer on their little students - we felt very lucky this year to not only have Mrs. Orr as Sophie's Teacher, but to have such a great group of students in class with Sophie. She's made friends that will last for sure.
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Another really cool sign of the sense of community present in Old South was the neighborhood bicycle parade on Canada Day - families gathered at Tecumseh with decorated bikes and all together paraded around the nearby streets while some of the "neighbours in the know" came out on their porches and waved their Canadian flags. We got honked at by passing cars, waved at by other cyclists, and smiled upon by anyone who saw the production go by. Such a sweet, small-town kind of thing to do in this large 350K+ city... it really goes to show the power of neighborhood. We spent the rest of our very long Canada Day at either the Dundas Street party (where we got lunch) or at Harris Park, where we not only ran into several old friends but enjoyed some music, played in the sun, and crawled in and out of what felt like a hundred military vehicles - Sophie was absolutely thrilled to get up close and personal with not only the military personnel, but all the buttons, knobs and levers on some of their huge vehicles. It was a fascination that took me a bit by surprise to be honest, as she's never expressed much interest in that sort of thing before - today it was hard to pull her away from them! Canada day rounded out with fireworks (of course) and it was so much fun to watch them with Sophie - she was beyond excited, at one point grabbing my arm in a fierce hug and saying "Fireworks are my favourite!!!" with such emotion in her voice - it was a wonderful way to end a very exciting day.
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We rounded out the week with a fun-filled visit with Rhys and Rowan, and a large family dinner we jokingly called the "Kabob extravaganza" - serving up pork souvlaki, chicken skewers, veggie kabobs, and shrimp skewers along with Greek village salad, hummus and pita. A perfect summertime meal and very convenient for the barbeque - which is important when you're making so much food. It was a nice way to kick off what I hope will be a relaxing, family and fun filled summer!
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A Week in the Life... June 21-27

Sophie suns herself in the wading pool during the JK/SK "Pool Party"
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The Little Gym sponsored a contest this week where students were invited to submit a picture of their favourite thing at the gym to win a free day at Little Gym camp this summer - rather than using a pre-printed colouring page Sophie and I decided we could do one better, and I drew a picture for her to colour. That's her favourite teacher "Mr. Dan" helping her balance on the beam, in case you're wondering...
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A triumphant moment during her end-of-semester performance at The Little Gym
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My artistic daughter took this picture at the Western Fair Farmer's Market on Saturday, showing her view of the market and a very cool chair at the tea shop
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An experiment I did when Rhys and Rowan were here - I lined up and labelled about 15 different objects and had them guess which ones would stick to a magnet and which ones wouldn't.
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The end of the school year is now just around the corner, and many things are coming to a close as a result... on Monday I hosted the final School Council meeting of the year, Sophie graduated from her class at The Little Gym on Tuesday, and the JK/SK classes had an end-of-year Pool Party on Thursday.
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Although it had nothing to do with the end of the school year, we had another "finale" of sorts this week when Chris and I attended an informal goodbye party for both current and former staff of TeleTech, the call centre where we both worked for quite some time. I was a Trainer and Chris worked an assortment of roles from Technical Support to Quality Assurance to Training Assistant - and while we've both been out of that environment for a number of years we certainly made connections that lasted. With the centre closing down at the end of the summer, some of the staff took it upon themselves to plan a party to bring anyone who'd ever worked there together for a blow-out... it was a hoot seeing people in person that I've only bumped into on Facebook since I left six years ago.
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As old things come to a close new things begin, and this Thursday evening also brought me to the Thames Valley District School Board for my first meeting as a member of the TVPIC (Thames Valley Parent Involvement Council). It was an opportunity for me to meet the other members of the group, and take part in a presentation and discussion on Mental Health resources in the school system - interesting stuff that I'm sure will educate and challenge me as my time with the group moves forward.
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Monday, July 5, 2010

A Week in the Life... June 14-20

Some of the attendees at Tecumseh's final coffee drop-in of the year. The outdoor setting was a great idea, increasing attendance and really spreading the word about the program
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My Grandpa and Sophie make some beautiful music together on the front porch
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As the groom-to-be is a big poker player, tournaments were part of the event. My Mom (who's never played before) and Aunt Kathy joined in - and as you can see by the pile of chips they did quite well!
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Your friendly neighbourhood jello shooter girl!
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The bride-to-be Heather and I celebrate at the Stag & Doe
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I have made it to the end of this week, and I am awfully proud of myself for doing so. As you can tell from my past couple of entries, I'm caught up in a vortex of "to do's", and this week presented me with by far the most imperative deadlines. On the school front I helped out at the Early Years Orientation and parent workshop and hosted a very well-attended final Coffee Drop-in of the year outside in the front garden. On the Sophie front, speech therapy started up again, and on the broader family front I needed to complete Heather and Shawn's invitations and reply cards by Thursday night to have them ready to take up to Beaverton with me on Friday. I wasn't in bed before 2am all week, and was up again by shortly after 7am... it was brutal. When I headed off to Beaverton on Friday (Chris had to work and couldn't come with me) I made a lot of stops to splash my face and grab coffee... in fact, my Friday meal plan consisted entirely of 5 cups of coffee and a maple-pecan danish until I arrived safely in Beaverton, settled in, and had a bite of actual dinner. Heather & Shawn's Stag & Doe was on Saturday and before I went I finished up a couple extra touches on the invitations (stamping a floral image on the envelopes - that sort of thing), dropped Sophie off at Sandy's house for babysitting, and then stayed up 'till 4am helping out at the Stag and Doe and with the clean-up afterwards. Did the 4 1/2 hour drive back home on Sunday (again, with lots of stops to splash my face), and skidded into town just in time to share Father's Day dinner with Chris and call my own father to wish him "happy birthday" for the day before, and "happy Father's day" for that day. As I'm sure you can imagine, I fell into bed shortly thereafter and slept like the dead... a week in which you do about two and a half weeks of work will do that to a person!
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A Week in the Life... June 7-13

Rowan shows off his climbing skills at Thames Park on a beautiful sunny Tuesday
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Sophie goes for a slide with Rowan close on her heals
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Getting ready to assemble some of the components of the new student Welcome Package for Tecumseh Public School
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Giving new meaning to the phrase "who let the cat out of the bag?"... when our cat George crawled into Sophie's MegaBlocks bag, she zipped it up and started carrying him around, quite pleased with herself!
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Progress is being made on the wedding invitations... slowly but surely!
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And the scheduling sh*t has officially hit the fan. I worked most of last week on the wedding invitations for Heather & Shawn's wedding, and was dismayed at the fact that I didn't see as large a dent in the "to do" list of their creation as I had hoped... now this week my focus on the invitations came back to bite me in the butt as the other things I had ignored last week suddenly reared their heads. In the space of this week I needed to host a planning meeting for the school newsletter, write a grant application, meet with the school Principal twice, create and send out a set of meeting minutes, attend an Internet Safety workshop, put together (with help, thank goodness) 100 Welcome Packages for new students arriving at the school for orientation next week, run a wine tasting, take Sophie to gymnastics, look after Rowan twice, and donate blood. If you're tired just reading this, imagine being the one doing it! My panic over my lack of progress on the invitations means that most nights after Sophie's asleep I've been pulling my supplies out and cutting, gluing, embossing, measuring, layering and creating deep into the night. What a week... and I know that next week will be just as busy, if not more so. I'm thankful it's June, because I am now counting down to the magical time when school is out for the year and vacation begins... I really need it!
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A Week in the Life... May 31 - June 6

Gearing up for World Cup, Sophie and I play soccer in the park
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Fiskars: my new papercrafting heros!
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Volunteer Fabienne helps Sophie plant sunflowers at Tecumseh
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Sophie keeps the beat as part of a drumming circle at the Gathering on the Green
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This week began a real buckling-down for me, after being away for a couple days last week. My biggest project (aside from wrapping up a whole lot of volunteer commitments before the school year ends) is working on my cousin Heather's wedding invitations and reply cards. Once my mom left on Monday and Rowan went home for the day, I started measuring and planning... and discovered that I was one supply short to do a proper job cutting the card stock. I've been using the same 12" Fiskars paper cutter for probably 10 years, and its cutting matte is definitely showing its age. If I wanted clean, straight edges I knew I needed a new one, but the problem with owning a product for that long before it wears out is that it can be very difficult to get replacement parts. The company still makes a 12" cutter, but it's been redesigned and takes a different size matte now - after either going to or calling every craft, paper, scrapbooking and office supply store in London I started to panic. I'll give a huge shout out to Fiskars at this point, because I called them and explained what I was looking for and why... rather than directing me to someone who could sell me one they actually sent it to me themselves, free of charge. Excellent customer service - it's just a cutting matte but it's something that I'll tell people about and that gesture ensured them a customer-for-life from me. Other, non-wedding-invitation-related events this week included the JK and SK students planting sunflowers at Tecumseh (such a great experience, as they get to watch them grow over the summer and help harvest the plants in the fall), and our yearly trip to the Gathering on the Green, a wonderful neighbourhood festival held on the grounds of the Monsignor Feeney Centre. A busy week yet again, with every moment filled with either work or fun!
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A Week in the Life... May 24-30

Getting cooled down on a hot spring day... Rhys, Rowan and Sophie enjoy the sprinkler!
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Taking a dip in the pool at the Royal York - the grande dame of Toronto hotels
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Mom, taking a break and getting some well-earned nourishment at Fresh
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On my way up the curving outside staircases at the AGO (one of the only places we were allowed to take pictures)
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Two very happy concert-goers, waiting for James and Carole to come out and "wow" us!
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What a wonderful, crazy week! My volunteer events included a South Alumni Association meeting, hosting a Coffee Drop-in session at Tecumseh and attending their yearly Volunteer Appreciation luncheon, and at home our house was a revolving door of kids, family members, and fun. On Thursday morning my mother (who arrived into town on Wednesday) and I boarded a VIA train and took off for a couple of special days in Toronto - just the two of us. We packed those days with so much walking, sightseeing and action that I'm sure we did at least a week's worth... aside from enjoying the general ambiance of the Royal York hotel (where we stayed), we visited the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Bata Shoe Museum, the Eaton's Centre, and a couple of amazing little restaurants (if you haven't eaten at Fresh, we strongly recommend you try it out!) The highlight of the trip was Friday night, when we had tickets to see James Taylor and Carole King live in concert at the Air Canada Centre. If you know me well, you know I am a huge fan of James Taylor... his music represents the soundtrack of much of my life, from when I was a young child through today. This was my fourth James Taylor concert, and it was incredibly special to be able to share it with my mother, who despite being of the "right age" to have grown up alongside the singer/songwriters and hippie-types of his generation, has never seen him in concert. She is also more familiar with Carole King than I am - I knew who she was and of course knew a few of her songs, but that was about it. The concert was so very cool... as part of the James Taylor fan club (told you I was a long-term fan!) I had an early crack at tickets before they went on sale to the general public, so we ended up with floor seats in the 20th row. Excellent seats, but what made them so special was that we just happened to be sitting on the outside aisle, right beside the entrance to the stadium from the backstage dressing rooms. Unless we had stage-side seats, we couldn't have gotten any closer to James Taylor and Carole King - each time they entered or exited the stage they walked right past us... it's a good thing that I have self control because being within touching distance of my musical icon really tested it. It wouldn't have been that bad to try and breach the security detail, would it? The whole thing was just great, and watching my mom get so caught up in the wonder of seeing these two artists she's loved for so many years, singing songs she knows and loves... it just made it that much more special. Needless to say, when we returned home on Saturday evening we were exhausted and extremely satisfied.
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A Week in the Life... May 17-23

Enjoying a sunny day at the park with Uncle Alan
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A picture of Great-Grandma and Uncle Alan, taken by Sophie
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Chris, showing off his "tickle fingers" (picture care of Sophie, yet again!)
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Sophie and Courtney play "soccer" in Springbank park at Courtney's birthday party
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Sophie enjoys a more sedentary roll-the-ball game with Brandon at the park
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I think we'll call this "Family week", although I don't believe the government would recognize it as an officialy holiday. On Wednesday Uncle Alan flew into town from the East coast and we enjoyed a very full day of activities together before he drove off to spend the week visiting with my Grandmother in Wallaceburg. We spent part of Thursday at Chris's sister Mary's house where we had a nice quiet family lunch before Summer headed off for an afternoon of school-related meetings. After a fun day playing with Rowan on Thursday, on Friday we drove up to Wallaceburg to visit with Uncle Alan and Grandma, then spent Saturday at Springbank park surrounded by family celebrating Courtney's birthday. We can't remember the last time we saw this many family members so close together - it was great!
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