Sunday, September 30, 2012

Otter Lake, Etcetera

I had a crap day today.  Like, reeeeeeeeealllly crap.  I complained on Facebook about it, vaguely, of course.  Rachel Clear talked me down off the ledge, so that was nice.  (thanks, lady).  But it was a helluvaday.  Mostly, inside my head.  The crease between September and October is often rough on my brain; lower Vitamin D levels?  Less light?  I dunno.  But anyways, rather than get on here and spew about it, which is my wont, I would rather finish highlighting my summer, because that would make me happy.  Thank you for watching =)

When I left off posting about our summer, we were in the midst of camping at Otter Lake.  So here's our final day~we saw a float plane take off in the morning

And we said, "Why don't we have a float plane?  That would make the commute up here so much faster!  And think of the fun of landing a plane on the water!!!"  Along the lines of, "Why don't we own oceanfront property?" and "Why aren't we professional philanthropists?"  Seriously.

Brent had to take a photo of this outfit I had Amarys in one day before bed: jammies, hoodie, baby legs, and socks.  All prints.  All clashing.  But she was warm!  =) 

This was actually the night I convinced Brent to try the style of camping I grew up with, which means you sleep in a tent, but you don't put the fly on.  When you camp in the interior of BC, you don't need a fly.  It's a pain in the ARSE to put on, it holds condensation in the tent (especially with six people breathing in it all night), and makes the air stuffy.
Brent grew up on the coast, which means when you camp you bring 4234365745768487 tarps, in case it rains.  And you put four or five tarps UNDER the weatherproof bottom of the tent, and you put the fly on the tent as though it were as necessary as breathing (would YOU leave home without your lungs?  So for the fly), and when it DOES rain you put 84 of the other tarps on top of the fly.  

We have this argument every time we camp.  
Me: Do we HAVE to put the fly on the tent?  It's so stuffy!
Him: YES.
end of discussion.  Or sometimes there's a monologue about When Things Get Wet, or If It Rains.  I listen like the longsuffering wife I am, and never, ever say a word in opposition.  (I promise).  Anyways, I don't really argue anymore but I do keep mentioning it.  Because in my childhood, full of camping and camping and MORE CAMPING with my hippie parents and especially my woodsman dad, I can only remember once when they put the fly on.  The rain clouds were coming and they were frantically rushing to get the fly on the tent.  The other fifty four million times we camped, it didn't rain.

See, when it rains in Princeton, which is where Otter Lake is, it hardly even counts.  Their annual rainfall is 239 mm per year.  That's 23 centimeters.  In the ENTIRE YEAR.  So when it rains?  It mists a little for an hour and blows away.  The ground hardly changes colour!  Even the thunderstorm we experienced on our second day there was gone in an hour and the ground was dry an hour after that.

Annual rainfall was what finally won me this argument.  And that night, we slept without the fly on the tent.  And it was MOTHERFUCKING COLD!
I won the battle, Brent won the war.

Anyhoo, this was Amarys' flyless tent pyjamas.  Very chic.

The next day we drove home.  First we drove further away from home, traveling East to Keremeos.  This is a South Okanagan town one hour beyond Princeton, which has a miraculous amount of arid fruits.  Peaches that are known around the world.  Apricots by the forklift.  Tomatoes, squash, cukes, pears, apples, cherries, plums, and, and, and!!!  We bought several boxes of tomatoes, peaches, and apricots so I could make jam, canned peaches, and canned tomatoes.  Zooee mama!  [forgive me for the tween boy literary reference: given my family demographics I'm sure you can understand]

Yummy!  Ayden and Riley helped me choose the best field tomatoes

Then we got ice cream....

And with much shuffling of items and squashing of children, we
got all the fruit in the van

Then we turned around and headed back.  I'm so grateful we went the extra two hours because the fruit is incredible quality and not something it is possible to get down here, even from the farmer's market.  Peaches picked ripe, that day, and driven home in your own vehicle and canned and jammed the NEXT day?  Heaven.

Here's our annual pit stop at Strawberry Meadows in Manning Park (I generally vote for the Alpine Meadows but am getting shouted down with alarming frequency these days.  I was promised next year).

And then we were HOME!

The next day was our 10th Wedding Anniversary (yes, that deserves capitalization).  I think that, amongst ALL the couples in the world, we are the most well suited to each other.  Maybe that is an exaggeration =)  Slight, I'm sure.  Not biased at all.  Anyways, I'm so grateful God dropped this man in my path when he did, and virtually shoved me towards him.  Brent said to me, the other day (and in earnest), "I'm so lucky I scored the cute ballerina!"  As a middle aged woman with 30 extra pounds to lose and banana boobs from nursing babies, that was pretty nice to hear.  The moral of this story is, we both feel equally lucky.  Shazam!  We celebrated at Uli's restaurant in White Rock (AMAAAAAAZINGGGGG food), a walk along the pier, and then we tried to see a movie but there wasn't anything playing that we were remotely interested in seeing.  So we went home and rented one instead.  Then we slept ALL NIGHT because the kids were sleeping at gramma and grampa's house, and then we SLEPT IN.  It was so peaceful.  Ahhhhh.....

Here's me being bossy.
This is a classic Nancy Smith pose
(that's my mother)

White Rock beach

Next up: Oregon!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Hello Amazing Awesome Friends

I'm sorry I've been rather quiet lately!  Of course I'm as busy as usual but lately I've been feeling a little more quiet.  A little more in the mood for reading, and a little less in the mood for writing.  S'okay.  But I miss you guys.

I'm going to bullet post you.  There's just so much to say and I'm a little under the weather so making transitions and being articulate just doesn't feel like something I wanna tackle right now.  Y'all will forgive me, I know!

FIRST and most fabulous, my Matthew is having a fantastic year at school thus far.  Not once has the school called me about his behaviour (fist pump!)!!!  But not only is he "not naughty," he is remarkably GOOD.  I should actually back up a bit and say that we saw the pedi in late August and she did diagnose him definitively with ADHD and, after lengthy discussions regarding treatments, and many hours of research and reading on my part, we decided to give medication a try.  I will write an entire post about our experience with ADHD and medication, but for now I just have to say, it is like night and day.  He's doing beautifully.  He's more present, he is making academic leaps like the Jolly Green Giant, and his teacher describes him as "very attentive, kind, and helpful."
At home, his relationships have improved with his brothers and sister, myself, and his dad.  We feel like we connect more and manage his behaviour less.  Which was, in large part, our goal.  We decided on medication for two reasons; academically, he was struggling to master even very basic skills.  So far we had been able to protect his heart from feelings of self doubt, but he was falling ever further behind and the difference was becoming drastic and rapidly critical.  Soon, he would notice.  And soon, he would be so far behind as to make recovering a massive job.
The second reason was for his relationships with the most important people in his life.  Bullying his friends.  Stealing from my purse.  Harrassing his brothers.  Climbing the walls.  It can't feel good to go through life with everyone you love mad at you all the time! So.  We gave it a try.  And he's a new kid.  More fully himself.  More alive, more present, and more confident.  I'm. So. Glad. We. Tried.
Matthew (who struggled last year to memorize a 5 word spelling list every week, and generally got only one or sometimes none of the words correct at test time) scored a 16/17 on his first spelling test of the year last week.  He was so proud.  And I even prouder.  He 'studied' every day, but it was so quick and painless because he would practice writing each word and get them all correct, every time.  We're unlocking the intelligence that was trapped inside him, and it feels incredible.

Secondly, I'm looking for a job.  This is a major shift, but a necessary one.  I'm so ready.  I'm so sick of being too damn house poor to even buy GROCERIES, never mind pay the bills.  I'm in a constant state of mild panic that THIS week we really might not have food, and generally negotiating which payments, cheques, or bills to bounce and which not to.  And never answering the phone because it might be someone wondering why we haven't paid them in several months.  I've been That Lady in Costco with the NSF debit card and a cart full of groceries.  Talk about a walk of shame.
We gave it a go; I cut corners and cut corners and cut corners, but it was never enough.  We switched to homemade bread and dried rather than canned beans and a slew of other things that create a ton more work for ME, to save money.  I can't even afford to coupon.  When sales come up, I never have money.  We pulled Ayden out of violin lessons JUST as he was hitting his stride and starting to like it, because we couldn't afford it.  I never go to the chiropractor anymore because although we can submit reciepts and get repaid 80% by our extended benefits, we never have the $45 to pay up front.  We haven't been to the dentist in two years.  All of us.  It took me nine months to fill Matthew's epi pen prescription because we never had two cents to rub together.  We almost didn't go on our camping trips in the summer because gas prices are heinous.  Gah.  The most stressful two days of the entire month for me are the days we get paid.  Because it's never enough.

Now, this is 100% house poverty.  Brent makes pretty decent income, but an enormous percentage of it goes to our mortgage, which is pretty standard in our area because property value is SO high.  So high it is unsustainable.  We knew what we were getting into when we bought this place, and we knew it would be HARD.  Not just tight.  But RIGID.  We chose it anyways, and we take full responsibility for that choice.  That's why I rarely complain about it on here, because it is so obviously a "you make your own bed and then lie in it" type of situation.  Besides, so much of the world is TRULY hungry with no way out, so who are we to complain that our budget is too slim?  We kinda shot ourselves in the foot by having so many kids.  Well, and we were hoping SO BAD that the RCMP would relocate us to a more affordable place to live but that has not yet come to pass.

Here are our choices:
-sell our house and downsize to a townhouse.  Saves $150-200,000.  Crams the 6 of us in together in a living space designed for 2 to 4 people.  Have to deal with strata.  Lose all of the money we have invested in the last year and a half in this house, because of course you pay mainly interest in the first years of mortgage payments.  Lose a substantial amount of equity potential.
-continue to cut more corners, hunker down, wait it out, and try to repair our shredded credit score.  Continue to carry high levels of stress and anxiety.  Live in 'big' house (1800 sq feet) with yard, tailor made for our family.
-change our income level.  This, we tried to do by having Brent work overtime to make up the difference in the loss of my meager salary when I quit BC Ambulance.  It SORTA works, but the influx of overtime payout is very sporadic; you won't get paid for an overtime shift for up to ten weeks afterward working OT, and sometimes you get huge chunks that get axed in half by taxes.  It's not working.  SO, another solution is for me to work.  I'm an adult, I'm perfectly capable of working, my kids are healthy and happy and perfectly capable of navigating the increase in chaos and decrease in domesticity if I return to work at this point.  So, I'm job hunting.  I want something easier and less stressful physically and mentally than being a paramedic, but more stimulating and interesting than the copywriting work I've been doing.

Let me just say, writing a resume bites.  I haven't done it in a very long time!  And it is every bit as sucktastic as I remember.

Wish me luck.

The other day I was driving along with Amarys and Riley, when Riley piped up, "God made man out of the dirt, you know, mommy."  Only he has a funny little accent so what he actually said was, "God made man out of the DUT, you know, mommy."  He goes to Christian preschool.
I thought, SWEET!  He's learning!  He's taking it in!  He's building a foundation that will hold him for the rest of his life!
"YES!  You are right, God made Adam out of dirt, didn't he?"  I look in the rearview mirror and all I see is these enORmous brown eyes looking back at me, all serious like.  Nods.
Oh, I will expand on this!  I think.
"Do you know what God made next?"  Wide eyes.  Serious shake.
"Well, He looked at Adam and said he shouldn't be alone.  Adam will get lonely!  Adam needs a family!  He needs a wife!"
Vigorous head shaking in the back seat,
"No, mommy, He needed a HELPER."
I stand corrected.  I screamed with laughter inside my head.  Who do I think I am, expanding on the story of the creation of Adam to my four year old?  He's heard it all in preschool.  Yes dear, he needed a helper.  I wouldn't have been surprised at all if he had said helpmeet.  That kid.  Too funny.

Here's a random collection of photos to bring us up to date, also.  =)  They are all terrible and from my phone, but they capture the spirit of the moments a wee bit, just enough to make me happy that the moment was recorded!

Our annual Thai family picnic event this year was a big hit; here are the boys
preparing for the potato sack race

And here is Riley, DEAD LAST, hopping with so much enthusiasm
and cuter than STINK

Every time I open the oven I get swarms of helpers

They just like to wear really large mitts.  Who doesn't?

I did a bunch of this in the summer

My nephew Oliver deserves a Cameo

This little dweeb had her first day back at Strong Start this week.
I LOVE this program, and I think it does amazing work for so many
BC families.  Amarys loves it too.

Trying to pick the astroturf at her brother's soccer game.  That kept her busy
for quite some time

And last, but not least, something to give you sweet dreams...

I know, right?!  Who posts a picture of their kid's poo?
I do.  This. Was. Awesome.
I can see the light!  At the end of the tunnel!  It is lovely
and breezy and oh, so sweet...

The best part about that poo picture?  She did it all on her own initiative.  She is a stripper at heart, and was running around after dinner, naked.  She disappeared into the bathroom and then came out, patting her bum and saying, "Poopy!"  She usually does that to tell me after the fact, when her diaper is poopy.  THIS time she was telling me after the fact, when she WENT ON THE POTTY!  All by herself!  She felt the urge, walked into the bathroom, sad down, pooped, and THEN came and told us about it!  What the heck?  She's so funny, that girl.  She's determined to do everything her own way.  But I'll take it!  =D

Thursday, September 20, 2012

8 Years Old!

Happy birthday Matthew!!!  I can't believe we have an eight year old on our hands, here, folks... It seems like JUST YESTERDAY we were celebrating his first birthday (in absentia~he was still in Thailand and we had a party for him--you can see his photos on the table at the back near Gramma).

The next birthday, Matthew was home....

The next year Matthew turned 3:
(the year Brent was away at training for 6 months)

Then Matthew turned 4:

Then he was five!  And at kindergarten!!!

And SIX!

And last year he turned SEVEN whole years old...

And finally, today, EIGHT years old.  Wow, what a trip =)

This kid is awesome.  As you can see from the photos, he has a HUGE personality.  He's goofy and hilarious and high, high, HIGH energy, gogogogogogo all day long, and he sleeps as hard as he plays.  Charismatic and outgoing, friends with everyone, and proud of who he is, how he came to be, and the story of how he came to us.  He is the world's most amazing climber.  He is a fast runner and plays soccer really well.  He's very, very sociable and outgoing, and would rather do anything WITH you than anything WITHOUT you =) He loves to explore and learn, loves to build legos, and is pretty much ALL BOY.  You name a 'boy thing,' and he's into it: trucks, cars, machines, digging, rocks, dirt, sticks, video games, explosions, electronic gadgety things, etc, etc.  He also loves to cook, is my best and most enthusiastic helper, loves his siblings, and is a sucker for routine.  He's also a sucker for candy.  And money.  He loves to have change jingling in his pocket.

He has allergies; anaphylactic to soy, latex, and sulfa drugs.  Hayfever to pollen.  He has irritable bladder syndrome.  He has ADHD.  He is a really good builder; lego, blocks, connecting toys, etc.  He steals your heart and never lets it go.

We are forever grateful to his birth momma for giving us this incredible treasure, our little (tiny; he's very small for his age) tasmanian devil, the most incorrigible creature on the planet, the hardest working kid I know, who never gets down or discouraged, and who spills over with love and laughter.  We are grateful for her sacrifice in relinquishing him to us, and we celebrate all that he is.  A mixture of her and us, and wholly HIM.

Happy eighth birthday, Matthew Thanawuth Smith Vose.  xxxooo
Love you forever.