Sunday, December 31, 2017

Farewell 2017

1) What did you do in 2017 that you have never done before?

- Had a sleepover at the Telus World of Science with my daughter's Sparks unit.

- Proceeded to purchase a family membership to the Telus World of Science, which has already paid off in spades.

- Actually took the Summer Reading Lists seriously and read the following recommended novels:

The Substitute, by Nicole Lundrigan
Do Not Become Alarmed, by Maile Meloy 
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman

(Bonus - my husband read all of the above with me, plus he also managed to read this one as well: Baseball Life Advice, by Stacey May Fowles.)

2) Where did you travel?

Wabamum Lake was the farthest we travelled this year, and I'm grateful for it.

Family vacations have become an exhausting endeavor for me, and they're far from relaxing. So this year we purchased a trampoline and an above-ground pool and had mini stay-cations each evening in our backyard instead.

We did, however, have a houseguest in August, when one of my husband's army buddies drove up from the US and stayed with us for a bit.......   And then in November we flew in my mother-in-law, which proved an absolute blessing to our family.......   And then my husband's army buddy again drove up here just a few weeks ago, which came as a complete surprise to me.

("Hey babe, there wasn't a good time for me to tell you this before, so here goes: Richard's coming to stay with us again. He'll be here in less than 3 hours.")

That's right. I had no warning at all, which means I didn't even vacuum or clean the washrooms before he showed up.

3) What was your biggest achievement of the year?


4) What was your biggest failure?

I'm not even changing my response from last year:

Everything about this year has been a constant struggle. I've spent the entire year just trying to keep my head above water to make it through one day at a time.

5) Did you suffer illness or injury?

My petty illnesses aren't worth mentioning, but I did spend more time in hospitals and care facilities this year than I care to admit.

In October, my 88-year-old uncle (or Zio, as we call him) fell and broke a bone in his neck. I spent 10 hours with him in emergency on October 14 -- and, since then, I've visited him in hospital every day after work (and on weekends), mainly to keep him company and to ensure he's managing all right.

To summarize, it's been exhausting. Caregiver burnout is very, very real..... and I'm not even his primary caregiver. Getting old is not for the faint of heart.

6) What things / people disappointed you the most?

- Trump, and the people who continue to support him.

- The lack of adequate and available assisted living residences for seniors.

- Myself.

7) Where did most of your money go?

- Mortgage
- Daycare / School
- Takeout

8) What did you really get excited about?

Reading. As my husband repeatedly tells our daughter: Books are magical.

9) What song will always remind you of 2017?

Holdin' My Own, by Eric Church

My daughter even belts this out while we're driving, which is proof that I must be doing something right in life after all.

1) What do you wish you'd done more of?

Been more physically active.

11) What do you wish you'd done less of?


12) Favourite film this year?

The Glass Castle, which is based on Jeannette Walls's memoir of the same name.

Woody Harrelson's performance as Rex Walls was phenomenal.

13) What was the one thing that would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Same as last year: Good health for me and the people I care about, including my Zio. As mentioned, he's been in care since his fall in October.

And my Zia (his 91-year-old sister) fell and broke her hip in August. Following her surgery, she was moved into palliative care, and she passed away a few weeks ago on December 16.

On the day of her funeral, December 21, we took my Zio out of care for the morning so he could pay his final respects and see her one last time -- but it was too much for him, and he collapsed at her funeral.

An ambulance was called, and I rode with him to the hospital for assessment.

Like I said, this year has been extremely difficult for us.

14) What kept you sane?

Sure, the year couldn't have been all bad -- but I'm hard-pressed to remember some of its better moments right now.

The one thing that does stand out to me, though, is this:

I will forever be grateful to this family for making me laugh again and again. And again.

15) Which celebrity / public figure did you fancy the most? Fancy the least?

My not-so-secret love for Scott Bakula has been ressurected, thanks to some marvelous writing / acting on NCIS: New Orleans.

And Donald Trump is still a narcissistic sociopath.

16) What news story fascinated you the most?

See question # 14 above.

From now on, I want to enter every room with as much sass and attitude as that little girl.

17) What sports moment did you like the most? 

The long-overdue playoff run for the Oilers this past spring did wonders to boost this city's morale.

Sadly, they're currently on pace to miss the 2018 playoffs, which does quite the opposite for our volatile morale.

18) Who do you miss?

My mom, still, and always.

19) What do you look forward to in 2018?

Fewer hospital visits would be a good place to start.

And a lottery win would also be a nice touch.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The family that eats together....

One of the many things I miss about my mom is her cooking. 

Since her passing, I realize now just how much I took my mom for granted over the years -- and the void her passing has left is insurmountable. 

What I wouldn't give to be able to walk into my mom's kitchen again and take in the smells and flavours of another perfectly homemade meal, just one last time.

My son will never know the joy of eating one of her meals, and my daughter is already beginning to forget them as well. She remembers that she loved eating at Nonna's house, but she doesn't exactly remember why.

I feel compelled to keep my mom's memory alive for my kids, not to mention my Italian heritage, which sometimes feels as though it died along with her.

And though I routinely cook some of my mom's meals for my family -- which are tastier than many dishes you'll find in upscale Italian-ish restaurants -- I also wanted to create something more permanent. Something that my kids could physically see everyday.

While it's important that my kids remember their Nonna, it's also crucial that they maintain a connection with their paternal grandmother, who lives two time zones away in upstate New York.

And so I created this:

Another Pinterest success story: 
Framed, hand-written recipes from loved ones.

In the frame on the left are two of my daughter's favourite recipes from my mom: banana bread, plus Mostaccioli, which is Italian gingerbread.

And the frame on the right contains my mother-in-law's infamous (and always-in-demand) recipe for sticky buns.

The best thing about these framed recipes is that they're both handwritten by my children's grandmothers. This personal touch is exactly what my kitchen -- and my family -- needed.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Beautiful Boy

In his two-and-a-half years of life, my son has visited more emergency rooms and met with significantly more specialists than has his six-and-a-half year old sister.

These aren't exactly stats that we're proud of, but here are just a few of the "highlights".

- He required multiple ultrasounds when in the womb because doctors were worried about his short femurs.

- He was briefly hospitalized at 6 months of age.

- He chipped a front tooth on one of his (daily) falls.

- He suffered from speech delay and worked with an Early Intervention Specialist last year.

- He climbed out of his crib last December and semi-concussed himself when his head hit the ground.

- And in January he woke up one morning with a significant stutter that's never really gone away.

Some days the stutter is barely noticeable, but on other days he struggles with EVERY. SINGLE. WORD.

Those are the days when he starts to speak but then stops and instead buries his head into us, refusing to say anything more.

If you Google sudden stuttering in toddlers, you get every response from "It's nothing" all the way to "It's a brain tumour."

Naturally, we panicked.

So far the doctors and specialists aren't too concerned, though, but we're still actively learning how to deal with the stutter and to help him (hopefully) grow out of it.

If this does end up being something he struggles with as he gets older, I have no doubt that the Mama Grizzly in me will want to throat punch the first person who bullies him because of it.

(Just kidding. Sort of.)

Regardless of all these setbacks, our Little Mister is smart and beautiful and perfectly mischievous, like all other little boys his age -- hence the daily falls and the climbing in and out of potentially dangerous situations.

And, when I hear about other little ones who are sick -- and I mean REALLY SICK -- I'm reminded that these struggles we've faced are really nothing at all.

And I'm also reminded that things can change literally in an instant.

The family is this video lives next door to my sister, and their whole world changed overnight.

This little boy is only eight, but he's faced so many challenges in his young life, and he's desperate to find a bone marrow donor to help save his life.

Unfortunately, no one in our household falls within the 17-35 age range required for the screening of potential donors, but hopefully others reading this are eligible and will get tested.

The great thing about this registry is that, once you've been screened, you remain in the system until the age of 60 -- so the potential to save lives is there for years.

I can't imagine what this family is going through in their search for a donor -- and I hope that my family never has to go through anything similar -- but I know that the possibility is always there for everyone.

Life is so precious, and it really can change in an instant.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Walls of Art - Part 1

Since we installed some new cabinets around our kitchen window, the artwork we purchased from Lori Frank back in 2015 had to unfortunately be moved.

In doing so, we decided this was the right time to add to our collection, so we met with the artist one afternoon in February and purchased two additional prints from her: The Leg (short for "Legislature"), and Valley Below, which is another print depicting MacKinnon Ravine from another vantage point.

I love all of Lori Frank's pieces, and I've already identified two more that I'd like to purchase for this rapidly-growing art wall at our back-door entrance.

All of her reproductions are very affordable, and we should all be doing our part to support local artists.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Progress - Part 3

During the time that my nephew and his girlfriend spent at our house assisting with renos, we brainstormed some ideas to better use the space in our kitchen to offer us some more counter space.

And, last night, my nephew delivered by installing these dowels above our (Habitat for Humanity Restore) sink so that we could place our dish strainer up there and get it off the counter.

It's definitely true that you should live in a place for a while before you attempt to renovate. We've lived for seven years without any counter space, so we were more than ready for this brilliant hack. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Progress - Part 2

The thing with home renos is that, once you start one project and have marginal success, it makes you want to keep going.

So, once again, back to Pinterest I went.

This time I inadvertently stumbled upon the following photo, and I became so smitten that I logged in everyday to stare at it and fantasize about how this look would work in our kitchen.

But rather than being stalled at the fantasizing part of my dream, we actually went to work and made this one happen.

We bought cabinets and countertops from Ikea, as well as various other discounted odds and ends that my nephew (an apprentice carpenter) used to custom build a bench (with drawers!) for us.

And we purchased some new tiles and a sink from our local Habitat for Humanity Edmonton Restore, which is my absolute new favourite place to shop.

In the end, it cost us approximately $4500 (the bulk of which was labour from my nephew and his girlfriend) to update our kitchen and main bathroom (including linen closet). And we couldn't be more pleased with the end result.

Pinterest success story: NAILED IT.

Yes, I copied the original Pinterest photo down to the detail of selecting (the dreaded) clear glass-front hanging cabinets. The pressure's on for us to keep them tidy.

I still need to mend the curtains that are hanging at the window, as well as find some way to sew a seat cushion and backing for the bench, but we're otherwise complete.

(Note: the cabinet on the far left is the 80's style pantry that we painted.)

So while our home is still an over-stuffed cesspool of clutter, it's at least now an over-stuffed cesspool of clutter with personality.

And, like everything else, it's still a work in progress. Thanks to Pinterest.

(As an aside, yes, that's my daughter in the photo above, and yes, she was up way past her bedtime working on her music composition homework. Why? Because we left it to the night before it was due, of course. Just keepin' it real, yo.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Progress - Part 1

I've had a love-hate relationship with Pinterest over the last few years.

Love - in that it's my go-to site for virtually everything.... and hate - in that it depresses me to see all the beautiful (fill-in-blank) that we can't afford.

(Here's looking at you, heated in-ground pool.)

When we first purchased our home seven years ago, we were just excited to have a place that was our very own, and we embraced all the flaws that came with living in an older house.

But it reached a point where I became miserable each time I stepped into our kitchen, so I spent the last year or so searching Pinterest for ideas on renovating a split-level home such as ours.

This open-floor concept is something I fell in love with and decided that I wanted for our main floor.

However, once I started getting quotes for the cost of tearing down walls and installing beams, etc, I immediately became disheartened to admit that we couldn't afford this new look. At best, all we could do was tile our fireplace to look like the one in the photo.

So back to Pinterest I went.

The first (more affordable) thing that I stumbled upon was the Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations kit.

Realizing that we couldn't even afford to replace all of our kitchen and main bathroom's cabinets -- let alone tear down walls -- my husband instead purchased this kit for just under $100 and immediately went to work on giving them a facelift.

I'm not going to lie, he worked day and night for weeks to pull off this enormous feat, but the end result was magnificent. We also added some new nickel handles to all our cabinets -- which unfortunately cost us more than the actual cabinet makeover did -- but it was worth it to add some style to our home.

Note: this is neither my photo nor my kitchen, but these are the same type of cabinets that we have for our kitchen, pantry, main bathroom, and linen closet.
(We also have them in our laundry room, but we left those alone since I'm not bothered by them down there. At least not yet anyway.)

This photo, however, is my own. 
It was taken in a corner of our kitchen, after my husband finished painting and reinstalling our 80's-style cabinets, but before we (painstakingly) installed the nickel handles. 
(And yes, I made sure my daughter watched in awe as I used a power drill and hand-made jig to install some of the handles myself.)

So as you can see, it wasn't necessary for us to spend thousands on new cabinets after all. All we needed to do was paint them and add handles, all for less than $300.

Pinterest win.