Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas Desires and Disappointments

I was listening to the radio this morning as strangers shared extraordinary efforts they had gone to in order to procure a special gift at Christmas. As I listened, my mind drifted to recent attempts at meeting my children’s wild requests, but I soon found myself wistfully recalling a Christmas of my own, when I was ten years old and living in the remote town of Awassa, Ethiopia.

The town, in this time, had no stores that I can remember. We bought all our fresh food from the outdoor market, dry goods including powdered milk and coveted cheese and chocolate had to be picked up in Addis Ababa, the capital and a four hour drive away.  Our clothing, books, personal items, games etc. had all been shipped from Canada. So you can imagine what Christmas gifts were to look like that year; my mom and I were sewing small gifts, stringing beads, and baking. My brother helped decorate paper for wrapping, crafted ornaments for our house plants, and we all looked desperately forward to seeing the Canadian nurses who worked in the hospital near our town.

As an adult, I now cringe when I think about what I did to my parents that year.

You see, it was 1985 and I wanted a Care Bear. I desperately, passionately, needed a Care Bear. I couldn’t imagine life without the loveable toy that all my friends had, and I did not. Don’t get me wrong; I was a grateful and happy child. I knew full well the barriers to buying things at that time in our lives. To this day, I have twisted big toes from wearing too-small shoes for too long. I didn’t complain. I loved my days filled with sun, dust, dogs and chickens. I finished my grade 5 correspondence courses in four months and spent the rest of my days helping in the garden, climbing trees and washing puppies in the bidet.

But I needed that Care Bear.

I don’t know a lot of details about how it happened, only that it involved a Korean paper catalogue that needed translating and a lot of shipping fees. What I do remember is the palatable excitement in my thumping body when I was presented with the Care Bear-sized box, the anticipation on my parents’ faces, the smirk from my too-cool brother watching from the sidelines and the foreign writing on the side of the beat up cardboard box. I could hardly wait to squeeze the love out of that soft magical bear, come to fill my days with friendship and wonder.

When I finally got into the box, through the tightly packaged cardboard and copious bubble wrap, my heart sunk.

It was a lamp.
It was a baby blue lamp with Sleepy Care Bear sitting on a cloud.

I feigned excitement, assured my happiness to the darting eyes that saw tragedy on the horizon, and dutifully plugged it in beside my bed, where it sat until returning to Canada. If I’m not mistaken, it stills sits wrapped in my mother’s attic, awaiting the day of rediscovery.

A couple of years later back in Canada I discovered that what I really had needed was a Cabbage Patch doll, but by that time I had learned that there were far more important needs to be met, and shrugged a disinterested response when queried by friends about my lack thereof.  But what stays with me now, as a parent of a ten year old, is that incredible desire to please a child, guilty of spoiling or not. That desire to see the smile, the satisfaction of success, even for a moment, outweighs all efforts made.

Thanks Mom and Dad. It might have taken me a *few years to realize it, but I love that Care Bear lamp, and all it meant.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


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Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Seattle with Kids

Well I keep telling people about the fabulous family day weekend we had with the kids, so I thought I should put it down here so that I can refer the rest of you on to my blog for the info. :)

Our bank accounts decided that we weren't going to have a sunny vacation this spring, so we decided to do the next best thing and find fun without sun close to home. The plan was to make this a kid-friendly trip without sacrificing food quality (too much), being jailed to a hotel room, or spending copious amounts of time  in stores.

Our mantra for the trip was:

"One person's mood does not affect the mood of the others." 

(This I note, was quite effective in staving off whining, cranking and bitching in most forms and by all parties.)

Day #1 - Vancouver to Seattle

We got off to a somewhat reasonable start and except for a lengthy and poorly planned gas and Starbucks detour, made it to the border (Sumas) in good time. The kids and I took out eight movies from the library for the car rides, and they were super content to dig right in to an early morning one. Note: I must admit, I originally thought Rob's car choice was so over the top, but I now absolutely love the "luxury features" including the dvd player. It makes road trips oh.so.easy.

First stop: our very favorite taco truck, and no, I have no idea where it is except it's outside of Bellingham somewhere on Meridian.

We took down about 15 of those babies. They are so good, and the kids always love kicking around the fields around the truck. The truck also sells the spicy Mexican candies we love.  Mmmmmmm....

With bellies full we headed back on the highway without stopping until the dreaded Tulalip Outlet Mall. As much as the kids wanted to complain, they ended up loving the hour there as they picked out crazy sweatshirts, bathing suits and new undies. Rob and I were a little disappointed at the selection at the Restoration Hardware store (our purpose for the stop) but pleased with not spending any money.

As we rolled into Seattle we decided that stopping for an early dinner might be the best thing and hit a pizza joint we had always wondered about. After circling the block for parking (it was 5) we were starting to wonder what was going on, but soon realized that we had stumbled upon a kid-friendly gem. Tutta Bella was absolutely buzzing with families. Its open kitchen was great entertainment for the kids, the waiters were incredibly patient, and best of all, the happy hour menu was amazing. Everything was $5 or less. We ordered three pizzas (they're small) a salad and a salumi platter. Rob had beer and I had wine (also on the happy hour menu.) Everybody ate really well and had a great time. I would definitely do it again.

We made it into our Seattle Sheraton hotel with plenty of time to enjoy the pool and hot tub and everybody hit the hay for the night.

Day #2

The day was bright when we woke, but without a lot of sun in the forecast. Nonetheless we all agreed it was a perfect day to hit the zoo. But first, we were off to Capitol Hill to try a brunch spot that came highly recommended. The wait was a bit daunting at first, but we went outside to play some Crazy Cubes and soon enough we were tucked into a comfy corner table with a view. And man was I glad we waited! The Skillet Diner has an eclectic menu to be sure, but everybody found something they loved. Rob chose the chilaquiles to stay on his Mexican theme. Mia had a grilled peanut butter and jam sandwich with fries. Lucas ordered a cinnamon role that was the size of his head, no joke. I had the L'il Rob; a delectable sandwich of egg and bacon between flapjacks, drizzled with balsamic syrup with a side salad. Great meal. (My favorite of the whole weekend actually.)

If you've never been to the Woodland Zoo and you've got kids, you should go. This was our third or fourth trip, and it didn't disappoint. The highlights of this visit were twofold. The first was feeding the penguins. For an extra price and a bit of a wait, the kids got to go with a staff member and drop wee fishies to the hungry penguins. Last time we had fed the giraffes and we still talk about it, so we knew that feeding the penguins would be good.

The second highlight was the special event they had going for the day. Due to the arrival of Valentine's day that week, the animals were getting Valentines delivered to their enclosures throughout the day. These were absolutely adorable little gifties that arranged from bugs to fruit to popcorn, but all came in hearts and ribbons and bows. I spent a half hour with the gorillas waiting for their treat, and they didn't disappoint. I *may* have been more excited than the kids. It was hysterical watching them open and enjoy all their treats. The kids were amazed to see the adeptness of their problem-solving as well as the silliness of the young gorilla as he jostled and pushed his elders in his attempts to get more snacks. Not great photos as the windows were super dirty.

There were also four new lion cubs to be viewed, but we caught the end of it and the kids were rather done by then.

Our dinner choice left a little to be desired, but the intention was good. We had been to the happy hour at  Rockbottom before and really enjoyed the tasting beers and sliders. So we thought we were being clever doing the same thing; until we realized that the tasting menu was only on weekdays. Nonetheless, a good kids menu, great beer and delicious blue-cheese topped burgers.

Day #3 and 4

This was the day the kids were waiting for, so the day began with a lot of excitement. But we weren't to be bullied into diverging from our plans, so we walked down to Pike Place Market to watch some flying fish, eat some crab bennys, check out the magic shop, purchase stuffed snakes and drool over bouquets of gorgeous flowers. All good, but no photos!

And then, it was back into the car and off we went to find  Great Wolf Lodge; the kids' treat for family day.

This turned into the day of the side trip.

The first, was to surprise Lucas with a trip over the Sturdy Gertie, which he had been telling us all about. Seriously, the kid's an encyclopedia. He had been studying structures and this bridge was in the unit. He sounded like Wikipedia talking about it, so we just had to have a drive over. (And pay the toll - that was a surprise too!)

Side trip number two saw us driving down to Point Defiance Park to surprise the kids with go-cart driving. I had my camera with me, but took no photos because my hands were gripping the steering wheel so tightly, and I was laughing so, so hard. I had seriously sore teeth from the freezing cold air hitting my gigantic gaping, snorting mouth, but it was worth it. Rob and Lucas drove together. (Rob was way too big for the car!) And Mia went back and forth between screaming an laughing in mine. So fun.

After those little diversions, we hunkered down to hit the water park.

So, if you've never been, you can take my words with a grain of salt. I'm sure that everyone's experience at this kid-crazy place is slightly different. We had riddled our friends who had been with questions and gotten a few tips on how best to navigate the mayhem but still felt rather unprepared.

When I opened the doors to check in, the noise hit me like a wave of nausea; sudden and surprising, but manageable if I set my mind to it. It was as though every possible noise from every emotion of a child's spectrum of possibilities was resonating through the timber structure. Nonetheless, I set my jaw and joined the long line-up to check in.

Check-in, except for the fact that I needed an ear-horn to hear the directions, went smoothly.
We piled our stuff onto the airport style luggage trolleys and off we went to find our room. (By the way, I would bitterly complain if our room were anywhere near the elevators at this place. There were THRONGS of children running willy-nilly through the halls, but especially near where the Magiquest stations are set up.

Ok, I have just realized that this is going to get pretty rambly at the rate I'm going, so here's the low down:

The Drive: Really not bad if you've got it broken up a bit and have something for the kids to be entertained with in the car

The Food: Better than we were expecting, and fair prices, but still standard kid-food. The pizza places looked awful so we ate one meal in the restaurant. Honestly, the kids were satisfied (Lucas said the fried rice was the best ever?!) and we managed. Taking lots of healthy snacks for the room kept us well-nourished and we made do with everything else. I think if it were a longer trip we would have had to do some driving to get decent food.

On site Starbucks: One hour wait ... just saying...

The "Extras" : There were a lot of things for the kids to want to spend money on despite the "all-inclusiveness" of the water park. The Magicquest looked really cool , but when we were there the line-ups for each station were so long that you could just stand behind and watch the other kids wave their wands and get the clue. Even though Lucas and Mia were keen to try, they saw the reasoning behind it when we offered them each a card for the arcade instead. Haha. The arcade, as much as I detest the concept (almost more than the germs?) was a blast. Both kids found plenty of things to play and earned quite a few tickets. Lucas hit it big on one game and won a thousand tickets, much to Mia's distress. Luckily you can load the points onto your game card and not carry the tickets around! The kids both learned a lesson when they went to buy things with their points and realized their money would have gone further in the gift shop. (Which, by the way, is HUGE and unavoidable.)

The sleep: We slept some.

The water park: Worth the money. Lots to do, very manageable line-ups considering how packed the rest of the lodge seemed, well staffed, clean and most importantly; fun. I would have enjoyed slightly warmer water, but nobody else in our crew seemed to care.

The verdict: It was for the kids, and the kids loved it. All of it. The noise, the food, the entertainment and the time together. We will do it again for sure.

That's all for now. Seattle with the kids was a blast. Do it. :)


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Fabric Frenzy

I haven't sewn in ages. And honestly, I've never been any good at it. But there remains in me a desire to craft and somehow be successful with what I create. Ha - that's what Pinterest will do to you I guess. So recently I found myself  on a glorious sunny day (of which we have had so few) at my very favorite fabric store buying squares of the most joy-filling fabric. Although I haven't actually done anything more than wash and iron the pieces so far, I am filled with happy just to look at them and imagine what I might one day produce.

 The above have plans to be transformed into a skirt for Mia. 

The birds on the far left were made into a new kitchen curtain. 

So if you are ever in the hunt for great fabric to inspire, I suggest you head over to Spool of Thread and peruse their selections.

And by the way... don't be surprised if you never see a blog post with the finished products!

Saturday, January 19, 2013


What a sunset! And also what a lovely way to end a great day.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Roberto's Post

The post goes out to Roberto. :)

Why, you ask Roberto?
And who, you ask, is he? Haha. A friend and a bestie's hubby is the answer.

The answer to why it goes out to him is because he asked me why I wasn't writing any more. And no-one has asked me in a long time. In his honest question I found the impetus to try again to chronicle the everyday, the memorable and the gobbledygook  that permeates my brain.

So here's to you Roberto.

Thank you for kicking my butt...gently and kindly.

Love Ting

PS - I'll try not to fall off the band wagon again.

A New Year

Our first Christmas in our new home was wonderfully smooth and relaxed. We burned a lot of firewood, drank a few too many cocktails and played a lot of board games. We spent the weekend immediately after school ended and immediately before Christmas in Whistler skiing, which was a fantastic choice. It meant that everything that needed to be done had to be done before we left. When we rolled back into town on Christmas Eve, we dropped off our ski gear at home while the kids waited in the car, picked up our bag of gifts for family and drove to my mom's in toques and ski gear. Although we may have been a little stinkier than past years, it turned into a great plan!

Post Festivus we enjoyed some hiking, snowshoeing and a lot of lounging. An ankle I sprained in the fall began to act up again, which slowed us (me) down a little, but it probably wasn't a bad thing.

We even had enough good weather to get into that craziness that we call our garden and start doing some cleaning and dreaming for Spring.

Look at that mess! I anticipate spending a lot of time battling ivy, blackberry and bamboo this year!

Lucas managed to lose ANOTHER tooth about 15 minutes to midnight on New Year's Eve, which has truly left him with an empty mouth. Hysterical. I think a portrait session may be in order soon!

Our dear, dear Pillo is really showing his age this winter. His hearing is deteriorating quickly and we are seeing more bouts of dementia along with a decreased appetite. Except for tired joints and very slow walks, he seems to be out of any pain, so for the time being we will just love him as much as we can and make sure his every day is full of happy.

These are such crappy photos, sorry. They always look great on my iPhone and then I see them on the computer and realize they aren't that great. I'm dreaming of a new camera again...hahaha.. but for now just need to remember to lug around my good one instead of my telephone.

Still holding my kids close... Love to all. xo Ting

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Almost ready

Well, we are ready for Christmas.

For the first time in years, I feel that we are calm and relaxed; the way we should feel at this time of year.

This one has lost so many teeth it's puréed turkey for his holiday dinner. ;)

This one, who now speaks only half French and half Mia-nese, has been a truly helpful elf full of love and joy.

We have crafted, feasted, visited, skied, movied and played.

The kids have spent their allowances on thoughtful gifts for all they love.

And we are ready to celebrate another season of Christmas.

May each of you enjoy peace and calm at this time of craziness. Keep your kids close.

Location:Here and There