Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Z Family's Top 10 Events of 2008

Shaun and I have decided to count down our personal top ten events of 2008. Some of these events are obvious, but others may seem trivial. All I have to say, though, is potty-training is a pretty big deal when you spend all day with more than one child in diapers! It's been a very busy year for our family, and we're having fun reflecting on everything that's happened. We're also really bored since we have three small kids, and good luck finding a babysitter on New Year's Eve! Speaking of kids, the little angels are all snug in their beds and have been for hours. Newfoundland has it's own time zone, which is an hour and a half ahead of Eastern time, so we're going to arrive in 2009 a bit sooner than everyone else back home. In fact, by the time the rest of you are celebrating the new year we'll be sound asleep. But, until then, here's our countdown (it should be obvious which items Shaun wanted on the list):

10. Christmas morning
9. Natalie being potty-trained
8. Kyle starting preschool five days a week
7. Brandon learning to crawl
6. Celtics win the NBA Championship
5. NY Giants win the Super Bowl
4. Katie's graduation from high school
3. Brian and Allison's wedding
2. Moving to Canada
1. Brandon's arrival!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A trip to the Johnson Geo Centre

This morning we decided to get the kids out of the house since they hadn't gone anywhere since Tuesday. They didn't mind since they've been keeping themselves busy with all their great new loot, but the lack of a change of scenery was getting to Shaun. I think he wanted to get out of the house for a few hours so that he'd actually have an excuse today for his daily afternoon nap. Today was the first day since Christmas here in Newfoundland that the stores were actually open, so there was no way we were going shopping or to the mall. And since the temperature was about 8F this morning we could not do something outside. We decided to hit the Johnson Geo Centre. We had the place to ourselves, and the kids really enjoyed it. (Note to self: the best time to go somewhere educational is when everyone else in St. John's is probably at the Avalon Mall.) The Geo Centre had an ExxonMobil-sponsored oil and gas exhibit that we've been meaning to check out since we got here, and there was also a really interesting exhibit about the Titanic, which hit the iceberg and sank only about 350 miles from here.

I was impressed by how much there was to see. Much more impressed than I was a few hours later with my lunch at The Keg. Both the food and the service were barely average, and that's pretty sad since we were one of three small groups there. Otherwise, the place was dead. I'll give them another chance since it was lunchtime on a Saturday and we did have three kids with us, but for the most part I was disappointed. I swear my burger was processed. Don't get me wrong--I love a processed burger when I go to McDonald's. I don't love a processed burger when I'm expecting a real one! But the kids were well-behaved, and they were satisfied with their chicken fingers and fries, so that was enough for me.

All-in-all we had a good day, we managed to kill a few hours, and now we've met our educational activity quota for at least the next month.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Brandon's second word

Brandon's been saying "Da-da" for months--at least two months, though it feels like I've been listening to it for much longer than that. And he's been using it correctly. He knows exactly who Da-da is, and on the days that Shaun is home from work I have to listen to a continuous chant of "Da-da. Da-da. Da-da." But today he started saying his second word non-stop. "Baan-don." He's saying his own name, and it's the cutest thing ever. It doesn't surprise me that he says Brandon since it's the one thing he hears from all of us all day long. I'll have to attempt capturing it on video in the next couple of days. But I'm a little irritated that he hasn't graced me with a "Ma-ma" yet. Whatever. It'll happen eventually. I mean, I only carried him for nine months, gave birth to him, and have been taking care of him all day, every day for the last eight months. He'll figure out which side his bread is buttered on eventually.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Well, Christmas has come and (almost) gone once again. We're all exhausted but happy this evening. We had a great Christmas morning which started at 6:30. I'd like to be able to blame the kids, but the truth is that I woke up at 6:30 and couldn't go back to sleep, and once I realized Brandon was talking to himself in his crib I decided we should all get up and get a start on our day. I couldn't wait to see the kids' faces when they saw all the great stuff Santa brought. And since the size of the pile of presents seemed obscene for a family of five I knew we needed to get an early start if Brandon was still going to make it down for his morning nap on time! It might be Christmas, but you better believe the naps still went down as usual. When else was I going to have time to play with my new toys?

Brandon proved to be a natural at present-unwrapping. All we did was set him down in front of a present and the next thing we all knew he was ripping the wrapping paper and throwing it everywhere. He's apparently been paying attention to Kyle and Natalie.

Natalie received enough princess and Dora gear to keep her busy for weeks. She spent the afternoon dressing up and parading around the house. She couldn't have been more pleased with her Christmas haul.

Kyle also got a ton of great games, toys and books. At dinner he told us that this morning was the greatest morning ever, and he hoped that tomorrow morning would be just like it. I'm rolling my eyes again. We assured him that tomorrow morning would most definitely not be exactly like this morning. He seemed slightly annoyed by our explanation that Christmas comes once a year, and now he has to wait an entire year for Christmas to happen again. Poor kid. But we managed to distract him with video games.

My wonderful husband got me a gorgeous watch, a navigation system for my car, and a gift certificate to an awesome spa, just to name a few things. I am totally surprised and grateful.

And on one final note, I thought I'd share a couple of videos of what Shaun has decided are his favorite gifts of this Christmas. Notice that they aren't even his gifts--just a couple of little things Santa brought the kids. But Shaun thinks they're the greatest things ever, and I'd have to agree. We're both having visions of what torture we could have been inflicting on our brothers as kids if only we'd had a couple of these...

Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Jingle Bells

I know it's not going to win any Grammys, but it was a good attempt. At least you get to see the kids--and a lot of Brandon's cute little baby belly. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Questions, questions

What does a lamp do without light bulbs?
What would Cookie Monster do without eyes?
First a baby is in your belly, but then what does it do?
What does a lamp do without a circle thing with lines (translation: a lampshade)?
Can you make Natalie stop singing while I'm trying to sing?
Can I take my pants off?
Mom, are you listening to my silly questions?

These are just a few of the questions Kyle asked today. Tell me, at what age do the silly questions stop? Or, considering Kyle's class-clown personality, will I be answering silly questions forever? Between Kyle and Natalie I am forever answering questions, and in another year I guess Brandon will be adding his to the endless stream of 'But, Mommy, why...' that follows me around the house all day. At least they crack me up. And I imagine that some day I'll really miss the silly questions when they start asking the serious ones. Though, to be honest, I panicked a little bit over the baby question...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Weekend update

Current weather: 10F, Clear skies, COLD

It has been bitterly cold here for the last few days. The temperature hasn't gotten above freezing since Thursday, so the snow we got that day and Friday is still frozen solid, covering the lawn, the porch, and the driveway. Had I known it was going to stay this cold I would have attempted to drag myself out to shovel the end of the driveway while Shaun was away on his business trip, but I missed my chance, and now there are mounds of snow sitting at the end of the driveway where the snowplows so kindly left them. I was complaining about the alternating snow and rain a few days ago, and now I just wish it would warm up and rain so that the solid blocks of ice blocking the driveway would melt away!

Shaun finished up work on Friday evening and kicked off his 16-day vacation. Friday was also Kyle's last day of school until January 5th. I'm really looking forward to not having to drag everyone to drop Kyle off and pick him up at school every day for a couple of weeks, but I know Kyle will quickly get bored, so I signed him up for a couple of morning sessions at The Little Gym this week and next. Natalie's completely disappointed that she's not old enough for the drop-off classes at The Little Gym, and to be honest, so am I!

Saturday afternoon Kyle and Natalie and I made some red and green sugar cookies, and I think there are only about 3 of them left. Kyle said we needed to save some for Santa, but I assured him that we'd make more cookies on Christmas Eve since I knew there was no way the cookies would last for 4 days in this house.

This afternoon I took Kyle and Natalie to see a children's production at the Arts and Culture Centre here in St. John's. It was a stage adaptation of a couple of Robert Munsch stories called Paperbags, Princesses, Puddles 'n Pigs. I was curious to see how they'd make out at a play--I wasn't sure they'd be able to sit still and pay attention if there wasn't a lot of singing and dancing involved. But they had a blast!! The theater itself was very small, so we were very close to the actors and the action. Natalie sat motionless for the entire hour, totally engrossed. Kyle was on the edge of his seat, following the stories, and laughing hysterically over a story about a girl who let her father's pigs out of their pen. The funniest part of the story for Kyle was when the escaped pigs peed on the girl's father's shoe. I wanted to roll my eyes (4-year-old boy humor pains me at times), but it was just so darn cute that he was laughing so hard! All the other people in the theater were watching him laugh and laughing along with him. It was a great time. I was struck once again by how big both Kyle and Natalie are getting!

Tonight Shaun and I brought up all the Christmas presents from our super secret hiding place in the basement and wrapped everything in the house! It's such a relief to have it done. I'm such a last-minute wrapper that I usually end up feeling totally overwhelmed (and therefore grumpy) on Christmas Eve. Now I can't wait to just enjoy these last couple of days before the Big Day. The kids are all going to have so much fun unwrapping all the great stuff they're getting from us, each other, and Santa. Kyle and Natalie are getting more excited with every passing day, and I can't wait to see their faces on Christmas morning!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Running out of time

Current weather: 30F, Overcast skies

Only 6 more shopping days until Christmas after today?! What?! I've been really excited about Christmas so far this year, but all of a sudden I'm starting to feel like I'm running out of time to get ready! I haven't finished buying presents for family back in the U.S., I haven't wrapped anything for the kids or Shaun, and I haven't even begun to think about Christmas breakfast and dinner. At least the house is clean--but then the house is always clean. That's the one thing I manage to stay on top of (thanks to weekly visits from the handy-dandy house cleaners). I jumped on the decorating and Christmas cards early, so that's done, but after all my early momentum I just kind of stopped about two weeks ago. I'm not sure why. I think Shaun's traveling is partly to blame. He was away in training all of last week, and this week he had to leave again for a couple of days, and I'm just so exhausted by the end of the day that I do not feel like dragging out all the presents to wrap them. And the rain/snow/rain/snow/rain cycle that is the weather just makes me want to curl up on the couch under a blanket with a cup of hot tea warming me up. I do have to say, though, that the gray skies and snow definitely give things a Christmas feel that was lacking in Texas.

This will be our first Christmas without either traveling home to visit family or having family come stay with us, so maybe I just need to remember that extensive preparations really aren't necessary. No guest room to clean, no extra food to buy, no trips to the airport to schedule. It'll be quiet, and the kids would probably just rather have cereal for breakfast anyway, wouldn't they? Who am I kidding? They won't want breakfast at all--they'll just want PRESENTS!! I just need to take a deep breath and stop thinking about time running out. I'm probably as ready as I need to be--my kids are way too little to notice how nice of a wrapping job I'll end up doing at the last minute on Christmas Eve. And Shaun's way too smart to mention it. ;)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Boston's Christmas tree

Current weather: 38F, Mostly cloudy skies

Question: Where does the tree used for the tree-lighting ceremony on Boston Common come from every year?
Answer: Nova Scotia

Shaun was in training last week in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and while he was there he met a woman who told him that every year since 1971, Nova Scotia has sent a Christmas tree to Boston as a thank-you for their help in responding to a horrific explosion between a freighter and a ship carrying munitions in Halifax harbor in 1917. Here's the history behind the tradition, from an article in the Boston Globe:

It dates back to 1917, when a French ship loaded with munitions collided with another freighter in Halifax harbor. A fire broke out on board, igniting the explosives minutes later, and causing what was then the largest man-made explosion in world history.

The blast was felt 250 miles away. More than 1,600 people died in the first, frantic moments , hundreds more later . Children were blinded by flying glass and, in an instant, entire neighborhoods in Nova Scotia's seaside capital city disappeared. "Halifax Swept by Flames After Explosion," screamed the front-page, above-the-fold headline in the Boston Globe the next morning, "2,000 Dead."

That was nearly 90 years ago now, but people in Nova Scotia still know the story of what happened on that cold December day, and they recall that Bostonians responded first. And so, more than 50 years later, Nova Scotia decided it would thank Boston every November by sending down one very large Christmas tree. (O'Brien, Keith. "Oh! Christmas tree." The Boston Globe. 26 Nov. 2006.)

We both thought this was an interesting little piece of information and wanted to share. Here's a link to another article that touches on the history a little bit more, also from The Boston Globe, if you want to check it out ----> Boston Globe Article. If not you can at least file the info away in the section of your brain reserved for Trivial Pursuit. I know I will.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Kyle's day

My Kyle turned 4 today! He had a great birthday--a Wall-E cake, presents, balloons, a party--he couldn't have asked for more!

This morning Kyle and I took a trip to the grocery store so that he could pick out ice cream for his party and goodies for his goody bags. While this sounds like torture to most of you, I guarantee you that Kyle loves nothing more than a trip to the grocery store. I think he looks at it as an opportunity to con me into bringing home all kinds of things I wouldn't normally look at twice in the store. And I totally let him get away with it. Then we came home, ate lunch, and put together goody bags for his party. He had so much fun deciding what goodies to put in the bags and sorting out who would get which bag--he's definitely my son. As a special treat for his birthday he also got to skip 'rest time.' Lucky boy.

Later this afternoon all of our best Newfoundland friends came over to hang out and help Kyle celebrate his birthday. Everyone was entirely impressed by the Wall-E cake. One of my local mom friends made it. Check out her website here: The kids had a good time coloring pictures of Wall-E, making robots out of marshmallows and pretzel sticks, and just playing in the playroom. After everyone went home Kyle couldn't stand ignoring the pile of presents any longer and had to tear into them. He loved everything!

Overall, it was an awesome day, and I'm pretty sure he went to bed a totally happy little boy tonight--even if he was already talking about what he thinks we should do for his 5th birthday! You can't see it, but I'm rolling my eyes.

If you want to see more pictures check out the link to our Shutterfly site on the right.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A trip down memory lane

Current weather: 55F, Windy

Who would have thought the last four years would fly by as quickly as they have? I know in another 20 years I'll really wonder where the time went, but it still seems unbelievable to me that my baby, my firstborn, my Kyle will be 4 years old on Saturday. He's not a baby or even a toddler any more. He's a boy! A little one, sure, but a boy nonetheless. Every day I'm a little more amazed by the little man he's turning into, and he and I are both so proud of every new thing he learns. In light of this week's momentous birthday, I thought I'd take us all on a little trip down memory lane. Enjoy!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Tim Hortons

Current weather: 41F, Overcast skies

I have to admit it right here and now... I am totally intimidated by Tim Hortons.

Don't get me wrong--I love Tim Hortons. I'm a Dunkin' Donuts girl, but who wouldn't love Tim Hortons? I don't drink coffee, but I'm a huge fan of donuts, and I've never heard of anything more perfect than a combo that includes a sandwich with a donut on the side. I like tea. I like hot chocolate. And Timbits give Munchkins a decent run for their money. But the drive-thru at Tim Hortons is the most intimidating drive-thru I've ever encountered. I think there may be some kind of secret ordering protocol that I'm not permitted to know about since I'm an American. If you've ever seen the Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld you know what I'm talking about.

Here are a few things I've learned about Tim Hortons in 4 short months:

1 - Canadians will often refer to a coffee from Tim Hortons as a 'timmies' or 'tims', and you shouldn't feel bad if it takes you several weeks to figure this out.
2 - A 'double-double' refers to a coffee with two creams and two sugars, however, you will not find that term on a menu.
3 - Timbits come in boxes of 10, 20, or 40. If you are stupid enough to ask for a dozen Timbits you will be either laughed at or treated as though you are the dumbest person to ever enter the drive-thru.
4 - You will also be ridiculed if you don't know what your donut choices are ahead of time and happen to ask for them to be listed. Don't expect them to be listed on the drive-thru menu.
5 - Don't ask for a chocolate frosted donut. They call them 'chocolate dip' and will be thoroughly confused if you ask for a frosted donut.
6 - Prepare to be one of at least 6 cars in the drive-thru line during non-rush hours, and prepare to be one of at least 12 cars in the drive-thru at rush hour.
7 - There are at least 30 Tim Hortons locations in the St. John's area. This is impressive as the population of the St. John's metro area is only about 180,000. There's a Tim Hortons on practically every corner, but you will still always be one of at least 6 cars in the drive-thru.
8 - Do not go to Tim Hortons any later than 7 p.m. for soup unless you really like the mushroom soup. That's all I'm going to say.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Snow angels

Current weather: 48F, Rainy and windy

You wouldn't believe it if you looked outside right now, but we had legitimate snowfall this morning. I left the house at 8:15 this morning to hit the grocery store and it had barely started to flurry, and by the time I walked out of the store at 8:45 there was a good inch of snow everywhere. We weren't expecting snow today! Over the course of about 4 hours we probably got about 3 inches of snow. The kids and I went to a Christmas party, and the roads were actually starting to get a little nasty. When we got home Kyle and Natalie decided it was absolutely imperative that they go in the backyard to play in the snow, so we broke out the snowpants, and I sent them outside with their daddy. Kyle ended up being very annoyed by how cold it was outside until Shaun made him a little snowman. Natalie just kept exclaiming how much she loved the cold and the snow. The girl was half frozen when it was time to come inside, but she didn't care because she had finally gotten to make her snow angel! She also had quite the fun time throwing snowballs at the windows. By late this afternoon the snow had turned to rain, and all of the snow in the yard is now washed away, but we enjoyed it while we had it!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Screeched in

Current weather: 33F, Gray skies

We did it. Shaun and I have been screeched in. We're honorary Newfoundlanders now, and we even have certificates to prove it! Shaun's office Christmas party was last night at the Fairmont Hotel, and after we partied there for a few hours (also winning an awesome door prize) we went down to Christian's on George Street to meet a couple of friends and get screeched. Just in case you have no idea what it is to be screeched in I have copied the following from Wikipedia:

'Screeching' someone visiting Newfoundland for the first time is a longtime custom of many older bars in Newfoundland, in which the person is to drink a shot of screech, kiss a codfish on the mouth, and answer the question "Is ye an honourary Newfoundlander?"

I had never heard of such a thing before we moved here, but it's absolutely necessary if you visit The Rock. I can't divulge all the details of the ceremony--half the fun is trying to figure out what's going on--and you'll find out for yourselves when you come visit us sometime!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Current weather: 34F, Mostly sunny

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, both inside and outside of the house. That's right--we had some snow last night. Finally! It's been over a month since our first little bit of accumulation. I'm not going to bother taking pictures since it looks exactly like it did last time. There can only be about an inch out there now, and it's quickly melting, but it was almost nice to wake up to the sound of snow plows. I'm sure I won't be saying that once February hits and I've been woken up by snow plows one too many times. There was actually quite a bit of snow out there when I checked out the window overnight, but it's just too warm for it to stick around. The kids were super excited to break out their snow boots again this morning for the quick trip to drop Kyle off at school, but they're going to be really disappointed again when they see the snow is gone by lunchtime.

We've been decorating the house for Christmas over the last couple of days, and the kids are really having fun with it. I'm really starting to enjoy breaking out decorations and having Kyle exclaim, "Oh, I remember this one!" It's so much fun now that he's starting to remember things from year to year. We're making memories and starting family traditions, and it makes the entire holiday season that much more special. Christmas has always been my favorite part of the year, but now it's even better.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

December update

Current weather: 60F, Rainy and windy

I cannot believe the weather today. That's not a typo above. It really is 60 degrees out, and it's not even 9 A.M. This is very strange. Especially considering I'm in Newfoundland and it's December 2nd. Where is the snow? It's just a shame it had to be rainy and windy today, too, or we'd be spending the day outside.

We finally broke out the Christmas tree last night. We opted to put it in the foyer again this year. We were seriously toying with the idea of actually putting it in the living room, but now that Brandon's mobile it would just be too much work to keep him away from the tree if he had to look at it all day. It's bad enough that he's trying to stand up against the furniture and attempting to climb the stairs! I'm going to enter my official walking prediction here and now: Brandon will be walking by late January. That would make him 9 1/2 months old--about the same age Kyle started walking.

The kids and I are going to decorate the tree this afternoon, and we'll pull out more of the decorations, too. I'll take some pictures and post them once we're all done. We're all in the Christmas mood already, but we just haven't had a chance to get to the decorations before now. This past weekend I did some Christmas party dress shopping, Shaun took Kyle to a work-sponsored showing of the movie Bolt, and we had brunch in town and watched the St. John's Christmas parade. Over the next three weeks we have 5 more Christmas parties, Kyle's birthday party, a business trip for Shaun, and all of our usual activities. The rest of this year is going to fly right by us!